House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Business of the House

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, under the business of supply today there is an opposition motion in the name of the hon. Leader of the Opposition. Due to circumstances beyond his control he is unable to be here this morning. I therefore seek unanimous consent to allow the supply motion to stand in my name.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “The Guaranteed Income Supplement: The Duty to Reach All”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, your committee requests the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

The report contains seven recommendations that strive to address a longstanding problem that has adversely affected a sizeable number of low income seniors for too many years.

Code of Canadian Citizenship
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-417, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Fundy--Royal for supporting the private member's bill, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.

The PC/DR coalition bill is about Canadian citizenship. It speaks to and unites all Canadians, Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice. The bill would ensure there is only one class of citizenship in Canada, unlike the last Liberal bill, Bill C-31, which promoted two classes of citizenship.

It is time for Canada to have a new citizenship bill, an act for all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the upcoming budget should:

(a) reallocate financial resources from low and falling priorities into higher need areas, such as national security;

(b) reverse the unbudgeted spending increases to a maximum growth rate of inflation plus population;

(c) increase national security and defence spending by $3 billion;

(d) reduce Employment Insurance (EI) premiums by at least 15 cents for next year and continue reducing EI premiums to the break-even rate as soon as possible;

(e) commit to enhancing job creation by eliminating the capital tax over a maximum of three years beginning with a minimum 25% cut this year; and

(f) sell non-core government assets and use the proceeds to accelerate debt reduction.

Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending December 10, 2001, the House will now proceed as usual to the consideration and passage of a supply bill.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that this bill be now distributed?

Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Edmonton--Strathcona. This motion is an effort on the part of the official opposition to allow parliament to express itself in advance of the federal budget expected six days from now.

It is a budget which will come some 652 days since the last accounting to this place by the Minister of Finance. It will constitute the longest period without a budget being presented to parliament. This is yet another example of the government's long and formidable record of contempt for this place and its conventions of democratic accountability.

It is an important convention that allows the executive branch to present comprehensive accounts of the nation's fiscal and economic health to this place. It is a convention which is at the heart of parliament and it is contemptuous for the government to have waited for over 652 days to satisfy that important tradition.

What exactly is going on with this budget exercise? The government is floating trial balloons about another budget coming down perhaps next February or March. We read stories about open public cabinet fights over the content of the budget, a document normally produced with some internal coherence by the government. The Minister of Industry is actively lobbying businesses to lobby the government to include his political agenda items in the budget.

We hear the finance minister's acolytes publicly attacking the industry minister for so doing and suggesting, hopefully, that his $6 billion in requested pork will not find its way into the budget. On the weekend a senior member of the Prime Minister's Office said:

This budget will be written by one person. It happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada, not the Minister of Finance.

What is going on? Who is minding the store? Who is in charge of the nation's finances? Why is it that we cannot have normal regular accounts to the nation on an annual basis in this place like we had for some 130 years? I simply do not understand.

The budget will be a test for the government as to whether or not it can get its priorities straight. Canadians have their priorities straight. They understand that in the post-September 11 environment the top priority of the government must be, as it always ought to have been and should have been for a federal government, the maintenance of national security and the protection of citizens. That is the first obligation of a federal government. That is an obligation which for too long has been sloughed off by the government.

We will first be looking to see whether or not the government gets its priorities straight in terms of reallocating resources from low and falling priority areas to the urgently imperative priorities of national security and defence. Our defence capability and security services are sorely underfunded and underresourced. Canadians spend 1.1% of our gross domestic product on national defence. That is about half of the NATO average of 2.2%. We would require a doubling of the defence budget to come up to the average expenditure of our treaty allies.

I do not have time to detail the sorry state of our equipment and the fact that our personnel dropped from over 90,000 to some 56,000 in the past few years. The government cut its defence budget more than any other departmental budget reflecting that defence was the government's lowest priority. Now we find that the world has changed. We have been mugged by reality and our holiday from history is over.

The utopian Liberal notion that peace is a normal condition of humankind is no longer the case. We find ourselves part of an international struggle against terrorism by moral and treaty obligations. We must put adequate resources back into defence, the RCMP and CSIS. The latter two have fewer personnel and lower budgets in real and nominal terms than they did when the government came to office in 1993.

We must invest more in customs and immigration services, technology and personnel. We must increase our ability to screen would-be criminals and terrorists who seek entry into Canada. The coast guard needs additional resources to allow it to more effectively monitor incoming vessels along our enormous unguarded coastline. We need to do all these things.

The official opposition calls for an immediate injection of at least $2 billion of annual funding into the Department of National Defence and further increases into that department so that eventually we could move toward achieving the NATO average. Clearly that cannot be achieved overnight. It ought to be our goal as it is our obligation, both legal and moral.

We need to spend immediately approximately $1 billion dollars to increase the infrastructure and personnel for other non-military security areas that I mentioned earlier. Together we are looking for a minimum of $3 billion in immediate annual funding. The government is talking about $3 billion in security funding spread over five years. That is not adequate. We are talking about a downpayment on restoring security to Canada and Canadians.

Let me say that $3 billion could be achieved notwithstanding the zero sum mentality of the government without increasing overall spending. We could achieve that by reallocating fiscal resources from low and falling priorities. One of the problems the government has in fiscal management is that with all the various interest groups it tries to satisfy it sees nothing as a low priority but everything as an equally high priority.

We have identified at least $6 billion in low priority and wasteful spending in areas like corporate welfare; regional development schemes that do not work; grants and contributions to interest groups and assets which the government ought not to have; subsidies to bloated crown corporations; and waste in some of the most notorious departments like industry, heritage and human resources as identified by the auditor general.

There is at least $6 billion, which is only 5% of the $125 billion program budget of the federal government. That can be realized. Those are moneys which can be reallocated to national security and still have money left over for the longer term economic challenges faced by Canada and for further tax relief and debt reduction.

We need to get our priorities straight not only in terms of security but in terms of the economy. The finance minister has sleepwalked Canada into a recession. There is no doubt that we will see negative growth in the third and fourth quarters of this year and probably into next year.

Unemployment rates are going up as tens of thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs. Our dollar is reaching an all time low despite efforts by the Bank of Canada to shore up demand by reducing interest rates. That means there must be some action on the part of the federal government to address this immediate threat to our economic health and the long term decline in our standard of living.

Canadians now have a personal rate of disposable income which is merely 70% of that in the United States. We continue to have the third highest level of debt in the OECD, the highest level of income taxes in the G-7 and an historically low currency. We do not have our economic fundamentals right. We must get our priorities straight.

It is possible not only to reallocate resources from low priority spending to national security but low priority spending to the urgent priority of becoming a more competitive and productive nation. We could raise our standard of living through meaningful tax relief, eliminating the capital tax, reducing payroll taxes and further reducing income taxes.

All these things could be achieved if the government were to limit the rate of program spending growth over the next five years to 3%, a level of inflation plus population, as opposed to the 5% slope upon which it is currently engaged. That would allow an additional $50 billion in fiscal resources which could be redirected toward real meaningful tax relief and debt reduction, both of which would make the country more competitive and productive and raise the standard of living of Canadians.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's comments and I have a question for him. Why does he believe that rural Canadians are second class citizens? That in essence is what he said. He talked about the broadband issue as a low priority and something to which we ought not to pay any attention. However he does not understand it. He is not only ignorant of it. He is ignorant of his ignorance.

It is not about putting computers in people's homes and having access to e-mail faster. It is about ensuring that rural Canadians have access to health care. It is ensuring that whether or not someone living in a rural or remote community has an opportunity by using today's technology to have first class medical service. That is what the hon. member does not want rural Canadians to have.

It is also about ensuring that rural Canadians have an opportunity to access educational opportunities. He is denying rural Canadians the opportunity to access these types of educational opportunities by denying them the opportunity to move forward on this initiative.

I know what interests the hon. member when it comes to ensuring that businesses operating in rural Canada have an opportunity to be successful in creating wealth and jobs. He denies rural Canadians the opportunity to be competitive in today's world by denying them access to this type of modern technology. That is why I want to know why the hon. member believes rural Canadians are second class citizens.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the minister is so shameless in trying to fabricate a political case for a program that will not succeed. He should save his pontificating for the cabinet room where the finance minister, according to published reports, thinks this is an equally ridiculous idea.

I do not know to what rural Canadians the member has been talking. I am originally from a rural community. In 10 years of public life, reading polls, speaking on talk shows and attending public meetings in rural communities across the country I have never heard a single Canadian say that he or she wants billions of dollars spent on handout programs for Internet hookups for people in rural or urban Canada.

I see four members of rural ridings. Perhaps they could indicate to me whether they have ever had a single constituent ask for a billion dollar government handout for broadband Internet hookups.

What rural Canadians want is a viable economy. They want lower taxes and a competitive and productive Canadian economy. They know that will not happen if we continue to invent new corporate welfare schemes of this nature. The enormous access that Canadians have in rural and urban Canada to the Internet today and the advantages it presents have occurred because of market supply and demand. The economics of the market will work for rural Canada just as they do for urban Canada in this respect.

It is quite pathetic that the industry minister has to lobby industry to lobby the government. Only one of over 500 submissions to the finance committee asked for this broadband Internet scheme. Public polls show it does not even rank as a priority among Canadian business communities including those in rural Canada. The member has it wrong on this issue. I hope the finance minister has it right.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question about a comment which made no sense at all. The hon. member said that the finance minister was walking Canada into a recession. It appears he does not have a clue that this is global.

All countries in the world are slowing down. Indeed, in sharp contrast to the recession of the early eighties and early nineties, everyone under the sun from the OECD to the IMF to the private sector is saying that Canada would perform better than the United States. We are not an island but we are doing better than the United States. How can the hon. member possibly contend that this is in any way a made in Canada recession?