House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The Budget
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would to like to ask the hon. member from the Alliance how he feels about what has happened to the military in the budget.

I just got word late this afternoon that was very shocking to me. Lord Robertson of NATO is to step down as a member of NATO because there is not enough money in the NATO budget for the military. He told them last week.

I am wondering what we should do here. Should our minister of defence step down because there is not enough money in our budget for our military? How does the hon. member and his party feel about the budget tabled in the House with regard to our military?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government's treatment of the Canadian military is disgraceful. Year after year the Liberal government has used the Canadian military as its whipping boy. When there were cuts to be made to budgets, the first place it went was to the military. The military has been cut to the bone to the point where our soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan in forest green uniforms because the sand coloured uniforms appropriate for use in a place like Afghanistan have been sold off. There are so many examples of how we have shortchanged our military that a book could be written about them, in fact, many books have already been written.

As I said earlier, the first and most important role of any government is to provide security for its citizens. We cannot have all the freedoms that we enjoy unless we have that kind of security, and it manifests itself in many ways. One of them is in the form of a strong Canadian military.

I find it ironic that the government and many of its members who complain about a lack of sovereignty when it comes to Canada, and being so close to the United States, are content to free ride on the Americans for our defence. That is what happens so often with this government. The Liberals should be ashamed of their record when it comes to the military.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely not only to the speech of my Alliance colleague but also to his reply to the question from the PC/DR coalition defence critic.

The hon. member brought up the fact that our troops are going to Afghanistan with the wrong colour of uniforms. This is incredibly important to the point where one of my constituents from Dawson Creek, Mr. Lin Schaffer who fought in the second world war, wrote to me. He was concerned about two of his grandsons. They serve with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and will be going to Afghanistan. They will be wearing the wrong colour of uniform. Their lives will be at risk because of the inattention this government pays to the needs of the military.

As the hon. member mentioned, it is absolutely disgraceful and disgusting how the Liberal government has treated our military over the years.

In today's Ottawa Citizen I was amazed to find out that the defence minister, in reply to this very serious issue, said that the commanders had no problem with the uniforms. They think they can operate quite fine with them and that they will have an advantage at night time when many of their operations happen. In other words, the reply of the defence minister to this very serious issue is that our troops should only be allowed out at night. If that comment is not disgraceful, I do not know what is.

Would the member care to elaborate on this point?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his intervention and it really makes the point. It is pretty clear that this defence minister has lost the battle at the budget table year after year. He has done a terrible job of representing the Canadian military and, frankly, he should resign.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this point to ask that my time be shared with my colleague from Etobicoke North.

I am pleased to participate in this important debate on the budget. As the House knows, the events of September 11 and their aftermath have had significant effects both in terms of economy and policy priorities.

I believe the budget addressed the challenges of the new global reality that people of duly elected democracies are facing on a day to day basis. I also believe that our government has listened carefully to the concerns brought forward by key stakeholders and by Canadians who were and who are concerned about the domestic economy, economic stability, personal security and defending our cherished freedom.

In the fall of last year I held public budget consultation hearings in my riding of Scarborough--Agincourt. I thank the people of Bridlewood Mall, Agincourt Mall as well as my staff, Kathy, Anton and Nina, for helping me. The response from my constituents was overwhelming. They voiced their concerns and appreciated the opportunity to participate in this national dialogue.

I would like to use the following format to illustrate how I believe the concerns of my constituents were addressed in the budget. Picture a chart with two columns headed constituent concerns and budget commitments.

Concern: the federal government should increase the defence department budget so that the equipment of our forces can be updated to better reflect Canada's recently redefined role in the war on terrorism. Commitment: the budget earmarked $1.6 billion for emergency preparedness and military deployment for such items as doubling the capacity of our forces, elite anti-terrorist units, the JTF2, supporting Canada's military participation in the war on terrorism, funding military equipment purchases, improving our ability to protect infrastructure such as water and energy, utilities, transportation and communication systems.

Concern: the budget for RCMP and CSIS be increased so that in the short and long term these organizations have more resources available to respond more effectively to domestic and international security issues. Commitment: the government has committed $1.6 billion over the next five years to the RCMP and CSIS to respond to our country's needs and to improve co-ordination and information sharing among law and security agencies in Canada and abroad.

Concern: the federal government must work in partnership with Canada's major cities and key stakeholders to build affordable housing and to update infrastructure and public transportation. Commitment: the government responded with a minimum of $2 billion for the strategic infrastructure foundation. Ottawa will work with municipalities, provincial governments and the private sector to finance large strategic infrastructure projects beyond existing programs. Also, the government reiterated its commitment of $680 million over five years for the construction of affordable housing both in large urban centres and in remote communities of this country.

I believe my constituents participated in a most valuable exercise last fall when they came to me with their views and their important policy issues.

In this budget the federal government listened to Canadians and responded with vision to their many concerns and in so doing it effectively addressed the ever changing national and international challenges of the 21st century.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a fairly straightforward question. I have listened to that same rhetoric for four days through the budget debate.

Why should Canadians be satisfied and content to accept what the government claims is a reasonably competent management of the decline of this great country? The dollar continues to fall. We continue to be buried in taxes and debt. Our standard of living and competitiveness are dropping. Yet the government seems to think that it is managing this decline to third world status reasonably well. Why should we accept that?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with my colleague. He says we are declining to third world status. Has my colleague visited some of the developing countries? If he has not, then he should. After he comes back home and as soon as he gets off the plane, he should drop to the ground and kiss the earth. There is no better country in the world than Canada. There is no better government to really represent the people of Canada, as has been said time after time, than this government.

The Budget
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5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit shocked by the comments that I just heard. They are telling me, the member for Matapédia--Matane, that Canada is the best country in the world, when the unemployment rate in my region is over 20%, and when the federal government, in its last budget, did not propose anything for regions such as mine.

In the year 2000, during the election campaign, several ministers travelled to my region and one of them announced a so-called special program to promote economic recovery in the Gaspé Peninsula. Well, we have yet to see this special program, even though it was announced over a year and a half ago.

Could the hon. member tell me to what extent the federal government proposed measures for regions such as mine, regions such as the Gaspé, where unemployment is very high?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the member waits for things to be done rather than being proactive and doing things, then the people of his constituency will be waiting for a long time.

I bring to his attention some of the initiatives we have taken in my riding. In 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 I held what was called business employment opportunities. I invited businesses to come to my riding and speak with people who were looking for work. The last one held in 1999 created over 500 jobs. I did not wait for handouts and I did not go to the Prime Minister, although we sit on the same side, and ask him for a couple of billion dollars to create jobs.

That is the challenge for my good colleague, a challenge he must take. He should invite the companies to come to his riding. He should be proactive instead of sitting on his duff waiting for the government to bring him everything.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his maiden speech.

Regarding his remarks about the $1.6 billion budget for the military, I do not know from where he gets that. When we take out the funding for the federal emergency critical infrastructure program and additional mandates which are being given to the department of defence, what we find is an actual increase for the military of $200 million over four years.

The auditor general has said that there is an immediate need of over $2 billion for critical infrastructure right now for the military. The Conference of Defence Associations says it needs at least $2 billion per year. In other words, the government has put about 10 cents on the dollar on what has been defined by outside experts as an absolute minimum.

Michael Bliss, in commenting on the budget, said:

The $1.2-billion increase for the military over five years is unexpectedly small, little better than derisive tokenism. Canada's fundamental defence policy remains unchanged: Let the United States protect us.

Could the member comment on that?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the record and for my colleague across the way, I want to make a couple of points so he can take them home with him.

I have been elected to the House with greater majorities each time since 1988, although he did not have the pleasure of being here at that time. If my colleague across the way wants to come into my riding and take me on, he is more than welcome. The last time his party ran a candidate against me, the candidate did not get his rebate back.

If being among the popular vote in Canada is something he does not understand or comprehend, I invite him in the next election to come and take me on. After he takes his licking and his kicking he might go back home.

The Budget
Government Orders

January 29th, 2002 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate. I have sat here in amazement listening to the debate on the budget. I cannot understand fully although I can understand partially why members opposite do not describe the budget in December as one of the most extraordinary budgets of all time. We know their partisan nature. We know they would not say that, particularly if we look at the context of budget 2001.

The Minister of Finance had to stand in the House after the events of September 11 and with an economy that was declining and in trouble. Any objective analysis would show that the budget he delivered on December 10 was an excellent budget, particularly in that context.

Members opposite talk about how the budget was not responsive to the views of Canadians. I can tell the House why they say that. It is because they are on the opposite side of the House. That is why they are on the opposite side of the House. It is because they do not listen to Canadians. As a member of the finance committee I travelled across Canada and listened to what Canadians had to say. They said a few important things.

First, they said they know the government must deal with the security agenda. They know the government must respond and it must be a top priority. They said they would like the government to protect the $100 billion tax cut announced in 2000 and the $23.4 billion agreement with the provinces for health care and early childhood development. They said they do not want to go into deficit.

Second, there was some debate at the edges about whether the government should get into stimulative spending. That point seems to have eluded the hon. member for Medicine Hat. There are many bright economists in Canada and around the world who would argue that we should stimulate the economy and go into deficit at a time like this. However the government said no. The government listened to the caucus and to many Canadians who said they did not want to go into deficit.

Having said that, the minister and the government were able to provide $3 billion in stimulus to the economy. As a result of those actions and as a result of protecting the tax cuts announced in 2000, there will be about a 2.4% stimulus in the economy this year in relation to the GDP. Next year it will be 2.8%. That is more than the stimulative measures that have been announced and some that are still being debated in the United States senate.

With that kind of stimulus, the monetary policy of the Bank of Canada and the fiscal stance of the government we are starting to see the economy turn around. This is because of the budgets of the Minister of Finance and the monetary policy of the Bank of Canada whose interest rates are at their lowest level in many years. There has been a reduction of 350 basis points this year which is causing businesses to invest and consumers to spend. I think in the year 2002 we will start to see the economy grow again and in 2003 we will be back on track.

Amidst all this, and unacknowledged by the members opposite, the country has low inflation. Canada is the only G-7 country that will balance its books this year. For the first time in 17 years our debt to GDP ratio, the size of our federal debt in relation to the size of the economy, will be below 50%. In 1995-96, soon after we came into power, it reached 71% of GDP. In other words our debt in relation to the size of our economy was 71%. It will now be less than 50%.

Is it still too high? Of course it is, but the performance has been spectacular. The paying down of our debt in relation to our economy is the best of any industrialized country. We have low inflation.

Our unemployment has crept up to 8%. That is something none of us enjoy, appreciate or tolerate. However we now have the mechanisms in place to move forward and reduce the unemployment rate again.

We have heard much in the Chamber and elsewhere about health care. Canadians deserve more than the partisan debate and points that have been made in the House and by the premiers of some provinces. They throw out numbers and say the federal government is contributing 14% of health care when it agreed and committed to 50%. That is hogwash. The federal government never agreed to contribute 50% of health care costs. It agreed to participate at the rate of 50% in terms of insured programs such as hospital care, medical services plan, et cetera.

I concede that there is a growing area of prescribed drugs and home care that is uninsured and is starting to eat up more health care dollars in the country. It is an issue the federal government, the provinces and all Canadians must face. I am looking forward to the report of former premier Romanow, as are many of us on this side of the House, when he looks at health care in depth instead of offering the superficial analysis we tend to hear in partisan debate.

The contribution the federal government makes to health care in terms of direct expenditures, whether in research or aboriginal health, is even greater. We all know that everyone who gets into the debate, apart from members on this side of the House, conveniently ignores tax points. They say it is a technical issue and maybe Canadians do not fully understand it so we will conveniently forget it.

I will take this opportunity to remind Canadians what tax points are. If we add tax points to the federal contribution and the direct expenditures the federal government makes on health care, we get very close to 50%. A figure of 14% is totally scandalous to even mention.

What did the federal government do? Some time ago it transferred 13.5 percentage points of personal income tax room to the provinces. In other words, the federal government said it would tax 13.5 percentage points less and the provinces could tax 13.5 percentage points more. To average taxpayers it is totally seamless. They would not know the difference. Instead of the federal government taxing them the province would tax them.

Why did the federal government do that? In retrospect it was a huge mistake. The money still flows to the provinces, yet in partisan debate it is ignored and Canadians get a wrong picture. Why did the government do it? It said the provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of health care, post-secondary education and other social programs and that it should transfer the tax points closer to the source. It was done in the belief that the funds would be used for health care, post-secondary education and social programs. To suddenly say we do not factor it in is totally disingenuous. Canadians deserve better than that.

I was happy that in the budget there was stimulative spending on infrastructure. This does a couple of things. We know we are getting behind with our infrastructure. We have an infrastructure deficit, if one likes. At the same time as we are increasing our infrastructure capacity, which makes us more competitive, we are providing jobs and economic activity. I was happy to see that. We will need major investments at our borders, national highway systems and many other national projects to help stimulate the economy and get out of the downturn.

I was glad to see provisions in the budget for mechanics' tools. Some things may seem small to us here in the House but are perhaps not so small to average Canadians. The government responded to many members on this side and to private members' bills that had been circulating in the past to give a tax break to mechanics who must fund their tools.

Rather than the lavish programs and fiscally irresponsible proposals that were presented on the other side of the House, the caucus worked with the finance minister to include a mechanism in the budget for mechanics to get a break on their tools up to a certain limit. It is the apprentices who are targeted. Apprentices are the ones who need help with their tools.

The budget also delivers $680 million for affordable housing. This is desperately needed, especially in the Toronto area and other urban centres where the need is great.

The budget has incentives for renewable energy. That is a positive thing. We heard the remarks of the hon. member about the natural resource sector. I am sympathetic to his views but tax incentives are available to those sectors that are not available to other industries.

Through the granting councils the budget will deliver $200 million to universities to help with overhead and administration costs relating to research grants. The government has put much into research and is now helping universities with overheads and administration.

In summary, the budget was an excellent response to the circumstances. Given the context it was a superb budget. I wish members opposite would be more objective in their analysis.

The Budget
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague over there. I think he would say we are pretty good friends.

Having said that, as a friend I would like some help from the hon. member. I would like him to look at the $1 billion increase in foreign aid over the next three years and explain to my constituents, more and more of whom have gone bankrupt in their agricultural operations, why the $1 billion investment in some shady deals we have had for years is a better investment than an investment in agricultural support so people can stay on their farms.

If the hon. member could do that I would like to have his help.

The Budget
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member opposite has been under stress lately, but he has performed quite well notwithstanding his comments just now.

When we look at international aid we first must ask if it the right thing to do and if we need to help people in other countries and not just in Canada,. We must also look at it from a pragmatic point of view. Many people leaving their countries to come to Canada would prefer to stay in their countries of birth but must leave because there are no economic prospects. We could look at it from another level in terms of our own security and safety. If we keep people down for too long they will come and get it.

For a whole range of reasons it is right that we help people in the developing world help themselves. However we should not tolerate corruption. That is why our policies are geared to countries that have good governance.

The Budget
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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Etobicoke North cited increases in spending in the budget. In the interest of being fair and reasonable we acknowledge there were modest increases in spending. However I would ask him to review with me where some of the excess money came from which could be put toward other programs.

I would point out to the hon. member that the EI fund is showing a surplus of $750 million per month. That is not per year but per month. For every month that goes by employers and employees pay $750 million more into the fund than gets paid out in benefits. As a result my inner city riding of Winnipeg Centre has a shortfall of $20.8 million per year more than it had under the old EI program.

Would the hon. member acknowledge that another source for the money the government had to spend was the fact that the public service pension plan had a surplus of $30 billion until the end of the last parliament? Marcel Masse, and I can use his name now because he is no longer with us, scooped the entire $30 billion surplus.

These are just two sources of the money the government now feels free to introduce into modestly increased spending.

Would the hon. member acknowledge there is something wrong with an EI fund that takes in more than it pays out? Would he not agree it is seriously flawed and should have been dealt with in the budget?