House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister has also mused publicly that there may not be a budget in February due to the Prime Minister's retirement schedule. The provinces are now waiting for a new equalization deal due to the Prime Minister's long goodbye.

It is bad enough that Canada has a Prime Minister who is halfway retired, but why is the government allowing him to turn the House of Commons into his own personal retirement halfway house?

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what the question was, nor do I recall musing about there not being a budget in February. The government will decide when to bring in a budget. There is no fixed budget time in our system.

If I were in the hon. member's seat, I would want to be very careful about inviting too imminent a disaster. In the face of what those members saw on the highway ahead, they have already taken the steering wheel of their particular party vehicle and driven it off the road and crashed it on the side.

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Finance has underestimated the surplus. He forecast a $3 billion surplus in June, but the surplus has now turned out to be $7 billion for the previous fiscal year. The minister is systematically wrong. The minister is systematically wrong and systematically gives us incorrect information: in the past six years, he and his predecessor have underestimated the surpluses by the astronomical amount of $35 billion. No public debate could be held on this $35 billion.

Given such surpluses, how can the Minister of Finance still make Quebec and the provinces wait for the $2 billion they need for health? He has the money; he should hand it out now.

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the estimated surplus is based on revenue and expenditures. For the Government of Canada, these total approximately $360 billion.

Yes, we forecast a surplus of $3 billion. We were off by $4 billion. Our margin of error is about 1%, one of the closest forecasts of all the G-7 countries. That is not too bad.

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the margin of error is over 200%, and this is not the first time. Last year, it was 300%, and it has been as high as 500%. When there is money left over at year-end, the Prime Minister can buy Challengers simply by snapping his fingers. When it comes to finding the money for public health, it is not that simple.

How can it be impossible to transfer the $2 billion to the provinces, which need it right now?

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, a commitment was made during discussions between the first ministers in February. This commitment was conditional on the estimated surplus in January 2004. It is only October 23. It is not yet January. We will address this in January.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

October 23rd, 2003 / 2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Minister of Industry does not know his ethics when he trips over them.

Perhaps he can tell us why he broke all the Treasury Board rules on sole source contracting and on hiring employees when he hired Joanne Meyer as his personal assistant so that she could continue to collect a government pension while she was also collecting a government paycheque.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as far as I am aware, all Treasury Board guidelines were respected.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board guidelines were not respected in any way.

Let me also ask the Secretary of State for Western Economic Diversification, who also broke the same rules and hired the same person under the same conditions, why is that person still working for him?

Will he fire her and get the pension plan payments repaid to the government because she cannot have a pension and a paycheque at the same time?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, the employee mentioned is a valued and highly respected member of my exempt staff. She is not employed on contract at this time. She is employed as a direct employee.

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, every surplus the government racks up is more evidence that the fiscal imbalance is not fiction, but fact. In short, it means that the federal government collects more taxes than it needs to discharge its responsibilities.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that such large surpluses are not due to exemplary management on his part, when we realize that administrative costs have risen by 34%, but rather that he has collected much more money than he actually needs?

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when I met with the provincial ministers of finance on October 10, here in Ottawa, we had discussions. They recognized the fact that the reputation of all the provinces, like that of the Government of Canada, is based on the fact that we have a balanced budget.

It is important, not only for the reputation of the Government of Canada, which still has too great a debt load, but also for that of all Canada's provinces, which are also seen in the context of a very positive frame work in relation to—

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Drummond

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Finance agree that the strategy established by his predecessor, the member for LaSalle—Émard, has not changed by one jot and is still the same? They underestimate the surpluses, hide them during the fiscal year, and six months later—surprise—the surpluses are taken to pay down the debt, so that there is never any money for health, for the unemployed, or for senior citizens.

Budget Surpluses
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is not a matter of underestimating. In fact, we have adopted the most responsible and prudent behaviours. We have created a contingency fund. We have tried to make very prudent decisions.

By reducing the debt, we have now been saving $3 billion a year in interest charges. This is the money that is now available for—