House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Who was the Minister of Finance?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

That is a good question, Mr. Speaker. Who was the Minister of Finance? It was the individual who aspires to be prime minister of the country, who is going around now telling people of his great fiscally responsible management program in which he will become involved once he becomes the Prime Minister of Canada. Here we have an individual who sat around the table as the then minister of finance, had it in his own hands for a 10 year period and never did what was fiscally responsible in this country.

As I have said, this vortex sucks up every single bit of taxpayers' money and then spits it out at the other end in meaningless programs. There was probably not one single Liberal backbencher who did not get something in the budget. There was probably not a Liberal caucus hand in the air that did not get something from the Minister of Finance in these days when the Liberals are a whole lot more concerned about the Liberal leadership race and who is going to be the next leader than they are about the future of the economy and the country.

Did the Minister of Finance, who is now aspiring to be the leader of the country, ever think for a moment of the poor in this country? Did he ever think for a moment about a promise that I believe was made back about 15 years ago here in the House, a promise that we would eliminate child poverty by the year 2000? The year 2000 is long gone and the government still fails to recognize that children in poverty come from families in poverty. Most of the programs that the government has implemented over the years have done very little to help people in poverty in this country or to eliminate child poverty. Another area is seniors. We have a government that is so arrogant that it actually does seniors out of their GST money. If they do not actually apply for it, the government will not make them aware that they are entitled to it. The government cares very little about seniors and it cares very little about the poor and child poverty in this country.

The government is proposing to help fund some of these new spending programs by reallocating a total of $1 billion a year from departments' and agencies' budget. That represents an amount equal to the amount that has been wasted so far on the failed long gun registry, $1 billion.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

It is cutting departments that need it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

It is cutting departments, as the member for St. John's West indicates, that need the money so very badly. And the long gun registry is one single government program. If only the government would learn how to cut out all this fat, it would be able to deliver more meat in the budget for real tax reform, for real tax relief for Canadians, and for real and significant reinvestment in the Canadian military, for instance.

What is really ironic about the budget is that only $1.6 billion over the next two years will go toward the Canadian military, and $200 million of the reallocated funds that the minister sought from departments actually came from the Canadian military.

Of all the departments to identify for waste, who would have thought that the Liberals would actually target the military? It is a department that is already on the ropes and already fighting to try to maintain a reasonable level of equipment and a reasonable quality of life. The situation with our military would be absolutely hysterical if it were not so sad, pathetic and shameful. Canada, as a direct result of this Liberal government's lack of leadership, cannot even arm a Canadian reconnaissance platoon in Afghanistan. The Speaker is telling me my time is up, but we will get another shot at this later.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate today on the budget implementation act, Bill C-28. There are a lot of things we would like to see in the act but they are not in place. We would certainly like a vote of confidence from the Canadian public to give us the opportunity to see some meaningful tax relief in the country. Unfortunately we have to put up with what is in the act today. We see a lot of shortcomings in it, but I want to deal specifically with a few things covered by the motions introduced by the various members today, which have been grouped together.

I would like to start with the GST issue, specifically the GST on school buses which was brought to our attention by the Bloc through its amendment. We see a lot of things wrong with the GST, a GST that was going to be scrapped by the government when it came to power in 1993. At that time, it was generating about $15 billion of revenue for the government. Ten years later it was generating $25 billion. In this current year it looks like it is going to exceed $30 billion. It has become quite a cash cow for government. Over $4 billion dollars per percentage point is what it is generating for government.

The concern introduced in the amendment lies in the unfairness of the GST issue in terms of rebates for school boards. We are concerned that there is a problem. There is a problem in treating the private sector the same as municipalities or government; we think there should be a fairness there. The difficulty with this particular amendment, though, is that when this issue was taken over through the GST from the old manufacturers' sales tax, it meant that the school boards would have the equivalent effect of the manufacturers' sales tax when that was in effect for the purchase of school buses and all of the costs for having school bus service for schoolchildren. That equivalent at the time came to 68% of the GST.

Some school boards have found ways around this by contracting out their school bus service and therefore have asked for 100% of that contracted service to be rebated. The court found that this should be the case, but we believe that it is really up to Parliament to decide what the issue is here. Essentially what the court decision does is put the boards on a different footing depending on whether they contract out the service or provide it themselves. School boards tell me that if this court ruling were to stand they would have to move to a contracting system themselves because they would gain a considerable amount of money.

The government, through Bill C-28, has moved to close off this abrogation of what was happening to put it back to its original intent of essentially 68%. We support that, but we do see a lot of things wrong with the GST. We think it needs a general overhaul. In fact we would start by reducing the amount that the GST takes in per year for the government, partly because we think that the government does not need this extra income. As I said, it is raising $15 billion more now than it raised in 1990 when it first came into effect.

If it were just that the government needed the income, that might be a good argument for keeping it as such and not having to reduce the rate, but we see the government wasting a lot of taxpayers' money day in and day out in the House. My colleague from St. Albert had the waste report out the other day and gave a lot of examples of how that has happened. We think that giving business subsidies to huge corporations in Canada should not be what the Government of Canada is all about. In fact, if individual Canadians want to invest in Bombardier or Pratt & Whitney or General Electric, Canadians have the opportunity to buy stocks. They have that opportunity through their mutual funds. Why should the Government of Canada do it for them? The government is giving hundreds of millions and in fact billions of dollars to those corporations every year and mismanaging or wasting a tremendous amount of money.

Therefore, we think there does need to be an overhaul of the GST. We would start by reducing the amount that is brought into the government. One per cent equates to about $4.5 billion.

A couple of other issues have been identified in the amendments. I notice that the NDP would like to delete any changes to the capital tax. We want to get rid of the capital tax altogether, but the NDP sees it as another source of revenue for government.

When we travelled across the country with the finance committee we were told repeatedly that the capital tax was one of the most damaging taxes in order to attract investment to Canada. The reason is that it is a tax on a business. I would compare it in some ways to a property tax. Essentially, that tax is there whether the business makes any profit or not.

That does not make any sense to me. Canada has lagged behind pretty badly in investment. We have fallen off as a source of direct foreign investment for others to invest in Canada as a percentage of world investment over 30 years. That is a discussion for another day. Suffice it to say that public policy, largely by this Liberal government, accomplished all that in about 30 years. However we think the capital tax should be reduced and we would like to reduce it over two years, not over five years, as the government has suggested.

There are couple of other things we are dealing with today in the amendments that are before us. There are a couple of amendments on the disability tax credit for those people who have disabilities. We certainly have received a lot of mail on this issue. The government seemed to be sort of the grinch who stole Christmas in the way it treated people with disabilities. I notice that the Liberals have responded to some of that pressure and will be changing the wording to try to deal with that issue.

We support easing the definition of disability from “feeding and dressing oneself” to “feeding or dressing oneself”, which could make a considerable amount of difference for those who qualify. We would also support that the government stop harassing disabled people who have been receiving disability tax credits for a number of years only to find themselves reassessed and no longer receiving them.

I made the case in the House on previous occasions about a constituent who contacted me. He has lost a leg and has to wear a prosthesis to get around. He is a proud individual. He works in the oil patch. It is a problem for him to have to use a prosthesis in a very tough environment. However he wants to work and does not want to be sitting there on welfare. The disability tax credit allows him a little measure of comfort in being able to claim some of the extra costs involved to rig his van so he can drive and so on. The government took that away from him, as it did from many other Canadians.

I hope the government has learned its lesson and that some of the changes made to the tax act today will address that.

The other area the amendments deal with is the RRSP. I see the NDP would also like to cancel changes to the RRSP limit. We believe it is important for Canadians to have the ability to save for themselves and raising the RRSP limit is a measure that we would support. We would support it because it looks like Canadians will have to rely more and more on themselves for their own retirement income. They will not be able to rely on government, especially the Canada pension plan which has seen some fairly substantial losses in the investment sector over the last year. Be that as it may, we think the plan continues to be in trouble, partly because the former finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, would not listen to the chief actuary of the Canada pension plan when he said that rates would have to be even higher than the 9.9% that it has risen to in the last couple of years. He also said that It was not sustainable. As the Canadian birth rate continues to decline, unless something changes, there will be a small amount of people working to support the system down the road.

While we agree with a lot of the measures being implemented in the act, in most cases they are half measures, such as the capital tax only going part way. We see no personal tax relief. Canada is falling generally well behind the United States in corporate tax rates again as a $600 billion tax package is working its way through congress at the moment.

Our productivity and our competitiveness will be affected once again and, with the rising dollar, I suggest that a lot of these chickens will be coming home to roost pretty quickly because the government has not made the changes on the side of reducing taxes in order to compensate for the rising dollar. This will continue to be a bigger issue well into the future.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the amendments that have been put forward to the House today.

First, dealing with Motion No. 13. This amendment is being made in response to a recent court decision affecting school boards that has a result contrary to the longstanding and well understood intention of the GST law. The result of the court decision is also contrary to the manner in which school boards themselves have been complying with the GST legislation since 1991.

The government's decision to apply the amendment retroactively took into account the government's established criteria for making changes to the tax law on a retroactive basis. These criteria were enunciated in a 1995 report to the public accounts committee after the committee had declared, not only the appropriateness but indeed the imperative use of retroactivity in certain circumstances.

The government's announcement of December 2001 made it clear that the amendment would apply to all school authorities, with the exception that, in the case of the school boards which had received a court judgment prior to December 2001, those would not apply. This is in accordance with the federal government's practice of not reversing a court decision rendered in a particular case prior to the announcement in the change of tax law.

Those who pursued court cases after the announcement were clearly aware that retroactive legislation would be coming forth and proposed to Parliament. They chose to carry on in spite of that.

An amendment to substantially the same effect presented by the Bloc Quebecois was defeated at the standing committee.

Report stage Motions Nos. 14 and 15 propose to delete clauses 74 and 75.

I would point out that Motion No. 14 would delete clause 74 of the bill. Clause 74 provides that a medical doctor or an occupational therapist may certify an individual's impairment with respect to feeding or dressing oneself for the purpose of establishing entitlement to the disability tax credit.

In contrast, existing text of the law provides that a medical doctor or an occupational therapist may certify an individual's impairment with respect to feeding and dressing oneself.

In the absence of this bill, therefore, there is an ambiguity in the law to the potential detriment of Canadians with disabilities. Does one have to be impaired in both feeding and dressing oneself, or does either impairment establish an entitlement on its own?

The Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities recommended this ambiguity be corrected.

Accordingly, clause 74 clarifies that an individual need not be impaired both in terms of feeding and dressing oneself to have access to the disability tax credit; one or the other will suffice.

Motion No. 14 would reinstate the ambiguity to the detriment of Canadians with disabilities and therefore cannot be supported.

Motion No. 15 would delete clause 75 of the bill. Clause 75 clarifies the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit.

In March 2002 the Federal Court of Appeal rendered a decision that has been interpreted as expanding the eligibility for the disability tax credits to individuals who, because of food allergies or other similar conditions, must spend an inordinate amount of time to shop for and prepare suitable food.

Such expansion of eligibility goes far beyond the intent of the DTC and could increase the fiscal costs significantly, and certainly the New Democratic Party is well aware of that.

Following the consultations on draft amendments to clarify the DTC eligibility criteria that were released on August 30, 2002, the 2003 budget proposed to rework the language of the proposed amendments to clarify that the activity of “feeding oneself” does not include any of the activities of identifying, finding, shopping for or otherwise procuring food, or activities associated with preparing food that would not have been necessary in the absence of dietary restriction or regime.

This aspect of the legislation is important. It means that individuals who are markedly restricted in their ability to prepare a meal for reasons other than dietary restriction, such as severe arthritis, will continue to be eligible for the DTC.

Clause 75 also clarifies that the activity of dressing oneself does not include the activities of finding, shopping for and otherwise procuring clothes.

It should also be noted that the amendments were developed only after consultations with the affected groups. These amendments reflect those consultations.

Further, the 2003 budget proposed, and this bill includes, an extension of the medical expense tax credit for incremental costs of gluten free foods for persons who suffer from celiac disease and must follow a gluten free diet. In fact, we are expanding, not reducing, as some members might suggest, eligibility.

Motion No. 15 proposes amendments that would reverse the effect of the bill by explicitly extending eligibility for the disability tax credit to the activities sought to be excluded. As such, the motion goes far beyond the intended policy of the disability tax credit and does so in a manner that could significantly increase the fiscal cost of the credit. Therefore the government will not support Motion No. 15.

Motion No. 17 proposes to amend the provisions of Bill C-28 relating to retirement savings. Similarly, Bill C-28, in this case, includes clause 84 amendments to the definition “money purchase limit” , to increase the limit of $15,500 for 2003 to $16,500 for 2004 and $18,000 for 2005 and subsequent taxation years.

Setting appropriate limits on tax assisted retirement savings in RPPs, RRSPs and DPSPs is an important means of encouraging and assisting Canadians to save for retirement, reducing the tax burden on savings and allowing employers to attract and retain key personnel.

The proposed motions would not only eliminate these improvements to the system for tax assisted retirement savings, but would reverse the increases that were scheduled to take effect next year under the existing income tax law and on which Canadians depend. Clearly we cannot support that.

Motions Nos. 18 and 19 deal with the federal capital tax and are linked in substance. I will speak to both of them.

Unlike income taxes, which are paid when a corporation has taxable income, capital taxes must be paid even where a corporation has not been profitable. Capital taxes have been identified as a significant impediment to investment in Canada.

The federal capital tax was introduced in 1989 as Part I.3 of the Income Tax Act. The tax is levied annually at a rate of 0.225% of a corporation's taxable capital employed in Canada in excess of $10 million capital deduction. A corporation is taxable capital is generally described as the total of its shareholders' equity, surpluses and reserves, as well as loans and advances to the corporation, less certain types of investments in other corporations. A corporation's federal income surtax, which is 1.12% of taxable income, is deductible against the corporation's capital tax liability.

In order to promote investment, the 2003 budget proposed to eliminate this federal capital tax over the next few years starting on January 1, 2004.

Clauses 85 and 86 of the bill would implement this proposal by increasing the threshold for application of the federal capital tax from $10 million to $50 million of capital for taxation years ending after 2003, and by reducing the rate of tax over the period 2004 to 2010.

Under the bill, the federal capital tax liability will be eliminated for almost 5,000 medium size corporations in 2004. The federal capital tax will be completely eliminated in 2010, over the next seven years.

Motions Nos. 18 and 19, if adopted, would deny these benefits and clearly the government cannot support them.

I urge hon. members to defeat these amendments, which were defeated in committee, because they clearly do not reflect the fact of a very progressive budget moving on a number of areas including, as I say, capital taxes, as well as the disability tax credit to improve the lives of individual Canadians. I say, let us get on with it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, whenever we deal with taxes, exemptions or whatever it may be, which come from the pockets of individuals, one thing the government should be consistent in is fairness. Fairness must prevail within a country. If there is no fairness, then the government does not last very long.

I know as a former hockey referee that a person attempts to be fair. The person may not seem to be fair but he or she attempts to be fair. If the person is judged not to be fair, then that individual's career in that occupation does not last very long.

Whenever the government is dealing with taxes and exemptions it should be fair. If we look at some of the problems that exist in our taxation, we will see there have been huge changes in the way certain things operate in Canada. For instance, at one time most of the school buses were owned, operated, controlled, repaired and so on by the school board. That has changed dramatically. Most of the school buses and the services are contracted out to a company. Therefore, we need to look at that because it has taken place across Canada.

I am absolutely amazed with the change the government wants in the disability tax credit. I cannot believe for one moment that after the tremendous problems which existed last year, when HRDC issued the forms to prove their disability, the government would come back and say that for an individual to qualify, he or she must be able to both feed and clothe themselves.

I have a sister-in-law who lives in a home for seniors and she would certainly qualify. However, there are many in that home who can get up and after many hours get themselves dressed but they cannot sit down and feed themselves or vice versa. Why should they not qualify? I think that is a terrible thing.

Let us look at fairness. The government recently gave the city of Toronto a few million dollars because of the loss which was brought about through the recent epidemic of SARS. If next month the same thing, and let us hope this never happens, another city experiences the same thing and the government chooses not to give money, that will not be viewed by the public as being fair.

I know when I sit down to pay my income tax and fill out the form, I have reason to believe that people with the same income, the same expenses and the same deductions will pay the same amount of tax.

However, in the case which I recently raised in the House about the auditing of a junior hockey league, it was obvious there was no fairness. It is so obvious that even the government is ashamed. When there are claims of unfairness in taxation what generally is done is we listen to what the complainant has to say. The government has done neither. I would beg the government in the interest of amateur sports across Canada to take another look at that action.

It might interest the House to know that an immigrant who has been here for some time now came to my office. What was the complaint of that individual? The person was complaining about the 36,000 illegal immigrants in Canada. After going through all the bookkeeping, the lawyers and all the necessary help to get into Canada, the individual was complaining about how the government sloughed off 36,000 illegal immigrants in Canada.

Indeed, this is all about fairness and I believe, with the number of older people coming into my office, that we should not limit the RRSP, not for one moment. Let them save because as costs and taxes keep going up more and more people cannot exist on their savings. Therefore when they are working, they should be allowed to have higher levels of RRSPs. That would also help the government. If they are allowed to save more now, they are least likely on their retirement to have to rely on the government for assistance with living and income. Let us look at fairness.

Two things really bother me. The first is the disability credit. It is just not good enough for those thousands of people who suffer disabilities. I would hope the government would change its mind as to who qualifies for the disability credits and disability amounts. Let us study that and listen to the people and associations for the disabled from across Canada. With an attitude of fairness, that would change overnight. I beg the government to look at that because it is now totally unfair.

If one automobile dealer could sell cars without collecting the GST, it would soon run everybody out of business. Let us be fair with those who are disabled, and with the amount of money, they have to spend so they can enjoy something in life. I believe what the government plans through this legislation is totally unfair to those with disabilities.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this debate since it began around noon, and I listened to my hon. Liberal colleague's presentation. True to form, the Liberals have rejected out of hand all the provisions that might help out ordinary citizens.

For example, there is the whole story about taxes, the GST and school boards. My hon. colleague suggested an excellent amendment. Who will pay for this? So, there is a move to make it retroactive. Not only are the school boards in Quebec and Canada being told, “You have to pay GST now, but also for the years when you did not pay any”. This kind of retroactive measure shows the Liberals' extreme arrogance too. This kind of retroactive measure means money will be taken from the taxpayers, who will be told, “You were allowed to do that for years, but now, not only is it no longer allowed, but you have to pay us back for the years when you did not pay any”.

This is totally in keeping with the Liberal's budgetary philosophy since 1993. Someone is hiding; it is the member for LaSalle—Émard. Everyone says he is the Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister's philosophy since 1993 has been to forget about the ordinary citizens. The Prime Minister and the member for LaSalle—Émard are two of a kind. The member for LaSalle—Émard can also count on us when he becomes leader of the Liberal Party: he will be taken to task for this arrogance and the unfair treatment of ordinary citizens.

The school boards are one example. The disability tax credit is another. Disabled people have been around for ages. They learn they are entitled to a tax credit and then, suddenly, what does the Liberal Party do? It goes after the disabled, people living in poverty, people who need this credit and who are suddenly told, “You will not be getting this any more”.

One of our colleagues from the NDP has proposed an amendment to help these people out. Once again it was shunted aside by the Liberals. What is keeping that party from going after the oil companies instead of rejecting such proposals? These companies are busy amassing billions of dollars in profits. There is no connivance, no collusion, between the companies. They all raise gas prices at the pump at all four corners of an intersection at the same time, but there is no collusion involved.

And the minister is taking refuge behind the fact that prices at the pump come under Quebec's jurisdiction. We say that he, being the one in charge of the competition bureau, needs to give the position of commissioner some teeth and that he is in a position to call a public inquiry to look into all aspects of the issue.

But no, the government prefers to go after the disabled rather than the oil companies. Why so? Probably for taxation reasons. The government keeps on piling up the surpluses. And what do I mean by that? That it takes too much money for the services it delivers and then, instead of telling people, “We are going to reduce the contribution rate”, it tells them, “Keep on paying in, and we'll pay down our debt with it”.

Perhaps it is important to reduce the debt, and I do not deny that. But when we are told that the surplus, the amount of which was underestimated at the beginning of the budget cycle, is going solely toward reducing the debt, there is a problem. People deserve value for money. What happens is that there is no change in services, but people pay more dearly for them, because of the surplus. Instead of helping ordinary people, the government keeps silent.

The gas companies pay excise tax; there is the GST; there are many taxes. So, the more gas prices go up, the more the government's revenues go up. What happens then? Additional revenues the next year, probably. And what will they go for? To pay off the debt.

Since the beginning, that is since 1993, the Liberal budget philosophy has remained unchanged. The member for LaSalle—Émard is the author of the whole federal Liberal budget philosophy. We can give a lot of examples. What are people getting out of the employment insurance fund? Before, seven out of ten people losing their job were entitled to benefits. Now the figure is barely four out of ten.

The surpluses in that fund continue to grow by $4 billion or $5 billion every year. They have reached a total of $44 billion over nine or ten years. What is this money used for? Once again, the government is using it to pay off its debt. But there are no special programs for those in difficulty, like the fishers in the Gaspé or the softwood lumber workers. They are being told, “Sorry. Pay your contributions to EI and when you need it, we'll say no. The money we make out of this, we'll put toward the debt”.

This is no longer an insurance; it has become a disguised tax. That is what EI is today. Many are challenging this in court and elsewhere.

The guaranteed income supplement is another example of the Liberal philosophy. There are 68,000 people across Quebec, and 1,000 in my riding of St-Jean who do not qualify. The latest statistics show that only 20% of these were found. They were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement, but no one in the federal government bothered telling them.

So, there are still 800 people in St-Jean who could use this $2,000 or $3,000 supplement every year. There were be economic spinoffs. These are not people who would take the money and put it in the bank. They will eat out, catch a movie, go out a little more than they can afford to right now.

Clearly the Liberal philosophy is not in favour of these people. There was talk of the disability tax credit and I spoke about it earlier. The same thing goes for transfers to the provinces. The provinces are dealing with enormous problems in health and education because this government has kept cutting back on its contribution. It is saying, “We will keep the taxes in Ottawa, but we will give you less and less”.

Health is a perfect example. The federal government used to pay 50 cents for every dollar spent in health care in Quebec. Today, it pays 14 cents. The federal government is not doing its share. On top of that, the 14 cents is tied to all sorts of Canada-wide standards. If the standards are not met, the government will reduce its contribution accordingly. Not only is the money conditional, but it decreases over time.

On the matter of fiscal imbalance, I hope that the new Liberal minister in Quebec City, Mr. Séguin, is going to address it. He headed a commission in Quebec that found that we were losing $50 million a week. That works out to $2.5 billion a year, hardly something to sneeze at. I hope that the Quebec minister will say to the federal government, which is also Liberal, “I was a part of a commission that calculated that Quebec lost $50 million a week. Is there some way to rebalance this?”

We know there has also been mismanagement because even in areas that are under the government's own jurisdiction, there have still been problems.

Let me give an analogy. Someone might say to me, “I am going to manage your house. It will cost you $2 a year”. At the end of the year, this person who was looking after my house hands me a bill for $1,000. That is what happened with the firearms program. A program that was supposed to cost $2 million a year has now cost $1 billion. That is using the same scale as my analogy. It was supposed to cost $2, but it wound up costing $1,000. Imagine the situation.

I understand that the government has trouble managing its own household. And moreover, it wants to run other people's households on the principle of giving as little as possible to taxpayers and the middle class. The middle class must pay. But when the time comes that they need a service, they do not get it.

I shall conclude by saying that, of course, the budget before us is not acceptable. Clearly, we are trying to reduce the negative impact on the middle class with amendments like the ones moved to help the school boards continue to provide services and to help handicapped people to retain their tax credit.

Once again, I have the impression that we are acting in accordance with a philosophy of compassion, where we understand people. We understand that they are overtaxed and need help. We understand that the government with the most money ought to do more to help these people, because it takes their income taxes and other taxes and does not give them back.

The sovereignist movement in Quebec has understood this for a long time. It is sad that this Liberal philosophy has continued, year after year, since 1993. From 1993 to 2002, the former Minister of Finance, currently the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, was in charge. He was the one who put this slant on the government's outlook. We reserve the right to make him face up to his responsibilities when the election campaign begins.

I hope that Canadians and Quebeckers will remember all the budgets they have paid for and how little they got back.

In the current context, with amendments that may be rejected one after another, it is obvious that the Bloc Quebecois cannot support the motion to adopt the budget, a budget which, in our opinion, is regressive and which shows no appreciation for the people who pay the taxes.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have the opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act.

Preparing a budget is a complex issue of course and we relate it to the way we prepare our own budgets, personal or family. In my case, when I was with the municipal government, there was a process that we used to establish which indicated what the budget would be and what would be needed from the taxpayer.

First of all we would start off with a long term plan of either five years or 10 years. In my case at that time, we knew what position we wanted the municipality to be in at the end of those years. We created budgets and priorities to take us down the path where we wanted to be. A long term plan would be put together by community members coming together as well as municipal councillors and mayors on what they wanted out of their communities in the years to come and what their priorities would be. It was essential for us to have that give and take in debate to know exactly what our priorities should be, what the taxpayer felt was reasonable as far as tax increases, and where they wanted their tax dollars to go.

I do not see that in the budget that was prepared. It seems to me that it was done with a broad brush, trying to appease a lot of people, but ending up appeasing no one, because no one got what they felt was necessary. Through this budget process there was no long term strategy, no long term plan, and no positioning of Canada in the world. To me, that is the kind of function that is necessary. It positions Canada and our citizens in the world and it moves along a path to where we want to be.

We go out across Canada with the finance committee. We hear input from many organizations, groups and individuals. A prebudget debate and contributions are needed to help establish what Canadians want out of the government and where they want the government to be or their country to be in a few years. However, I am afraid the budget completely missed the boat.

One of the things that we heard constantly when we were going across Canada dealt with the capital tax. If we look at this tax, it is one of the most regressive things. It is almost like a property tax on municipal government.

An old friend of mine from the town where I was mayor came to me and said that when he built his fence 20 years ago, it was considered an improvement and his taxes were increased. Twenty years later it was all dilapidated and needed to be torn down, but when he tore it down he was taxed again for improving his property. I am not sure if that was the case, but that was a scenario that was used. No matter what we do as individuals, we seem to be taxed for it.

This relates to the capital tax. If we are successful in our business and able to make a dollar at the end of the year through our hard work and efforts, and the risks that we take, the government rewards us by taxing us. It takes money away from businesses and enterprises that could be used for reinvestment, expansion, and creating more activity that would require more staff. That is one of the most regressive taxes we have in this country and we need to eliminate it quickly. Money that is in Canada and earned by Canadians should be left in the pockets of Canadians and they will do what is right with it. It will create a whole new economic spin which in turn will create jobs and investment, and move us along the road to building a bigger and better country.

Another thing I would like to point out is the employment insurance overpayment. That is a real problem. The money taken from hardworking Canadians and their employers for the EI fund is far more than is needed. The little bit of cuts we see in this budget and past budgets does not relate to substantive tax cuts that would help the employer and the employee make ends meet. The billions of dollars that are being taken out of the economy through this EI overpayment is counterproductive and something that needed to be addressed in a major way in this budget, and it was not. A tax system is supposed to be put into place to help move a country along in accordance with what its citizens want and to a position where it should be down the road.

I remember the debate regarding the GST. Many members of Parliament across the country who supported the GST bill when it was brought forward lost their jobs. Canadians said they did not want it. It was hinted that it would be used to pay down the debt. It was not. Once it was in place the government at the time and governments after it became attached to it. Now each percentage point of the GST is producing roughly $4.5 billion, far more now than it was when it was introduced.

The government's argument is that it is because the economy is doing so well, but it is a tax on legally everything we do. It is the most hated tax that was ever put forward in Canada. The reason it is hated is because Canadians feel somewhat betrayed that it was sold as a debt reduction tax. I have done some research because people have asked me to find out where it was mentioned in debate that it would be used to pay down the debt. The words were carefully chosen during the debate. No where did it ever say for sure that it would be used for debt reduction. It was indicated or intimated throughout the debate that debt reduction could be one area.

Over the last number of years, due to a lot of pressure from the opposition, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party before us, the government has its act together and is balancing the budget. There are no more moneys being accrued to the huge debt that we have. Debt repayment is not a priority of the government and it needs to be because it is still a huge debt around the necks of our children and grandchildren. About 20¢ to 25¢ of every tax dollar goes to service that debt, never mind paying the principal.

The GST is one area that we could really look hard at. If we were ever going to get rid of the most hated tax in this country, we would have to start somewhere. Reducing that tax or having a look at how it is applied is something that we need to do quickly.

The whole issue of using the tax system to share the wealth in Canada has its merits, but Canadians in different provinces and regions of the country need to be assured that the money they give through their tax system is being applied properly. If it is going somewhere where they feel it is a waste, then they have a real problem with providing those tax dollars. One area that is prominent is the gun registry system. It is at $1 billion and climbing. There is no indication from the government how long it will take to finish the job and how much it will cost. We have asked those two questions many times in the House and we have not received any answers.

The budget and the amendments that we are speaking to today must shape the future in order to receive our support. The budget must position Canada on a road to arrive at a place where Canadians want us to be. I do not believe it does that. I do not believe enough time and effort was spent on the priorities. Right now the defence and security of Canada are huge issues and there are not enough resources spent applying moneys to improve that in this budget. That needs to be addressed. All programs must be looked at on a regular basis to see if they are still viable, to see if those tax dollars that are being poured in are being used in the proper manner. If we would continually review those programs to ensure they were doing that, we would come up with a far better system in the end.

In conclusion, we will not be supporting the amendments that are being put forward today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pleasure to enter into the debate today. I congratulate my colleague from Dartmouth, an outstanding advocate for those people with disabilities and their families. We on this side of the House, especially the New Democratic Party, said many times that if the government listened to her, the groups she represents and the many others who are likeminded, we would go a long way to once and for all entering people with disabilities into a logical, understandable debate on their concerns and requirements. People with disabilities are not asking for the moon, they are asking to be treated as equals. What could be better than inviting them and their families, or even those who know someone with a disability, to be fully recognized citizens of the country, and not get a hand out but a hand up?

One of the most offensive things the government ever did was make changes to the disability tax credit. We will go to the polls with this and let every voter in Canada know what the government has done. For example, a person who is missing his leg has to prove that he is still disabled. These people have to manoeuvre themselves 50 metres on a level surface with a device in a certain period of time. If they do it within that time, they are no longer considered disabled. That even applies to the individual who is blind, 85 years old, and needs the assistance of a walker. That does not matter to the government.

The all party committee, which dealt with the issue of people with disabilities, made some recommendations. Every member on that committee, from all sides of the House, agreed that what the government was doing was wrong. The government did not care what its own backbenchers thought; it would proceed in its own way. People with disabilities and their families have a right to be upset with this Liberal government.

The Canadian Alliance gave the NDP members heck for some of our viewpoints. Steely Dan once made an album called Pretzel Logic , and the government is twisting itself into exactly that. The government has said that the GST has to be reduced, and that is absolutely right. We as a party have been saying that from the very get-go.

We agree with the Canadian Alliance that the way the GST was brought in was atrocious. That is one of the major hindrances of the Conservative Party and the Alliance Party as well for that matter. The Conservative government of the day brought in this hated tax, and the NDP was the first party calling for a reduction of that tax to make it fair for everybody across Canada.

What is amazing is the way the Canadian Alliance twists itself over the supply management system. The Reform Party was against supply management for our farmers. Our farmers came here and members of that party said that they no longer objected to supply management. It is absolutely incredible but good to hear that party on the right suddenly soften some of its positions.

I will give the Canadian Alliance credit in some areas. When Mr. Manning was here, he raised the issue of the debt. He should be given credit for doing that because it was getting out of control. There are two things that Nova Scotia and Air Canada have in common and that is, they both have a $12 billion debt, and that needs to be addressed.

There are many problems with this budget. What the government has done to people with disabilities is simply unacceptable. That should not and cannot be tolerated by anyone in the House of Commons.

Many people in my riding have sent me letters, e-mails, faxes, and made personal presentations on this issue. My colleague from Halifax, my colleague from Dartmouth, my previous colleague from Halifax West and my other colleague, Peter Mancini, from Cape Breton, as well as Michelle Dockrill and Gordon Earle, made presentations on behalf of the people saying that what the government had done was simply wrong.

Where are we years later? The government, when two amendments were removed, threw them back in. We have to ask ourselves why, when the government's own people in its own party said not to do it. If the government will not listen to its own members of Parliament on its side of the fence, why should we be surprised that it will not listen to ordinary Canadians? That is the perplexing question in all this.

I am on the fisheries committee. We know that we produce unanimous reports. Nine members of the Liberal Party supported recommendations from the fisheries committee, and the government turned around and said that it would not listen to us.

I have another example. We have a really wonderful program called the sea lamprey program in St. Mary's River, in an area my colleague across the way represents, Sault Ste. Marie. It is a great program. We do not even fulfill our full mandate on it financially but we are participating in it. The government has turned around and is thinking of cancelling that program. For the sake of $6 million to $8 million a year, it would virtually save a $4 billion industry in the Great Lakes in recreational and commercial fishing. The program is a great success, one on which the government should be congratulated, yet it is contemplating maybe cutting the program.

We have to ask ourselves why the government would do that. It is looking at program reviews, departmentalizing all its various departments and ensuring that all tax dollars are spent accordingly and wisely. We do not disagree with that. We think that reviewing programs from time to time is a very good thing to do because we have to ensure taxpayers get the best bang for their bucks. The program in Sault Ste. Marie however is an investment, not an expenditure. Representation has been made by Liberals and other people to the government asking that the program not be cut. They have said, if anything, the dollar amount to the program has to be increased. The government says that it cannot make the commitment yet, that it has to study it some more. It does not have to be studied anymore.

I remember the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie brought a sea lamprey example to the House of Commons a few years ago. It was fabulous. It is not the most lovely creature in the world. It needs to be seriously controlled, otherwise it will destroy the Great Lakes fishery, recreationally and commercially. That cannot happen.

Getting back to the budget, it does nothing for people in the airline industry. It does nothing for the people in the shipbuilding industry. There is very little for our men and women in the military. Especially, it still puts behind the eight ball those people with disabilities. Our seniors and our children, some of the most vulnerable in our society, are still being ignored by the government. The day I find out why is the day I will become a much better MP, because I do not understand why the Liberal government would be so hard and so harsh toward people with disabilities, our children and our seniors.

The Liberals like to brag about the child tax credit, but what they do not tell us is that they allow the provinces to claw it back. The reality is that the people are not that much better off. The child tax benefit is a good program, but it should have come with very serious stipulations that the provinces were to keep their hands off that money. The federal government gives with one hand and the provinces take away with the other hand, and that is an issue which still needs to be resolved.

If the child tax benefit is to help Canadians, then that is what it should do. The federal government should tell the provinces that in no uncertain terms are they to touch or reduce in any way the benefit to those people. It helps the people with the lowest incomes, especially women with young children. That is a good idea, but if the provinces are allowed to claw it back, it simply will not do any good.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise for the first time to address the budget. I know some of the things presently being discussed, particularly the air tax, are being talked about quite a bit. The air tax is a $2.2 billion grab. The government rammed the bill through even though I think the entire population of Canada was opposed to it as not being a good thing to do. I think there was universal opposition from every witness who appeared before the committee. However as usual the Liberals chose to go ahead and ram it through.

I would like to take a moment to ask the member from the NDP who just spoke to take the time to read the policies of the Alliance Party regarding supply management just so he can get it right. The next time he wants to speak about our policies he should know about what he talking. Apparently he does not.

When we talk about the budget today, one thing comes to mind. I remember being in charge of budgets when I was a principal of a school and in other positions. Certain amounts of money were given to us and we were accountable for it and were to spend it according to the priorities of the group. One thing we always had in place was that if it was not necessary to spend it, then it was necessary not to spend it. It is too bad the Liberal government could not adopt a policy like that because its spending spree is just phenomenal.

I do not object to some of the things the Liberals do when it comes to supporting health care by finally raising some funding for it and for education. After many years of absolutely depleting those sources to the provinces, they now are starting to put some back. That is all understandable. However they are carrying on with spending in some areas when it has been proven and well known that they are ineffective and not doing the job for which they were intended. Why do we want to continue down that path?

We know of a lot of other issues that are not even talked about in the budget that ought to be talked about seriously. For example, the largest industry in Canada is agriculture. It is not just the farms. I am talking about the spinoff businesses that benefit from agricultural work across the land. It is the major industry. Yet when we look through this thick budget, we can only find one or maybe two sentences in it that even address the issues regarding agriculture and what the government intends to do about it. It does not address what kind of policies it will implement to ensure the agriculture industry, which is our top industry across the land, irrespective of all the other great industries, will continue. It is the number one industry, the most important, and it is not even addressed.

There is nothing in the budget in regard to what we will do in the event of the disastrous situations across our land. For example, the drought in the prairie region was not addressed by the government at any stage. It did engage to some small degree to help other Canadians who were going ahead full bore ahead to try to alleviate the problems and to help some farmers in the west through the hay movement. That was the dedication of the Canadian people, not the Government of Canada. The assistance received was from a few of the members, but only working through the local people who wanted to help each other. Farmers know what it is about when it comes to helping one another and the things they need to do.

I stop to think about the constant statements from that side of the House where child protection is so important. It is the number one priority. We have to protect the children on our streets. What is the government's answer? It is an ineffective, year after year, gun registry that has had no results whatsoever in the protection of our children. However the Liberals are spending almost a billion dollars, at least they will be spending that much soon, for an ineffective measure that does nothing they claimed it would do: make our streets safer. That is just not the case.

Just as a bit of a reminder to the Liberals, criminals simply do not register their guns. I am afraid they will never talk the Hell's Angels or any other organization into registering their guns. They are not interested in those kinds of policies.

However one thing that keeps coming forward loud and clear from our police forces across the land, in terms of helping our children, is that they would like a national strategy put in place to fight child pornography. It would take some dollars to do that but it certainly would not take near the amount of money that we spent on the gun registry. If they had a portion of that money with which to build a national strategy to fight child pornography then we would see some positive effects to protect our children.

We now know for a fact, through all of the expertise of psychiatrists, psychologists and case workers in penitentiaries, that most of the people who are in the penitentiaries for sexually assaulting and abusing our children were influenced in the initial stages through child pornography, yet instead of the government proposing something in its budget specific to the purpose of protecting our children, such as a national strategy, it continually floats along the plans of the past that year after year have proven not to improve the situation.

In fact, child pornography now is a multimillion dollar industry. Is that not pathetic when one of the major industries in our country is child pornography with the funds raised through the suppliers, the producers and the dealers?

The government should put some money into the budget to help our police develop a national strategy to fight child pornography, which will contribute internationally because it is not just a Canada problem but an international problem as well. A wonderful thing would begin to happen if we all put our efforts into that basket. If we really made a concerted effort I know it would not take long before we would have some successes in protecting our children.

Our budget needs to start looking at things other than just having words. It needs to support our agricultural industry but it does not know how. It supports the safety of our children but it cannot come up with anything other than such things as a gun registry.

A very poor way of spending tax dollars is to throw money into all kinds of unnecessary programs when there are essential programs that are being totally ignored. I do not like to see my tax dollars going off into some direction that supports some idea in which I personally do not believe. We must get back to the day or to the intention of where a real democracy works, when the voice of the people of the land have an effect on what happens with the money they send in.

I do not think voices across the land are giving the government all their money so the government can have a good time spending it in any way it wishes. I also do not think Canadians are telling the government that it does not have to be accountable for the way it spends it. As the Prime Minister has said a hundred times, “just smile and be happy, everything is rosy”. Well, that is not the case for a lot of families in my riding, young families trying to maintain a job and make ends meet. They are paying power and gas bills while trying to raise a couple of kids. It is getting tough out there. The taxes are terrible and completely out of reason.

There is another shocking thing. We bring in all this money and do certain things, such as tax the gas. If I am not mistaken, a little tax was put on gasoline. It was going to help us balance our budget. Hello, earth calling the Liberals. The budget has been balanced for quite awhile. When will they take the tax off? Are they going to leave the tax on forever? It was a specific tax to help balance the budget but it is still there.

Do the Liberals love money so much that they have to jab and take everything they can from everybody across the land? Can they not, for a moment at least, get rid of the taxes that were meant for a specific purpose? Do we still need to support all these social engineering programs and other programs that they want to put into place even though Canadians do not want their money spent on them? When will the Liberals on that side of the House wake up and start listening to what Canadians are saying?

Canadians want the debt reduced. Is it not a shame that it is now 10 years later and the national debt is bigger now than it was when the government came into power in 1993? Debt reduction is essential. Let us make it a priority.

I wish the Liberals would quit Mickey Mousing around with all the social engineering and other nonsense that goes on and get down to the business of being accountable and responsible for good spending of taxpayer dollars.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak in this important debate on the budget implementation bill.

First, I want to say that all our hard work in the House seems in vain, because everything has come to a standstill since the Liberal leadership race began. No matter what decisions get made, no matter what amendments are moved, mad consultations are constantly underway on the opposite side to see which candidate so-and-so is backing and, as a result, nothing gets done.

I also want to say that it is getting harder and harder for the different committees of the House to have a quorum. Why? Because of these consultations. Either the current member for LaSalle—Émard, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance or even the Minister of Canadian Heritage is being consulted. Members come and go; they leave, they come back, nothing is working, to the point that Parliament is now paralyzed, no matter what we do. The member for LaSalle—Émard, who is apparently making a beeline for the Prime Minister's seat, recently stated that no matter what decisions the House made, he would ignore them.

However, we must not forget one thing: the current member for LaSalle—Émard was the Minister of Finance from December 1993 to June 2002. This same member thinks that the public will not remember the numerous consequences of his decisions.

Employment insurance was reformed for only one reason: to deprive the unemployed of benefits, but mainly to get money into the consolidated fund in order to lower the deficit. That is one of the accomplishments of the member for LaSalle—Émard. The second fine accomplishment of the former finance minister is the cuts to the transfer payments to the provinces for education and health care. We know what chaos these decisions have caused for the various provinces, Quebec included.

The various foundations created, such as the Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the Foundation for Innovation with its infrastructure program, are all means chosen by the member for LaSalle—Émard to divert funds, deprive the provinces of power and create what the Liberals have been working on since the referendum: a centralizing government, what they call “a modern Canada” but one with its modernity created at the expense of the provinces or the taxpayers, on the backs of the population as a whole.

This is the reason I have been asked today to speak on budget implementation, and I would very much like to move some amendments, make some suggestions, but this would all be pointless, because there is nothing happening over there. There is no progress being made any more in committees. Once again, I repeat, the member for LaSalle—Émard has said that regardless of what decisions are reached, when he takes over, he will rethink it all.

We have not seen anything like this in this Parliament in decades. There have been leadership races in Quebec and here, in Canada, but we have never found ourselves in such a situation, such an ambiguous situation. Who is bearing the brunt of this situation? The taxpayers, the unemployed, and the sick lined up in hospital halls. We have here the decisions, and their consequences, of the current member for LaSalle—Émard.

This gentleman would want the people of Quebec to forget instantaneously all that he has done since 1993. Let us be serious. We in the Bloc Quebecois will remind him that we cannot wait for him to take the Prime Minister's seat.

We will remind him of his shipping companies, and the of tax haven issue. We will also remind him that he was the only Minister of Finance to object when the G-7 wanted to set up an organization to eliminate tax havens. He lobbied to persuade nations not to sign this agreement. We will ask him about all that.

When the current member for LaSalle—Émard becomes the Prime Minister, his G-7 counterparts, such as the President of the United States, the President of France or the Prime Minister of Japan, will know about his past. Will he have any credibility to represent the Canadian government? He has been contemplating changes for several months without ever taking concrete action. I keep hearing him say that he will change the way things are done, that there will be more power for individual members of Parliament. I hope that he will at least tell the members to be more conscientious, to act more professionally and to take part in the business of the House.

In closing, I would like to tell everyone listening that regardless of what is done in this House, because of the leadership crisis and race in the Liberal Party of Canada, there is no longer anyone at the helm of this government. The big losers are the people, the taxpayers, the citizens of Canada.

Nursing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, nursing is the heart of the health care system. For Canada to be a world leader in health sciences, every worker in this field must be supported in maintaining and upgrading their skills and knowledge.

Of 81,000 graduates of nursing schools in Canada from 1990 to 2000, only 79% were still registered in 2001. Large numbers showed an interest in moving to the U.S. and other countries.

Our nurses need support for continuing their education. New graduates consider the move to the U.S. for a number of reasons. One is that permanent nursing positions in American hospitals include access to continuing education.

On National Health Day during National Nursing Week and all year long, we must acknowledge the valuable contribution nurses make to our health system and support them in their desire for ongoing training in an evolving medical environment.

We should also this year thank them particularly for the care they are providing and the sacrifices they are making during the SARS outbreak.

Junior A Hockey
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, hockey fans across Saskatchewan are beaming with pride today because the National Junior A Championship was captured yesterday by the Humboldt Broncos.

Despite the difficulties the team had with Saskatchewan only audit by the CCRA, the managers, the coaches and the players overcame the setback that community suffered from what they considered to be an unfair and unjust assessment by the Government of Canada.

In true western spirit, the Humboldt Broncos persevered and in doing so took home the coveted Royal Bank Cup which they will proudly display in their hometown to denote national supremacy in junior A hockey in Canada.

Way to go Broncos. Way to go Humboldt. Let us hope that the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League continues to operate for years to come.

National Mining Week
Statements By Members

May 12th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is one of the top mineral exporters in the world. These exports make up almost 12% of Canada's total exports and the mining and metals industries employ close to 400,000 Canadians.

National Mining Week is from May 12 to 18, and this year's theme is “Mining—An Innovative Industry for Canadians”. Innovation is the cornerstone of Canada's mining industry and the key to its current and future success.

The Government of Canada is committed to promoting a future marked by new technologies and practices, one that is mindful of environmental and social imperatives. Sustainable development is of the utmost importance, not only for the future of the mining industry, but also for the people and communities whose well-being depends on the mining industry, such as those in my beautiful area, Frontenac—Mégantic.