House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, we notice that when the Liberal Party members talk about fiscal accountability and responsibility, they seem to forget the concerns and the fears regarding HRDC. They seem to forget the gun registry, Bill C-68, which cost well over $1 billion. That is money that could have gone to transfer payments for provinces, money that could have gone into health care.

If Canadians and opposition members like ourselves do not believe the Liberals now, what makes them think that Canadians will believe them at the voting booth?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, there might be a chance that we are going to find that out.

I am always amused that the opposition likes to major on minors. The first question following the implementation of the budget bill had absolutely nothing to do with the budget. The members opposite must think that the budget is so good that they have been reluctant to ask questions about it. So here we are. We are proposing spending something in the order of $187 billion and the opposition is all fired up about things like the gun registry, sponsorship and things of that nature.

The Government of Canada has balanced its budget. It is the first time since Confederation that we have had seven balanced budgets. We are the only nation in the G-7 that has a balanced budget.

Where would they like to have their problems? The United States has a $485 billion deficit and we are running a modest surplus. It has an unsustainable public health care system and public security system. Both of ours are sustainable. This is a pretty well run country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the budget it talks about homeless funding and certain amounts of money, but these amounts are really old funds from old budgets. There was $753 million from the 1999 budget and $405 million from the 2003 budget. These were for homeless initiatives for cities across Canada.

Yet last winter we saw the disgraceful examples, as in the City of Edmonton, my own city, where absolutely no extra shelter space was added with $20 million of this funding. They had to open up a fire hall and move emergency vehicles out into the parking lot to make space for homeless people.

With no allowance of new money in the budget, and the spending and absolute mismanagement of the old money, what will we do this winter to provide that most basic element of human need, a few square feet of warm floor space, on a regular basils, for people who want it in an emergency?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been personally seized with this issue pretty well since I got here. It arises by virtue of the fact that in my riding we have 23 motel units, 11 of which are used by the City of Toronto to shelter families. It is a disgrace. It is awful that we have something like 1,400 homeless people in our riding on a nightly basis. I and the members in this caucus took that to heart. We did involve ourselves in the securing of the $753 million that the hon. member opposite talked about, the $680 million in the budget following that and things of that nature.

At this point, and I cannot speak for his community but I can speak for my own, that shelter system has actually shrunk. We are no longer using 11 motel units, we are down to 4. Instead of 1,400 people in the riding on an annual basis, we are down to something in the order of 300. Going up and down Morningside Avenue, for instance, in some of the lower rent apartments, there are actually signs out in front of the building saying that space is available and first month is free. There are deals for people on low incomes.

I put it to the hon. member that at least the money that has come into my riding and the money that has come into the City of Toronto and the GTA is in some measure working. I would not say this is at an end. I would not argue that for a minute. We will have to continue to work at that. However, the money that has been spent thus far has been well spent.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are looking at another budget here but probably the wrap up of another parliamentary term. Therefore, I would like to address the House and make some reflections on my 15 years here. In fact, this is my 16th budget. I will try to do that in 15 minutes, so wish me well.

I would like to encapsulate my remarks in thinking about not just a budget or about Parliament but about our lives in general. We are always walking through a series of doors. Life is always comprised of new chapters, whether in our family life, our community or here in Parliament. I guess every budget is a hallmark for that because there are new ideas and new spending initiatives for the government.

I would like to focus my remarks around the whole idea of always moving forward in life. Every door and every chapter presents an opportunity of hope, wonder, adventure, surprise and also apprehension. There are negatives to it as well and sometimes just raw terror.

However, it is incumbent upon all of us, not just as parliamentarians and legislators, but as individuals, family people, community people, to walk through those doors with a sense of confidence, opportunity and altruism that we would make our world a better place.

When I think about some of the doors that we walk through in our life, some them we get to choose and some of them we do not, but we make our choice an attitude. Even if we walk through a door that is difficult, sometimes we do not get to pick what door, for instance, what family we are born into.

I was born into an alcoholic family in Vancouver, July 1, 1952. I did not get a choice about that. I am grateful for that, but I learned some very difficult lessons in my growing up years. I am glad to say this many years later, having grown up in a single parent family, which was certainly not as prevalent as it is today. I admire my mother so much for taking five kids by the scruff of the neck and raising us single-handedly.

I am happy to report many decades later that my father Mansell is sober. I have addressed the topic of drinking and driving painfully and emotionally in the House. I could tie that to budgetary figures about health care costs and how much the health care system is under this increasing burden of the results of drinking and driving. My dad Mansell is sober now and I am so grateful for that. We are able to work on this together; me from the parliamentary side and him out in public being involved with AA.

That door opened to me and I had to choose some lessons in my family situation. I made a realistic and practical decision. I walked through a door at age six, saying that I would never drink. I am grateful for that. Many people across the country know that I get into enough trouble dead sober, so I am very grateful to be an abstainer.

I then chose in my adult professional life to become a teacher. So I walked through that door of making an impact in young people's lives, but also turning all this legislative stuff into real life somehow, trying to help kids understand the way things are in Canada, how legislation affects them, and how budgets in fact affect them when we look at post-secondary education.

I was also a foster parent. That was another door that I chose to go through as a single parent. I recall some of these situations I had, again with reflections from federal budgets, regarding Indian affairs when I had native foster kids for many years from reserves, one of which I taught at and then some surrounding ones as well.

The whole idea of increasing funding, that is, throwing money at a situation is supposed to decrease problems. However, on a first hand basis, I realized that throwing money at the dreadful circumstances which many people face on reserves--this many years later as well, and I fostered almost 20 years ago--would not decrease the corresponding problems.

I am sad to say that in that area, with budgetary increases year after year, the problems have been increasing with the quality of life on reserves. Somehow we need to grapple with that on a human level rather than just give money and hope that it works, because it clearly does not. I think that members on all sides of the House would agree with that.

I walked through that door and then had a neighbour dare me to walk through the door of running for the Reform Party back in 1988. I took that dare and made Canadian history. It was a bit of a surprise to me. On March 13, 1989, I found myself going from my classroom in Dewberry, Alberta, to the House of Commons, my new classroom. That was an interesting door to walk through, to be sure.

I was sworn in on April 3, 1989, and some will remember the deep, dark history as that was the year of the budget leak. I do not know how many people here even remember that. Probably not many; everyone looks like kids around here.

In April 1989, Doug Small, who worked with Global TV, got a copy of the budget before it was released by the Mulroney Conservatives. Of course, the Conservatives were in power then. There was a great hoopla that the markets were going to react to this because they had advance notice. I wonder what Martha Stewart was doing about then, but anyway, when I think about what happened then, I was amazed, not amused, at the behaviour of the Liberals and the NDP members who were sitting here in opposition. They got greatly exorcised about this and they all walked out of the House.

So, for budget 1989, here I was, the kid from Beaver River sitting in my little place back over by the curtains, the only Independent in the House at the time. I was a Reformer but we did not have 12 members. I listened to the finance minister, Michael Wilson, present the budget to me. It was just an amazing experience for me.

The annual budget deficits in those years, the amount of money that was spent more than was brought in, racked up to a total of $42 billion. That is more money out of one's allowance being spent than being taken in. It does not work. I am not good at math. I am an English teacher, but I know that does not work.

So I was interested, because the Liberals always blamed the Conservatives by saying that they got their mess. The Conservatives always said that they got the Liberals' mess. I am going to say two things on this. If we trace the roots, it was one finance minister in the early seventies by the name of Jean Chrétien who started deficit financing in this country. I say shame. Then the Liberals came into office and said that they inherited this terrible deficit from the terrible Conservatives, and all they were trying to do is just save the day.

If I go back to my teaching career, I used to say this to my grade eight students, “I do not care who threw that spitball on the ceiling, I just do not want to see another spitball”.

So, let us quit the blame, quit the accusations that the Conservatives did it or the Liberals did it. Who cares? Canadians do not give a sweet fig. They want to see that a government can live within its means, as their families have to live within their means, and as their communities need to live within their means as well.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

An hon. member

That is exactly what we are doing.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

A member says that is exactly what they are doing. Well, that fact has slipped past some of us actually.

The budget needed to be balanced. I do not think anybody would question that. If someone asked me, “Well Deb, what did you accomplish in 15 years on the Hill?” I am not going to take credit for this single-handedly for sure, but I will say this. The words “budget balancing” and “Liberals” did not fit in the same lexicon. I am glad to see that at least Liberals now are talking about budget balances and zero deficit spending.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

An hon. member

We have done it seven years in a row.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

April 1st, 2004 / 11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

He says they have done it seven years in a row and I say hear, hear for part one. However, the way they have done it, part two says “Whoa, let us increase spending and just bring in the cash”. It is awfully easy to balance a budget when they just rake in more cash. If I had any discrepancy with my Liberal pals or any criticism to make of my Liberal pals, it would be that it is pretty easy to drag in the cash and then say, “Well look at us. Are we not heroes?”

They talk about social programs. Oh my have I been attacked about social programs over the years. The worst attack on social programs is spending an enormous chunk out of every tax dollar just to pay interest on the debt. That is what attacks social programs. The biggest single ticket item is interest on the debt. Hundreds of billions of dollars simply go toward paying interest on our debt.

Anyone out there who charges too much on their Mastercard knows exactly what I am talking about. If people cannot pay the full bill when it comes due, the interest on that sucker compounds the next month and it gets bigger and bigger.

I served my first term under the Mulroney Conservatives and then the Liberals came in in 1993. The present Prime Minister wrote the red book. As members know, I lost my copy of the red book some years later. It landed out front here somewhere. However I was amazed and rather amused that the Prime Minister, as a backbencher at the time sitting with me in the back row a decade and a half ago, wrote the red book. When the Governor General was handing out literary prizes the other day I was thinking that the Prime Minister should have received an award for the red book for best fiction, or something like that. I think the Governor General would have been very impressed by that.

Yes, I will give the Liberals a tick mark for having balanced budgets and for cutting a little spending, but it was at the expense of health care. If Canadians want government to spend money on anything it is on health care. The government is responsible for cutting $20 billion out of health care over the years. It is unbelievable.

How about government being involved in business? Maybe that is something it should have thought about. How about when the government blasted defence and virtually stripped our defence department of so much; the front lines, soldiers, equipment, manpower. These were the items that were cut but there are many areas that could have been looked after as well.

Instead of the Liberals saying that they would look after this by changing their attitude toward spending and instituting measures that would prioritize and control federal spending, the kind of stuff that we know we could change, they missed the opportunity to walk through the door of responsibility by saying that they were holding the money in trust. They just raked in more cash and missed the opportunity to get things under long term control.

I appreciate that they have had a balanced budget for seven years running, as they say, and that there is a surplus, but I cannot help but think of the human cost because health care has been absolutely ripped to shreds under the Liberals.

I heard the member from Toronto say that public dollars into health care were not sustainable and that the Prime Minister and the premiers needed to work out a sustainable path. Sure. However any time any province even hopes to address its health care crisis, those people jump all over them and say that, no, they cannot do it that way. Somehow we need to come up with an answer for this.

Again, it is just the premiers going after the Prime Minister and the federal government, and the federal government going after the premiers. It is like the spitball thing again. I do not care whose responsible. If my mother is sick, I do not care who is responsible, I just want to make sure that she receives good health care. It is about as simple as that. I think every citizen feels that way. Canadians do not care what level of government is providing that service. They just want care. If they need an MRI, a hip replacement or whatever, they need to know that that health care will be there for them no matter what and not 25 months later, or something like that.

This budget, and here we go again, is an announcement of the reannouncement of the announcement of $2 billion back into health care and into homelessness that my colleague just spoke about. They are long term promises.

Over the next 10 years the federal government will give Canadians, what? How could the government say that? When I married my husband, Lewis, I made a commitment to him that I would be with him on the long term. It was not up to the voters to decide whether I would stay with my husband or not. That is a long term commitment I made.

For the government to promise to give Canadians something in 10 years but to also say that it is conditional upon Canadians re-electing it, is transparent. Sure we need long term commitments, but we not need a government saying that the 10 years is conditional on whether it is re-elected. That is clandestine and unbelievably self-serving. It is foolish, to boot, as the Liberals are getting ready to go to another election after a little over three years, I might add.

We all know that doors are always open but sometimes we have to pull kind of hard on the latch to open them. I have made a decision, voluntarily, I might add, to leave this place, which is a nice way to go out. I am ready to move on to a new chapter but I have absolutely no idea what that will be. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, like opening any other door there is apprehension, adventure, opportunity and stark terror, to be sure, but if we are to keep growing and keep moving we must be grateful for the doorways.

I am very grateful for the 15 years that I have spent here in Parliament but I feel I am ready to move on. One of the greatest philosophers of all time, Kenny Rogers, put it this way, “You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, know when to run”. And know when not to run. I have made the personal decision not to run again.

I came to this place as the first Reformer 15 years ago. I am pleased to see now, 15 years later, that the cycle is complete in the Conservative movement in this country. I am glad to see that the new Conservative Party is a united force, not just as an effective opposition but that it is offering Canadians a true, clear alternative. Canadians will make their decision. We cannot make it for them.

I have let go of one trapeze and I am ready to reach out to the next one. I do not know what that will be yet. I actually feel like I am in free fall right now. However I know God has looked after me to this point in my life and he will not throw me to the wolves now.

I would like to thank my family who have been tremendously supportive over my career and my entire life. My mother, Joyce, who has been an incredible role model and mentor to me, summed it up best when somebody was doing a publication on my life last fall. Michelle Lavoie from CPAC phoned my mother in Victoria and said “I'll bet you are really proud of your daughter”. My mother said “Yes, but which one?” She has four daughters. I am one of four girls. If that does not sum up character, then I do not know what does. I therefore would like to pay public tribute to my mother and all my family.

I want to tell my husband, Lewis, to whom I have been married for ten and a half years, that I will be moving home full time now. In fact, we are so fond of each other that we will move in together now. I am looking forward to that.

I also want to pay tribute to the people of Beaver River in Edmonton North and my colleagues across the way. I have appreciated them over the years.

I think all of us, whether we are leaving, coming, going, or whatever, need to have a personal mission statement, and this is mine: a truth teller, an advocate, an encourager who loves to see people grow into their potential as human beings. If, in any way, I have been an encouragement or an advocate for anybody, a constituent or any other Canadian, I am grateful for that opportunity.

I am grateful for having served four terms here in the House of Commons. My prayer is that in some small way I have been able to do that in this chapter through this door. As I leave here voluntarily and open a new door into a new chapter of my life, whatever that will be, I pray that I will be able to use the resources and the learning experiences that I have had here.

I thank everyone. I have had a great run. God bless you all. Amen.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton North personally for her contribution to the House of Commons.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I too want to add my compliments to the hon. member.

I acknowledge that on this side of the House her contributions were not always appreciated. There may have been a bit of muttering under one's breath. However the hon. member has added to the political discourse over the years that she has been here in a unique and sometimes humourous style. She certainly has a well honed capacity for skewering on questions.

I compliment her and wish her well in her future endeavours. I am sure another door will open and that the Lord has a very interesting door as well.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to pay tribute to the member for Edmonton North. She has brought to the House of Commons, ever since its very humble beginnings in 1867, a whole new way of communicating in this House. I know she is penning a book of her life experiences which we will have the opportunity of seeing sometime later this year. I can imagine there will be some very colourful chapters. I imagine there will be some new words. Words like sweet fig and potlickers are actually now permanent members in the parliamentary debates and I am sure they are being used by the entire Commonwealth.

The member is one of the most principled members I know. She has fought tirelessly for her constituents and Canadians to the very best of her ability. I was not here in 1993, but after speaking with some of the members who were here then, when she was joined by 51 other of her colleagues she led and guided them. It is going to be a great loss, not only for myself and members on this side but for every member of the House of Commons to lose such a talented member of Parliament. We will remember her fondly.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I too want to join with the two other members who paid tribute to Deb.

I remember when she first came here as the only member of her party. She knew every bill that was going through the House. She studied every one of them and she developed the policy of that party from the way that she responded to those bills.

She has been unique as a member of Parliament. No one will ever forget her, least of all I. I have not heard more moving words in this House than her tribute to her mother and her mission statement, something which touches all of us. She is indelibly imprinted on our memory and all I can say to her, as she selects the next path in her life, is that we would love to have her over here.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, having served 18 years as a customer service agent in the airline industry in Watson Lake, Yukon and at the Halifax airport, and having always been a political junkie, when the hon. member came to this House I looked at her and said, “Wow, now someone is in trouble”. I have to admit that even though we may have disagreed on political fronts, I never disagreed with her loyalty to her family, to her party and to Canada.

On behalf of our party, the federal NDP and our provincial counterparts, and all Canadians who know her on a personal level as well as through the media, I wish her all the very best and God bless her.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure to work with the hon. member in this House for over ten years now and I would like to take this opportunity to join with my colleagues in wishing her all the best in her future endeavours.

I met the hon. member for the first in 1990. I was part of a group of parliamentary interns from the National Assembly on a visit to Ottawa, and we met with representatives of all the various political parties. At the time, she was the sole spokesperson for reform in Ottawa, since she was the only member of the Reform Party elected to the House.

Right from the beginning, I could tell this was a strong-willed, very articulate and brilliant woman. I thought she would wreak havoc on this House, and she did during her first years here, even though she was the sole member of her party. Of course, she continued afterwards. I found her to be an experienced and very efficient parliamentarian during her stint in the House of Commons.

I want to pay special tribute to her today and, once again, to wish her all the best in her future endeavours.