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

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but the Chair neglected to do something. We have a submission on a point of order. Since we have a lot of noise, a little later we will let the hon. parliamentary secretary have free rein in his remarks in peace and quiet, I hope.

The hon. member for Toronto--Danforth wishes to speak on a question of privilege previously raised, and I would be pleased to hear him now.

Privilege
Government Orders

April 20th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this matter goes back to an issue that was brought before the House on April 1. It emanated out of our public accounts committee.

On March 29 a group from our committee on public works spoke to the lawyer of Mr. Chuck Guité, as he was unable to attend on a particular day. During that meeting, the committee requested of Mr. Guité's lawyer that the seal be taken off his testimony. Later that day, on March 29 at 3:30, the lawyer for Mr. Guité returned to the committee with a written acknowledgement that the seal could be taken off Mr. Guité's testimony. At that time we presented it and it was denied, so we restarted a motion in place so that the testimony would be released 48 hours later.

On Wednesday I was approached in a scrum and I made some statements that were part of that testimony. If there was a technical breach on this issue, I apologize to the House and the committee.

Privilege
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member. Now we can perhaps go back to the bill we were discussing. We will resume debate and call on the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue explaining why people in the north are so excited about this great budget. The budget will do a lot of things for my riding, and I have had a lot of positive feedback from my constituents, as I know other members from the north have.

I have to commend the members from Nunavut and NWT for all their work over the years to help get these great items for north of sixty into the budget.

Some people might wonder how democracy works in this complicated system of parties, caucuses and committees and whether they get their voice across. This is a perfect example of how it works. We have a number of caucuses every week for the northern and western and rural regions. Then all the various caucuses in the regions and sectors feed into a national caucus. The Prime Minister and ministers get to hear the concerns and suggestions which have come directly from our constituents. Of course, that is how they get fed into a budget and that is how we get a budget with a number of tremendous items for our constituencies. Democracy works in a very effective way.

There is $3.5 billion for the largest environmental program of any government in Canadian history, of which 60% will go to the north. We have $90 million in economic development funds. We have the GST rebate for municipalities. We have huge infrastructure funds that are based not on a per capita basis but on need. Members of Parliament now recognize that it costs a lot more to produce infrastructure in the north, with a scattered population and very harsh climate conditions.

I was very excited to see funds for northern sovereignty, for which I have lobbied for a number years. Also, we had the announcement recently of a five year plan that had a number of items to help protect our precious northern sovereignty.

We have just finished the longest one way northern sovereignty patrol which started right after the budget. We will have unmanned patrols this summer of aircraft in the north. We will have the first major military exercise in the north, and a number of other investments.

I was delighted also about the $41 million in the budget to map the north slope. By doing that, we can extend our 200 mile boundaries once we have made that very important investment in the Arctic. Russia has already done that, and I am very excited that we will do the same to protect our sovereignty.

However, that is not what I wanted to talk about today. I want to talk about a commitment by the government to aboriginal people.

Many people know that when our present Prime Minister came into office, he came in with a major commitment in spirit to help the first nation peoples and aboriginals and to reduce the tragic gap in poverty, education and health care and to give them equality with other Canadians.

As Canadians know, we had a very historic day, chaired by the Prime Minister, on Monday. Seventy aboriginal leaders of national aboriginal organizations from all provinces and territories were in Ottawa. Everyone was working together in the spirit of reducing the disparity and finding new solutions in a new world. Members of Parliament were not telling first nations and aboriginal people, Inuit people and Metis what to do. It was the first nations people meeting with parliamentarians and cabinet ministers to come up with solutions in this modern world.

Where is the commitment beyond that? This partnership is very important. In fact it is an essential foundation in trust that is needed to make this work. However, what are the actions after that? Those actions are set out very clearly in the throne speech. The throne speech covers the government's agenda which includes items for early childhood education, youth education, training, the urban aboriginal strategy and for Metis people.

We have the program, but once again we need more actions to show our commitment and those show up in the budget: $25 million a year over five years for human resources development. It also has funds to set up a new governance institute.

If we look at the budget estimates, right in the actual figures there are increased investments for first nations people. This is a very careful and responsible budget in times of tight money but the investments did not stop increasing for first nations people. There were $226 million more for claims, $84 million more for programs, $84 million more for safe drinking water, $66 million more for education and $26 million more for capital rust out projects. There is a total of $495 million, a 9% increase in this very important budget.

Our action continued on after the summit. The next day we started debate on a land claim and self-government bill in an area of Canada larger than some countries. We carried on with a very important aboriginal agenda. It did not just end that day.

Today we have carried on with yet another debate on yet another land claim which would bring first nations people into governing themselves, those who are there on the ground, who understand the solutions and who can work to reduce the poverty.

The examples are so successful. We have done this across the country. It is so exciting that the Prime Minister has led this move and this enthusiasm to reduce poverty and that a vast majority, if not all members of the House, are quite on-side in this enthusiasm to bring these people into equality.

With all that good news, I move:

That the question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I realize that people are anxious to get on with the passage of the budget measures, which we hope will actually result in many of the important programs and services on which Canadians depend, to be fully implemented. This, of course, is the budget implementation legislation that will enable us to do this.

On behalf of my constituents in Halifax, who I am privileged and proud to represent, I want to speak briefly about some elements of the budget that are under consideration. Let me say that as we do so it is important that we take account of the context in which this budget implementation debate is taking place.

First, we know that the Liberals wrestled the deficit to the ground, as they like to say, but it was only after it had heaped the real burden of that deficit reduction program upon the provinces and municipalities, in many cases the most vulnerable of our citizens. The program really became a deficit downloading or a shifting of deficit rather than any meaningful and fair-minded budget deficit solution.

However, having done so, we then witnessed seven successive years in which there has been a very significant and growing surplus under the current government. Canadians were hopeful that what this meant was that the many years of tearing down many of our public services, failing to address the growing problems with respect to our public infrastructure and rebuilding many of our public institutions that had been severely eroded would actually get underway in earnest.

Therefore it was with some considerable alarm, even before the introduction of the first federal budget under the new Prime Minister, the former finance minister in the government, that his very first act upon taking the reins of power as Prime Minister was actually to proceed with a $4.4 billion tax cut, primarily benefiting large corporations that had no claim as first priority to such tax dollars.

That is the context in which we are now debating the budget priorities, the budget allocation that is before us in this implementation bill. Although one is hard-pressed to find actual dollars and cents on which Canada I think, predictably, will be on the hook in the future if the government does not reverse its current course, I think it is also part of the context in which we debate this budget that Canada, again without consultation with Canadians, to the considerable alarm I think of Canadians who have been following this issue, has now signed on for Canada to participate in the missile defence madness of the Bush administration, with the details of Canada's participation to be worked out.

However it has been made clear to Canadians, and we should make no mistake about it, that the government is quite uncritical about that missile defence program, engaging in the fiction that it is not about the weaponization of space and the further fiction, actually a very dangerous one, that somehow it will not cost Canada anything anyway, which of course is ridiculous.

With that context in mind, I want to talk a bit about the prebudget consultations that were held across the country with our federal leader, Jack Layton, meeting together with constituents in many parts of the country. In particular, I want to talk a bit about that prebudget consultation in my own riding of Halifax that was held in the run up to the budget that has since been introduced and is now before us for implementation.

I am sure it will not surprise anyone to know that there was a great deal of concern about the plight of post-secondary education.

I am proud that my riding of Halifax has no less than seven post-secondary education institutions. However many students, faculty members and staff members of those post-secondary education institutions were very concerned about the steady erosion of funding to post-secondary education. The effect has been enormous. Not only has there been some erosion in the quality of educational experience for students and a tremendous loss and outflow of some of our very best faculty members to other parts of Canada where provinces have a bigger tax base and deeper pockets, but also an outflow from the country to the U.S. and other places.

I want to say that what we saw in the budget was woefully inadequate in its response to this growing problem. The most serious aspect of it is the massive student debt that has been heaped upon the shoulders of our students who are always being reminded of how critically important it is for them to have post-secondary education in today's knowledge based economy.

What we have in the budget primarily that purports to address the problem of student debt and rising tuition costs is the privilege for families of limited income--and even that is a ridiculous notion for many because of how untenable it is to set aside many dollars for the future--of sheltering $500 a year toward a learning fund, not to even take effect for 18 years. It is truly amazing that the government would think this would be the response to the crisis that is already being borne by many students and, of course, the privilege of accumulating another $3,000 debt. It is a very inadequate response.

Health concerns are enormous all over the country but in Halifax, where we have a number of primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities, both a provincial and regional centre, there is little in the budget to address what are growing waiting lists for surgery, for diagnostic testing, for specialist services and the longer waiting times in our hospital emergency rooms. There is absolutely no serious commitment to deal with the crisis.

I had the opportunity to meet with political action representatives of the Canadian Medical Association a couple of weeks ago who were extremely alarmed that the government has yet to take seriously implementing the recommendations of the Romanow commission. Many of those recommendations have been ignored but the most serious one, for the continuing erosion of our not for profit public health care system, is the failure to recommit the funds year over year to the financial base, having taken $17 billion out of our public health care system.

There are many other areas of priority concern, such as child care and social housing, that have been virtually ignored by the budget. It will not surprise anybody when I say that I join those colleagues in the NDP caucus who have already spoken to express alarm about the misplaced priorities, the inadequacy of addressing many of these concerns, and of course the environment and the rebuilding of our municipal infrastructure across this country, which again the government has engaged in a great deal of fanfare about, but substantively, when we come down to the actual dollars and cents of the priorities of this budget, are virtually absent or very timid indeed.

It is with heavy heart that I say that the budget surplus that has been accumulated at the expense of many of our most vulnerable citizens and our most vital public services, in this budget that sacrifice has not been recognized and the reparation and repair to the damage done remains unattended to.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-30, the budget implementation act, 2004. This omnibus bill would put into law several measures in the March 2004 budget.

Last month's budget failed to deliver money for our hospitals. It did nothing to reduce spiralling tuition fees. It ignored the pressing needs of the Canadian armed forces. It neglected to put money back into the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.

Under the Liberals, spending has increased by $41 billion over the past seven years. Over the next two years spending is set to rise by another $13 billion, but almost none of the government's multibillion dollar spending will do anything to alleviate child poverty. It will not do much to improve health care, build new roads, help public transit or create jobs. Hospital waiting lines will continue to get longer. Students will continue to plunge deeper into debt. Our soldiers will be stretched as thinly as ever before.

The Liberals use weasel words like “prudence” and “accountability”, but waste and scandal more accurately describe their spending record. When the current Prime Minister was the finance minister we witnessed the billion dollar HRDC boondoggle, $100 million in GST fraud, a $1 billion cost overrun on the gun registry, the theft of $160 million from the defence department, not to mention the sponsorship scandal and the hundreds of millions of dollars given to Liberal friendly advertising agencies. Quite frankly, this is money that would be better off in the pockets of hardworking Canadians.

The aim of the equalization program is to shift resources from the have provinces to the have not provinces to ensure a reasonably similar level of service for health care and education across the country. Eight provinces receive about $10 billion annually. The amount is determined by a very complex formula which measures the ability of each province to raise revenue. B.C. receives about $440 million since it became a have not province under this government's watch.

Bill C-30 renews the equalization program for five years, to March 31, 2009. At their annual conference, all 10 premiers called on the federal government to calculate its standard for equalization by averaging the fiscal capacity of all 10 provinces.

The Liberals refused and instead unilaterally introduced their own changes for a new formula. It changes the way some revenue sources in the formula are measured, resulting in payment increases of about $265 million per year. It also introduces a three year moving average to the way the formula is calculated to smooth out year to year fluctuations in payment levels.

The budget announced a payment to the provinces of $300 million to support a national immunization strategy and $100 million to help improve public health facilities. The budget stated that this would be booked to fiscal year 2003-04 but that payment would be made over three years.

Bill C-30 also authorizes payments to a trust for these purposes but does not specify when they are to be made. Nor does the legislation specify the amounts to be paid to individual provinces.

The budget announced that a further $100 million would be provided to Canada Health Infoway Inc. While the budget said that the payment was to help the provinces invest in hardware and software for public health surveillance, Bill C-30 gave no direction as to its use. This brings the total funds advanced to the foundation to $1.2 billion, including its initial endowment of $500 million announced in September 2000 and $600 million announced in the 2003 budget.

In her April 2002 report, “Placing the Public's Money Beyond Parliament's Reach”, the Auditor General raised concerns about this foundation's accountability structure. Transferring money to funds and foundations so that it may be spent in future budget years was a popular way of doing business when the Prime Minister headed the finance department.

The Auditor General found that from 1996-97 to 2000-01 the government paid $7.1 billion through transfers to nine foundations to achieve various policy objectives of the government. The government treated the $7.1 billion in transfers to foundations as an expenditure, but as of March 31, 2001 almost the entire amount was still in the bank accounts and other investments of the foundations. Very little of it had actually been received by the ultimate intended recipients. The Auditor General concluded that “the $7.1 billion, or most of it, is not really an expenditure of the government”.

The recording of these transfers as expenditures enabled the government to report a lower annual surplus. It was hiding money. This is completely cooking the books.

I remember in the public accounts committee at that time discovering that the government was hiding money in a foundation which was not even in existence as of that date. The foundation came into existence a year later, but the government hid money to pay to that foundation which did not even exist. If a businessman were to follow this practice in his business, I would bet he would be in jail.

Why was the Prime Minister, who was the finance minister at that time, allowed to cook the books? The Auditor General took a strong step. The Auditor General refused to sign off on the government books. What the government did was completely, in my judgment, illegal and a violation of generally accepted accounting principles and should not be allowed to be done by the government.

The federal government also talked about employment insurance. The EI fund is a real scandal in Ottawa. The surplus of employment insurance overpayments has reached about $44 billion and another $3 billion surplus is expected. That surplus is not supposed to exist. This money belongs to employees and employers. The government does not need to accumulate money to the tune of a $47 billion surplus. The Auditor General and the chief actuary of the EI fund have said that it should not be more than $15 billion. The government is abusing its accounting powers and manipulating generally accepted accounting principles just to benefit the government and its Liberal friends.

On another issue, in Surrey at least 44% of what we pay for gasoline is the taxes on gasoline which the Prime Minister has been talking about. Last year the tax bite for B.C. totalled over $1.1 billion. In return the government transferred only $37 million to the province for infrastructure improvements, which is a paltry return of just over 3%. In contrast, the United States gives 95% of the money for infrastructure development projects. In Canada, it is about 3%, which is laughable. The government is carrying all that money into the general revenue, which is a complete black hole.

Discretionary spending increased a whopping 15% this budget year and the government wants overall spending to grow by another 8.8% over the next two years. Truth and transparency in fiscal policy is what we were promised, but we do not see it.

My time has expired, so in conclusion, I would like to say that the sponsorship program referred to by the environment minister's staff as a Liberal slush fund, and likely the unity fund as well, also known as the honey pot, funnelled money into Liberal ridings. We saw the same thing with the transitional jobs fund.

The rot extends far beyond a mere $100 million skimmed by a few advertising firms. It is the whole system of discretionary spending that we are concerned with that is corrupt and corrupting the system. It depletes the treasury, distorts the economy, incites envy, encourages special pleading, and rewards friends of the government.

With the tax filing deadline looming, Canadians should pay close attention to what the government is doing with their money. The Liberals are furiously spending in their bid for re-election and that is not acceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is good to speak to the budget in the House of Commons. This will be my last speech before the election and I want to outline a number of issues that are important to me in my riding and issues that were neglected in this budget.

Regardless of what kind of budget the government has, integrity and values are a very important part of any government's budget. The way people perceive politicians in the House of Commons, whether or not they vote for us, is important.

We have looked at the sponsorship scandal from this Liberal government of virtually $250 million of which $100 million of it went missing somewhere or was inappropriately spent and some of it got back to the Liberal Party. Is it any wonder people have lost confidence?

We see another member of the House stealing a $50,000 ring which is totally inappropriate and unwarranted. Those kinds of issues just harm everybody here in the House of Commons. If we were to do anything in a budget, we should spend a few dollars trying to wake people up in this House, and put some integrity and values in politics.

The avian flu has hit my riding and we are going to debate that issue a couple of hours from now so I am not going to spend any time on that. We will be looking for real commitments from the government on how to deal with that issue.

I want to identify a couple of things that were missing in the budget. There was no mention in the budget of the immigration deportation system, the whole refugee system. It is the kind of thing that the government does not like us to talk about, but I have three cases going on in my riding right now.

A fellow by the name of Phu Son came into the country and got on welfare, and stayed on welfare. He made a lot of money on grow ops. He bought three houses while on welfare, one in Abbotsford, one in Langley and one in Alderville in my riding. When he was caught, he went to court and the judge gave him a $100 fine. This fellow should be deported and those houses should be taken away from him.

What about the Canadian dream? What about all Canadians who are law abiding citizens, trying to keep a family going and raising enough money to buy a house ultimately? This fellow comes here and lives on welfare, and buys three houses. There is something wrong with the system and something wrong with the integrity.

Then there is a fellow by the name of John Fottvik. He came to Canada, beat a woman to death, set her body on fire and served 17 years. At his parole board hearing, he was told that he would be released on condition that he would be deported. The deportation immigration board told him to deport himself. A ticket would be sent to him and he was to show up at the airport at 6:30 on Monday morning and deport himself. Well, John Fottvik is still in this country and did not show up, of course, and nobody is bothering to chase him. The investigation people at Immigration Canada, the RCMP, say that they have other things to do, so that was a waste of time.

Conversely, let me tell members about a young lady who came to Canada from Germany with her parents when she was two years old. She grew up in Toronto in a nice family and then moved to Abbotsford in my riding. She graduated from high school and then was accepted into Harvard which is not an easy task. She graduated from Harvard with a chemistry degree and stayed in the United States for a year and then went to Africa for some volunteer work, and then wanted to come back to Canada.

She was refused entrance to Canada because she did not have a permanent residency card even though she came into the country at age two, went through school and lived in my community. She is an honourable Harvard grad. How many Harvard grads does Canada have? And she is refused entrance.

Meanwhile, I am fighting people like this drug dealer who is still in the country. I am fighting John Fottvik who murders a woman, and this young girl cannot get into our country. It makes me sick. There will be changes after this election to that kind of process.

The issue of drugs was also not included in this budget. I brought this issue up in the House of Commons and across the country. We studied it, a committee worked on it, and 41 recommendations were made on how to deal with cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and crystal meth. None of those recommendations have been accepted and implemented by the House.

After an 18 month study and a $500,000 committee, the government dropped the ball. In fact, it felt the recommendations were a little conservative so it threw out a bill to decriminalize marijuana, sent the media flying in that direction, and did not even bring that bill in because the election is close and the government knows it would get hammered for it. Nothing has been done on drugs. I can assure the House that after this election, when we form the government, something will be done in that regard.

I call Highway No. 1, in British Columbia, from Hope to Vancouver a cow path because it is very similar to a cow path by today's standards. It is woefully inadequate. There are traffic jams at any time of day. It is the number one highway in this country and yet not one red cent has gone toward widening it and yet over three million people use it every day.

Missing totally from this budget was any amount of money from revenues to be put toward a crucial project like that where there is gridlock for trucks going in and out of Vancouver. Not one cent was included in this budget.

SE 2 is a generating plant which the Americans wanted right on the border. I live on the border of Sumas, Washington and Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Americans wanted to build a generating plant that would pollute our already polluted air, which, I might add, was also not addressed in this budget.

We managed to fight that for over three years and that generating plant was refused. Now a private American company is appealing to our federal court, but it will not be successful. The problem is that the air in the Fraser Valley is already brown. It is already a problem. Here we are fighting additional problems of air pollution from generating plants, and the government has done nothing at all about the air pollution in the area where I live, and the air is bad. That also was not in the budget.

People in my area might remember this when they go to the polls. We do not plan to lose. The last time we won by 72% and we expect it to be somewhat higher than that this time.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

An. hon member

80%.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

A little better than 80%. The reason is because all of these problems are realistic problems that were never addressed in the House of Commons.

The national sex offender registry, which I wrote three years ago, is another issue. The government denied that a sex offender registry was needed. Finally, after two years of fighting and with pressure from victims and police, and other people, the government said a sex offender registry was needed. The registry just became law last week. It was brought in essentially the way I wrote it, but the government added some things.

Here is what the government added. The Crown must apply to have a sex offender placed on the registry. We said no and provided a list of sex offences. We said that if someone was convicted of one of those offences, they should go on the registry. Giving the Crown the option to apply is bad. It will be inconsistent across the country.

The government also said it would give a sex offender the right to appeal. Every sex offender will appeal and I am sure some will win those appeals so a few more will drop off. The government said it would allow judges the right of discretion. After all of this, if their privacy is invaded or the judge does not think somebody should be on the sex offender registry, they too can say no. We have a sex offender registry that will be virtually useless thanks to the government.

Madam Speaker, my time is up. The government's time is up. It is time to form another government and it is going to happen.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I want to confirm that this is a debate on Bill C-30, the budget implementation bill. I did not hear anything about the budget in the last speech. Every once in a while the hon. member should actually read the budget. It would probably be of some assistance to him.

I am going to narrow my remarks to annex 3 of the budget, which I again recommend to hon. members just in case they are interested in what is in the budget.

This is the seventh year in a row that the Government of Canada has posted a surplus, which is the first time since Confederation. It is quite a remarkable financial achievement given the difficulties that we had last year. That has been said quite a number of times. What might not be known is that, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, Canada is projected to be the only G-7 country which will record a surplus in both 2004 and 2005.

It is also interesting to note that Canada has had the largest improvement in its budgetary situation among G-7 countries since 1992. That was just about a year before this government took over from the predecessors of the Alliance-Reform-Conservative, et cetera. That was the hole from which we had to dig ourselves out. If we are benchmarking, that is probably an appropriate place to start.

Over that period of time, the other governments, following the lead of the Government of Canada, started to realize that this debt situation could not continue. Therefore, over this period of time, Canada's total government sector debt--by that I mean the provincial and federal governments--has declined to an estimated 35% of gross domestic product, which is a remarkable turnaround, given that we were probably at that time about the second highest in the G-7 nations in terms of indebtedness.

In 2002-03 we posted a $7 billion surplus, much to the chagrin of my colleagues in the far end of the chamber. That was somewhere in the order of .06% of the overall gross domestic product. That contrasts quite favourably with our colleagues to the south and the co-religionists of members opposite.

The U.S. balance fell further into deficit in the same period of time to $375 billion or 3.5% of GDP. Actually, the story is somewhat worse than that because the Americans count their deficit by mixing their pension plan surplus money into the actual government revenues. Therefore, there is a better deficit picture in the United States than the way we project it here in Canada. We separate out the surplus that we have in the Canada and Quebec pension plans and keep them separate and apart from the actual government revenues. That in effect makes a substantial difference.

This year the government projects through its budget a surplus of $1.9 billion. Whether it turns out to be more than that or less than that we actually will not know until July or August of this year. Nevertheless, at this point that is what we are projecting, which is approximately 1% of the entire revenues of the government.

I hear members from the far end of the chamber from time to time say that the house is leaking and all we are doing is paying the mortgage. The mortgage is about 20% of the government's revenues. That is about $37 billion, just to pay the interest on the mortgage. The hon. members to the left on this factor say we cannot pay down any principal. Well, the principal payment in this particular year as projected in the budget is 1% of the entire revenues of the government. They say that is a horrible thing. Surely we should not pay down 1% on our debt. So I do not understand the thinking there.

As a result of continued surpluses at the federal level and the deterioration of U.S. finances, the federal debt to GDP ratio is expected to fall below the U.S. figure for the first time in quite a while, actually since 1977-78.

That is almost 30 years in which the Americans have had a better debt to GDP ratio than we had. This past fiscal year is the first year that we will have a better debt to GDP ratio than our colleagues to the south.

Members will be interested in some of the material that is contained in annex 3.

As I said, Canada was the only G-7 country to record a surplus in 2003 out of all the OECD countries. Canada's surplus for 2003 is estimated to be 1% of GDP, compared to an average deficit among OECD countries of somewhere in the order of 4.7%.

Let me just emphasize that because 4.7% is the average of what an OECD country will be having as a deficit, where Canada will be in a slight surplus, in spite of all the difficulties that we had in this past fiscal year. Those fiscal difficulties that we had with SARS, mad cow and all those other plagues and pestilences, as the minister has described, will be rippling through our 2004-05 fiscal year. We just do not recover from hydro blackouts and expect to instantaneously replace the loss on the gross domestic product.

Turning to the third chart that is in the annex, Canada's total government sector financial balance has improved when it recorded a 9.1% deficit of GDP, almost double the G-7 average. In other words, in 1992 we were 9.1% of GDP in a deficit position--one of the worst countries in the G-7.

We have already improved by being in the seventh year of consecutive surplus. From 1992, in other words the last period of time in which a conservative form of government was running the government of Canada, to 2003, Canada's total financial balance registered a turnaround of 10 percentage points. Before 1992-93, we were way below the G-7 average and making a real hash out of things. With a lot of hard work on the part of this government and on the part of Canadians, we have now turned it around to have the best financial situation of all the G-7 countries in the world.

The previous speaker talked about government spending and that we are just like drunken sailors. Unfortunately for him, the facts are somewhat different. When his previous incarnation of a political party ran the shop, Canada was in a bit of a mess. On a national accounts basis, our total government spending was well above the average for the OECD and the G-7. Since then, we have experienced sharp reductions in program spending and between 1992 and 2003, Canada's total government spending program, as a share of GDP, is estimated to have been reduced by 9.2%, which is a far greater reduction than any other country. So, between the Conservatives of 1992 and the Liberals of 2003, the difference is a reduction in actual program spending net of debt, I am not including debt in this, of 9.2%.

When we add the actual significant differences in debt, we were actually paying 28¢ out of every dollar on debt. We paid out $37 billion this year. We have actually taken that figure from 28% down to just a touch under 20%.

This is a remarkable story. It shows that, contrary to the nonsense we hear out of the other side, Canada is arguably the best managed country in the world. Frankly, if there is going to be an election, I am happy to go to the people of Canada on that record.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Betty Hinton)

Just to reassure the member for Scarborough East that I do listen very carefully to the speeches and make sure people remain on topic, the member for Langley—Abbotsford prefaced his statement by saying he was talking about things he thought were missing from the budget. So, we were talking about the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, as usual when I listen to the member from Scarborough, I find that he must be a lawyer because of the way in which he couches his speech. He speaks like a lawyer. Ordinary Canadians outside of this place cannot even understand what he is talking about with all these great words and great percentages and everything that he puts in. He must be a lawyer.

Let me tell him that as far as Canadians are concerned, they look at what the Auditor General said. Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability? Let him talk about what his government has wasted. The government has wasted billions of dollars on the gun registry. They could do better things here. The member should not try to hide behind the figures out there by talking about the GDP and all those things.

As I was saying yesterday in my speech about this government, the so-called change the Liberals were talking about has not transpired. It is the same old government with the same old policies. There has been no change. There is a lack of vision and a disconnect from Canadians.

We can see what the Liberals are doing on the other side: they are trying to blame it on the Conservative Party now, on Brian Mulroney's party, yet they have been ruling over there for the last ten and a half years. They should forget about Brian Mulroney's record. They should talk about their own record, about what they have done here instead of going back there.

Now, as for their record, the member from Scarborough is absolutely right. The Canadian people will make the choice when they vote at the election. They will say to the government that there is no accountability and they will send the message that the Liberal Party needs to hear from Canadians.

As I said in my speech yesterday, there is a lack of vision and there is a lack of direction in the budget that the Prime Minister has presented, and this is a Prime Minister who was finance minister, the second most powerful man in the last administration. I think we better start using the word “administration”, because it is the same Liberal government doing everything.

Today I want to talk about international assistance. As the senior critic for international development, I noted that this budget has a $248 million increase for international assistance. We noticed the increase, but we do have some very serious concerns about how Canada's international assistance is managed.

The previous government made a commitment of an 8% increase. This $248 million shows that increase. However, when we are talking about figures, we can quite comfortably say that our contribution to international aid has fallen, to .25% of the GDP in 2000, and it remains below .03% of GDP. When we start talking about GDP percentages, it looks very low, but in reality over $2.5 billion is now going to international assistance. That is a huge sum of money.

What we need to know is what is happening with that $2.5 billion that we are allocating to international assistance. Right now we are in 105 countries, giving out money to small projects as band-aids. They are having no impact, no impact at all. I had a meeting with senior officials from CIDA and asked them to give me a success story, to tell me where CIDA has been. The officials have been involved in international development assistance since the 1960s and 1970s and I asked them to give me a success story. They could not give me a success story. Where did they put the money? It is a good question. Where? We do not know.

Let us talk about the countries that were recipients of Canadian aid and what has happened to them. Recipients were the continent of Africa and the continent of Latin America. What happened to the continents of Africa and Latin America? Those two continents today have the largest number of poor countries in the world, so what has happened to all our development assistance?

We were not there to issue development assistance. We were there just to show the Canadian flag. In reality, companies in Canada were the ones that were benefiting from this international development assistance, not the countries to which the aid was supposed to go.

Now, fine, it has been recognized that this was a mistake and the government is trying to address that issue, but I will tell members what the biggest flaw is. We are a country that has absolutely no legislation on determining how to achieve and what are the objectives of our international development assistance. The U.K. has just issued a legislative agenda to tell the bureaucrats where the money should go, but here in Canada the bureaucrats tell us where the money is going. There is an oversight from Parliament, but that does not mean we are telling them where the money should go.

What do we have? We have bureaucrats deciding which countries will get money, where the money will go and how the money will be spent. At the end of the day, it goes in all directions, and as it goes in all directions, there are no concrete results coming out of that kind of thing.

Let me give an example. I stood up in the House two years ago demanding that we stop aid to India and China. Why? Because these were the emerging economies that did not need the small amount of money we were giving them.

What did the minister stand up and say? He said, “No, we have to give the money to them. There are poor people in those countries”. Of course there are poor people in those countries. I agree. But these countries also have governments that should be responsible for their own citizens. What spectacle do we end up with? A year later we have the spectacle of the government of India telling us to pack our bags and leave.

Yet the government did not get that message from China. China sent an astronaut into space. China spent $3 billion dollars on that. Why would the Chinese not worry about their poor while we are saying we are worried about their poor? Even now the aid workers will not move out of China. I do not understand why not. It is not that China is poor. Yes, there are poor people, but the reallocation of resources in China should be the responsibility of the government of China, not the responsibility of the Government of Canada. Still the minister will not agree to that request.

We keep throwing away international assistance money, yet our budget says that we are going to increase our aid spending because we need to help the poor.

I wish to make a small comment on an announcement that the Prime Minister made today. I will say that we were the first to support the initiative of changing the legislation to send cheaper drugs to Africa to fight AIDS. We recognize the importance of this. We recognize the devastation that AIDS is causing. We recognize our commitment. Our party is supporting this legislation and finally we see this legislation moving forward.

Last, I would like to say to my friend on the other side, my friend from Scarborough, that, yes, I also am waiting for an election.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the budget debate here today. The issues I would like to address are issues related to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard, which is part of that organization.

In the event that a large aircraft comes up short in the tidal flats off Vancouver International Airport, the emergency plan for the Vancouver airport requires that two hovercraft be dispensed to bring rescue craft and provide rescue services to that downed aircraft. Hovercraft are the only vessels capable of entering on the tidal flats and of course their presence is almost mandatory, or required, I should say, to effect a rescue.

In the past, we did have two hovercraft available at the Sea Island Coast Guard base. In October 2002, one of those hovercraft was taken out of service due to old age. We were promised a replacement by December of that year. We are still waiting for that replacement. The latest estimate is that it will not be ready until June of this year.

The remaining hovercraft was taken out of service about a month ago due to a serious mechanical problem. It will not be available for service again for probably up to three months. This means that there is no hovercraft available to effect a rescue in the tidal flats off Vancouver, either for an accident at the airport or for any other tragedy that could occur on that very large expanse of water.

Plan B of the rescue plan in the tidal flats called for Department of National Defence search and rescue to provide a Cormorant helicopter to bring rescue rafts to the downed aircraft, but those same planes, those Cormorants, have now been taken out of service and are available to fly only for emergency or rescue services because of their mechanical problems.

So the fact of the matter is that there is no Coast Guard availability for the tidal flats off Vancouver. Absolutely no rescue service whatsoever is available. That, I think, is a very real condemnation of the government's failure in this regard.

I have a copy of the minister's briefing book, which was prepared for the new fisheries minister, the minister responsible for the Coast Guard, and it confirms what I have said. In that briefing note, the minister is told:

The Canadian Coast Guard's on the water capacity to support the government's marine priorities and programs, and marine security, is eroding rapidly. A strong government commitment is needed to reverse this.

The briefing note goes on to state:

...the state of the large vessels in the Coast Guard fleet requires an immediate investment decision by the government--

Thus, the minister has been advised by his own department of the lack of readiness of the Coast Guard due to funding cuts.

However, the funding cuts are not restricted to the Coast Guard. John Fraser, the head of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, noted recently in an annual report that:

Further reductions...fundamentally undermine the capacity to monitor salmon stocks and identify those in need of conservation measures.

Of course in this report we are talking about the west coast fisheries, particularly the salmon fishery. Fraser goes on to say:

The effective management of the salmon resource is confounded and undermined by the downsizing of staff and budgets by both levels of government at the same time.

He goes on to state:

The prospect of even larger reductions in 2004 makes it likely that effective management of Pacific salmon stocks will be further diminished.

The briefing book the minister received on becoming minister gave him ample warning about the problems that John Fraser is now warning us about, another reason why we needed the departmental spending plans, which should have been provided in a more timely fashion. However, let us see how the minister was advised.

The briefing book stated that several internal challenges “threatened the long-term sustainability of DFO's services”.

The notes claim “chronic financial pressures”, some of which date back to program review and “budget shortfalls” in recent years. The notes state “growing program and workload pressures to deliver an increasing range of services”.

The briefing notes go on to say that there were established plans to reduce DFO's staffing by “not filling 15 percent of the positions that will be vacant over the next two years”.

All of that underscores the comments made by Mr. Fraser that the funding cuts by the government will undermine the department's ability to manage and protect the salmon resource on the west coast.

That is further illustrated by the point that DFO was identified as being part of the first round of Treasury Board Secretariat led expenditure and management reviews and was required to contribute $9 million to the $1 billion federal reallocation exercises in the year 2003-04.

DFO will be required again to cut further to support the government spending cuts. I think it has already been cut to the bone as we have illustrated here with a report from the Coast Guard and from the minister's briefing notes on the state of the salmon fishery on the west coast.

These cuts are not restricted to the west coast. The briefing notes prepared for the minister state:

Overfishing and the increasing trend of non-compliance with NAFO measures by foreign fishing vessels outside Canadian waters is a serious concern to the Government. They are threats to conservation and jeopardize the rebuilding of important straddling fish stocks.

These briefing notes also state:

Directed fishing for fish stocks under moratoria (e.g. Grand Banks American plaice), the use of small mesh gear, misreporting of catches, and the use of non-impartial observers are the main areas of non-compliance.

The non-compliance can be attributed in part to the current declining level of detection that in turn contributes to a decreasing deterrent effect.

In other words, the fisheries department is not out on the water, is not monitoring these foreign fishing fleets and that is leading to the increased pressure in the catching of fish stocks that are under moratoria.

The briefing notes state further:

While there is 100% observer coverage on foreign fishing vessels, it has lost its deterrent effect, particularly on EU vessels because observer reports are not regarded as evidence of violations by the EU.

There is also inconsistent and inadequate follow-up to infringements of the NAFO measures by flag States.

Many see this as the result of an ineffective governance regime in the NAFO Regulatory Area.

The fisheries committee warned the government of these ongoing problems and encouraged the federal government to exert some control over these fishery problems on the east coast but to no avail.

What is also very interesting is that cuts are ongoing in the fisheries department of British Columbia. The briefing notes to the minister note that as a result of the core services review conducted by the provincial government, the minister of agriculture, food and fisheries resources have been “reduced by 45%”.

It goes on to say that MAFF is expected to seek greater support from DFO programs which will likely “create funding pressures for DFO”. Provincial cuts are simply being matched by federal cuts which further put the fishery stocks at risk.

I am not very encouraged by what I read in the budget because essentially no mention is made of the problems facing the fishing industry and the Canadian government's ability to fulfill its constitutional mandate, which is to protect these fishery stocks.

I am disturbed by that and I know that fishermen on both coasts will be very upset to learn of the minister's knowledge of the impact of these cuts and yet has failed to ensure that the government addressed these very real concerns.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to say a few words on the budget implementation bill. I also want to say a few words on what I think is one of the most important issues facing most Canadians today, the whole issue of health care.

The Liberal government has been in power from 1993 to 2004 and in 1995 we had a massive cutback. I know the member for Malpeque is upset about this because in 1995 there was the biggest cutback in history in transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social programs. It was an absolutely devastating cutback. The member for Malpeque almost crossed the floor at that moment and joined the NDP. He probably should have done that as he is more at home over here.

At one time the federal government funded 50% of health care and the provinces 50%. Now the federal government funds 16% of health care and the provinces pay some 84%. There has been a real drop in funding, from 50% to 16% , by the federal government.

We then had the Romanow commission report which stated that federal transfers in cash should be increased to 25%. I think we have many ways of raising that money.

The government, for example, is saying that it wants to reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 25% of the economy within 10 years. Right now it is at 42%. The government plans to put some $30 billion or $40 billion on the national debt. However, even if it put nothing on the national debt, we would be down to 25% debt to GDP after about 12 years.

What I think the government should do is to take that $30 billion or $40 billion and put it into transfers to the provinces for health care. That would be one way of finding a large part of the money we will need, although not all of what we will need, for transfers to the provinces. It will cost, of course, a lot more than $30 billion over 10 years but with the economy growing and a fair taxation system, the money will certainly be there.

I want to spend the remaining five or six minutes I have putting on the record, I think, for the first time in the House because I have not seen it before, what this means to provinces. I will start with my home province of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan had a budget recently in which it budgeted $2.69 billion for health care, an increase of 6.3% which is well ahead of inflation. If the federal share of funding were increased from 16% to 25%, that would mean an additional $306 million a year for the province of Saskatchewan. That $306 million a year is a lot of money to a province that only has one million people. It would allow the Saskatchewan government, in the current circumstances, to balance its budget without going into the fiscal stabilization fund.

In British Columbia, going from 16% to 25% would mean an additional $1.115 billion per year. That would be a lot of money for British Columbia.

My good friend from Wild Rose, Alberta is here. In Alberta, going from 16% to 25%, if the federal government were to adopt the Romanow commission report, it would mean an extra $751 million per year for the province of Alberta.