House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Yes, Mr. Speaker. We have obviously decided that your life has been too boring and want to give you some interest.

I rise with respect to a point of order on questions I asked in question period. They were with respect to a review of some financial matters of the Liberal Party of Canada. You questioned that and in fact you ruled that those questions were not properly in order.

I would like to point out to the Chair, Mr. Speaker, that it was the government itself that raised these audits in the House, not the opposition. I would also like to point out that the so-called audits dealt with money which came from the taxpayer through contracts awarded by the Government of Canada.

I would also like to point out that we have a responsibility to ensure that public funds are properly dealt with, no matter what their final destination is. We have a difficult situation where we have a government whose members are all members of the Liberal Party, of course, and I believe that on behalf of taxpayers we are entitled to get to the bottom of this situation. Particularly when the government raises defences like a so-called audit or a review of financial matters in the House, we in the House should be entitled in reply to question the matters that are raised by the government.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that you review this matter and advise me as to the points I have raised.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill for her intervention.

Yes, I ruled the questions out of order and I did so on the basis that they dealt with internal party matters. If the audit had been one that was paid for by the government at the request of the government because of problems and had been ordered by the ministry specifically, I might have had more sympathy, but that does not appear to be the case.

I do not know all the facts. I will review the situation, but it looked to me as though this was a standard review that had been done by someone and the report was made. Whether it was at the request of the commission or some other person, I do not know, but normally party finances are not the administrative responsibility of the government even where there is a case of government moneys having been paid to the party for some reason or another. That is why I disallowed the question.

We have had a lot of questions on whether government funds were properly expended, but that was not the question the hon. member asked. It was about the internal affairs of the party and for that reason I ruled the question out of order. She was not the only one who had that misfortune today.

I will review the matter and get to the back to the House should I feel that my ruling was incorrect. I will let her know accordingly.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point. I draw to your attention that you yourself just used the term “normally”. I would suggest to you that we are in uncharted territory here, because the government itself, as my hon. colleague just indicated, was using these forensic reviews, not even audits but forensic reviews, of their party books as a shield to try to deflect the attention being paid to those funds as allegedly coming from the public through expenditures under a government program.

Therefore, I would contend that it should be admissible to probe further in this regard, because these are not normal times.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Even if the forensic audit was being used as a shield for the purpose intended, questions about the internal party financing are out of order. I do not understand why one necessarily would make the other follow, but as I have indicated to the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill, I will review her arguments and questions on the point and come back to the House, if need be, to make appropriate adjustments.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had 12 minutes remaining to complete his remarks. He may now resume his speech, to be followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we left off, before statements by members and oral question period, I had started to list the reasons we oppose the budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.

The first reason is the bogus consultation by the Minister of Finance of the opposition parties' critics. He claimed he was open to including the various priorities of the opposition parties in the budget. During our over 60-minute meeting with him, he seemed quite sensitive to each of our proposals. However, here we are, several weeks later, with a budget that makes absolutely no mention of the priorities we had identified to him. Among those priorities is the whole issue of resolving the fiscal imbalance.

I had the opportunity, in my seven-minute presentation, to explain the negative impact of this imbalance and what we expected to see in the budget to at least begin to fix the fiscal imbalance.

I want to repeat that the government has ample means to resolve this issue. Even given the health accord of last September, the equalization agreement and even the special agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and with Nova Scotia, we know that, over the next six years and under the current federal tax system, the government will have over $100 billion in surplus funds. And that is a conservative estimate.

While the federal government pockets the excess taxes paid by Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, the governments of the provinces and Quebec are having a hard time and are barely achieving their objectives and fulfilling their responsibilities, such as providing front-line services to people.

There was the health agreement. It is obvious that the governments of the provinces and Quebec cheered the amounts that were freed up last year. They have been bled dry, in any case, since 1997 by the former finance minister, who is now the Prime Minister, and they lack funds. So any additional $100 million to meet the needs of an aging population is very welcome. But it is clearly not enough.

I will use the example of Quebec because it is the one I know best. The agreement last September which provided more than $500 million for health will only produce enough funding to run the Quebec health system for nine days. This amount seems enormous, but the needs are very great as well. As I was saying, when the Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut the Canada social transfer, the transfers for health, education and assistance for the most disadvantaged families. So we find ourselves in a situation in which there is a lack of funds for the governments of the provinces and Quebec.

First, there is not even a hint of recognition of the fiscal imbalance, and second, there is no sign of any attempt to resolve it.

We also thought that the federal government would be better disposed toward the equalization issue. As we know, the bogus agreement reached last October between the provinces and the federal government only takes the amounts that the federal government paid in 2001-02 for equalization, caps them at $10 billion, which was the amount of the transfer for the recipient provinces at the time, and indexes this amount at 3.5% a year.

Such an agreement makes a travesty of the basic, prime objective of equalization. As for the two other agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, we will return to them in a moment.

Equalization is there to even out the fiscal capacity of all the provinces so that they can provide a variety of services of equal or nearly equal quality from east to west across Canada.

In order to achieve this, the true fiscal capacity, in other words, the capacity of the governments or a province to collect taxes from their taxpayers, needs to be determined. This is no longer done. The federal government simply takes the amount paid in 2001-02 and adjusts it for inflation without taking into account any change in the provinces' wealth.

In a given year, a province might receive an equalization payment because of a major setback. For example, if the price of oil dropped considerably, some provinces would perhaps experience some difficulties and might be entitled to equalization. Others could see an increase in cash flow another year, in which case they would not be entitled to equalization.

Taking the $10 billion amount from three years ago and simply indexing it without taking into account the change in the situation, is nonsense. This is a travesty of the equalization formula devised in 1947 by the Rowell-Sirois Commission.

The agreement reached with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia is an example of this, but worse. We have nothing against Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. On the contrary, we have friends throughout Canada, in the Maritimes and in the west, in particular. I realized this during the work of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance. We have friends from east to west in Canada, from coast to coast.

However, to properly measure a province's fiscal potential, none of its sources of revenue can be eliminated. Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil revenues, for example, cannot be excluded from the calculation of these provinces' ability to earn revenues from natural resources, property taxes, personal taxes, goods and services taxes.There cannot be a different treatment in another province that cannot have a special agreement like that. Nothing gets measured if a source of revenue is excluded. But this is what is happening with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, which benefited from a $2.8 billion agreement over 10 years, with the first $2 billion paid already from the surplus of the last fiscal year.

Let us consider the amount allocated to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia per capita under the agreement with Ottawa. If the agreement were applied to the residents of Quebec, the province would get a lump sum payment of $38 billion tomorrow morning. That is a lot of money. Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Sorbara of the Ontario government, whom I had the honour to meet three weeks ago in subcommittee proceedings, were disconcerted by this agreement. It means that the per capita fiscal potential of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia exceeds not only that of Quebec, but also that of Ontario. This is how they skewed the system.

Equalization is the only program in the Constitution, the aim of which, as I was saying, is to try to standardize provincial tax capacities so that Canadians are served well across the country. However, this objective has been totally ignored. Equalization would no longer exist but would simply be called a $10 billion subsidy indexed to inflation and it would change absolutely nothing.

There is one other problem, employment insurance. When I met with the minister, he was all ears and all heart when he spoke of the 60% of unemployed people who are excluded from the EI program. He said this was unfortunate, and was full of compassion at our meeting. Yet there is nothing in the budget to ensure better access and better coverage. There are just a bunch of very limited pilot projects for areas of high unemployment.

What kind of government do we have? Not only is its morality open to question now, it has already been questioned because of past actions. It has slashed EI, treated the unemployed as fraud artists, and excluded people who had paid 100% of the contributions to the EI fund when they were working. Yet now 60% of them, or 6 out of 10 workers, cannot benefit from EI. Is that moral? Is this not immorality?

Since this government has been in power, that is since 1993, it has done a number of immoral things. When I use that word, I am not referring to the sponsorship scandal, which is just one more thing to add to the dubious immorality of the present Liberal government. There is nothing for the unemployed.

I have met with agricultural producers and I am sure my western and Quebec colleagues do as well, every day in their respective ridings. These people are the victims of a disaster caused by one sick cow in Alberta and a ban imposed by the Americans. As a result, there is a total disaster as far as our farmers are concerned.

In addition, farmers in Quebec and across the rest of Canada have had negative net incomes for three straight years. Do members know what that means? It means that these producers work 365 days a year or close to it—they do not take vacations because the animals cannot wait—and have nothing to show for it. They do not have one red cent to put in their pockets, even if they have dozens of animals and tonnes of grain to sell. They have been going through this for three straight years.

How does the federal government respond to the mad cow crisis, for example, or the grain crisis caused by an increase in American subsidies for wheat in particular? It responds by providing $1 billion, which it was very pleased to announce last week. Farmers have been going through an unprecedented catastrophe for 25 or 30 years now. What does this figure mean for a beef producer? It amounts to $20 a head. For two years, these people have been losing $800, $900 or $1,000 a head, and now they are offered $20, while the government claims that it has done all it can, that it tried to persuade the Americans and develop a coherent policy. Well, these people are all starving.

So this is the federal government's response, despite its ability to collect a $100 billion surplus out of our pockets over the next six years. It could have done more to help farmers escape the catastrophe that they are currently going through.

In my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and in the rural ridings of most of my colleagues in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, farmers are expressing their dismay, even after the fabulous announcement last week.

Nothing is provided for social housing, even though people have been waiting for a long time. All that the government has done since 1991 is invest in maintaining the existing social housing, while nothing is provided for new construction. Many families currently spend more than 50% of their incomes on rent. It is said that when people spend more than 25%, they are living in poverty. When they spend twice that, they are living doubly in poverty. But there is no answer to this in the budget.

I will leave it to my colleagues who will follow, including the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, to speak about the environmental question.

In conclusion, those are the reasons why we oppose this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in support of the 2005 budget implementation act. The theme of the bill before us today is “delivering on commitments” and that is exactly what this year's budget will achieve.

These commitments have been designed not only to face the challenges within our nation's borders but to meet global pressures and support the ever increasing ambition of our nation and our people.

As the only G-7 country to post total government surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation expected to continue to be in surplus again in 2005 and 2006, the government's sound fiscal management model offers the rock solid basis upon which these and future commitments can be delivered.

Canadians expect nothing less, and we have decided to respond to such high expectations with an ambitious program promoting a marked increase in our overall quality of life and based on five mutually reinforcing commitments: healthy fiscal management, promoting a productive and growing economy, reinforcing Canada's social foundations, enhancing the sustainability of the environment and our communities, and reinforcing Canada's role abroad.

The proposals contained in this bill take major steps to deliver on all these commitments. What my opposition colleagues miss however is that this budget is an inter-related road map for sustained improvements to Canadians' quality of life, not some à la carte menu with no relationship between one item and another.

The days when the fiscal, social and foreign challenges facing Canada could be addressed by our government in isolation are over. The approach underlining this budget reflects this new reality. Unfortunately, our friends across from us, as they have been on so many occasions, are clearly stuck in the past.

I want to give an example taken from my own sector of responsibility, as Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities.

During the election last summer, barely nine months ago, this government committed to implementing the new deal for Canada's cities and communities. Canadians elected us so we could fulfill that promise, among others.

In particular, mayors and municipal councillors across this country held forth the hope that the government would be capable of providing them with two equally important benefits that no other government had been capable of finding a way to provide to them before: first, long term, stable and predictable financing; second, development of new working relationships between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government with a view to developing better long term strategies for improving the economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability of the places Canadians live.

How do I know this? When the Prime Minister first created the infrastructure and communities portfolio, what were we hearing from our municipal friends across the country? We were hearing that there was an infrastructure gap rapidly reaching an unsustainable level, that our cities, the face of Canada to the world, did not have enough institutional fora to express their views to the federal government, that fresh thinking was needed on how best to ensure our rural communities could remain viable and strong, and that new partnerships were needed between all three levels of government to begin to think about how best to move forward together.

Of course, while no one order of government can be responsible for meeting these challenges alone, what has the government been able to deliver as a response in less than 18 months?

In budget 2004, a GST rebate went to every municipality in this country. It was worth a total of $7 billion over 10 years. This source of funding will grow with the economy and can be used by municipalities for any priority they wish, namely, stable, long term, predictable financing.

Budget 2005 was the fulfillment of our pledge made during the last election to provide 5¢ of gas tax revenues over five years with $600 million coming as part of this bill, rising to a running rate of $2 billion a year in year five and every year thereafter, targeted at environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure such as public transit, water and waste water treatment, and community energy systems.

We also committed to renewing existing infrastructure programs as necessary, programs which have combined to flow over $12 billion to municipalities over the past 12 years and have leveraged over $30 billion in total investment by all partners. Moreover, we more than doubled our contribution to the green municipal funds administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to a total of $300 million for projects designed to deliver cleaner air, water, soil and climate protection.

All this means that the government has crafted a strategy for helping municipalities gain stable, predictable and long term funding to the tune of $22 billion over 10 years.

However, it is not just about money. The funding must be accompanied by new partnerships and a long-term vision enabling the transformation of these financial resources into a concrete reality that Canadians want and need. It is a matter of respect.

That is why the Prime Minister met with mayors from some of Canada's largest cities at 24 Sussex last fall and gave them a literal seat at the national table. That is why the finance minister and I met with another group of mayors from across Canada in formal prebudget consultations. That is why I met with each of my provincial and territorial ministerial counterparts in November. That is why I have and will continue to meet with elected and other municipal stakeholders from communities across Canada large and small as their advocate at the cabinet table. All this of course being entirely respectful of provincial jurisdiction.

If some politically motivated marriage of convenience between opposition parties would choose to prevent the fulfillment of these commitments by seeking to modify or defeat this bill, let me remind them of some of the reactions shortly after the budget was delivered, which they would surely pay the price for rescinding.

The president of the FCM said, “We have been waiting for this. The new deal is now a real deal. It is a good deal for our communities and for Canadians and also a commitment to a long term partnership”. The mayor of Toronto said, “Groundbreaking: the federal government has delivered respect”. The mayor of London, Ontario said, “Fantastic for municipalities”.

The mayor of Saguenay considers it a real godsend.

However, perhaps the denial of stable, long-term funding, and certainly intellectual focus, should not be too surprising coming from our Conservative colleagues. After all, that is the party that ran in the last election on a platform that was almost the opposite of what municipal leaders and Canadians in every province and territory were crying out for.

Their commitments were as follows: shut down Infrastructure Canada, the focal point for thinking on municipal issues in government and the open door municipalities need for getting their voices heard in Ottawa; cancel all infrastructure programs but one, programs designed to meet the specific needs of both large and small municipalities; and flow less gas tax without any thought given to the longer term partnerships needed between all three levels of government for making it truly work.

Perhaps the Conservatives could be forgiven for not having really thought through at that time, what with the focus of the election going in other places. However, the fact that at the inaugural Conservative convention members of that party decided to vote against sharing any gas tax with municipalities is surely not a good sign. They voted against it in their policy convention.

In fact, who knows where they could come out next, whether it is a further commitment to reducing the fiscal tools and productive relationships our municipalities need or a flip-flop, but the reality is that a lot of mayors are counting on the gas tax and infrastructure programs that are crucial for enhancing the places Canadians live, and the government has been resolute in its commitment to get the job done.

Finally, by adopting Bill C-43, we will be saying yes, not only to a complete and integrated strategy by which to implement this new deal, but also to achieving our social, economic and international objectives.

I encourage all forward-thinking MPs in the House to support this bill and to support the mayors, councillors and places where Canadians live.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Canadians and particularly those in my riding of Durham, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act, Bill C-43. I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre-North.

It is imperative that all Canadians have a clear picture of the budget and how the government plans to implement its promises or not. A government's budget requires legislation to enable it to implement the promises made in the budget, promises made to the people of Canada on how their tax dollars will be collected, how they will be spent and, most important, when those promises will be acted upon.

To address the when, most of the budget promises will not be realized until later in this decade, if that. Only 7% of the total budget announced will be expended in the budget year 2005-06. Of the $42 billion announced, only $3 billion will go into programs and initiatives to serve Canadians this year. This is in spite of the fact that over $10 billion was collected in surpluses last year and some $6.1 billion is being forecasted as this year's surplus. These forecasts are almost double those forecasted by the government only six weeks ago in the budget.

What is the need to back end load so many budget promises with these kinds of surpluses? This type of deception or lack of clarity is the government's way of governing and it has Canadians losing their faith in government. The residents in my riding of Durham are tired of struggling to make ends meet when they see continuous waste and mismanagement of their hard earned dollars.

In part 1 of Bill C-43, income tax cut benefits are actually delayed for four years. The real benefit for this year is only $16 per average taxpayer. With the rising costs of hydro, gas, provincial and municipal taxes, government fees, for example passports, taxpayers ask, “Where is the benefit?” My constituents want a deeper cut this year, not in the year 2009.

Over the past 15 years the government's income has soared by 40%, while the real take home pay of Canadians has increased by only 3.6%. On top of that, we have seen a 77% increase in the cost of government bureaucracy since 1996-97.

In the last election, the Liberal Party criticized our party of committing to $58 billion in new spending and tax reductions over five years. This budget has made $55 billion of commitments in new programs with very little tax cuts.

Canadians are no longer satisfied with the government's idea of sound fiscal management. Sound fiscal management is more than sound bytes or quotes for the media. Canadians deserve better.

The government announced its budget in February. Today we are debating the budget implementation act, but Bill C-43 reveals that not everything announced is exactly as it was portrayed in February.

Two examples of this kind of shenanigans are, first, the budget stated that the amount of the share of the gas tax would rise to $2 billion annually until 2009-10. Bill C-43 authorizes payments for one year only. That really shows this government's commitment to long-term funding for municipalities that the hon. member was just speaking about.

Second, for seniors in subsidized nursing homes, the total amount of the increase in one's guaranteed income supplement, GIS, will not be paid to the seniors, but to the nursing home operator or to the province. In Ontario any increase in the GIS will be clawed back to a half. The largest increase in GIS that a senior in my riding will be eligible for is less than $18 per month. For many of these seniors, their fixed income is a decreasing income.

These seniors, as do all taxpayers in my riding, expect their government to be working on their behalf to assure them of a quality of life and a standard of living for which they are willing to work hard. They are not satisfied with so much arrogance and such deception that they can no longer trust anything being put forward to them by the government.

When they see how the government has manipulated the budget process by introducing other controversial elements into Bill C-43, they are appalled, controversial elements the government does not have the confidence to introduce under separate legislation to be debated and voted upon in the House on their own. This reflects the continuous manipulation by the government of the Canadian people, the lack of integrity in its dealings with the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and its real inability to bring forth bills that it is confident will serve Canadians well.

By including parts 13, 14 and 15 in Bill C-43 to deal with environmental issues and parts 12 and 24 to deal with the commitments to the two Atlantic provinces, demonstrates the games the Liberals are playing and have played on the people of Canada for over a decade. By linking Atlantic accord provisions into the implementation act, is the government again telling the people of Atlantic Canada that the Prime Minister's word cannot be trusted?

The budget does not reflect serious concern for the overall economy of Canada. Compared with the Americans, Canadian productivity accounts for an income gap of $6,078 per person. Compared with the Americans, that means a family of four living in my riding of Durham has some $24,000 a year less income to spend than the same family in the U.S.A. Canada must increase its productivity with measures that will be effective and redress this productivity gap.

I am compelled to point out that to promise only $130 million in the February budget for the entire agricultural community and the crisis that it faces is inexcusable, only to see the government once again play its games and make a $1 billion announcement shortly after the budget speech. Is this bad planning, disregard for the needs of the agricultural community or an “Oops, we forgot to put it into the budget?” The people of Canada will not and cannot continually be manipulated in this way.

The budget should go forward on its own for debate and follow the necessary procedural process to ensure that the programs announced can move forward. As part of the official opposition in the House, along with my colleagues I will continue to work in committee to strengthen the bill so that those in Durham and across Canada can once again regain their faith in government. In committee we will be ensuring that the dollars to be spent are spent responsibly with transparency and accountability.

The people of Durham are all proud to be Canadians. They recognize that we live in a great country and a province which has some of the best that Canada has to offer. They are willing to do their share. However, they are increasingly challenged to meet their own daily responsibilities financially. They will contribute to Canada's well-being, but are not willing to stand by and watch their tax dollars being wasted and mismanaged. Most of all, they want a government that does not play games and that can be held to the highest level of accountability and integrity. They want to be able to once again trust those elected to represent them and their interests and believe they are doing so, not only in the interests of one segment or one party.

On their behalf, I want to conclude by saying that the official opposition will continue to work in the best interests of all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I speak today on behalf of the citizens of Calgary Centre-North, my constituents.

In addressing this budget implementation act, I wish to address the House with respect to the necessity of personal income relief and personal income tax cuts in particular.

My constituents believe that the personal income tax measures contained in the budget are insufficient, They are back-end loaded, certainly, but moreover, they are insufficient and they are inadequate. Frankly, I would say that they are disrespectful to the many everyday Canadians who essentially carry the Government of Canada on their backs in a financial sense.

What we need to do in this country is fashion a Canadian fiscal vision. Part of that needs to be a vision that speaks to everyday Canadians in terms of tax relief.

A Conservative government would be very clear. We would provide immediate and long term broad based income tax relief. We would reduce personal income taxes. We would substantially raise both the basic personal exemption and the spousal exemption.

We would reduce personal income taxes and increase the take home pay and raise the standard of everyday Canadians and do it in a way which earns the trust and respect of everyday Canadians in terms of the handling of the public finances of Canada. We would treat their money with respect, something we do not see from this Liberal administration.

Within eight years Canada will have achieved some progress in the gradual reduction of its debt, perhaps not the progress that we wish, but we hope that within eight years Canada would be somewhere near a 25% debt to gross domestic product ratio. Yet at the same time that productivity is stalled, tax cuts are stalled and Canadian real disposable income has slipped, overall tax levels are increasing.

We need lower personal income taxes in this country. One measure of how we have slipped as a nation is the measurement which I believe the Fraser Institute calls tax freedom day in Canada. Tax freedom day in Canada has actually worsened under this Liberal administration, from a date of June 10 to a date of approximately July 1.

Each year, tax freedom day in Canada under this Liberal government now occurs on July 1. How do we compare to other industrial democracies? By comparison, in the United States of America, tax freedom day is on April 11, this week, a significant departure from Canada. In the United Kingdom, tax freedom day is May 30, again significantly better than the situation in our country.

In contrast, the Liberals have put forward a budget which proposes no meaningful tax reduction whatsoever. There is an immediate consequence of the budget, and I refer to it often as the pizza budget or the burger budget, because the consequence for a regular Canadian family is $16 for the next year, which is just about the same amount of money that one would need to take one's children out to a burger place or to a local pizza joint.

Sixteen dollars is an insult and an affront to Canadians. It is an affront to the constituents of Calgary Centre-North. On their behalf, I call the government on this today and say it is unacceptable.

Even the full implementation of this budget through to 2009 contemplates income tax relief of $192 for regular Canadians. That is paltry and unacceptable.

What we require in this country of ours is smart fiscal policy. This is our key to prosperity and our key to our future together.

My comments today are offered within a framework of that objective. Our objective as Canadians should be to achieve a high, sustainable rate of economic growth, economic growth for this reason: so as to finance a high quality of life in terms of both private income and public goods.

The public goods of which I speak are things like public health care, public education and the quality of our environment, which is indeed also a public good. Stated simply, that takes money. It takes a prosperous economy to generate a high quality of life.

I would observe in passing that this government has lost its way on the key characteristics of other successful economies. The so-called tiger economies provide a useful example. They come to mind. These are economies that share some of the characteristics of Canada: small population, proximity and access to affluent export markets, a skilled and educated labour force, good infrastructure for communications and transportation, and finally and most important, smart fiscal policy.

Canada has the potential to be a leader in these respects. Canada has the potential to meet all of the requirements to have a burgeoning economy based on this approach.

The key to smart fiscal policy is lower taxes. Taxes must be kept determinedly low to encourage expansion. Regrettably that is not the case in this tax and spend Liberal budget, which does not share that objective.

In regard to our country, there is still a discrepancy between personal income tax rates Canadians pay and the personal income tax rates taxpayers in the United States pay. In contrast, marginal tax rates in our country remain high. For example, in Alberta they are at their lowest at 39%. Ontario's are at 46.4% and Quebec's at a whopping 48.2%. The Canadian average is 44%.

A number of economic circumstances in Canada are positive. We have low inflation. Our economy is growing. There is positive economic growth. Employment is rising.

Yet the take home pay of middle class everyday Canadians in ridings like Calgary Centre-North is not increasing. Take home pay has stagnated under the Liberal government and has been stagnating for the past 15 years.

Economic output in our country has increased 25% in the time between 1990 and 2004, yet the after tax income of everyday Canadians has increased by only 9.3%. This is the consequence of shameless tax and spend Liberalism.

I would like to draw to the attention of the House the consequences of the last election and the Liberals' election promises. In that election, the Liberals promised that if they were elected they would spend $28.3 billion over five years: $8 billion on health care, $5 billion on child care, $4 billion on gas taxes to the provinces and $3 billion on peace and nation building initiatives. That is a total of $28.3 billion. Yet in this budget, less than a year after the government was elected on those very promises, it has put forward a budget which totals $75.7 billion in expenditures over five years, compared to the $28 billion the Liberals promised Canadian taxpayers.

I would remind the House that in the context of that election the Conservative campaign commitments were only $57.8 billion. Subsequent events have proven that those commitments were affordable and were well within the budget targets and the economic performance of the government.

Liberalism is out of control with this budget. The 2003 expenditures, for example, mark the largest expenditures in modern times. Frankly, since 2003 the rate of increase in government expenditures has been mammoth. There has been a marked increase of expenditures in the budget. If we had simply constrained government spending in this country since 2000 by a rate of inflation adjustment, let us say 3%, we could justify or substantiate enormously significant tax cuts in the country. If we had done that, the expenditures of the government would be some $30 billion less than they are today. This would more than permit us to have very significant tax relief for everyday Canadians.

That is what I hear from my constituents. That is what I hear in Calgary Centre-North. People want tax relief. They want the level of their taxes reduced through exactly the sorts of measures which a Conservative government would propose.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to my colleagues for briefly interrupting the debate.

Discussions have taken place among all parties, Mr. Speaker, and I think if you were to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion you would receive it. I move:

That during today's debate on Government Business No. 10, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Chair.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

April 12th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, while I profoundly disagree with some of the conclusions in the member's speech, I do appreciate his focus on economic issues as they relate to the budget, because this is, after all, a budget debate.

I had trouble following the hon. member's logic. We are in a low interest environment. Interest rates are at historic lows and, I would argue, as a direct consequence of appropriate fiscal management by this government over the last number of years.

We are at historically low inflation rates. We have a band of 1% to 3% and we stay within that band.

The government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. We have paid down well over $60 billion in national debt.

The member makes the comparison that personal income tax rates in the United States are lower than they are in Canada, but I will put this to him. Does he want the triple-whammy deficits that the United States has?

Our government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. The last time there was a surplus budget in the United States was some three or four years ago under the previous administration. It is looking at $500 billion plus in terms of its budgetary deficit.

The United States continues to run a current account deficit which is just enormous. It is to the point where all finance ministers anywhere are seriously concerned about the ability of the United States to remain a viable economy.

The United States has a pension system that is no longer viable, whereas our pension system is viable and fiscally sound through to the year 2075.

We have a debt to GDP that has gone from somewhere in the order of 62% down to 38% and is on its way to 25%. Our expenditures are within a band of a little less than 12% of GDP. Our revenues have come down from 17% to a little under 15% of GDP.

I put it to the hon. member that this is a very well run fiscal economy.