House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, I take great exception to some of the things that have happened with 10 percenters as well. I have had my riding inundated with 10 percenters from other provinces, small islands for instance. However, I want to address something the member for Windsor West said.

He said that the Conservatives orchestrated an attack or a mailing in his riding. The House of Commons postal unit testified at our committee that it was its mistake. It was not the Conservative MP's mistake at all. The House of Commons postal unit said, “We made the mistake. It was our fault. We do not even know where they went”. The unit could not say to what ridings the 10 percenters went or who got them. It could not say how to reach back and correct that. Therefore, today we passed a motion in the committee for the House of Commons to issue an apology to the communities involved with this. I think that was the proper way to deal with it.

It was not an act by a Conservative member of Parliament that caused this problem. It was a mistake by the postal unit of the House of Commons and it and testified to that. The unit has apologized, but it could not say where they went. I do believe it has to be tightened up. For sure the post office has to be able to record where they went in the event that something like this happens again.

I agree with the member. If it happened in my riding, I would want redress too. I would want somebody to apologize for it. I would want the people responsible to apologize. The House of Commons postal unit has done that at our committee. We will ask it to put out a press release to that effect. However, it was not a mistake on behalf of the Conservative member that this mailing went into the member's riding, or not. I wanted to correct the record on that.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is correct. It was a postal error.

It was an orchestrated campaign against the member for Windsor--Tecumseh. Several members of the Conservative Party used their franking privileges, or their House of Commons stamps, to allow for that. Several different individuals collectively sent the same piece that asked for a response to the leader of the official opposition. Then there is the other issue of the actual content. I hope my colleague, who has raised the question of privilege today, will discuss with his colleagues how to remedy those situations.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand there is a great deal of debate as to who is sending what material where. While people are complaining about franking privileges, the leader of the NDP has sent stuff into not only my riding but to others with the NDP clearly indicated on it. These are partisan materials.

I have never put my logo on my stuff. My understanding is that what we send from Parliament is supposed to be informing our constituents, not to be partisan literature. I would like to suggest that all members adhere to the rules instead of sending partisan literature not only to their own ridings but into neighbouring ridings.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

May 10th, 2005 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments on this spending blitz bill, I want to make reference to a very important and historic accomplishment this past weekend.

Those members of the House who are familiar with the sport of basketball will have noted a Canadian, Steve Nash, received the award of the most valuable player in the National Basketball Association. It should be acknowledged in this place the tremendous dedication that Mr. Nash has shown, not only to his sport but to his country, his humble and hard-working approach to the game of basketball and his triumph over adversity that typifies the Canadian spirit.

I know every member of the House and every Canadian shares in the accomplishments of Mr. Nash. We look forward to watching his future success, not just of course in the NBA, but on the international stage as he leads Canada on to a medal in the next Olympic Games.

Now back to the debacle, which is Bill C-48. The bill stands in sharp contrast frankly to Mr. Nash, who has never tried to take credit for something he has not done. The bill is indicative of the government's haphazard approach to money management. It is a departure from what could have been a legacy for the Prime Minister.

The Liberal Party keeps promoting the Prime Minister as a man with fiscal prudence in his heart. What the bill indicates is more desperation than fiscal prudence. This unholy alliance between socialism and corruption is a subset of the government's spending spree.

In the last three weeks alone the Liberals have committed to spending over $1.24 billion of new money per day by my calculation. It is not their money to spend. This is Canadian taxpayer money. It shows a complete back to the future approach to money management. It is a complete departure from the spending approach to which the Prime Minister claims he adheres.

Frankly, I think it is eating the Prime Minister's legacy alive. It is showing the desperation the government has in its heart and it is showing to what it will sink. In an effort to buy support to divert attention away from a vote buying scandal, the Liberals are engaging in another vote buying scandal. This disrespects not only the intelligence of the Canadian people, but it disrespects the fiscal responsibilities that the government should be demonstrating.

There is an old adage that says it is better to do what is right, not what is easy. It is very easy for a government to commit to spending more money in the hopes of buying popularity at the polls, but that is not what is right.

What we need here is an approach that demonstrates clear thinking and better planning. The New Democratic Party joined with the Conservative Party in supporting an initiative that our finance critic, the member for Medicine Hat, promoted and we supported. We thought the New Democratic Party supported it as well.

The initiative called upon the government to be more accurate in its fiscal forecasting. It also called upon the government to set up a mechanism whereby each of the other parties could bring in experts to evaluate the government's numbers, and produce what we call Parliament's numbers.

The New Democratic Party supported that initiative, basically on the assumption that it would help to get a better handle on the government's projected surpluses. Before the last election, we know the government projected a $1.9 billion surplus. Ultimately the reality was the surplus was $9.1 billion. Canadians were deprived of a debate about how that money should have been spent, or should have been applied to the debt or should been allocated to lower taxes.

The NDP appeared to be concerned about that accuracy or lack of accuracy in supporting our quest for Parliament to have more accurate numbers.

However, that quickly went by the wayside when the NDP had a chance to encourage the government to continue to spend money. The NDP members sold their souls for a few billion dollars of additional spending commitments by a government that has not kept its commitments. It has not kept its promises. It has a legacy of making promises and breaking promises. They showed how easy they were when they sold out for that.

The bill is one and a half pages of broad general statements about how the government will spend money, but there are no specifics to it.

What has that given us in the past? Commitments to spend more money on aboriginal housing. How did that help the people of Davis Inlet? There are no ideas coming forward about how to spend money more intelligently and how to money to effect better results. Simply put, the government is making the same mistakes that put us into the debt position we are in as a country today. Back to the future.

The Conservative Party offers a striking alternative to what the NDP and the Liberals offer. We want a plan and we developed a plan. The difference that we see between the coalition and the Conservative Party is that we are not interested in throwing money at problems and we are not interested in adhering to the false belief that it will somehow solve those problems. We understand it takes a plan. It takes a commitment. It takes belief that intelligent spending will move toward positive results.

The government on the other hand believes that if it engages in conspicuous spending, somehow that demonstrates that it cares. However, it demonstrates that it cares about itself more than any caring for the Canadian taxpayer and the Canadian people.

Liberals have abandoned their fiscal framework. The bill will not be supported by members of our caucus. It simply allows for a further slush fund to be established and used and abused, with no strings attached, by the cabinet of the Liberal government. That is vote buying of $1 billion a day. The Liberal government says that we should not support an election because it will cost one quarter of a billion dollars. That is one-fifth as much as the government is committing in additional spending every day.

Liberals make the case with their promises that there needs to be an election and that they need to be kicked out of office.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate the member's philosophical difference as to how Conservatives may differ from the government's position with regard to the budget. However, I think he will want to be factual. This is the eighth consecutive surplus budget that the government and the Prime Minister as finance minister and now Prime Minister have put forward. Three minutes after we presented the budget, the member's leader supported it. He said that it was a good budget, as did his finance critic.

What has changed since then other than the fact that perhaps the Conservative Party caucus sees a political opportunity because of what is going on in another place on TV. Perhaps all of a sudden it thinks and feels that the budget is no longer important to the people of the country, but the commission report is. That is why the conservatives have changed their tune and their support for the budget.

In actual fact, Bill C-48 and the new arrangements that have been put in place with the NDP relate very much to the spending that Canadians support, and they have already spoken on the issue, and that is $1.6 billion in housing. It was in our five year principal framework. We have managed to move it ahead.

There is an additional $1 billion for the environment. Is the Conservative Party now saying that it does not support the housing, or the environment, or post-secondary education or additional aid to foreign governments? What has changed other than within the five year framework there will continue to be a surplus. We are paying down debt. We have reduced taxes. Of the billions that the member is talking about spending, I want to clarify that we cannot spend money that we do not have appropriated through the House. These are existing programs that have been in place since the last budget. Therefore, we are spending money on housing. The money we are spending was in the last budget, which was approved by the House.

I am sure the member would want to clarify the record and not suggest that we are trying to buy votes again. We have a mandate that was given to us by Canadians last June to govern and that is what we are precisely doing: child care, cities and communities, housing, the environment and seniors supplements. Maybe he would want to clarify that for Canadians.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would relish the opportunity to clarify with respect to some of the remarks that he has made.

He made the comment that the leader of the Conservative Party said that he was supportive of the budget. We did not vote for the budget. The NDP voted against it.

I think we should make the point here that if the budget is as good as the member says it is, then why does it now require changing? Why does it require an additional commitment of over $22 billion by the government in addition to the budget commitments made earlier? The government is laying out additional spending every single day. It is not interested in running on the budget.

For the member's edification, I will read from an article. I have many to choose from but I will start with an article in today's Globe and Mail entitled “Liberal Spending Blitz”. Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said:

Because we've had almost as many spending announcements since the budget [as] were...in the budget, it would seem to be almost incumbent on the government to produce an update where we are fiscally.

The government is not interested in running on the budget. It is interested in spending enough money so it can be popular with every basic category of special interest group it can find in the country.

This is a one and a half page bill. The member asked how we can be opposed to spending money in each of these broad categories. We are not. We are opposed to spending money willy-nilly without a plan. A one and a half page document, such as Bill C-48 is, outlines no constructive use for the money. It simply allows for a slush fund for cabinet to dip into. In a variety of scenarios they may or may not spend money under various headings. There is nothing in the bill about a plan to use this money intelligently.

What Canadians want is for the government to operate transparently and with some sense of accountability. That has not been evident with the government for a long time.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to speak to Bill C-48. Since the last speaker quoted from the Globe and Mail , I think it is only fair that I quote from the National Post .

One headline reads “Spending spree continues”, and another reads, “Ottawa doling out $1.24 billion per day”. It states:

The money being doled out works out to $1.24-billion a day, including $5.75-billion the Liberals gave to Ontario.... Other provinces are now salivating over the prospects of inking their own version of the Ontario deal....

It is hard to fathom what is going on and how fast the Liberals are spending money. I love the name of the bill. Bill C-48 is an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments. I do not know how it can be restricted to certain because it is almost any payment. They will do anything right now to buy votes. The National Post has it up to 122 different grants and programs, totalling $22 billion in three weeks to buy votes.

I want to point out to citizens that Bill C-48 is an act to put the deal on paper that the NDP made with the Liberals. The projected cost is $4.6 billion, that is $4.6 thousand million so the Liberals can buy a few months and get through the vote on the budget. The NDP votes are now worth $240 million each to get the Liberals through the budget. If that is good management, common sense and good administration I will eat my shirt.

I can just imagine how the bureaucrats in the Department of Finance must be operating. They must have whiplash. No, we do not have tax cuts. Yes, we have tax cuts. No, we do not have tax cuts. How do they keep up with what is going on? We are spending $1 billion here and $100 million there and $22 billion here. I do not know how the people in the Department of Finance can operate. It must be incredible.

The one thing for sure is that if the Liberals can open a drawer and find $4.6 billion to pay for the 19 votes that the NDP gave them, there is too much money in the drawer. That is simple evidence that we are being overtaxed. If they can, with the snap of a finger, find $4.6 billion, something is wrong with the system. The something wrong is that we are overtaxed.

We as members of Parliament have to fight for infrastructure in our ridings to save our institutions, like the Nappan experimental farm which has been in Nappan, Nova Scotia since before Confederation. At a time when farmers need all the help they can get in research and development, new products, training, all kinds of things, the government announces in the budget that it is going to close the Nappan experimental farm. It has unique soils, terrains and products. Now it is talking about closing the Nappan experimental farm because it does not have the money but then it turns around and pays $4.6 billion to buy the 19 votes of the NDP. It is absolutely incredible and makes our job of convincing people more difficult.

Even a little thing like a light bulb in a lighthouse in Wallace Harbour, a lighthouse that saves lives, we had to fight to get the light bulb changed in the lighthouse of all things. However when the Liberals need the 19 NDP votes they do not seem to have a problem finding $4.6 billion in the drawer. When we needed a few thousand dollars for a light bulb for a lighthouse to save lives, it was not available. We had to fight to get it and we did get it, I am very pleased to say.

The Atlantic accord is another issue that should be dealt with. The Atlantic accord is a very important deal for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The government will not pull it out of Bill C-43 and make it a separate deal. It will do it for tax cuts but not for Atlantic Canada. It is holding Atlantic Canada hostage because it wants to force all kinds of things down the throats of Atlantic Canadians to force them to agree to these things and only then will it agree to the Atlantic accord.

Last year's budget implementation act is going through the Senate today, a year late. I believe it was tabled on March 23, 2004, and it is only going through the Senate today.

This is the same bill where the Atlantic accord is stuck now. It is on pages 57 and 58 of Bill C-43 instead of being a stand alone bill that we could pass in the House to allow Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to move forward. We cannot do that because the Liberals want to hold us hostage and make sure they ram all these other things through without us even considering them.

We cannot do that. It is our job to hold the government accountable. It is our job to ask questions about all these other things, like the foundations that are funded under this program, student loans, employment insurance, income tax. However the government says that we are not allowed to ask questions on those issues. It says that we should just close our eyes, grit our teeth and say yes to the budget so we can have the Atlantic accord. It is not fair and we cannot do it.

The cost of the election is something that comes up from the Liberal side. The Liberals say that they cannot afford an election. They say that it might cost $230 million to $250 million to run an election. With each NDP vote costing $240 million, I do not see how they can say $230 million is too much to charge for an election. Two hundred and thirty million dollars for an election is a lot of money but every NDP vote that they bought cost $240 million, which is more than a whole federal election.

If we are a little upset about Bill C-48, those are some of the reasons.

I wish that the Liberals would bring in the things that we have asked for, and specifically on the Atlantic accord, to pull it out of the bill. The Minister of Finance says that we cannot cherry-pick Bill C-43, that we cannot pull out what we want. However they can pull it out if they need to. They can pull the tax cuts out to satisfy the NDP and then create a whole independent stand alone bill, which is exactly what we have been asking them to do for the Atlantic accord. They can do it for themselves and the NDP but they will not do it for Atlantic Canada.

I hope they will reconsider that and pull the Atlantic accord out of Bill C-43, make it a stand alone bill and we commit to passing it in one day.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I hate to do this but my colleague's colleague, the Conservative member who spoke previously, I really enjoyed the first part of his speech, which was about Steve Nash. I wondered if the colleague would care to comment on that because the member from Manitoba described his great achievements.

I did make the point off the record that Steve Nash is only 6'3” or 6'4” and that he is the third smallest person ever to win the most valuable player award in the NBA.

I would like to ask my colleague, first, how tall he is compared with his colleague here, and second, does he think there is hope for someone like me becoming the most valuable player in the National Basketball League?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am interested to see how the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is going to make this all reference back to the issue we are debating here this afternoon.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, let me make it clear that unless there are petitioners there is no hope at all for the member.

I also compliment Mr. Nash on his accomplishments. As an old car salesman, I feel some affinity for Mr. Nash, who is only 6'1” tall by the way. Be that as it may, he is a little shorter than the member was saying, which is something like the Liberals are doing with their budget, only it is far short of what we need and what this country needs.

There is no hope for the member and there is no hope for the budget.