House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 66(2)(b), debate on Motion No. 10 shall be taken up on May 17.

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, and of the motion that this question be now put.

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

May 16th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting just before question period to hear the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell give an impassioned speech about his years in the House. I have not been here as long as he has, and unfortunately I was not recognized by the Chair in order to also give a short intervention during that time when really we did not talk about the bill before us at all. We talked about the member's service.

When he was talking it reminded me of my own parliamentary career, which I am happy to announce will not be ending at this election as opposed to that of the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I remember that when I was first elected we had a government at the time which, still fending off the Liberal debt it inherited in 1984, was still engaging in debt and borrowing. In the 1993 election campaign, when computers were just barely invented, I had a little computer running that showed the rate at which the debt was increasing. It was increasing at around a thousand and some dollars per second, which made for an interesting display on the screen.

Of course I pointed out to the people who I thought would vote for me that we were not doing our duty in terms of preserving the well-being, financial and otherwise, of our children and grandchildren in allowing that kind of debt to grow. It is very interesting that at that time our youngest son was younger than these young people here who serve as our pages. Now he is almost a old man. He is not really, he is a only little over 30, but that is certainly old compared to the young people we have serving us here as pages, about 50% older.

My wife and I had only one grandson at that time. Now we have five grandchildren. I think that this particular bill we are talking about today, Bill C-48, is a colossal failure and takes us right back to the passion that I felt in 1993 to manage properly the finances of our country on behalf of our children, grandchildren and all subsequent generations.

It occurs to me that the reason for this budget bill, Bill C-48, is totally ill informed. I would like to use a few minutes of my time to give some free advice to the NDP members. I would bet I will not get an ounce of protest from them today when I say anything here. I am going to give them some advice and just inform them how ill advised they are to make a deal with the Prime Minister.

They are hoping that they are going to get all this expenditure and here we have Bill C-48, which basically is the NDP side of this budget. They have cut a deal with the Prime Minister in order to try to get this deal. I am amazed that they would do that.

Now I have a little sidebar, as have nowadays in our lexicon. There was a private member's bill before the House under the auspices of John Bryden, who was a previous Liberal member, on access to information and the revision of that law. It was a good bill and we would have supported it, but unfortunately it died on the order paper.

It was then brought in by an NDP member from Winnipeg in pretty well identical form to what the previous Parliament saw. The member from Winnipeg made a deal with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said to him that the government was going to bring in legislation that would pretty well reflect the member's bill and asked that the member withdraw his bill, saying that the government would go ahead with its own.

In good faith, that NDP member said okay, He withdrew his private member's bill on access to information. What happened? About six months or eight months later, the Minister of Justice showed up at our committee. We were all anticipating that he was going to show us at least some draft legislation on what the bill would look like.

Instead, what we got was a great big long report on a new discussion paper, which means that we are going to start talking about it again. Needless to say, the member from Winnipeg was somewhat miffed.

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

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

He was double-crossed.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

He was double-crossed. He was betrayed. I could use all sorts of words, but I do not want to get into that area, Mr. Speaker, where you are going to have to stand instead of me.

The member was really upset. Why would the government, having made the commitment to bring in a bill, then renege on it after getting the NDP to do its part?

Right now we have this deal where the NDP has said, “We will vote and support this corrupt Liberal government in return for some promises in the budget”. But it is common knowledge that we cannot trust these guys. This Liberal government will never deliver to the NDP even if this budget passes. These are all just empty promises.

In fact, Bill C-48 starts with these words: “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”. That is the heading of the bill. It just “authorizes” him, which is a whole other topic that I could talk about in terms of the wide open spending that this bill permits.

It is really a very short bill, but basically what it says is that the Minister of Finance “may”--it does not say that he “shall”--in respect of this year “make payments out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund”. It is basically everything over $2 billion in excess of government spending. If the government had a $2 billion surplus only, then there would be zero there. Also, even if there were a $4 billion surplus and it looked as if that would commit $2 billion in the next two years each for this particular budget program, it still says the minister “may”. It does not say he “shall” and these NDP members have fallen for it. I should not laugh. I should not do that--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Don't hold yourself back.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

All bills say that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

It is a real concern.

At any rate, we have here another problem, which is huge, that is, this is a government which, having listened to the NDP arguments, has written down on a piece of paper “we are willing to throw some money at it”. This is so typical of this government. It always measures what it is doing in terms of how many dollars it has thrown at the problem. The Liberals never measure the actual outcome of these effects. It is absolutely incredible that they are doing this.

Mr. Speaker, you would not do this. I would not do it. Let us say I decide that I want to build a house. I have never done that in my life, but if I were to build a house I would not first of all say “this is how much money I am going to spend” and then go and figure out how I can spend all the money. I would probably sit down with my wife and my children and ask, “What kind of a house do we need?” Then, having identified the need and what kind of house we want, how large it is, where it is going to be, et cetera, we would determine how much money we would need.

Instead, these guys start out by just naming a sum. The Liberals do this over and over again; whether it is international affairs or whatever, they talk like that. I think of the gun registry as the best example of them saying, “Let us just throw some money at it”. Once they started throwing it, it went more and more. I like math, so I do a little ratio and proportion and things such as that at an elementary level. I did a small computation. The gun registry was first promised to cost $2 million net. It has landed up now approaching $2 billion. That is 1,000 times as much.

I did a couple of comparisons. Here are two of them. Not long ago, about three years ago, I went and bought myself a new car, a mini-car, a small Honda Civic. It came to around $18,000.

Let us imagine, though, if this would have happened. I say okay to the dealer and tell him I am going to buy this car for $18,000. “It is a lot of money, but I am going to spend it”, I say. I go to pick up that car and he says, “Sorry, we made a little miscalculation. There is an administration fee on doing the book work and it is now going to cost $18 million because that is the proportion of the difference”. On an $18,000 car going up to $18 million, I would say, “Sorry, I decline. Let me out of this”.

But over there is a Liberal government that says it does not matter. The Liberals say they will just keep throwing more money at it and hope that eventually it is all going to work out.

My time is up so I hope that some of the members here have some questions for me and I will be able to enlarge on some other points as well.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:35 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, just as a point of clarification, I want to point out to the hon. member that every budget initiative always starts with the word “may”. It is discretionary spending on the part of the finance minister and the Government of Canada.

If the member reviews Bill C-43, he will find that “may” is in the legislation. That is true of pretty well any budgetary bill that appears before the House; it is not “an obligation on the part of”. I want to assure my friends in the NDP that there is no differentiation between the phrasing in Bill C-43 and the phrasing in Bill C-48.

I want to address the hon. member's issue. Bill C-48 has a number of initiatives, all of which are coincidental to the initiatives of the Government of Canada. I know the hon. member is concerned about fiscal propriety; I want him to understand and realize that the moneys to fund these initiatives are only to come out of unplanned surplus moneys.

Does the hon. member realize that the only commitment in terms of the financial impact is that the contingency money is taken down from $3 billion in 2005-06 and $3 billion in 2006-07? That is a commitment to reduce the contingency money from $3 billion to $2 billion, but beyond that, any other moneys to fund these initiatives are to come out of unplanned surpluses. Did the hon. member realize that when he was making his speech?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is a three letter word. The answer is yes. I understood that fully well; I think I even mentioned in my speech that we are talking about keeping only $2 billion and everything above that is going to be spent on these initiatives.

I think it is absurd, because if we have a program it is going to cost some money. For the government to just say that it will put only as much money as it has left over to the program, that would be another absurd way of building a house, would it not?

For example, I could say, “We are going to build a new house, family, and next year I am going to make so much in my wages and whatever we have left over we will apply to the house”. As members know, I may land up just barely starting the foundation and not getting anywhere.

It is just another boondoggle in the making, where there is an uncertain amount of money being targeted and thrown at an uncertain number of projects. I think that is very clear.

I am surprised that the NDP members would buy into this, because it so fraught with uncertainty that it obviously will go nowhere and all of their victory and all of their rejoicing over this deal is going to come to naught, totally.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, as the Conservative colleague made quite clear, the bill before us was thrown together at the last minute.

In fact, this bill lists a series of figures that mean absolutely nothing. No formal commitments, specific programs or minimums set out in any area of this bill are associated with any of these figures. I fail to comprehend or imagine how the NDP could have been naive enough to form an alliance with such a corrupt government.

My question to the member is as follows. Is my assessment right or wrong? Ultimately, all this government needs to do next year is to prepare a budget with a substantial increase in the number of expenditures. This will allow it to say that it did not achieve the expected $2 billion surplus. As a result, Bill C-48 will go nowhere.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will just take a millisecond to once again thank those wonderful people behind those glass cages who do our instant interpretation. Being a unilingual Canadian, I could not communicate with my hon. colleague across the way without their services.

In answer to the question, yes, I am indeed totally surprised that the NDP have bought into this. It is in fact a bill of nothing. In the worst possible case, if we do have a substantial surplus and based on the way the Liberals have failed to actively project the surpluses, there probably will be a surplus quite a bit in excess of what they are saying--that has always happened before--but we do not know how much it will be. Instead of applying it to reduce the debt and to manage the tax reductions in such a way as to build the economy and help poor people get more jobs and so on, there would be these make peace, throw money at some project by the government. It is totally ill advised.

When the Speaker puts the question on this bill, even if it were not on the question of whether or not we should have an election, I would still quite happily vote against the budget. It is a failure.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we continue our debate on the budget introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Finance. As members review the contents of the budget, it is tempting to deal only in numbers. However, it is important for all to remember that budgets are much more than just numbers. They are about people. They are about a vision for our country and what we envision our future to be.

In this budget we find a clear and tangible commitment in all of these areas and more. If we were to ask Canadians to choose one thing they value most about their country in terms of public policy, I believe the vast majority would identify health care as one of the major priorities. Liberal government after Liberal government has demonstrated their commitment to a national health care system that cares more about the patient than it does about their wallets.

This government has presented a budget that reflects the very core of our nation's values. This budget speaks to the needs of Canadians and to their deeply held beliefs about their country. This government shares the priorities of Canadians, such as secure social foundations, environmental protection and promotion, health care, sustainable communities, and fiscal responsibility.

To this end, in September 2004 the Prime Minister concluded negotiations with the premiers of this country on a national health care accord. This government committed $41.3 billion over 10 years to improve our health care system. In budget 2005 we see a commitment that builds on this agreement with $805 million in new direct federal health care investments. These funds will be directed toward human resources, healthy living and chronic disease treatment, and drug safety, to name but a few.

Once again it is a Liberal government that has demonstrated continued leadership in the area of health care. This is a government that sees more value in action with regard to our health care system than it does in rhetoric.

I would also like to point out that as a government we are profoundly committed to protecting our environment and honouring the terms of the Kyoto accord to which this country is a signatory.

We have a profound and abiding obligation to ensure that we hand down to our children and to generations to come the kind of country they deserve. It is our covenant with young Canadians and indeed for those yet to be born. To this end, the Liberal budget is committing $5 billion over five years to support a sustainable environment, and an additional $5 billion for cities and communities to enhance green initiatives.

Once again, our government followed its commitments with action. My colleague, the Minister of the Environment, recently announced “Project Green”, which clearly demonstrates the government's plans to implement the provisions of the Kyoto accord. The plan follows measures announced in budget 2005, including the climate fund and the partnership fund, and ensures that emissions targets will be met.

The announcement of “Project Green: Moving Forward on Climate Change” is a fair and balanced plan to help honour our Kyoto commitment. It is the right plan for our economy and environment. Our climate change plan is a key component of the government's broader environmental vision aimed at supporting a sustainable environment and a more competitive economy. It will deliver cleaner air, cleaner water and a healthier environment for all Canadians for generations to come. It will also help position Canada at the forefront of global environmental technologies with a significant investment in research and development.

Among other measures “Project Green” includes: investments in the order of $10 billion between now and 2012; significant greenhouse gas reductions; and annual assessments of climate change programs to ensure results and that Canadians receive value for money. This will ensure fairness and accountability.

This government is committed to engaging the provinces and territories, industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders to work out the details of implementation and ensure its success.

Canadians want a more energy efficient and sustainable economy that will afford a better quality of life. They also want assurances that our programs and issues are delivering measurable and accountable results. Our climate change plan does this.

Climate change is real. Levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, are now rising faster than ever. This has led to a record increase in temperatures over the 20th century.

The 1990s was the warmest decade since records have been kept. Some people say we should renege on our international commitments, but the Government of Canada and Canadians agree that we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren, and the time to act is now.

Canadians also believe that we should not shirk on our commitments to the international community, particularly those commitments we help to forge on the world stage. The Kyoto protocol is not simply one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada; it is the only internationally binding agreement that exists on climate change. Canada proudly ratified Kyoto and this plan will help see to its global objectives.

Canadians are already feeling the effects related to climate change: drought conditions in the continent's heartland and extreme weather conditions on both coasts. We also know climate change is already having dramatic effects in Canada's north. Climate change is inevitable, but the worst effects can be avoided if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized. That is the goal of the Kyoto protocol.

As of February 2005 Kyoto is now international law. It has been ratified by 140 countries representing 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada's competitiveness and quality of life in the 21st century must be built on a healthy and sustainable environment. These are initiatives that demonstrate that this is a government of action and conviction dedicated to protecting our environment and in so doing ensuring that generations to come will inherit a nation that is livable, healthy and beautiful.

The one way we can measure the greatness of the nation is the manner in which it cares for its children. We are charged with their care, with ensuring that they have the kinds of skills and tools they need to grow into healthy and productive citizens. This begins at a very young age.

In budget 2005 the government has committed $5 billion over five years to help build an early learning and child care initiative. Indeed our government has begun to announce agreements with various provincial governments to implement this commitment.

In the first week of May, the Prime Minister visited the great city of Hamilton, Ontario to sign a $1.8 billion five year agreement to help my home province create thousands more child care spaces. This will mean $271.9 million in this year alone for child care in Ontario. These funds will go a long way toward helping to alleviate the pressure parents experience in terms of securing safe and affordable child care. We owe this to families in this country and we owe it to our children.

I have long held that housing is a right for all Canadians. The basic need of shelter is not something that should ever be beyond the affordable for people living in this country. It is imperative that as a matter of public policy governments recognize the pressing need for affordable housing right across the country.

I am proud that the Liberal government has demonstrated leadership in this regard. At the end of last month, for example, the Liberal government announced in conjunction with the Government of Ontario that it would be committing $301 million to implement an affordable housing strategy. These funds will be matched equally by the province and the municipalities for a total commitment of $734 million in Ontario.

By committing these funds the federal government is undertaking the most significant investment in affordable housing in generations. In Ontario alone we will see the creation of more than 15,000 units of affordable housing, which means 15,000 families with a place to live that is affordable. If this is not a role for government to pursue, then I cannot imagine what is.

Also, at the beginning of May I was pleased to join with my colleagues, the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers and the Minister of Labour and Housing to announce that changes to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's programs would be made to make it easier for seniors to remain in their homes and closer to their families and communities. These changes will also make access to mortgage loan insurance easier for new homeowners who purchase a home with a rental unit.

These are tangible benefits that will make a significant difference in the lives of Canadians. It is about recognizing the challenges Canadians face every day and about using public policy to assist them to better their lives.

Seniors can be sure that the Liberal government is looking out for them and delivering on a promise to them. In budget 2005 we will see a $2.7 billion increase over five years in the guaranteed income supplement. Similarly, the amount that Canadians can earn before paying taxes will increase to $10,000. This will remove 240,000 seniors from the tax rolls, for a total of 860,000 Canadians being exempt from paying federal taxes.

In implementing these measures, this government is ensuring that the lives of Canadians on fixed incomes are made easier. It is about fairness and equity. It is about ensuring that those who are less advantaged are given a hand up and surely there is no one who would disagree with this kind of help.

This budget is good news for all Canadians and for my home province of Ontario about which I would like to speak for a moment. Ontario will receive $1.9 billion over the next five years as a result of this government's decision to transfer a portion of the gas tax to municipalities. As we all know, just this past weekend the Prime Minister and the Ontario premier agreed to a $5.75 billion financial commitment from the federal government. These funds will, along with other things, go to assist Ontario with newcomer settlement costs, a new labour market agreement and an increase in post-secondary funding for students and institutions.

This government cares about the pressures facing provincial governments and I am confident that the people of Ontario will recognize this is a major step forward in financial support for this province from the government in Ottawa, a step forward delivered by a Liberal government.

I am also pleased to report that the budget is good news for the people of Toronto. As well as the gas tax revenues noted above that will help build better roads, improve transit systems and provide more sustainable infrastructure, there are other measures to assist Toronto and all cities and communities across the country.

Indeed, the mayor of the great city of Toronto, David Miller, described the budget as the “greatest news for the people of Toronto”. Furthermore, it was Mayor Miller and his counterpart from the city of Vancouver who recently announced to my colleagues across the floor to vote in favour of this budget.

As well as being citizens of Canada, we are also citizens of the world and we have an obligation there too.

Budget 2005 recognizes this with measures including debt relief for the world's poorest countries. The budget also includes a $3.4 billion boost to Canada's international assistance programs. Canada is respected around the world for its compassion and dedication to those nations that face the greatest challenges in terms of development and with regard to caring for their disadvantaged citizens.

We as a government remain committed to being a world leader in supporting those most in need and budget 2005 lives up to that legacy which we inherited from generations of Canadians who came before us.

That is why the Prime Minister has announced Canada is significantly increasing its contribution in Darfur to support international efforts toward peace and stability in Sudan. The government is pledging $198 million in new humanitarian aid and support for the African Union mission in Sudan. Of this, nearly $170 million in military and technical assistance to the African Union and another $28 million of the $90 million announced at the April 2005 Oslo Donors' Conference will go to support internally displaced persons and refugees in Darfur and Chad. The government is also enhancing diplomatic support for the African Union-led mediation to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict in Darfur.

Canada will continue to make a significant contribution to stabilization efforts in Darfur by increasing our helicopter support for AMIS and providing fixed wing airlift, as well as much needed equipment and materiel.

Canada will also continue to support African Union's leadership as the best way to resolve this crisis.

There is also funding for the arts and, as noted by Karen Kain of the Canada Council:

This is wonderful news, not only for the Canada Council, but also for the thousands of artists and arts organizations who receive Council funding

Clearly, the budget as I have noted here demonstrates this government's commitment to the very core of Canadian values: families, seniors, child care, health care and the list goes on.

We recognize that this is a progressive budget that delivers for Canadians and moves our country forward in a direction that Canadians want us to go. I cannot imagine anyone finding any reason to oppose this budget and I invite all my colleagues to join me in supporting this great agenda for progress in Canada.

Budgets are more than about people. Budgets are about delivering for Canada.

Finally, we need to have this budget approved for the sake of our cities, our provinces and our country. We need to approve this budget for our health care system, for the environment, for the arts and for our world commitment and the people of Darfur.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my friend's comments but I have to challenge him on something he just said. He said that he could not imagine anyone opposing some of the things in this budget.

It was his own finance minister who opposed many of the things in Bill C-48. If the member will think back he will remember the finance minister responding to NDP questions a little over a month ago asking for some of the things that are in Bill C-48. The finance minister said that the budget could not be “cherry-picked”. He said, “it cannot be stripped away, piece by piece by piece”. He said that we could not do the things that are in Bill C-48. He said that we could not take out the corporate tax relief because corporate tax relief would create thousands and thousands of jobs. One study says that it would create 340,000 jobs.

Does my friend across the way understand that by accepting the NDP demands, not only is he being irresponsible with the fiscal framework of the government, but he is also undermining his own finance minister?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the Minister of Finance has clearly stated in this House how he feels about this amendment and has stated that he is 100% in support of this.

We all realize that this is a minority situation but it is very important to get the budget approved. The budget is a commitment to the people of this country, to our cities, to our agenda of the environment, to health care, to the arts and to the world.

This is the choice that was given to us by the fact of his own party not supporting the budget. We have to move forward on this important agenda for the people of this country. That is the way we are fulfilling this commitment.

I believe that once the hon. member looks at all the details of the budget he will realize that it is a budget that most Canadians support. We are very proud to have a budget and the amendments that are widely supported by the vast majority of Canadians. I ask my hon. colleague to move forward and support this budget.