House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

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

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the hon. member's comments, although I hope I will not be as patronizing as he has been. I understand that the last issue he raised has been addressed by a committee of the House and that there is a report prepared on that issue that goes some way to addressing those important issues. I acknowledge that those are important issues.

I do not need to be lectured by the hon. member about aboriginal housing. The NDP does address the issue of aboriginal housing and includes aboriginal housing needs in the proposal that we made and negotiated. I recognize that is a crucial thing.

The amount of $295 million in the original budget does not go a long way to addressing the third world conditions that exist on reserves in this country. We need a far more significant commitment to that. I am glad that in negotiating $1.6 billion for housing that we included the needs of aboriginal Canadians within that as well.

It is with some unmitigated gall that a Conservative member would stand up and lecture a New Democrat about deficit financing, given the Conservative record in this country. Given the Mulroney government of deficit after deficit, it added to the debt that we are still trying to pay off in this country. It was not the New Democrats who were responsible for that debt; it was the folks in that corner of the House who piled up those years of deficits in this country. For them to suggest that we do not understand the importance of financing, and that we do not understand the importance of a balanced budget, is the absolute height of hyperbole and unmitigated gall.

I will not take any lessons from that corner of the House on how to finance government because over many years New Democrats have shown that we clean up the messes left by the capitalist parties in this country. We put things in order and we restore people's confidence in government financing in this country.

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

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure tonight to put some comments on the record because I have sat here all afternoon listening to speeches from members opposite. The creative ways I have heard of balancing budgets and providing programs for Canadians have left me a little puzzled as to the reality of Bill C-48.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that every person in this country has a right to the highest standard of living possible. Every Canadian in our country should proudly have a job. Every Canadian should have a future and a vision for their families. When we talk to families, what do they want? They want violin lessons. They want hockey lessons. They want to go on family vacations. They want to have opportunities.

If we look at the stats, particularly among women, the small business entrepreneurs in our nation are growing at a great rate. It has been one of our greatest contributions to our nation's economy.

It is about giving families the ability to have the post-secondary education of their choice, to go to summer camps, and to develop their lives in the direction that they so choose. It is about giving Canadians a choice, a choice to live the way they want to live in the highest possible standard. It is imperative to talk about the differences between what our party stands for and what the members opposite stand for.

At this point in time there is such a blurred line between the Liberals and the NDP that they have become almost like one party. Ordinarily speaking, when we come to the House of Commons, the government in power puts forth a budget and we vote on it, and we put our points across. There has been the most unusual experience of the Liberals and the NDP getting together to put forth a quick put-together budget that has a horrendous amount of promises in it with no plan behind it. When ones spends these horrendous amounts of dollars, there has to be a plan attached to it.

There is one thing that also occurred to me as I was listening to the speeches. In our democratic society, we stand for democracy. That means that Canadians have a right to vote for whomever they want to be in government. There was nothing before the last election to suggest that Canadians voted for the Liberals and the NDP to run the finances of this country. This country was very afraid to put things out because there was a lot of fearmongering before the election and the fearmongering was all based upon the scandal and what would happen with the Gomery commission.

Just to review, the Gomery commission was shut down, just left there and neglected until after the election. I can see now that the present government did that for a very good reason. If that kind of information had come out about the scandal and about the misuse of dollars, about how bags of money were handed to Liberal friends, about how taxpayer money was spent on the last Liberal election, the Liberals would never have been elected.

In retrospect, it was probably a very clever, though devious, political move to push that election forward before the Gomery report was allowed to come out and actually addressed what was happening in Canada.

It is very unusual that another party would prop up a government that has a proven scandal. To this extent, it is the greatest scandal that our country has ever experienced at this high level of government. We have the NDP shoring up the government. It is agreeing with it.

Originally, our side of the House supported Bill C-43. It was simple. On our side we saw some aspects of the budget bill that we could live with. We did not like everything, but we thought of Canadians. We were thinking about the fact that Canadians did not want an election. We were trying to be considerate. We were trying to work together and then all of a sudden in the dark of night in a hotel room in Toronto, there was another deal done. All of a sudden there was another budget bill to deal with.

It is difficult to support this kind of underhanded manoeuvring by the Liberals and the NDP. We thought we had one corrupt party in Canada, but now we have two. We cannot shore up this kind of thing in spite of the fact that originally we had the full intention of shoring up the government for as long as we possibly could for the good of Canadians, so that no Canadian family had to go into another election.

We not only have the budget, but we have another issue as well. There is legislation that is absolutely irresponsible, and totally injurious to the population. The redefinition of marriage is one of those issues. There is no need for this bill. In a conversation the other night with some of my constituents, one of my constituents said that this bill had been presented for one reason and that was to deflect the attention off what was happening with this horrendous scandal, and it certainly did that.

We have had great debates here because we on this side believe that the definition of marriage is the union of a man and a woman with equal rights given to same sex couples. Every same sex couple in the nation has the choice to live the way that they want with all the benefits. This is the democratic choice. In a democratic country people have the right to choose who they want to live with, how they want to live within the parameters of the law, and what church to go to or not to go to. There are certain things, as long as the laws are abided by, that people in our nation can do.

What the NDP and the Liberals are also doing is shoring up the decriminalization of marijuana. This legislation that is coming forth is nothing short of appalling. We are talking about the budget, we are talking about corruption, we are talking about this irresponsible legislation, and people across our nation are totally flabbergasted by the lack of responsible government, the lack of democratic government, and the sort of godfather type of thing that says that the government will do business the way it wants to do business, whether Canadians like it or not.

The problem is that this is all done with taxpayers' money. When there is a tax and spend government, like the Liberal-NDP alliance, with no plan in place as to how that money will be spent, we have a horrendous problem in this country. Families need to grow, and families need to make decisions about their own spending, but in the House of Commons, the Liberals and the NDP are taking control of Canadian families.

We heard it across the way in terms of the national day care program. On this side of the House we believe that families should have a choice of whether they want to send their children to day care, whether they want to have their children at home, or whatever they want to do. That should be out of government hands.

On this side of the House we have tried to put forth a very responsible policy that allows families to make their choices. Today, standing in the House of Commons, I am appalled at what has happened here with the NDP members hitching their wagon to the corrupt Liberal government and not only liking it, but promoting it and putting all their wrath on members of the Conservative Party of Canada because they want to rule. I ask, what backroom deal was done to make this happen?

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

7:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member makes her argument based upon corruption, waste and mismanagement. I do not know how many times she repeated that phrase, but apparently the Government of Canada is corrupt for the purposes of Bill C-48. However, for the purposes of Bill C-43, it is not corrupt and her party supports it.

The hon. member and her party cannot have it both ways. Either the Government of Canada is in fact corrupt for Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, or it is not corrupt at all. Why did the hon. member vote in favour of Bill C-43 which apparently keeps a corrupt government in power?

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

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's question, members on this side of the House always look at each piece of legislation in a very responsible manner. We do not just say something is bad because it comes from the governing party. What we do is take a look at the legislation to see what we can take out of it, how we can make it good and how we can help.

Indeed, in the House I think our first consideration should be the people of Canada. I think it behooves any government to clean up its act and make sure Canadians are well taken care of.

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

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to be in the House to listen to New Democrats talk about fiscal prudence. I am trying not to laugh because I remember the Rob Rae days in the province of Ontario where I could not visit my doctor some days because there was no money to support doctors. There were deficits in the billions of dollars.

On the issue of fiscal prudence, in the last election I remember a Conservative platform that had deep tax relief, plus further investments in necessary programs. We were loudly criticized over there as being fiscally reckless and having a $40 billion black hole. It is interesting that the $40 billion black hole forms the basis of surplus projections that the NDP keeps talking about in this room available for Bill C-48.

Looking back, there have been $90 billion in surpluses since 1997. They were actually larger than that because there was a lot of year end spending to whittle it down so that taxpayers would not get sticker shock.

As the NDP crows that this is fiscally responsible, that it will be great and it will get what it wants, are the Liberals likely to fritter away the money before it ever gets to them? Are they actually going to get anything in the end even though they are up here crowing about it? It has supported a corrupt government but will get nothing in the end.

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

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-48 is heavy on the public purse and very light on details. I have to say that is the whole problem. It is very hard to believe that the money will flow.

Regarding the member's point about what happened a decade ago, the current government has been in power for over a decade. When we look at the health care question and what the member is talking about in terms of going to see his doctor, I can say that balancing the budget over a decade ago was on the backs of the health care system in every province. As a result, we now have very long waiting lists. People are waiting in lines for tests. We have a real problem in health care.

It has been very puzzling as to why any party would ever prop up a government that has shown this kind of fiscal irresponsibility.

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

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has laid out a very strong case for why Bill C-48 is actually a recipe for disaster. As I travel around my riding and indeed across the country, I hear the same things, that it will be just like the agricultural program known as CAIS, the gun registry and the sponsorship scandal. When we look at Bill C-48 and the fact that there are $4.5 billion with no details, I wonder whether the member would not agree that this is simply another recipe for disaster for the Canadian taxpayer.

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

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's point is extremely well taken. In actual fact, the only way that programs can be paid for is through tax dollars. Canadians across this nation are very happy to pay fair taxes. They want to build the economy and ensure that social programs are put in, as we do on this side of the House, but in actual fact there is no plan and there are only so many dollars. How are those programs going to be paid for? What tax level does the ordinary family have to meet in order to sustain this ill-gotten bill?

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

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak tonight to Bill C-48, the second budget bill produced by the government, the Liberal-NDP budget.

It probably will come as no surprise to anyone to find out that I am strongly opposing the legislation for various reasons, which I would like to lay out before the House.

It should be noted that what the government has done to the budgetary process in Canada has basically thrown every parliamentary tradition surrounding budgets out the window. The Liberals have taken every fiscal framework in this country and thrown it out the window.

In the last election the finance minister from Regina stood up and said that there was no way we could afford these Conservative promises because we only had a $1.9 billion surplus. Months later, it turned out that the forecast was actually a $9.1 billion surplus. Obviously the government was not revealing the accurate figures.

In that respect it is nice to know that people like the member for Peace River, vice-chair of the finance committee, has actually rectified this by having some independent experts provide some forecasting so we can have some confidence in the numbers the government is producing.

It is so amazing to see a government in which a Prime Minister, without even phoning or consulting his own finance minister, meets with the leader of the NDP and Buzz Hargrove in a hotel room and rewrites his own budget that he presented in the House on February 23. The finance minister found out later on that the Prime Minister had completely rewritten the budget.

Imagine if the former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, had done that to the present Prime Minister when he was finance minister. This is a man who was ready to resign over the fact that his friends at Earnscliffe were not getting enough contracts. Imagine what he would have done if the prime minister at that time had changed his own budget.

It is unprecedented for a government to introduce a budget, saying that it is the budgetary document that has been worked on for a year, and then, a month later, say that it made a big mistake and that $4.5 billion of tax cuts will be taken out and put back in another budget.

As the member for Peace River pointed out, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said that we could not tinker with the budget because it was perfect and it was the ultimate document, but then a month later he stands in the House and says that it was a $4.6 billion budget but, “oops, I missed the $4.6 billion. We will put it into a new piece of legislation”.

That brings me to my second point. This legislation is the worst legislation I have ever seen and that has probably been produced in the history of this country. It contains no fiscal framework whatsoever.

Just for the reference of members, the 431 page budget plan 2005 lays out a lot of specifics as to where money goes. We could debate the specifics all we wanted. Then the government introduced Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill. Again we could debate the pros and cons of the legislation

Let me read some specifics: Increase the amount that Canadians can earn tax free; increase the annual limits on contributions to tax deferred retirement savings plans; extend the scientific research and education tax incentives; amend part 6 of the Excise Tax Act. Another good one is that part 2 amends the air travellers' security charge to reduce the air travellers' security charge for domestic air travel to $5 for one way travel and to $10 for round trip travel, for transport air travel to $8.50 and for other international air travel to $17, applicable to air travel purchased on or after March 1, 2005.

Why am I saying this? It is because this is how we introduce a piece of legislation. We can debate it, but all Canadians know that if they go to the website and pick up Bill C-43 they can see where their money is going. They either like it or they do not and they can debate it.

Bill C-48, with $4.5 billion on two pages, is the most ridiculous piece of legislation ever introduced. This is what it says, “This enactment authorizes the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”. That provides a lot of solace to those taxpayers working till June to fund the government. He will make certain payments. What will he fund? He will fund things for students. What will he fund for students? I do not know. The Liberals do not know. They will just fund things for students. They will go to universities across the country telling students that they will not have to pay as much for education. How will the Liberals do that? They do not know but they will do it because they will ensure there is a contingency fund of a few billion dollars.

They are going to fund foreign aid with $500 million. Where is that going to go? It does not say. This piece of legislation, at the very least, after they threw out the entire budgetary process of the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada, ought to have stated exactly where the $500 million would be going so we could have actually debated something, rather than debating a nothing piece of legislation.

I encourage all Canadians watching the debate to go to the parliamentary website or pick up Bill C-48 and read what an absolute farce it actually is.

Thirdly, the bill is fiscally irresponsible. The Government of Canada has been on a spending spree like no other in our history. From 1999 to this fiscal year, we have seen a 44.3% increase in spending that is unsustainable in the long term. It has completely forgotten about the debt. We have a $500 billion debt in this country. We have debt payment charges on a yearly basis of about $35 billion to $40 billion. I believe it is the largest outlay every year by the Government of Canada from a fiscal sense and the government is not even addressing that.

What that means is that the government is basically mortgaging our children's future to pay for present programs. That is fundamentally wrong and it is unjust to future generations of Canadians. The debt ought to receive the proper attention. We need a true debt retirement program over a 20 year period.

Another point is that this does not respect taxpayer dollars. It is very easy for MPs, especially on the left side of the spectrum, to stand up and say that we should spend more and more and that there are wonderful areas that need to be addressed. In fact, as members of Parliament we could all stand and say that this is a very good initiative so we should spend more on it.

However the counterbalance to that is that we in the House do not produce this money. We do not generate the wealth. We do not generate the jobs that generate the wealth across the country. It is Canadians working hard until June. Canadians work until June to fund the government's activities and yet it seems so little in the House do we hear from the other side any recognition of the fact that very moderate Canadians of modest means work until June to actually fund the activities that we fund.

It is very easy to spend other people's money. This is very sensitive to me. I want to indicate that I was raised in a very middle class home by two parents who were school teachers. They never made more than $65,000 per year, most of the time on one income, whether it was my mother or father working. They raised four kids and were paying 40% of their income in taxes and paying more and more in taxes and user fees each year. That is where the money is coming from.

All the NDP talks about is corporate tax cuts. Fine, let us not debate that right now, let us debate the fact that we are taking money out of the pockets of average Canadians who cannot afford the little things in life that they would like some money to actually afford, whether it is for music lessons or a two week holiday that year. What the government and the NDP is doing is taking money away.

We ought to rephrase the way we actually talk about taxes in the country. We are not taking taxes. We are taking people's life energy because what they are doing each and every day is getting up, going to work for 8 to 12 hours a day, pouring their life energy into something. What the government does, without respect for any of that hard work, is it takes away that life energy and spends it indiscriminately, wastes it on all sorts of programs, whether it is Kyoto, the firearms registry or whatever one wants to say.

That is why the whole paradigm, the whole shift needs to occur. We cannot just say that money grows on trees and that we will spend it in whatever way we please. We actually have to start realizing that taxpayers are working hard to produce this money and we should treat that money as funds in trust. This is not our money to spend. It is money to divert to the priorities of Canadians but at the same time we must have respect for the fact that they work until June for the government to even fund all these activities. It is fundamentally wrong and it needs to change but it will only change as a result of a Conservative government in Canada.

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

7:30 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech. He kept talking about whether this is unusual legislation. In truth, it is unusual legislation. We are in a happy circumstance where we anticipate, over the next five years, surpluses.

What would the hon. member rather have? Does he want to be in a situation where there is no plan on the part of the government as to how to deal with surpluses? Or would he prefer to be in a situation where we are actually saying to the people of Canada that in the event of a surplus this is what we would spend the money on?

I put it to him that he should review the remarks of the Comptroller General of Canada, who said, first, that this is enabling legislation, not mandatory but enabling. Second, he said it is the first time that spending authority will be provided once there is a minimum fiscal balance, in this case, $2 billion. Third, he said that it is a prudent approach. Fourth, he said that there is a cap on the amount of money being spent, namely, $4.5 billion. Fifth, he said it gives some lead time to the government and the people of Canada to determine the ways in which such a measure should be approached. Sixth, he said that all initiatives will require Treasury Board approval.

It is unusual legislation, it is novel legislation and it is unplanned surplus legislation, but I put it to the hon. member that in fact it is well within fiscal guidelines and is an intelligent, reasoned approach to unplanned surplus.

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the member. I know that he has a fine mind, but he is twisting himself into a pretzel to defend this legislation.

The fact is that he and his colleague, the Minister of Finance, defended the first budget bill as a perfect bill and a month later they are twisting themselves into pretzels, saying, “Whoops, we missed $4.6 billion. We are going to have to put this in”. It is a perfect budget now, they say, after they have changed it by $4.6 billion.

He talks about the issue of unplanned surpluses. The reality is that the finance minister in the last election stood up and criticized our party when he said that there was no way we could afford those things we talked about because the surplus was $1.9 billion. We all know what he said after the election. He said, “Whoops, I got that wrong too. It is actually $9.1 billion”. Maybe he is dyslexic and he got the numbers mixed up, but that shows what this government is doing with its own surpluses. It has no idea. That is one of the concerns: it has no idea in terms of fiscal forecasting.

Second, on the whole issue of “enabling legislation”, that is a euphemism. This is a $4.5 billion slush fund. That is what this is. After closely watching this government operate for 2000, I have absolutely no confidence whatever in its ability to manage or spend taxpayer dollars.

I will give another example of that. In the budget of February 23--

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

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Eight surpluses in a row.

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Because the government has been overtaxing Canadians.

In the budget of February 23, the government said that if it spent $5 billion it would implement the Kyoto protocol. Three weeks later, the government said it was sorry, but it got that wrong and it was going to have to spend $10 billion.

At the environment committee, I know that the member for Essex and the member for Red Deer looked at where the money is going. They cannot find out where the money is going. It has gone off into various programs. We cannot find out where it has gone. While the government has actually spent about $2 billion, emissions have gone up.

That is the fiscal record of this government. It is absolutely disastrous. The only reason it has surpluses is that it has been overtaxing Canadians.

That is my final point. The Liberals have no concept of the fact that average Canadians are working harder and harder, even according to Don Drummond, and there is no increase in their take-home pay. That is fundamentally wrong and it needs to change.

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thought the member for Edmonton—Leduc really hit the nail on the head when he talked about the irresponsibility of this Liberal-NDP coalition budget. It is really illegitimate.

I was on the finance committee during the prebudget hearings. We heard from a lot of Canadians about what they wanted. We thought the budget in Bill C-43 set out the priorities that government thought important. We thought that was its agenda for the year. Then we found out that they had an illegitimate meeting in that no-tell motel room in Toronto and produced an illegitimate budget as a result.

The member for Edmonton--Leduc was talking about the debt. I would like to ask him a question. Was it not the irresponsible spending during the last coalition of these two parties, the NDP and the Liberals, that ran up this massive debt and cost interest charges of $35 billion to $40 billion per year, which Canadians are having to pay?

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will address the last issue first. It was the debt; it was the increase in spending that started in the Trudeau years, from 1968 until about 1984, that caused the increase. There was a $200 billion debt at that time because of the way the system was set up.