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

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP member covered quite a bit of ground. However, I would like to point out to him, when he talks about corruption, that he makes a serious error when he uses the words “Liberal” and “Conservative” in the same sentence. I do not think he is being at all honest. I do not know how else I can say that in a parliamentary fashion.

There was never before in Canadian history a scandal of the magnitude we face in the country right now. Not only are the members and the leadership in the governing party, but also the frontbench of the actual government, in collusion in funnelling money from taxpayers into the coffers of the Liberal Party. That has never been seen before in Canadian history.

The fact that those members would collude to prop up that totally corrupt government is a total affront. I will not say that any government, whether it is an NDP government in British Columbia, Saskatchewan or Ontario, or whether it is one of the other governments in one of the provinces or in this place, was ever perfect. That is an unattainable goal. However, the depths to which the government has sunk has indeed set new records. I wish that he would acknowledge that and be a little more careful when he uses the words “Liberal” and “Conservative” in the same sentence. I am challenging him on that part.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am equally concerned about the use of public funds for private fundraising purposes, which we have seen through the sponsorship scandal and through the Liberal Party's mismanagement of public resources. These are public resources that belong to all Canadians and they were misused for private fundraising purposes of the Liberal Party of Canada.

However, where the hon. member errs is by saying that it is without precedent. If he reads the hundreds of pages of documentation that Stevie Cameron put together for her book On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years, , he will see, through the PC Canada fund, the Mulroney Conservatives did the exact same systematic thing by using public funds for private party fundraising purposes. That is what was so deplorable about the Mulroney government, about the Conservative government in power. That is why the Conservatives were virtually wiped out afterward.

Now the Conservatives are coming back and saying “we have changed”. It is up to the Canadian public to determine that. Very clearly in both cases, Conservative and Liberal, we had a systematic use of public funds for private fundraising purposes. Whether it is the Liberal Canada fund for the PC Canada fund, it is the same dirty money. We in this corner of the House oppose both approaches.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the affordable housing initiative. I wanted to point out to the member that this is a problem from coast to coast to coast. In my riding, Nanaimo—Cowichan's Working Group on Homelessness recently did a study. It took a look at the number of homeless in the streets of Nanaimo. Fully 50% of those people on the street are women and many of them had young children.

In addition there was a recent study in the Statistics Canada Daily. It talks about the number of women who are in shelters. Seven out of ten women are reporting physical abuse in shelters. One of the things that contributes to this is the lack of affordable housing.

Could the member specifically comment on how important this better balanced budget will provide affordable housing to women and children in this country?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to praise the member for the tremendous work she has been doing as an advocate on behalf of all the people of Vancouver Island on the housing crisis which we are currently experiencing in British Columbia.

In my area of Burnaby—New Westminster we have seen a tripling of homelessness. We are seeing record levels of child poverty and people having to go to food banks to get through their month. It is a real tragedy. The Gordon Campbell government has worsened a situation that was already bad enough through federal government neglect. We have the federal Liberals eliminating funding for housing and we have the provincial Liberals doing even worse things, particularly when we talk about single parents, women and children who have been abandoned by the system.

I compliment her on all the work that she has done. She has been a fearless advocate on housing issues in the House. I agree with her that this problem is widespread across the country resolved--

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join the debate on Bill C-48 which would authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments.

However I believe in this debate we cannot just look at this bill by itself standing alone. It must be seen in the larger context of the entire budget, Bill C-43, the budget presented by the Minister of Finance. From everything I have seen, read and heard, it is a budget that meets with almost the unanimous approval of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Budget 2005 is this country's eighth consecutive surplus budget. It is a good budget, a solid budget and a budget that Canadians want this House to pass.

For almost four months now, Canadians have been telling us three things. First, they have been saying to pass this budget. Second, they have been saying that they do not want an election. Third, they have been saying that they do not want a Conservative government. Those are the three things that Canadians have been telling me and other members of this House.

Canadians have been saying that this budget addresses not all aspects, that it is not perfect, that it is not 100%, but, by and large, it addresses their values, their concerns and their priorities. Canadians have also been saying that they want their elected officials, each and every one of them, to work together in committee, in this House and in the Senate to get together to get the budget through.

I cannot stress how important these two budgets, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, are to Canadians. They contain major initiatives that people all across the country have applauded. Canadians expect and have ever reason to expect these initiatives to be put into place, such as a national system of high quality, universally inclusive, accessible and developmental early learning and child care. This government has committed $5 billion toward this initiative which aims to give all Canadian children the best possible start on their future.

There is the gas tax revenue sharing initiative which will be worth $5 billion over five years, with $6 million of that due for this year alone. This is a much needed investment that will help Canada's cities, towns and communities to meet their needs with long term, reliable sources of funding.

Much has been said in the House about the so-called notion of a fiscal imbalance. I personally do not agree with it. We have two levels of government. We have the federal level and the provincial level. The provincial level of government has more taxing powers than the federal level. If the provincial level needs additional sources of revenue, it is very easy for them to raise taxes, if that is their desire or their wish.

When I analyze the situation I see a fiscal imbalance that is here and is growing between the federal and the provincial government on the one hand and the municipalities on the other hand. By the municipalities I mean the cities and towns. These incorporated communities do not have the capacity to raise taxes. I see that as a true imbalance. This provision would go a little way, although I will not say all the way, but it takes one step to help correct that imbalance.

I would also like to highlight this government's commitment to regional economic development. In 2003, I chaired the Atlantic caucus subcommittee on regional economic development which produced the Rising Tide report. This report, among other things, emphasized the need for the creation and growth of a knowledge economy in Atlantic Canada. I was very pleased that this government responded with a $708 million investment to the Atlantic Canada region.

The Atlantic initiative will include a renewed $300 million Atlantic innovation fund that will support university research, commercialization and innovative companies. The Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will be making a further announcement on this initiative a week from Friday. It will also be supported by a $41 million permanent increase in ACOA's annual budget, totalling $205 million over five years.

Atlantic Canadians have even more to look forward to in this budget. For example, there is the new funding of $110 million over a period of five years to the National Research Council of Canada. In my home province of Prince Edward Island, construction is underway on the National Research Council Institute for Nutriscience and Health, which will anchor a worldclass research cluster. This is an investment not only in the region but in Canada.

Prince Edward Island is also recognized as a leader in alternate energy sources, most notably wind power. There is an existing facility in North Cape, Prince Edward Island and there is a second facility being planned for construction in the eastern part of the province. That is why I am especially pleased to hear of a $200 million investment in wind power, which includes the government's promise to quadruple the wind power production initiative.

The government has also been responsive to the needs of seasonal workers with significant and meaningful changes to the employment insurance program being tested by pilot projects. These include taking the 14 best weeks of work or since the start of the last claim, whichever is shorter. This will mean that for individuals with sporadic work patterns EI benefit levels will be more reflective of their full time work patterns. It removes a certain disincentive in the system and will not only help seasonal workers but also some of the seasonal companies.

Pilot projects are also testing an increase in the working while on claim threshold that will allow individuals to earn the greater of $75 or 40% of weekly benefits in an effort to work without reducing benefits. These changes were called for and needed. As long as we have seasons in this country we will have seasonal workers and these changes were fair, equitable and, in my view, took out of the system a certain disincentive that existed.

When we look at the entire budget package, Bill C-43, Bill C-48 and some of the announcements that precluded the last budget which took place last fall, there are issues I want to speak briefly to because they are all part of a continuum and are vital to Canadians living in every region of this country. The two I want to speak to are the accords on health care and equalization, which of course, as everyone in the House knows, continue to be priorities for all Canadians.

Canadians stand to benefit tremendously from the new deal on health reached between the federal government and the provincial first ministers. This historic agreement was reached last fall just a few months into this government's mandate.

Over 10 years more than $41 billion of new funding for health care will go to the provinces and territories, which in turn have committed to produce information on outcomes so that Canadians can be assured their money is being spent where it should be. The new deal recognizes the need for flexibility by allowing provinces and territories to target specific provincial health care needs.

Provincial and territorial needs are also being met through a new framework for equalization that will see an increase in payment by over $27 billion over the next 10 years. This represents the most significant improvements in this program in the history of it. It introduces and provides stability, predictability and increased funding which will assist the provinces and territories in meeting their social and economic development needs.

Last June, Canadians chose a minority government and they expected that government to work, and rightly so. This government, I submit, has worked. I have said before, when the budget came out in February, that the handprints of all parties were on it. It contained elements from every party.

The leader of the official opposition supported the budget. However, for some reason, whether it was a poll or some other development external to this House, he and his party changed their mind and they indicated that they would defeat the government on the budget.

However the government continued to work. It continued to work with everyone and with the NDP to bring about improvements, which is what Bill C-48 before the House is. It is an example of the type of cooperation that Canadians expect from their government here in the House of Commons.

However, when the Liberals and the NDP started working together for Canadians, suddenly the other parties did not like that.

It is unfortunate that I do not have more time because I could go on about the whole issue of the allegations from the other side about fiscal irresponsibility, but Bill C-48 is a good bill. It is very much part of the budget package, part of the continuum, and I urge every member of the House to support it.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the hon. member's speech I did have some questions. I know that it has been quite an unusual year when there are two parties blended here: the Liberals and the NDP. There is a very blurred line between the two parties. They are much the same.

We have had a terrible experience with the Gomery commission in terms of having to get to the bottom of a scandal that is bigger than any we have ever had in the history of Canada. We are now looking at two budget bills. Normally speaking, we would be looking at one budget because a ruling government party usually puts forward a budget and it is passed in the House of Commons based on the credibility and the confidence of the House of Commons.

In my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul in the province of Manitoba, we had a very big surprise when the Liberal government came with great fanfare to our province and made grand announcements about infrastructure. When I was on the fiscal imbalance committee sitting in the province of Manitoba, I listened very carefully to Manitobans' dismay at the fact that the gas tax money had not been put into place so they could utilize it. Suddenly the rules were changed with the gas tax money. It was the intention of our province to use it for roads and bridges.

Could the member opposite please explain why the money cannot now be used for the damaged roads and bridges that need to be repaired, as had first been promised by the Liberal government? Why have the rules changed and what is the government going to do about it?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the first item I want to address is this allegation of two parties blended. I have seen no more disturbing development in this House since coming here four and a half years ago than the alliance that has occurred between the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois. We can see it in the House of Commons, in committee and in the corridors.

To give an example, we are talking about Bill C-48, which is about six paragraphs long and which is good legislation that talks about affordable housing, public transit and access to post-secondary education, but when it went to committee, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois got together as an alliance, a very unholy alliance I should add, and they voted out every article in that act and returned the document with nothing in it.

I say shame on them and shame on the agreement. What part of this do they not agree with? Do they not agree with affordable housing? Do they not agree with public transit.

We also hear them talk about fiscal irresponsibility. Well I say to them that in 1993, when Brian Mulroney was incurring an annual deficit of $43 million, were they arguing fiscal irresponsibility? No, they were not. We are still paying that money back and that has put this country in a mess. We are finally getting out of it. We are starting to be able to spend money on programs and priorities that Canadians want, and that is why I urge everyone in this House to pass Bill C-48.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the member is refusing to answer this question about infrastructure money flowing from the gas tax because that was one of my questions as well.

I live in an area southwest of Toronto. It is a beautiful area. It has been dependent upon farming and agriculture for years. However, because of these Liberal policies, many of our farmers are losing their farms. Unfortunately, we do not have the infrastructure that would attract alternate jobs.

While the minister was gloating across the aisle a moment ago about all of the rural and economic development money that the government claims to have put into its budget, absolutely not one penny of it has been allocated to southern Ontario where it is also needed.

I am wondering why the minister is so proud of this budget, in terms of Bill C-48, because the government did not even bother to overcome that shortage. How can he be so proud of it and so proud of the infrastructure efforts if no money that was promised is actually getting delivered and no money is going to help revitalize areas that really need it because of that party's failed economic and agricultural policies?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the so-called gas tax money is a program that is meant to, in some small way, help the fiscal imbalance between the towns, cities and communities and the federal and provincial governments.

However, because of the jurisdiction of the cities, the matter has to be negotiated with the provinces, and in the member's case, that would be of course the province of Ontario. That agreement, and I understand it was only signed yesterday, would dictate how this money would be spent. That would be an agreement made between the federal and provincial governments, with input from the federation of municipalities. However, it is a small amount of money now, over five years, but it is meant to continue on and the priorities of all Canadians will be taken into account as we go forward.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Bill C-48 and I would like to remind members that the title of the bill is “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”.

It is a pretty short title and it does not tell us a whole lot. It does not tell people across Canada whether this means that we are going to pay the power bill or that it includes $4.6 billion. It is a deal that was written up on the back of a napkin between the government and the NDP.

The member who just spoke prior to me talked about the unholy alliance between the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois. Let me point out to him and to Canadians watching that there is no such alliance on this side of the House. There is, however, one on the other side of the House and it is the NDP propping up a corrupt government that does not deserve to be propped up.

The goal of a Conservative government would be to provide Canadians with the highest standard of living of anyone in the world. We would do that by reducing taxation. Taxation has brought us to the place where we are today.

The last surplus forecast was $1.9 billion. It turned out that whoever was looking after the books was dyslexic because it happened to be $9.1 billion and what did the government do with that surplus? In the face of an impending election it ran around the country and tried to run the cupboard completely bare. That is the whole idea behind running these large surpluses.

I will get back to the unholy alliance, or the shotgun wedding perhaps, between the two parties over there. I do not know which one of them is the bride and which is the groom. I would suggest that the smaller party be very wary of doing business with the Liberals because they have a practice of not following through with their promises.

I would refer that party to the long gun registry where the Liberals said to trust them because this was a bill that was going to reduce crime. It was going to take the guns out of the hands of the people in Canada who should not have guns and it was going to make us all a lot safer in our homes. It was going to reduce gang violence, it was going to do all these wonderful things, and it was only going to cost Canadians $2 million. Guess what? We are at $2 billion and counting and today we heard the Deputy Prime Minister vow, and brag actually, that the annual payments into the long gun registry are going to be capped at a mere $68 million a year. What wonderful news. I am sure that all Canadians are going to be thankful that they will be safer now because of the $68 million.

A Conservative government would put more decisions into the hands of the people who actually pay taxes. How would we do that? For one thing we would tax fewer dollars away from them. I have a daughter who is teaching school in Edmonton. I have another daughter who is married and has two young children, and they are scraping to get by in order to put a few dollars away for the education of their children. The children are two years and six months of age, but the parents are doing their best to put some money away to ensure that those kids get a college education if that is what they want.

How are they trying to do that? They are both working, so that one of them can pay the bills, the mortgage and put groceries on the table, and the other one works to pay their taxes. While we are talking about taxes, why is it that there was no tax relief in the budget? Why is it that there was no debt reduction in the budget? Why indeed was the budget ever written up?

It is pretty obvious that the reason it was written up was to save the political skin of the Prime Minister and his corrupt party. It was pretty obvious also that if all of these things were such wonderful Liberal ideas, they would have been included in the original budget. They were not.

I again warn my colleagues in the NDP to be very cautious of who they are dealing with here. If people want to do business with someone or invest in a company, they should have a look at the prospectus and the track record. I think the NDP members have been here long enough that they should know the track record of the outfit they are dealing with. I just say to them caveat emptor , let the buyer beware.

We talked about the huge reserves that have been built up over the years. I find it passing strange and difficult to comprehend how this thinking goes. Here is a government that has in the neighbourhood a $10 billion surplus in its last budget. There was no mention of help to agriculture in Bill C-48 at all.

At one time I believe I do remember people such as Stanley Knowles and Tommy Douglas saying that they were the friends of the farmer. As a matter of fact, the birthplace of the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, was Saskatchewan, a province famous for its agriculture. There is no mention whatsoever of agriculture in this napkin budget.

I want to remind people that in 1994 the previous government made a commitment to upgrade the military helicopters. The Conservative government had made a deal to buy some EH 101 helicopters, so that the military would have machines that would fly when required, and the military would not have to go to the archives to obtain parts for these machines.

The helicopter deal was scrubbed, as everyone knows, at a cost of $600 million. Thanks to the Liberal government the taxpayers of Canada were on the hook for $600 million just to get out of the deal. We still do not have those helicopters.

That was a big commitment. Former Prime Minister Chrétien said that the government was working on that. I believe the terms he used were ones that the Deputy Prime Minister likes to use, “without further delay” or “in due course of time” or whatever. It did not happen. We still do not have the helicopters.

It is now 12 years after the promise was made to upgrade the helicopters for our Canadian military. We still do not have those helicopters. Today we have helicopters that require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight. That is the kind of deal that the NDP has entered into. This is the type of party that it has entered into with this deal. It is a party that is notorious for not keeping its word. I do not know if it is parliamentary for me to say so, but I think that the Liberal Party is being duplicitous about this.

I have been here since 1993 and the government has continually racked up surpluses. The government has done very little, although it has made token payments on the debt, about $3 billion a year. In this budget and actually in Bill C-43, I did not see any payment on the debt.

I know that if the government were paying down the debt, it would reduce the $40 billion a year that we pay out in interest. That money, that we pay out for the party that we have had, is money that could be returned to the taxpayer in the form of just leaving more money in their pockets. I am a great believer that a dollar left in the hands of the taxpayer is far better used than a dollar that is sent here for the government to squander.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am amused by this line of argument by the hon. member and his party opposite which says that Bill C-48 is propping up the government and, of course, propping up a corrupt government. Only an hour ago we voted on third reading of Bill C-43. Bill C-43 is a complete budget document in and of itself. I do not know what the hon. member was doing when he was voting for Bill C-43, or what his party was doing voting for Bill C-43. If he truly believes that he is propping up this corrupt government, then he should not have voted for Bill C-43.

Would the hon. member enlighten me? Why would he vote for Bill C-43 which props up a corrupt government, but not vote for Bill C-48 because it will prop up a corrupt government? It does not make any sense.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is really quite simple. Because we voted to support Bill C-43, we did not vote to prolong the life of the government across the way. We voted for Bill C-43 because it contains some measures we supported, some measures of which we were actually the instigators.

Some things in Bill C-43 came right out of the Conservative policy book. For instance, although the gasoline tax rebate is watered down somewhat in Bill C-43, that was a Conservative plan some eight or nine years ago. I know that the hon. member who asked the question will recall that my colleague Mr. Morrison, from Cypress Hills--Grasslands in Saskatchewan, put forth a private member's bill suggesting exactly the same thing.

The other reason that I personally voted for it was that it gave Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia control over their natural resources. This is also a policy that we have long advocated and are glad to see come in.

Why did we vote for the bill? Because we were not in a position to separate out the things we like about Bill C-43 and vote for them, and separate out the things we do not like about Bill C-43 and vote against them. Therefore, we had to vote to support the entire bill, because it did contain at least two measures that we both instigated and support.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Did the Conservatives at any point attempt to get some changes to the budget? Did they go to the Liberals and say they would support it if the Liberals put in this or that or did they just sit back?

Wait a minute, I actually do not have to ask that question, because once again I recall the leader of the Conservatives, right after the budget was announced, with that great big smile on his face going out to the media and saying that he loved it, that it was the best budget the Conservatives could have, that it was a Conservative budget.

They did not bother going for anything else because they had their budget.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

June 16th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the hon. member's hyperbole, but that is exactly what it is, hyperbole.

What my leader said was that this is not a budget with which we are thrilled, this is not a budget that we feel is sufficient to bring down the government, and this is a budget we can live with.

Just for the sake of the people who are watching and for the sake of Hansard , let us not confuse the budget that the hon. member is talking about, Bill C-43, and this back of the napkin or back of the envelope budget, whichever we like, Bill C-48, which was cobbled together at the last minute by the Liberal government, the finance minister, the NDP and of course Buzz Hargrove. I do not know how they could ever have managed to get this just right without Buzz Hargrove. Apparently that is what it takes.

That is what we are discussing here today. They are two separate and completely distinct bills. Bill C-43, on which I have answered the previous questioner, is the one that we did support, and Bill C-48 is the one we do not support.