House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spending.

Topics

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

8 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member about his comments on the wage protection process. He has valid concerns and I share them. This, no doubt, will be an extremely complex issue when it comes before the House.

We are dealing with the interplay between federal jurisdiction and provincial jurisdiction and whether the company is under the Bankruptcy Act, or under the CCAA or insolvent. We do not want to develop or create an impediment to companies seeking financing in Canada.

My understanding is this is not in Bill C-48. It would require separate legislation or a major amendment to existing legislation. It would have to come back before the House. I assume it would be debated extensively, dealing with a separate appropriation.

Why would the member hold up this bill, which seems to have broad approval from across Canada, for that issue?

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

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not holding up this bill because of that issue. I am pointing out that the government had years to bring in the wage earner protection act legislation.

The Liberals were pricked in their social conscience by the fact that they needed to buy some votes to stay in power. They were prepared to give the NDP what it wanted. NDP members said that they wanted $100 million for a wage earner protection plan and all of a sudden a separate act was introduced to meet that promise.

The fact is the government has indicated that it will utilize $30 million to $50 million to protect workers and it will receive a half of it on the back of secured creditors. However, what the government is giving is really $1,000 per worker. More important, that amount would be less than a quarter of quarter of 1% of the $46 billions it took from the employment insurance fund to put into general revenues. The government will give the workers a quarter of a quarter of 1% for their use to protect them.

It is appalling. The Liberals should first put the $46 billion back where they got it from so workers can protect themselves without the need of government and without the need of a $30 million Liberal handout. The Liberals have had their own money sitting in general revenues which they have frittered away in one fashion or another while a debt is in place. They are taking $4.6 billion of that money and giving it out to buy votes for themselves for the sole and exclusive purpose of staying in power.

Any fair judgment would have to say that the Liberals did more than buy votes. They played tricks in the House to get people to cross the floor. They defied the House constitutionally when they did not recognize the fact that the House had lost confidence in them. For a week, they used the levers of government, the power to government, to stay in government when they had no right and no legal basis to do so. We might expect that in third world countries, but we would not expect that in Canada. To legitimize government, they did it illegitimately and that is wrong.

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

June 20th, 2005 / 8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain to address the issue. I know he is on to the Liberals in this business of Bill C-48 providing the funding that the NDP wants for bankruptcy protection.

It sounds like a noble goal. I was on the industry committee for a number of years. We heard a lot about small and medium sized businesses not being able to get the kind of credit they wanted from the banking industry. If somehow they are not to be ranked as secured creditors, if wage earners are to be ranked ahead of them, I think it will be more difficult.

Could the member for Souris—Moose Mountain comment on that?

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

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is simple math. Any business person who attends at an institution to raise funds to start up a business and to provide meaningful jobs to ordinary people needs a line of credit. Most times, those lines of credit are taken on accounts receivable, on inventory and on cash in the bank.

The first $2,000 of receivables per worker is a hit of a secured creditor, even if one has security on that. What will they do? The institutions will count up the number of employees, multiply that by 2,000 and reduce the amount of money available to operate a business: 50 workers, $100,000. These business people will have to go to their moms or their dads or some place else to find security to proceed, or not proceed at all if they cannot get the security.

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

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments. The bill is better known as the Liberal-NDP budget.

Bill C-48 seeks to enact $4.5 billion of the $4.6 billion deal struck by the Liberal government with the NDP to make payments in 2005-06 and 2006-07 from surplus moneys exceeding $2 billion. The money would be used to fund environmental initiatives including: public transit; an energy efficiency retrofit program for low income housing; training programs; enhanced access to post-secondary education to benefit, among others, aboriginal Canadians; affordable housing, including housing for aboriginal Canadians; and foreign aid.

All of this is unplanned spending and the Liberal government has proven time and time again that when it spends without a plan the result is inevitably waste and mismanagement. We have seen it with health care, the gun registry, Kyoto and infrastructure spending.

Billions of dollars have gone from the treasury without noticeable improvements to our health care system, the environment or our nation's highways. It all boils down to a government that liberally throws money at an identifiable problem without ever having a clear idea of how to fix it. Now the government wants to spend another $4.6 billion of taxpayers' hard-earned money without a plan. Canadians have a right to feel nervous.

The Liberals only agreed to this bill to save their political skin. This is a $4.6 billion deal using taxpayer money to keep a corrupt party afloat in government. A government mired in scandal has teamed with the NDP to write a fiscal plan for the nation on the back of an envelope. This is a recipe for economic disaster. If all of the spending in Bill C-48 was such a wonderful idea, then why was it not included in the February budget?

The Prime Minister has abandoned his party's so-called balanced approach to governing, which was to offset spending increases with some debt repayment and modest tax relief. We must keep in mind though that the balance was always tilted heavily in favour of spending anyway as taxpayers can attest. Now, with his budget pact with the NDP, the Prime Minister has given up all pretense of a balance. The deal squanders the budget surplus and flouts responsible budgeting in favour of irresponsible spending.

Even before this deal, federal spending was running out of control. Last year the finance minister projected program spending of $148 billion for 2004-05 and it ended up being over $10 billion more than that. As a result, between 2003-04 and 2004-05, government spending increased by over $17 billion. At 12%, this is the largest single spending increase in over 20 years and the fourth largest in the last four decades. Since 2000, program spending has soared by 44% and, judging from this year's budget, Canadians should hang on to their seats because they have not seen anything yet.

In the first few months after he seized the Liberal leadership, the Prime Minister and his minions spoke of “financial responsibility and integrity”. He promised Canadians to “better control spending”. That is yet another broken promise by the government.

Including the new spending contained in Bill C-48, the Liberal government has announced over $28 billion in spending since the Prime Minister went on national television in April to plead for his job. This spending has everything to do with his struggle to remain in office and nothing to do with improving the lots of Canadians. In the world of the Liberal Party, the poor voter is a secondary consideration.

By choosing spending over tax cuts and debt repayment, the Prime Minister is putting Canada's long term financial future at risk.

The federal government must become more aggressive in reducing Canada's $500 billion debt. Interest payments soak up approximately $38 billion annually, almost 18% of each tax dollar. This is the government's single largest expenditure. By paying more on the national debt, the government would have lower servicing charges, leaving more money for other more fulfilling purposes. Our debt to GDP ratio is still very high relative to other countries and our own past.

Prior to the mid-1970s, when Liberal governments first started ramping up spending, the debt to GDP ratio had always been at or below 20%. Now we are at twice that level. A responsible government would realize that today's surpluses will not last long. There is a chance of a recession or a prolonged rise in interest rates.

As well, we know that the baby boom generation will be retiring, placing increased burdens on our pensions and health care. If we do not act quickly to tackle the debt and bring it down to manageable proportions it may quickly become unmanageable.

The Conservative Party believes that the federal government should move to pay down the mortgage, which the huge national debt places on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. This should be accomplished by introducing a debt repayment plan, with the main part of budget surplus being allocated to debt repayment in order to have a debt to GDP ratio well under 20%.

Steps must now also be taken to address Canada's falling standard of living and an unemployment rate that remains stuck above 7%. Improvements will only come with changes to the tax regime.

Our tax burden is too high. It saps productivity, deters wealth creation and remains a visible competitive disadvantage. The miserly tax relief announced by the finance minister in this year's budget will save every taxpayer only $16 in personal income taxes in 2005. That is not good enough.

What Canadians need is immediate and long term broad based tax relief, starting with reducing personal income tax rates and substantially raising both the basic personal exemption and the spousal exemption under the Income Tax Act. Reducing personal income taxes will hike the take home pay and raise the living standard of all Canadians.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that the goal of the federal government should be to give Canadians the highest standard of living in the world. Every Canadian who wants a job should be able to get a job. Every region of the country should enjoy economic growth and new opportunities for its people.

Canada should become the economic envy of the world. All of this will only happen if the government spends within its means and does not tax too much.

The Liberals have pledged tens of billions of dollars without providing much detail. This is the same approach that causes sponsorship scandals and gun registry boondoggles.

The government has lost control over the federal finances. It will spend, say or agree to anything to cling to power. The Liberal-NDP budget is proof of that.

The Conservative Party wants to ensure that Canadians have access to affordable, high quality education, to initiatives that create a clean environment, to affordable housing and to other high priority programs. That is why it would be irresponsible to support a government that throws public funds at these initiatives without a plan.

Canada faces numerous competitive challenges and yet the government remains committed to massive spending, rather than a balanced approach that secures our standard of living, which is why I cannot support Bill C-48.

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

8:20 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted the member mentioned the tax cuts that were in the budget but I do not think she covered enough of what is being done. I want to ensure that the public is aware that the Liberal government has put forward the largest tax cut in history of $100 billion.

She talked about how significant this is to families. This is a 27% deduction on average in the personal income taxes of families. There are also tax cuts for people with disabilities in that $100 billion. The tax cuts in that particular plan will take a million low income people off the tax rolls completely.

We can talk about what it does for businesses because we wanted to make sure that entrepreneurs and corporations also enjoyed those tax cuts. The small business deduction limit has gone from $225,000 in 2003 up to $250,000 in 2004 and rises to $300,000 in 2005. All in all, for corporations the corporate taxes, including capital taxes, are now 2.3 percentage points lower than in the United States.

The member mentioned that she would like people to have jobs in all regions of the country, which we agree is admirable. Why then does her party, particularly the finance critic, constantly say that they are against the regional development agencies and that they would close those agencies that are so instrumental in actually getting regional development in all areas of the country and in the areas that really need that help?

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

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable what the government will do to cling to power. It has sold itself to the NDP. Where are its priorities? Its priorities are misplaced and wrong. The government changed its own budget to accommodate the NDP.

This is a weak government with weak priorities. Where are the tax cuts? It has no money to keep up with its old promises. This is a recipe for fiscal disaster. The government runs on making deals, not on principles.

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

8:20 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the member across made two comments. First she said that she wanted to see further decreases in the debt to GDP ratio and, second, she said that in the mid-1970s our debt to GDP ratio was around 20%.

I believe our debt to GDP ratio is now around 37% or 38% and she wants that decreased. I want to remind the member across that when her party, the Conservative Party, was booted out by the Canadian people in 1993, the debt to GDP ratio was 73%. I will repeat that. It was 73%, and through a lot of hard work and effort, the government has been able to decrease that from 73% to 38%.

She also talked about the payment of the debt. I want to remind the member across that the year that her party, the Conservative Party, was voted out of office, the annual deficit of this country was $43 billion.

In 1993, when things were so out of control, could the member tell me how things got so far out of control?

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

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals would rather grow the size of government than grow the income of families. We will continue to hold the Liberals to account where spending is unfocused and wasteful. We will continue to push them for more tax relief. Canadians deserve better. The Liberals cannot be trusted. The Liberals are corrupt.

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

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend's comments and one of the things I found rather interesting were her remarks on how interest rates will be going up.

After the Toronto--Danforth finance minister had his budget accepted by the rest of the coalition, I was waiting to see which economist would be the first one out to warn about this. I read in the Ottawa Citizen that the higher spending would put pressure on the interest rates because of the extra demand side pressures due to the inefficient, non-productive spending that the government, with its new baby coalition partner, was promoting,

Could the member tell the House how higher interest rates will affect people in her riding who have mortgages on their houses? How will it affect them in their day to day lives? What will it do to the economy in the area of Surrey?

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

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we want to keep our promises, but on that side of the House, promises made are promises broken.

We want every parent in Canada to go to bed at night knowing that their children will have the chance to live the Canadian dream. Our children should be able to get post-secondary schooling, get a good paying job, buy a house and start a family. That can only be done if the government does not spend too much and does not tax too much.

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

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my name to the list of those who are fiscally responsible members in Canada, those who oppose the New Democratic budget, Bill C-48.

I joined my party to vote in favour of Bill C-43, the original bill. It was hard enough in some ways to vote for that bill. Yet there were some measures in it that were some lukewarm attempts to imitate Conservative Party policy. For that reason it seemed to be the expedient and proper thing to vote for that bill. It seems these days the only time the Liberal government is not involved in corruption is when it is imitating our party, when it is trying to mirror something that the Conservative Party would do. We wanted to affirm those halting attempts to be fiscally responsible, hoping that the government would speedily implement those measures that are really to the full advantage of Canadians across the country.

When we get to the other bill, Bill C-48, on the other hand, it is really irredeemable. Many members in my party, and I assume in the other parties, have made comment, and especially the Bloc has objections and problems with the bill as well.

Bill C-48 even makes the finance minister gag. He has to hold his nose I would imagine each time that he dutifully expresses his support for the bill, for that irresponsible piece of legislation which was thoughtlessly thrown together at the last minute by the NDP leader and also by his right-hand man, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister tried to get this coalition together to keep his corrupt government in power. He is clinging to power with the help of a political party that is prepared to look the other way.That is what the NDP-Liberal government is prepared to do. It is prepared to look the other way when we see some of the things from this worst corruption scandal in the recent memory of this country.

The Liberals are willing to spend billions of taxpayers' dollars to fund this addiction for power and that they should be in power at all times in the history of our country. This is a direct result of the loss of their moral authority to govern. Not only should this bill not be passed, but the finance minister should resign for tabling it. We have called on him to do that. The NDP leader has more influence it would seem on the budgetary framework than the Prime Minister's own Minister of Finance.

Bill C-48 is heavy on the public purse but it is quite light on details. It is quite scant and sketchy. It commits hundreds of millions of dollars in broad areas without any concrete plans as to how that money would be spent. Bill C-48 authorizes cabinet to design and implement programs under the vague policy framework of the bill to make payments in any manner it sees fit.

The government has reserved the right to use the first $2 billion in 2005-06 and 2006-07 budget years from the federal surplus, presumably for federal debt reduction. Any surplus that exceeds $2 billion can be used to fund programs related to the bill.

The government would actually need to post $8.5 billion in surpluses over the next two fiscal years to fully implement the NDP's Bill C-48.

The areas addressed in the bill largely fall under provincial jurisdiction. It is more intrusion, more of the camel sticking its nose into the tent, more of moving into the provincial realm of authority.

Bill C-48 also violates a principle held by the NDP as was presented in its own prebudget report, that Parliament should have an opportunity to decide on the allocation of any budget surplus.

The Conservative Party has consistently opposed the Liberal approach of spending without an adequate plan. This is probably the biggest fault with Bill C-48. The Liberal approach is cruel not only to taxpayers, but more importantly to those who depend on those promised services.

The Auditor General has raised some very serious concerns about the ability of certain departments to actually deliver the programs effectively. Even if the dollars were shovelled off to a particular department, there is a pretty serious question whether in certain areas it would actually be able to make the best value of that, including Indian and northern affairs and the Canadian International Development Agency.

In addition the Office of the Auditor General has stated that it currently is auditing the Government of Canada's climate change expenditures which will be finally released in 2006.

The Conservative Party wants to ensure that the social needs of Canadians are met. Our party recognizes that many Canadians are not receiving the level of federal assistance that they deserve. That is a direct result of the Liberal government's approach to problem solving, which is basically to spend money without an adequate plan.

In most Canadian families both parents need to work, one just to pay the taxes. These Canadian families are receiving less and less each year for the taxes they are forced to hand over to the government. They are receiving less and less in the way of social programming and social services. The Conservative Party has long held that a dollar left in the hands of a homemaker or an entrepreneur is more beneficial than a dollar left in the hands of a bureaucrat or a politician.

It would be very irresponsible and cruel to Canadians in need to throw more money at programs that are not meeting those objectives. The responsible approach would be for the government to ensure that existing money is spent effectively to improve programs and to improve services to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Let us look at the Liberal record in respect to spending without a plan. Canada could have more better paying jobs and a much higher standard of living, but Ottawa taxes too much and spends too much.

Since the 1999-2000 program year, spending has gone from $109.6 billion to $158.1 billion, an increase of some 44.3%, a compound annual growth rate of 7.6%. The economy itself managed to grow by only 31.6%, a compound annual growth rate of about 5.6%. Once the Liberals had our money, they could not resist spending it even faster than the economy was growing. It is not surprising that there is so much waste with the government.

Often the government responds to problems in a knee-jerk way by throwing more money at those problems. The Liberals too often unfortunately confuse spending money with getting results. The Liberal government seems to have no true interest in getting results for low and middle income Canadians. As the Gomery inquiry has demonstrated, the Liberal Party is only interested, it seems, in getting results for the rich and the powerful, and for those who can return the favour.

A recent poll shows far more support for the Liberal Party among wealthy Canadians than among low and middle income Canadians. The Liberal Party has declared war on low and middle income Canadians, exploiting them to the advantage of its special friends and for any scheme that guarantees Liberal control over the reins of power in the Dominion of Canada.

Here are three examples of the Liberal government's wasteful and knee-jerk spending on programs that do not work.

We have heard for years now that the wasteful gun registry is the way to deal with the criminal use of firearms, but with no explanation of how this would prevent criminals from getting and using guns. The registry was to cost $2 million. Media reports say that the actual cost is around $2 billion at present and it is adding on as well.

The public saw television reports showing children high on gasoline. The Liberals threw money at Davis Inlet without a plan. The community was moved into new housing a few miles away at a cost of $400,000 per person, but the problems simply moved along with them as they relocated to that new location.

The Quebec referendum is another example which shocked the nation. The Liberals responded by throwing money at it, but without a real plan. The result was the sponsorship scandal, a $250 million waste of money, $100 million illegally funnelled off to Liberal friends and the Liberal Party. Even worse, it has reinvigorated Quebec separatism and hurt the face of federalism in the province of Quebec.

In 1966-67 real federal program spending per capita was $3,466. It will have risen to $4,255 in 2005-06, an increase of $800 per capita in volume terms, or $3,200 for a family of four. Current Liberal-NDP spending plans will take it to $4,644 by 2009-10, an increase of almost $1,200 per person.

Increases in real government spending do not necessarily equate to solving problems or even getting better results. That is the major concern we have with Bill C-48. It was written up quickly and is very scant on detail. There is not much there. As a result, the Liberals want to put it through quickly because they say it is very short. Because it is so very short is the reason it needs rigorous evaluation, assessment and scrutiny. It is also why it deserves our full condemnation and rejection at this point.

Much more could be said, but suffice to say that the Conservative approach would be rather different. It would be a responsible and detailed plan that would reflect rather different priorities and rather different results for the Canadian tax paying public.

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

8:35 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have really outdone themselves in embarrassing themselves today.

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

8:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

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

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am glad they are applauding that they have embarrassed themselves.

They spent the morning with no member talking about this bill, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, and now they are so desperate tonight that they are using the exact same speech. The media will have a field day when they check the speeches. If they look for the line, for instance, that refers to the Auditor General, the department of Indian affairs and CIDA, and if they match all the speeches and find the exact same thing, the media will wonder why we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on debate.

I have a great deal of respect for the member who just spoke. I know he had to use the speech from his researchers for his first 10 minutes. I will give him a chance now to speak on his own about what is in the bill. Just so that party knows what is in the bill, there is money to follow the plans that we have but we did not put enough money in the past. They are already in our plans and we are spending in these areas. This just enhances it .

The bill provides for the environment, including for public transit and for an energy efficient retrofit program for low income housing, an amount of $900 million. There is money for supporting training programs and enhancing access to post-secondary education, to benefit among others, aboriginal Canadians. There is money for affordable housing, including--and I have to admit there was a member opposite who talked about affordable housing, and I compliment him for that--for aboriginal Canadians. For foreign aid, there is an amount not exceeding $500 million.

I would like the member to comment on any of those four items and whether he thinks any of those four items are a good investment for Canadians to be making.