House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Symbol for the House of Commons
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division on the motion stands deferred until Wednesday, June 22 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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

June 21st, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, in a previous incarnation the finance minister, the current Prime Minister prided himself on his prudent stewardship of the nation's finances.

In 1994 he stood up in this House and indicated that the days of extravagant promises and reckless spending were over, stating,“For years, governments have been promising more than they can deliver, and delivering more than they can afford. This has to end. We are doing it”. That was once upon a time and a long time ago.

The Prime Minister has abandoned the notion of prudent fiscal spending. In its place, as reflected in Bill C-48, he has adopted a reckless spending approach to the budgetary process. Even worse, the Prime Minister decided to cut a truly bizarre backroom deal with the leader of the smallest party in the House for their support, effectively allowing the NDP to dictate the terms of the budget.

To quote the respected national columnist Don Martin:

What we have now is a prime minister who mocked Layton as the leader of a tax-and- spend party that would ring up huge deficits on the national credit card, now calling the NDP's budget a fiscally prudent document which proves Parliament works.

Consider the ramifications of that. For all we do as parliamentarians, for all the debates and all the votes and for all the legislation, nothing affects Canadian families more directly than the way we spend their hard earned money. The way in which government expenditures are allocated speaks to the priorities and values of Canadians.

The Liberal government this past February presented a budget it took great pride in boasting as “Delivering on Commitments”. The introduction of the budget document praised what it described as “a balanced strategy to build a 21st strategy economy that would improve the well-being of all Canadians”. Moreover, it went on to state that a “productive, growing economy creates jobs, boosts incomes and supports investments in the quality of Canadian life”.

The Conservative Party was ready to work with the February budget. While not ideal, it did recognize the need to offset spending increases with some debt repayment and modest tax relief.

However, as the changing winds of political fortune threatened to cut short the Liberal government's rein, the Prime Minister completely ignored his own budget planning and altered it with an NDP budget that according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, “squanders the budget surplus and flouts responsible budgeting in favour of irresponsible spending”.

On the most important piece of legislation, one which will speak to the values and priorities of Canadians, the federal government decided to make a dramatic shift and embrace the priorities of the NDP, a party which received a mere 15% of the vote in the last election and the lowest of the three major federal political parties.

This was not a one time occurrence. Canadians have consistently rejected the NDP and its tax and spend philosophy throughout the years. Why have Canadians been so unfailing in their rejection of the NDP? I cannot speak for all Canadians, but many have seen the often disastrous behaviour of New Democrats in provincial governments.

Residents in my home province of Saskatchewan know all too well how an NDP government treats the public treasury. Indeed, an editorial just today in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was extremely critical of the current NDP administration in Saskatchewan. It stated:

--as a government with no real strategy for the province, whose intent is to do little more than squander every last nickel that rolls into the coffers, and let the tomorrows fend for themselves.

Indeed, as the editorial concludes, “taxpayers are unlikely to see much direct benefit as the government continues on an irresponsible spending spree”.

The similarities between the federal government and Saskatchewan's provincial government are uncanny in this respect. Both have engaged in irresponsible spending sprees with no framework and with no tax relief for the taxpayer.

Every action has a consequence. Reckless spending by the state has a consequence. The Prime Minister used to know that. He spoke not long ago in the House of the trap of uncontrolled spending and how it contributed to, “the vicious circle in which our chronic deficits contributed to economic lethargy, which in turn contributed to even higher deficits, and then to greater malaise”.

That vicious circle of uncontrolled spending and increasing economic downturns has a real and disturbing cost for hard working families and individuals trying to survive.

In Saskatchewan, the years of the NDP provincial rule have taken an immense toll. The province has one of the lowest per capita family income rates for any province, the lowest number of middle aged, high income earners in Canada, a negative personal savings rate for individuals over the past four years and, most distressing, 14 consecutive quarters of out-migration from the province.

I cannot underline the severity of the out-migration problem on the future of Saskatchewan. It is not only how many are leaving but also who.

According to a recently released report from Statistics Canada, the province's two biggest cities, Regina and Saskatoon, topped the list of Canadian cities to suffer from brain drain. Regina lost 7% and Saskatoon 6% of their 2001 university graduates to other Canadian urban centres. Excessive state interference, especially in the form of reckless spending in the economy, stifles everything from innovation to entrepreneurship. More important, it drains jobs, the very jobs that those new graduates were seeking in Saskatchewan in their fruitless searches.

Unfortunately, because the Prime Minister feels it is necessary to alter the budget to suit the NDP, we will likely have an NDP economy. Maybe the Liberals should have asked what that includes or, more correctly, does not before they so eagerly signed on.

The C.D. Howe Institute recently determined that the NDP modifications to this budget would cost the Canadian economy a whopping 340,000 jobs. The corporate tax cuts that the NDP are so adamantly opposed to would have left money in the hands of companies to produce more and better paying jobs for Canadians.

Likewise, according to Dennis Gartman, a well-known investment analyst, Bill C-48 is “the worst possible signal the Prime Minister could send to the capital markets.... Capital that might have come to Canada shall now, at the very best, think twice about coming”.

Bill C-48 flies in the face of the universally recognized principle that to stimulate job growth we need competitive corporate tax rates. To quote Gartman again, he said it is “bad economic policy, plain and simple. It puts the lie to the Liberal claim that creating a competitive economy is a high priority in assuring our collective standards of living”.

Knowing all this about Bill C-48, how can anyone support it? Indeed, does anyone honestly think the Prime Minister, circa 1994 or 1998 as the finance minister, would support this legislation? Most rational people would not endorse spending a few thousand dollars on a home renovation without a detailed blueprint, let alone nearly $5 billion for major government initiatives without an adequate plan.

Will the Liberals, for instance, address the severe reservations the Auditor General expressed about the capacity of certain departments to deliver programs efficiently, the very same departments to which the Liberals want to give more money in Bill C-48? Is there an adequate plan to deal with these concerns? Was that discussed with Buzz Hargrove at the Royal York Hotel too?

It would be an insult to the millions of hard-working Canadians to endorse legislation that not only will cost billions but most likely will not meet its stated objectives. A rational approach would make certain, first, that existing money is spent efficiently and that programs can be sufficiently improved to merit further expenditures. Amazingly, the Liberal-NDP coalition is steadfastly opposed to this approach, voting against amendments in finance committee to make the spending in Bill C-48 more accountable to Canadians and to reflect a more prudent fiscal approach.

I cannot in good conscience support passage of this legislation and neither can most rational people.

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

6 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what the member had to say and I sort of got lost on the brain drain in Saskatchewan and the link between that and this budget, in particular, and this government over the last number of years.

I may have been watching the wrong channels on television but I seem to have seen ads promoting Saskatchewan as a place for R and D, as a place to do business now and as a proud have province to which people, entrepreneurs and scientists should come.

I do not have the figures here but at the University of Saskatchewan, Light Source has become a world centre of high tech science, not just high tech in the general sense but of big science, science that requires massive facilities which exist almost nowhere else in the world.

I also understand that the University of Saskatchewan has the best selection of health training programs in the country and probably in North America. If we look at the range from what we might call normal medical school through to the different types of nursing schools and health technology schools, the University of Saskatchewan is in a class by itself on this stuff. In veterinary science and other aspects of agriculture, if veterinary science is agriculture, the University of Saskatchewan is an extraordinary place.

I am less comfortable with talking about the University of Regina and the First Nations University which is in Regina. However I think if we were to look at the two of them we would see that they have both received a substantial number of Canada research chairs and a substantial amount of indirect costs of research. Both universities do wonderful work for aboriginal students in the province.

Would the member tell me what she means by the brain drain in Saskatchewan when it has been built up in this particular way? Could she tell me, for example, how many Canada research chairs the University of Saskatchewan received? How many millennium scholarships did Saskatchewan receive? How many Canada graduate scholarships did Saskatchewan receive? How much in indirect costs of research did the University of Regina receive? How much, between them, did those universities get from the granting councils, the social sciences, the physical sciences, NSERC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research?

Could the member also explain this brain drain that she was discussing and explain why she cannot support a 2% addition to the budget, most of which adds to the sorts of things that I have just listed?

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

6 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think I have to invite the member to Saskatchewan and he would see what I am talking about.

Our population has declined incredibly. There is a very depressed population out there because the budget does not address agriculture. Those who are following the equalization plan are feeling as if Saskatchewan has been left out. They are feeling very alienated. We are taxed to death.

What I am trying to say is that most people are moving out of the province because of the administration that is running the province right now which is very unfriendly toward any kind of business or industry. I have been told that most companies prefer to stay out of Saskatchewan. For example, oil companies prefer to have their headquarters in Alberta because it is so unfriendly to move into our province.

Yes, there are some good things happening, in spite of the NDP government. That is how good the people of Saskatchewan are and how hard-working they are. We are staying above water in spite of the NDP government and we can do it. However, I would invite the member to drive on our roads.

I am quite confused by those ads, too, because last year in Saskatchewan the parks were going to close down until July because there was not enough money to open them and staff them. Our parks are not being maintained and they are in absolute shambles. That is just one thing.

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

6 p.m.

An hon. member

The federal government is trying to help with those things.

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

6 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

I am talking about an NDP government that has priorities. Its priorities are three brand new beautiful liquor board stores. It is closing schools in rural Saskatchewan. It is closing hospitals in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has the longest waiting lists of any province in the country. The member need only check our criminal justice statistics if he really wants to live in Saskatchewan or he really only needs to see what it is like to live under a communist rule.

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

6:05 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have to smile when I hear hon. members opposite from the Conservative Party telling us about deficits and fiscal prudence. There is absolutely no way the Conservatives can teach us anything about budgets.

When we came into office in 1993 we were left with a $43 billion deficit by the Conservative government. We were left with an enormous debt that had a huge percentage of foreign debt in it. We did the things that were necessary so that we can now post our ninth balanced budget. We have been paying down the debt every single year.

The Conservatives keep talking about the fact that we have surpluses. I do not know if anyone in the House recalls over the last two years SARS, the fires in British Columbia or the floods in Saguenay. We had to have money to help with all of those unexpected disasters without going back into a deficit. That is called fiscal prudence. Fiscal prudence is having money available to take care of the unexpected things that come up. This government has not been talking about fiscal prudence, it has in fact been doing that.

We are proud to stand here and talk about the fact that this country is one of the best performers in the G-8 under the watch of our government. How could those members talk about fiscal prudence and then have the gall to suggest that we are in bed with the NDP to move some agenda items forward that have always been our priorities.

We hear talk about the great public and how we must listen to the public. We listen to the public. It elected a minority government because in its wisdom it believed hon. members in this House could behave as adults and work together for the common good. That is exactly what the two parties on this side of the House are doing. We have come together and talked about things that will keep the government moving along and doing things in the best interests of the public good. We on this side of the House are behaving like adults. We are trying to do the things that the public elected us to do. Instead. we see game playing going on.

Before the finance minister had even finished speaking about the budget, the hon. Leader of the Opposition stated that there was no way his party would be able to speak against it. He said that his party would never be able to bring the government down on the budget because it was a good budget.

Around the middle of April things changed. All of a sudden, the actual greed, if I may use that word, and the actual grasping nature of that party came forward. It decided to go after the government and bring the government down. The Conservatives decided not to do what the people elected us to do, which was to form a minority government in which we could work together. Instead, the games began.

Here they are now speaking to us about fiscal prudence and being very concerned about a surplus. I am surprised those people on the other side of the House know what a surplus is.

Let us look at the history of Conservative governments. I do not think the Conservatives know what a surplus is because they have never seen it before. When they do see one they do not know what to do with it. They must be upset with it because they keep going on about it.

It is the surplus that allows us to deal with unforeseen circumstances, such as those we have had to deal with over the last few years. A surplus allows us to take care of the things that nature and other circumstances foist on us while still maintaining a balanced budget and not go into deficit.

Let us talk about the Conservatives being against affordable housing. I heard a member speak not too long ago about the fact that people would rather have money in their pocket.

Somebody talked about violin lessons. There are a lot of people in my riding who would love to have violin lessons, but they cannot even afford to pay their rent, never mind violin lessons.

Let us talk about the reality of affordable housing. Housing is a basic necessity. Affordable housing is a fundamental tool by which people can afford to live, not lives of wondrous wealth, but just ordinary lives, keeping their heads above water, shelter, food, clothing. That is what affordable housing is all about.

This is not something that our government suddenly decided to adopt out of the blue. This builds on an affordable housing platform that we have had. We worked with the NDP to move this agenda forward faster. We have talked about affordable housing. We have spent over $2 billion on homelessness. Since we have become government we have spent over $2 billion on various types of housing. We are working on co-op housing, ensuring that it keeps going on and that there is new stock of co-op housing. We are fast forwarding it a little. We can afford to do that. That is what fiscal prudence did. It gave us the money in the kitty so that we can do this kind of thing without going into a deficit. This is not something new. We are doing the right thing for Canadians.

Regarding post-secondary education, if we are going to be competitive we need to understand that it is a skilled workforce that is going to give us the competitive edge that we need to exist in the 21st century. The generators, the engine of economic growth and development are people, human capital. We need to spend money on assisting our young people in getting the skills, the education and the learning they need to become productive members of society, to be able to earn good living wages and to make Canada competitive with the rest of the world.

We depend on trade for so much of our gross domestic product. Therefore, we need to have people who can work and produce. We see that there is a productivity crunch, not just in Canada but in all of the major industrialized nations. We are dealing with that now before it gets too bad. We are trying to move forward and upgrade the skills of the people in Canada, the young people and those whose jobs for various reasons are no longer valid in the new economy.

We are talking about getting a skilled workforce for the 21st century. This is something that we have been doing. We have put money into post-secondary education. We have provided for increased transfers to provinces for post-secondary education. Looking at the Canada social transfer, we have put $5 billion annually into direct support for post-secondary education, among other things. The RESP that this government initiated allows families from the day of a child's birth to put money aside so that when it is time for that child to get post-secondary education, he or she can do it.

This is what we have been doing. We have been investing in people. By putting this budget forward, we are asking for $1.5 billion extra dollars to fast forward this, to do this more quickly. Things are moving rapidly in the world and we need to be competitive and on top of education.

Regarding the environment, I am not surprised that the hon. members across the way do not accept the environment, but I am surprised that the Bloc members do not. They have always been very supportive of Kyoto and other environmental issues. Here are the people who stood up day after day in this House over the 12 years that I have been around here talking about how we need good science, when the rest of the world is moving on and recognizing global warming, recognizing smog and how many people it is killing and how many young people are getting asthma from smog. These people are saying, “Show me the science” as a sort of mantra. They are out of touch with the reality of life.

Proposing $900 million in Bill C-48 to move forward on a clean fund, to help low income families energy retrofit their homes, this is good governing. This is again in keeping with our priorities. As a government we have put in $1 billion over five years for the clean fund to encourage cost effective projects and actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We are talking about having worked with another political party in this House to do exactly what the people felt we should do in a minority government, to work together across party lines for their benefit.

I want to know if hon. members across the way will tell me that affordable housing is not for the public benefit and is not important for all the kinds of people, who obviously they do not have in their ridings because they do not even know that people need this. On the environment, the Canadian Medical Association was just talking about the number of children who are getting asthma as a result of smog in this country. On post-secondary education, we want our young people to have the tools they need to create something new for themselves and to make Canada competitive in the next generation.

We are paying off the debt. We have been doing this. After this, we still have $4 billion left to put toward debt reduction. We have been doing this every year. We have been putting $3 billion every year toward debt reduction. We have been trying successfully to undo the damage of the last Conservative government. We have brought this country out of the depths of despair in which people lived. People were losing their homes because of double digit mortgage rates. There was double digit unemployment. People were living in absolute despair because they did not know what they would do themselves.

Regarding leaving a debt, we are raising young people. The Conservatives would like us to leave the debt to young people to pay in the next generation.

I support this bill and I say shame to the members on the other side of the House if they will not.

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

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member has really blown her cover. Talking about the environment, Kyoto deals with carbon dioxide and water vapour. As a result of the hon. member's speech, we got more of both in this place than we had before.

The member talked about double digit interest rates. I remember doing some mathematical consulting for people who were facing foreclosure on their homes at that time and who thought they were getting a bad deal. This did occur, as I recall, near the early 1980s, before the Conservatives came to power. It was under a Liberal government that it happened.

I am thinking also of the debt that members opposite keep talking about. They keep blaming the Conservatives. We need to remember that if the Conservatives in 1984 would have had no debt from the Liberals, there would have been no debt in 1993, because in those nine intervening years, the Conservative government had a balanced budget on program spending. The amount that was added to the debt is simply the compound interest on the debt that the Conservatives inherited in 1984.

At this point, I ought to say that this is accurate. The member will get up and try to refute it by a whole bunch of more hot air and moisture, but the fact of the matter is that mathematically it is correct. I know it is, because I did that particular mathematical computation at the time of my election in 1993. The Conservative candidate said this and I was going to blow him out of the water, but being an honest guy and being a math type, I checked the math and sure enough, take the debt that the Liberals gave to the Conservatives in 1984, add the compound interest at the rate of the day and we end up with the debt that the Conservatives had at the time. We could perhaps hold them responsible for not correcting the Liberal errors faster, but that is about as far as we can go.

Furthermore, in the intervening years, the years that the Liberals like to brag about, addressing the issue of the deficit and all that, they did it by taking $30 billion out of the employees' pension fund and by robbing and raping the EI fund. That is how they did it.

Furthermore, we add things like the GST, which most Canadians do not like, but the Liberals have been raking it off. The Liberals ran in 1993 on the promise to kill it. Meanwhile they have been using it. They have been overtaxing on EI by huge amounts, $45 billion. If we would have had a responsible government over there, the debt would have come way down instead of just the little bit that they have moved it. I call it just plain spin doctoring on their part. They are really not up to it in terms of financial responsibility.

I will concede that they are Liberals and they could have spent more than they did, so I suppose we need to give them just a little gentle congratulations for following our advice and responding when we pushed for balanced budgets and stopped the borrowing.

I remember we had a plan in 1993 which was the zero in three. The Liberals said they could not do it, that they had all this deficit, so they cut all these programs. We simply accurately read the economic statements. On economic forecasting the Liberals are total wipe outs. If I were their instructor, they would all get zero in that course.

As a matter of fact, we read it accurately. We said it could be done. The fact that they did it proves that it was doable. Meanwhile, they smeared us. I could go on and on, but I know I am on questions and comments and I have to give the hon. member an opportunity to respond, which I really do not want to do. I do not want to hear what she will say because it will be unbelievable.

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

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, if it were not so funny, it would be sad.

The hon. member talked about how it took the Conservative government nine years to get out of the Liberal debt that it left and that it was all compound interest.

It took us three years to get out of the compound interest that the Conservatives talk about. It took us only three years of good management to do it.

There were nine lost years in which the Conservatives brought in the GST to help get rid of the deficit. It increased the debt. I call it something pretty simple: mismanagement. We see it wherever there is a Conservative government: mismanagement.