Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
I oppose this budget because it is far less than what the country deserves and needs. The priorities are largely misplaced and I will outline just a few of the reasons why. Nevertheless, we will not defeat the government on it because the larger issue beyond this pathetic budget is that the country does not want an election at this time.
My constituents will, I am sure, give me a clear signal when the time is due, when an election is being asked for. I am sure there will be a clear mood soon that they have had enough of these Liberals, but such is not the case right now. They do not like what they are getting from the government, but they like the prospects of an election even less.
I will outline some positive Conservative budget alternatives while letting this budget pass in order to avoid an election for the time being. The Liberals plan to spend $196.4 billion on programs in 2005-06, not counting statutory spending like pensions. That is $6,130 for every person in Canada, the biggest spending plan in history. That is incredible.
The national debt is still at about $500 billion and the service charges for it will be $35.1 billion. The spending rate is up 11% from 2003-04. The Liberals tax more than needed. They spend too much which results in government waste while we still owe too much.
While the government says that the budget is about delivering on commitments, we are seeing nothing but dithering. Most changes are supposed to happen long after the Prime Minister and finance minister are gone. By making plans long after many other budgets will come forward, all the way up to 2009, by definition, the substance of this budget plan will likely never happen.
Most of the money for child care, the gas tax transfer for cities, and climate change, is delayed until the end of the decade with no plan in place of how to spend it. Nevertheless, in this budget there are hints of what a positive world it could be with Conservatives at the helm.
The government is following the Conservative Party's lead on areas that are important to Canadians. Some examples of Conservative initiatives adopted in the budget are: tax relief for low and middle income Canadians; a reduction of corporate taxes to help stimulate the economy, create jobs and raise government revenue; funding for national defence; an increase in RRSP limits; an enhancement of capital cost allowance rates; a non-refundable tax credit adoption expense, our private member's Bill C-246; eventual elimination of the excise tax on jewellery, our private member's Bill C-259; a caregiver tax credit, which was the Conservative election platform; measures for agricultural cooperatives; and the removal of the CAIS program cash deposit requirement, which was a Conservative supply day motion.
Although these topics are at least mentioned, many of the positive steps in the budget do not go far enough or occur fast enough to have any substantial impact on the well-being of Canadians. The tax break provided in this budget amounts to about $16 for this year. The inadequate productivity enhancing measures in the budget illustrate that the government is not heeding warning signs that Canada's high priority programs could be put in jeopardy if comprehensive steps are not taken to grow the economy before the demographic crunch sets in.
The Conservatives devised a standard of living strategy in a prebudget submission published elsewhere that if implemented would ensure that high priority social programs are available to Canadians when they require them.
The key components of the Conservative Party's standard of living strategy are: the encouragement of investment in Canada's productive capacity; the reduction of corporate and capital payroll taxes; a streamlined regulatory environment; a more rapid reduction in the national debt; a reduction of federal spending to sustainable levels; the encouragement of education and training; and the promotion and stimulation of affordable housing development.
The reason for these is clear. A more vibrant economy would ensure that we could actually pay for the social programs we need. Sadly, the budget gives short shrift to individuals. Special interest groups get billions while the rest of us are thrown pocket change.
One of the byproducts of a culture of dependency fostered by the continued extension of the welfare state is that it guarantees a decreasing degree of dissension. It is a simple rule. The more people on the gravy train, the fewer people available to offer objective, critical analysis.
What the consensus analysis of the federal budget makes clear is that the individual is now left out of the equation. In spite of massive surpluses and record revenues, individuals themselves were tossed pocket change in terms of tax cuts while special interest groups were thrown billions of tax dollars.
Besides Conservatives, who else was going to be up in arms because the government promised in last year's budget to uphold the principles of financial responsibility and integrity, and then promptly turn around and proceed to overspend by $10 billion? Would it be the CBC, which once again saw its funding rise and owes its existence to government money?
What about business groups? I think we can safely forget about anyone in the aerospace industry, the auto industry and high-tech going after government, given that billions of dollars are flowing their way. No critiques coming from the film industry or the banking industry, which want favourable government rulings.
It is a little unrealistic to expect business groups like the Canadian Council for Chief Executives to take the government to task when its membership includes such regular recipients of government largesse like Bombardier, Ballard Power Systems, General Motors and SNC-Lavalin.
While the budget outlined billions more in new spending for well-connected groups, we can console ourselves with a $16 tax saving for the individual.
Government subsidies hurt the economy. How much are we willing to pay to secure one job in the auto manufacturing sector? Specifically, how many tax dollars are we willing to divert from other areas, including our own pocket, to help the shareholders and highly paid workers of big American auto companies?
About $435 million, or $870,000 per job. That is about right. That is the amount the federal and Ontario governments have decided to fork over to American mega-corporation General Motors in order to create 500 new jobs in three Ontario communities: Ingersoll, Oshawa and St. Catharines.
How many jobs are we willing to kill in order to create these 500 jobs? Unfortunately, when government spends $435 million on a business subsidy, it takes the money from somewhere. It can tax individuals, businesses or borrow it, but in each case, there are consequences.
Then there is the problem of regional disparity. The west coast port capacity is a national asset for the whole economy, yet Fraser Port, the number two port in Canada, is unreasonably burdened with the cost of dredging the river and federal dumping fees for sand. It is a special case. Forget the subsidies. Just do not tax away its future in the first place and let business get on with business.
Money taxed away from individuals results in less consumption or investment, which hurts business growth in other areas. Money taxed away from businesses robs them of the opportunity to expand their own operations, such as Fraser Port. Government debt charges eat up future revenues and expenditures.
There is a tremendous amount of research available that estimates that the so-called deadweight cost to the overall economy of government subsidies. The estimates vary but the majority put the cost to the economy of every dollar the government spends on subsidies at between $1.30 and $1.50.
Interestingly, the discussion surrounding health care is dominated by those who place far more value on saluting ideology of public health care as opposed to the delivery of timely quality care and the measurement of patient outcomes. That is the underlying reason why record amounts of money are spent on health care with few positive results. For the majority of the population, no specifics are needed as long as more money is spent within the public system.
The delusion of describing ourselves as a nation of peacekeepers becomes more laughable by the month as recent reports make it clear we cannot even equip our small band of front line personnel with standard-issue military boots.
The recent federal budget is another wonderful example of our love affair with talk. Virtually every media report heralded the major commitment to military spending, when nearly 80% of the promised spending does not even kick in until 2009 when this Prime Minister is long gone. According to the National Post's Chris Wattie, more than one-third of this year's new defence spending is offset by other cuts to the military budget.
Just like our firm commitment to Kyoto, phrases like “universal health care” and “a nation of peacekeepers” sound so good, but they are really hollow in practice. Today one does not have to be innovative, courageous, ethical or hard working to lead this country, one just has to care more than the average Canadian.
However, without meaningful action, we are mired in a fantasy world that, among other things, dooms thousands of natives to live in abject poverty, forces patients to wait months for life-altering surgery, makes Canada a bit player on the world stage, and has a comedian as the centrepiece of a non-existent Kyoto plan. We can only hope for the sake of this country that next year's budget will be a Conservative budget.