Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, everybody, for coming this afternoon.
There's a lot of talk about the size and scope of the budget. That's been much of the focus. I need to stress that this is a result of the government's strategy, which is jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. That's our strategy. That's what we plan to do.
Madam Silas, you think we should spend more on health care, and that's fair. Mr. Pineau thinks we should spend more on culture. I think Ms. Wirsig said the same, and I don't disagree with that.
We heard from the Council of Canadians. I checked your web page, and right up front, the first thing I read was “don't frack”, “no pipelines”, “no tankers”, and “saying no to CETA”. You also agree that we should spend more on health care. That's kind of a consensus we have here, as well.
We all have to agree that to improve services, we have to grow our economy. Again, I want to stress that this is the government's strategy: jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.
In a previous meeting here, I made reference to the fact that here in Canada, we are cutting $5 billion out of the budget. I just returned from a trip to the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a country of 16 million people, as opposed to our 33 million. It is a country the size of Mr. Brison's province. It's the size of Nova Scotia. With a budget of approximately 150 billion euros, the Netherlands is going to cut 15 billion euros. The Netherlands probably agrees with us, in that we both recognize what economists are saying, which is that western economies can't continue to go on in the direction they're going. This is what economists are telling us. The Netherlands isn't the only country. I think there's Germany and a number of other countries. We can't continue our spending levels and not expect to run into some big problems.
In the previous panel that came before us, we spoke to Mr. Turk. His concern was education. He felt, and I don't think anybody disagrees, that we need to spend more money on education. He compared us to the United States in post-secondary spending. What wasn't brought out, of course, is that in the United States it costs about $30,000 for a year of university. I don't know what it is in Canada, but I know that it's not $30,000. I said $30,000, but in some places it's $35,000, $40,000, or $50,000.
The other difference that wasn't brought out is that the United States is projected to have another $3 trillion deficit. It did that last year, and it looks as if it's going to do it this year. There seems to be no plan to stop.
I have a very simple question, and then maybe we can discuss later how we're going to do this. I want you to just answer this very simple question. The strategy this government has embarked upon I believe is something Canadians want us to do too. Do you think the strategy to balance the budget is the correct strategy? Or do you think we should continue to move into a deficit position, as the United States is spiralling into?
I'd like each one of you to answer that simple question. It's a yes or no question. Then we'll talk about how we're going to do that.