Mr. Speaker, we are having fun here this afternoon.
I rise in the House today to talk about a very important and I think a very serious subject that affects all Canadians. That of course is social program reform.
I was in my constituency this past week. I attended several townhall meetings, coffee shop meetings, meetings with chambers of commerce and other meetings. It proved to be a very difficult week because I was continually preparing my constitu-
ents for very depressing news. I laid out and explained the situation and the difficulties we face in the years to come in regard to dealing with reform of the social programs.
It was tough talking to people about cutting spending to social programs. It was tough talking about the $10 billion of federal government cuts that must take place other than cuts to social program areas.
It was difficult telling Canadians and having those people agree with me that we need to cut somewhere between $12 billion and $16 billion from social program spending otherwise these programs will collapse and we will lose them entirely.
In an attempt to lighten things in the evening and to make a very important point, I would start by relating a story about a neighbour of mine. This farmer was the frustrated type. He was the anxious type. To relieve the anxiety he would go out every Sunday morning on his road. He called it his road because he was the one who pushed to have it built and he was the one who pushed to have it paved. He would go out in his five speed car. He would go up the straightaway, get his car up to about 100 and go into a sharp curve and come out of the curve at 140. That made him feel good. That helped relieve his anxiety.
One Sunday morning he drove out to the end of his driveway. He just started accelerating up the straightaway and he saw around the corner someone on his road. As the car moved closer he saw it swerve. He thought: "My God, a drunk on my road on a Sunday morning". As the car came even closer he saw that it was a lady driver. He thought: "A lady driver on my road on Sunday morning, this is ridiculous".
He started accelerating but as he started to do that, the lady driver slowed her car down and quickly cranked the window open. He was not going to stop but he slowed down. As he went by he opened his window. And as the car passed he heard the lady shout: "Pig". He was really angry and really anxious. He accelerated down the straightaway, went into the corner at 120 and slammed, right into the pig".
I use this story to demonstrate that people with an attitude problem, as this farmer clearly had, often miss the signals that would help them avoid problems that are in the road. Because this farmer missed the signals he hit the pig. Because of his attitude problem he hit the pig.
I suggest that governments over the past 30 years have missed the signals. They have had attitude problems when it comes to cutting spending to preserve the social programs that people in this country value.
I want to talk today about spending, in fact overspending. It is the biggest problem the government faces today. To start this topic off at the meetings over the past week I presented a quote by P.J. O'Rourke which states: "Giving government money and power is like giving teenagers liquor and the keys to the car". That quote really hit home with people. They really could identify with that quote. Giving government money and power is like giving teenagers liquor and the keys to the car.
If we think about what has happened in the area of spending over this past 30 years or so with one government after another-Liberal, Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal-it has been the same problem, a problem that seems to be similar to giving teenagers liquor and the keys to the car.
My constituents one after another at one meeting after another just simply could not believe how this government operates. By that I mean how it is constantly overspending. They like to relate the overspending of this government to what would happen if they overspent in their personal budgets in running their homes.
The question came up again and again. How can they get away with spending more than they have? In my home if I was spending more than I have my family would eventually be without a home and they would be hungry. This was a common comment made by people in the constituency over this time.
What these people did understand very well is that the deficit, which is the amount that government spends more than it takes in over any one year, last year about $36 billion, cannot continue. These people did understand very clearly that the federal government debt, which is about $534 billion now, increasing at about $110 million per day or about $1,500 a second, cannot be continued.
I just want to put this debt and deficit into perspective by talking about how that relates to my family personally.
My wife, my five children, and myself own about $140,000 of this federal debt. We have to pay off about $140,000 of this federal debt. That is on top of my house mortgage and my farm debt, another $140,000 to pay off. Not only that but my family's share is being added to at a rate of about $10,000 per year. I am very concerned that it is going to be extremely difficult for my family as it is going to be very difficult for other Canadian families to pay their share of this debt.
Where does the federal government get its money? Where does the money come from? First of all about $58 billion a year comes from personal income tax, about $8.3 billion from corporate tax, about $17.5 billion from unemployment insurance contributions, about $15 billion from the GST, $11 billion from excise taxes, and about $11 billion from other spending.
Where does the other $40 billion to $41 billion come from? The sad truth is that the other $40 billion comes from borrowing.
Who does this Canadian government borrow the money from? It used to be that a majority of the money borrowed came from Canadians. Now, and I think this makes our situation even more difficult, almost 45 per cent of new borrowing comes from outside Canada.
Should the time come, and it almost certainly will if our government does not change its attitude so it can avoid this pig, it almost certainly will be cut off very soon. Lenders from outside the country will just stop lending. When that day comes we will face a situation that is every bit as serious as the situation that New Zealand has faced and the situation that Italy has faced, very difficult indeed.
Some say it is easy to get more revenue. All we have to do is increase corporate taxes. We have certainly heard from the NDP and from members of the Liberal Party over the past years: just increase the corporate tax.
I have a cartoon here that I think demonstrates very well the problem with that. It is a picture of people in a coffee shop who are saying "Well, this new tax plan sounds pretty good. We get a cut of 9 per cent and business picks up the burden". In the very next frame of this cartoon is a picture of their local grocery store and of course prices have gone up by 9 per cent. If corporate taxes are increased consumers pick up the full tab. There is no magic to it.
There just is no more room for increasing revenues. This government and past governments have had a spending problem. I think to demonstrate this it is important to look at spending over the past years.
I have a graph that shows spending from 1975 to the present. This graph shows in 1986 constant dollars, so inflation is taken out of the picture. Real spending has increased from $73 billion in 1975 to about $135 billion, again in 1986 dollars, in the most recent figures, an incredible increase in spending and it is not caused by inflation.
Where does the federal government spend its money? The first part of spending, the discretionary part, the part that government can change, is in a variety of government services. It is about $43 billion of services to operate government and various programs other than social program spending.
The social program spending makes up almost half of the total spending. The social program spending of about $80 billion per year along with other government services of about $43 billion per year make up all of the discretionary spending. The rest of the spending is interest payments, almost $40 billion a year in interest payments. To continue to carry the debt there is no discretion on spending in this area.
Interest payments can only decrease if the debt decreases. This large chunk, almost a quarter of total spending made up of interest payments is making it extremely difficult to fund our social programs. If we are going to maintain these programs, clearly we are going to have to stop adding to the debt. We are going to have to spend less on providing social programs in a way that is acceptable to Canadians.
When I am talking about social programs I am talking mainly about old age security, the Canada pension plan, payments that go to compensate or to carry people through unemployment and the child tax benefits. These are called program payments to persons.
The other portion of federal government spending is transfers to provinces. The transfers to provinces go to cover welfare. Established programs financing also covers health, advanced education and equalization payments.
Just before I get into the area I want to talk most about, which is old age security, I would just like to talk a little bit about equalization payments.
Equalization payments are meant to transfer money from the wealthy provinces, the so-called have provinces, to the have not provinces. How many have provinces are there in Canada? What would you guess, six or seven? No, there are three have provinces when it comes to calculating equalization payments. They are British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Ontario is getting very close to the line. In fact, two years ago part way through the year it appeared it had become a have not province under the calculations. Three provinces are paying and seven receiving. Who receives? All of the other seven receive. But the interesting thing is that Quebec, the fourth wealthiest province receives by far the largest portion of equalization payments.
I would like to spend the rest of my time talking about old age security. Old age security is the universal pension program which is made up of three separate programs. First is the old age pension which makes up about $14 billion per year in federal government spending. The second area is guaranteed income supplement, about $4 billion per year. These figures are for 1992-93. The third area is spousal allowance, which is half a billion dollars a year.
When people saw these figures on the overheads I used during my presentations over the past week, they looked at that half a billion dollars as nothing compared to the rest. When they thought of it as $500 million they realized it was not insignificant. Spousal allowance made up that other half a billion dollars. The total on old age security spending is about $19 billion a year.
Before I get into my presentation on old age security and other pensions, I would like to set the stage. A couple of points that I brought out really shocked people who were at these meetings. Again we are talking about the reality of the present situation in social program spending and what is going to happen as the population ages over the next years.
As a percentage of Canada's population, the increase is from about 7 per cent in 1951 to an increase of almost 23 per cent by 2030. I would like Canadians to think about this. Are there any of you who are on pensions? Or any of you who will be on pensions if we are around a few years down the road? I would like you to think about these funny looking kids with the baggy pants. You know the kind of pants, they hang halfway down. Do you want to depend on these funny looking kids to provide your pension in the future? That is exactly what we are counting on.
On the other hand these funny looking kids are not stupid. Let us look at the other side. These funny looking kids are very intelligent. These are the kids who are going to have to pick up the huge debt we are continually building and laying at their feet. Do you think these funny looking kids in the baggy pants are going to be so stupid as to pay the debt down and as well continue the pension, especially considering the fact that in 1951 there were about 14 working Canadians to pay for every person on a pension. By 2030 there will be only two working Canadians to pay for each person on pension. Do you think these kids with the funny looking pants are going to be willing to pay the full debt we have built and pay for our pensions? I would suggest not. These funny looking kids are smart and unfortunately we have laid an unfair burden at their feet.
That was old age security. I will quickly lay out a few points in regard to the Canada pension plan. First, this plan is now funded by a 5 per cent payroll tax. The Canada pension plan pays about 25 per cent of former salary up to about $8,000 per year. The Canada pension plan currently pays out about $13 billion per year.
The sad thing is that right now the Canada pension plan fund is about $500 billion short. The accrued liability is about $500 billion and this $500 billion does not show up in the government figures when it is talking about debt? This is another debt on top of the federal and provincial governments debts. This is an incredible amount and is going to be very difficult to deal with.
To sustain the Canada pension plan, for which the funding is now about 5 per cent, year to year we would have to pay off the top about 13 per cent of earnings. Every Canadian would pay off the top about 13 per cent of earnings by the year 2040 just to sustain the plan.
As I wind down today I would like to talk a little bit about the need to build incentive into our social program spending and the key role that reintroducing incentives will play in making these plans manageable and sustainable.
I was at a farmer's place over this past week and he talked about how he offered a big part of a field which was cultivated to people who were on welfare in the town. He advertised it around town. He has done a lot of work with people on welfare and is very concerned about them. He offered this land to these people at no cost. How many do you think came out and took advantage of his offer? None.
He planted the garden, took care of it, and when it was harvest time he went to the people on welfare and told them they could go out and take what they wanted from the garden. How much produce do you think they took from the garden? The answer is absolutely zero.
We need incentives. There has to be incentive in a system to make sure that people who are receiving money are only those who need the money.
Look at what has happened with unemployment insurance over the past few years. The unemployment insurance rate has fluctuated but over time it has continued on an upward trend. The interesting thing is that when you look at unemployment insurance and you compare it to the consumer price index you will find that the consumer price index has not gone up nearly as fast as the unemployment insurance payments have.
What is the incentive for people who are looking at pensions? For unemployment insurance, for welfare, we know what kind of incentives we can put in place. It was very encouraging that at these meetings people who are on pension said they knew that maybe it was fair that they should take a cut in pension if they could afford it. Philosophically, I have a problem with that. But these pensioners said they were willing to make that sacrifice. The people who made the point with me the best are those who were veterans. At the ceremony on November 11 and at the 50th anniversary ceremonies over the past year veterans have been the people who have impressed me with their sacrifice and their commitment.
The wife of a veteran at one of our meetings said: "You mean my husband fought to preserve this country and I sacrificed in the war effort to preserve the country and now, rather than the enemy from without destroying our country, the enemy from within will destroy our country?" She was saddened by this and so was I.