Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the vast majority of speeches made today. I really appreciated them and I would like to briefly summarize the key arguments of each party.
When Bloc members take the floor, we hear about the deficit. We are told that the debt is huge and even more than huge. But then, they tell us not to change anything because if we do we will create problems-I think we understand that-the big problem of course being Canada. This is the essence of the Bloc's message.
The notion that Quebec could be a problem was rejected by these people, but they were quick to say that Canada is the major problem. I do not think it is the case and people should be honest about this issue. The fact is that, for years, we spent a lot of money; now, we all have a big problem on our hands and we all have a responsibility to try to find solutions together.
I appreciate listening to speeches made by Reform Party members.
The main thrust is cut. It is easy. It is so simple to bring in a balanced budget. It is not difficult. I did it as a former deputy minister. You have to realize, and I think my colleagues do but they will not admit it, that whenever you cut something there are victims at the other end.
For example, when we talk about cutting aid to other countries we forget that there are potential victims there. We would like to make Canadians believe we do that out of the goodness of our hearts. Let us be honest. We get a lot in return. We also add to our own security when we do that. Let us be fair when we talk about whatever it is that we are going to do, to cut or to add or to subtract. Let us be fair. Let us share the impact.
I was really shocked, Mr. Speaker, and I think you noticed it when the colleague previous to the last, and perhaps he did not see it that way, attacked Canadian Parents For French, which is a very honourable organization. The suggestion was that because they get some assistance from government that they go on promoting immersion as opposed to believing that immersion is the appropriate model.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I said that there are roughly seven million French speaking Canadians whose first language is French and there are probably 12 million others whose first language is other than French. We all learned English in an immersion setting. In fact we have learned it so well that some of us speak English better than we do our own native tongue.
I reject completely the whole hypothesis that immersion is not effective. I reject it totally. I have already made a call to look at the most recent research. If I am wrong I will come back and I will tell the member.
It is easy to come in here and make those kinds of accusations. Take one Saturday Night magazine article and that is it. That is not good enough. It is absolutely and totally unfair to attack a group of responsible Canadians who have been working for years to give their children the best of all possible educations and then just slough it off on one reference, one supposed expert.
Well, I better change gears because, frankly, it upsets me when I think about the exaggerated and insensitive comments which were made.
I want to say a word on the consultation process. As you know, before undertaking that process, about a month ago, the minister and his department had the good sense of providing us with a number of documents on economic development in Canada, in times of deficit, debt, et cetera, so that we would have a background, based on facts, to better understand the problem. As you well know, the finance committee started to travel throughout Canada to consult the people, to find out what Canadians think of this pre-budget consultation process and what they think about the cuts, the taxes, et cetera.
The Minister of Finance himself has gone to a great number of Canadian cities to attend all kinds of meetings where he listened to people who expressed their concerns and then he told all members of Parliament, not only members from his party, but all the members, to feel free to share with him their views on the budget.
I think this is an initiative that deserves to be supported. When I heard someone say that these were phoney consultations, I found that allegation insensitive and unfair. I think it is really very ill-considered to claim that the Minister of Finance has undertaken pro forma consultations.
Frankly, people who make such statements are going too far. I am only a private member, but I have had the opportunity to talk with some of my colleagues, with businessmen and women, as well as a number of constituents not only in my riding of St. Boniface, but throughout Canada, and here is what I found out.
After having talked not only with my own constituents and having had a number of meetings with them, but having chatted with Canadians across the country, here are some of the things that I have found, noted and shared with the Minister of Finance.
Surprise, surprise, surprise, virtually everyone I talked to said they were taxed too much. I suppose I would probably agree with that. Interestingly enough, they wanted to see how our taxation rate compared to that of other countries and particularly those countries that are major trading partners such as the U.S., Japan and a number of other countries. They also felt that if one was a wealthy person one had the means to avoid paying one's fair share of taxes. These are impressions, opinions and views they shared with me.
They also believed, rather passionately I might add, that rich Canadians should not be allowed to pay no or few taxes. Whether or not this is totally true is not the issue. The issue is that these people believed it. They also believed the same thing of what they call rich corporations.
There was a bit of a problem when they were asked to define rich. They could not agree too quickly as to what the definition might be. However, they were really annoyed that banks supposedly, according to their perception, do not pay a sufficient amount of taxes. I think banks would probably disagree with that. In fact I have met some bankers who have, but that was the perception by Canadians.
I have more. They wanted loopholes blocked. These are Canadians from different walks of life who do not have loophole opportunities. They really feel that many of those loopholes are not there in order to assist Canada and Canadians generally but that they are there in order to assist those who have more. They felt that probably in most instances those should be closed.
There was also unanimous feeling that people earning profits on their investments in Canada can avoid paying Canadian taxes. I have been looking into that. Apparently people can make money on their investments in Canada. If they shuffle the money out they pay less tax if their money is in another country. They said: "If that is so is it really fair that they come and make their money in Canada and then take it elsewhere in order to avoid paying some of their taxes?" That is what they believed.
There were a number of cases on student loans concerning people who are supposedly very wealthy or relatively wealthy today who still owe student loans. They have not paid those loans. The people are angry because many of them had student loans. Many of them today have families with children who have student loans. They have paid off their loans and will help their children go through college or university.
They also had a lot of good, common sense. They said: "Clearly, if somebody cannot pay off a student loan why give them a hassle? Why go after them? Why not set it aside for the time being until they can get their lives financially together and then later on, if it straightens out, they can collect?" There was a strong feeling that anyone who today is relatively well off and still owes the government money on student loans should pay off that student loan and the sooner the better.
There has been a lot of discussion today about family trusts. These people with whom of I spoke also mentioned it. Whether the perception is correct or not, there is a belief that there is a lot of money put away in family trusts that is not being taxed at the same rate as my own, your own or their own earnings. They felt that was wrong.
They also asked a number of interesting questions. Is it time for this country, supposedly one of the few that does not have an inheritance tax, to look and see whether or not that would be a useful measure?
They also had the equally strong feeling that the black market economy needs to be addressed. Some of them were rather sympathetic and said it was the way the poor man and the lower middle class got around taxes. They think that wealthier Canadians have a number of mechanisms to assist them in doing that if they choose. Then perhaps it is not so bad after all. The general feeling was that once the richer paid their fair share that much of the black market economy would disappear.
Of course it would not surprise you, Mr. Speaker, that the whole question of MP pensions came up. They are pleased to know the government will be addressing that issue shortly. If for no other reasons than symbolic ones, they are aware that features of that pension plan are significantly different from what most Canadians enjoy. They want that matter addressed.
They want not just MP pensions looked at. The general feeling was that all Canadians should be able to retire with a pension that permits them to live their remaining years with some dignity. They felt that all pensions should be looked at so that we could strengthen pensions generally and where they are too generous perhaps tailor them. They really felt Canadians should be able to retire with a pension that would permit them to live in dignity. I was extremely pleased.
A final point that came out of these discussions is that the Auditor General has a great deal of credibility. They felt that those issues the Auditor General raised pointing out serious problems in terms of money not being used as appropriately as it should be need to be addressed. They would like them addressed in the budget each year.
After a number of weeks of talking with constituents and Canadians across the land those are the points that have been made to me. I might add those are the points I have shared with
the Minister of Finance hoping that he might be able to address some or all of them when he comes forth with his next budget.
I think the Minister of Finance is looking for that kind of input, that kind of precision, that kind of assistance. When he does come forward with the budget it will address our government's goals to reach 3 per cent of GDP in terms of the deficit by the third year of government.
I have shared with you and my colleagues some of the concerns expressed by a number of my constituents and Canadians concerning the budget to be tabled in this House in February 1995. What the Minister of Finance is looking for, I think, is the same kind of information from other members of Parliament, so that he can take their viewpoints into consideration.
These are the comments I wanted to share with you and my colleagues in the House of Commons.