House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I would always support the hon. member's right to be an elected member of this House and to give his viewpoint.

I am speaking from my riding and as one who did vote in favour of the Charlottetown accord and also from my heart when I say that I believe Canada is a nation that is for all of us.

I was very fortunate as a young girl to have lived in the province of Quebec for a short time. I regard Quebec as part of my country. I want the silent majority across this land to know that we are inclusive. We are not two solitudes. It is my wish that we are one. I think it is very important economically that we grow more together, help each other and provide the necessary cohesiveness across this land so that we can go beyond.

This is a country that has told us clearly that it does not want to involve itself in constitutional debate. They need this country to get back to work. That is why I am here. I do have a very heartfelt wish for unity in this country and I will express it but I will also respect other members to deliver their messages.

I am hopeful, though, that my message as an English speaking Canadian will go out to members who represent constituents in Quebec and that they hear my message as an anglophone in Ontario. I am studying French and these were very difficult words for me to say in French. I do not understand everything but I want members to know that I am trying.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member on her maiden speech. I thought it was very well delivered and from experience, once done, it gets a little easier every time.

I would like to focus on trade and the hon. member's comments in relation to world markets, globalization, and bringing that down to an interprovincial trade concept. There is a tendency to think that our east-west linkage across Canada is deteriorating economically, that it is becoming more a north-south kind of thing, and that social issues are the binding factor from an east-west point of view.

Would the hon. member address a few comments from a trade point of view in relation to the interprovincial trade barriers.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her questions.

I think it is very important to realize that this government is working toward breaking down interprovincial barriers because it is very important that we trade with each other as well as with the rest of the world. In my riding I am most concerned that the small businesses that have the expertise and the talent access these new markets, not only outside of our country but across our country. We are working toward that very rapidly. I hope these barriers come down so we can have better employment and better mobility for jobs across this land.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the previous speaker from London West for her fine maiden speech. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Today I ask my fellow Canadians, one and all, to think calmly and clearly upon the budget that has been placed before this House. We are indeed fortunate to have such a well thought-out

and balanced financial plan presented to us as the basis of our operations the next fiscal year.

This balanced approach will lead to a fundamental reform of our system, create jobs, continue to care for those in need, and begin the process of reducing the debt to the target of 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

As the finance minister said in his speech, now is not the time to move away from our values but is the time to return to them. I see it. We have kept our commitment to the Canadian people as outlined in our campaign platform entitled Creating Opportunities , now simply known as the red book.

This budget is about jobs. It takes action to support the job creation now, while at the same time it builds the foundation for solid growth and quality, lasting jobs for the future.

This will be achieved through working toward three major goals.

First, building a framework for economic renewal to help Canadian business succeed and to turn innovation into a more effective engine for economic growth.

Second, ensuring a responsible social security system that is fair, compassionate and affordable, a reform that will create jobs and opportunities for all Canadians.

Third, restoring fiscal balance to government so that it can devote its full energy to helping Canadians adapt to a world of challenge and change.

This government is dedicated to restoring fiscal responsibility. This budget exemplifies that commitment by planning deficit reduction from $47.7 billion in 1993-94 to $39.7 billion in 1994-95 and down to $32.7 billion in the 1995-96 fiscal year.

Over the three-year period outlined in the budget the government will implement $5 of spending cuts for every $1 in revenue increase. This is the only path to successful deficit reduction. Canadians can no longer afford to shoulder an ever-increasing tax burden. This budget acknowledges that fact that while also recognizing the increase in spending today is simply increased taxes for tomorrow.

In terms of these spending cuts, this is the most significant budget in years. Measures in the budget result in gross savings of $3.7 billion in 1994-95, rising quickly to $13.6 billion in the 1996-97 fiscal year. During the entire three-year period gross savings total $28.6 billion.

These cuts are not illusions. For instance, defence spending will be 7 per cent lower in the 1995-96 year compared to this year. Business subsidies will be almost 9 per cent lower in the 1995-96 fiscal year. The cost to government will decline. The cost of the unemployment insurance program will be reduced by more than 10 per cent. In the end, total program spending will be virtually frozen over the next two years and will decline as a percentage of our economy.

As I mentioned earlier, by applying prudence in making economic assumptions the actions set in this budget set the deficit on target of achieving our stated goal of a 3 per cent GDP of deficit by the year 1996-97. The response I have received from constituents regarding this budget has been most positive. Business persons were pleased with the rollback of the unemployment insurance premium rates to the $3 level. This initiative will save business nearly $300 million a year. This money can be reinvested in business to stimulate employment and create much needed consumer demand.

They also like the support for small business that came from the formation of the Canada investment fund to provide venture capital for small business and the Canadian technology network which will provide access to new technologies.

I have talked to small business. These operators were pleased to hear that a task force would be established to work with the banks for which at this moment they have great mistrust. We hope that the banks by working with our task force will allow small business people to regain faith in the national banking system, because they seem to be shut out by the great banks of this country, and to develop a code of conduct for lending to small businesses.

Farmers and small business people alike were happy that the $500,000 capital gains exemption was retained, and for good reason. Over the past month I had the good fortune to meet with many farmers in my riding about this issue. I agreed with their thoughts on this matter and I am pleased that when they decide to retire, they will be provided with the security for which they have worked so hard.

Many patients and dentists were pleased that the speculated tax on the employer health paid insurance program was not on the budget. Constituents entering the housing market for the first time and the realtors who assist them were overjoyed with the news that the home owners plan would be made permanent.

As well, local charities in my constituency were delighted with the opportunity to raise more funds through the lowering of the threshold of the 29 per cent tax credit from $250 to $200.

What about the many constituents without vested interests in any particular area? Were they covered in this budget? Simply put, they were in full agreement with the manner in which the deficit was reduced and handled. Canadians concerned about the deficit told me, and these are the facts, that the finance minister and his pre-budget consultations were the most important thing that has happened as far as they were concerned. That the government was ready to act to swiftly cut the deficit was another big point that my constituents reported to me by phone.

However, they specified they were glad it was done through cuts and not taxes. Simply put, that is the kind of budget they got.

As I outlined earlier, the 1994 budget works to cut the federal deficit while holding the line on taxes. It also works to increase job opportunities and provides capital for business. At the same time it is a budget that is becoming widely accepted by Canadians as a fair and honest approach to dealing with the challenges facing this country.

How did the government manage to do this? Actually, it was quite easy. It listened to Canadians and for the first time in Canadian history the federal budget was developed through public consultations. From the feedback I have received the end result of these consultations was quite clear. The 1994 federal budget is good for the people of Perth-Wellington-Waterloo and I strongly believe it is good for Canada.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I felt I had to put a question to the previous speaker, who is a fellow member of the National Defence Committee, because I share his concerns.

I would appreciate his views on the following. If you asked me the difference between the economies of the 21st century and the economies with which the hon. member probably grew up, considering the slight chronological gap between us, I would say that a few years ago, it was possible for countries to attract investment, which meant that people would invest $200,000, $200 million or $50,000 in a region, and this would create jobs.

Today, we have the kind of economies where that is not the case. Take, for instance, the hon. member's riding, where companies like Alcan can invest 50 or 100 million without creating a single job. In today's economic context, massive investments do not help create jobs. I think there is a fundamental difference between the economies of the 1960s and 1970s, and what will happen between now and the end of this century.

The difference between government members and the opposition is that, try as we may, we find it hard to accept that. Hon. members on all sides of the House agree that we must reduce the deficit. Where we disagree is on how to get Canadians back to work. This is crucial.

The infrastructure program has its merits, although we should not forget that Prime Minister Bennett proposed more or less the same program in the thirties during the Depression, when for the first time, the government was asked to intervene on a large scale in public works.

All the analysts who looked at this proposal agree that at best it would create between 40,000 and 45,000 jobs, which makes this a very modest and conservative program.

Since I know this is a very real concern, and I realize the hon. member represents a riding where there is a lot of unemployment, I would like to ask him whether he sees any reasons to be optimistic and whether he could share these with me and perhaps make me share his optimism, since I have an open mind. What reasons do we have to believe that with this kind of budget, Canadians will be able to get back into the labour market?

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague with whom I work on the committee. He has placed on the table many very fruitful ideas for our discussions. I welcome further discussion on those items.

Anyone in a professional business knows we like to talk in exact terms. Everyone knows that a budget is just an estimate of income and an estimate of revenues. Other areas impact on that.

In the political realm we are dealing with moving a large institution, dans ce pays le Canada. Our country is so large it has this inertia to overcome because we have had so many years of bad employment and slow growth.

The budget created a sense of stability for the people and gave small nudges to the economy. We were hoping that once the inertia could be moved-it is a big boulder, a big thing to move-we can break it and find ways to make it move slowly.

I believe that we are in a stage, as the hon. member mentioned, where many dollars invested do not create the same kind of man hours that they did in the past. We would be foolhardy to think that would be the case.

Simply with enough effort we will probably work at getting job creation going. That is the idea behind this. There was stimulus. We were stimulating the patient, hoping to see some revival, some reactivation within the body of our country that would get the country moving again; that the growth rates would reach the targets and exceed them.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I want to tell the Minister of Finance how disappointed and concerned the government's budget has left my constituents.

I can still picture the finance minister putting on the workboots he was given by the Prime Minister. What a show! What cynicism on the part of the Liberals! The 30 per cent of workers who do not have a job in my riding will not put their workboots on today, nor tomorrow, for that matter.

The members opposite had promised job creation measures.

They went on and on, saying that it was their number one priority. Where are those measures? Where is this plan for economic renewal they have been touting around?

People in Laurentides can now judge for themselves the Liberals' lack of action in the job creation field. The government is falling back on its infrastructure program, totally inadequate as it is to put the unemployed back to work. What lack of realism!

With the number of jobs which will be created in my riding, hardly a few hundred according to a quick calculation, it is obvious that workboots dealers in the Laurentians will not be raking it in.

For workers, it is discouraging to see the government do so little against unemployment. The federal government invests peanuts, and then sits down, hoping for this supposed economic recovery to happen. However, economists agree that this recovery, if there is one, will not bring about the creation of a high number of jobs.

The people opposite are quite aware of this. But they prefer to wait, to stand by, instead of taking action. This new government must not have anything new or original to offer to the 1.6 million unemployed in our country, but a lot of talk and no action.

To people in my riding, the Liberals are not much different from the Conservative government, a government which was rejected, or I should say ejected, because of its inaction and its unacceptable decisions. The message given on October 25 does not seem to be working, unless members opposite have chosen to ignore it. You promised jobs to the unemployed. But what have you done in that area? Do you really believe that your are fully and truly honouring the commitments you made before October 25? I do not think so, and neither do my unemployed constituents. They are asking for positive action that will give them hope and let them see light at the end of the tunnel. They just want this government to resolutely show its will to help them and put them back to work. We cannot say that the finance minister's budget is very convincing in that regard.

The government's attitude toward the unemployed follows a strange sort of logic, one that these people will have trouble swallowing. The Liberals are saying: "We are creating or will be creating jobs". But, in actual fact, they are doing very little in the short term. As for the long term, nothing is planned at the federal level. There is no vision in this budget.

First, there are no jobs, and this directly affects the people who want to work. Second, the government turns around and makes a 2 per cent cut in UI benefit rates on the backs of the unemployed, victims of the incapacity of the people opposite. Third, labour is told: "From now on, you will have to work longer to qualify for these lower benefits". Low and middle-income workers in my riding, several of whom are seasonal or contract workers, have just been dealt three stiff blows by the Liberals.

My fellow citizens who were working hard and were always looking for long-term employment instead of makeshift jobs are going to have to work magic and pray God or providence to get the additional unemployment insurance stamps they need.

Regarding the benefit rate which is being increased to 60 per cent for individuals with modest incomes who support children, an aged parent or other dependants, all those concerned are anxious to know how the federal government will determine who should belong to that category of recipients.

I can see from here UI officers asking applicants whether their children are really dependants and requesting written proof. I can see them conducting enquiries to determine whether there is a common-law spouse or another income-earner in the applicant's household. In Quebec, we have had our "boubous macoutes". Are we about to witness the emergence of a new breed of macoutes, the federal Liberal macoutes?

These measures will affect many single-parent families, often headed by women. I sincerely believe that, by establishing classes of beneficiaries, the government is fostering a climate of distrust that will lead to significant social tensions. It can be concluded that, as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, the Liberal budget is far from brilliant.

Another aspect of this budget a lot of people from my riding contact me about is the tax credit available to people aged 65 and over. Seniors do not accept this unfair decision. The minister tells us that this reduction will affect only 25 per cent of senior citizens, who built this country. It is outrageous to hear from the members opposite that our seniors with a $25,000 net income are rich people. This decision affects once again middle-income taxpayers and 800,000 seniors in my riding, in Quebec and in Canada.

The minister appears to have picked a target that was easier and especially less influential that the family trust lobby. What an unfair and irresponsible choice on the part of the Liberals! True, these seniors do not contribute to the Liberal Party coffers to the tune of $45,000 a year.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

That is it.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

The cat is out of the bag.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

I would now like to address the issue of social and co-op housing that the government has just washed its hands of. In this regard, they are following in their predecessors'

footsteps. The Tories have been kicked out but their policies are still here in this House.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Right on.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, have been demanding social housing since the beginning of this session. Local organizations also put a lot of pressure on the Liberals. Alas, the government has remained insensitive to the needs of the poorly housed. This refusal to improve housing conditions for the poorest is unacceptable.

What happened to the nice promises made to the poorly housed and to local organizations during the election campaign?

Why did the Minister of Finance write this last September to a coalition of organizations advocating co-operative and social housing: "No doubt a Liberal government will help finance co-operative and non-profit housing"? In the same letter, the minister added that it was up to the federal government to ensure that over a million Canadian households are housed decently and affordably. Does the minister remember what he said? It was a smoke screen. It was a lie!

Other members opposite engaged in pre-election opportunism. The present Minister of Foreign Affairs was an ardent defender of social housing. He loudly proclaimed that the real power was in Cabinet. Where is this famous power today? Did he try to influence the government in favour of social housing? Looking at the budget, we must conclude that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has no clout or that social housing is no longer worth it, or maybe both conclusions are true.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources Development were also fervent defenders of social housing. What happened to them? They have disappeared into the luxury of limousines, Challenger jets and ministerial pomp. That makes you quickly forget about the poorly housed.

What is the other advocate of the poorly housed, the member for London East, doing now to get his government moving on this issue? After such trickery, there is no need to look very far to see why the people are disillusioned with politicians.

The government made a choice. It chose to say no to social and co-operative housing. In saying no to the 1,200,000 people who are poorly housed, the Liberals are also saying no to many positive aspects associated with multiple-dwelling units.

The social and co-operative housing industry creates jobs in the construction industry and generates spinoffs for construction companies and suppliers of building materials and residential fixtures. It stimulates consumption at neighbourhood stores.

From a social standpoint, the construction of social and co-operative housing generates enormous benefits. Clean, well-heated and well-lit units have a positive effect on the health of the occupants. Health care costs are therefore reduced. People who live in co-operative housing are not isolated. In the long run, social housing helps to lower the cost of social services.

Social housing provides senior citizens with the sense of security they have a right to expect. The Liberals have turned their backs on these positive effects. However, the Minister of Finance has forgotten that there will be a price to pay for this rejection and all of us will be paying it, directly and indirectly. I call this governing without vision and without a sense of humanity. And this is completely unacceptable to me.

I wonder what response the Prime Minister will get in Shawinigan where nearly 41 per cent of households spend over 30 per cent of their income on housing. The situation has grown desperate. Poverty is gaining a toehold in Quebec and in Canada. A total of 1,200,000 Canadians live in substandard housing conditions. In Quebec, the housing crisis is even worst, with 44.3 per cent of rental household, compared to 37.1 per cent in Canada. In Quebec and in Ontario, 194,000 households spend more than 50 per cent of their income just on rent. In Canada, 583,000 households are in the same situation.

In some cities, the problem is even more dramatic. In Montreal, one in five rental households, 19.1 per cent, must spend 50 per cent of its income on rent. Twelve thousand households in Ottawa, 26,645 in Toronto, 22,095 in Vancouver, and 4,940 in Halifax set aside more than half of their income for rent.

Behind these figures are single individuals and lone-parent families, which are increasing in numbers in our society. The people living in the worst conditions are young Canadians between the age of 15 and 24, pre-retired individuals 55 to 64 years old and individuals over 65 years old. The Liberals have abandoned these people. There are children in these households, members of the next generation, living in poverty. In Canada, child poverty affected 1,210,000 children in 1991. The Liberals have abandoned these children too. I strongly believe that we all have to take stock and ask ourselves if children must be left destitute in unhealthy housing.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the homeless. Homelessness has reached unbelievable proportions. More and more people find themselves without shelter, mostly women but also an increasing number of young kids. Natives living in urban areas, of which there are 15,000 in Montreal, are among the worst hit people. To all you poverty-stricken people, the federal government says: no! It is telling you that you can keep living in substantial housing or in the streets. It is telling you that you must continue to cut on food, clothing, and basic care. The government is telling you that you do not exist. Such contempt is unbelievable!

By opting out of new public housing programs, the federal government has badly damaged the social fabric of our country. With the federal contribution decreasing from $113 million in 1989 to zero dollar nowadays, it is obvious that Ottawa has willingly and voluntarily decommitted itself from such programs. The Minister of Finance is well aware of the situation and is depriving people of their fundamental right to a decent and adequate housing.

What is even more upsetting is to see that because the members opposite are so insensitive to the needs of people who have inadequate housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is considering a rent increase of 25 to 30 per cent for social housing. What a shameful idea.

The government is saying to the less privileged: Give us more money and we will use it to provide housing for other destitute people. That is how mean this government is. I firmly believe that the minister could have eliminated the waste and trimmed the fat of the government in order to find some money for the people who have inadequate housing, instead of making the underprivileged pay for the housing needs of other underprivileged people. The minister should be ashamed of himself.

Quebecers and Canadians of all backgrounds, the underprivileged, the poor who live in awful conditions and the elderly all feel betrayed by this Liberal budget. While they do everything they can to stay in the black, to make ends meet, the government does not do its homework, does not take its social responsibilities, and lets the poor live in substandard housing.

In conclusion, we now see the real face of this government which, before October 25, was talking about a better and a fair society, where individuals would regain their dignity and their pride. The government has shown its true colours. The members opposite are acting like robots, like cold and uncaring people.

The government has betrayed those who longed for a better future. This budget is a shame.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the eloquence with which the hon. member put forward her comments. I believe she is speaking from her heart when she outlines the problems of the people in her riding, the people of the province of Quebec and to some extent in other parts of Canada. However, I would like to tell the hon. member that the concerns she has are shared by people throughout the country in terms of the need for social programs and so on.

I come from the province of Saskatchewan which has a population smaller than the city of Montreal. We have farmers who are struggling and small businesses that are closing down. The Liberal government is more than aware of these concerns. We had this kind of national perspective in mind when the budget was so closely designed in conjunction with the human resources development plan. It is a plan that links the monetary means to put into practice solutions to the problems that the hon. member raises.

It is very easy to criticize a strategy, especially in the early days. It has not even been a week since we have heard the budget plan. I would ask the hon. member to at least give it some time before she starts tearing down what I see as very positive steps on the road to recovery.

I see a certain inconsistency. One of the criticisms made was the laughing at-perhaps that is too strong a word-or at least not having total faith in having criteria for getting a UI benefit based on whether one has so many children, whose children they are and so on. I also find inconsistency in the cries I hear from the Bloc for fiscal responsibility. I would say it is only realistic in this world that before one gives out money one finds criteria according to which that money ought to be allocated.

I would hesitate to add that this inconsistency is not dissimilar from a party that can sit as the opposition with a clearly separatist agenda. It is the same kind of thing that makes some of the arguments a bit fragmented.

Our vision on the other hand is a national vision that offers goals for all parts of Canada. Part of being in a confederation is to give from one part to another part where the needs can best be met. Sometimes that means one part of the family ends up with a little less than the other.

Coming from Saskatchewan I can assure the hon. member that the only way the people in our province have survived is by putting our shoulders to the wheel and helping our neighbours when they need the help most. I would encourage the hon. member and her party to use the same strategy when looking at this country.

Finally, I would ask the hon. member to use her talents, her abilities, her eloquence to work with the government to address the very legitimate concerns she has raised. There is no question there are people in the country who are suffering and I feel that the budget and the plan put forward by the minister of human resources to re-examine the social programs addresses that squarely. Any assistance that the hon. member can give the government in putting those matters forward would be more than welcomed.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, for three months now, I have been using every opportunity to promote social housing. Poor people need a place to live and cannot wait for the government to some day decide to act. They need help now, not in a year or two. There are already 1.2 million people in Canada

who live in inadequate dwellings. This is unacceptable. Something must be done to help these people.

Exactly two weeks ago, I participated in a demonstration organized by FRAPRU, a group which supports and helps people living in inadequate dwellings find social housing units. FRAPRU includes all kinds of non-profit associations. Four hundred people participated in the demonstration.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

February 25th, 1994 / 1:55 p.m.

An hon. member

And there were no Liberals.

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1:55 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Of course not. Did you know that not even one member of the Liberal party was present at this event, which was an important one for all these people.

I guess I will have to keep using every opportunity to raise this issue. I also want to thank the hon. member. I do hope that she will be able to convince the Liberal Party to take positive and concrete action, instead of only using rhetoric as has been the case so far. The government will spend $2 billion, but not on social housing. Nothing is provided for cooperative housing. This is merely a residential rehabilitation plan for owners. It is impossible for a poor person who lives in an inadequate dwelling to own a property.

Therefore, I ask that representations be made by everybody on behalf of these poor people, so that the government will provide funding to help those living in inadequate dwellings and to really promote social housing.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments. I represent a riding which badly needs social housing. I must say that I have been very active in this area and I believe the government has done a lot. I had the opportunity to meet many foreign visitors who came to see what we had done, including in terms of social housing units, and to be among those who were able to make a difference in this area, in Vancouver.

I certainly understand the hon. member, but we must not forget that Canada is a vast country with a small population. The money has to come from somewhere.

As you know, a consultation exercise on all social programs will take place, and social housing will of course be included in that consultation. I think that work in this area started a while ago.

As you know, housing is very costly and the federal and provincial governments both help pay housing costs for those who live in social housing units.

I hope that once the study and the consultation process is completed, we will be able to pursue these programs. In the meantime, the $2 billion provided in the budget are strictly to help those who already live in social housing units.

I will continue to fight for social housing, because it is something very important. I am told that there are 8,000 people in my constituency who do not live in decent dwellings. I know that there is a need, but I also understand that funds and opportunities are limited.

Again, I will keep fighting and I hope that the hon. member will do the same, so that together we can do something and hopefully get additional money.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

I thank the hon. member. I am well aware of her constituency's problem because I have been studying the situation in all constituencies for the last three months.

However, I think that we could take immediate action when it comes to public housing. Cuts could be made in family trusts, for example, but that is something we do not want to talk about and especially do not hear about. The slush fund, of course! That is the reason. It would take courage to proceed with those cuts and I hope the hon. member has enough influence on his caucus and on his party to make sure that the cuts are made in the right places and not where the money is badly needed.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Queen Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to participate in the debate on the borrwing bill to impliment the budgetary masures announced at the beginning of the week.

It is not only a pleasure for me to have this opportunity, but it is a great honour because officially this is my maiden speech in the House and my first formal opportunity to address my constituents from this place.

That, Mr. Speaker, is why I would ask you and my colleagues to allow me, briefly, to thank the voters of Hull-Aylmer, who supported me in my campaign and did me the honour of electing me to represent them in the House of Commons and speak on their behalf. I thank them sincerely for their support, and assure them that I will do my very best to live up to the confidence they placed in me.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell them that, as a member of Parliament, I intend to act in the best interests of all the voters in my riding, and not only of those who voted for me.

As we all know, the historic riding of Hull-Aylmer is on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, just across from the nation's capital. It has a population of 87,700; this number can be broken down as follows: 76,2 per cent are francophone, and 14,1 per cent are anglophone. Portuguese is the mother tongue of 2 per cent of the people in my riding.

I may add that 60 per cent of the people speak both official languages fluently.

Over 25 per cent of the workforce is composed of civil servants. Although I am a newcomer to active politics, I am no stranger to government and the workings of our democratic institutions.

As a career public servant I have had the opportunity to work closely with many governments of different political stripes. I have indeed been fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe up close how governments function. It is in large part because of this knowledge of government that I started to feel increasingly uneasy in the last few years about the way in which the country was being managed. I felt that the hackneyed, disjointed and visionless approach of the previous Conservative government was no longer working.

Canada and its public institutions are now at crossroads. It is urgent that our institutions, especially government ones, change radically and quickly if we do not want our country to be left behind by others. What is at stake here is that we do not become a small marginalized country with rigid structures, while other countries enthusiastically embrace the future.

In the Liberal Party, I found people who think the same way I do and who are determined, as I am, to be part of a government that is aware of its primary responsibility of fundamentally restructuring the state machinery in order to put it back in the service of the people so that they can regain both confidence and hope in their government.

Like other countries' governments, the government of Canada must tackle head-on the need to change fundamentally, because of the many forces that are in play in the world: a diminishing role for the state in modern societies, an expansion of international institutions, an increase in international competitiveness, developments in communication and information technologies, and an increase in the education level of people, who demand, rightly so, a greater participation in the decision-making process.

However, the need for reform also stems from a deep dissatisfaction by a good portion of the electorate regarding the effectiveness of government authorities. This dissatisfaction leads to a gradual loss of confidence in political leaders and the institutions. And this loss of effectiveness is obvious in a number of areas of the government apparatus. We occasionally see it as well in politicians who, once elected, forget their commitments to their constituents, and in elected representatives when they start acting mainly for narrow partisan reasons or showing favouritism.

We sense it also in our government institutions, tied by their own red tape, in organizations designed more to help those they employ than those they are supposed to serve. We can see it in outdated or inefficient government programs which might duplicate the work of other levels of government. Finally, we see it in the power struggles between levels of government seeking to protect their authority, their bureaucratic interests or their administrative preserves, regardless of the superior interests of their citizens.

The resolution of problems such as these requires us to set truly farsighted goals for ourselves. This is what our party has done.

At the heart of everything is a need to restore confidence in both the people and the institutions of government. We have to do this in the context of the imperative of the fiscal crisis which has given rise to some of the tough medicine contained in the budget and which will continue to condition the policies of this government throughout its mandate.

However, the goal of getting government right is not simply to save money. This initiative is animated by a much wider vision of the need to rethink and redesign government in response to profound forces, both external and internal, of which expenditure restraint is only one. Our intention is that the process of reform will be shaped by an evolving vision of the role of the federal government in society, of its relationships with its key partners and the part which its public service should play within that framework.

To reach these results we must proceed in a coherent way. Other governments have tried to deal with some of the problems I just mentioned with a random hacking at programs and services and costs of government. Problems of this breadth cannot be solved through an approach such as that.

Therefore one of our first objectives must be to try to define more clearly where each level of government can make its best contribution. If we can do this we should be able to improve the climate of federal-provincial relations in this country.

In addressing this matter we will be forced to ask some basic questions. Is government doing too much? Can government truly be asked to take on every issue and attempt to arbitrate, compensate or replace? Should government pull back and do less, leaving more scope to the individual, the private sector, communities and the voluntary sector?

A second objective must be to ensure that our programs are targeted as much as possible to the highest priority needs of our citizens and our country. We have to set priorities and we have to transfer resources from less productive to more productive uses. We have to make choices. In doing so we must see that as far as

possible we place the needs of the most disadvantaged groups in our society first.

Our third objective must be to refashion the programs of the federal government in a way that makes them more responsive to clients and more service oriented. We have to see that clients are substantively involved in the exercise to ensure that we look at the programs from their perspective, not just from that of administrative convenience.

Where federal programs touch those of other levels of government we have to achieve greater harmony and eliminate instances of duplication or waste of other kinds. Clearly an ongoing quest for greater efficiency and higher levels of productivity and performance must go hand in hand with these other goals.

Our fiscal situation is such that we simply cannot afford to see taxpayer funds misused or wasted. In all of this we have to bear in mind that the impact of the federal government depends enormously upon the public service. We need to preserve the best features of that service, encourage change where it is necessary, help the loyal people who work within it to adapt, and support them in the transitions that will be required. We must maintain Canada's reputation for having one of the best public services in the world.

The task of reforming government extends beyond the world of programs and public servants. It also imposes responsibilities upon those of us at the political level. Thus another objective must be to reassert some old-fashioned values such as integrity, reliability and accountability.

Our government has taken a number of steps already to reinforce these values. We have staked out a policy position in the red book. We have stuck to it in our throne speech and in this budget. We have encouraged Canadians to watch our performance and hold us to account for what we do. We intend to be consistent, accountable and honest in our dealings with Canadians. Old virtues and values need to be restored to public life.

The final objective associated with getting government right is to see what measures can be taken to encourage citizens more effectively to participate in decision making and to place relationships between citizens and government on a more positive footing.

Both at the political level and within the public service we hear continuous rhetoric about the need to consult more, to participate, to build a greater sense of partnership with the electorate, and so on. Most reform initiatives never get beyond that rhetoric. We have to do better. What practical steps can be taken by both politicians and public servants to achieve this goal?

I would like Canada to be seen as a leader among other countries in this sphere, open to new ideas and willing to experiment with new approaches.

So, it is obvious that the budget that was just tabled in this House is only a piece, but certainly a major piece, of a much bigger puzzle. It is only a step in the huge reform process that seems essential to us, and I would like to briefly remind you of some of these proposals.

The budgetary provisions will strengthen both the economic and the social union of the country. The deficit reduction plan laid out in the budget calls for a reduction in spending of $17 billion over the next three years. There is $5 of net expenditure restraint for every dollar of net revenue enhancement, a measure that will contribute dramatically to getting the deficit under control and allow us to reach our deficit target of 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

This budget fulfils our promise to tell the provinces what they can expect of the federal government for the next few years. They had told us that in order to plan their services they needed to know what the transfers would be. We listened to them.

Unemployment insurance premiums are really employment taxes. Their high cost is often a deterrent to job creation. We have therefore decided to solve this problem by lowering these premiums to create jobs now. This measure will translate into $300 million savings for industry; $300 millions which they will be able to invest in job creation.

Various measures are geared to helping small businesses, a sector crucial for our economy, specifically we will create a Canada Investment Fund to provide venture capital, set up a Canadian Technology Network to help small businesses gains access to new technologies, and expand the network of Canada Business Services Centres to concentrate access to government services in a single point.

Our national infrastructure program supports job creation. We have negotiated agreements with all 10 provinces and this means that the way is now clear. The projects can start to create real and productive jobs in all parts of the country. We will also set up apprenticeship training programs for young people to give them the opportunity to get a first an crucial work experience.

Measures in the budget also address important social issues. Full funding for the national literacy program is being restored. A centre of excellence for women's health is being created. The Canadian race relations foundation will finally be established. A prenatal nutrition program for low income pregnant women is being launched, as is the aboriginal head start program.

The budget also reinstates the law reform commission and the court challenges program.

I will not at this time, unfortunately, dwell on every single initiative outlined in this budget. The Minister of Finance on Tuesday, hon. members will agree, did an excellent job of that. Let me, however, mention that as part of our re-examination of the role of government I have been asked by the Prime Minister to review all federal boards, agencies, commissions and advisory councils. Once again, this is not an exercise simply to reduce expenditures. There are no predetermined targets for savings. The objective is to determine whether their raison d'être is still valid and whether they are consistent with current needs and priorities.

I would like to emphasize this point. The purpose of this review and all others that will be undertaken is not like it was under the previous Conservative government, a scorched earth approach to public policy. Any cuts, rationalizing or streamlining that results from reviews are intended to ensure that all of our activities and programs are delivered with maximum efficiency and meet the real needs of real people.

Likewise, it is in the same spirit and in the same context that the Prime Minister has asked me to proceed with the program review to assess the continued relevance and effectiveness of federal programs and services. In this review, we will identify options and resources for future programming geared to our changing society and the changing expectations and needs of Canadians.

It is my intention to see that as result of this program review our resources, both human and financial, are directed to the highest priority requirements and to those areas where the federal government is best placed to deliver services.

I spoke earlier about the need for governments to co-operate and co-ordinate their activities. With this in mind, the Prime Minister has also asked me to work with the provinces to achieve a better alignment of roles and responsibilities and, as a result, a more efficient and affordable federation. This should allow governments to reduce overlap and duplication while improving the delivery of critical services.

Of all the measures announced in the budget, I am particularly interested in those concerning the renewal of the public service. I know the federal public service and I can assure you that it is a credit to our country.

The government naturally needs and relies on the public service to help make the government's objectives and plans a reality. All Canadians must realize how fortunate this country is in having a world respected non-partisan public service, made up of dedicated men and women, which daily in hundreds of communities right across the country ensures the essential services to all of us.

To be the best and to maintain a position as the best, it is necessary for any institution to continually renew itself. Renewal includes questioning some of the basic assumptions which have guided our operations for years, even decades. It means constantly seeking better, faster, more effective and more efficient ways of delivering services. It means creating and recreating an organization that is sensitive to and responds appropriately to the needs of clients, in this case the Canadian taxpayer.

The public service is well aware of this requirement. We have to recognize the fact that it was able, over the last five years, to make difficult and comprehensive changes to its operations and methods. It is obvious that a transition period like the one it is going through right now is not only stimulating and motivating, but also a source of great tension.

I want to emphasize that the salary freeze announced in the budget will allow us to avoid massive lay-offs. The President of the Treasury Board has indicated that the government is determined to guarantee a high level of job security to federal public servants.

It is also important to view our decision to freeze wages in this context. First, it is evident from the other provisions of the budget that the public service is not being singled out for different or harsh treatment. In fact, in 1993 close to two-thirds of all employees under major wage settlements in Canada were subject to either a wage freeze or a decrease in their wages.

Second, the Prime Minister, the President of Treasury Board and I have been very clear about our determination to form a real partnership with civil servants. Everyone will agree that the climate has changed, that we have made genuine attempts to change our relation with the public service. This is not a replay of 1984 when the previous Prime Minister talked gleefully about giving public servants pink slips and running shoes.

The process of renewal of the public service has begun and will continue as all of us co-operate on forging a new definition of government, its role and purposes.

We are calling on all the members of this House, other levels of government and particularly on Canadians in every walk of life to join with us in finding new, innovative and more effective approaches to program and service delivery. United in our determination, we can steer this country toward horizons of harmony, social justice, tolerance and prosperity.

I say it again, these budgetary measures are only the first step in redefining the social and economic union that makes Canada an example for the world to follow, an example where differences are respected and the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

This was the wager of the Fathers of Confederation, a risky wager, a courageous wager and one that each generation of Canadians must win anew through a collective act of faith and imagination.

It falls to this generation of Canadians to preserve, indeed to fight to defend the precious legacy of previous generations so that we can pass on to our children not a damaged country, not a shrunken country, not a poorer country, but a greater, wiser, more generous country.

To those who are ready to give up on this country and who lack the creativity and stamina to reinvent a society of which the poor and the hungry of the world can only dream, I say no.

In the dying days of this century of unprecedented change, we have a responsibility to demonstrate that a small group of people that have come from all countries and cultures around the world can live in peace and harmony, in a spirit of mutual respect, and garner strength and courage from the sharing the experience of their vulnerability.

To those who would tear away the human face of this country and rob us of the right to be different, I also say no. Canadians have always been innovators and pioneers. Unlike our great neighbour to the south, we have resisted the temptation to homogenize our society. We have made room, often imperfectly and at the price of fierce struggles for diversity and for difference. This is what the world must learn to do and we must lead the way.

The challenge this government must meet is not any different from that of many other countries. A budget is not a simplistic deficit reduction exercise. Our mandate for change must result in fundamental reform, and this budget is but a first step in that direction.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I did let the minister go a little longer than his 20 minutes, in part as it was his maiden speech and in part largely from my reading of the good sense of ongoing co-operation and goodwill by members from all parties.

Now I would hope that the minister will allow the Chair to fulfil the opportunity for members opposite to have a full 10 minute complement to ask questions or comments which obviously will take us slightly beyond the 2.30 adjournment time.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:25 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, my congratulations to the hon. minister on his maiden speech and congratulations on your election and appointment to your high office.

Throughout the speech I heard several times the word waste and also the word essential. I have jotted down four items. I would like the minister to comment on whether he considers these items essential or non-essential. If he feels they are non-essential, would he consider removing these from the present expenditures and putting this money either toward more job creation or toward the poverty stricken children in our country according to the Minister of Human Resources Development?

The first thing I have on my list are the Challenger jets, which should not surprise anybody, MPs pensions, the blue cars that the cabinet ministers run around the hill in and the $4.5 million museum that is going to be constructed in the Prime Minister's riding.

I ask the last one based on the idea that we presently fund 12 museums to the tune of $268 million. They cannot support themselves and I would question that one. I would like the minister's comments, please.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:25 p.m.


Marcel Massé Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words at the beginning of his remarks. I would like to point out something, in terms of principles.

There is no doubt that any government in the modern world now must be extremely careful in the way it allocates its expenditures because the days of the fat cats have disappeared. No longer will we face a time when governments, whether municipal, federal, provincial in Canada or elsewhere in OECD countries, have enough free money that they can afford to waste a cent of it.

Voters in all OECD countries have expressed very clearly in recent years that they are much more aware of what governments do, that they watch governments much more carefully and that they will not permit their governments to be wasteful.

On the question of principle I must say I agree entirely with the hon. member. It is always in the application of principles that reasonable people disagree. There may be a large number of actual expenditures where we on this side of the House feel there is full justification for spending the taxpayers' money and where members of the other parties in the House may indicate different priorities. I believe this is democracy.

We have to offer to voters in our country a number of choices, as I think we did quite clearly in the red book. We have to ask

them to vote for parties that offer very different priorities in terms of their expenditure plans in particular. We did that.

We not only indicated our intention to bite a few extremely difficult bullets in terms of expenditures such as in the case of defence, but we had the courage to do this year in the budget what governments in the last 30 years have not had the political courage to do, namely to cut infrastructure expenditures that had become unnecessary because we had finished the second world war and were moving into a period in which international relations were very different.

I take this example of military expenditures because it involves literally over the years billions and billions of dollars; in fact $7.4 billion over the next five years. It is much more important for a government to have a clear idea of its long-term views and priorities so that it can make reductions in expenditures or reductions in waste that will permit the country to meet its long-term need for fiscal responsibility and to better use its money.

In the various items the hon. member mentioned there may be ways of reducing waste. I would fully agree with him that we should reduce that waste to an absolute minimum. In the budget we saw in terms of the large numbers and in terms of the difficult decisions that we have agreed and we have taken the right decisions.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:30 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, listening to the hon. minister responsible for the public service, one gets the impression that he is a new politician with definite and unquestionable experience, that he is a very articulate man who should bring about changes, at least as far as renewal of the public service is concerned.

The minister alluded to the importance he attaches to the public service, to the importance he attributes to public servants who support the work of members of Parliament, ministers and Parliament as a whole. I think he is right because none of us could work effectively if we could not count on public servants.

The minister knows what he is talking about since he himself was, until very recently, until his election, a senior public servant. That is why I believe that he knows what he is talking about.

However, I am surprised that nothing in this budget reflects this appreciation of the Public Service. There is no tangible evidence in the budget. Although the vast majority of public servants helped to elect this new government, and it is public knowledge that the Public Service supported the federal government, they could at least expect some appreciation of the services they provide. What they got is a slap in the face.

The budget does not contain a single measure that would communicate to these people the government's recognition and appreciation of the work they do every day to support its operations.

I would like to know if the minister is planning any statements in the near future about Public Service renewal and if he will finally demonstrate that proposals will be followed by concrete action. Instead of coming down harshly on the people who are important to us, perhaps the government should start a dialogue and agree on ways to improve morale and maintain the level of professionalism and fairness in the services they provide.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:30 p.m.


Marcel Massé Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to answer that type of intervention. Certainly I feel at ease when dealing with questions on the public service.

I greatly appreciated my hon. colleague's opening remarks. I must say that, when you are familiar with the civil service, you often get a much better feel for the kind of problems it faces. In recent years, the Government of Quebec has imposed a number of wage freezes and cuts that civil servants did not take too well.

I can understand that. When, as a civil servant, I was seeing the wage gap widen between the public and the private sector, especially at the senior levels, I too found it hard to take.

In the context of the last budget, I think that it is important to see that, with this wage freeze, we are in fact protecting the job security of our civil servants. It was a hard move to make, but given the context, it was clear that cuts were required not only in government programs, but also in operating budgets.

To compensate for wage increases, we would have had to reduce the number of employees in the Public Service. Considering, as I said, that two thirds of private sector employees either had no increase or a negative increase, we determined that the sacrifice asked from federal civil servants was not disproportionate, as compared to those who are seeing their military base close down in Atlantic Canada or those affected by the decision to withdraw from the KAON project in British Columbia or to reduce the level of activity or close military bases in the Prairies and in Ontario.

Under those circumstances, while I agree entirely with my colleague on the principles of good management for a public service, I must say that I fully support the decision made in this budget to freeze wages.

Borrowing Authority Act, 1994-95Government Orders

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is very little time remaining, barely one minute. I would ask the member for Mégantic-Compton-Standstead to put his question as briefly as possible so that the minister can answer quickly and we can then proceed to adjourn.