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.