Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be given the opportunity to address this question because it is one of the more important ones that we will be discussing for several months no doubt during this 35th Parliament.
There are a number of basic questions that we need to study together in the spirit of co-operation and openness. Obviously we bring forth different values and different views. I accept that and respect it.
Perhaps the first and most fundamental question for me concerns what programs we need as a nation in order to respond in a very generous and fair way to Canadians in need?
That begs another question immediately. Who identified these Canadians in need and who defines what a particular need is? Clearly the government has a great responsibility in doing that. It has also indicated by virtue of the debates that is has held on a number of questions such as peacemaking, cruise missiles, the pre-budget debate and this debate that it is interested in the views of all parliamentarians. The government is to be applauded for having taken this initiative.
What the Liberals want is a restructuring of our programs to meet more needs with greater efficiency. I would hope that we can embrace that priority, that goal, that objective. This is the Liberal position and this is what we, as members of the government, are going to fight to have happen.
Without being malicious or unkind, as I understand the various comments that have been made, the NDP, for example, and I can speak primarily of Manitoba because its members are more numerous there proportionately speaking than they have been in the House, is really saying do not touch anything. Do not touch any of the social programs.
I am sure there will be a number of members who will be anxious to correct me if I misinterpret the Reform Party. I would welcome that. The Reform Party has been described by other colleagues as cut, cut, cut or slash and burn. Those are not my words but I have repeated them. I would prefer to be a bit more dignified and say dismantle and rebuild. Perhaps it comes to the same thing.
It seems to me that we have already been told that all the Bloc Quebecois does is talk about is Quebec. I do understand how important Quebec is for the Bloc, but it should remember that it is the Official Opposition and that, as such, it must speak for all Canadians, and represent them all, from coast to coast.
Quebec, or rather the Bloc Quebecois, is asking for a transfer to Quebec, with no strings attached. But this raises the following fundamental question: Why only to Quebec? It seems to me that overlapping and duplication represent a problem not only in Quebec, but also in the rest of Canada.
Overlapping and duplication happen in two ways: between the federal government, the provinces and territories, and within each jurisdiction; and within the federal government, the provinces, the territories, and sometimes even within municipal governments. Co-ordination does not always exist even within a province or a region. The fact is that we have three levels of government, where overlapping does occur, and the issue is not raised often enough.
Members on all sides want to get rid of overlapping which is very costly for Canadians. Why? So that we can respond in a better, more efficient way to the needs of all Canadians.
There have been some references this morning with respect to child care. I want to remind all members that the Liberal Party of Canada which has been chosen by Canadians to govern has made a commitment to child care. It is a very responsible one, up to 50,000 places per year to a total of 150,000 providing the economy grows at 3 per cent or more.
In the current economic situation in which we find ourselves, with a debt which has exceed $500 billion and a deficit in the rage of $45 billion, surely linking this kind of program for those most in need with those particular conditions, 3 per cent growth, is a responsible decision.
When we talk about funding our social programs it seems to me that we cannot avoid talking of taxation, revenues and expenditures. One option is to reduce, cut, slash, call it what you will. Another is to recognize the fundamental issue, on which we are all in agreement, that the middle class in particular feels that it cannot bear any more taxes. It is angry. There is anger out there.
However, there is another issue and I do not say it in an arrogant and pompous way. Are there others out there who are not paying their fair share? It is true that there are influential and rich families able to shield millions or perhaps even billions of dollars? Should we be asking questions such as should there be an inheritance tax in this country?
Is it true as well that there is money being transferred to other countries and being shielded, at least in part, from taxes being paid to Canada for the benefit of all Canadians? Is it true, and I believe it is, that there are Canadians who earn substantial sums of money each year but who pay no taxes? Is that fair? Is it equally true that there are profitable corporations that pay no taxes or virtually no taxes?
If there is some truth to all the questions I have raised, and I have not even raised the whole question of the black market economy which apparently if everyone were paying taxes according to the rules would probably eliminate the deficit, is it any wonder that Canadians are saying just a minute, why is it that the government cannot get money from those sources that are not paying their fair share?
I invite all of my colleagues, and I say this in a very serious way, to share their ideas openly in this debate. I recognize that there are divergent views. That is what democracy is all about. I believe that is what a strong democracy is all about.
We should all try to come at least to some basic agreement on what we are trying to do. It seems to me that while we may vary in our approaches to how this might be done, what we collectively want to do is identify the Canadians in need and define conditions under which they can be helped.
If we can do that I believe that putting forward the mechanisms, the programs to respond to that will be much easier.
Whether we are from the Bloc Quebecois, with a particular orientation, or other parties in which we believe in a Canada as a whole with some improvements to what we have, which is probably the finest country in the world, I have always wondered why one would ever want to change something that is the finest. Perhaps some day after having listened a bit more I shall come to some sort of understanding.
I would like everyone to make a commitment to look at social programs, look at taxation, look at the fundamental issues facing this whole country in such a way as to build a better country for all Canadians.