House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have come to the stage in today's proceedings, pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House, when we resume debate the budget speech. For several days now, members have had the opportunity to voice their concerns about the budgetary provisions. However, I think we can rightfully ask ourselves the following question: What is the government going to do with the views expressed in this House on the budget?

Given the government's obstinate refusal to change its mind about closing the Collège militaire de Saint-Jean, I think the answer to this question is obvious: Nothing! The government has no intention of acting on the concerns expressed during this debate. It has no intention of listening to or taking into consideration the arguments put forward by the members of this House. Just a few minutes ago, my colleague, the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, mentioned several suggestions made in this House that the government has chosen to completely ignore.

It was not so very long ago that the government was boasting of wanting to consult Parliament and the public before drafting its budget. Yet, it does not seem to be able to benefit from the opinions, suggestions and concerns presented. The Liberal government, which appears to be suffering from acute "consultationitis", spent vast sums of money staging mock pre-budget conferences and was unable to draw little, if any, inspiration whatsoever from the opinions expressed.

However, by holding these conferences which were given wide coverage by the media and which provided an opportunity to float a series of trial balloons, setting Canadian taxpayers up to expect the worst, the government deliberately maintained an atmosphere of austerity. As a result, the vast majority of our fellow citizens were fully prepared to do their share to help bring the deficit under control, provided all segments of society were asked to make equivalent sacrifices.

Did the government take advantage of the implicit consensus among Canadians and of the admirable movement of collective solidarity? No, it foolishly let this opportunity slip away by tabling a highly disappointing budget designed so as not to stir up the waters too much. In some respects, the budget is a reflection of the Canadian government's powerlessness in the face of the catastrophic state of public finances.

After unemployment, the deficit is one of the biggest concerns of Quebecers and Canadians. This government wanted to work on three objectives at the same time: first, to promote economic growth; second, to stem the increase in public spending so as to reduce the deficit; and third, to carry out at all costs the promises made during the election campaign. In doing so, the government literally overlooked two objectives to which it should have given the greatest importance: deficit reduction and job creation.

It seems that this government was not able to attain both these goals at the same time. In fact, instead of attacking the problems, it chose instead to go after the citizens themselves, especially the most disadvantaged.

Indeed, 60 per cent of the too small deficit reduction projected for 1995-96 is due to the new measures reducing the amounts allocated for the unemployed. Furthermore, the government is increasing the tax burden of seniors and eliminating a tax break that benefited the middle class.

Let us consider for a moment the structural deficit, which is approximately 3.5 per cent of the gross domestic product. The Bloc Quebecois and many Quebecers are convinced that Canada is running up such huge deficits because of the very way this country is structured. Federalism is inherently inefficient with the many overlaps, wasted energy and contradictory policies.

The structural deficit is due to the huge government bureaucracy. What is the government doing in the 1994-95 budget to improve the poor management practices that exist and are perpetuated in this bureaucracy? What is it doing to eliminate the waste which the Auditor General has made a point of denouncing many times in successive reports? Very little.

One of the solutions put forward by the government is to cut transfer payments to the provinces by $2 billion, $466 million in 1995-96 and $1.54 billion in 1996-97. Of course, the Minister of Finance defends himself by saying that he will spend $800 million to finance new approaches to social security. What are these new approaches? Can he assure us they will not, once again, lead to federal government intervention in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction?

It is disturbing to see that one of the solutions considered by the government is to increase the tax burden of middle-income seniors and of middle-class taxpayers in general. How can they justify their decision to reduce the age credit? In total, between 1994 and 1997, this measure will take $490 million from the pockets of seniors, while high-income taxpayers are still benefiting from tax shelters.

On the other hand, when the Bloc Quebecois called for stimulation of the job market and lowering of the unemployment rate, it did not ask the government to shift the responsibility for its problems to Quebec and the other provinces. Unemployment insurance reform will neither motivate people to work nor, of course, increase the number of jobs available. It will in fact put more people on the welfare rolls.

The government's dithering is impossible to explain and unforgivable when every wasted minute aggravates its financial situation as well as the suffering of individuals and families hurt by unemployment and poverty.

The government seems to count mainly on economic recovery to fill its coffers. Recent experiences have taught us to be wary of such calculations. We should have expected the government to take vigorous measures, but it has not done so.

The Desjardins Group, the Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund and the Conference Board all forecast an unemployment rate of around 10 per cent in 1995. How did the government come up with this more or less realistic and much too optimistic percentage of 8 per cent?

The sluggish recovery is mostly due to the excessive tax burden and unacceptable unemployment rate. No wonder Gallup pollsters found out last November that participation in the underground economy is considered acceptable by 33 per cent of Canadians and 42 per cent of Quebecers.

The only real solution to the underemployment problem proposed by the government to Quebecers and Canadians is the infrastructure program. It is better than nothing but it is far from being the solution to all our problems. Furthermore, the short-sightedness with which this program was designed is alarming. In fact, it will only provide 45,000 short-term jobs in economic areas having rather little value-added, so it does not stimulate Canada's international competitiveness. Quebec's 437,000 unemployed are perfectly entitled to question the government's good faith.

Yet, when all available means must be used as efficiently as possible, the government does not seem to understand that enhancing the production and export capability of the thousands of small and medium-sized businesses throughout Canada and Quebec can truly create jobs and produce wealth. The government recognizes that two million jobs depend on exports, which

account for more than one quarter of the GDP. It also acknowledges that priority should be given to increasing the exports of the small and medium-sized business sector, which account for only 10 per cent of the total volume of exports. It fails, however, to take concrete measures to realize its wishes.

The Minister for International Trade himself declared that measures to stimulate expansion in this sector are insufficient, overlooked and therefore inadequate. Several members received complaints from heads of small and medium-sized businesses who say that they cannot get the information, the expertise or the logistical support needed to access foreign markets. It is therefore urgent for the government to correct the situation and ensure that the information, which apparently exists, is made available.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. This sector's real problems result from the treatment small and medium-sized businesses receive from banks and their inability to access funds. In this regard, the minister does not have anything concrete to propose apart from planning a vague consultative process between himself and Canadian financial institutions, but, of course, without the main stakeholders, namely small and medium-sized businesses. Once again, the Minister only uses the future tense. Unfortunately, action must now replace discussions and pious wishes.

We know that, in the past, the governments of some provinces, especially Quebec, made efforts to promote small business development. What is the federal government doing to coordinate its initiatives with those of the provinces? The fact is that small business assistance programs, particularly those related to exports, are not only inadequate, but often competing and conflicting.

Solutions to problems are deferred. After being so alarmist for several weeks, the government finally tabled a budget which had no real direction and managed to make everyone unhappy. Once again, the government resorted to a policy with no long-term vision, thereby leaving us with the poor result that we know.

This budget reminds us of an administration which, not long ago, was vehemently criticized by the Liberals themselves. This budget, like the ones tabled by previous governments, fails to reach the original objectives set by the government.

It does nothing to reduce the deficit. It does not provide adequate measures to create employment. Moreover, it targets social programs, instead of eliminating costly waste and overlapping in government expenditures. One could almost think, and I will end on that note, that it was Michael Wilson or Don Mazankowski wearing the Minister of Finance's work boots, last February 22. And that certainly does not augur well for Canada and for Quebec.

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11:05 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Verchères for his very interesting remarks and I would like to make a comment. He said that one of the reasons for the high cost of federalism was overlap and duplication between the federal programs and provincial programs. I took note of that fact.

In that context I wonder whether he would agree that it would be a net saving and a reduction in the deficit if Quebec returned control of immigration to the federal government as it is in the rest of the country and as it is constitutionally. Would he agree that is a good plan?

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11:05 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

The hon. member commented on one part of my speech where I most specifically addressed the issue of costs inherent to our federal system. I mentioned of course the costly overlap and duplication, but I could also have talked about the scattering of public moneys all across Canada, supposedly to defend regional interests and to avoid offending regional susceptibilities. This is one aspect of Canadian federalism which, because of our vast territory, is at the root of some of our financial problems.

To reduce overlap, the hon. member suggested that Quebec opt out of the immigration field. At the outset, I find it horrible that members opposite would only take note of the fact that we find that overlap costs us a lot of money. First, we were expecting a lot more from them. We thought you would act energetically to eliminate overlap and duplication between the federal and provincial governments. Second, Quebec negotiated with the federal government a special immigration agreement which, in a certain sense, does not involve additional costs either for the federal government or for Quebec. This agreement only transfers the responsibility for managing the case files of immigrants and applicants. In my opinion, what the member suggested was somewhat irrelevant, since it has more to do with the Quebec government than with the prerogatives of the Official Opposition.

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11:10 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. I know we are the opposition on this side of the House, but I do not think that means we have to be so negative. The hon. member knocks the budget but there is nothing concrete, no proposals being put forth by Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition that also sits on this side of the House. He talks about the bank's being difficult on small business, about the underground economy growing, about all things that are negative in the country. As members of the House we should be talking about the positive aspects such as how the federal

government transfers $3.5 billion to the province of Quebec through the equalization grants.

When are they going to start acknowledging these things rather than talk like a broken record and say that the duplication of federal-provincial programs seems to be the problem that faces the country? If we repeat that statement often enough people will start to believe it, but the point is that there are many positive things.

Will he recognize that we in the House make a positive contribution to Quebec and every other province in Canada?

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11:10 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is already the second time I have the opportunity to discuss directly with my colleague from St. Albert on budget issues and, each time, I am under the impression that the hon. member for St. Albert does not listen carefully to what I say.

Duplication was mentioned as one of the factors behind the lack of budget efficiency within the federal system; other causes could have been indicated. So, if he wants, I could meet with him in private or simply make a speech on the factors inherent to the federal system that are responsible for the staggering costs to the country as a whole.

You suggested-and I find it a little sad-that the Official Opposition only knows how to criticize and never has anything positive to suggest. I cannot help but think that you must not have been present in this House very often to say that, since the Official Opposition has not ceased, these last few months, to put forward several budget proposals which the government has not taken into consideration, as I have already mentioned in my speech on the budget.

Moreover, the hon. member has also suggested that Canada is a great country and that it had to be acknowledged that Quebec receives a lot from the federal government in the way of transfer payments. I will put to you that these transfer payments are in the form of unemployment insurance and social assistance benefits and that one does not congratulate oneself on receiving from a federal state investments which are not going into research and development or a job creation program, but which only reveal the poverty of Quebec society within this federal system.

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11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

By the way, I ask you to please address your remarks to the Chair and not to the hon. member, even though you sit close to one another. Debate.

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11:10 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak about such an important measure as the federal budget. I consider the budget to be a historic document which lays the necessary framework for a renewed, prosperous and just Canada.

As this is my maiden speech, I take the liberty to point out that my great privilege to be speaking today is also a historic occasion. I am the first Liberal representative of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington since David Wright Allison defeated Sir John A. Macdonald back in 1883. It is a privilege to be given the trust and good wishes of one's constituents. I will work to ensure the government represents the concerns of my riding.

Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington extends from Lake Ontario in the southwest and Algonquin Park in the north to the Thousand Islands area in the southeast.

As I travel through the riding and stop in places like Bancroft, Madoc, Marmora, Stirling, Napanee, Arden, Sharbot Lake and my own village of Camden East, I receive many words of encouragement. I also receive general advice and specific suggestions about the issues that face our rural communities. I value this input and I thank the people of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington for their support and wise counsel.

I give thanks to several hundred people who gave so freely of their time during the recent campaign. Today I am proud to be representing all of the people of our riding.

I would also like to publicly thank my wife Reta, and Kayla Rebecca, our daughter, for their love and support.

One of the messages I receive over and over again is that people want to see the government come out with an open and transparent game plan for economic and social renewal. My constituents expect no less. This is what the 1994 budget sets in motion, a framework for social and economic renewal.

Our objective is clear: to stimulate growth by targeting our spending without imposing new taxes. Just look at how quickly the government has set about funding initiatives which were promised during the campaign. In this party we take our platform, the red book, seriously.

The national infrastructure program has had a speedy start. In my riding alone 44 local level governments and five school boards are busy preparing their proposals. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of rural residents that there are many worthy infrastructure projects.

I received copies of proposals from a number of municipalities in my riding. My riding has the most miles of roads of any riding in Ontario. I have seen proposed projects for road improvements. I can attest that there are many heavily travelled arteries which have yet to be paved. The benefits of these proposed upgradings are many. Besides the prospects of jobs in road construction, there is the added benefit to the local tourist economy. Good roads get residents and tourists to and from their destinations quickly and safely.

Infrastructure projects may even save lives.

My background is in small business. I owned a general store in our community. My constituents own, work in and patronize small and medium sized businesses. Eighty per cent of new jobs are created by small and medium sized businesses. Eighty per cent of all jobs in rural areas are created by local based businesses.

This budget, I am pleased to point out, supports small and medium sized businesses. By its measures to support small business, this budget becomes the foundation for our country's economic renewal.

One of the most common complaints coming from the business community in my riding is that it is difficult to access bank capital for investment or expansion. During the election campaign we in the Liberal Party acknowledged this and promised to act to redress the situation.

The government is acting now in consultation with both financial institutions and businesses to develop a code of conduct for small business lending. The government's role is to act as an honest broker between stakeholders. By consulting with those concerned our government is showing its willingness and ability to tackle the problem of access to capital.

It is only by working with the banks and their business clients that we can together meet our country's common objective to improve the business environment and increase international competitiveness.

With this budget the government has proven that it not only knows how to consult but it knows how to listen and act as well.

More payroll taxes would have been a burden on business and a barrier to jobs. The government has acted decisively to roll back the unemployment insurance premium rate.

As most people know, a common request made to MPs' offices is for information on programs for small business. This suggests to me that Canadians have the will to create new businesses. Canadians have faith in their talent and their abilities. Canadians have plans that they are willing to put into action. Finally, Canadians have the initiative to search out the resources which are available to them.

My staff has been and will remain happy to seek information on government programs for small business on behalf of constituents.

It is only sensible that my staff and my constituents should be able to access complete information quickly. They need direct access to civil servants who hold an expert's knowledge of the content and scope of government programs for small business.

By next year the government will have put a Canada business services centre in every province. This is an efficient one stop shopping scheme for government programs. This is just one more piece of the framework which will serve to support business growth. With this budget the government is putting into place the building blocks necessary for strong social and economic renewal.

Also, on the economic front I am excited about the Canada investment fund and the Canadian technology network, just two more pieces of the framework for our country's renewal.

I am perhaps most encouraged by our government's commitment to fundamentally overhaul the social security system. We will not achieve savings by indiscriminately slashing the budget of social programs. Ours is not the mandate of the previous government. We have not been elected to tear down the social safety net, but rather to rebuild a system that works for all Canadians. This is our mandate and this is what the 1994 budget initiates.

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11:20 a.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for his speech. However, I would add that I do not agree with everything he said and I will begin with the end of his speech to illustrate the points on which I disagree.

When the hon. member said that his government was not elected to cut social programs, I wonder if we read the same budget, because it said that the Department of Finance will cut $725 million from unemployment insurance plan this year. Is the hon. member aware of the impact that will have in regions like the Maritimes and Eastern Quebec where, unfortunately, people live on seasonal jobs?

Right now, unemployment insurance is essential there. Like everybody else, workers in those regions would like to be able to work 52 weeks a year, but they need tools. The government says that it did not get the mandate to cut social programs, but nonetheless it is cutting unemployment insurance. The Liberals say that they want to reform and restructure the Canadian social safety net, but I would like to be sure that when they talk about reform, they do not mean cuts and less assistance. What alternative do they have to offer?

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11:20 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

I thank the hon. member for his question. Certainly I appreciate the fact that I have had an inside opportunity for the last few weeks of sitting with the Standing Commit-

tee on Human Resources Development. We have been listening to witnesses for 12 and a half hours a day this week, and I will be back there shortly.

Certainly with our programs we are not setting out to cut off anyone and make them suffer and go hungry in this country. We believe that there is a lot of money in the system between the different levels of government, including all the provinces and this government. The strength seems to be that the municipalities can deliver a lot of these systems.

We can save a lot of money within the administration as we study that. We can put this to good use in helping to look after all the people of Canada.

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11:20 a.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his maiden speech. I would like to bring the hon. member into a point of reality with his analysis of his government's budget.

We must focus on the ugly reality which the government's budget brings about.

I am talking about an additional $100 billion debt that will be attached to the $500 billion debt that has now accumulated. How is the hon. member going to assure business that there is going to be no hindrance to its expansion, to its growth or other such initiatives when there is no other alternative but to increase taxes?

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11:25 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

As I go back to my riding and talk to business people from across 5,000 miles of road a lot of these business people who like to complain about government-I complained about government for many years and I still do-believe there is a new confidence in the air already. I do not believe they are just saying this because I happen to be a Liberal member. I hear people running down the government but who are also acknowledging the fact that there is an atmosphere of confidence today and that things are getting better already.

Back to my small business background, I am certainly glad to talk about the debt. The hon. member's cohorts and my friends in our standing committee are letting every witness who comes in front of us know that we do have a debt in this country. Many of us believe that the only way we can look at this debt and be realistic in this country without ruining it is to have jobs.

Therefore we believe it is very important how we affect this country and certainly we want to provide the right atmosphere to help businesses grow.

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11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I congratulate the hon. member on his maiden speech. On debate, the hon. member for Vancouver East.

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11:25 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, tansi. Tansi means hello in Cree, one of the languages of the aboriginal people.

Being an immigrant I feel it is appropriate for me to use it in my maiden speech. I have risen in the House before to make statements or ask questions but this is the first time I have delivered a speech in this House where so many important people before me stood and delivered their maiden speeches.

My riding of Vancouver East is surely one of the most interesting and diversified ridings in Canada. It stretches from Cambie Street on the west side to Boundary Road on the east side and from the waterfront on the north side to Grandview Highway in a zigzag on the south side.

I cannot imagine myself representing another area. I chose Vancouver East for the work I have done in that area over 20 years and I am glad I did. Vancouver is a very seductive city.

Since my arrival from Italy in 1966 Vancouver has grown by leaps and bounds and is becoming an international metropolis by the day. Vancouver East is a microcosm of Canada with its many immigrants and interesting people representing the fabric of the entire nation.

In Vancouver East the Chinese population at over 30 per cent outnumbers the British group at 16 per cent, followed by the Italians, who used to be the largest group, the aboriginal people and all other ethnicities such as Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indo-Canadians and Latin Americans, to mention a few.

In Vancouver East 45 per cent of the population is classified as immigrants. Almost six people out of ten do not speak English. Vancouver East also has one of the largest aboriginal urban populations in Canada. The port of Vancouver is in Vancouver East and so are many of the labour unions.

In Vancouver East one can find several cultural centres, such as the Aboriginal Friendship Centre, the Native Education Centre, the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Italian Cultural Centre, the Croatian Community Centre and the Sikh Gudwara.

In Vancouver East we have the police department and several small business owned by families. A colourful part of the city with core streets such as Commercial Drive, Powell Street with Gastown, Pender Street with Chinatown and Hastings Street, Vancouver East counts on a large number of caring people who provide support to the many needy in the area and who are the heart and soul of the riding. These people operate from centres such as the Carnegie Centre, the neighbourhood houses, the churches and the non-profit organizations' headquarters.

I thank them for the tremendous job they do. I want to thank the constituents of Vancouver East for believing in what I have to offer and for voting for me. They will not be disappointed. But I need them now more than ever. I also thank my son David and

all the people who supported me, those who worked with me in my campaign and ensured my victory.

The human element was the most important factor in my campaign. Because of the nature of Vancouver East, I asked to speak to the budget which contains much of what is needed in a riding like Vancouver East. This was the new government's first budget and was a blueprint of the red book that got the Liberal Party elected.

This budget is the first step of this new government to bring back dignity to our population by creating jobs and restoring faith in government. However, let me speak to some of the important issues for Vancouver East and for Canada.

No tax increases. What a challenge. A fairer use of UIC and lower UIC premiums, giving businesses a chance to reinvest the premium money they save in creating more jobs. This was another challenge and this time it came from the business people.

The support for housing through the RRAP, the continuation of subsidies to the needy on reserve housing, projects to help victims of family violence and the use of RRSP for first house purchases. We would like to see more funding for new subsidized housing but I feel we must become innovative and find private funding as well to be able to continue a subsidized housing system which is the envy of the world.

The infrastructure program for the present and future of our transportation network and of tourism. The prenatal nutrition and the aboriginal head start programs are two very important programs for our newborns. The court challenges program and the establishment of the Canadian race relations committee needed for all minorities.

The centre of excellence for women's health and the national forum on health are two very important initiatives for the prevention of illnesses. The youth services corps, the youth internship program, the literacy programs to help our youth become independent and start their lives. The unification of families during the year of the family.

All that was done by the Minister of Finance with the advice and support of government members. The Minister of Finance took into account the requests made by Canadians and often changed the course of his budget according to the advice given to him by his colleagues.

The Minister of Finance also considered the fact that, next year, we will have the results of the consultations that will be held in the areas of defence, human resources and immigration. I think that this budget is a very good example of the government's determination to change course.

What I feel is so important is the slight shift of the work burden from the government to the business sector. We have been counting for too long on the government for our jobs. By offering incentives to businesses, the Minister of Finance is beginning to give the business sector a chance of expanding and creating more jobs. Even the change in UIC is a good step toward creating more commitment on the part of the worker.

During the campaign many single mothers living in my riding called. They want to get off welfare, get some training and start working. This is the answer to their requests.

As a woman, I am quite happy to see that for the first time women's needs are reflected in the budget. I am sure this is the beginning of something.

Sure we would like to see more funding for various programs, but unfortunately due to our financial constraints we all have to share the burden and co-operate. Sure we would like to see a much lower deficit forecast, but this cannot be done without the suffering of all Canadians who are asking for jobs.

Mark Hill, an Ottawa writer, has tried to get rid of the deficit and the debt, but after much general cutting, after: "slashing old age security, unemployment insurance, health care, social assistance and education by 25 per cent", and this on top of what he has already cut, he has concluded by writing: "what if we allowed our elderly to fall into poverty, our sick to go without treatment and our poor to go without decent food or shelter? How many years would we have to suffer after we paid off our debt"? The answer is 22 years of suffering.

In conclusion, I would like to bring up an issue that troubles me a great deal. In 1976, I took part in various initiatives aimed at keeping Quebec within Canada. When I arrived in this country in 1966, Quebec was part of Canada and it must stay that way.

I want to offer my assistance to Quebec members who want a united Canada and who would like the support of a Canadian of Italian origin, from Western Canada, who speaks French and who is interested in keeping Canada together.

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11:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Permit me to congratulate the hon. member on her maiden speech.

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11:35 a.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the hon. member on her maiden speech. As I have said before, that is a very special moment in our political life in this House. I do congratulate the hon. member.

I am going to be very short. I am going to address the issue of jobs and job creation. In this budget, $725 million in UI cuts means 40,000 jobs. A $6 billion infrastructure program means 65,000 jobs. Sixty-five thousand and forty thousand certainly does not add up to 1.2 million. That is currently the number of people in this country who are out of work.

I am having a really hard time understanding how this disparity of 100,000-plus jobs is supposed to get 1.2 million-plus people in Canada back to work. I would like the hon. member to respond to that, please.

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11:35 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can see the concern and I know it is only 10 per cent of what we need.

With the infrastructure program it is not just roads and the infrastructure we need. Some moneys are also set aside for arts centres. Fifteen per cent of it is earmarked for other programs.

I would like to say that this is another opportunity to increase jobs. I would also like to say that we cannot get 1.2 million jobs on the first budget and we cannot get the deficit down while trying to do some work in the area of the economics of the country.

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11:35 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the hon. member for the quality of her maiden speech. Many of us here have had to make this first speech, and it is always a rather moving experience.

I have a comment about a remark she made in her speech on the change of direction brought about by the new government. We, on this side of the House, do not agree at all that there has been change, considering some significant items in the budget. For instance, this is the record deficit. Never before had the government forecast a $39 billion deficit. There is also the increase in the number of weeks of work needed for entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits coupled with a reduction in the number of weeks people can get these benefits. To me, this looks much more like a continuation of the previous Conservative government's policy.

That is why Canadians and Quebecers find it very hard to accept the results of this budget. During last week recess, people told me this was another case of all talk and no action, since after telling us for two months how serious the situation was, the government ended up with no real cuts. It is just business as usual.

I have a second brief remark. The hon. member said that she wanted to work with Quebec members at building a united Canada. I would invite her to work at making sure that Canada and Quebec set up structures that would make them able to face global competition in the years ahead. In that regard, Canadian federalism no longer represents the kind of structure that will allow us to be competitive in the global market.

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March 10th, 1994 / 11:35 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to comment on the second remark of my colleague. The fact that Quebec has tried to separe from Canada for many years did have an impact on our economy. It is well known that problems are not limited to Quebec but affect the whole country. I believe that, as we say in Italy, united we stand, divided we fall. I do not know how they say it in France, but we say that unity is strength.

As to the first remark on a new direction for our country, I must say I am convinced there is indeed a new direction. This is our first budget, and it was tabled only four months after the government came into office. It is the first of two phases, and the second one will come next year. It will then be possible to discuss the budgetary content because we will have all the findings of the consultation process. The opposition may find that we are right in what we do and do it in the best interest of this country.

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11:40 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the whip of the Reform Party, I would like to advise the House that pursuant to Standing Order 43 our speakers on this motion will be dividing their time.

I am more than pleased to address an area of concern that is very real to Canadians. Last week I spent time in my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, the first extended opportunity I had to meet with individuals and groups since the budget was introduced. I was met with three main areas of concern, two of which I would like to touch on today.

The first topic is the budget. The other is immigration. Both deal in very real terms with the concern of ordinary Canadians about the future directions and opportunities of Canada.

Most Canadians view the budget of February 1994 as a stop-gap measure, an attempt, however feeble, at holding the line on the deficit and yet it has not done too much damage in their own backyard. Predictably those whose livelihoods have been directly affected through base closures or wage freezes or other means are angry. Others who have watched our nation's economy closely through the last several decades are angry.

I put to it the House that this budget is a failure and that all Canadians should be angry.

Canada's debt and deficit situation is now at a point at which it is affecting every individual and every business through exorbitant taxation. Every personal paycheque is slashed by taxes and reduced buying power. Our debt load of over half a trillion

dollars, among the largest per capita debt of the industrialized world, will destroy trade, jobs and our standard of living.

The deputy finance minister admitted yesterday that the tax burden on individual Canadians and corporations is higher in Canada than in any other major industrial power except France. One-third of every dollar we pay in taxes disappears to debt servicing. Those moneys are not there for our country's needs.

Allow me to illustrate. Every second eats up $1,300 in debt interest payment, enough to employ two Canadians for a week. In six seconds you could feed a family of four for a year. In the 10 minutes I have for this speech the debt will have increased by $780,000. It will take an average Canadian 20 years to earn that much.

Remember, this money is not owed just to ourselves as some may like to think. It is a fact that our largest export as a nation is Canadian dollars owed to foreign lenders each year.

Yet with this budget government spending for the coming year has actually increased by $2 billion. As with so many previous budgets there will supposedly always be more revenues, better economic conditions to bring our debt problems in order. Not so then and not so now.

The problem is too severe to be left to the future because it is that future that will inherit not the promises but the crushing load of today's inability to face the problem. Spending must be reduced and Canadians must be prepared to face the problem squarely and honestly.

This current situation demands that all areas of expenditure and human capital be addressed. That is why the budget debate is an ideal time to examine the issue of immigration.

On its own it has been relegated to an untouchable topic associated too easily with suspect motives and easy labels. Our financial and human resources must be opened up for close inspection in this area as well as others.

As the Globe and Mail stated on its 150th anniversary, the biggest story of the nineties will be whether we learn to live within our limits in a world already stressed by our excesses.

Our world has become a place of movement, of capital and humanity. Recent reports in the media remind us that the economic and migration issues are not ours alone.

Bosnia is one of almost 50 identifiable areas of civil war. Up to 22 million people in Africa will need emergency food this year. There are 20 million refugees worldwide, plus another 24 million people displaced inside their homelands. One-third of the world's labour force, more than 820 million people, is either not working or is living below a subsistence level.

This dilemma only intensifies as it becomes too apparent that there are no easy solutions. The 1991 Geneva Convention cannot adequately address these developments. International co-operation must be pursued quickly to deal with shared long term solutions.

Canada has one of the most generous immigration policies in the world. We accept more refugees as landed immigrants than any other nation in the world per capita. On February 2, 1994 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced the target for this year's immigration level set at 250,000 or 1 per cent of our population. Per capita it is double that of Australia or the United States, the other two countries which receive the largest amounts of immigrants.

We pride ourselves on our humanitarian and multicultural policies. Yet according to a recent Vancouver Sun article recent studies on immigration demonstrated that federal planners cannot know for sure what impact these new arrivals will have on Canada. Reports and studies are mixed. Even the much quoted Canada Council report of 1991 recommends an immigration target of 1 per cent of population only after 25 years.

Historically, Canada's immigration rates have been erratic since the 1970s, ranging from a low of 84,000 in 1985 to more than 200,000 in the last three years. Typically, rates have reflected economic trends with numbers dropping in harder economic times. Historically, the largest flows have been in response to definite need as when record numbers came in the early 1900s to populate a vast western prairie.

Studies seem to indicate immigration has been economically neutral, neither helping nor hindering the economy to any large extent. That would seem to depend on the receiving conditions and the adaptability of the immigrants to the needs of the country. Both these factors have changed dramatically in the past few years.

Canada and Canadians are facing a tremendous economic challenge as we adjust to new world market conditions. Our debt puts us at a growing disadvantage. Domestically, new technologies demand major shifts in a struggling labour force. Jobs are no longer there not only for the untrained but neither for the student nor those in middle management careers.

The present unemployment rate is 11.4 per cent and much higher if we take into account those who no longer are looking or are underemployed. Add to this an immigration policy that will introduce 2.5 million new people in the next 10 years. More than half of the new arrivals coming as refugee or family class immigrants will not have the skills needed in the new economy.

The independent class of immigrants with job and language skills dropped from 54 per cent in 1954 to 27 per cent in 1992. The family reunification class increased at the same time by a similar amount. Immigrants who spoke no English or French used to be only 10 per cent of new arrivals. Last year that soared

to nearly half with over 100,000 of Canada's 250,000 immigrants with no official language capacity.

I saw a living example of such proportions in a Port Moody school last week. Fully half of the students in that school are in the ESL program stream. Students there take their seat in the classroom having arrived two or three days earlier in a brand new land surrounded by brand new sights and sounds.

Immigration decisions made here in Ottawa are being lived out in the burgeoning budget needs of local school boards and the stress of overworked teachers. Language training for new immigrants currently costs the Canadian taxpayers over $100 million a year.

The life and the blood of our nation are its people. Government can seek to prescribe remedies to all kinds of our country's ills through tinkering with this one factor. Will immigration really save our pensions? Will immigration save our dwindling revenues?

Increasingly, we see the band-aids that must be applied to the serious side effects of these choices, whether it be the rising racial prejudice, immigration dependency on social services, perceived welfare abuse and criminal activity among new arrivals, or the stress in our education system.

It is time to go back and honestly review the doctor's prescription. Basic immigration policies and assumptions must be opened to re-examination.

Last week I met with representatives of a Chinese immigrant service organization. Their greatest concern was not in supporting the cultures of those they represent. Their role is to help give new arrivals the tools to make a new life in their new chosen home. For that they need more and more resources to meet the escalating demands of greater numbers and greater needs. They see their main goal as effectively integrating these new Canadians in a prosperous new country. Present immigration policies are ruining their effectiveness. Present economic policies are ruining their hope for a prosperous country.

We have a responsibility therefore to ask ourselves the following question: What drives government policy that invites record numbers and new classifications of new arrivals into an unpredictable future?

I urge all members of all parties of this House to be truly humanitarian and truly compassionate by giving our immigration policies a responsible scrutiny and careful assessment. As members of Parliament we are watchmen at the gate for those who live in this land as well as for those who will come to join us. We must therefore seek out those policies that are proven, which will strengthen and create opportunity and unity.

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Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's remarks with great interest. I must say I heard very much of a mixed message. I do not know where she gets some of the literature she cites.

In the province of Ontario, which I know best but I am sure the figures are roughly the same, its population would have decreased every year of the last 10 years if it had not been for immigrants. The population of the province of Quebec would have decreased even more quickly. What is perhaps more important for us all is that while that was occurring, the population of the province of Ontario would already have been close to 25 per cent senior citizens. That is one aspect. How she thinks that works into the mix of our economy I do not know.

The other matter is that the immigrants-by that I mean new immigrants, not established immigrants like myself-in my riding are almost invariably contributing members of our community. They are people who often take jobs well below their qualifications and work very hard in those jobs. They rent first of all and then buy small houses and improve them. They see that their children get educated.

Also in the hon. member's figures she mentioned immigration of 1 per cent. She knows this country has never had 1 per cent immigration. There have been targets of 1 per cent. There is a target at the present time but there has never been 1 per cent immigration.

She mentioned Bosnia. She mentioned unemployment. She mentioned compassion and humanitarian feelings for people in other countries. Does she realize that in her lifetime the world population will double and will then double again? That assumes, by the way, that she lives an average life and I hope she lives longer. What are we supposed to do in this country while the world population doubles and redoubles?

For the member's information 1 per cent of our population, which is the target for immigration we have at the moment, represents at this moment one day's increase in the world population. Do we move into a bunker and let the world population grow around us and try and live as increasingly aging and wealthy people not reaching out to help these people in other countries?

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Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments and questions. Actually I am getting a mixed message from the member as well.

As we look at the immigrants who do come to this country, the thrust of my talk and feeling is we need to give them opportunity when they arrive here, as well as provide opportunity for Canadians who are here already. That should be our bottom line.

I did not say anything about a 1 per cent immigration rate before this time but that is our target. I think we agree with that as the established government target.

There are no studies indicating that 1 per cent is where we should be at. What I do see though and I referred to this in my speech are the surfacing problems. In today's Globe and Mail over one-half of Canadians perceive we are accepting too many immigrants. That tells me there is a perception problem which needs to be addressed.

Why is that perception there? The immigrants that do come to this country tend to come to three urban centres. They come to places that are already stressed. They come to places where jobs are not available. They come to expectations we cannot provide because we have not been able to assess how we are going to accommodate these people.

The hon. member has admitted in his question the reasons our immigration policies are what they are. The government wants to provide pension funds because of its own mismanagement of funds in the past. Those pension funds will not be there if present trends continue. Is it fair to the immigrants if we bring in the possibility of reduced employment, fewer jobs for the Canadian population?

I would agree that immigrants are necessary and immigration is a positive force in our country if it is done wisely. Where is the proven wisdom in our present policy? That is what we need to challenge.

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11:55 a.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, to be quite frank, I find the statements by the member to be quite troublesome.

The member quoted a poll from today's paper which clearly shows there is a problem. Perhaps the problem is accentuated by the fact that people who claim to be leaders in the community stand in places like this and in provincial legislatures and allow the perception that immigrants are a drain on the Canadian society to be put out there without any type of substantiation whatsoever.

It is very dangerous to stand in the House of Commons and give a speech that lends credibility to an argument that has absolutely no foundation in fact. The problem is not that immigrants are becoming an undue burden on our major cities. The reality is that more immigrants with different skin colours are coming to Canada from places like Asia. That seems to be the problem I hear. I would like the member to comment on that.

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Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment certainly on what the hon. member has said.

You say that I have no substantiation in that I repeated something in the paper. The substantiation I have is that it is in the paper. The public perception is there. What are we going to do about it? I would challenge you on your substantiation of the numbers that are now used for the immigration policy. There is no basis for those numbers in the world, except Canada, or in proven studies.

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would please ask members to try to say "the member" rather than "you". It is supposed to lower the temperature and I think we will all benefit if we use that method.

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11:55 a.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in the debate following the first budget presentation in this, the 35th Parliament. My constituents expect me to bring some new perspective and sanity to how government spends the taxpayers' dollars and to what effect and purpose.

My west coast riding covers one half of Vancouver Island's coastline as well as one half of the mainland coastline of British Columbia.

My riding generates major wealth. Its contribution to our gross domestic product is one of the country's highest, if not the highest. It is a resource based economy. We have five pulp mills with the two fastest papermaking machines in Canada, logging, three major mines, sawmills, fisheries and a highly developed tourism industry.

My constituents contribute in a big way to the wealth of this country but do not enjoy the level of services provided in other parts of this country. It is not a question of more government employees. We already average 8,000 federal, provincial and municipal government employees per riding in Canada. What is required is downsizing, better deployment of employees and priorizing of services.

The federal government has cut jobs such as lighthouse keepers and federal fisheries officers, the very people and institutions which deliver services in the field in an irreplaceable way. We all know that reductions in services and employees should be in middle and upper management, not in the field.

There are indications that the federal government is considering closing the fisheries offices in small coastline communities in my riding. This policy is totally contradictory to the government's pledge for example to maintain rural post offices in Canada and is detrimental to hands-on enforcement and habitat measures. These policy decisions send a strong negative signal to these rural communities. It also sends a signal to the people who ask if the federal government has the competence to manage this resource".

It is the only resource managed by the feds and they cannot even get it right. The sports and commercial fisheries ask: "Where are the enforcement, habitat and budgetary priorities of fisheries and oceans going?" The demise of the east coast fishery is on the minds of everyone.

Let me now turn to the budget document. It is very disappointing to me and my constituents to deal with the fisheries issues I have just articulated in the face of increased federal spending.

At the same time the government projects 8 per cent growth in revenue after a drop in revenue last year. This is absurd.

Allow me to put the national debt into a constituency perspective. The Powell River area's cost of servicing national debt allocated on a pro rata basis is $17 million per year. This money is blown out the window. The entire cost of local services provided by the Powell River area for police, fire, garbage, water, sewer, sidewalks, streets and all those other valued local services also runs at $17 million per year. If this does not point out the profligacy and penalty of federal spending, I do not know what does.

Incidentally, similar national debt comparisons can be made for other local governments in my riding such as Campbell River. Our local B.C. governments do not run deficits by legislation. The debt and deficit are weakening confederation and the federal government is in danger of becoming impotent. This government had better get its act together on spending decreases. No tax increase during the life of this Parliament is essential.

Allow me to turn to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Most government departments had a 3 per cent cap in the growth rate of departmental budgets in the last Parliament. The department of Indian affairs has enjoyed exclusivity from this policy. The budget of this department should be frozen at 1993-94 levels at the very least.

Since the 1988-89 fiscal year, the departmental budget of Indian affairs has increased $1.6 billion, averaging a $275 million increase every year. This fiscal year departmental spending is projected to increase $396 million over fiscal 1993-94, representing an increase of 8.6 per cent. Compare this with the Environment Canada total operating budget of $737 million. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development increase is almost half of its total budget.

Is there anyone who believes that these spending increases are sustainable or can be attributed to demographics? According to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, there are 997,000 people in the aboriginal population in Canada. Total federal aboriginal spending now exceeds $7 billion or $28,000 per family of four. I ask if this spending has brought our aboriginal peoples any closer to self-sufficiency.

The myriad of programs and services provided by other government departments for Indian affairs confuses an already complex situation regarding programs and their delivery.

One does not have to look far to find examples of a lack of accountability within the Indian affairs department. For over 20 years the Auditor General has been raising concerns over the management of programs and delivery of services by Indian affairs. In his 1993 report, the Canadian aboriginal economic development strategy is cited as a function where lack of appropriate performance and evaluation information impedes the necessary accountability within the aboriginal communities and between the government and Parliament. This has cost the taxpayer approximately $1 billion since 1989.

The Auditor General went on to say that the department could not demonstrate that it was meeting the strategy's objectives.

As another example in 1992-93 Canada's status Indians and Inuit received non-insured health benefits totalling $422 million administered by the Department of National Health and Welfare. The Auditor General's 1993 report states that the cost of this program could have been reduced by $85 million or 20 per cent if the benefits had been provided in accordance with national program directives and principles.

The Auditor General concludes that the information provided to him on the program continues to fall far short of reasonable and adequate disclosure.

It is evident that reforms must be initiated. A Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development budget freeze at 1993-94 levels would stimulate activity in priority setting in a long overdue way. The current situation stifles creativity.