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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

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12:55 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions.

In terms of monitoring the budget as it progresses from today into the fiscal year, what mechanisms are in place that trigger the government to come back to this assembly to deal with such problems as revenue projections off track?

That could happen on the basis of two things. The first is the cigarette tax reduction and the potential reduction in taxes on liquor across this nation. There is tremendous pressure for that. Second, marketplace interest rates increase significantly. Because of those two factors we would see our deficit moving from $39.7 billion to over the $40 billion mark.

What mechanisms are in place to trigger a reaction by the government in the House?

I want to say two more things to the minister. First, I appreciate we are going to have a review this fall, but that is a long time into the fiscal year to wait to react.

Second, the concern I have with regard to the government's approach is that there were much appreciated cuts but at the same time they were replaced by new expenditures. I do not feel this really came to grips with fiscal accountability.

I would appreciate the minister remarking on the question and the remarks.

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1 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Madam Speaker, there are a number of items in the question.

On monitoring the revenue projections and the expenditures, this is done very easily by the publications put out monthly and quarterly by the Department of Finance. These are published and made available widely across the country. Any member can follow those projections easily.

The question of whether the revenue projections will be off track is a question that concerned us in the preparation of the budget. That is why we took a very prudent view of the forecasts this year. We took the lower end of the private sector forecasts. The private sector forecasts for this year ranged from 2.9 per cent to 4.3 per cent economic growth. We took a 3 per cent number in our projections and we did the same lower estimates for future years as well.

These are very prudent projections. These are taken at the low end. It is very likely that our revenue projections will be low, not high. It is very likely that our spending projections will be in line or lower as well.

As far as interest rates are concerned, the interest rate projections we used are again very prudent, we assumed higher than private sector estimates presented to us in December and since then by the groups of private sector economists. I have spent 27 years looking at interest rate forecasts. Believe me, if the hon. member would like to tell me exactly what interests

rates are going to be over the next 12 months, I would be glad to listen. If he did know he would not be sitting in the House. He would be out making himself a few million dollars.

I guess my message is we do not know what interest rates are going to be over the next year. Nobody does. We make a very prudent estimate of what they are. We have set aside funds to look after any errors on them. We will very likely come in on a deficit number well under the number we have projected.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member. I have one question and one comment relating to the part where he said that the government has set firm fiscal targets-I believe these are the words he used.

Given the debt and the deficit we are faced with, it is of paramount importance to set firm targets when it comes to taxation, but at the same time he mentioned revenues. I would like to ask the member if its really possible to get the debt and the deficit under control without creating more jobs, since it is obvious that the lack of revenue is directly linked with the present unemployment rate.

Does the hon. member agree that it is as important for the government to set targets, in its forecasts, regarding job creation and the reduction of the debt and the deficit, and to balance them, giving people a chance to examine the government's agenda and its targets concerning unemployment?

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Peters Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, the question raised by the hon. member is an interesting one. We did face those questions squarely in the budget.

There are definitely spending cuts but there are also job creation programs. It was a balanced approach of both job creation and fiscal responsibility. It was done because that was the only way that one could achieve an adequate result in deficit reduction.

The Reform Party's program that simply slashes and cuts will not work because it will backfire and we will get higher unemployment. We need a combination. We need to get both the jobs to pay the taxes and an efficient government.

As far as providing targets for unemployment, that is an interesting proposal. It is very difficult to target that item. There are so many variables that enter into the unemployment numbers.

We are looking at an unemployment rate that has dropped marginally since this government took office, but it is still very high. If one adds to that the discouraged worker effects and the other effects, one will probably get an unemployment rate close to 15 per cent which is a terrible number.

The speed with which the discouraged workers return to the workforce is unknown. It is very difficult to forecast that number. Therefore we could have a sharp drop in the unemployment rate and still many discouraged workers or we could have the discouraged workers moving very quickly into the workforce and have rising unemployment even though job creation was growing at a substantial rate.

We do not have a target in that but my personal feeling is that the only acceptable target for any political party is that every Canadian looking for work should have a job available to them. That is a long way off but that is the political target.

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1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I would like to direct the question and comment session now to the hon. member for Lotbinière.

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1:05 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, to the hon. member for Lotbinière, in my remarks earlier today I made the point that the Quebec election followed by a potential referendum would have a major effect on the 1994-95 fiscal budget of the Government of Canada.

The comment of the hon. minister was that we will have an election and that is the normal process in our democracy in Canada. I can agree with that. It is true but this is rather an abnormal and unusual circumstance that would be an aberration in the election process and how the election process would affect the budget or the economy of our nation.

I would appreciate a comment from the member on how he sees the current 1994-95 budget affected by an election in Quebec and the position of his party with regard to an independent Quebec.

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1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, obviously an election is looming on the horizon in Quebec and clearly a major movement is emerging at the present time in the province. I listened to my colleague speak of democracy and I believe that in Quebec there is also a similar process of democracy. In the upcoming election and referendum, the people will be called upon to make a choice, through a democratic process.

When the hon. member speaks of a strain on the economy, I for one do not believe that the economy will suffer. The hon. member must know that the federal government and the provinces have been examining for some time now the issue of overlap and duplication. It is not a question of saying that Quebec wants to separate. That is not the point at all. You can rest assured that when Quebec decides democratically to become sovereign-you can forget the word separation because since coming to this House, all we hear is separation and we are not separatists at all-you can rest assured that when Quebec decides to take charge of its own destiny as a nation, an economic union will be forged.

This fact is never mentioned. It goes without saying that there will be an economic union and I believe that this will be an extremely positive development. Let me tell you something. When I was a boy, my father travelled across Canada, from east to west, doing business. When he returned from conferences in the west, from Vancouver and elsewhere, he would say to me: "Jean, do you know which regions are the most separatist-minded?" I would answer: "No, dad, which ones?" And he would say: "The western regions. I have just returned from a three-day, or one-week, business trip out west".

Believe me when I say that this is our goal. From an economic and monetary standpoint, we want to assure you-and this is one of the reasons why the leader of our party went to the United States, to reassure the Americans-that there will be no barriers or borders, as there were between East Germany and West Germany. Right now, we already have tariff barriers between Quebec and Ontario or the other Canadian provinces and I would like to see these barriers removed. Quebec wants to do away with them.

If we can eliminate these barriers while acting as serious, honest individuals, and if we can make the people of Canada and Quebec understand Quebec's economic viewpoint and resources, we can be good friends and partners. Personally, I will always work with Canada and Quebec. Rest assured that I will be honest and frank. If we explain our position clearly, all Canadians and Quebecers will be reassured.

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1:10 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise in response to the challenges which were laid out but sadly not met by the finance minister in his budget speech and to speak in favour of the motion that is now before the House.

Canada's federal debt has given birth to the vandals that ravage the Canadian economy: bankruptcy, ruinous taxation, crumbling social programs and dehumanizing unemployment. Interest payments on the debt consume a third of every tax dollar from taxpayers who are already among the highest taxed people in the world.

Our level of foreign debt for all levels of government now approaches 50 per cent. We are particularly vulnerable to financial chaos should investors grow concerned about our stability and withdraw their funds. They are concerned. Thus our soft underbelly lies exposed.

Time after time bond rating services caution us about getting our spending under control. Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, teeter on the brink of fiscal crisis. Canadian investors vote with dollars, and with the stability of our economy in question they are increasingly looking south, to Europe and to the Pacific Rim to invest their money or they move their trade to the underground economy beyond the maw of the insatiable tax man.

Meanwhile the uncertainty that surrounds the future of Quebec has driven up the premium that investors demand on their money to the point at which some analysts say we pay an extra $6 billion a year in interest on the debt. As always those investors are ready to flee our country to more capital friendly regimes at the very first sign of trouble.

This is the grim reality unadorned by the charming optimism that formed the minister's budget speech. The budget merely tinkers with the problem of the deficit. Some mild spending cuts, some tax increases and a lot of luck will leave us with a still untenable $40 billion deficit. To be kind, it is an effort that is left wanting.

I hasten to point out that the government deserves congratulations in a few of the measures it has taken. Apparently it is no longer politically incorrect as it was during the election to suggest that social programs need not be universal.

The reduction of UI benefits for some, the targeting of benefits for others and the subsequent removal of January's UI premium hike are all welcome moves. In their modest ways they will improve the economy. However much more needs to be done to mollify the fears of investors, both domestic and foreign, and of taxpayers to encourage them to stay in Canada and to remain in the above-ground economy.

The Reform plan focuses on judicious and humane spending cuts, cuts first to the top levels of government starting with MPs and senators. Including but not limited to it would be immediate and radical reform of MPs pensions. This pension plan is so unjust and so motivated by greed it is beyond belief that the Prime Minister has feebly attempted to defend it on several occasions in this place.

We advocate cuts to grants and subsidies for big business and special interests. We advocate the targeting of social programs to those most in need with the retention of the present levels of funding for education, health care and the core of the pension programs. We also advocate that unemployment insurance be administered and funded solely by employers and employees on an equal basis.

The effect of these cuts to government operations, the elimination of subsidies and grants and targeted social spending would be to reduce spending by about $20 billion a year. This combined with growth in the economy would bring us to a balanced budget or close to it after three years.

Naturally we therefore support a cap on spending as is advocated in this motion. We support the elimination of the infrastructure program and the other measures listed in this motion.

Let me talk more specifically about a single department and the measures which can be undertaken in that one area to bring spending under control. As a member of the Canadian heritage committee I am aghast that this department was almost completely overlooked in the government's initiative to cut spending.

It is no exaggeration to say that no other department has more vague, nebulous and implausible objectives than this one. Building understanding, striving for equality, preserving one's culture and appreciating our Canadian heritage are all noble goals and things we should all strive for as individuals. Generally speaking however these are areas where government is in way over its head.

Despite the billions and billions of dollars spent on official bilingualism in this country there are no more and perhaps fewer bilingual Canadians than 20 years ago. This is a failure by any standard. Because Canadians resent the heavy hand of government, official bilingualism has served to divide us along linguistic lines.

Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into official multiculturalism, racial tensions are hitting new heights. That is also a failure by any standard. The sense that government favours certain minorities serves to divide us along racial lines.

Despite the billions of dollars poured into subsidizing and protecting Canadian culture, more and more we see Canadians gobbling up American TV, music and movies. Even CBC TV has acquiesced. With great embarrassment I am sure, it is forced to run American sitcoms to capture viewers. This too, by any conceivable standard, is a failure on a grand scale.

Just as important, Canadians are left to assume that this government intervention must mean our culture is inferior to culture from elsewhere. Or again, they simply resent the government's show of favouritism to the selected few, harbour their grudges and thus another division is created.

Why in the world does the government continue down this path that is so littered with failure? The $2.8 billion spent in the Department of Canadian Heritage could be cut by two-thirds. Average Canadians not only would not be hurt by it, they would probably stand and cheer out of gratitude for the tax dollars it would save them.

The problem is as plain as the nose on the Prime Minister's face. We have a very serious problem of overspending in the federal government. Our country is hemorrhaging red ink.

Let us not be fooled by a temporary upturn in our economic fortunes. The next few months may signal a stronger economy but to assume that the economic battle has been won is just whistling in the dark. The debt is always lurking nearby ready to drag us down at the first opportunity.

I ask the government to acknowledge the obvious problems I point to and to act immediately to reduce its overall spending in accordance with the motion before us.

I neglected to mention at the beginning of my talk that I would like the time to be divided pursuant to Standing Order 43(2).

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1:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, the media entrepreneur, Ted Turner of CNN fame, has a plaque on his desk which reads: "You can lead or you can follow, but if you are not going to lead, get out of the way".

I want to speak about leadership. There is a leadership vacuum in this country on the issue of compliance with taxation rules. Canadians have lost confidence in the ability of their governments to get spending under control. Therefore they have increasingly turned their backs on tax compliance and instead have become involved in aggressive tax avoidance. Tax avoidance takes place illegally and legally, but why would Canadians have reached the point of being prepared to break the law and potentially suffer the consequences?

Let me make my position very clear. I am not in any way condoning or excusing tax avoidance. If the government does not have the income then providing services to people and even the servicing of our national debt will become impossible. Furthermore, if we do not have respect for the laws of Canada, including taxation laws then we have anarchy. Therefore the epidemic of tax avoidance is an issue far larger than the issue of missing revenue.

We need to have leadership by example. We must show ordinary Canadians that people involved in the political process, members of Parliament, members of the government, cabinet ministers, are prepared to lead by example.

Many of us in this House are aware of single income families where the homemaker babysits one or two of the neighbour's kids but does not declare the income. There are housekeepers who clean the homes and toilets of others but again are not declaring the income. We are also aware of tradesmen who are avoiding the GST, in fact any taxation, simply by not declaring the value of their work. These people need to be shown sacrifice and leadership by members of the House of Commons, including the cabinet.

That is all part of the so-called underground economy. It is growing at a phenomenal rate. Yet the vast majority of these people desire to be law abiding citizens. In all other areas of their lives they obey the laws of Canada. So I ask: Who is going to lead them?

Many businesses have a friendly, approachable and helpful demeanour toward their customers and clients. This helpfulness is carried out by the staff. Can you imagine that the president of the company is not also friendly, approachable and helpful? In other words, the staff takes the lead from the example set by the chief executive officer. If a firm is open, honest and straightforward in its dealings with suppliers, the government and its customers, we can safely assume the leadership of the firm will also be honest and straightforward.

The bottom line is that Canadians are prepared to comply with reasonable tax laws, reasonable laws respecting taxation. When members of this House and the government lead by example, Canadians will follow. This is the reason the Reform Party has the unrelenting objective of straightening up the MPs pension plan.

The Liberal red book specifically states:

The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored.

Whether by accident or design, politicians from the House have historically told Canadians that the MPs pension plan did not cost the Canadian taxpayer any money, that it was self-funding.

Any reasonable individual looking at the numbers concluded that members were mistaken in their assertions. It would be impossible to support the luxury of the MPs plan solely from the members' contributions. Only two weeks ago it was revealed that in 1992 Canadians forked over $158 million to top up the MPs pension plan and a further $12 million in 1993. The Canadian public is rightfully outraged at this excessiveness but are beyond outrage when they understand they have been duped.

As recently as the election the former member for Kootenay East was protesting loud and long that his pension plan was fair and reasonable. Yet the Prime Minister has said in the House he would correct the situation sometime before the next election. That is some time in the next four years. Is it only during elections that members of Parliament are answerable to Canadians or listen to them?

If Canadians are looking for leadership by example why will the Prime Minister not immediately alter the MPs pension plan to reflect a pension plan that would be available to any other member of the public? There must be leadership by example. Members of Parliament who choose to stonewall this issue in my judgment are doing a major disservice to this parliamentary institution.

We have spoken today about illegal tax avoidance. I would like to raise the issue of legal tax avoidance as shown in a newspaper article by Tim Naumetz of Sterling News Service. This very solidly falls under the issue of leadership by example.

In documents filed under the conflict of interest and post-employment code for public office holders a cabinet minister has revealed he has six companies registered in Liberia among his many holdings.

Let me make my position crystal clear on this issue. I am not stating nor suggesting or even implying there is any legal wrongdoing on the part of this cabinet minister. I also recognize the practices illustrated here may very well be standard practices in the shipping business. However within the shipping business I ask why ships are registered in Bermuda and Liberia rather than in Canada.

That is just one example of legal tax avoidance which brings into question the whole issue of fairness in our tax system.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I would remind the member that the tack he has been taking is very borderline with regard to parliamentary procedure and acceptable parliamentary conversation. Would the hon. member please be careful.

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1:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Thank you, Madam Speaker, I will dispense with the balance of my speech in deference to your advice save to conclude if I may.

Canadians rightfully are looking for parliamentarians to lead by example. At the end of the day, unless there are substantial changes on the part of the majority of members of Parliament and members of the cabinet in the next four years, Canadians will rise up and say in a very loud voice: You can lead or you can follow, but if you are not going to lead get out of the way.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, in response to the two hon. members who have just spoken I suggest that the 400,000 youth who have been unemployed for the last two years are looking for employment. The budget deals with that in creating the youth corps.

The infrastructure program which is in progress arose out of concerns for municipalities which cannot fund the infrastructure work alone.

The rehabilitation assistance program has arisen out of the needs of seniors on fixed incomes.

That is why this budget addresses fair, realistic approaches to all Canadians. Today's headline is: "66,000 jobs return". That is leadership and it is coming from this government.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I suggest that the youth of the country may very well hold this government accountable for the fact that it is passing on the spending of today to Canadian citizens to be paid for out of their income at some future point in time.

Constant deficit spending absolutely ties down and chains up the present youth of Canada.

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1:30 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks in this debate, I wish to convey my sincere congratulations to you on your elevation to the chair. I wish you luck in your deliberations over the next number of years.

As you probably recall, Madam Speaker, in another Parliament I had some familiarity with opposition motions. While in opposition we would examine the policies of the government and of course make our pronouncements and our suggestions to the House and to the Canadian people.

One thing I learned as an opposition member in drafting opposition motions is that if we have something to say, something shall we say substantive, we come to the point and we say it. I do not wish to question the efficacy of the length of the votable opposition motion here today, but I see it has a preamble, a part (a), part (b), part (c) and part (d). I see that part (a) has several subparts: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

If one really has something substantive to say to the Canadian people, it does not necessarily follow that one has to use all those words to say exactly what one means. The distinguished member who moved the motion has a long public career in the politics of this nation and in particular in the politics of one province. I am disappointed that he would bring forward such a votable motion. I thought he would have taken the route of putting something which is very clear, very substantive on the floor of the House of Commons and then give us his view.

I heard his colleague moments ago. I did not bring into question the issue of relevancy which is covered by the standing orders, but it had very little to do with the motion which was before us. It leads me to conclude, and I may be wrong because I have been wrong on occasion before-

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1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Dingwall Liberal Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS

Well, okay, I have never been wrong. Surely an opposition party wishing to become the national Government of Canada did not have to put all of those words. It could have been clear and unequivocal unless of course one is trying to use the shotgun approach.

I am saddened that hon. members opposite have seen fit to bring forward this particular motion and focus on an element of society who look to governments, and note I use the plural and not the singular word, for assistance. They sit in their wonderful parliamentary offices. They eat food from the parliamentary restaurants. They take their fat paycheques home to their constituencies. They wear their Gucci shoes, their Boss suits and their tailor made shirts, but they are the first crowd to say to low income Canadians that they want to do away with the RRAP, a rehabilitation program for people on low incomes.

What sort of intestinal fortitude do members opposite have to do that? Hon. members have had their say and as sure as God is our creator, I am going to have my say. They can yell and catcall all they wish but the point remains that members of the Reform Party stand in this House and mould expressions with regard to assisting Canadians on one hand and then stand in their place and do the exact opposite, which is to take away from those Canadians who deserve assistance, leadership and the compassion of the Government of Canada as well as all other governments across this country.

Part of this mammoth opposition motion that one could never put on a marquis, that one could never get into a one-line sentence, says that they want to get rid of the RRAP. That is one thing they want to do. What is the other? They want to get rid of the national infrastructure program.

Perhaps hon. members later in the discourse will have an opportunity to rise in their place and correct the record, but I thought when the Reform Party talks about democracy and the will of the Canadian people, that was paramount in their deliberations. That is what they say on Fridays but on Mondays it is a different thing.

Today they want to rid us of the national infrastructure program. Provincial governments, municipal governments, numerous councillors in every region of Canada, and provincial MLAs commissioned by votes in the respective legislatures support overwhelmingly the objectives of the national infrastructure program, but we have here today the Reform Party members once again speaking out of both sides of their mouth, saying on Friday that democracy and the will of the people is paramount, but when the Government of Canada delivers the goods with regard to servicing that constituency, it is they and they alone who protest.

I suggest there is a reason for that confined to opposition parties, particularly those that are on the rump side of the House

and not necessarily the official opposition, which is to try to play all sides and cater to all sides whenever convenient.

Hon. members must realize that members on this side of the House, provincial governments, municipalities, individuals, construction companies, reasonable Canadians both young and old support overwhelmingly the national infrastructure program.

The hon. member will rise in his place and provide us with a quote that says that so and so from somewhere in Canada is opposed. However the fact remains that Canadians overwhelmingly support the national infrastructure program.

I say to the Reform Party members that if they do not want moneys spent in their constituencies as they relate to the national infrastructure program and if they have their province on side, why do they not do the honourable thing? Why do they not stand in their place and say to the people of their riding that there are no moneys in this area of Canada for the national infrastructure program? That is if they have the intestinal fortitude. I ask the hon. member opposite who reads his book, reads his "Quorum", flips his glasses, who wishes to catcall from his seat: "Do you have the intestinal fortitude to turn it down?" The hon. member will have an opportunity later to give us his answer. I say to the hon. member through you, Madam Speaker, that there are numerous members on this side of the House who will take that money and spend it on behalf of Canadians.

I am always reluctant to enter into debate, but I have to say on the floor of the House of Commons in terms of the motion that is before us that there are two things on which I would like to comment as they relate to this mammoth opposition motion.

Third is the youth services corps. This is the same crowd that puts their hands over their chests, stands on guard for Canada, and says they are all in favour of motherhood and apple pie, which I am too. However, when it comes to providing some economic assistance to youth in this country, who are the first to oppose it? The Reform Party of Canada.

Perhaps I am incorrect. Perhaps it really is not the Reform Party of Canada. Perhaps it is just the Reform Party that happens to represent an area of Canada and not all of Canada. That is the issue.

This government's vision of Canada includes all Canadians, irrespective of their income, their language or their social status. Our vision is that of a country where everyone enjoys some quality of life, a country where we are responsible for the well-being of others and where people still have hope both for themselves and for their children.

There is no doubt in my mind that this vision is tied to the provision of decent housing to all Canadians. Also, there is no question of excluding certain people from this vision just on account of the fact that they need help to meet their basic housing needs.

I am saddened that members opposite would use this opportunity, a privilege which I would say to the mover of the motion is only granted to a select few Canadians who have earned the right to sit in this Chamber and voice the concerns they believe to be important in public policy matters affecting this nation. I for one would never, ever disagree with hon. members opposite exercising that fundamental right. But having agreed to exercise that right, do not be fooled into thinking that those of us on this side of the House are consenting or in any way agreeing with the public musings nor the contents of the resolution which have been put forward by the Reform Party of Canada.

We in the Liberal Party oppose now and will continue to oppose these Draconian, inarticulate, vague concepts of public policy as they confront Canada. The hon. member may laugh. He has that right. I say to him that those who have been elected to this side of the House also have the right to stand in this place and stand for Canadians who want assistance, leadership and economic activity from their government.

In this recent budget we have provided that leadership and we have provided that direction. I find it unacceptable for members of the Reform Party to waltz in here and put a motion before the people of Canada which I suggest is nothing more than griping at its best. They have not provided alternatives. They have not spoken to the real issues which affect Canadians. Yes, deficits are important, but it is not the only thing that confronts Canadians. To suggest otherwise is being totally irresponsible as a member of an opposition party.

It would be equally irresponsible for those of us on this side of the House not to talk about deficits. We have talked about deficits. We said in the campaign, in the throne speech and now in the budget that all of our commitments in the red book have now been put into effect and we are moving in the direction we said we would with regard to deficit control.

I find it unacceptable that a seasoned member who has experience in public life would raise on the floor of the House of Commons the chopping of our youth, chopping our senior citizens and low income Canadians and dissipating and doing away with the national infrastructure program which is a program needed, wanted and delivered by the government.

I want to talk about several other issues since hon. members dared to tread that line. They talked about pensions. They said: "How terrible it is for members of Parliament to receive pensions". The Prime Minister said clearly and unequivocally: "Yes, that matter will be addressed". However, was that sufficient enough for members of the Reform Party? No that was not

sufficient enough. They continuously raise the issue of pension reform when they know the matter is being given due consideration by the appropriate authorities and at that time they will have an opportunity to address that particular issue.

However, what do we hear? We hear that if this is not corrected the heavens will fall and the country will disappear. That is the way in which they paint the issue. That is not to suggest that the hon. member's points deserve consideration. Again, as I said with the national infrastructure program, they should be careful and prudent in the way in which they present their arguments because a number of Canadians perceive, perhaps quite rightly and or indeed quite wrongly, that the Reform Party is nothing-these are not my words and I want to be very clear because I do not wish to be unparliamentary-more than a bunch of antis: anti-immigration, anti-French, anti-regional development, anti-seniors, anti-women, anti-youth. That may be unfair or it may be fair, it could be unfair but then again it may be fair. These are not my words, that is what Canadians tell me from time to time as I travel the country.

Let us not be unfair. Let us be fair and let us say that the resolution which the hon. member put down is not deserving of the support of members on this side of the House. It is not deserving of support of members on that side of the House. Certainly it is not deserving of the support of the member's own political party. I am sure that in exercising their free vote they want to be fair, not unfair. They will exercise their free vote and they will vote against this particular resolution put forward by my colleague opposite.

Finally, in closing-I will probably get a few questions, at least I hope I will-I want to say to members opposite that when they are developing an opposition motion they should give it some more thought, do their homework, go back and think what it is they want to accomplish. Do not put it in vague terminology; long, windy, whiny sentences. Do not do that. Their grade seven English teacher, my grade seven English teacher, would tell us that when we are writing a composition or a resolution. Chop it down, be focused, be specific before bringing opposition motions before the House of Commons for adjudication by members and ultimately by the people of Canada.

But to say, as the hon. member did in his remarks, and to imply in the resolution that somehow it is low income Canadians who benefit from RRAP, that somehow it is disabled Canadians who benefit from the residential rehabilitation assistance program, who are the cause of the deficit, that they, the weakest members of our society, should not have leadership from their governments, is a pretty gutless way really to represent Canadians. I mean there is nothing tough, is there? Is there anything tough? Is there anything really tough about saying this to senior citizens who happen to be disabled?

I will close with this message. Today I received a letter from a lady who has multiple sclerosis, and she is going to be a beneficiary of the RRAP disabled program announced by the Minister of Finance. If the hon. member is saying to those kinds of Canadians that yes, they are the ones that we want to chop off and that yes, they are the ones who do not deserve any attention from the Government of Canada, let him say it. Do not do it in a phony motion, comprised of many words written by some staffer in the back rooms of his political party. Have the intestinal fortitude to come to the floor of the House of Commons and say to disabled Canadians, low income Canadians, the youth, the municipalities, councillors across this country that the programs we put into effect are not necessary and are not needed by Canadians.

If not, the hon. member should do the honourable thing.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a very brief question. I am very impressed by the form of the speech from the minister, maybe not the content but certainly the form. I was just wondering whether he has recently made an application to join the Shakespearian troupe in Stratford.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

David Dingwall Liberal Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS

I will keep it in mind.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated very much the presentation of the member opposite. In particular I enjoyed his lesson on the use of brevity of words. That was very interesting to me.

I would like to make a comment. He mentioned that we are here to represent our constituents and he gave us a little bit of a tirade about how we are misrepresenting this democratic responsibility. I report to the House that I represent my constituents when I support a motion like this one. I have had people express to me great concern about the amount of debt and deficit. I have had people tell me that they do not support the infrastructure program but they feel blackmailed by a federal government which with a $2 billion commitment has forced a province to match it and the municipalities to match it. They are opposed to going into further debt and they are opposed to further borrowing. Consequently I do represent my constituents when I say we want to put a cap on spending. We want to reduce it.

I had a conversation with one of my constituents this weekend in which we discussed this point. I did a little calculation and found that a deficit of $40 billion is taking us into debt in this year alone to the amount of $500 per family per month and that is a huge concern.

I believe I have used my time allotment and I will stop.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Dingwall Liberal Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS

Madam Speaker, that was an excellent intervention by the hon. member for Elk Island. I am sorry, because the hon. member has just given, and I know it was not intentional, facts to the House from his particular vantage point. The hon. member should check the record.

The national infrastructure program was not the creature of national political parties. The national infrastructure program came from municipalities en masse in all of the provinces and territories. The hon. member shakes his head. If his particular province does not wish to take part in the national infrastructure program he should have said that to his premier who signed on the dotted line on December 21, 1993.

Furthermore, the hon. member has made reference to representing his constituents. I applaud the hon. member for representing his constituents. I say to the hon. member that he was not elected to be a weather vane, to check the political winds to see whether they like this or they like that. Since my colleague is a great student of Shakespeare, his colleague might be a great student of one of the great philosophers Edmund Burke who said: "You owe your constituency and constituents much more than your industry. You owe them your judgment".

It is our judgment as a national political party that a national infrastructure program is needed by Canadians, wanted by Canadians and we as a national political party are delivering on that commitment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being two o'clock p.m., the House will now proceed to statements by members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Labour Force SurveyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my statement today is under the heading "Good news gets better with the Liberal government".

I am extremely happy to rise at this moment to make mention of a few encouraging points from last month's labour force survey. The survey has indicated a decrease in the unemployment rate while an increase in the help wanted index has grown. The help wanted index of job advertisements rose for the fourth time in the last five months, the largest increase of the recovery. I was particularly encouraged by the strong gains in employment in sectors that had experienced recent declines, such as manufacturing and retail trades.

The other good news is that all regions of the country experienced growth in the employment rate. In my province of Ontario alone 11,000 new jobs were created. The government's commitment is to put-

Alpine SkiingStatements By Members

March 14th, 1994 / 1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Quebecers, I would like to extend today my heartfelt congratulations to one of our own athletes who won the giant slalom yesterday at the world junior alpine skiing championships in Lake Placid. I am referring to, you have guessed it, young Mélanie Turgeon.

It was not Mélanie's first medal at the championships either. She had already reached the podium twice before; first winning a silver medal in Super G, and then bronze in downhill.

Yesterday's victory puts Mélanie in the overall lead at the championships. Another event is scheduled for today: slalom. I want to wish her, personally and on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, the best of luck. We are proud of you, Mélanie. Go for it!

SmugglingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, since the government's anti-smuggling measures were announced, several Manitoba border crossings have been open 24 hours a day. This only sends a clear message to smugglers to avoid these border crossings.

In addition, extra customs officers must be kept on duty at night at each crossing because of the extra hours. The only increased traffic at these crossings has been in the form of vehicles going south to the United States to take advantage of cheap U.S. liquor, food and gasoline.

Revenue is being taken out of the pockets of Manitoba businesses and sent over the border. Everyone agrees we should be concentrating on a decrease in smuggling, but instead the local RCMP which is already understaffed has to contend with increased smuggling of not only cigarettes but liquor and guns.

Would it not make more sense to close down the customs ports at night and increase the RCMP personnel to create better border patrol? This would show real action against smuggling and would keep more Canadian dollars at home.

Women EntrepreneursStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, although last Wednesday was specifically designated as International Women's Day I would like today to acknowledge women entrepreneurs.

In 1989 women founded 50 per cent of all new Canadian businesses. In Atlantic Canada between 1984 and 1990 the percentage of women owned businesses employing five or more full time employees increased from 16 per cent to 28 per cent. Women are also succeeding in existing businesses.

In my riding in 1990 a former bank worker, Lois Robarts, took over Advocate Harbour Seafoods. She has since expanded her sales and her processing plant and now employs five people. That is significant considering that small businesses created 90 per cent of our region's new jobs in the 1980s.

It is imperative that the joint government-business committees we are establishing to encourage small business be particularly sensitive to the economic potential of Atlantic Canadian women.