Mr. Speaker, I am surprised to hear my colleague from the Reform Party talk about the virtues of undoing any of the freezes the government has put in place, given that party's obsession with deficit reduction.
The government chose the freeze as the method of dealing with this problem. It was not because it was going to be a popular method or an easy sell to the public servants, the members and the senators who are affected by the freeze. The government chose this option because it was very concerned if it did something else, it would result in substantial layoffs in the
public service. We have witnessed that in the provinces, particularly in Ontario where there was a social contract put in place with rather disastrous consequences.
The purpose of the government in choosing this particular option was to ensure that as many members of the public service as possible could retain their jobs. In spite of the significant cutbacks in funding that are available for all manner of government programs, by freezing we have avoided the necessity to eliminate jobs while others get an increase.
Even if the increments could be allowed to employees, as I am sure the government would like to do, that would result in an increased salary cost to the Government of Canada. That would have to be met out of the existing budget. Since the government has no additional funding to give to government departments for this purpose the only solution to capping the total salary cost would be to eliminate someone else's job. That is why there is a freeze on the increments and that is why there is a freeze on salary increases.
I do not think it is popular. I do not think it is the greatest thing by any means. However it is the best thing the government could come up with given the financial circumstances we are facing.
I know the hon. member and his party are very supportive of government cutbacks and government freezes. I am delighted to know he will be supporting this part of the bill.