Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate on Bill C-14. I wish to speak to this bill in the context of the overall budget presentation by the Minister of Finance.
On the eve of the presentation of that budget the Prime Minister gave to the Minister of Finance a new pair of boots. Work boots, they were. By that act the Prime Minister said: "I am with you, Mr. Minister, and we want to get the people back to work".
The boots have no direction in and by themselves. The minister provides the direction and that is where things went awry. He created great expectations. A new process was presented to this House of Commons. We had a prebudget debate as never before. We had cross-country consultations from one end of this country to the other. It all turned out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The individual Canadian felt uninvolved and unconnected.
Only an elite group of people was involved in the prebudget consultations. The Minister of Finance came back and told this House that the people were not opposed to broadening the tax base. It really meant increasing taxes. The people said: "You did not hear us. We do not want our taxes to increase".
He raised another expectation that this was going to be a tough budget. The people paid attention when the minister said that. They expected that the budget cuts would be tough and deep and that the budget cuts would be cutting particularly to the big spenders. They were willing to accept a tough budget not because they wanted less but because they knew it was the right thing to do.
It was right for them. It meant hope for jobs. It meant less government and interference in their business. It meant hope for a decent return on their investment and it contained prospects for continued prosperity. They also thought it was good for their children. In addition to those things they would get, their children would benefit through lower taxes, through a stronger dollar and a stronger economy.
What did we get? We got a blurred vision. We expected fairness and equity in cuts. While there were some cuts they were neither fair nor equitable. We got cuts in research which cut the KAON project in western Canada without a corresponding cut in central Canada. Research funds were increased for central Canada.
When one of the politicians in Ontario was told about the benefits and the characteristics of the KAON project, he was overheard to say that if it is that good it should be in Ontario-some foundation for equitable distribution of funds across Canada.
Second, we expected the budget to have an overall decrease in government spending. Instead, we got an increase of $3 billion. That increase adds to the national debt and smashes the hopes for lower taxes in the future.
Third, we were told that jobs would be plentiful. We discovered that the infrastructure program was to be the flagship that would start the economic engine and provide jobs. We looked for evidence as to where this would happen. There was none. The projected unemployment rate remains virtually constant throughout the projected budget years. Six billion dollars of infrastructure but no change in unemployment-what gain in jobs?
Fourth, we were promised that interest rates would remain stable, a little hope at last. We were suspicious. With increased spending and a larger debt could it be that interest rates would not rise? Last week the financial markets began to scold us and other borrowers globally. Especially in the United States interest rates began to rise.
The world around us is changing and Canada will be affected, whether the minister admits it or not. Rising interest rates spell bad news for a country that depends increasingly on foreign creditors to finance its government habit, annual deficits of $40 billion to $50 billion.
Our little calculators and computers showed us very clearly that as interest rates rise, interest payable rises, the deficit goes up, the proportion of the GDP required for interest payments goes up and our taxes go up, the very opposite of what we wanted.
The Prime Minister at various times in this House used words to tell us in effect that it is not good, indeed it is not moral, it is not carrying out our responsibility as guardians of the public purse if we do not pay increased spending with an increase in taxes.
It is immoral and irresponsible, he said, to place the burden for paying for our uncontrolled spending on the shoulders of our children and our grandchildren. He is the same Prime Minister who said to the finance minister: "Here is a new pair of boots". What for? To kick us and our children into an increasingly dismal future? We got a budget that destroyed both the vision and the promise of the Liberal red book as well as the promise for a tough and fiscally responsible finance minister.
Some say that is just a bunch of partisan rhetoric. Let us look at the international markets. Both stock and bond markets have taken a fright to the present prospect of higher U.S. and global interest rates. In this frightened market the finance minister added $40 billion of debt. That brings it now to a total of $550 billion by 1995. That is $20,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. As the interest rate rises the Canadian taxpayer must pay more. The discretionary spending decreases, the number of jobs is reduced and our consumer confidence goes down. Add that together and it is no surprise that people talk about a tax revolt.
However, it is not only interest rates. It is also confidence in the Canadian dollar. On March 2 and 3 the Canadian dollar dropped to below 74 cents. It is still there today. That increases the difficulty to borrow money from foreign creditors. All this adds up to an abrupt re-evaluation of Canada because the rest of the world is changing. Canada is not.
For example, the U.S. economy is growing at more than twice the rate of the Canadian economy. Its debt ratio to GDP is about half that of Canada. Hence, a rise in interest rates affects the market economy much less than it does Canada.
Within this context, the Minister of Industry said: "Many of our fellow citizens approach the future with more anxiety than hope. Our mission as a government is to offer hope but if hope is to be meaningful, it must be realistic. And so we have put forth in this budget a plan for the revitalization of the Canadian economy, a plan which I believe addresses the challenge and recognizes the opportunities that await Canada".
He then details a number of significant proposed plans and initiatives, many of which I agree with and commend him for. Of particular merit is the Canadian scholarship program of $24.7 million and the action agenda to help small business growth and to continue to generate jobs for Canadians.
I applaud him as he emphasizes "the need to change the culture and attitudes of employers and employees alike to the adoption of new technology. Advances in science and technology are driving productivity improvement everywhere in the world. In the 1990s no country can insulate itself from these new developments. We must organize ourselves to keep up with cutting edge technology and where possible move ahead. This is the essence of creating well paying jobs and growth in this decade."
He promises $100 million for the Canadian investment fund over four years and adds: "We will continue to seek additional funds in the private sector". The government will seek additional funds in the private sector. Where does he think the $100 million contribution came from? Did he create it? Did it fall from heaven? Did it come from the Prime Minister? No, it came from Canadian taxpayers, the most private sector there is.
The greatest catalyst for business is a reduction in taxes, a reduction in regulations, an elimination of interprovincial trade barriers, common standards of excellence in education and well trained personnel.
I challenge the minister. Will the Minister of Finance admit that this budget will not decrease government spending, will not decrease the tax burden of Canadians, will not lead to deficit elimination and will not meet the Liberal red book deficit reduction entirely? Will he instead challenge every parliamentarian and every committee to examine the estimates and then ask them to provide amendments that will decrease total government spending, that will at least not increase taxes to Canadians and lead to deficit elimination. Then the Minister of Finance will give Canadians a clear mission to provide hope and build confidence. He will be able to walk with pride in the new boots the Prime Minister gave him and we will have a 35th Parliament that will be democratic.