Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the House this afternoon on the subject of the government's tax system. Since the Bloc Quebecois was elected last October 25, it has tabled a motion calling on the government of Canada to strike a committee to review all government spending.
For many months now, the Bloc Quebecois has been demanding an in-depth review of the tax system, the aim being the elimination of tax inequities. Having brought down a $164.7 billion budget providing for a spending increase of $4 billion for 1994, the Liberal government should review its spending practices because it has chosen the easiest course of action, which is to raise taxes.
Finance minister Paul Martin's recent budget sets a second record in this House, what with a deficit of $9.7 billion and $110 million in interest charges per day. Given the current state of the economy and the high levels of unemployment and poverty in Quebec and in Canada, the $110 million in interest charges which the federal government pays to financial institutions could surely have been put to some other use. It could have been
invested in a variety of other areas such as social housing or in business recovery programs aimed at job creation.
There is an urgent need for the government to review the entire tax system. Furthermore, as I stated earlier, it is also very important that the government agree to the motion presented in this House by the Bloc Quebecois which calls for a committee to be established to review government spending item by item and to give the government some control mechanisms.
When the Minister of Finance appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance, of which I am a member, I asked him whether it was the public servants who were mismanaging programs, or the politicians who were spending too much. Of course, since the minister wanted to protect some public servants and deputy ministers, he had to take full responsibility and reply that it was the politicians who were spending too much.
I believe that politicians should give themselves monitoring tools, because they are the ones who must take responsibility when the government tables a budget and has a deficit. Every four years, political parties have to go before the best judges of their actions: Canadians and Quebecers. We cannot afford a budget like this one, with a deficit of $39.7 billion. The government is trying to eliminate a deficit by creating another one.
You will remember that when the Conservatives tabled a budget with a deficit of $32 billion, the largest ever at the time, it caused an uproar. The Liberals just hit the roof. This was unprecedented. But this was just rhetoric on their part to get elected. Indeed, the Liberals' recent budget is proof that they are no better managers than the Conservatives of the time.
It is important that the government implement all the Auditor General's recommendations. His services are costly. In fact, it costs the government $60 million over three years for this audit of its books, a job which the Auditor General has always done well and will continue to do well. We are not asking for cuts affecting social programs, low-income and single-parent families, or social housing. We are asking the government to make cuts in its own fat. It is the Auditor's mandate to find out where that fat is, and he does a very good job at that.
The Bloc Quebecois is also asking that a committee be set up to review all government expenditures. The Reform Party agrees with us on this score. This committee would include members of all political parties, mainly the government, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, who, along with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Revenue, would take a look at all expenditures which are not essential to the operations of this House.
It is important that the government give itself means to control each department. And if in its budget, the government approves the budget for the Department of Transport, and if the Minister of Finance includes in his budget a budget for health programs for the Department of National Health and Welfare, the officials who run this program must be responsible for its administration, and the ministers responsible for their respective departments must be accountable for those departments.
A minister who is there just for the prestige is pretty useless. I think ministers should be responsible for their individual departments and for the programs in those departments. If the minister does not do his job or if the official doesn't do his job, in that case, let us get someone else. However, we cannot afford to approve a budget with a $39.7 billion deficit, knowing full well that in the end, if the economy or employment recovery is not up to expectations, we may end up with a deficit of $45 billion or even $50 billion.
Public servants and the ministers in their respective departments must be aware of their responsibilities and administer the programs and budgets they have been given to administer by the government.
I have been sitting on the finance committee for about two months, and we heard many witnesses for the municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, unions of municipalities, restaurant owners, and so forth, and everyone is trying to find ways for the government to raise revenue without affecting the consumer. I think the government should stop worrying about how to raise revenue, because workers and consumers are already paying far too much.
What the government should worry about is how to cut its spending, and it doesn't take very long to find out how to do that. What it takes is a good committee that looks at departmental budgets item by item. Its work would be cut out for it. For a start, we should act on all the recommendations made by the Auditor General. We pay too many taxes and too much income tax, and we should try to eliminate monumental mistakes like the contract at Pearson Airport in Toronto. This is the only federal airport in Canada that makes a profit, that generates a total of $50 million annually, and the previous government decided to privatize it.
Did the government decide to reward indirectly those who had contributed to the election campaign? The Bloc Quebecois is asking for a public inquiry to prove that the present government did not enjoy certain advantages as result of actions taken by the previous government, actions which have penalized taxpayers in Quebec and Canada. Quebecers and Canadians pay too much tax, and people are wondering whether they are getting their money's worth.
We pay taxes to the federal government and to Quebec. We turn over $28 billion per year in taxes to the federal government, in addition to paying provincial taxes, the GST, the TVQ, municipal taxes and school taxes.
Quebecers are prepared to pay a single harmonized tax, one that would give the provincial government control of all tax dollars and combine the GST and the TVQ into a single tax for a single country. This will come to pass when Quebec achieves independence.
As I was saying, workers and consumers are the ones left to pick up the tab. From the moment he is born, a Canadian child owes $20,000 to the federal government. And this same child will be paying until the day he dies.
Allow me to explain myself, Madam Speaker. As I was saying, when a child is born, he inherits a $20,000 share of the deficit. From the time they are old enough to attend grade school and high school, CEGEP or university, students pay taxes on books, goods and services and computers, etc. In short, even their education is taxed.
For parents who must incur a number of expenses related to their children's education, the process can be quite costly. Not every municipality or region in Quebec or in Canada has a CEGEP or a university. There is a CEGEP in the Charlevoix region. However, when students wish to go to university, they must travel outside the region and this can be very expensive.
A student from Baie-Comeau who decides to further his education in Montreal or in Quebec City will probably have to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 per year. Quite often, his father or mother, or sometimes both, end up unemployed, or even on welfare because a plant was forced to close, jobs were cut or a contract terminated.
If the student wishes to stay in school, he is forced to rely on loans and bursaries. When they graduate from university three or four years later, students find themselves $20,000 to $25,000 in debt and this, without any guarantee of finding work when they get out of school.
Naturally, these parents cannot afford to pay the required $8,000 to $10,000 a year and the child, having taken out loans, often must abandon his studies, for lack of funds.
There should be a tax deduction form for parents, to help children who study away from home. Let me explain. At present, when a couple divorces and the father is ordered to pay alimony to his ex-wife, the portion of his income which is paid in alimony is tax deductible. On the other hand, the same parent, if he is a good father and puts one, two and sometimes as many as three children through university, incurs very high expenses, but the money invested by parents in the education of children attending university is not tax deductible. The government should come up with programs to help, through the tax system, working taxpayers who pay to send their children away to get an education. These young people are our future. I also think that it would help prevent dropping out.
It is also urgent, both at the federal and the provincial level, that vocational schools be reopened. There will always be intellectuals with the skills and financial means to enter university, but there are also young people who do not have the skills or the financial means to go to university. There is an intermediate level that used to exist in the seventies-I am talking about vocational training.
You know that these jobs are increasingly occupied by women. Equal pay for equal work! These would be much sought-after trades because in construction, we will always need plumbers, electricians, carpenters, mechanics and the likes. There are only two classes: labourers, almost like welfare recipients, and professionals. But the construction market will always exist and I think governments should re-open vocational training centres to help those who lack the skills to go on to university.
The government tried to compensate for taxes by promising "jobs, jobs, jobs" in its red book. They will have to take action. Six months after the Liberal Party was elected, 23,000 more people live on social assistance in Quebec. They have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits and are now on welfare. As I said last week when the Prime Minister declared that the unemployment rate was down 2 per cent in Quebec, it is because social assistance has gone up by 2 per cent.
The only reasonable thing in the Liberal Party's platform is the infrastructure program. Of course, this program will help small municipalities and some regional county municipalities. But $2 billion for the infrastructure program is not enough. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommended that the government should invest at least $15 billion in the program. The infrastructure program will not cure the unemployment cancer. Part of the problem in Quebec and Canada can be solved by a $2 billion infrastructure program, but not all of it.
One does not treat a broken leg with a Band-Aid or a general cancer with aspirin. The government must inject more money into this program to create jobs and help municipalities; this, in my opinion, would turn a good program into an excellent program. Again, what ratepayers do not have to borrow, they do not have to pay. I will be happy to resume my comments after question period.