Mr. Speaker, Liberal Party members cannot blame the neighbours for their lack of advice or input. We know it is just a matter of time before the government comes to realize it needs help in getting its farm up and running. They only need to ask. As the farmer across the road, the Reform Party is willing to help provide the direction required.
Of the 38 bills brought before Parliament only 16 have been passed. Of the 16 bills that have been passed into law the Reform Party has supported 10 of them. Let it not be said that the Reform Party seeks to obstruct the legislative process of the Government of Canada. Rather the Reform Party has sought to be and has become a constructive force and good neighbour in the House of Commons. It is unfortunate, however, that we have not been given the opportunity to deal with very much truly substantive legislation.
The result of the election that brought all of us to Ottawa was an obvious expression of the desire of the Canadian people for change in government. Canadians elected over 200 of the current members of Parliament to the House for the first time. The Liberal government could have taken this past election as an opportunity to make the changes it promised in its so-called red ink book.
While the Reform Party does not support the majority of the policies put forth by the red book, we recognize the democratic voice of Canadians in providing the Liberals with the mandate to make those changes. Instead of representing the change Canadians expected, the government has chosen to waste its time on these housekeeping matters and put off the real decisions seemingly to an indefinite time, preferring to remind us how to do politics in a tired old way. The government has let down all Canadians. It has given Canadians exactly what they voted against: the status quo.
The Liberal Party campaigned on a platform of job creation and economic stimulus. Unfortunately campaign is the only thing it did with most of its promises. The Liberals have shown themselves to be politicians of the old order. The Liberals are politicians who, like their predecessors, promised change and delivered nothing.
The Reform Party does not object to sitting late and working for Canadians. The Reform Party has been co-operative in supporting 10 out of 16 bills passed in this session. It must therefore be the fault of the Liberals that virtually nothing substantive has been put forward by the government. With this in mind we cannot help but wonder what justifies the rush when no hurry has been exhibited by the government to implement its program thus far.
I am the member for the riding of Kindersley-Lloydminister in Saskatchewan. A large part of my riding was devastated by the great depression of the 1930s. The people survived by sticking together in a spirit of teamwork and mutual support. It is with that spirit I offer advice to our Liberal friends on the other side of the House. Perhaps the Liberals can take a few ideas from the common sense suggestions of the Reform Party. Hopefully Liberal egos will not get in the way of common sense.
First and foremost the Reform Party feels the need to remind the Liberals of the massive debt crisis facing the country and specifically future generations of taxpayers. The Liberals may not care about future generations but the Reform Party does.
The young people of Canada are being cheated by the government. Deficit spending is a discriminatory tax on youth. The unrestrained deficit spending of the last two decades has placed a heavy burden on Canadian youth. It is they who will be taxed throughout their lives to make interest payments on the national debt which is now over half a trillion dollars. Growing at over
$1,500 per second, the national debt amounts to over $18,000 per capita. Debt and taxation levels in the country have gone up so fast that the government is soon likely to price Canada right out of the world market. This cannot continue.
Where are the bills to reduce federal spending in every department from every minister? Why is there not balanced budget legislation instead of a budget that increases total government spending by $3.3 billion?
The debt is the most critical problem facing Canadians and their social programs today. The irony is that we can afford our social programs. It is the debt we have accumulated that we cannot afford.
According to the public accounts for the year ending March 31, 1993, the interest on the national debt amounted to some $38.793 billion. In fact government accounts show an operating surplus but for the interest payments being made on the long term debt of the country.
In the absence of debt and the resulting interest payments, we would have a program of expenditure surplus and tax levels could in fact be reduced without any threat to social programs. The government does not seem to care. Last night it refused even the most moderate reductions to the estimates. The Liberal government, along with the Bloc and the NDP, voted against reducing the estimates by only $20,000. What an awful sign that sends from Ottawa.
The government has forecast a deficit in this fiscal year of approximately $40 billion, making no effort to curb the spiralling deterioration of the fiscal situation in Canada. This is why last week Moody's, the investment rating company, downgraded the rating on foreign denominated Canadian bonds. This is also why Reformers feel that the debt and the deficit are the most important issues facing Canadians today and why we would not hesitate, as the Liberals have obviously hesitated, to deal quickly and with conviction regarding the financial problems facing Canada today.
Reformers do not wish financial slavery on their own children or on the future generations of Canadians. Why are there not bills before the House that would restore investor confidence, small business optimism and taxpayer hope for tax relief?
Why did the government scratch out the following words from the Reform Party's motion on national unity? I quote:
-remain federally united as one people, committed to strengthening our economy, balancing the budgets of our governments, sustaining our social services, conserving our environment, preserving our cultural heritage and diversity, protecting our lives and property, further democratizing our institutions and decision making processes, affirming the equality and uniqueness of all our citizens and provinces, and building peaceful and productive relations with other peoples of the world.
Another area of concern to Canadians and to the Reform Party is the extravagance of pensions for members of Parliament. High on the list of suggestions I would offer to our Liberal counterparts is the reform of MPs' pensions. As the member for Calgary Centre mentioned the other day, the pension package for politicians has created a two-tier pension system completely out of line with the private sector. This system must be reformed and brought into line with the pension programs in the private sector.
The government is talking about making changes. It is waiting for studies when no studies are needed and has made no substantive proposals. Could it be that the Liberals are trying to protect the wealth of their pensions for themselves? After all, will they need them when a disillusioned public turfs them out of office after the next election? I doubt they are needy; maybe they are greedy.
Canadians are frustrated by the fact that there are more barriers to trade and commerce in an east-west direction in the country than there are in a north-south direction. For many businesses it is easier to carry on business with companies and customers in the United States than it is to carry on business with other provinces in Canada. These barriers to the free exchange of goods and services within Canada work against economic growth and development of business relations in our country.
The government promised to work quickly to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers by a date this month. However these barriers to trade within our country still stand and it appears no progress is being made in this area. How long will the government wait to put business in any and all provinces and regions on an equal footing?
Let us talk briefly about justice. A few weeks ago Barb Danelesko, an Edmonton housewife, was murdered in her own home by intruders who turned out to be young offenders. Her death has brought to the national stage the fact that the Liberals have been slow to act on this issue.
The Reform Party believes that the justice system should place the punishment of crime and the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property ahead of other objectives. This principle should apply to the Young Offenders Act.
The current treatment of young offenders still derives from an outdated 19th century idea that youth are morally incapable of criminal wrongdoing. The policy consequences of this idea deny justice to young offenders, to the victims of their offences and to citizenry at large. Reform MPs have illustrated this point with case after case of documented youth offences, but they have not moved the Minister of Justice and his government to introduce responsible legislation.
Recently the Minister of Justice did introduce some changes to the Young Offenders Act. Unfortunately these amendments do not go nearly far enough to provide for the protection of society. Most noticeably, it failed to lower the age at which youth will be held responsible for their actions. It is unfortunate that the House will spend many hours debating inferior legislation like Bill C-37.
Another issue that concerns Canadians is the fact that the traditional representatives they elect to Parliament seem to have become spokespersons of the government to them rather than ambassadors of their electors to the government in Ottawa. It is time that all members of Parliament began to truly represent their constituents.
Reformers want to make it possible for members of Parliament to represent the wishes of their constituents. We believe that the failure of a government measure in the House of Commons should not automatically mean the defeat of the government. Defeat of a government motion should be followed by a formal motion of non-confidence, the passage of which would require either the resignation of the government or the dissolution of the House for a general election.
This practice has been successfully followed in the United Kingdom for over two decades and it could be introduced here. No constitutional or legal change is required, just a declaration on the part of the Prime Minister. He has failed to make this declaration.
This bold act would break open what scholars have called the iron cage of party discipline. Members of Parliament could begin to vote for what their constituents really want instead of what a small cadre of cabinet ministers wants. This would open up the institution of Parliament and revitalize respect for politicians who would have the opportunity to truly serve the people who elected them.
The only substantial parliamentary reform has been to change the standing orders, allowing committee and report stage of bills prior to second reading. However, absolutely no bills have followed or gone this route to date. Why would the government make these changes and then not follow through on using the new procedures? I would like to suggest that this is perhaps a sign of a deeper problem within the Liberal Party. I trust the Liberals will have more use for changes they make in the future.
Therefore, not only does the Reform Party question the government on what it has been trying to pass off as important business during the last session of Parliament, but we have concrete ideas and proposals that we believe would be in the best interests of Canadians. If the government wants to admit that it does not know what to do by dredging up old Tory legislation, the Reform Party will be glad to help point the way.
Let us not waste our time on cursory housekeeping matters but get on with the truly important matters that need to be urgently dealt with. The deficit, justice issues, MPs' pensions and representational matters are issues that affect Canadians to a far greater degree than migratory birds or the National Library.
Right now I feel like the woman from the now famous "where's the beef" commercials. I believe the hon. member for Bellechasse mentioned a similar concern. This government's approach to reform is to talk about it, study it, promise it and quibble over it but when we come to sink our teeth into it, we find there is nothing there. We have missed the point.
It is with reluctance that I support this motion. I support it because Canadians need reforms legislated soon. I do it reluctantly because the government has proposed so little substantive legislation to this point.
In closing, I would like to quote Allan Fotheringham's column in the Ottawa Sun dated June 5, 1994. In it he addresses the Prime Minister with these words: ``Start fulfilling your mandate. You're the Prime Minister. Act it''.
(Motion agreed to.)