Mr. Speaker, I think that without malice it is useful on the occasion of this budget to recall what Liberals used to say on such occasions: "The budget cuts of $6 billion out of general government programs are slash and burn. They will lower the quality of government services that Canadians expect from their federal government as a matter of sacred trust. The firing of 42,000 civil servants is heartless and without compassion". The Liberals would have said it destroys forever the sanctity of labour contracts, it is equivalent to union bashing.
The biggest indignation Liberals in opposition would have reserved would be for the close to $4 billion cuts in transfer payments. They would have said: "It will make it impossible to enforce national standards on health and higher education and; heartless and without compassion on welfare. This is the proverbial slippery slope where Ottawa and the upholders of standards of compassion will lose their grip. The country will fall apart. It will become just like the United States. Oh, my god. There will be beggars on the street. The poor will have to commit crime. People no longer feel like Canadians because when they move from one province to another they will get lower welfare rates, can you imagine that, inferior universities and different health standards".
They would say the deficit problem is being solved on the backs of the poor, those least able to defend themselves. The Liberals in opposition would have said the gasoline tax increase is a tax grab and regressive because of all those with lower and middle incomes who have to use their cars to go to work. Worse, the tax measures did not tax the allegedly obscene profits of banks. They did not raise the tax on the rich or expropriate wealth by an inheritance tax.
The finance minister when he was in opposition used daily question period to ask the government to lower interest rates. He now refuses to. He did not order the governor of the Bank of Canada to lower interest rates and the debt burden. What is wrong?
I am sure the Liberals when in opposition would have used this opportunity to remind the government of broken election promises. The regressive, expensive, annoyingly complicated GST is still there and will be used to grab another $2 billion from Canadians, many of whom are poor. There is still no new day care facility. NAFTA is sucking jobs to Mexico.
The rat pack would have hurled the ultimate insult at the opposition. They would have said: "They are slowly eating their red book". For a summary indictment, these Liberals would have used: "This budget sounds like the agenda of right-wing think tanks and horror or horrors, like the program of the Reform Party". We proudly say that this is so.
I am not a Liberal and I will not use these slogans to criticize this budget. Its shortcomings are fundamental and frightening for anyone familiar with history and the power of compound interest.
During the 1980s my economist colleagues and I would sit at the lunch table at Simon Fraser University. We discussed the successive budgets of Michael Wilson, who sounded just like Paul Martin-like the present Minister of Finance. I apologize, Mr. Speaker.