Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party will be splitting its time.
As this House debates the budget we are discussing the very future of this country. We have already mortgaged our children's future. They will not be paying for their own social programs. They will be paying for ours.
How can government members sit here so smugly knowing that during the course of this Parliament the amount of money that we will have to make in interest payments will increase from $38 billion to over $50 billion? This increase of over 30 per cent is an additional burden that will continue to grow. Billions fewer dollars will be available for social programs and government operations.
The government says this is good. Liberal members say it is all right that one-third of government spending is for yesterday's programs. They claim they are at least slowing down the rate of growth of interest payments. I do not see how it can be considered much of a consolation knowing that the country is going bankrupt at a slower rate.
All this budget does is delay the inevitable. The fact that this budget was viewed as tough is not so much a compliment to this budget, rather it is a scathing indictment of previous budgets. If previous finance ministers had been sufficiently courageous to make the necessary cuts in the past, by today's standards those cuts would have been insignificant. Because they chose not to make those required cuts, today we have to cut deeper.
The current Minister of Finance is now faced with tougher choices. He could have and should have made the rights ones. Short term pain for long term gain. Instead he took the more masochistic route of a little pain this year and even more pain in the following years.
The latest budget alludes to some of the changes that are coming but it does not have the courage to address the problems in detail, head on.
The city of White Rock in my constituency has one of the largest concentrations of seniors in the country. Almost one-third of the population is over 65 years of age. The budget tells Canadians the government will be releasing a paper later this year with changes required to the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs to ensure their affordability. These changes are to take effect in 1997.
The budget documents make it clear that significant changes are coming. While it promises undiminished protection for all seniors who are less well off, it gives us no numbers. What does this government consider to be well off? Is it $15,000, $20,000 or $25,000?
The Minister of Finance criticized the Reform Party for our taxpayers' budget which stated we would reduce the money paid to seniors by $3 billion. The minister stated this would affect all seniors earning more than $11,000. When we include OAS, GIS and the Canada pension plan and the fact the government pays out $34 billion a year to seniors, $3 billion accounts for only 8.7 per cent of this total.
Is this Minister of Finance suggesting that 91 per cent of Canadian seniors earn less than $11,000? Maybe the $11,000
figure popped into the minister's head because that is the figure he is contemplating in the Liberals' plan.
We also note the government's plan to reform the provision of old age security benefits on the basis of family income. What a great idea. If the government had been listening it would have realized the Reform Party made that a part of its zero in three package over two years ago. Reformers recognized the unfairness of the existing system at that time. Unfortunately it has taken the Liberals two years to recognize a good idea. Now it will take them another two years to act on it.
At this rate by 1997 the Liberals will realize the value of our 1995 taxpayers' budget. However, we will not have to worry about their waiting another two years to act on it because by then Canadian voters will have unburdened them of the challenges of providing the country with fiscal leadership.
In defending the budget the Minister of Finance frequently commented on his belief of addressing matters with short term goals. This philosophy of short term goals also appears to include short sightedness.
There is no better example of this than the impending crisis with the Canada pension plan. We have heard the plan will be bankrupt within 20 years unless rates are doubled. The budget states that in 35 years rates will almost have to triple.
In order to deal with this impending crisis the budget says that the government should-actually the budget does not say anything. It appears this is too far in the future for the government to be concerned. Besides, why should cabinet members be concerned about the Canada pension plan when they have protected themselves with their own gold plated pension plan?
What does this impending crisis in the CPP mean to the average Canadian? For salaried employees who make approximately $35,000, this means their contributions will have to jump from $850 a year to almost $2,500 a year. Every employee will have $140 less each month to spend.
However, it is not just the employees who will suffer, but the small business person as well. A small business that employs 10 employees who each make about $35,000 a year will have to come up with an additional $16,000 a year in premiums. For a lot of small businesses I would suggest this is a significant portion of the profit margin.
The time to act on the problems with the Canada pension plan, old age security and guaranteed income supplement is now. Those people who are entering the job market today are the ones who will have to deal with the pension crisis in the year 2030. It is incumbent upon us to give them some idea of what they can expect for a pension and give them the opportunity to plan their lives accordingly.
We know the system has to change. We know there has to be more individual responsibility for looking after one's retirement. Let us be honest with Canadians today and develop guidelines for them to plan for themselves in an appropriate manner.
More important, let us show Canadians some leadership and get rid of gold plated MPs pensions. If this government has moved as far as it intends to move on MPs pensions, that is okay too. My colleagues and I are not too concerned about fighting the next election with the slogan: Liberals say the only way to get rid of the obscene MP pension plan is to vote Reform.
I have a word of caution for those MPs who think they have it made because after the next election they will be collecting their pensions. A Reform government would make any changes in the new MP pension plan retroactive.
As the baby boom generation approaches the pension years, it is absolutely necessary for us to get Canada's pension plans in order. Forget short term objectives. Think long range. As we continue to debate this budget we cannot think of today. We have to think of our children and their children who will be paying for our largesse.
It is extremely unfair for our generation to ask future generations to pay our bills. The bottom line is simple. If our social programs are worth preserving, then they are worth paying for. It is a disgrace that the largest expenditure in the federal budget is interest payments.
While the self-deluded government congratulates itself for a booming economy it is criminal that during a period of rapid growth the percentage of the budget that is consumed by interest payments will increase from 25 per cent to almost 33 per cent. This is the same error made by the previous Tory regime. In the boom years of the late 1980s it failed to bring the debt and deficit under control. When the business cycle took a downturn the deficit skyrocketed.
What is this government going to do when the economy hits the down cycle? The Liberal strategy of maintaining the status quo will lead to economic disaster. The government has taken a small step in the right direction. Unfortunately what was needed was an Olympic distance long jump.
I found it somewhat amusing when the Minister of Finance announced during his budget speech that he was bringing in the fourth largest deficit in Canadian history and his party gave him a standing ovation. What would number one have brought him, cartwheels in the aisles?
There is nothing to be proud of in this budget. Are the Liberals really proud of the fact that we now spend more money in
servicing the debt than we do in transfers to individuals for social programs? Do they really think this is a good thing?
What about our borrowing habits? Are the Liberals really happy that foreigners own over $300 billion of Canadian debt? Think about it. With this latest budget Canadians will be paying more money out of this country each and every year to our foreign creditors to pay our interest charges than we will spend on our old age security program. Is this something to be proud of?
The solution is simple. If people do not want budgets that are tailored for Bay Street or Wall Street, get rid of the deficit so we do not have to keep going back to them for more and more. Instead, this government is intent on going back and humbly asking for a little less each year.
In summation the Liberals say the polls show that Canadians are happy with the budget. However they should look closely at the results of the Angus Reid poll where 39 per cent of Canadians felt that the level of government spending cuts were right; 43 per cent believed that the government cuts did not go far enough; and 83 per cent of Canadians are expecting further cuts.
It is time for the government to be up front with Canadians. Make the cuts that have to be made, get our budget balanced and start making inroads into our obscene debt. Our children can expect nothing less.