Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate. This is a budget of very strong measures, because this is what it takes to break the deficit's hold on our policies. This budget contains the most draconian measures taken by a government in 50 years.
The budget achieves our deficit goal without increasing personal income tax rates. For the second year in a row the government has refused to reduce the deficit on the backs of individual Canadians.
I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to explain the process and significance of the program review, one of the core elements of the budget.
Last September in Quebec City the Prime Minister outlined the four key elements of the government's jobs and growth agenda. This week hon. members have witnessed with the unveiling of the 1995-96 budget the details of one of those fundamental elements, the program review.
Last year the Prime Minister asked me to lead, in co-operation with my cabinet colleagues, the most fundamental review of government operations in two generations. The review was meant to be and was an exhaustive examination like none ever undertaken before of every government program and service, with a view to getting government back to basics and focusing on the priorities of Canadians.
I worked closely with my colleagues and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate them once again for their commitment to the exercise designed to get government right.
Unlike previous governments we listened to Canadians and the result we have seen in the budget tabled by my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, demonstrates that we have the courage to set the country on a new, much more secure course.
I believe the Canadian people will agree that the budget and the program review results are ushering in a new approach to government.
It will be a dramatically changed national government. It will be a government that is getting back to basics, a government that reflects the priorities of average Canadians, a government that is affordable, a government that protects the most vulnerable, and a government that responds to the true needs of Canadians.
The Prime Minister detailed our intentions last September before the Quebec City Chamber of Commerce saying that control over the size and cost of government was vital to economic growth and job creation. It was in this perspective that the program review was developed and became one of the basic components of the budget.
This review will enable the federal government to focus on its major priorities, to return to basics while enabling it to reduce its expenditures in an orderly fashion. The review was guided by three objectives.
First, to strengthen public administration of federal programs and services; efforts in this regard will lead to a smaller but more efficient federal administration, which will provide the programs Canadians consider important. Secondly, to help modernize Canadian federalism; the government should provide only those programs and services it is best suited to provide. Thirdly, to help the government attain its financial objectives.
This involved, therefore, totally rethinking what government did and what Canadians could allow themselves. In the future, departments will have to drop all but fundamental responsibilities. They are amalgamating like programs and services found within a department or spread among several departments. They are eliminating job duplication and costly overlap. They are reducing the operating costs of programs through new approaches, while raising standards of service. They are funding necessary programs through cost recovery and user fees.
It must be stressed that the aim of the program review was not to identify or make cuts solely in response to financial needs. On the contrary, we asked each minister to review their programs and activities according to six criteria.
First, public interest: Does the program or activity continue to serve the public? Second, the role of government: Is it necessary or legitimate for the government to be involved in the area of the program or activity? Third, federalism: Is the present role of government appropriate, or should consideration be given to transferring it to the provinces? Fourth, partnership: What programs or activities could be transferred wholly or in part to the private or volunteer sectors? Fifth, efficiency: How could the efficiency of the program or activity be improved? Finally,
financial capability: In financial terms, can we afford all of the resulting programs and activities?
I can briefly summarize at this point that we undertook an unprecedented review of government activities because this government believes first and foremost it is crucial that we get our own house in order. As we have seen, this budget focused on cutting spending, not on raising taxes. Second, we began from the premise that the priorities of the government must reflect the priorities of Canadians. We did not want a blind slash and burn exercise.
The approach we took in our program review was guided by three fundamentals: one, its fundamental objective to sustain growth and job creation; two, its fundamental challenge to get the economy right; and three, its fundamental requirement to refocus government on priority roles.
Program review encompassed about $52 billion worth of government spending. The result is that over the next three years program spending will decline by almost 19 per cent, more than $16 billion. Some departments will see their spending cut in half.
The Department of Transport over three years will be cut by 50 per cent. The Department of Natural Resources over the same three years will be cut by 49.8 per cent. The public service will be reduced by 14 per cent, 45,000 positions over three years.
Program review will lead to long lasting structural change in what the government does. These are not, as my hon. colleague the Minister of Finance stated Monday, the phoney cuts we saw so often in the past, measures that pretended to define a slower rate of increase in spending as actual cuts.
The cuts in this budget are real cuts in real dollars. They were accomplished by refocusing government programs on basics, eliminating overlap and duplication, improving the efficiency of our operations and shifting market interventions away from direct subsidies. Let me give some examples.
In the past, agricultural subsidies have been tied to specific commodities which resulted in a large number of programs. The emphasis will now shift from income support to income stabilization.
Fisheries and oceans will focus its resources on science and regulation to ensure conservation and sustainable fish stocks. We will discuss with the provinces the possibility of eventual devolution of freshwater fisheries management.
Finally, assistance to business will be considerably reduced. Assistance will shift to repayable loans.
In many departments there will be fundamental change in how programs and services are delivered. For example, an immigration fee will be charged to newcomers and sponsors will have to provide financial guarantees.
Environment Canada will concentrate more on science and policy and finding new ways to deliver services. Environmental protection remains a priority in order to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. Pollution prevention will become a priority in partnership with the provinces, territories and industries.
A large number of specific measures are based on a common philosophy and foundation.
For example, we have taken important measures in this budget to substantially reduce business subsidies offered under all government programs. Subsidies will be reduced by close to 60 per cent over a three year period. Some programs will be discontinued or drastically reduced. For example, we will be eliminating the transportation subsidies offered under the Western Grain Transportation Act, the Atlantic Region Freight Assistance Act and the Maritime Freight Rates Act.
Some programs will be restructured or merged, for example, regional development organizations will be more geared to the needs of small and medium size businesses. Some activities will be transferred to other public administrations. For example, several responsibilities concerning inland waters will be turned over to the provinces; recreational harbours will be divested to municipalities; the forestry and mining development agreements with the provinces will be revoked, since the provinces have indicated that development of these resources falls under their jurisdiction; the operation of airports will be transferred to local authorities.
Some activities will be commercialized or privatized: the remainder of the government's share in Cameco and Petro-Canada, Canadian National, the Air Navigation System, Canada Communication Group. Cost recovery and user fees will be implemented for some services.
Treasury Board will put in place a new spending management system which will improve the management of public funds.
The program review has allowed us to put our house in order in order to tackle the challenges of the next century. It fundamentally changes not only what we do but how we do it. The program review allows us to restore fiscal health to the nation's
finances and also to make necessary spending reductions in an orderly way. The program review actions in the budget only start what will be an ongoing process of reform and renewal of the federal government.
Clearly, as announced in the budget, these results will have a major impact on the public service. All regions of the country are affected by the cutbacks and reductions. This is no less true for the national capital region. I want to say that as the Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal and as a member of Parliament in the national capital region, I am particularly and acutely aware of the difficult period many public servants across the country are going through at this time.
The departure of employees who over the years have demonstrated loyalty, professionalism and dedication is the most painful part of any restructuring process. Decisions that affect people's livelihood are the most difficult to make. Departures are never easy. Let me reiterate this government's commitment to deal with employees in the fairest and most sensitive way possible. We will continue to work with the unions and local governments to ease the transition. We hope to keep layoffs and the number of employees on unpaid surplus status to an absolute minimum.
Some individuals will be accommodated through normal attrition. Some will take advantage of the departure and early retirement incentives announced by the President of the Treasury Board. Some individuals will transfer to the private sector as some operations are being privatized. Others will find work in the private sector. No doubt there will be a period of change and uncertainty as we move to what I firmly believe will be a revitalized public service in the coming years.
I deplore the fact that the representative for the Outaouais region, Mr. Blais, and some members of the opposition are misleading the local population and are creating more uncertainty. They are proclaiming that the budget cuts 14,000 public service jobs in the Outaouais region.
In fact, the total number of jobs that will be affected in all of the national capital region, on both sides of the river, will be 12,000 to 13,000 over the next three years. This means, therefore, that the real number of public servants in the Outaouais region that will be affected is more like 3,000. I cannot accuse them of telling untruths, since the difference between their current claims and the true figures is only one job to five, which is about par for them.
I am happy that regional players, including Hull mayor Ducharme and Outaouais urban community president Croteau, have taken a clear, credible and realistic stand on this budget.
With the various measures I mentioned and the co-operation of the private sector and all economic stakeholders in the region, we will manage to minimize job losses while at the same time diversifying the region's economy.
As the member of Parliament representing Hull-Aylmer, I have had the privilege of rubbing elbows with people of this area. I was able to observe how imaginative they are and how enthusiastically they tackle new challenges. I want to salute their courage in these tough times.
The budget is further proof of the flexibility of federalism; it is not stuck in status quo. The budget stresses our commitment to provide the people with good government in Canada. And this entails the challenge of bringing the deficit down and streamlining government. As part of our commitment, no region will be receiving preferential treatment nor be subjected to more cuts than the others.
The new Canadian social transfer combines into one lump-sum transfer three formerly separate transfers, thereby lightening the administrative burden of the provinces. This transfer will ensure maximum flexibility in developing provincial programs suited to the needs of the regions. The new lump-sum transfer limits the restraint the federal government can impose in exclusive provincial jurisdictions.
This new and more flexible formula does not affect the quality of services provided to Canadians.
The terms and conditions set out in the Canada Health Act will be maintained and the provinces will have to abide by the provisions of the act with respect to health care.
At the same time, we remain committed to fiscal equalization, one of the cornerstones of the Canadian federal system, through which Quebec receives nearly $4 billion per year.
The budget marks the beginning of a new era, an era in which the federation will be managed differently. Management will be simpler, more efficient and, yes, more sensitive to provincial jurisdictions. The budget give provincial governments full scope to meet the needs of the people.
The budget is convincing evidence of the fact that the federal system is a progressive, co-operative and dynamic system. Less than a year and a half into this Parliament, we have already tabled two budgets to substantially reduce public expenditures, something Ontario and Quebec will also have to do. We also restructured government organization. The measures outlined in this budget are the most stringent federal measures in fifty years.
We have abandoned the across the board cuts used by previous governments which proved to be counterproductive and ineffec-
tive. This budget is a rational way to bring the size and structure of government into line with our needs.
We agree with Canadians that a balanced budget is the goal and we will get there by setting realistic and achievable targets. This budget leads by example. We are cutting government first.
We believe this budget truly marks the beginning of a new era.