Mr. Speaker, normally, when I rise in this House to participate in a debate on a bill, I can say that it is with great pleasure that I speak to the bill before us.
This is not a pleasant budget on which to be speaking. For many of us it is a very painful budget. For many Canadians it is a very painful budget. For us as Liberals it presents some decisions we would rather not have to be making.
Liberals tend to want to be builders and creators, not to be pulling back on progress that has been made and programs that have been established. Following the second world war we were able to invest in housing, invest in transportation, invest in the education of our returning war veterans and yet pay off the war debt within five years. That was in the time of an expanding economy both domestically and internationally.
Liberals have been proud to create a package of social programs that has offered Canadians a standard of living and a quality of living second to none. We have been proud to introduce security for workers who lose their jobs. We have been proud to introduce security for Canadians who because of disability and many other reasons are unable to support themselves. We have been proud to share responsibility for our fellow citizens in need.
It was a Liberal government that was proud to set as a national target approximately two decades ago the elimination of poverty among the elderly. We have achieved that.
However, these are different times. We now have to look at how we can use the very limited resources of the nation and of our taxpayers to continue the quality of life the nation has enjoyed and to continue progress into the future. We also have to face some very hard facts and that is what the budget bill does.
We must realize that 40 per cent of our national debt is held by foreign countries and that, when we pay interest on the debt every year, 40 per cent or $16 billion are paid out to foreign lenders. That is money that does not get back into our national economy; it does not work for us to improve our economic situation, here, in Canada. This money is paid outside the country and, therefore, not subject to Canadian income taxes. This is a double loss to our economy.
We have to face the fact that we are now paying one-third of every dollar we collect from Canadians and spend on government programs and services just to pay the interest on the debt. That proportion is rising year by year. If we continue to allow that to happen we will have less and less to do the things we want to do for the country and for Canadians.
I have sat in this House since 1988 and have heard repeated promises of reducing the debt and deficit and that we have to go through this pain to get to a certain objective. However, this is the first time since I have sat in this House that there has been an actual and substantial reduction in the deficit.
With the budget we are projecting the fulfilment of our 1993 campaign commitment to Canadians to cut the deficit by half in proportion to the GNP by 1997.
I have said this is a painful budget. One does not cut one's spending without removing from many Canadians certain programs, services and benefits we have enjoyed as a nation. We have done the budget in full consultation with Canadians. The Minister of Finance has met with Canadians across the country. We as members of Parliament have met with our constituents on what should be in the budget and asked for their advice and counsel in the difficult decisions we had to make.
In Ottawa West I was very fortunate to have several hundred people come together and assist me in advising the finance minister as to what we felt were the important issues to be taken into consideration in coming up with the budget. The people of Ottawa West told me they were concerned about the debt and deficit. They are concerned about the continuing deterioration
of opportunities for the future of the country, for its economy and for the next generation.
They also said they did not want to sacrifice hard earned progress which made this the best nation in the world in which to live for the immediate gains on the debt and deficit. That is a difficult balance but it is a balance the budget and the legislation implementing it manage to achieve.
The people in Ottawa West and all Canadians told us they wanted the budget to be fair. They believe no group in society should disproportionately bear the brunt of the necessary cuts in government spending. We have delivered on that and it is being implemented in the budget.
Greater fairness in the tax system was the message from my constituents in Ottawa West, and also to close some of the loopholes. We have done that. We have increased the corporate rate of tax so corporations are again starting to pay a fair share of taxes. The capital tax imposed on banks is one element of that fairness.
Through a number of such measures we have avoided an increase in personal income tax which Canadians very clearly said they did not want because they already feel their dollars are stretched to the limit.
This is the first time I have had a chance to respond to people in Ottawa West on the specific measures they raised with me prior to the budget and tell them their voices and the voices of other Canadians clearly made an impact. They asked that we not tax their RRSP savings, and we did not. They asked that we not tax health and dental plan benefits, and we did not. They asked that we not touch the income of seniors, and we did not. We did say that Canadians living outside of Canada who are earning a high enough income should not continue to receive their entire old age security. They should be treated the same as seniors who are living in Canada and paying taxes here.
I can honestly report back to the constituents of Ottawa West that the views they expressed to me most strongly have been respected in the budget.
For a number of my constituents the changes we have made in government spending will have a negative impact. These are primarily people who work for the public service. It is not easy to say that of the 45,000 jobs to be cut in the public service, 15,000 of those over the next three years will be lost in this region.
However, through the bill and through other measures the government is taking extraordinary steps to make sure the number of people who will actually lose a job through this major process is reduced to an absolute minimum. We fully expect that at least 60 per cent of the downsizing will be achieved through the early retirement incentives through regulation and the early departure incentives done through the legislation today.
Through various training and placement programs that will be put in place there will be various flexibilities about how people manage their time if they know their particular position will be affected. I want to send a very clear message that at the end of three years, through all of this, at least 86 per cent of the federal public service will still be in place, will still be working. There is no question it will be a dramatically changed workplace and I hope a dramatically improved workplace as we stop trying to ask a shrinking number of people to do everything and accept our responsibility as a government of deciding what programs to continue and what programs to stop. It will be a very difficult three years.
Canadians will know exactly where the government is headed, what programs we think are important and we will have the resources to carry out those programs well on behalf of Canadians.
I express my appreciation to the business community, local politicians in the area and many other people throughout the national capital region who have come together as a community to put in place programs that will assist people, whose jobs in the public service are affected, to remain in the community and to work in the community.
They are one of the great strengths of our region. That very talented workforce will provide further economic diversification and help to build a stronger economic future. I say to them honestly that their members of Parliament and their local community are 100 per cent committed to assisting them in continuing to be employed here and in continuing to make this their home.