Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. government member who spoke before the last member. I would like to commend this gentleman for his honesty in addressing squarely the fact that these new provisions under Bill C-76 for transfer of money from the federal government to the provinces to help pay for and support social programs are in total contradiction to the position taken and the promises made in the Liberal red book during the election. The member is to be commended for urging the government to show some integrity in the way it carries out the promises it made to Canadians.
The government knew or ought to have known that this country was in some financial difficulty. It should have been honest with the Canadian people during the election, as other parties were, and forthrightly suggested to them that changes would be made. However, it did not. In spite of that, changes were made by the government to funding for social programs, among them under Bill C-76.
The unfortunate thing is that these changes were not made in a planned and managed way. They were not made in a way that would allow the provinces to properly and sensibly deal with the changes, the funding drops and the different rules the federal government unilaterally decided to play by and imposed on the provinces in Bill C-76.
This is causing a great deal of difficulty for the provinces, which are responsible for delivering these services to Canadians, and thereby to Canadians themselves. The difficulties of poor government leadership and planning really go right down to the bottom line which is where people are or are not being served.
With respect to the funding for the Canada assistance plan or welfare, the money for CAP is presently based on a per capita formula. The money which the federal government provides to the provinces for welfare payments is based upon the welfare rates and population of each province. The more money the province spends on welfare because of its rates or caseload, the more money is transferred.
What Bill C-76 does is to provide a new formula. There are at least two things wrong with the formula, maybe more. The first is that it was imposed without any consultation with the provinces. This is rather shocking when we think about the fact that people's lives are involved in this about which Liberal members always say they are so concerned. They are so concerned about compassion, fairness, equity and all of those good things yet without the slightest consultation with the people who are going to be affected, these kinds of changes are made. The provinces are rightly upset and unhappy that they were not consulted and had very little chance to prepare or have a say in what was going to happen to them.
The second problem with these changes is that the formula imposed provides a formula for transferring money only up until the 1996-97 fiscal year. After that there is no formula and no plan at all. That is a real difficulty. How are the provinces and the people dependent upon services supposed to plan for the future or have any sensible long term goals and strategies when the funding which is always the underpinning of a program has been so cavalierly dealt with?
On asking the department, as I did, what its long term projections were, its five-year or 10-year projections for the programs based on the changes it has made in Bill C-76 that we are debating here today, the department said it did not have any. This is an absolutely shocking admission from a department which is supposed to be running some of the most important programs in our country. There are people who genuinely need these services.
The provinces are struggling with their own debt, their own fiscal situation and with the bigger picture of the economy, which was caused by the debt and deficit situation of our federal government. Some people think Reformers tirelessly mention that but it is so critical. How are these entities supposed to deal with the responsibilities they have given this situation when there are these sudden unexpected and unexplained moves made on the provinces without consultation?
We have some real difficulty. Some of the most troubling things to the provinces and to Canadians are provisions in Bill C-76 which allow the federal government to make a unilateral imposition of standards and rules for the use of these funds. The words in the section are that there will be a mutual agreement about how the standards are imposed. Again, according to the department when questioned it had to admit that mutual agreement is not defined. Does it mean the federal government in one province? Does it mean the federal government in two provinces? Does it mean the
federal government in seven of the 10 provinces with 50 per cent of the population? We do not know. It is not defined at all.
The federal government is diminishing its support for these programs but has the gall to say it is going to say how the money will be spent. It is going to call the shots. It is going to call the tune even though it is not paying the piper. This is a recipe for disaster.
The provincial governments very rightly one of these days and probably sooner than later are going to tell the federal government to go take a hike, as they are already doing on health care. How can the federal government impose its own will on the provinces, especially when it very obviously is so poorly thought out and poorly managed when it is diminishing greatly the support it is giving the provinces for these programs?
We have a federal government that wants to decide everything but other people are going to pay for it. Not only that, other people are going to pay for it in an atmosphere under a regime that keeps changing unilaterally. This simply is not workable for our social programs and for the support that this country's needy, who truly are needy and need the support under the welfare program, are wanting to retain.
When we look at Bill C-76 and the changes in the payments made under it, especially to the whole area of CAP funding we need to look at the fact that there should be some real consultation with the provinces, some mutual agreement. This is supposed to be a co-operative federalism. Instead, we have a very haughty, a very arrogant, a very single minded national government changing the rules in the middle of the game. It is changing them in the short term without any long term plan. It even admits that and then expects the provinces to continue to deliver services on standards that the federal government insists upon and sets.
What happens if the provinces do not fall into line? Under this bill, any payment the federal government might be making to the provinces can be interfered with. This is simply financial blackmail. There is no other word for it. There are many payments the federal government makes to the provinces under a variety of agreements. Yet the federal government says it can and will abrogate any and all of those agreements if the provinces do not toe the line the way the federal government thinks they should on a number of service delivery issues such as CAP.
I would suggest to the Liberal government that this is no way to run a country. It is certainly no way to run a country where many levels of government, particularly the two main ones, are responsible for the well-being of citizens and for providing services and spending the citizens' money in a way that best benefits everyone.
When a federal government is so arrogant it actually stands and says that things must be done its way or any dollars it might have promised are at risk, what kind of management style is that? How is that going to get co-operation? How is that going to get interaction among levels of government that really will benefit all the citizens?
We very strongly condemn the way this has been done. We acknowledge and Canadians realize there have to be changes to the structure of funding programs. However, this kind of change and the way in which it has been done is totally unacceptable and totally against the best interests of our country.