Motion No. 41
That Bill C-76 be amended by deleting Clause 43.
Motion No. 42
That Bill C-76 be amended by deleting Clause 44.
Motion No. 43
That Bill C-76 be amended by deleting Clause 45.
Motion No. 44
That Bill C-76 be amended by deleting Clause 46.
Motion No. 45
That Bill C-76 be amended by deleting Clause 47.
Mr. Speaker, in the budget of February 27 the Minister of Finance proposed cutting over the next two years $7 billion from programs which transferred money to the provinces for health care, post-secondary education and social programs. With respect to social programs it would cut money for both for social services and social assistance. Bill C-76 is the bill which implements those and other budget measures.
My amendments in group No. 4 and those in group No. 5 attempt to stop, attempt to kill, those cuts by deleting all those sections which would implement them. As I said in the earlier budget debate this is no fun for me. It is with no joy that I have to do this, but I feel I have no alternative.
In my view these proposals in the budget are completely contrary to what we said in the red book during the election campaign. They are completely contrary to what we said during nine years in opposition. They are completely contrary to what we did when we were in government under Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Pearson.
My group four amendments would do three things. First, they would delete clauses 30, 31 and 32 of Bill C-76, which clauses would cut payments under the Canada assistance plan as of April 1, 1996. These payments would terminate the Canada assistance plan by the year 2000.
The Canada assistance plan is that federal law by which social services and social assistance are financed in the provinces. By that law shelters for abused women and children, day care centres, foster homes, care for the aged and different types of social assistance are financed.
Secondly, my amendments in this group would delete clauses 33 to 41 inclusive of Bill C-76. These clauses would set up a new delivery system for reduced health care payments under the Canada Health Act.
Thirdly, my amendments in this group would delete clauses 44 to 47 inclusive, which would set up a new system for reduced payments to the provinces for post-secondary education and health care.
In effect, my amendments if carried would stop the cuts and stop the new delivery system for reduced payments and reduced national standards for social services.
Why am I doing this? I am doing it first of all because social programs in this country are not the cause of the deficit. In a question put to the Minister of Finance approximately two weeks before the budget in February, a member of this House asked him whether social programs were the cause of the deficit. The Minister of Finance said no. As a matter of fact he said that social programs were the same percentage of gross domestic product today that they were 20 years ago in 1975. Therefore, if social programs are not the cause of the deficit, why are they being attacked in the bill, whose goal it is to reduce the deficit?
Second, I am opposed to those provisions in the budget and in the budget bill because they would cause severe harm to those in need. They would widen the gap between rich and poor in this country and in my view lead to social unrest and increased crime.
Let me refer to a few recent articles. If members look at the business section of Saturday's Ottawa Citizen , June 3, they will see an article entitled ``The Widening Gap'' in which the former head of the Economic Council of Canada, Judith Maxwell, is warning that even if there is an improvement in the standard of living over the next few years, not everyone will share in it. She went on to say that we can expect increasing polarization in our society.
We can also look at a recent article in the Citizen dated April 6, 1995, in which the headline is
500,000 fall into poverty''. This is an article on the annual report of the National Council on Welfare, entitledPoverty Profile'', in which they say that nearly half a million more Canadians became poor in 1993, even though the economy was pulling out of the recession.
Then we have the committee of the United Nations, which for the second time in three years is criticizing the Canadian government because the Canadian government is failing to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In particular, they refer to Bill C-76.
Finally, I would like to refer members of this House to an excellent book that has appeared recently. It is a book by Linda
McQuaig called Shooting the Hippo , in which she deals at great length with many of the issues I am discussing today.
I am also opposed to those provisions in the budget because they are contrary to what we promised during the election campaign. I want to read once again what we said in our red book at page 74:
Since 1984, the Tories have systematically weakened the social support network that took generations to build. Not only have they taken billions of dollars from health care and from programs that support children, seniors, and people who have lost their jobs, but they have set us on the path to becoming a polarized society divided into rich and poor, educated and uneducated, with a shrinking middle class. This is not the kind of country most Canadians want to live in. In a polarized society, crime, violence, intolerance, and group hatred flourish.
That is what we said during the election campaign when we said that we would attack the deficit. I agreed with that, that we would reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of gross domestic product within three years of taking office. However, we said that we would not do it by reducing social programs. We said we would do it by cutting out waste in government, by getting rid of non-productive expenditure, by closing the gaps and holes in the tax system, and by providing for economic growth by providing for jobs so that people would be paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment insurance and social welfare, so that businesses would earn profits and pay taxes instead of going bankrupt. That is what we said during the election campaign.
I am wondering what happened in this country to the doctrine of the living wage. When I was at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish during the fifties we studied two great encyclicals of the Catholic Church, Rerum Novarum, which was from the late 19th century, and Quadrogesimo Anno, which came out during the 1930s, which taught the doctrine of a living wage. That doctrine was that everybody who works has the right to a wage to support themselves and their families with basic necessities. With the type of direction in which we are going today, with people working part-time, for minimum wages, with no unions and no support services, we are going completely contrary to that doctrine, which I thought was an excellent doctrine. I have supported it over the years. By the way, it was the philosophy by which I approached these sorts of problems in Parliament. That doctrine seems to have disappeared from the landscape of Canada.
I would like to say a word about affordability. Some people say that we cannot afford these programs today. However, we have an expanding number of consumer goods and services. Does it seem right that we can afford an expanding number of consumer goods and services but we cannot afford post-secondary education, health care, and social services at the level we set them at from the middle 1960s on? Is not the business community caught in a contradiction? They are saying on the one hand that we cannot afford these very important services at the usual level. On the other hand, through advertising they are urging us to buy more and more consumer goods and services. They are urging us to take out loans so we can buy more and more. They are urging us to use our credit cards to the hilt. What can we afford?
Mr. Speaker, I note that you are indicating my time is coming to a close. I simply want to say in conclusion that I regret I have to make these sorts of interventions in the House. However, I cannot contribute to tearing down a system that for my 29 years in the House I helped build up with the Liberal Party, first under Mr. Pearson when he was Prime Minister, then Mr. Trudeau, and when we followed the same philosophy for nine years in opposition. I just cannot do it.
I ask my colleagues to look very carefully at the things we said in opposition and in the red book. I ask that we be honest and fair and follow through on those things.