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House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

FinanceGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of our most important challenges is to work toward restoring the level of credibility and integrity of this place. The words we have just heard have not helped that cause.

I was particularly disgusted with the attack on the Prime Minister. He has been characterized as a big Bay Street lawyer who has somehow lost touch with the people. If the member would look more carefully into the Prime Minister's background he would know that the Prime Minister comes from a rural area, that he comes from a family with 19 children. I do not know how the member could possibly characterize the Prime Minister as some fat cat Bay Street lawyer. He does a disservice to this place by somehow twisting the facts.

The member has agreed with the Prime Minister that the role of government is not to create jobs but rather to promote an environment which is conducive to job creation. The member did not articulate what the elements of that environment are.

Interest rates in Canada are currently the lowest they have been in 40 years. Inflation is also at a very low, very acceptable rate. The economy has performed exceptionally well and is projected to be the highest of the G-7 countries. The government has worked on these elements to promote an environment conducive to job creation.

This member said that Reformers would not mess around with little pieces on the deficit. He said that they would use their extreme policies to balance the budget and cut all those things in order to create that environment.

I have articulated the government's position vis-à-vis an environment to promote job creation. I would like this member to tell this place exactly what elements of the environment he feels his party is shooting for.

FinanceGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the word extreme. An extremist is anyone who happens to be winning an argument with a Liberal.

I want to make sure the member understands and does not take too much credit where credit is not due. The reason interest rates have fallen to this point is because the economy is so soft. That is why there are tremendous unemployment problems in this country. That is why interest rates have continued to fall. Everyone would acknowledge that the economy has been extremely soft.

Exports have done well because the dollar has been low but no one will say that the domestic economy has been anything but extremely soft. I do not think the hon. member should be taking too much pleasure in that fact. The same thing applies to inflation.

I will answer the member's question very specifically by pointing to what the Government of New Brunswick has done. It has acknowledged that low interest rates alone cannot fix the problem.

That is why that Liberal government has introduced income tax cuts.

Note that it has a balanced budget. Note that it has the capacity to do that. Most people would acknowledge that Frank McKenna in New Brunswick has done a good job with that province. It should be a model for the federal government. Our approach parallels exactly what is being proposed in New Brunswick. When you give people more money for their pockets they will start to spend it. That will create jobs.

The member talked about the fresh start plan.

The fresh start plan will provide people with $15 billion in tax relief. It gives them more money in their pockets so they can go out and spend money in the economy, save for their retirement, look after their children's education, take a holiday once in awhile. It allows small businesses to create the jobs that are so necessary for the people, certainly of Atlantic Canada, Ontario, the prairies and British Columbia.

People everywhere are suffering today under this government's policies. It is about time Canadians had the chance to take the dollars that the government uses right now and spend them on things that are their priorities, not the government's.

FinanceGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, following up on that, the member stated balancing the budget and after that they would lower taxes. However, he also said that 10 per cent unemployment is unacceptable. With the program he has outlined, he is prepared to suggest that Canadians should wait until the budget is balanced and taxes are reduced. When that is done then jobs will come.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot suck and blow at the same time. They cannot balance the budget and give tax cuts at the same time.

The member has to answer the question. What is he going to do for Canadians to create an environment that will get Canadians working again? What elements is he going to create, not in two or three years from now, but today because that is exactly what he is asking of the government?

FinanceGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 1993 the government did promise jobs, jobs, jobs. Three years later those things have not happened.

The evidence is clear. If one brings down a plan that clearly states that there will be a balanced budget and tax relief, the stimulus effect is immediate. There is evidence from around the world to demonstrate that is the case because finally investors have the confidence to begin spending again in the economy.

We need not speculate about this. There are many examples around the world. Probably the best example is right here in Canada. When the Government of Alberta announced that it was going to balance the budget and begin running surpluses, there was an immediate influxof investment into the economy because finally someone had a plan to deal with the problem, something that this government is missing.

People are paying for it with their jobs. People are paying for it with lower standards of living. The average family has taken a $3,000 national pay cut since the government came to power according to the Fraser Institute. We have had a massive attack by the government on transfers to the provinces of $7 billion. This government has closed more hospitals than all of the provinces combined. That is unacceptable.

That is the price of delay when the government cannot get its act together and recognize the importance of balancing the budget and starting to deal with the tremendous problems that were left not only by the Conservative government but by the Liberals before them as well.

FinanceGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have my Christmas tie on because I am in a very Christmas mood. My friend from Medicine Hat has just had some things to say and I will be responding to some of those.

Given the tone of his speech and watching the House during the afternoon, I wanted, in the Christmas spirit, to get something on the record.

There was a party back in 1993 that was going to come here and do politics a new way, I say to my friend from Red Deer. I was excited and said: "This is marvellous". "There will be no more shouting, no more screaming and no more nastiness," that party said. This is a light at the end of the tunnel. "Rational debate. No talking out of both sides of your mouth," that party said. "No maligning people. No character assassination".

In the Christmas mood, let us give them credit where credit is due. They have not shouted. I have not heard them scream once. Mr. Speaker, have you heard them malign anybody? Even this afternoon in the last speech, have you heard them malign anybody? Have you, Mr. Speaker, heard any character assassination? Have you heard them speaking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue? Let us have the Christmas spirit. Let us give credit where credit is due. If anybody has brought a new kind of politics, it is the people who said they would bring a new kind of politics.

The member for Medicine Hat made a lot of sense. He said that words do not put food on the table. He is absolutely right. My friend from Bourassa is right. Words do not put food on the table.

I will suggest something which does put food on the table, in a way. If a house mortgage is now $800 a month instead of a $1,000, I would suggest that the extra $200 could put some food on the table.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

An hon. member

You would probably take it back in taxes.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, no shouting. We have just heard from the no shouting party again.

The extra 200 bucks could put some food on the table. Or maybe if a car payment is $250 instead of $275 or $300, thanks to low interest rates, the lowest interest rates in this country in over 40 years, maybe that would put some food on the table.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

An hon. member

Every country has lower interest rates.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

What will not put food on the table is all that shouting. That will not put any food on the table.

Let me say it for them one more time slowly. All the shouting, all the screaming, all the maligning, all the character assassination, all the talking out of both sides of their mouths; none of the above would create one job in this country and none would put food on the table. Low interest rates will do it. They are doing it for people all across the country, particularly the 670,000 who have jobs because of the mandate of this government.

Of course the hon. member for Medicine Hat is right. We have not employed everybody but there are 670,000 more jobs now than there would have been.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

An hon. member

What about taxes?

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I cannot take this, all this business of attacking that party for shouting. Talk about spreading malicious lies about people. I want to come to their defence.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have great respect for the hon. member who is speaking. I cannot imagine he implied that the Reform Party was spreading malicious lies. Out of respect, I would love to have him withdraw that statement.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair did not catch that word. I wonder if the member would be kind enough to indicate what in fact he did say.

FinanceGovernment Orders

December 11th, 1996 / 4 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I was viciously attacking all the people who go around suggesting that the Reform Party has not brought new politics to this place. I said that the people who suggested that are spreading malicious lies. We all know it is the non-shouting party. We all know it is the party that never maligns anybody.

I want to talk about this marvellous report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

I say to the hon. member for Medicine Hat that it is not the government, it is a committee of which he is a member. Not one single person on that committee, including my good friend from Willowdale, the chairperson, is a member of the administration. They are all MPs from various parties.

That committee went to St. John's. When in St. John's it heard concerns from seniors and from small business. It heard concerns about youth and about job creation. It heard concerns about deficit reduction targets, social programs and the fishery. The hon. member for Medicine Hat, the hon. member for Willowdale and the other members of that committee from all parties heard those concerns. Then the committee responded to those concerns.

On the issue of seniors, the report points out that as of the 1996 budget, thanks to the Minister of Finance, those 60 and over, along with their spouses whatever their age, are guaranteed no less than current pension payments.

On small business, the total lending ceiling under the Small Business Loans Act has been raised to $12 billion.

For youth, over the next three years the government is going to put out $1.2 billion including an additional $350 million announced in the last budget a few months ago.

On job creation, over 600,000 jobs have been created.

On deficit reduction targets, we are meeting them and we are beating them. That is performance. Let us stop right there.

Mr. Speaker, you are looking at a person who never particularly got his jollies out of deficit reduction. I had to tell you that. I have never seen deficit reduction as an end in itself. I never go to bed and say "thank the dear Lord I have reduced the deficit some more today". It is never in my prayers at night because it is not an end in itself. If it were an end in itself we should shut the government down and all go home.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, you have to hand it to me, I know how it feels to the Reform crowd.

Deficit reduction is not by itself an end in itself. It is just a very important, pivotal, crucial way to an end, but we should never lose sight of what the end is because the end is all about people. It is all about those 670,000 who got jobs in the last three years but it is also about those people, 10 per cent in some provinces, 25 per cent or so in parts of my province, those large numbers of people who are kind of camouflaged by near percentages, those people who are hurting every day because they do not have jobs.

For them we must see to it that not only is the deficit reduced but that the interest rates are low, that they have more access to capital if they are in small business. If they cannot start a business because they do not have the first bit of capital we have to find a way to get them to a job so that they have an income. An $800 mortgage cannot be paid if there is no job in the first place to put food on the table.

For those who suggest that somehow with a wave of a magic wand suddenly all is right with the world, it does not work that way, even a couple of weeks before Christmas.

I am sharing my time with my friend for Annapolis Valley-Hants. Before I sit down let me say I believe the committee, through its recommendations on children and poverty, people with disabilities, the old question of productivity, a better deal for the volunteer and charitable sectors, has done a marvellous job.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today on the prebudget debate, following my friend from Newfoundland who did an eloquent job. He did not need to put anybody down in doing it.

I would like to congratulate the members of the finance committee for their comprehensive report and many excellent recommendations. The committee has tabled a thoughtful report and has offered many positive and tangible actions our government can take to help improve the economy and help reaffirm our commitment to the principles of social equity and fairness.

When we look at the financial record of our government the numbers speak for themselves. Let us look at the facts. When our government took office the deficit was $42 billion, 6 per cent of our gross domestic product. In three years we have reduced that number to a figure below 3 per cent of GDP. Recently the Minister of Finance confirmed that this figure will be down to 1 per cent of GDP, or $9 billion, by the year 1998-99. This is significant because it will mean that our government will no longer have to borrow from the markets to fund the deficit. This, combined with low interest rates and a strong economic growth rate, will allow us as Canadians to have greater sovereignty over our economic affairs. As a result of our tough fiscal actions we now have broader options to set our own economic agenda rather than being at the mercy of international financial institutions.

In the past, it would seem that the deficit targets were never met. Governments would table budgets offering rosy financial outlooks and would then proceed to miss their targets year after year.

Our government, however, has reversed that trend. We are restoring Canada's fiscal credibility. Our government has shown that when we make a commitment, we keep it.

There are two specific issues raised in the report that I would like to focus on, child poverty and the need for active job creation measures.

In a country as prosperous as ours, it is unacceptable that 20 per cent of our children still live in poverty. I sit as a member of the Standing Committee on Health and in recent months we have been conducting a study on the health of Canada's children. As part of our efforts we have heard from health groups and child advocacy organizations from across the country. These groups have raised many serious concerns and put forth many excellent recommendations.

I am pleased, and I think many children's organizations will be pleased to see that the committee has recommended an increase in the working income supplement in order to target the children of working poor.

The chair of the finance committee stated in his remarks in the House Monday that families among the working poor often have benefits of $3,000 a year less than those on social welfare. In many instances this creates a disincentive to work.

I would strongly urge the Minister of Finance to accept this recommendation as a means of working to alleviate child poverty. But I do not believe that we can stop there.

I want to take this further and recommend that our government target increased assistance toward federal programs that deal directly with the issue of child health and child poverty. One such program I am sure members are familiar with and which I believe is worthy of increased investment is the community action program for children, CAPC.

I noticed in the finance report that the future of CAPC was addressed during public consultations. I agree with the recommendation that government funding intentions for CAPC be made clear and that the support for CAPC continue.

In communities across Canada 450 community based groups are using CAPC dollars to provide families with parenting education and support and children with opportunities for early learning experiences. I have seen firsthand this program and how it strengthens families and helps children achieve their goals.

However, in April 1997 the CAPC program is scheduled to face a 51.9 per cent reduction in federal funding. This could in turn threaten the very viability of this program at the community level.

Recently I hosted a meeting where members of the Nova Scotia Association of Family Resource Projects briefed members of Parliament about the important role CAPC programs play in their communities. At this meeting members of the organization played a cassette recording of comments by parents who have benefited from the program. There was no question in our minds that this cassette left members with a firm understanding of how a government can positively affect the day to day lives of people.

I would like to read for my hon. colleagues one of the comments that I was particularly touched by. This message was left by a young mother of two. She said: "I was trying to do the best I could

with the resources I had, but they were limited. I felt helpless not knowing where to find the skills, but I knew they were out there".

Once she started attending the family resource centre, a CAPC funded program, she said: "I have learned so many new skills that I have been applying not only with our children but with other relationships in my life. Our family is much happier since I have been coming to the centre. I feel that the programming offered at the centre for our children is doing all that is necessary for our children to be prepared for school".

We are making a difference through programs such as CAPC. I would urge our government to commit targeted resources toward this program and other similar proactive programs aimed at assisting poor children and families. By focusing on the elimination of child poverty now, we are making a direct investment in our own future as a nation.

I would now like to turn for a moment to the issue of job creation. In my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants, job creation continues to be one of the most important concerns I am hearing. Even the finance committee's report states that Canada is faced with a situation where employment growth remains strong but unemployment continues to persist at unacceptably high rates.

It is true that during the last three years jobs have been created. At last report there were some 670,000 new jobs created in Canada. While this is no small number, unemployment numbers across the country clearly show us that more needs to be done. I believe in the position put forward by our government that our primary responsibility is to create the right economic climate for job growth.

When I say that our government must play a greater role in job creation, I am not referring to costly short term, make work projects that have little long term benefit. Instead our government must continue to focus on creating new partnerships with the private sector, research and educational institutions and other levels of government. We need to be an active partner in those areas where we can help create new jobs.

A perfect example of this type of partnership is the national infrastructure program. The first tripartite agreement was a tremendous success. In my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants a total of $22.3 million was invested in order to address local priorities. This program showed that when governments are working to achieve common goals, our communities reap the benefits from this co-operative spirit.

I was pleased therefore to see that in the finance committee's report there is a recommendation calling for a new infrastructure program. I was also pleased that as a part of this program the committee has recommended that we refocus our infrastructure dollars toward research and development. This is a recommendation I fully support.

I would like to also add that as well as partnering with universities and health institutions, we should focus greater attention on R and D in the agriculture and natural resources sectors. These sectors are extremely important to rural communities like those in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants.

As well focus must be given to our transportation and communication infrastructures. This is particularly true in Atlantic Canada. By focusing more attention to these areas we can help create sustainable jobs in our rural communities.

There is a lot more I would like to say on this issue but I see that my time is running short. I will close by once again commending the work of the finance committee and the many excellent recommendations it has put forward. This document offers a thoughtful analysis of the many serious issues still facing our government and all Canadians.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Annapolis Valley-Hants for his thoughtful comments and remarks.

It is very difficult for a member to talk about his or her own work but other members can. I would like to let the hon. member's constituents know that he has been one of the leading spokesmen in this place about family, children and has been an advocate on behalf of the CAPC initiative. He shared that experience and expertise within his riding with other members so that they could see the valuable contribution that makes to the strengthening of our families and children. I congratulate him on the excellent work he has done on behalf of this place.

My question has to do with the infrastructure program. I concur with the member that it has been helpful. Would the member care to elaborate a little on the initial infrastructure program that the government had and the contribution it made to his area? Maybe he could give some ideas on the specific things that might be of benefit to his constituency.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind remarks.

The infrastructure program in my riding was very successful. The major success was that it built some infrastructure to help draw in new companies and industry to our area. That is very important. The infrastructure program is not meant just to create short term jobs; it is to set a tone, to set an infrastructure foundation for future growth and development. It did that in our area.

We worked very closely together. The communities and the municipalities chose the direction in which they wanted to go and I was there to help them do it. I went to every one of the chambers

and talked about the infrastructure program with them. I heard what their priorities were and acted on them.

For the future, yes, we want to talk about partnering with universities and hospitals, partnering with provincial and municipal governments. But there is another aspect I would like to see us get into, which is the whole area of being in partnership with businesses. We could help businesses build their infrastructure so that they could employ more people with more sustainable jobs. That would be a really helpful endeavour for instance in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants.

I look forward to the government coming forward and initiating this project so that we can do what we said we would do and continue to do what we have been doing, which is creating jobs and economic development.

FinanceGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on the prebudget report. Naturally, I support the Bloc's dissenting opinion expressed in the report of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled "The 1997 Budget and Beyond: Finish the Job".

This government has made unprecedented cuts in health, social assistance and higher education, but we still have double digit unemployment. Compared to the 1989 employment situation, we are still 925,000 jobs short. The federal government is forcing the jobless onto welfare and forcing the provinces to make the most difficult choices in its place. We will recall that Liberals ran on a platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs".

Today, three years into the Liberal government's mandate, the unemployment rate, at more than 10 per cent, remains outrageously high, roughly double the American rate. We must recognize that, in the area of employment, this government's record is poor. I watched, last night, the Prime Minister's interview on the CBC. Several questions were about Canada's high unemployment rate. We heard accounts of the hardship individuals and families are going through across Canada today. The CBC itself just announced job cuts affecting more than 1,000 people.

It should be pointed out that the cost of high unemployment has become huge, totalling some $91 billion a year. This figure, taken from a study conducted by the Department of Human Resources Development, includes the costs of lost productivity and crime, health costs and all the social costs associated with an employment crisis.

One of the social costs associated with the situation the jobless are in is malnutrition, which can result in chronic illness. Unemployment can also cause severe stress in some individuals, as well as mental disorders, alcoholism, suicide, accidents and heart disease.

These social and health problems associated with unemployment represent additional costs to the federal government. In the end, the taxpayers have to foot the bill for this increase in costs. We find ourselves in a situation where not only citizens are provided with fewer and fewer services by the government, but they are paying more and more taxes.

I agree with eliminating the deficit and putting the federal government's financial house in order. But I disagree with the way the government is going about it. They are penalizing the unemployed, welfare recipients, seniors, immigrants and the most disadvantaged in our society, while at the same time protecting and favouring the wealthy.

More than five million Canadians are living below the poverty line, including more than 1.5 million children. I should point out that 1996 was designated International Anti-Poverty Year by the United Nations. Yet, poverty is growing in Canada.

The government tells us that fighting poverty, particularly among children, is one of its priorities. Let us not forget, however, that the federal government's Canada social transfer cuts have increased poverty among children and adults alike. This indicates that the government's choices are not consistent with the objectives of employment and fairness that it claims to be pursuing.

I also condemn once again the decision to use accumulated surpluses in the employment insurance fund to reduce the deficit. The government is reducing its deficit by about $5 billion every year by dipping into this fund, to which only workers and employers contribute so they can have a social safety net.

By reducing the accessibility and duration of benefits, the federal government deprives a considerable number of claimants from money they have already paid into the fund. This is a disgrace.

The situation will get worse as of January 1, 1997, with the implementation of new drastic unemployment insurance measures. The unemployed and their families will have a rough winter.

The Liberal majority report mentions that the technical committee on corporate taxation will only submit its report by the end of 1997. This committee is not at all impartial. Indeed, it is made up of experts from the private sector whose role is to provide advice to major corporations on how to pay the smallest amount of tax possible. Some of these members are clearly in a conflict of interest.

The government has shown that it has a soft spot for major corporations. These are almost unaffected by cuts made to improve the state of public finances. By contrast, the federal government cuts into social programs and targets workers' rights. The only protection for wage earners is their right to collective bargaining,

particularly under the Canada Labour Code. However, this right has been violated by the government on a number of occasions.

In the dispute opposing Canadian International and the Canadian Auto Workers union, the CAW, the government once again sided with the employer. The labour minister unduly interfered in the union's internal affairs. It bypassed the action of CAW's democratically elected leaders by exerting unwarranted pressure and threatening to invoke some obscure section of the Canada Labour Code to force them to hold a vote on major wage concessions.

A duly signed collective agreement is in effect between the parties. For political reasons, and to favour Canadian International, a western company whose head office is in Calgary, the government resorted to political interference and forced the union to hold a vote. I hope this government will have the courage to demand from Canadian International officials a restructuring plan that will protect the jobs of its 16,000 employees.

I want to salute the courage of CAW's leaders, who stood up to the company and to the government. I also condemn the unjust attacks in this House by the leader and the reform members against this union, and particularly against its president, Buzz Hargrove, who is defending the legitimate interests of those of his members employed by Canadian International. These employees have already taken several pay cuts to keep this airline afloat.

As for the overhaul of the taxation system for corporations and for individuals, the government does not seem to be in any hurry. It does, however, seem to be in quite a rush to reduce UI benefits and transfer payments to the provinces for health, higher education and social assistance.

The federal government must clean up its own act and reduce its own spending. There are still too many examples of taxpayers' money being wasted or used inefficiently. This is why, year after year, the auditor general criticizes billions in unnecessary spending, and tax loopholes.

For over three years now, the Bloc Quebecois has been condemning family trusts and tax havens. It has been calling for an overhaul of the Canadian corporate taxation system. Federal tax revenue from corporate taxation has dropped considerably in the last 30 years, going from 23 per cent in 1961 to 9 per cent in 1995.

In addition, Canada is one of the G-7 countries where corporations pay the least tax. Its taxes are also well below the average for OECD countries. The same also holds for Quebec. The tax rate on profits is lower than elsewhere. The impact of federal cutbacks on Quebec is substantial. These cuts are reflected in a major shortfall in revenue for this province, estimated at $16.3 billion for the period from 1982-83 to 1995-96.

Quebec will suffer cuts totalling $636 million in 1996-97 and $1.2 billion in 1997-98. If the federal government had not offloaded its deficit since the early 1980s, Quebec would now have a balanced budget.

These federal cuts dramatically reduce the resources available to the Quebec government to pay for the social programs its population needs. I want to take this opportunity to condemn the attitude of a government that has laid off 45,000 employees in the federal public service. And for many years, it has refused to increase the salaries of its remaining employees.

I hope that the upcoming negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada will lead the government to grant reasonable salary increases. In March 1997, the Public Service Alliance of Canada's 135,000 members will start their negotiations with Treasury Board. For six years, salaries have been frozen, there have been cuts in service and a huge reduction in the number of employees. They are asking for wage increases, the introduction of wage equity, reinstatement of the guidelines on workforce adjustment, employee training, and so forth.

I would also like to say a few words about the incredible salaries of business leaders, salaries we can only dream of.

The president of a large company earns more than the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada. They make at least $300,000 or $400,000 a year, in addition to all their other advantages. And these advantages are often considerable: stock options, production bonuses and premiums, social benefits, and so forth.

I would like to give a few examples of well-heeled executives, and that is an understatement. The president of the National Bank, Mr. Bérard, takes home an annual salary of $1.4 million, while his counterpart at the CIBC had a salary of $1.83 million in 1995. Laurent Beaudoin, the president of Bombardier, earned a total of $19.1 million, one of the highest compensation packages in the country. This $19.1 million includes a salary of $900,000, a bonus of $525,000 and $17.5 million in profits on options. The former president of Bombardier, Raymond Boyer, received an annual salary of $7 million, including $5.9 million in profits on options.

Frank Stronach, founding president of Magna International, made $47.2 million in 1995, including option profits worth $32.3 million. Gérald Pencer of Cott Corporation received $13 million, including option profits worth $12.5 million. David Walsh of Bre-X Minerals Ltd. got $10 million, all in stock options.

There are more heads of companies who earned very attractive salaries, often more than $1 million per year. These include William Doyle and Charles Childers of Potash Sales Ltd.; Pudy Crawford at Imasco; George Petty, Repap Enterprises Inc.; James Dougham of Stone Consolidated Corporation; Larry Solari of Domtar, and so forth.

According to a study of 268 corporations whose shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the presidents and CEOs received an average salary of $776,000 last year. This is an increase of 32 per cent over 1993 and 12.6 per cent over 1994.

These incredible salaries are huge, compared with the earnings of those who work for the minimum wage, which varies between $5 and $7 per hour, depending on the province. These differences are out of all proportion.

The extremely high salaries of heads of companies are also a strange contrast with the social conditions of the unemployed and welfare recipients. While the first group lives in luxury, the second is working very hard just trying to find ways to survive each day.

This government's first priority should be to shrink the huge abyss separating the richest and the poorest. This concern must always be taken into account when difficult choices are made about reducing the deficit. The government must have the courage to ask the upper strata of society to make a little effort to help reduce the debt. This in turn would mean that fewer Canadians and Quebecers would be living in abject poverty.

On December 1, I held a brunch with the theme of social solidarity in my riding of Bourassa. More than 300 persons attended. They came from very poor backgrounds, community organizations, the Montreal North AQDR, business and unions. The subject was sharing the wealth and protecting workers and social benefits.

We had distinguished speakers. Clément Godbout, the president of the FTQ, spoke of workers' rights, as did Monique Simard, and Jean Campeau, a former Quebec minister of finance. I discussed the issue of social solidarity and the solidarity of the people of Quebec.

I invited the federal government to use this solidarity to revive the economy and especially to create jobs. The speakers also criticized the huge profits of Canadian banks: over $6 billion for the six main banks.

On the other hand, cuts are being made to welfare, unemployment insurance, the system of subsidies, and so on. Things are tough. On the eve of Christmas, many people will be unable to buy gifts and to partake in the festivities.

In closing, I would first like to wish Merry Christmas to all my constituents in Montreal North and to the people, immigrants, seniors, young people and those hardest hit especially.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when my colleague across the way began his speech he said he endorses the dissenting report of the Bloc Quebecois in the report of the finance committee. In looking at this report, while the Bloc Quebecois endorses the move to eliminate the deficit and to rationalize the federal government's public finances, it disapproves of the government's way of reaching the ends.

I looked at the report to see how the Bloc would eliminate the deficit. One of the recommendations is to increase the transfers to the provinces, which actually increases the deficit. The Bloc wants to reduce individual taxes which would increase the deficit. It is to stop using the notional surplus in the UI fund, some $5 billion, to apply against the deficit. This again is an increase in the deficit. Finally, there was a recommendation to start fighting child poverty which is to spend money through various programs. All of those increase the deficit.

On the other side, there were two items. The first one was to increase corporate taxes by some $3 billion, but it goes on to state that the $3 billion should be spent on job creation initiatives. The final item is basically cutting government spending.

If the corporate tax increase is not available to reduce the deficit and all the other items in fact increase the deficit, I wonder if the member would care to outline for the House exactly what he is going to cut to cover the $15 billion-plus increase in the deficit that his party is proposing.

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4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I support the minority report tabled by the Bloc Quebecois and every measure contained in it. The hon. member wants to know where the money required to finance federal spending will come from. I am telling you where to cut: in tax shelters. We have condemned such shelters. Family trusts are a disgrace and should be eliminated as soon as possible.

Also, all the unnecessary expenditures identified by the auditor general in his report must be cut. More cuts are required in defence. The cold war has been over for quite some time. A more equitable tax system must be developed and we do not think the government should use the $5 billion UI fund surplus to finance its deficit. That money is not theirs to begin with. It belongs to those who have contributed to the unemployment insurance fund, that is to say employers and employees, and only to them.

For these reasons, once again, I commend our finance critic for presenting such a fine report.

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Boniface.

I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this prebudget debate. The government has done a good job of getting our finances back on track. The deficit has been reduced from $42 billion to $24 billion in 1996-97, and it is a projected $17 billion in 1997-98. These numbers are as a result of a concerted effort implemented over a gradual period but it must be acknowledged that many Canadians have sacrificed to get there. Before I get into just who they are, I would like to also point out that there are parties present in the House today who would have moved faster and cut deeper, given the chance.

I look at the campaign that we all waged some three years ago and both the Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party pledged to eliminate the deficit inside the first term. I recall during a budget debate more recently when the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party specifically demanded that we cut deeper and faster, again repeating the expressed position that we should eliminate the deficit inside our first term in office. This course of action would have left devastation throughout the regions most affected by the reduction of government services such as the Atlantic region.

Now that we have made some progress, real progress in the area of deficit reduction, we need to start focusing on the future instead of focusing on the problems of the past. We also have to recognize that some problems have been neglected as we have pursued deficit reduction. We have to start working for those people, poor children and Canadians with disabilities to name just two groups.

I recently hosted a public policy forum in my riding of Fredericton-York-Sunbury to deal specifically with the budget. The discussion included questions around the deficit, the role of the private and public sectors with respect to economic growth and the harmonized sales tax.

The majority of individuals at the forum expressed the view that the country's social safety net cannot stand another round of cuts, that the government has cut those kinds of expenditures as much as it can. They proposed that we must now look at high end tax reform as there is a sense that many large corporations and Canadians at higher income levels are not paying their fair share.

Discussions around the role of the public and private sectors in the economy focused on whose role it is to create jobs and how to do it. Forum members suggested that the government does have a role to play in intervening in the economy to protect disadvantaged Canadians and disadvantaged regions, to show leadership in dealing with global adjustment, school to work transition and lifelong learning.

Since the traditional safety net perhaps is not as comprehensive as it once was, we need to create an environment that will produce equality of opportunity. We have to start dealing with the problems of child poverty. We need to address the unique obstacles faced by persons with disabilities on a daily basis.

The government needs to make sure that the country is working for everybody. In other words, the role of the state is an active one. It is to mitigate the inequity of the market for underprivileged children, seniors, middle aged persons with disabilities. We have an obligation to intervene on behalf of those less likely to succeed in a market driven, survival of the fittest world.

This flies in the face of the ideologies of both the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative Party which have said that the government should get out of the face of Canadians, that the market will correct itself. That will undoubtedly succeed for some, those who are active participants in and beneficiaries of a purely market driven system, but I ask: Is the government's job to work for those individuals or for the individuals for whom the market does not work? This is a fundamental question, one that these two opposition parties should stop and ask themselves.

When many of us on this side of the House were agonizing over the impact of the deficit reduction imperative, lobbying internally and fighting the good fight, the right wing parties insisted that we were not cutting quickly or deeply enough. Now that the economy is getting back on track, they have the unmitigated gall to complain that we are not spending enough, a position that pushes hypocrisy to a new level.

I want to reiterate that I believe there is a time for deficit reduction. After the last election our debt was at an all-time high. We were spending far more than we were taking in. This needed to be dealt with so that we could reclaim our sovereignty and stop looking over our shoulder at those threatening to take over our finances.

As we reclaim our fiscal sovereignty, we can now institute the programs that help those most in need without having to spend all our energy focused on interest rates. In other words, we see light at the end of the tunnel. We must restore the faith that Canadians have in us that we are going to be dealing with those social imperatives.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention an issue which I know is very important to you, Canadians with disabilities. I had the good fortune of recently chairing a task force that looked at the issue of how the Government of Canada should intervene in

our society to make life fairer and more equal for Canadians with disabilities.

The government task force produced a report which calls on the government to consider 52 recommendations which included dealing with the cost of disability, allowing Canadians with disabilities to have more access to the workplace, and tax measures that would underwrite the cost of disabilities to a large extent by the government. Basically, it was to see to it that Canadians with disabilities have the same shot at the quality of life Canada is prosperous enough to offer to all.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to an issue I know is important to all of us. I urge the government to take very seriously the recommendations of our task force report. I also suggest that we take every opportunity to use whatever capacity has been generated by our good management to see that Canadians who have suffered during this fiscal imperative have their needs attended to.

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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Jean-retired Singer employees; the hon. member for Bourassa-immigration.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this important pre-budget debate.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance I was very closely involved in the prebudget consultations. I am proud to be a member of the government which opened up the budgetary process to Canadians in an unprecedented fashion. The Minister of Finance is to be commended for having undertaken this innovative initiative which has been done since 1993. It was exceptionally well done again this year.

The finance committee was split into two groups. The western wing which covered the western provinces was headed by the able parliamentarian from Essex-Windsor, the vice chair of the committee. The eastern wing was headed by the chair of the committee, the member for Willowdale.

We heard from over 300 associations and individuals and received numerous representations from people from all walks of life. Therein lies the strength. We heard from people not only from every geographical region but virtually from every single segment of society. They told us what they thought ought to be in the next budget.

Hearings were held in Ottawa and across the country. By holding hearings locally we were able to make the consultative process that much more accessible. In addition, the finance committee agreed to split in two, as I indicated. This was extremely useful because we were able to spend a full week on the road to hear Canadians, quite apart from the many meetings that we had here in Ottawa.

One consistent theme to the testimony was the support of Canadians for the government to finish the job that had been started. Canadians know we must continue to meet and surpass our deficit targets then move forward to begin to pay down the debt.

The committee is in favour of adopting the objective proposed by the Minister of Finance to bring the deficit back to $9 billion, or 1 per cent of GDP by 1998-99.

To date as we all know, the government has successfully met and exceeded its deficit targets.

We recognize that these have been difficult times for all Canadians. However it is imperative that we work toward a more affordable and efficient government and an era of sustainable government programs. It is critical that our deficit targets be met so that we can start working on the debt.

During the consultations Canadians gave us guidance, a framework from which to work and to build for the future. Canadians made their priorities clear. They want us to begin addressing problems that have been neglected in the past in order to build on our future.

I will focus my discussion on a number of areas of priority that were mentioned by Canadians. I would suggest that the opposition parties would do well to listen to what is being said because they might glean some valuable insights that could help them make some constructive suggestions to the government as opposed to continually whining, berating and denigrating the excellent work of the Minister of Finance and the government in this area.

Priority areas of concern are those issues which came up time and time again during the consultative process. Those are the areas that we need to build upon for the future. The committee believes that action needs to be taken in future budgets. However, actions taken must be within the context of our ongoing commitment to meeting and surpassing our deficit targets, dealing with the issue of our enormous debt, the restoration of our fiscal health and I reiterate, finishing the job we started.

The committee recommends that Revenue Canada determine the changes to be made to the earned income supplement, to make it easier to adjust to changes in the employment situation of parents, and to provide assistance when needed.

In 1989 the House of Commons unanimously approved a motion seeking to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. The committee very strongly believes that assisting children in poverty must be the main priority of government. We need to find a way to speed up the way in which resources get to those that need them.

A good example is the working income supplement. Currently this benefit is based on the previous year's income. As a result it is not responsive to changing circumstances, not as much as they ought to be, and we need to rectify this situation.

The committee congratulates the federal task force on people with disabilities for its excellent work and recommends the inclusion, in the next budget, of measures that will take into account the additional costs incurred by people with disabilities.

I had an opportunity to meet with my hon. colleague the member for Fredericton-York-Sunbury concerning the task force report. I must commend him and his colleagues for their excellent thorough report. What I took away from that meeting above all else is that Canadians living with a disability almost always have additional costs. Within federal jurisdiction we should take action in the area of tax policy to deal with this situation. In addition, any actions in the area of tax policy should be in support of the social policy objectives of inclusion, independence and productivity.

The committee recommends a significant increase in the support provided to literacy organizations under the National Literacy Secretariat, which currently stands at $22.3 million per year.

During the consultations we heard from witnesses that the changing economy is demanding ever higher levels of literacy from all working Canadians. Our future will require workers, managers and executives with higher skills that are required today and constant upgrading I might add. Literacy is an essential tool in such a knowledge based economy and more so than ever before. Our challenge is to provide literacy and learning for all because without these tools workers and employers will fall behind their competitors. We believe that this problem can be addressed through partnerships with every sector of society, co-ordinated through the efforts of the National Literacy Secretariat.

Subsequent to the release of the prebudget report, I have received a congratulatory letter concerning literacy from Frontier College which reads in part: "This is great news. This is the knowledge and information age and every Canadian must be able to read and write well in order to be part of it-.The finance committee gave us the assurance that we will have the resources to continue this fight".

There are a number of other such letters from members of other communities who felt that this prebudget report was of first quality and addressed the needs of Canadians. I would be delighted to share those with all of my colleagues.

Tuition fees are increasing everywhere in the country. The committee made three recommendations.

These recommendations dealt with carrying forward tuition fees as deductions against future income, doubling the $500 exemption for scholarship, fellowship and bursary income, and special opportunity grants being provided for students with parental responsibilities. These recommendations recognize that an investment in education is an investment in our future. Research and development was recognized as key to Canada's ability to compete in the global economy.

The committee recommends that priority be given to increasing the funding of granting councils such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Medical Research Council.

The committee recognized the important work and the unique opportunities provided by the Networks of Centres of Excellence program. It recommended the renewal of the program for a third term.

Recommendations were made on the implementation of a second, more modest national infrastructure program. The committee recognized the great success of the first infrastructure program. Support was given for the second program which is well directed and available to traditional infrastructure projects such as waste treatment, water supply, transportation, et cetera, as well as to health care and educational institutions. Support for health care and educational institutions represents a long term contribution to Canada's overall level of productivity and our long term prospects for high level, high knowledge jobs.

We recognize the importance of charities and the voluntary sector. The committee had a number of recommendations concerning endowments, bequests, corporate donations, stretch proposals, withholding taxes, community economic development, program related investment and taxpayer awareness.

To conclude on this issue, the committee believes that its proposals to increase tax incentives for charitable donations will help correct the imbalance resulting from the reduction of direct subsidies, and it recommends that these proposals be implemented.

We recognize the important role played by charities in our communities. We recognize the need to help them find sources of additional resources in a fiscally responsible manner and the role the government can play. I received a letter from an organization called Heritage Canada. It congratulates the committee for its recommendations in the area of charities: "Recommendations in the area of charitable giving are similarly welcome. Greater incentives to encourage more in the way of personal and corporate giving could clearly have a beneficial impact on the heritage field".

At a town hall meeting in my riding I had the opportunity to meet with members of my community, my advisory committee. Their recommendations were not unlike others. Constituents are supportive of our fiscal goals and deficit reduction targets. They want us to invest strategically in the future, in our young people and in certain research that could be value added. They want to make sure that universities and community colleges are not neglected. They want increased R and D funding that will create better jobs and a better quality of life for all Canadians. They urged us not to forget small and medium size business and they wanted to be sure that we considered another modest infrastructure program.