Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in this prebudget debate with two objects in mind, first to outline an alternative federal budget which would give Canada a fresh start for the 21st century, and second to define two distinctively different approaches which members of this House can take to the prebudget debate and the budget debate next spring. One approach is essentially negative and reactionary. The other approach is positive and constructive.
The people of Canada long for a federal budget that delivers high growth rates, many more jobs, higher incomes and increased personal security. Canadians want a federal budget that vastly accelerates job creation. Under this government we have 1.5 million unemployed, a youth unemployment rate of over 17 per cent, two million to three million underemployed people and one out of four workers afraid for the future of their jobs.
Canadians want a federal budget that strengthens social security because under both Liberal and Tory administrations, federal support of health, education and old age security has deteriorated in absolute terms.
Under the current administration, for example, federal health care spending has been reduced by over $3 billion and reform of the Canada pension plan languished while government members preoccupied themselves with revamping the MP pension plan.
Canadians want a federal budget that reduces federal debt and increases personal incomes. Why? Under Liberal and Tory administration the federal debt has risen to over $600 billion while the disposable income of the average Canadian family has declined by $3,000 over the last three years.
High taxes kill jobs. Tax relief for consumers and private sector job creators creates jobs. Thus, Canada needs a federal budget that clearly establishes the link between job creation and tax relief and that makes tax relief, not further tax increases, a national priority.
Canadians need a federal budget that aims at federal surpluses, not further deficits. Why? Surpluses make possible reinvestment in those social programs like health care that have been cripples by cuts, and only with federal surpluses can one start making progress on debt retirement.
Because the federal budget that the Canadian people need is so much different from the budgets that have been produced thus far by the government, Reformers produced an alternative budget plan in our fresh start platform.
That fresh start budget calls for five actions. Number one, balance the federal budget by 1999, a faster timetable than that pursued by the government.
Number two, aim for surpluses after 1999, with the size of those surpluses increasing each year.
Number three, from those surpluses use $5 billion to $10 billion as initial down payment on the federal debt, with some fixed proportion of future surpluses being devoted to debt retirement.
Number four, increase federal transfers to the provinces for health and education by $4 billion per year.
Number five, provide up to $15 billion in broad based tax relief through seven specific tax relief measures, all targeted to increase consumer spending, raise the disposable income of families and stimulate job creation by private sector job creators.
That is the kind of federal budget Canada needs. It is the budget described not in the government's prebudget document but in Reform's fresh start platform.
This prebudget debate and the budget debate next spring will be a prelude to the 1997 federal election debate. There are two distinctively different approaches which members on both sides of the House can take.
On the one hand, there is the negative and reactionary approach to ideas for improving Canada's budgetary situation, an approach which has unfortunately been taken so far by the Minister of Finance.
For example, on page 18 of our fresh start platform Reform presented a proposal for increasing, not decreasing, federal funding for health care and education by $4 billion a year and presented a budgetary strategy for doing that.
How has the government reacted to this proposal? The finance minister stood in this House and charged the Reform Party with wanting to eliminate health care. In other words, the response of the government and the finance minister to one of our principle budgetary proposals was reactionary, 100 per cent negative, and in this case 100 per cent false.
On page 19 of our fresh start platform the Reform Party drew the attention of Canadians to the critical state of the Canada pension plan and put forward a four point plan to rescue the Canada pension plan from 30 years of Liberal and Tory mismanagement.
That rescue plan for CPP calls for guaranteeing that every citizen who is a senior receives every penny he or she is entitled to under CPP.
It proposes to extend the principle of RRSPs, personalized tax sheltered retirement income savings accounts, to lower income workers. It proposes to reduce poverty among elderly widows and widowers by allowing funds from a deceased person's RRSP to be transferred to the surviving spouse tax free.
Yet on November 18 the finance minister replied to a question from the hon. member for Beaver River, a member who has public credibility on the subject of pension reform because she opted out of the obscene MP pension plan. In his reply the minister made the astounding statement that Reform stood for abolishing the Canada pension plan. Again, that is a reactionary statement which is completely negative and 100 per cent false.
On pages 7 to 11 of our fresh start program Reform puts forward a budgetary plan containing the most comprehensive proposals for tax relief and job creation through tax relief ever presented in this Chamber. Six of our seven specific tax relief measures, over 90 per cent of the $15 billion in tax relief offered by Reform's program, are aimed directly at lower income and middle income Canadians.
Reform's proposals to raise the personal and spousal income tax exemptions provide tax relief to every Canadian, especially lower and middle income Canadians. More than 1.2 million low income Canadians would be removed from the tax rolls altogether.
Under Reform's tax relief measures an average family earning $30,000 per year would have its federal taxes cut by 89 per cent. Under Reform's plan a single mother with one child and an allowable child care expense of $4,000 per year would have her federal taxes cut by 100 per cent.
Yet what is the reaction of the Prime Minister, the finance minister, the Liberal government to these proposals? In Toronto the Prime Minister declared that there would be no national tax relief for Canadians under his administration. The Liberal government completely opposes faster deficit reduction so that tax relief and debt retirement can come about more quickly. The government is against increasing the personal exemption for every federal income taxpayer, as Reform proposes. The government is against increasing the spousal exemption and changing the child care tax deduction, as Reform proposes. In other words, it is against providing broad based tax relief to families and against making the tax system neutral with respect to the form of child care chosen.
The government is opposed to substantive cuts to payroll taxes and capital gains taxes, as Reform proposes, tax cuts designed to put more dollars into the hands of private sector job creators.
The government wants to retain the Tory 3 per cent and 5 per cent surtaxes, so bitterly criticized by Liberal MPs when they were in opposition, rather than remove them, as Reform proposes.
On November 18 in the House the finance minister even went so far as to describe the Reform Party's tax relief package as a tax cut for the rich. That can be found on page 6366 of Hansard . Again, a reactionary and negative statement, and one that is 100 per cent at variance with the facts.
What we have here is an approach to budgetary proposals from the government which is completely reactionary and negative. I frankly fear where this approach is going to lead. It is my experience that once a debate on any subject becomes completely negative and reactionary, and particularly when that approach is taken by people in positions of responsibility and authority, it simply breeds more of the same.
I do not know why the Prime Minister and the finance minister especially are so adamantly opposed to the consideration of a budgetary plan to deliver tax relief to Canadians. I do not care to speculate on their personal motivation, but what I can report on is what an increasing number of Canadian taxpayers are saying. It is their deep suspicion that well to do, tax sheltered, prime ministers and finance ministers simply cannot personally identify with the tax burden now carried by the hard pressed Canadian taxpayers.
If all they see from the Prime Minister and the finance minister is negative reactions to tax relief, particularly negative reaction to tax relief for low and middle income Canadians, they will react in kind.
Therefore, it would not surprise me at all if those taxpayers, through their various associations and interest groups which are mushrooming all over the country, were to in their anger and frustration, produce a pamphlet, a newspaper ad or a TV commercial with the following headline: "Well-to-do, tax sheltered Liberal leaders indifferent to tax burden of working Canadians". If and when that happens, the Prime Minister and the finance minister will react in anger and frustration, as the finance minister has already in this House, and the whole subject of tax relief and alternative budgetary plans to deliver tax relief will be lost in a welter of negative reactionary recriminations.
Is there an alternative approach to the prebudget and budget debate which is more positive and constructive, one which would inspire public interest and hope for the future rather than anger and recriminations? I believe there is. That approach is for each major party to this debate, in particular the Liberal government and the Reform Party, to put forward their alternatives plans and proposals in as positive and constructive a light as possible, and let the public decide which course of action represents the best budgetary plan for Canadian citizens and taxpayers.
This is the approach that Reformers prefer to take to the prebudget debate, to the budget debate and to the federal election campaign itself.
In taking this approach, Reform will propose that this country aim for a trim $94 billion a year federal government, one that balances its budget sooner rather than later, one that focuses on 10 major areas of national and international responsibility and decentralizes virtually everything else to provincial and local governments.
We would propose a $94 billion a year federal government which focuses its social spending on three major areas: federal support of health, education and old age security, and which reduces its spending on virtually everything else in order to sustain and guarantee its commitments in those three areas.
In contrast, working off the prebudget documents provided by the government, the government is on course to present Canadians with a $109 billion a year federal government. Under the government's plan, which is really an extension of the status quo, the federal government would attempt to continue to provide certain programs and services from regional development grants to the continuation of the CBC as a public corporation, to a plethora of social expenditures which Reform would either eliminate, privatize or delegate to lower levels of government.
The big difference between these two alternative budgetary approaches is about $15 billion a year. The question for the Canadian people is which course of action is best for them and their children. Will that $15 billion per year be more productive in terms of job creation and social security if it is collected by the Liberal tax man and spent by Ottawa or would that $15 billion be more productive in the hands of Canadian consumers and private sector job creators through tax relief?
This is the great issue ultimately to be decided in the prebudget debate, the budget debate next spring and to be conclusively decided in the next federal election.
I want to conclude by appealing to members on both sides of the House. The prebudget debate, the budget debate and the federal election debate can be negative and reactionary. We are already seeing examples of where that can lead and all it does is divert media and public attention from the real issues and the decisions that have to be made.
On the other hand, we can approach this debate positively and constructively. Let the Liberals put forward their budgetary plans for a $109 billion a year federal government with no tax relief and defend that as best it can. Let Reformers put forward its plans for a $94 billion a year federal government plus $15 billion in tax relief and argue as strenuously as we can for the benefits of that approach.
Let us take these alternative proposals before the great tribunal of the Canadian people and then, appealing to the good judgment and better instincts of our fellow citizens, let Canadians make the decision as to which approach will provide a fresh start for the Canada of the 21st century.