Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to debate this, the third attempt by the federal Minister of Finance and his lackluster government to get it right.
It is my duty to report, and I regret to inform the government, that it still did not get it right. For the 27th year in a row federal revenues and expenditures are not balanced.
The weariness of the debt and the hopeless treadmill of lack of resolve by the government continue. It is a sad commentary that debt continues to grow and accumulate, which over the government's term will add more than $112 billion to the debt load.
It is a sad commentary. This government generated debt will place the average Canadian in a position of financial hopelessness, unable to get ahead and forced to survive with a current personal debt load equivalent to 95 per cent of their annual personal disposable income. In 1982 that number was 62 per cent.
With no tax relief in the foreseeable future, the Minister of Finance counters by saying there are no tax increases. How does he explain why gasoline taxes jumped half a cent per litre in Ottawa less than a week after his budget theatrics on Wednesday? What does he have to say to shell shocked taxpayers who last week faced one-half to three-quarter per cent increased rates for mortgages?
The minister knows full well that for every 1 per cent increase in these rates, 100,000 perspective first home buyers are removed from the list of potential purchasers. So much for the new tax. The cost of living takes care of all of that.
Two of the constraints in life are death and taxes. They are inevitable and therefore we suffer in quiet desperation and resignation. One of the elements of this cliche that makes life on this treadmill bearable is the mistaken belief that all Canadians will share equally in this tax burden; the element of fairness. More and more Canadians are catching on to the cruel myth, and it would be remiss of me not to further dispel the hoax of equity.
Allow me to focus my comments for a moment on departmental spending, specifically the department of Indian affairs, otherwise known as the money vacuum. Let us start at the beginning.
In 1976-76 total departmental spending for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was $587 million. Today that number is $4.2 billion for about 573,000 status Indians, those registered under the Indian Act, about 2 per cent of Canada's population.
The sadness in this profligate sinkhole of spending is the continued misery and sense of hopelessness wherein so many of our native people continue to live. Despite the spending restraint placed on all other government departments, the department of Indian affairs spending to 1998-99 will grow a cumulative 12.7 per cent compared with a decline of 24.4 per cent in other departments.
This will be the only federal department in which spending in 1998-99 will be higher than in 1994-95. It is a history of misguided priorities where the current minister feels that maintaining this native dependency on the federal treasury will deliver these people to self-sufficiency, dignity and a stable future. It is a denial and a cruel manipulation of these people that is demeaning and paternalistic; keeping his charge in poverty paralysis, fed and warm but never to let them break the surly bonds of welfare and dependency unless they are the elites at the minister's trough.
Furthermore, it is a cruel, unfair hoax on the Canadian taxpayer because despite all the federal largesse and misguided paternalism, those status Indians who live on reserves do not pay income, property or sales taxes on purchases delivered to the reserves.
Section 87 is surely an outdated, out of step section of the Indian Act which protects and maintains this counterproductive exemption. Total government spending for Indians for all departments runs $7 billion, excluding the taxation exemption or foregone revenue.
If this is working, why are 43 per cent of on reserve natives on welfare? There are certainly some people getting bloated on the morass of spending. One place is the Hull bunker of DIAND which houses 3,400 of these bureaucrats.
Accompanying these public servants are consultants, negotiators, lawyers and advisors, all taking a piece of the $7 billion in action and keeping the myth and their club memberships alive. It is an Indian industry that has made some cling-ons very rich.
I have in my possession billings to an Indian band by one Ottawa lawyer of $300,000 per year for the client, a band of 250 adults, the majority of whom live in poverty, fear, violence and abuse. This is the $7 billion legacy. It is a system rife with avarice where a federal royal commission on aboriginal people, instituted in 1991 and originally budgeted for $20 million, is now highjacked by the politically predictable Indian industry. The commission is well overdue and running a tab currently of $60 million, the most expensive royal commission ever done. It has employed seven commissioners, 150 staffers and more than 500 consultants.
One of the commission's interim reports dealt with extinguishment. The minister was not content with the results of this $60 million enterprise and so he commissioned another independent fact finder to hold 65 sessions across the country at a cost of $500,000. Money for these kinds of exercises is no object for this minister. This keeps the $7 billion budget intact and makes some lawyers and some consultants very wealthy.
When you raise the issue of native taxation, as I did on March 11 in the House, you do so at your peril from an overly sensitive minister who resorts to bluster rather than explanation. When you have misled Canadians on the issue of taxation surrounding the Nisga'a settlement I guess bluster is the only way out of this misrepresentation of facts.
Anyone reading the Nisga'a agreement can come to only one inescapable conclusion: the Nisga'a will have constitutionally entrenched tax exemption.
I have painted a bleak picture. There are some ways out of this mess. A good place to start can be found in the Reform Party aboriginal policy document. Look for the word accountability. Our policy report calls for the auditor general to have full authority to review Indian management of federal funds. Legal proceedings can be recommended at the auditor general's discretion when he or she feels there is a problem.
We also call for the chief electoral officer of Elections Canada to have full authority to examine Indian election procedures. For too long many band councils have maintained a top down repressive regime. The band council system makes the chief and council more responsible to the minister and the department than it does to their very own membership. On every occasion I have been involved where an individual has appealed to the department, the department has supported the chief and council rather than the individual.
On this issue how can we ever expect any kind of accountability when spending on aboriginal affairs is diffused among 11 federal departments? It is an accountability nightmare surely meant to obfuscate and confuse-