House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The House resumed from March 7 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government; the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

The Budget

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 1996 budget is about the future, the secure prosperous future all Canadians desire. If any group represents Canada's future it is our young people. That is why the Liberal government's commitment to fair, sustainable and secure social programs would be incomplete if we did not include action to assist children who are the most vulnerable and in the greatest need. At long last this budget introduces a new strategy to strengthen protection for children buffeted by divorce and separation.

As the Minister of Finance told Parliament on March 26, and as many Canadians have known for some time, the current child support system has added to the uncertainty and anxiety many Canadians feel. The minister clearly outlined that in our view children should be the first in line. Child support is the first obligation of parents; it is not discretionary.

The budget acted on that principle. It announced the child support reforms which take wide ranging action to ensure the child support system is based on what is best for children. To start with, the government is changing the way child support payments are taxed. Until now child support payments have been tax deductible for the paying parent and taxable as income for the parent receiving the payments.

The budget proposes that we move to a system known as no deduction, no inclusion. What does that mean? Custodial parents will no longer be required to include child support payments in their taxable income and support paying parents would not deduct these payments from their taxable income. These new tax rules will apply to court orders or agreements made on or after May 1, 1997.

Child support paid under a court order made before May 1, 1997 would continue to be deductible by the parent and included as taxable income by the recipient until the support payment is changed by a court ruling or the parties add a clause to their agreement providing that the new tax rules will apply, or the payer and recipient file a joint election with Revenue Canada.

Coupled with this important tax change is a second major component of the child support reform. The government is introducing child support guidelines to make support awards fair and more consistent and to reduce the degree of conflict between separating parents.

These guidelines will be used across Canada by the courts, lawyers and parents to establish appropriate support payments. They include a payment schedule, a set of tables showing the basic amount of support to be paid according to the number of children and the income of the support paying payment.

The second part of that is that scheduled amounts can be adjusted to recognize individual family circumstances. Special expenses for child care, health care, education or extracurricular activities can be added to the scheduled amount provided that these expenses are reasonable and necessary in light of the needs of the children and the means of the parents.

The guidelines allow a court to alter the award in exceptional circumstances where it would cause undue hardship to either parent or to the child.

The third component of the child support reform strategy will be the enhancement of the federal-provincial enforcement measures. Children benefit from fair support awards only if they are paid in full and on time. The numbers are appalling. Far too many children in Canada are left without adequate financial means because one of their parents is willfully ignoring their responsibility to their children. Some one in four children's parents are fully paid up in their child support awards. This is an appalling situation.

As a federal government we must remember that child support is mainly a provincial and territorial responsibility, and so the

measures we are proposing compliment the enforcement efforts and strategies at that level.

It should be emphasized that we are targeting parents who are persistent defaulters on their support payments. How are we to do that? We will start a national public awareness campaign that will aim at changing public attitudes about child support. It is not discretionary; it is the first responsibility of parents.

We will provide provincial enforcement programs with a new enforcement mechanism. Legislation will be enacted that will authorize the suspension of federal licences, privileges and certificates such as passports when someone has demonstrated persistent wilful default.

The federal government will provide up to $13.7 million over five years to help the provinces expand the use of more aggressive enforcement measures and streamline the collection of out of province orders.

Improvements to the federal tracing service will allow the release of certain information from designated federal information banks to help locate defaulting debtors. This will include Revenue Canada to the list of departments whose data bases can be searched at the request of provincial enforcement agencies.

We will also improve federal pension diversions to ensure this measure can be applied to persistent defaulters. This can be done even if the defaulter refuses to apply for pension benefits to ensure the maximum amount of benefits goes to child support.

Improvements to computers systems will allow for on line computer access between federal, provincial and territorial enforcement services. This will enhance the efficiency of the garnishment and tracing service and greatly facilitate the exchange of information.

This is concrete and substantial action, but I am glad to say the 1996 budget plan does not limit new assistance to children whose parents are separated or divorced. There is another very important measure. The budget announces we will be doubling the working income supplement under the child tax benefit in two steps.

This will ensure and encourage employment and self-reliance by helping low income parents meet some of the expenses resulting from membership in the paid workforce, expenses like child care and transportation. It also helps make up for the benefits lost by parents who leave social assistance to re-enter the workforce.

Beginning in July 1997 we will go from the current maximum of $500 to $750, and in July 1998 it will be increased to a maximum of $1,000. When fully phased in this will result in an additional $250 million in support annually to approximately 700,000 low income working families, one-third of which are single parent households.

I am proud to be part of a government that puts children first, that thinks about the cost of not taking care of our children and that makes sure parents understand the responsibility to their children.

I am sharing my time with my colleague from Hillsborough who will take the remaining time.

The Budget

11:10 a.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for a very fine budget address.

I start my budget address, as I know all members do, by congratulating the Minister of Finance for yet another successful budget. Like the two previous budgets, the needs and wants of Canadians have been addressed. It will result in the creation of jobs and promote economic growth by further reducing the deficit. To the minister I say a good job, well done.

The government is continuing the processes that began with the 1994-95 budget. The comprehensive strategy for federal finances determined is measured and responsible. The government is determined because we are not letting up our fight to reduce the deficit. The books will be balanced. The debt to GDP ratio will be on a constant downward track year after year.

It is measured because our fiscal action is not indiscriminate and mindless but is structured to a pace conducive to efficient adaptation. It is designed not as a quick fix but to achieve long term, permanent progress.

There are those in the House who would want us to believe that a quick trashing of the government books would be the cure all of the national debt. The government knows that deficit reduction must be measured in order for it to be sustainable.

Our approach is responsible because it is a strategy that involves carefully weighing the needs of our economy and our society and equally carefully designing the policy options to meet those needs. Just as important, we are striking the balance necessary to keep Canadians on side for our deficit reduction efforts.

Again, referring to the slash and burn tactics of some people in the House, their approach would result in a revolt so massive it would make the Ontario strike look like a walk in the park.

We all know the reasons behind reducing the deficit but I feel they must be reiterated. The lethal combination of high interest rates and deficit borrowing also means a growing share of government resources must go to interest payments on a growing debt.

That is why we have acted, not because tackling Canada's fiscal problem is not a goal in and of itself but because it is a fundamental component for our natural growth, new jobs and economic security.

We have maintained our focus on reducing program spending because the debt is a problem created by government and the

solution should focus on cutting in our own back yard. Therefore there are no tax increases in the 1996 budget; no personal taxes, no corporate taxes, no excise taxes. This is good news to people in my riding and to all Canadians.

The federal government has fought quite hard to reduce the deficit since taking office. However, what is equally important is that the provinces and territories are doing the same. The provincial and territorial governments are well on their way to balancing their budgets. The combined provincial-territorial deficit has been cut to $12.6 billion in 1995-96 from its peak of $25 billion in 1992-93. This is a drop of 3.6 per cent of GDP to 1.6 per cent.

I am pleased to say the P.E.I. provincial government had a balanced budget in 1995 and it did so without major tax increases. Even more impressive is the $3.4 million surplus for the 1996-97 fiscal year presented last week in the provincial legislature by the provincial treasurer, the hon. Wayne Cheverie.

As a result, Canada's total government sector deficit is projected to improve sharply relative to other G-7 countries. This is very important for an open country like Canada.

Since over 30 per cent of our national income is generated by our exports, it is important that we remain competitive. All levels of government are helping to do that by getting their fiscal houses in order. For its part, the federal government is reforming the way it conducts its affairs. This and the past two budgets are reducing waste and inefficiency and redefining the government's programs and activities. These actions will ensure that program spending continues to fall through 1998-99 delivering major fiscal savings into the future.

The federal government will further clarify its core program responsibilities in the economy. The government will make these programs more efficient and effective in order to deliver better quality services at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

The program review which was initiated in the 1994 budget is continuing. We are still exploring new ways to improve the delivery of service and reduce costs. The essence of these changes is to give service delivery organizations greater autonomy to provide their services in ways that are more responsive to the needs of their clients and more cost effective.

This will reduce overlap and duplication. Through co-operation and partnerships with the provinces and territories, these goals can easily be achieved. We are working with the provinces on a continuous basis to improve services to Canadians.

I have spoken long enough on our deficit reduction agenda. For the benefit of hon. members on the other side of the House I would now like to talk about some of the benefits of our efforts.

Last year the Minister of Finance and cabinet announced the implementation of the Canada health and social transfer. As a result of the efforts, this transfer will be stabilized and will even begin to grow. That is right, it will grow. The CHST will be stabilized at $25.1 billion from 1997-98 to the turn of the century. After that this transfer will actually grow according to a formula tied to economic growth.

To the residents of my province of Prince Edward Island this means that the 1997-98 CHST will amount to $114 million and by the year 2003 it will be up to $122 million. That is good news for our provincial government and for Islanders as a whole.

Further good news is the guarantee of the cash portion of the transfer. The cash floor within the transfer will be guaranteed by legislation. This is quite different from the old direction of the transfer that would see the cash portion totally disappear within a decade. The stability of this transfer is very important to the provinces. This will provide greater clarity for their own budget forecasts.

The groundwork of our deficit reduction was laid out in the first half of our mandate. The savings accrued from those hard decisions now allow us to turn our attention to other items of concern to Canadians. It is through our efforts that our social programs will be saved.

I for one am glad that when I go back to my riding on the weekends I can tell my constituents that the Prime Minister's promise to seniors has been kept. The changes announced in this year's budget do not affect today's seniors. The pension of every Canadian who is 60 and over as of December 31, 1995, and their spouses regardless of age, will be fully protected.

When the new seniors benefit is implemented in 2001 these seniors may choose whichever system is more advantageous, either moving to the new system or maintaining their OAS/GIS payments. It should be emphasized that savings will come from slowing the rate of growth in program costs, not at the expense of those in need. While the savings at first will be small, they will build year by year to about 11 per cent of program costs by the year 2030.

Legislation will be tabled later this year and we will be inviting public submissions on the proposal to be followed by consultations through parliamentary committee hearings. The response should be positive because the seniors benefit meets these key public goals: reducing the long term costs will make the public pension system more sustainable; targeting help to those who need it most is the fairest way to reduce costs; and with the new seniors benefit all Canadians, particularly the young, can be assured the public pension system will be there for them now and in the future.

Another item of concern to Canadians that has been addressed by this budget is reform of child support as was mentioned by my colleague a few moments ago. A more equitable treatment of support payments will be implemented. As of May 1, 1997 the

system will move to a no deduction, no inclusion format. The payers of the support payments will no longer deduct them from their taxable income and the custodial parents will not include them in their taxable income.

There will also be guidelines for the payment of child support and greater measures for the enforcement of those payments. The approach will address the first priority: our children. These children are our future. We must provide for them as much as we can.

That brings me to our next point: investing in our future. The government is taking durable, meaningful steps forward rather than relying on short term direct spending programs which only result in a step back when we look at the long term effect. It emphasizes collaboration with partners and strategic investments to steer the forces of the economic change toward greater employment, employment that is sustainable.

But first things first. For the sustained economic growth needed to deliver new jobs, we must start by securing Canada's economic fundamentals which as I have said earlier means getting the deficit down and keeping it down. High persisting deficits go hand in hand with high interest rates. High interest rates as we all know discourage investment, borrowing and consumer spending. Ultimately they discriminate against jobs.

We have a plan. We will focus on getting our youth on the job. The first job is very important. Giving our youth a better chance at their first job will improve their confidence and ability to get the equally important second job. Our youth programs will accomplish this task. Coupled with our learning package these measures will provide the means for young Canadians to get the education and experience to obtain the challenging and rewarding career for which they strive.

However, government cannot do it alone and more important, as has been said, it is not supposed to. The role of government is to create the economic environment which will allow the private sector to create the jobs that are needed to get Canadians back to work.

It is through partnerships with the private sector that our role can be fulfilled. One way the government can do this is to target its investment in the key areas of our economy.

The budget also increases investment in technology and innovation through a number of actions over the next three years funded by the reallocation of $270 million from budget savings. For example, Technology Partnerships Canada will be established to encourage risk sharing with the private sector and to leverage investment in the development and commercialization of high technology projects and processes. Funding will grow from about $150 million in 1996-97 to about $250 million by the year 1998-99.

I believe this is important for all Canadians and I believe it is important for my province of Prince Edward Island. We have the capabilities to succeed in the high technology world. All we need is help to tap into it. Islanders welcome the possibilities that come with the focus on high growth sectors of the Canadian economy.

I urge Prince Edward Islanders to take full advantage of this focus. We have little to lose and so much to gain. It is possible to create year round employment on the island and it is up to the private sector to create those jobs.

The Budget

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the hon. member for Hillsborough were along the lines that the deficit has been reduced year after year by the Liberal government. Certainly that is true, although we have seen the federal debt rise to some $600 billion. It has increased over $100 billion in the time of its mandate.

Given that the debt is rising so dramatically, could the hon. member for Hillsborough tell us what specific target date the government has for reducing the deficit to zero, to have a balanced budget, which will enable it to start paying down the debt? Can he give us a date?

The Budget

11:20 a.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, we have worked on deficit reduction. We will continue to do so until the books are balanced. I will certainly not give him a date as to when that might be, but I can tell him that we are much better prepared to do it now than we were over the last number of years. It certainly will take place in the distant future.

The Budget

11:25 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to both the Liberal speakers.

The best security we can offer the children of Canada are parents with a stable income. The greatest threat to the economic stability of a family is the unrestricted power of government to tax away its wealth.

There is an ever rising demand on the revenue dollar to pay the interest on an ever rising debt. When the Tories replaced the Liberals in 1984 they inherited a $200 billion debt from the Liberals. In nine years they added another $300 billion to it. The first budget presented by this government promised to add another $100 billion to that.

When we talk about the security of families and children, that debt is the greatest threat to their security. It is the greatest threat to good long term, well paying jobs for the parents of those children.

I admonish the members who have spoken and also the government. As the demand on the revenue dollar continues to increase to

pay the ever rising interest on our ever increasing debt, the security of the individual family is weakened. The greatest thing we can do is to get spending under control and reduce the amount of money we need to pay the interest on this huge debt.

The greatest transfer of wealth that is going to occur in 1997 is not to the provinces or to individuals in Canada. It is going to be to those we borrowed the money from, to the tune of approximately $50 billion a year.

Would the hon. member care to address his views on the threat that this picture poses to the economic security of families and children in Canada?

The Budget

11:25 a.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the best thing for security is full time permanent jobs. The debt is astronomical and we all realize that. The government has started to get the deficit under control. It has offered some enhancement for the future. The economy is going well and jobs will be created if the climate is there. I believe the budget has done that. Reports from the media state that this is what people in the business community think. It is not perfect. I will be the first to admit that. It is probably not in total what I would like to see, but it is a lot better than it was when we came here. I can guarantee it will continue to get better.

The Budget

11:25 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today as part of the debate on the budget announced on March 6 by the Minister of Finance.

Unlike the hon. member who spoke before me, I have no congratulations whatsoever for either the Minister of Finance or the government for a budget I find deplorable, inequitable, regressive and inhumane in a number of ways. The main victims of this third Liberal budget are the ordinary folk, the workers, the unemployed, the welfare recipients, the elderly, the immigrants, the low income families.

The other main victims are the provinces, all of the provinces, Quebec in particular, which will see their transfer payments reduced.

The massive cuts in this Liberal government's three budgets, in particular the last one, are doing great harm to the people of Canada and the people of Quebec, and in particular to the ordinary folk in my riding of Bourassa, in Montreal North. My riding contains many single parent families, many retired people, many unemployed people and many, very many, immigrants. These cuts do great harm to the 600 people who are on the Montreal North waiting list for low rental housing.

As I have said, this is an inequitable and unjust budget. The unemployment insurance reform and the reduction in transfer payments to the provinces for social assistance, health and post-secondary education have already sent shock waves through the population, and continue to do so. It is my belief that these brutal cuts may well trigger a major social crisis in this country.

There have been many demonstrations everywhere in Canada against the cuts in social programs and against the cuts in unemployment insurance, particularly in the Atlantic provinces. Everywhere in Quebec, including Montreal, Shawinagan in the Prime Minister's riding, Quebec City, the Gaspe, and in Ontario.

I believe that these brutal and inequitable cuts are coming close to the limit Canadian and Quebec society will tolerate. As we can see everywhere, the social situation is becoming increasingly explosive, particularly because people can see that the budget is unfair, that the major companies, like the banks, and the people in the upper income brackets are either not affected at all or only barely so.

Instead of the government talking with workers or organizations representing them, the Minister of Human Resources Development is directing insults and accusations at the union leaders, particularly the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, the union that represents most Canadian workers, with its 2.4 million members.

On top of that, the Minister of Human Resources Development, who should be advocating dialogue among all sectors of society, is refusing to meet with the president of the CLC to discuss the cuts in social programs and the cuts to unemployment insurance.

It is incredible that the government, which is no longer contributing to the unemployment insurance fund, is making improper use of the $5 billion surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, and it is unacceptable. A number of members have said here that Quebec receives more in unemployment insurance than it contributes. I tell you that, in 1995, employers and workers in Quebec paid $4.530 billion dollars into the fund. UI claimants in Quebec received only $4.340; a difference of $195 million, which was not returned to Quebec. This, despite the fact that, for February, the rate of unemployment in Quebec was 11.3 per cent, or 414,000 workers actively seeking employment. There is no mention of those who are leaving unemployment insurance to go on welfare.

For Canada, the unemployment rate in February was 9.6 per cent, or 1,539,000 unemployed workers. That is a lot. It is scandalous. What is more, in 1995, the figure was only 1,514,000.

I was a UI referee for eight years in Montreal, and all those I met-the recipients and the lawyers-used to tell me about the need to improve-and not decimate-the UI program, which was set up under pressure from the labour movement and the workers. The Liberals are in the process of destroying this important social benefit.

When the Conservative government was in office in 1990, 87 per cent of unemployed workers were receiving benefits. In January 1996, under the Liberal government, 46 per cent of unemployed workers were receiving benefits. Less than half. That is outra-

geous. That is why the Bloc Quebecois, like the labour movement as a whole, demands that Bill C-12 be immediately withdrawn.

In this budget, we expected the government to submit a plan to revive the economy and create jobs. Yet, there is nothing of the sort in his budget, despite the Liberal Party's famous election promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs".

I take this opportunity to salute those attending the summit on the social and economic future opening tonight in Quebec City. This is a Quebec government initiative involving the participation of unions and employers, among others. I hope that the results of this summit will benefit all the people of Quebec and that those taking part will take adequate measures to revive the economy and create jobs.

One of the things that I found most shocking in this budget is that it reduces the tax benefits for labour sponsored venture capital funds. There is nothing to create jobs in this budget, which cuts moneys to the very organizations that seek organizations that seek to create and maintain jobs. These labour sponsored venture capital funds are effective tools to create jobs. Yet, the government is cutting the federal tax credit rate for these funds from 20 to 15 per cent and lowering maximum investment from $5,000 to $3,500.

There are 19 workers' funds in operation in Canada. The funds' assets amount to $2.5 billion or $3 billion. They have invested more than $850 million in the Canadian economy since they were established. In Quebec alone, the fund established by the FTQ, or Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, has helped maintain or create about 40,000 jobs. Forty thousands jobs in a single province, that is very significant.

The government claims it wants to get Canadians back to work. But why hit workers so hard, and their funds, which are used mainly to invest in small and medium size businesses? What is terribly unfair in all this is the fact that these cuts affect mostly Quebec, where half the money in these investment funds comes from.

In response to a question by the Bloc Quebecois a few days ago, the Minister of Finance said that this kind of tax incentive would be reduced, since these funds are now very well established. But it certainly is not the case with the CSN's-the Confédération des syndicats nationaux-action fund. This is a new fund, which is not yet very well established and therefore requires government support.

I worked on establishing the Fonds de solidarité de la FTQ when I was a servicing representative, and this fund has helped thousands of FTQ members, people who do not make a lot of money, in allowing them to put money aside toward their retirement. It also helped maintain or create 40,000 jobs, as I mentioned earlier. Why attack this fund? The proposed cutbacks will slow down job creation in Quebec, and particularly in regions where economic growth is sluggish.

A study conducted by the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre shows that the government recoups the tax costs relating to workers' funds within three years or less. This study takes into account benefits such as the following: with these funds, tax revenues increase as a result of investments being made; also, reliance on the UI system is reduced because more people are at work and fewer claim UI benefits.

But the government did not attack the registered retirement savings plans, the RRSPs, in its budget. As we all know, such tax deductions can help create employment, but 20 per cent of this job creation could take place abroad. Twenty per cent of RRSP contributions can be invested abroad.

Why cut in investment funds then? As I said earlier, unemployment is at 11.3 per cent in Quebec, and more than 800,000 Quebecers are on social assistance.

The FTQ had the extraordinary idea of setting up this Fonds de solidarité a few months ago. I was there, to help complement this initiative by establishing regional funds. Nine of these regional funds, which will be set up everywhere in Quebec, have already been created. I congratulate the FTQ and the officials of the fund for their extraordinary contribution to promoting job creation. I should point out that the Quebec government and the administrative regions are partners in these regional funds.

What does this budget provide regarding old age pensions? The government creates a new seniors benefit to replace old age security, guaranteed income supplement, age credits, as well as pension income credits. The most dangerous aspect of this budget is that this new seniors benefit puts an end, once and for all, to the universality of benefit programs for seniors. This is very serious and simply unacceptable. The principle of universality applies to all social security programs.

The minister tells us that most of these measures will not affect current retirees, but future generations will be severely hit by these changes. In my riding, in Montreal North, the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées opposes the federal government's decision. It is firmly opposed to any reform that would undermine the benefits program for the elderly.

As for corporate taxation, we, Bloc Quebecois members, and myself in particular as the member for Bourassa, expected the government to review the corporate tax system. There is currently a shortfall of close to $10 billion. We must put an end to tax havens. There is no reform in this budget, only promises and commissions.

There is nothing concrete. Meanwhile, the profits of major banks exceeded $5 billion in 1995.

This explains the tax revolt. Everyone knows that banks do not pay their fair share of taxes. The banks that registered these sky-high profits are the same ones that made massive layoffs. We demand a true corporate tax reform, as well as the establishment of a minimum tax for corporations.

According to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's estimates, expenditures for 1996-97 will reach $621.5 million. The budget for ICSI will be $76.8 million. This is $8.1 million in additional resources for that activity. I do not see the reason for spending more to promote citizenship.

The Budget

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, the time allotted to the hon. member for Bourassa has expired.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the remarks of the member for Bourassa, particularly the comments about the 19 labour investment funds that have total assets ranging from $2.5 billion to $3 billion. I know a little bit about them and I take exception to his suggestion that these funds are unfairly attacked in the budget. He seems to be implying that these funds are creating jobs.

They are not creating very many jobs. They are great for investors because of the tax credit but most of their assets are tied up in blue chip stocks and money market vehicles.

Would the member for Bourassa support me in pressing the government for an amendment that would require the labour investment funds to invest at least half their assets in Canadian small businesses so that at least $1.5 billion of it would be used to create jobs?

The Budget

11:50 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Quebec this is what is being done. The FTQ's Fonds de solidarité is investing in small and medium size businesses. This fund has already created 40,000 jobs. It is a start. But I think that it must go further. I am in agreement with the general idea of my colleague from Hamilton-Wentworth, but until now this initiative has been a complete success. After the FTQ's Fonds de solidarité was created, 15 other such funds were set up in Canada, including in British Columbia and Ontario.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a few questions. I wonder if he would give me his reaction to the comments in the media regarding the government's budget.

Constituents in my riding, for example, are happy to hear that there is no increase in taxes, that there will be additional cuts within government, that funds have been earmarked for the purpose of doubling the amounts spent on creating summer jobs, that there will be this new initiative to create entry level jobs for young people in order to give them experience. They have praised the government because it continues to target the deficit and make progress. Despite the cuts, it will be able to increase transfers to the provinces for health, education, training and social assistance.

I therefore wonder if he has any comments to make. I find it surprising that the comments he is reporting from his riding seem to be very different from those I have been hearing in mine.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, true, there are no new taxes. But everybody knows Canadians have been taxed to the hilt, especially under the Conservative government. We are told there are no additional cuts in this budget, but it is not so. There are several cuts, especially to transfer payments to the provinces. These cuts are huge. Most cuts announced in the last budget are coming into force this year.

He points to the job creation initiative for young people. I have seen how it has been welcomed by young people. They are not very pleased with this kind of job creation. This is not what they wanted. This is not significant. The government should have tried a bit harder in this area.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the discussion of labour sponsored venture capital funds. The hon. member is correct in pointing out that they have been very successful, particularly in the province of Quebec. However, the government must at all times look at the total picture and weigh the effectiveness of incentives provided against other measures presented in the budget.

As the budget papers point out, those venture capital funds have approximately a two-year supply of capital based on the level and the rate of investment that has been engaged in by those funds. It seemed to be an appropriate and reasonable measure to scale back, to temper the incentive a little bit.

I wonder if the hon. member thinks that government should never re-examine and balance the incentives that it provides and just keep on benefiting one sector on and on.

The Budget

11:55 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, such investment funds are revolutionary. When they were first created, not too many people believed they would work. Small investors, workers whose salary might be

barely above the minimum wage, are encouraged to invest in these funds, which will provide for their retirement.

The goal of these funds is not purely economic. They also have a social goal. For instance, the businesses in which the FTQ fund has been investing offer economic training to their workers; they learn how to take part in managing the firm. The fund is doing a great job.

Why not tackle some other problem areas? Why not go after tax havens instead of workers' funds, and why not levy a minimum corporate tax, as is done in the U.S.? There are many areas other than workers' investment funds where the government could have found more money.

The Budget

11:55 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I shall be sharing my time with the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women.

I am most pleased today to be able to take the floor in this noble institution to speak on the 1996 budget. This is the third one we are presenting, aimed at guaranteeing Canadians budget stability and an economy that is vigorous, dynamic and competitive, in today's harsh economic context.

Along with the 1994 and 1995 budgets, this one maintains a broad strategy that is deliberate, measured and responsible and is aimed at putting federal public finances on a sounder footing. It is deliberate, because our efforts are continuing unrelenting. As the Minister of Finance has pointed out, in our implacable fight against the deficit there is no going back. We are going to balance our books. We shall also put the debt-GDP ratio onto a permanently descending curve, dropping lower every year.

It is measured, because our action plan is not being applied in a blind and reckless manner; it is well structured and proceeding at a rate that will allow efficient adaptation. What we are aiming at is not a quick fix but permanent progress over the long term.

It is responsible, because this is a strategy which requires us to take the needs of the economy and of society into account, and to use particular care in designing the strategic options which will equip us to meet those needs.

What is more, we are seeking the necessary balance to allow Canadians to join us in our efforts to reduce the deficit.

There remains no question about the need for dramatic and disciplined action. High public sector deficits and debt have sapped confidence, soaked up domestic savings and led to a sharp increase in the country's net international indebtedness. Canadians were paying a painful high price through the punishing pressure that high deficits place on interest rates. This takes away consumer and business investments and drives down job creation.

The lethal combination of high interest rates and deficit borrowing also meant that a growing share of government resources must go to interest payments on a growing debt. This year those charges will cost the federal government $47 billion, money that cannot go to lowering taxes, aiding those in need and helping our economy create new jobs.

These, Mr. Speaker, are our reasons for doing what we did. It is not because solving Canada's budget problems constitutes an objective in itself, but because it constitutes a fundamental component of our national growth, of job creation, and of economic security.

In the first two budgets, we began a process of improving our public finances and of restoring the state's budgetary credibility, after years of failing to control the deficit.

By setting credible rolling two-year targets, by basing budget planning on cautious economic assumptions and by creating substantial reserves for contingencies, we are making public finances once again credible.

The first two budgets provided for unprecedented cuts to program expenditures. These structural cuts focussed on the medium term. Thanks to them, the 1995-96 and 1996-97 objectives of reducing the deficit to 3 per cent of the GDP will be met, despite the fact that the growth of the GDP is slower than expected.

This progress is due in part to the fact that interest rates are also much lower than expected, and this in turn offsets the negative effect of the slower GDP growth.

The measures announced in the 1996 budget strengthen and extend those of our initial budgets and provide an added push toward the achievement of our economic and financial goals.

We set our sights on the reduction of program expenditures, because the debt problem was the creation of the governments. They must therefore resolve it by putting their own affairs in order.

Therefore, the 1996 budget provides for no increase in taxes. There is no increase in income taxes for individuals or corporations, and there is no increase in the excise tax.

Expenditure cuts in the 1996 budget will amount to $1.9 billion in 1998-99 and will build on the reductions of the two previous budgets to keep program spending on a downward track.

Here is a point that must be emphasized: a full 87 per cent of the cumulative fiscal actions taken from 1994-95 to 1998-99 will have been expenditure savings.

Together the three budgets will contribute $26.1 billion in savings for 1997-98. This action, together with the reform of the employment insurance program, will ensure that we hit the new deficit target, to bring the deficit down to 2 per cent of GDP.

Thanks to the measures announced in the budget, we will manage to save an additional $28.9 billion in 1998-99, which means that the deficit will continue to shrink.

There is no doubt we have taken a historical step. The program expenditures, that is, all expenditures less interest payments, could shrink for six consecutive years, until 1998-99. These are actual cuts in real dollars. Expenditures would shrink from $120 billion in 1993-94 to $105.5 billion in 1998-99, that is, a reduction of 12 per cent in the amounts spent.

In real terms, the level of program expenditures, adjusted to reflect inflation, will in fact be below that for 1984-85.

Program spending, as compared to the size of the economy, will be at its lowest level since 1949-50. The debt to GDP ratio, or what we owe as compared to what we produce, will drop by 1.1 per cent to reach 73.7 per cent in 1997-98. This will be the first significant drop since 1974-75.

Another fiscal element is worthy of mention. Calculated the same way a number of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, measure their deficit, our financial needs reached $30 billion in 1993-94. In 1997-98, they will have dropped to only $6 billion. As compared to the size of the economy, this is the lowest they have been in nearly 30 years. At this rate, we will likely have the lowest shortfall of all G-7 central governments.

Two additional points are worthy of mention. First, the economic assumptions included in the budget plan are once again more conservative than the private sector's. For instance, our projections for 1997 are based on interest rates nearly 1 per cent higher, or 80 base points, than the private sector's forecasts.

If economic forecasts reach or surpass the planned levels, the deficit could be lower than our 2 per cent deficit target for 1997-98. Any unused portion of the contingency reserves will be used directly to reduce the deficit even further.

Second, the federal government's fiscal health is not the only one to improve; that of the provinces and territories is also improving markedly. The combined deficit of the provinces and territories dropped from a record $25 billion in 1992-93 to $12.6 billion in 1995-96, from 3.6 per cent to 1.6 per cent of GDP. Consequently, in Canada, the total government deficit should improve significantly as compared to the other G-7 countries.

In 1992 the combined government deficits in Canada stood at 7.4 per cent of GDP. That was double the G-7 average of 3.7 per cent and the second highest behind Italy. This year Canada's total government deficit will have fallen below the G-7 average to rank second lowest among the the G-7 countries, just behind the United States. By 1997 our country's total government deficit should be the lowest of the G-7 based on the each country's current plans.

Obviously, we are making sustained progress, as are all major public administrations. The biggest winners will be Canadians. We are taking the necessary steps to lower interest rates, increase competitiveness, promote job creation, and improve economic security. You can be sure we will stay the course.

The Budget

12:05 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct something that my distinguished colleague from Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle said. Our distinguished colleague who represents a part rural, part urban riding in this House is sticking his chest out and boasting about what a responsible budget this is, stating that it was not raising taxes for individual taxpayers or the big companies, in a word, it is not hitting anybody. There are a few points however in his speech that sound dishonest to me in that not all the truth is being said in some instances.

It is true that it did not raise taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol, but will he recognize however that, by going after milk subsidies in its budget, the government will be contributing to making the price of butter go up 28 cents a pound and the price of cheese 50 cents a kilo?

In fact, by eliminating over a period of five years the $4.62 per hectolitre milk subsidy, this government is directly attacking industrial milk producers and indirectly attacking all Canadian consumers, who will see their taxes go up not on alcohol, tobacco and fuel, but on their food baskets, and on butter and cheese in particular. Is that what he calls a responsible budget?

The Budget

12:10 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend opposite for his question. As you probably know, since our government came to office in Ottawa, some 500,000 or 600,000 jobs have been created. Obviously, in certain areas, it will be a little more difficult to create jobs, but on the whole, the number of jobs created for the long term will certainly outweigh the incidental aspects, so to speak, of the finance minister's budget.

The Budget

12:10 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech and was quite impressed at how good things are in Canada.

I wonder if the hon. member would comment on some questions Environics polled from December 12, 1995 to January 11, 1996. The first question asked was: Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way the government is handling the economy? Approve, 26 per cent; disapprove, 68 per cent.

The second question asked was: Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way the current federal government is handling the deficit reduction? Approve, 24 per cent; disapprove, 67 per cent.

It gets even gloomier. What about taxes? Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way the current government is handling taxation? Approve, 19 per cent; disapprove, 77 per cent.

Where is the rosy picture we were just hearing about?

The Budget

12:10 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, since taking office, the deficit percentage has gone down from 5.9 per cent to 3 per cent. The government is meeting its targets. Next year it will be hitting 2 per cent.

I am surprised that the member from the third party likes polls so much considering that his party is staying at 10 per cent and has not moved for a long time.

The Budget

12:10 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak in support of the recent budget brought down by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.

This is a good budget. It is a balanced budget and a Liberal budget. It continues to support the government's commitment to prudent fiscal planning and to a deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP while creating opportunity highlighted in the red book for youth, women, children and seniors. It continues to secure the future of social programs for all Canadians regardless of region. In fact, it sets firmly the infrastructure essential to the building of a nation as it embarks on the new millennium, a strong, economic and social union. It was a pleasant coincidence that the budget was tabled during International Women's Week because the budget has many initiatives that will advance the economic independence of women, albeit in a time of economic restraint.

There were creative new policies that showed how equality can be served when there is a strong political will to do so. The budget serves women in all stages of their lives; as students, as youth, as mothers, as entrepreneurs, as seniors. It does so by using a variety measures from enhancing access to education and training, to investment of actual dollars toward low income families, many being single mothers.

Let me point out some of the creative measures in the budget that show how the government understands the reality of women's lives. The initiative that received the most media attention has been the child support package. The object of this reform is to place the well-being of the child first. It is based on the clear principle that support of one's child is not discretionary but is a duty.

It makes four specific changes. The first is a non-inclusion, non-deduction tax policy that not only puts more money in the way of the child but levels the playing field between divorced parents and those families that stay together.

Second are specific guidelines that will set payment levels based on the gross annual income of the non-custodial spouse with room for relief if there is hardship to that parent.

Third are enforcement measures that would ensure the compliance of a non-custodial parent who wilfully reneges on payments by denying access to passports or other federal licences. The data base of Revenue Canada will be utilized to track these parents who try to evade provincial jurisdiction.

Fourth and most important, the moneys realized by Revenue Canada from this change in tax policy will be used to double the working income supplement to 700,000 low income parents, one-third of whom are single parents.

The Prime Minister spoke in his reply to the throne speech of creating security for older Canadians. The budget made good on that promise. The new senior's benefit which will combine OAS, GIS, the tax and pension benefits into a single tax free payment will benefit nine of out ten single women. Almost 60 per cent of seniors are women, many of whom live in low income situations. In fact, 80 per cent of seniors, single or couples have low incomes of under $45,000 and they will get the same or more money under this new plan. Also, this new seniors benefit is fully indexed.

This innovative move which targets low and modest income seniors is the only way we can ensure the future sustainability of the old age security which today represents one-fifth of federal government spending. The government continues to show its commitment to fairness. While securing the future of low and income seniors we have also given assistance to those future seniors who will depend mostly on private incomes by removing the limits on RRSP carry forwards.

The child care expense deduction has been expanded so that it applies more widely to parents pursuing full time studies while raising their families. This will help women get an education or training, to enter the workforce and secure their economic independence.

Single parents will now be allowed the same deductions available for couples pursuing full time studies, and the age limit for day care has been increased from 14 to 16. These simple initiatives

have recognized the reality of women's lives and that of their children and has levelled the playing field so that women's access to education and training can be expanded.

The budget is not only about women, it is about the government's continued recognition of the importance of small and medium size business and how they play a role in job creation.

Concerning the new world of technology the 21st century Canadian must face and master about the globalization of putting in place policy initiatives that would improve the access of small business to global markets, policies that would increase access to the Internet, that would enhance research into environmental and biotechnologies, in every way the budget has moved Canada into the competitive starting line for the new millennium. I am gratified to see that my province of British Columbia, the leader in environmental and biotechnology, will benefit from these policies.

Women, seniors and entrepreneurs represent today's world. How do we build a tomorrow? How do we ensure our productivity increases and that we can ensure our continued evolution as a world competitor? The answer lies in our youth, and by making youth a priority the budget has again shown itself to be forward looking and progressive.

I can go on about partnerships with the private sector to give youth their first jobs and to get them out of the catch-22 situation of no job without experience, no experience without a job. I can talk about the doubling of summer jobs, the increased Youth Service Canada initiatives for community work or I can speak to the increase in RESPs or the increase in the tax credits for education, but there is not enough time.

Liberal governments throughout Canada's history have put into place the social infrastructure we have come to take for granted: medicare, social security, post-secondary education subsidies, student loan programs.

It is appropriate that a Liberal government spearhead the evolution of these programs so that they are relevant to the needs of the 21st century Canadian and to the new federal-provincial partnership.

When the CHST was brought in as a positive alternative to the established programs financing and CAP in the last budget, I saw it as a positive step in a new decentralization of management.

Stabilizing the cash component in the budget at $11 billion and setting in a five-year plan that would see an increase in the transfer of payments in the last three years are other moves in securing a future for Canadians which will ensure Canada continues to have a strong social and economic union as we move into the next millennium.

The Budget

12:20 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the government has just stated that this is an excellent budget. I, on the other hand, could say that this budget is hypocritical toward women and young people. Although it refers to subsidies to provide our young people with summer jobs, we know full well that the government had already cut $25 million in the previous budget. So this is the lesser of two evils. The budget tries to make some adjustments, but the last budget still contained cuts to community group programs for women.

These groups have seen their funds reduced by 31 per cent over six years. The last budget cut funding for women's organizations by 6 per cent. I am not so complimentary or positive about this budget. Look at what is happening today. People are still demonstrating. I was watching the news earlier and everywhere in Quebec and Ontario people are demonstrating. The federal government has cut transfers to the provinces.

People are indicating that they are not happy with this budget. Do they seem happy? Not at all. They are warning us that our social programs are in danger because of the government's pervasive cuts. There was an attempt to please young people and women, but women also want jobs. I feel that neither this budget nor the last one created jobs for women, or that real, concrete measures were taken.

The federal government has not invested a red cent in the UI fund, and yet it wants to centralize. The UI fund is even running a surplus, which the government plans to use to reduce its deficit.

I, for one, do not think this is a good budget for women. It is not what women are telling us. The last budget came under severe criticism, and I do not think that this budget will improve women's lot. Giving them the right to receive UI benefits and the income supplement will not create jobs, but simply ease the economic situation. However, for young women, for women returning to the labour force, there are no job creation initiatives.

My colleague also talked about nation building. I would like to ask her this: Is she aware that, within the nation they want to build, there are founding peoples, including Quebec francophones and natives?

I am very pessimistic about this budget. I would call it a hypocritical budget. It does not show any desire on the government's part to decentralize. There is some duplication. I think that, with all the commissions-on revenue, on health-it promises to set up, the federal government is once again trying to create jobs for its own people at the expense of the provinces.

The Budget

12:25 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to respond to my hon. colleague's questions. My colleague has forgotten some things and probably has not read the full budget.

How can my colleague say that in the budget we have not put into place anything for women? The obvious concern of everyone is that putting money into programs is the only answer. We have made some fairly creative and innovative changes in the budget. We have changed tax structures. We have increased the ability for many more women, especially single women, to have access to day care, including single women who are parents attending high school. This a very innovative budget.

I was at the United Nations last week. When we talked about some of these tax initiatives, countries in which fiscal restraint is the order of the day were extremely excited to see some of the ways we were able to give women economic independence and ensure their equality in times that are tight.

The hon. member maybe should stop looking at the old ways and start looking at some creative, innovative ways to go about changing things.

The hon. member speaks of summer jobs as if the program is something which is not worthwhile. Imitation is the best form of flattery. British Columbia has just embarked on a summer job program that echoes ours exactly. Therefore it tells us we are on the right track to helping youth.

The Budget

12:25 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Southwest.

As I speak to the budget today, I cannot help but think it is almost a waste of my time. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances we are here on the second day of debate on the budget, almost two weeks after it was introduced in the House. Already the budget is of little if any concern to the Canadian people. It was insignificant 12 days ago when the finance minister gave the budget speech and it is of even less significance today.

The budget the government members are so proud of is a budget that does nothing. Actually it seems to be the rallying cry of the Liberal government, the party that does nothing and is proud of it.

I know I am being a little facetious here. After all, the government has done something. After three years in power the government will have added $100 billion to the national debt. For some unknown reason members opposite seem to think this is a great thing to have done. I would like to put their record into some statistical perspective.

The Liberal government has been in power for less than 2.5 per cent of the 129 years Canada has existed as a country. During this short period it is responsible for 17 per cent of the entire debt. There is a record these Liberals can be proud of. They have been able to run up the debt at a faster rate than any other government in the history of Canada.

I can see the Liberals in their caucus meeting chanting "we are number one, we are number one". Unfortunately the members of the government have actually bought the premise that having a deficit of 3 per cent of GDP is some magic elixir. Three per cent of GDP is irrelevant when the national debt is 75 per cent of GDP.

This massive debt load we carry is the biggest threat to our social programs and the greatest hindrance to increased employment. The government is following in the same footsteps as the Tories when they came to power in the mid-1980s. It is not doing things differently. It is not being creative.

The Tories also took modest steps to improve on the disasters the previous Liberal government had created, and then congratulated themselves for their meagre accomplishment. The Tories failed to take advantage of a booming economy to get their finances in order. When the recession hit, they were in dire straits.

Unfortunately the Liberals do not seem to have learned from the mistakes of the Tories. Here we are with some of the lowest interest rates in the last 30 years, a booming economy in the United States, low inflation, yet our economy is stifled by sluggish growth and we still have far too many people unemployed. What is the problem? In case government members have not noticed, it is the debt.

The debt costs Canadians $50 billion a year in interest payments. It astounds me when I hear members of the government and the socialists complain about our banks earning billion dollar profits. Do they not realize that much of the profit the banks earn is from interest payments on money they lend to the federal government? It is not just Canadian banks. Each year our government sends almost $20 billion of taxpayers' money to foreign banks and financial institutions.

Has the government not realized that with almost 33 cents on every dollar the government spends going to service the debt that it is extremely limited in what it can accomplish?

The Reform Party knows the problem is the debt. The IMF knows the problem is the debt. Even the CIA knows the problem is the debt. That is right, the CIA.

While surfing the net last week, my office came across the CIA's home page. While it does not list all its secrets on the Internet, it does list its analyses on all the countries around the world. It has a very thorough eight page listing on Canada. Of particular interest was its information on our economy. In summary, the CIA states:

"With its great natural resources, skilled labour force and modern capital plant, Canada has excellent economic prospects, although the country still faces high unemployment and a growing debt".

If everyone else recognizes the problem, why has not the government? Instead it brags about a deficit of around $30 billion this year and $20 billion and some next year.

What is particularly troubling is how the government is reducing the debt. Much of its cost cutting has involved a reduction in transfers to the provinces. That means the federal government is not seen cutting any of its programs; rather the provinces have to cut theirs. It looks good for the feds, but the real losers are the taxpayers.

The other major sleight of hand is how the government is now using unemployment insurance premiums to subsidize other government spending. It is true that two years ago the unemployment insurance fund was in a deficit situation, but that deficit has been eliminated. By the end of this year there will be a $5 billion surplus. By next year there will be close to a $10 billion surplus.

Is the money being saved in a special unemployment fund which can be used the next time there are more expenditures than revenue? Of course not. It is put right into the consolidated revenue fund. Is there any chance that the government will reduce the premiums so that employers and employees will have more money in their pockets to stimulate the economy? Of course not. The government is keeping the money in its pocket so it looks like it is doing something about the deficit.

The government should be spending less time on optics and more time on doing the right thing. What is the right thing? To figure that out I think the best minds in the Liberal Party scour through the Reform Party's policies to see what idea they can steal next. If the government continues to steal the Reform Party's policies and platforms, it will eventually get around to addressing the debt. After all, it has already adopted our policies on seniors.

In my constituency there is a large senior population. Amendments to the old age security program will be viewed with particular interest. In the last election campaign the Reform Party suggested two changes to OAS: calculating income on a family basis and eliminating payments to high income earners. I recall the Liberals condemning us for these suggestions. "How unfair to use family income to calculate benefits", they said. "It is heresy", they stated, "for Reform to suggest that we eliminate payments to high income earners, as that would mean the death of universality".

What do we see in this budget? The end of universality and the family based income calculation. It is so typical of this government to say one thing to get elected and then do the opposite when in government.

If this government had just adopted our position on the debt and deficit, it could have saved Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars in interest payments. It could have prevented billions of dollars from being sent out of the country to foreign financial institutions. Maybe it could have let Canadians enjoy some of that excellent economic potential that we would have if it were not for our debt. Hey, if you do not believe us, go ask the CIA.

The Budget

12:35 p.m.


Jack Iyerak Anawak Liberal Nunatsiaq, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the hon. member complain about all the things the government is doing wrong, while at the same time telling us that the UI deficit has gone, that it is now in surplus. Today we have the lowest interest rates in 30 years and a low inflation rate. I cannot figure out what the hon. member has to complain about. She just told Canadians that this government has done a very good job of attacking those things.

The hon. member mentioned at the beginning of her speech something about how we are cutting the social programs. I am wondering what she would do for single parents who are having a hard time in their day to day living or for the aboriginal people who are at the bottom end of the economic scale, and which we are doing something about to address, such as the Nisga'a case. We are trying to right the wrongs that have been done over the years. The Reform Party does not support the negotiated agreements we have made with the Nisga'a or any other land claims. Reformers think we are giving away the land and the money to aboriginal people.

What does the hon. member think the government should be doing to address the wrongs that have been done to the aboriginal people over the issue of lands and other rights, as well as the disabled and all the other social issues?