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 BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Lethbridge.

I am pleased to be able to speak to the budget today. I was pleased to be able to listen to the speech of the Minister of Human Resources Development. He is a very practised speaker and is quite impressive. Any Canadian listening to the minister would say: "We are in good shape. Look at how well off we are compared to other countries". The big problem is that the minister, as pointed out by my colleague's question, did not mention the fact that all of this goodness we are receiving is based in good part on the fact that we are borrowing money to be able to produce all these services. That is not the worst of it. We know that our debt is approaching a tremendous figure of over $580 billion.

The minister correctly says that the government is trying to tackle the deficit. The government is making some progress on it, I will concede that. However the progress is insufficient when we consider the size of the deficit and realize how much deeper in debt the country is going and that all the services being provided are based on the debt and deficit situation.

As a result of the prorogation of Parliament in February, I had the opportunity to consult with my constituents for some time on this topic. While in my riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan I received a good number of letters and phone calls on the subject. I was also able to conduct a public opinion survey on the budget.

Constituents and business persons alike took the time to share their thoughts with me as to what the budget should offer Canadians. There was pretty much a consensus of the message people wanted conveyed to the Prime Minister and the finance minister. That message was a very simple and sincere one: Get government off their backs and out of their pockets.

Unfortunately the budget put forward by the finance minister is in many opinions including mine, an abject failure. It is so much so that if I had to assign it a letter grade, I would be unable to do so as the alphabet just is not long enough.

I will criticize the latest Liberal budget from the perspective of an ordinary taxpaying Canadian. I am not doing this because I believe it will benefit the Liberal members across the way who I think have lost touch with the voters. Instead I would like to convey to the House at a personal level how the budget fails Canadians.

A responsible businessman in my riding did some work for me. After he had finished he phoned me and a long conversation ensued wherein he told me his problems. I am going to concentrate his problems on the federal side, but they are shared equally by the provincial government in British Columbia and by the municipal government.

This businessman is an honest, sincere, practical fellow. He obeys all the rules. He obtains all the permits. The people he employs are properly qualified trades people. However, obeying the rules is getting him into trouble. Several years ago he had 21 employees. He dropped to 11 employees. Right now he has five employees. He told me he might have to sell off one-half of his business and go into business by himself. Why is this? He fills in all the returns. He obtains the permits. His employees are educated. He pays his taxes, including the GST.

The problem is that other businessmen do not obey all of the rules. All of the rules and all of the taxes are so high and so complex that instead of open business being conducted, there is an underground economy and fly by nights can take advantage of the situation. They do the job for cash and therefore do not pay the GST. They undercut the responsible businessman who is playing by all the rules. It is unfortunate.

Of course, it shows the effect of the GST. It shows the effect of all taxation. It shows the effect of the bureaucracy which is all over the businessman. He does not have any choice but to shrink his business and watch in vain as business goes to fly by night operators. That is a shame.

A great deal has been made in media reports especially by the CBC that the deficit has been tamed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The callous way in which the media have chosen to ignore the fact that the government will allow the debt to increase to some $600 billion in a year or two is absolutely shameful.

If there was ever any question that the CBC had abandoned its commitment to journalistic integrity, its coverage of the Liberal budget ended whatever doubt may have existed in the minds of many Canadians. No doubt owing to the gratitude the CBC must feel for being spared new cuts in the budget, the Liberals have effectively bought themselves a powerful lobbying machine and cheerleader.

In relation to the budget, personal examples of how Canadians will be affected by its contents best serve to illustrate the government's fiscal shortcomings. I have in my hand a copy of the T1 general tax form which every Canadian will be filling out in coming months. The form at line 437 asks for the total of all taxes deducted, or the amount of money the federal government really takes out of our pockets.

Approximately 40 per cent of whatever amount a Canadian places on that line will go toward interest payments on the total federal debt. Roughly 40 per cent of what we pay in taxes is going to service the debt. Think of all the things that could be bought with that 40 per cent. Translated, if a person is making $30,000 a year, the amount entered on line 437 would be around $5,000. Out of that $5,000 approximately $2,000 goes toward interest payment on the debt.

That money is not going toward medicare obviously. It is not money that is going to any other social spending, such as education or what have you. It is not even money that the person filing the return can use for his or her own personal enjoyment. This money is spent on servicing the debt and represents the lost opportunities of every Canadian who pays taxes in this country.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

That is shameful.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

It is shameful. The phrase economists use is opportunity cost. Most Canadians reflecting on it would call it a damnable shame.

The truly sad thing is that unless the budget is balanced, we could eventually spend 50 cents or more of every tax dollar on debt interest. Think of that one. We are still heading in that direction. As the accumulated debt grows so does the amount of interest Canadians must pay to service that debt.

In closing, I urge my colleagues to vote against the government's budget for 1996. Beyond that, I say through you, Mr. Speaker, to all Canadians: When filing your income tax return this year, and people will be doing that in the next six weeks, do not forget to note how much of your hard earned money the Liberal government is going to spend on servicing the debt and the next time you are at the polls, vote against the Liberal government's destructive fiscal policy.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thought I heard the hon. member say that he could not give this budget a letter grade because it was so bad.

Members opposite often cite the Fraser Institute, but on this occasion, not a word. Michael Walker said: "In regarding the government's latest budget as boring, commentators have missed some of the most aggressive fiscal action in the country's history. Far from being a bore, this budget was a turning point in Canadian fiscal history. We may well chart a dramatic turn in our fortunes to March 1996".

Would the hon. member like to comment? It is not that Mr. Walker has had a conversion on the road to Damascus; he has read the budget.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to defend what Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute said. What I would like to do is read through his entire statement and pull out the parts the member opposite is not quoting.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I want to address the issue about the national debt, some $550 billion. This is a very large amount which scares many Canadians. It represents an amount that has been accumulated over the last 25 years. Some $350 billion has been accumulated in terms of accumulated deficit. The balance is compounded interest.

One of the things members do not ever talk about is the rest of the balance sheet of the Government of Canada. Since the previous questioner was talking about the Fraser Institute, let me share with members what the Fraser Institute had to say about the assets of Canada. It said that the value of Canada, excluding the land value, was some $3 trillion.

If all the assets, the purchases, the goods that Canada owns excluding the land, were to be put on the balance sheet, those $3 trillion worth of assets would be there along with the debt. It is like a mortgage. It is a mortgage that has to be paid down. It is a mortgage that will be paid down, but it will not be paid down on the backs of the poor, the disadvantaged and the seniors as the Reform Party has been advocating all along.

I will put it simply for the member. If he is like other Canadians he probably bought a house and has a mortgage. Does the member think the mortgage interest he pays is just throwing money away or is he investing in real assets which are to the benefit of him and his family for the rest of their lives?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not grace the debate by doing a comparison such as is being offered here. I would like to do a couple of things in addressing the words I have just heard.

First, I will correct the false statement that the Reform would do debt correction on the backs of seniors and such. This is so much hooey and we keep hearing it from the other benches. I quite resent it.

The other statement made by the hon. member had to do with Canada's worth. Implicit in this statement of so many trillion dollars of worth is that we can afford to keep on adding to the debt. When we consider the debt servicing charges alone account for $40 billion and they are is going to be increasing in time while the Liberal government is in power to $50 billion a year, that is a shocking figure. Think of all of the services we could buy for that $40 billion or $50 billion.

We all believe in the worth of Canada. Yes we can prove it in our infrastructure et cetera. However, to say that therefore we can continue to go into debt, because we have not anywhere near accomplished the possible debtload here, is a specious argument at best.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in the budget debate.

In my 10 minutes I will make three points. First, I will talk about the impact Reform has had on the government's fiscal agenda. Second, I will illustrate the impact by comparing the taxpayers budget which is talked about in this House to the Liberal government's actions and what has happened. Third, I will look at what lies ahead.

The first thing to look at is the dramatic change in the direction of the Liberal government since coming to power in 1993 and the role of the Reform Party in influencing the direction of that government. Let me explain.

In the 1993 campaign the Reform Party warned that job creation would be weak until the deficit was eliminated and taxes were lowered. We argued that the country's poor economic performance was directly related to its poor economic fundamentals. Our prescription was very straightforward and quite logical: eliminate the deficit, pay down the debt and lower the taxes. On the other hand, the Liberals told Canadians that the deficit and interest rates were high because the economy was so weak. The economy was weak because the government was not creating enough jobs.

What does that translate into? The deficit was not the problem. The economic fundamentals were not the problem. Government cutbacks were the problem. All that was needed was for some good old-fashioned Liberal government to come along and prime the fiscal pump. The jobs would start flowing, the economy would start growing and the deficit would go away.

The Liberals followed through with that pump priming when they came to power. What did we have in February 1994? They spent $2 billion of borrowed money, asked the municipalities and asked the provinces to borrow another $4 billion, to build things like boccie courts in Toronto and canoe museums in Shawinigan. They raised a few taxes, trimmed a little spending and waited for the jobs to roll in. But the jobs did not roll in. In fact they slowed to a trickle. Interest rates did not come down, they went up. Bluntly the Liberals' plan did not work.

Being the pragmatists that they are, the Liberals looked around to see what other solutions were before them. The option there was the message being preached and talked about by the Reform Party in 1993, a message of spending reduction, deficit reduction and fiscal restraint. The about face which followed is unprecedented in the history of Canadian politics.

Starting with last year's budget the Liberals have transformed themselves from traditional Keynesian pump primers to orthodox fiscal conservatives which is quite a transition in Canada. In the wake of this conversion the new Liberal gospel which we heard from the lips of our Minister of Finance not too long ago reads as follows: First, governments no longer create jobs, the private sector does. What a realization. Second, spending no longer stimulates the economy, lower interest rates do. Third, deficits no longer keep the economy afloat, they sink it. Most important, it was said by the finance minister that job creation is dependent on low taxes, low deficits and low interest rates rather than the other way around. What a conversion.

If asked to comment on this transformation I would make two observations. First, it is good. The change is good. Second, the Reform Party of Canada impacted and got through to the government to change the circumstances, which is a bonus in itself.

Actions speak louder than words so let us look at the Liberals' budget to see how far they have come.

Last year my party estimated that to balance the budget by 1998 without increasing taxes, spending would have to be reduced by some $25 billion. How have the Liberals done? To date they have proposed spending reductions of $15 billion. In other words, they are 60 per cent of the way there. They have also raised taxes which has narrowed the gap somewhat. They have promised to continue their work which means we are conceivably on the track to a balanced budget sometime around the year 2001 which is also good.

To break it down further, the taxpayers budget recommended reducing departmental spending by $10 billion. The Liberals have now done that. They reduced it by $10 billion and are counting and it seems to increase.

The taxpayers budget recommended reducing transfers to provinces by 24 per cent. Despite increasing equalization payments spending under the Liberals has been reduced by more than 21 per cent. Health, education and welfare have been cut far deeper.

The taxpayers budget recommended downsizing the UI program by some $3.4 billion. With the latest UI proposals, the government will surpass that goal.

As we can see, progress has been made and for that I applaud the government. I also applaud my own colleagues, for these numbers make it clear that Reformers have had a significant impact on the direction of the Liberal government. However, much more can be done.

For example, Quebec is the fourth richest province in Canada yet it is the largest beneficiary of equalization dollars. By putting a priority on the poorest provinces we can save another $3 billion annually. Eliminating all subsidies to businesses would save at least another $2 billion a year. I could go on. The federal government today is closer to fiscal stability than at any other point in 15 years. I certainly applaud the government for that direction.

The major criticism I and my colleagues have is that in dealing with the deficit the Liberals have not moved quickly enough. This is not being picky. The Liberals' inaction carries a cost which comes in the form of interest payments on the debt. To illustrate, by 1997-98 with the latest Liberal budget we will be $42 billion further in debt than we would have been if the Liberals had followed the taxpayers budget. By my calculation the interest cost price tag associated with this additional debt is an accumulated $5.3 billion over the first three years alone.

Sadly, this has forced the Liberals to do the one thing they sought most to avoid: to make deeper cuts to the programs Canadians value most. Let us look at that. My hon. colleague commented on it a few moments ago.

The taxpayers budget called for health care reductions of just $800 million. The Liberal cuts so far are $3.4 billion and counting. Compare that. The taxpayers budget asked to reduce funding for education by only $200 million. The Liberals have now cut seven times that amount.

Third, going even further back to the 1993 election, we proposed to limit old age security payments to those earning less than $54,000. The Liberals now plan to place the threshold at $45,000. Who is slash and burn and who is really cutting? I think that has to be laid on the table so that people know about it.

These are the costs associated with what the finance minister likes to call a moderate deficit reduction pace, even faster than the Reform Party in some of the social areas.

However, as I stated earlier, the end is now within sight. While we may differ on the pace of our efforts, members of all parties realize the importance of building on what progress has been made.

What is the end result? What are the fruits of our efforts? They are many. Once our fiscal problems are behind us we can focus on new, more pleasant decisions. Instead of finding new areas to cut, we can debate the matter of lower taxes. We can decide how to pay down our debt. We can opt to bolster health care and pensions if that is what Canadians want to do. Balancing the budget will also result in more permanent lower interest rates. As the finance minister points out, rates have come down already but we expect that to continue.

This brings us the real rewards. Tax breaks mean Canadians will have more in their pockets at the end of the day. Lower interest rates mean more Canadians can afford a car. A healthy economy means more Canadians will have the confidence and ability to buy a home. In short, we will all see a real and perceptible rise in our standard of living. This will bring about the very thing the Liberals promised three years ago but could not deliver: a healthy economy, a positive growth climate and jobs, jobs, jobs.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have ever heard such a strange argument. As I understand it, the argument is that the Liberal Party has done so well, and we are accepting that the Liberal Party has done so well over the last three years in its governance, that we are somehow responsible.

All I have heard over the last three years from the party opposite is what a disaster the government has undertaken against the people of Canada. Therefore it is very interesting that today the Reform Party seems to be turning the course in recognizing that the Liberal Party has done the things it said it would do.

In the red book we stated we would bring the deficit down to 3 per cent of GDP. That was months before we even heard about the Reform Party in the House. The reality is the government is on track with that.

It may be that all of the things the member is applauding would have happened even if those seats over there were not occupied. The reality is we are on our agenda. Six hundred thousand new jobs have been created in this period of time. The debt to GDP ratio, which everybody seems to be ignoring, for the 1996-97 period will be 75 per cent. It is nothing to be proud of but in the 1997-98 fiscal period it will be 94 per cent. That is the turning of the course of this deficit which the government has basically brought all by itself, not by the urging of Reform members.

I see that Mr. Forbes in the United States has fallen out of favour on his flat tax but it seems to me Reformers are continuing on in this vein. One of the speakers mentioned his concern for small business. Would the member acknowledge that a flat tax would do away with the current low rate of tax for small and medium size business?

Would it not also tax interest of the banks, the very interest transfer payments he talked about being the money the poor taxpayer was paying for interest on the national debt where the recipient of that would not pay tax on it under the Reform Party's flat tax agenda?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Reform Party, as a party we want to be fair. When a government makes progress in a certain direction we should applaud it.

The government member wants to deny the idea came from the Reform Party. I think he would have to admit that the Reform Party is the group that put pressure on the Minister of Finance in terms of balancing the budget.

During our first term here our leader asked time after time in question period when the government would balance the budget. I asked it as the finance critic. Across Canada the public and the business community asked the question of the finance minister. The financial houses which look at Canada's credit rating asked it of the finance minister. There was tremendous pressure from a lot of sources to be fiscally conservative and deal with the deficit.

In the last fiscal budget the finance minister responded and went much further. He said his Liberal caucus members took some two or three months to move over and finally thought they would take the risk on more deficit and expenditure reduction. What was the big result? The Minister of Finance set up a bank of telephones expecting Canadians to jump all over them and tromp them with their boots because they had reduced expenditures and tried to deal with the deficit. The telephones were dead. Nobody phoned because it was the right policy. It was what the Reform Party had been saying for months, even two or three years before we came here; cut expenditures, reduce the deficit and there will be all the results I mentioned in my speech.

Now with regard to the question of flat tax, the Reform Party wants a tax that is fair for all Canadians. I think we all want that. There are three or four models of flat tax. One model is the pure flat tax, the one model the hon. member was referencing, which deals with interest, charitable donations in a variety of ways. The Reform Party is taking those models to Canadians and asking: "Which option would work for you as a Canadian? Which one would help small and large businesses and the individual taxpayer in the best way?" That is how we are handling it, by taking it to the people of Canada.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I say respectfully to all members I am flat out of time.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario


John Godfrey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I want to talk about the future for Canada made possible by this budget. My comments are based on two statements.

The first one comes at the end of the finance minister's budget speech, and I quote:

We must set great national challenges, not small ones because it is only by reaching as high as we are able that we will discover how far we can go.

Why can we not decide together that ten years hence, Canada will be regarded as the world leader in the new industries of the new economy, in bio-technology, in environmental technology, in the cultural industries of the multi-channel universe? Why not decide together that ten years hence increasing child poverty rates will be a thing of the past, that illiteracy will be erased from our communities and that when it comes to international tests, our students will not simply do fine, but in fact be the very finest?

In that statement, the minister talks about national challenges, about challenges facing all of Canada. The second statement comes from the Prime Minister's presentation on the throne speech, and I quote:

Canadians were used to seeing governments compete, first ministers bicker, but with Team Canada they saw us working together. They liked what they saw and they want to see more it.

We can and must prove to Canadians that we, federal and provincial governments and the private sector, do not need to leave Canada in order to work together. Team Canada worked well in Beijing, Bombay and Buenos Aires but it can work as well in Burnaby, Brampton or Bromont. We should put the same Team Canada spirit to work here at home creating jobs in a true national partnership.

Here is one approach, one way of meeting the national challenges the Minister of Finance was talking about. Today, I am proposing a blend of these two great ideas, combining national challenges with a Team Canada approach. I am putting forward an action plan to make ten blueprints for Canadian society a reality within ten years. Ten days ago, on March 2, we held in my riding a symposium on the theme of blueprints for Canadian society in a renewed Canada. What it was not is a constituent assembly. There was no talk of centralization, decentralization, new distribution of powers within the country, Brussels or subsidiarity.

The partitioning of Quebec was not discussed either. There was no plan A, B, C, D or X. All we talked about was the raison d'être of a country. There were discussions about friendly association across the country and about a real country called Canada.

What is a blueprint for Canadian society? First of all, it requires a partnership involving the federal government, the provincial governments, the municipal governments, the private sector, the volunteer sector, the academic sector, the labour movement, and so on.

Canadian history is filled with examples of such plans. The economic situation during the second world war is but one such example. The construction of our railroads, of the Trans-Canada highway and pipelines, and of the St. Lawrence seaway are more examples. We could even add the development of our national health care system.

What should our new blueprints for Canadian society be? The Minister of Finance mentioned a few; here are a few more. The participants in the March 2 seminar looked at three examples: one in the environmental industry, based on the technology developed by Ballard Power Systems, in Vancouver; one dealing with how to better protect and educate our children; and one concerning the information highway.

The methodology used was similar in each case. First, what is the goal, the vision, the mandate? Second, what is the theory supporting this vision and why choose this project as opposed to another one? Third, what resources are available at every level-federal, provincial, private sector, etc.-to fulfil the mandate? Fourth, how could we join our individual efforts to achieve our common goal?

How can we create that famous Team Canada at home? Let me give you an example. Everyone, and politicians in particular, talks about the need to protect our children. However, this is often mere rhetoric. Yet, we all know that positive support to young children until they reach the age of four or five is absolutely essential for their emotional, social and intellectual development. Headstart programs are well worth the initial investment.

We have all the necessary resources to provide our children with the support they need to achieve their full potential. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research on Human Development gathers researchers from across Canada, including a very important player in Montreal, the team of Richard Tremblay and Marc Renaud.

There are also federal and provincial programs. As well, there are community based projects everywhere in Canada. Yet, as a country, we have not succeeded in consolidating all these initiatives in a Canadian blueprint for society.

A country exists to face common challenges. This is why, in the coming decade, we need to have at least ten Canadian blueprints for society, if we are to build a new Canada. People do not belong to a country only for reasons of fear or money. They do so because they are willing to work together to create a better country.

The Order of Canada motto, now the country's motto, reads: Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam . They want a better homeland, like all of us.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has given a wonderful speech, but in practical terms I do not see what these national challenges can do for us. It is all very lovely, but, practically speaking, this is not the answer.

Furthermore, since coming to power, this government has focussed almost exclusively on budget expenditures in its fight against the deficit. This leaves the less fortunate, seniors and students footing the bill.

I would ask my hon. colleague two questions. National challenges cost money and in order to have money we must create jobs. Regarding the $5 billion surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, does he think we should use this money purely for the creation of jobs and not to reduce the deficit? That is my first question.

This is the second. Since, at some point, we also have to take another look at the tax system, would it not be wise to ask a parliamentary committee to examine this whole issue? I think that that is where we must begin, by creating jobs first and then looking at the tax system.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would rather address my hon. colleague's opening remarks, in which he congratulates me on my speech, but he is very suspicious, very sceptical, very cynical even. I would simply like to talk about a fine example of a national blueprint for society in which Quebec has a very keen interest.

When I was chairman of the Standing Committee on Industry, I was asked to create a sub-committee to look at the defence industries and their conversion in Quebec. This is an example of an industry based in Quebec that depends enormously on the Canadian infrastructure.

At the meeting I mentioned a moment ago, I made a proposition concerning this technology, which I referred to in my speech, to create an urban bus system using a type of electrochemical cell, namely the Ballard system. This is a company that is creating a technology but has no partner in Quebec. And then there is Bombardier, a Quebec company specializing in aerospace and mass transit. Why not form an alliance between this company in British Columbia and the company in Quebec? That would be a form of partnership. That would be a national project in everyone's interest, because it would also entail the conversion of a defence industry. It would mean taking an existing asset, Bombardier, and converting it to environmental technology. That is why we must get involved in this sort of national project.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Perth—Wellington—Waterloo Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on the 1996 budget.

A few weeks ago the government presented its blueprint for the future. The throne speech outlined the many areas the government said it would address in this session of Parliament.

I was proud of the contents of the throne speech. It was forward looking while addressing the immediate needs of our great country. I am equally pleased with the budget. It provides that the throne speech was not simply a feel good document as some members

opposite had labelled it. The contents of the 1996 budget proved conclusively that the throne speech is what it intended to be, a true working document.

The budget provides concrete actions for many ideals set out in the throne speech, especially on the jobs and growth front. It is that area on which I should like to concentrate today.

Since being elected in 1993 job creation and economic growth have always been top priorities. While the government has the ability to create direct jobs for Canadians as it did in the successful $6 billion infrastructure program, the true role of government is to provide the private sector with a framework for growth.

A healthy economic climate is the key to the creation of quality, long term employment. In our three years in office we have met with a large measure of success in this area. Interest rates have declined by 3 percentage points in the past year. Inflation is at its lowest in 30 years. Canada's economy is more competitive than ever. More than half a million private sector jobs have been created since we took office. Since November alone 123,000 such jobs were created.

Due to successive budgets that attack spending we have once again been able to hold the line on taxes. There have been no personal tax increases in the past three years.

Combined, these facts paint a future that is bright for all Canadians who must not be content to sit back and admire the progress that has been achieved. More work remains to be done on the job front.

In a world where fiscal resources are increasingly scarce, our governments must now make strategic choices about where they want to spend their money. That is why the government has chosen to focus on three areas which are keys to our future prosperity: jobs for youth, technology investment and encouragement, and trade.

I could go on at some length about the important role young Canadians will play in our nation's future but that is a speech in itself. It is one that contains fundamental truths that all Canadians share. We must provide our younger generation with the opportunities necessary to succeed.

Times have changed for young Canadians. The rapid changes brought about by the new realities in the global marketplace have affected youth. When I was a young man, a high school education was all that one needed to have success in the job market. Today post-secondary education is only the first step in the lifelong exercise of learning.

The message to stay in school has never been more important. That is why our youth need assistance more than ever before. The federal budget provides that help. The budget provides an additional $165 million over three years to help students with the increased cost of education. Education tax credits will be increased and the limits on the transfer of tuition and education credits raised.

The budget will also increase the limits and contributions to registered education savings plans. Broadening the eligibility for child care expense allowance will help more parents undertake education or retraining.

An additional $315 million will be provided over three years to create new youth employment opportunities.

Funding will be doubled for summer student jobs. The government will also work toward a Team Canada style partnership between business and governments to create entry level jobs for youth. These investments in our youth will pay large dividends in the future.

Let me turn to technology, the second area of the jobs and growth agenda. The budget concentrates on technology as our way in the future. Canada has been a world leader in the growth area of technology. The jobs of tomorrow are in the high tech field and Canada's future depends on our ability to provide continued leadership in these areas. The budget outlined technology partnerships to encourage the development of the environmental technologies, advanced manufacturing and materials, as well as biotechnology. It will also help maintain jobs in the aerospace sector which is subject to heavily subsidized foreign competition.

Additional funding will be provided to the Business Development Bank to provide loans to knowledge based exporting and growth businesses. We will accelerate our efforts to bring the benefits of information technology, especially the much talked about information highway, to the entire country. In particular, we want to connect rural areas-and there are many in my riding of Perth-Wellington-Waterloo-to a program in which 2,000 computer students will connect 50,000 small businesses to the Internet. That is also part of the government's plan. Combined, these efforts will allow Canada to maintain its role as a world leader in the burgeoning field of technology.

The third job and growth field that the budget addresses is trade. The idea is not how to avoid competition but how to get into the game. In this area I am happy to say that we have been very successful. Month after month Statistics Canada is reporting substantial increases in our exports. In the first nine months of 1995 Canada's merchandise exports grew by over 20 per cent and its trade surplus by a dramatic 63 per cent over 1994.

Adding to the good news is the fact that this rapid growth is diversified. The good news does not stop there. This phenomenon is taking place in all the world's major markets. To ensure that this success story continues, the Export Development Corporation will receive $50 million in new equity capital for further innovation types of export funding. Other areas of export finance will be

increased and a review of business taxes will be undertaken with the goal of promoting jobs and growth.

We have lived up to the promises outlined in our jobs and growth agenda. I have only provided a brief overview of some of the changes put forth in the 1996 budget. I could go into some detail about other commitments that have been kept. For instance, we will easily hit the 3 per cent of GDP deficit target this year and have outlined an even more ambitious 2 per cent for next year.

The budget is also full of other good news stories such as reassurances of stability in our social programs and enhanced RRSP regulations. What is most important to me is our efforts on the prosperity front, our investments in youth, technology and trade to ensure that the Canadian economy has the ability to adapt and grow in the face of future changes.

We were elected on a jobs and growth commitment and we again spell that agenda out in the throne speech. The budget is just another example of our government living up to its promises.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec. I rise to take part in the debate and in the analysis of the budget brought down by the government on March 6. My comments will point to the positive aspects of it, but will also cover its negative side.

We all know that the role of the opposition is not always easy, but it is very effective, because all too often, the government mentions a few positive points, but innocently forgets to mention the negative ones.

I will also speak to the amendment proposed by my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, which summarizes what I have to say very well. It reads as follows:

"the budget statement by the Minister of Finance be rejected by this House because:

it proposes no real job creation initiatives and does not reduce government spending, most notably the approximately $50 million appropriated annually to the Senate;

it uses the Unemployment Insurance Fund surplus to reduce the budget deficit and reduces social transfers to the provinces;

it undermines labour sponsored venture capital funds, such as the FTQ and CSN funds;

it does not propose a transparent process for achieving genuine reform of corporate taxation, or an unequivocal determination to undertake such reform;

it undermines the provinces' fiscal autonomy;

it eliminates subsidies to dairy producers without offering them adequate financial compensation;

it jeopardizes women's financial independence by adopting household income as the basis for determining seniors' benefits".

Whether it is a government, corporate or family budget, a budget acts as a mirror. It helps us evaluate revenues and expenses, identify management strengths and weaknesses and plan for the future. In the present budget, I see no plan for the future. It is the status quo in terms of management and excess in terms of expenditures.

I divide the budget into two parts: short and long term actions. In the short term, there is mention of deficit reduction and the absence of taxes-I consider these positive. The negative aspect is the dumping of federal expenditures onto the provinces through the reduction in transfers to the provinces. It involves the taking over of the unemployment insurance fund. When we need so much money for job creation, when employers and employees alone are paying into the fund, the government simply seizes the fund to pay down its deficit.

Revenues are naturally on the rise because of a certain economic upturn and cuts in the public service.

As far as taxes are concerned, we have been told there will be no increase. Here again, we tend to see this as really positive. However, the down side is that no one is mentioning the cuts in goods and services, which amount to several millions of dollars in revenues. Take, for example, support payments in single parent families, which will bring in between $300 and $400 million.

There is also the reduction from 20 per cent to 15 per cent in the exemption in risk capital investment funds. There are the RRSPs, the seniors' pensions, and we could go on at length naming revenue-providing goods and services that have been cut.

Earlier, the minister spoke of the $60 million allocated to students, but failed to mention the cuts of some $400 million in post-secondary transfers. We can see that it is simply a matter of shifting funds about.

We are told that there are no tax increases. However, a cut here or a reallocation of funds there is often equivalent to much more than a tax increase. Long term measures announced in the budget include the creation of a securities commission, a revenue commission, a health research commission and a SchoolNet program.

All these measures seem very positive at first glance, but they forgot to mention that these are primarily provincial responsibilities and, above all, that they will lead to overlap, waste and absolute spending powers without provincial authorization. What is even more serious is that in 1997-98, the debt will reach $600 billion, $50 billion of which is interest, and the debt is due to this

overlap, this waste and this absolute spending power of the federal government.

Earlier, the member opposite told us that there was no problem, that it is a capital asset, that it is comparable to someone buying a house. I do not see much of a long term capital asset in this overlap and waste.

Imagine, $50 billion. If one could, tomorrow morning, have $50 billion to invest in jobs creation, there would probably be a shortage of workers in Canada. A mere $6 billion was made available for the infrastructure program and several thousand jobs were created. These $6 billion will have to be repaid. The interest on this amount is paid out of revenues, in hard cash. So if every year we had $50 billion to invest in job creation, there would not be enough workers left in Canada.

Unfortunately I believe that the message sent by Quebec the day of the referendum, on October 30, has not been understood by Canada and instead of withdrawing from provincial jurisdictions, instead of decentralizing and stopping wasting money, the government is going in for even more duplication, in particular with such things as the securities commission, the revenue commission, the health research commission and the Internet for every school.

Regarding Internet, the matter was raised in California during the last weekend. Internet will be installed in every school but it will be done by way of general mutual co-operation. Now, I am convinced that here the installation of Internet, which the government wants to have in every school in Canada, will require a huge organization. People will travel from coast to coast to make sure standards are enforced and that the program functions well. We will need more than the $800 million usually spent each year on government travel.

In a nutshell, I see nothing there for employment, debt reduction, taxation or Montreal. Yet, economic raiding has done much harm to Montreal. I could give as examples the construction of the seaway versus the port of Montreal, the Borden commission on the petrochemical industry in eastern Canada, the construction of Mirabel versus the shift in air transportation towards Toronto, and many other examples. In other words, I will conclude by saying that the raison d'être of the Bloc Quebecois, which is the sovereignty of Quebec, makes more and more sense.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before resuming with questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Regina-Lumsden-Corporate downsizing.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised the issue of the government's using the UI fund to move toward a balanced budget or reduce the deficit. Had the member been in the House earlier this day he would have heard the Minister of Human Resources Development explain that it was just this past December that the UI fund actually moved into a surplus position. That is because of the significant deficit that was accumulated during the last recession. The member might want to check those facts again.

He also talked about the infrastructure program and indicated that $6 billion was simply spent. He elaborated that this is really not a very good use of the government's money. However, the member did not comment on the savings Canadian taxpayers have achieved by not having to pay UI out to those people who are working on infrastructure projects.

He did not comment on the fact these people are paying income tax and contributing to the payroll taxes which ensure we have a secure system. There is also a ripple effect of those programs throughout the economy. Clearly the infrastructure program had a tremendous impact on jobs, which is really the issue I wanted to raise with the member.

He will know that on March 8 Statistics Canada reported that 44,000 new jobs were created in February following the creation of 44,000 jobs in January and 49,000 jobs in December of 1995. That is a total of 137,000 new jobs created in the last three months alone, some 82,000 being full time. Even better, that means more than 600,000 new jobs have been created by the government since it took office in November 1993.

Does the member not really believe that even Quebec has benefited from the responsible fiscal management of the government?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Perhaps I was not here earlier today, but I think that the member did not follow or understand properly what I said concerning the infrastructure program. I did not say that the infrastructure program was not a good thing, I did not say it did not create job, what I said is that if that program created only 44,000 jobs, according to the member, with a $6 billion investment, I believe the $50 billion now spent on the interest on the debt would create a lot more of them. The difference is that these $50 billion that could now be invested in job creation would not have to be reimbursed. The $6 billion spent on the infrastructure program must be reimbursed. Some municipalities got in debt to do this work and will have to pay back what they borrowed.

That is what I was thinking when I said that, had we not accumulated such a debt through so much waste and duplication, had we simply respected the principle agreed upon in 1867 by the Fathers of Confederation, that is one level of government in charge of national and international activities leaving management of provincial activities to the provinces, we would not be in such a

predicament now. At present, we are in gridlock. We spent $10 billion on national symbols that are now resold for next to nothing.

That is the simple explanation, in my estimation. The $50 billion would have enabled us to create so many jobs, but now that amount is a burden instead, generating the unemployment we now experience.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take part in this debate on the last budget to show its impact on the lives of my fellow citizens, especially those in my riding.

Because it seemed like a very nice budget that did not impose any new taxes or because tobacco, gas and alcohol prices did not go up, some people might feel that it evens out the score, that it is not worth arguing about.

That is why I decided to shed light on this budget's hidden impact on family life. To that end, I will use the example of a fictitious family of five people, which could be called the Lemay-Dumas or the Jobin-Duguay family. It includes the mother, the father, their two children and a grandmother.

The mother, Mrs. Lemay, is currently unemployed after losing her part time job as a nurse's aide in a home for seniors. The father, Mr. Dumas, works for a community organization and earns $32,000 a year. The older daughter, Martine, is in her last year of college and hopes to be accepted in the maths program at Laval University next year. She works part-time as a waitress in a restaurant. As for the son, Maxime, he is in his last year of high school and has not yet started to earn money. The grandmother is retired and has been a widow for three years. She lives on the second floor of the house belonging to her son and daughter-in-law. After the birth of her first child, the grandmother never went back to the labour force.

I would like to explain how the federal government's budget cuts will affect these five people, how they will threaten and, as a result, lower their quality of life.

To that end, I will go quickly over the cuts to the Canada social transfer, which were widely condemned by the Bloc Quebecois because these cuts and the resulting shortfall in social programs financing will threaten and automatically alter the lives of the people in this family.

It is quite simple. The Quebec government will receive less money from the federal government. There is talk of $1.2 billion for the year 1996-97, which means $4 billion over four years. The people in Quebec will receive less but continue to pay the same amount in taxes. This will not change the tax rate. So, Mr. Dumas will pay his share to Ottawa, but his provincial government will not get back from Ottawa as much as it used to in terms of transfers.

The Government of Quebec will have no choice. Since it will be receiving a smaller percentage of the taxes paid to Ottawa by its taxpayers, it will have to cut its expenditures. That is plain and simple.

In what areas will the Quebec government spend most of its revenue? It will be up to the Quebec government to decide. Will it be health, education, social assistance? The responsibility will have shifted from one level of government onto the other-in fact, several government members plan to take advantage of this situation to score political points, praising the benefits of the federal system and contending that only the federal government can provide an efficient social safety net.

The government has come up with a novel idea: the social union; at the same time, and the President of the Treasury Board himself boasted about it in this House: "We are going to wait for the Quebec government to make cuts, and then we will brag about how the federal government, which is committed to providing all Canadians, including Quebecers, with a social safety net, will go about it."

Chances are that the family in question will be directly affected. Martine, the young student, will have to pay higher tuition fees at the university because of the social transfer transferring less to Quebec. With these higher fees, her income as a waitress will no longer be enough, and she will have to forget about pursuing her education or work longer before being able to register.

Chances are also that Mrs. Dumas will have to pay out of her pension benefits a portion of the cost of her medication, because that too is what the Canada social transfer is about.

Should she need to be hospitalized, or to have a nurse come from the local community service centre, at this point, it is hard to know the impact, since the Quebec government has not yet announced where it will make cuts, but some cuts will definitely be made. The government is no different than a family. If its revenues go down, so must its spending. This is why the Bloc Quebecois so strongly condemned federal cuts in transfers to the provinces.

What would the grandmother, Mrs. Dumas, Martine, Mrs. Lemay or Mr. Dumas do if they were asked to choose between these new constraints imposed on them and a increased tax on profits made by banks? Considering that, for the first quarter alone of the current fiscal year, the five major Canadian banks made profits of $1.47 billion, and considering that if the trend persists, these banks will exceed their record profits of $4.9 billion in 1995,

do these people wonder, like us, whether the banks could contribute a little more to the effort to put our fiscal house in order?

Do the members of that family approve of the federal government tolerating such huge profits, while forcing the provinces to cut programs such as education, health and social assistance? No, they do not approve. I am convinced that they do not approve, and neither does the Bloc Quebecois.

Let us now talk about old age pensions. Mrs. Dumas does not have to worry about her pension, since she is already receiving it. She does, however, and deservedly so, worry about her son and her daughter-in-law's future. She realizes that the federal government is doing a great injustice, particularly to her daughter-in-law. Indeed, Mrs. Lemay, who contributed to the plan for years when she was working, and who will continue to do so as soon as she finds another job, could see her pension affected, since it will be based on her income combined with that of her spouse.

Years of efforts to ensure that women would gain financial autonomy have been annihilated by this new measure. There is a strong possibility that Mrs. Lemay will get less than she would have under the old system.

Moreover, Mrs. Dumas realizes that her son's family is far from being rich and that its members had to give up small luxuries. She also finds it unfair that they are forced to contribute to a pension fund, which reduces their disposable income, without knowing whether they will be able to benefit from it later on.

Now let us take a brief look at student employment programs. Our student Martine is worried. She has heard about an increase in federal budgets for student jobs. However, one of her friends has explained to her that the money would go directly to employers hiring students.

Martine is well aware that her employer has no trouble finding employees and that he does not need any more bureaucratic red tape. She tells herself that it must be the same in most places and that she therefore stands very little chance of finding another, better paying job to cover the probable increase in tuition fees.

Mrs. Lemay is also worried about unemployment insurance reform. She has heard talk about demonstrations to protest the reform and has gone to her union for information. They have told her that she would indeed be penalized.

Mrs. Lemay and her husband had agreed that she would look after the children full time until both were in high school. This has meant that Mrs. Lemay has fallen considerably behind in her field and been unable to find a full time job. She wonders why the federal government is not proposing any measures that would create jobs. All she wants is a job, and she will take care of the rest. Jobs are not a dime a dozen and I do not think that there are any job creation measures in the budget.

There are 21,500 families like this one in my riding. There are 16,000 senior citizens. There are also 6,000 people currently unemployed. When you explain to these families and these individuals why the Martin budget is not as nice as it seems, they are of the opinion that the government has definitely not done its homework. They think that we should call this government to order and propose alternative measures. People will see through this budget. They know that it does not create jobs and that it is not fair to Canadians and Quebecers.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's speech.

I hear a lot of members talk about deficits and debts in this venue. The reality is deficits represent unpaid taxes. It is not a simple matter of saying we will reduce spending today or that we will increase taxes. The bottom line is we have not paid all of our taxes from prior years.

In reality a lot of that spending occurred within the province of Quebec. It is no different than other parts of the country. There are bills which we have not paid. That is what deficits are all about.

It is not a simple matter of comparing the reduction in spending on certain programs today; we have to look at the reality of the past.

I was interested in the hon. member's discussion of the Dumas family. She did not mention a number of issues which would have had an impact on that family: possibly child tax credits, which have been increased, and that we have increased the cash flow to that family. That we are fighting the deficit as judiciously as we are has reduced interest rates significantly.

The Dumas family, I suspect, also has a mortgage on its house. The next time it remortgages its house it will find out its monthly payments have been reduced and its cash flow has been improved.

The summer youth employment program is not only private sector employers, it is governments as well. It is the municipalities and the not for profit sectors which exist within the province. That adds a benefit to the community by employing youth and also adds a benefit to the communities in which they serve.

These are other areas in which the federal government has created a linkage with youth in giving them experience which they can put on their resume when seeking future employment.

The facts are clear that in the last two and a half years the economy has created over 600,000 new jobs, many of which are in the province of Quebec.

I wonder if the hon. member would like to address some of the real impacts the budget has had which will make the Dumas family a lot better off than it was a year ago.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, now I have heard everything in this House. When it is said that the deficit is due to unpaid taxes, this is not showing responsibility. It is irresponsible. Come on, now. Does that mean that the taxpayers have not paid enough taxes? What does that mean? What lies behind those words? I think that the government was unable to raise taxes this year because it knows very well that taxpayers have been taxed as much as they can bear. There have been no additional taxes, so I think the hon. member's remarks are not very realistic.

When a member speaks of giving funding to enable students to find jobs, the funding goes to businesses and the latter are the ones who are going to profit. There is one thing that I would like to say: behind all this, the budget is two faced. Let me tell you what cuts students have had to face. There was a $26 million cut in summer employment programs two years ago. Funding was reduced to $60 million and now that is being doubled to $120 million, but still $26 million were cut. There are cuts to the provinces for health, education, social assistance, to the tune of $4 billion. So who are the fall guys? The students, because the provinces will be obliged to make cuts in educational programs. They are making the worst cuts ever in 1996-97, $150 million at the post-secondary level. With such cuts, I do not think the results will be all that fabulous. It is kind of cynical, to help students so that they may shoulder a greater burden.

To my mind, these are inefficient and ineffective measures. Students, moreover, do not seem to be all that grateful for the pittance contributed to allow them to find summer jobs. And not all students will be the chosen ones who will find jobs. We know very well that it is a very competitive atmosphere and that businesses will take the cream of the crop. Students are not all that thrilled with this pittance. Because funding to education is being cut, their tuition fees will end up being raised.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to enter the budget debate and I congratulate the minister for the progress he has made in getting the deficit under control.

I support the approach of the minister in setting short term targets and meeting them with a gradual, well executed plan. It is clear that the approach has increased confidence in the economy.

In Atlantic Canada, the unemployment rate decreased from December 1994 to December 1995 from 14.1 per cent to 12.3 per cent. Domestic exports from January to October 1995 over the same period in 1994 have increased by 18.8 per cent. Manufacturing shipments have increased by 11.6 per cent.

In P.E.I., tourist data show that total visitor spending increased from $121.5 million in 1993 to $177.9 million in 1995. That is a clear indication of a healthier economy because most of the visitor spending statistics show the spending came from Canadian visitors in the main.

No doubt that is due to the better economy brought on by the successive budgets of the Minister of Finance. People want to come to see the beauty and the wonderful hospitality of Prince Edward Island. I encourage members in the House to come and see for themselves. Because of the improving economy and because we have a provincial Liberal government in Prince Edward Island, that province last week announced its second surplus budget. Certainly the Minister of Finance in Prince Edward Island should be congratulated for his performance.

Quite a number of my colleagues have talked about major advancements in the budget to address the needs of people. Measures are targeted at youth employment. We certainly welcome that endeavour. The increase in the working income supplement is a major move forward which I support, as I do securing seniors' pensions into the future.

In all our budget measures, finding the balance is always difficult. Since I came to this place, I have tended to lay out the facts, the good and the difficult. I intend to do so again today.

We must recognize the impact the federal budget will have on rural Canada and the economic activity on which rural communities are based, especially when the budget is combined with previous budgets.

We have to be cautious when looking at investing in the new technologies. It is the natural resource industries: agriculture, fishing, mining and forestry that have been the mainstay of the country over the years and will continue to be the mainstay into the future. In our quest to expand into the new service and technology areas, we should not draw too far from those basic natural resource areas that have built this country to what it is today.

This is my key point today. The government must recognize the necessity to continue to pursue its initiatives of deficit and debt reduction but with a key proviso that if the initiatives currently under way begin to have a negative impact specifically on the economic well-being of rural Canada, the federal government will be prepared to respond quickly, adjusting those policies should they have a negative impact.

I ask specifically that the government monitor the impact on rural Canada and be prepared to address negative impacts should they occur. Rural Canada has done more than its fair share in meeting our deficit needs. These have included transport policy changes, cost recovery and marine policy, cost recovery in Agriculture Canada, reduction of subsidy programs in the farm community. In the main and from what I hear from rural Canadians, they are

willing to accept the new responsibilities and shoulder on. But should the burden become excessive, I expect the government to be there to back them up.

I view the throne speech in part as being that kind of commitment. The throne speech said in part:

The Government is committed to the economic renewal of rural Canada. The Government will address the problems facing rural Canadians in a way that is tailored to their needs. Rural Canada is rich in natural and human resources and faces different challenges than urban areas. The Government will move forward in the coming session to make sure that all Canadians benefit from economic prosperity.

Let me take a moment to outline one of the areas that is the foundation of wealth in the country, the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 8 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product. It accounts for 15 per cent of Canada's total employment, 1.8 million jobs. In 1995 agriculture products accounted for $17.3 billion of exports, a 30 per cent increase over two years.

As I have already mentioned, we have to be careful not to undermine the goose that laid the golden egg, the agriculture sector. Over the past couple of years it has absorbed some hits and has lost programs.

I do not mind admitting that I am a little worried about the new and increasing use of user fees throughout the agriculture and supporting sectors that add to costs. In fact, in agriculture and agri-food alone we could face, I believe, 42 such user fees. One in and of itself is not a problem but the domino or multiplier effect could be serious and we need to monitor it to ensure that does not happen.

Another point I would like to make about user fees is that not only does the government have to monitor and control its deficit, it also has to keep in mind that other trading countries, our competitors, do the same thing and cut back on their subsidy programs and increase the costs to their agriculture sector. We do not want to find ourselves in a position of undermining the competitiveness of our producing sector in our gusto for deficit reduction.

There are all kinds of examples where the government, differing from previous governments, has responded to unexpected and serious happenings. For example, the recommendations with respect to the feed freight assistance has enabled the federal government to change the timeframe within which compensation is to be provided from the initial 10 to 3 years. That was a change recognizing the concerns of farmers.

The effort to sell the government owned hopper cars to the railways at a discount of 75 per cent of market value with farmers picking up the remaining 25 per cent through increased freight charges has been delayed, allowing a producer based coalition to come forward with an alternative financing arrangement in which maybe producers could take control of those cars. Those are good, positive moves.

In conclusion, the Atlantic region in particular has long faced unique challenges in its economic development. One key role the federal government has performed is to assist those provinces and the region through the sharing of national resources and wealth. This has been the hallmark of the Canadian federation.

It will be important that where financial transfers are being reduced over the next number of years that the federal government ensure that essential services are maintained. Should there be problems those changes should be monitored and the government be prepared to meet the challenges to assist the producers and the communities should they find themselves in unexpected need.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again they are skirting the real problems and avoiding the main issues, such as the ever growing debt and the deficit, which is being reduced on the backs of the disadvantaged and the unemployed, with the surplus in the unemployment fund going to reduce the deficit.

They also forget to tell us that the budget contains no provision for trimming government machinery. They neglect to tell us that there is nothing to eliminate overlap or to show us how the government intends to really decentralize. There is no mention either of this government taking steps to recover the $6 billion in taxes owed by various companies and individuals.

They also do not say that what is currently being put into the pot allegedly for job creation is simply money from elsewhere. There is nothing in the budget for research and development or for job creation in this area. Our universities and our researchers are reduced to zero at this point.

Therefore, in actual fact, the problem itself, the real problem, is that this budget contains no provision for job creation.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at the remarks by the hon. member. It makes one wonder if he has even read the budget.

The facts are that we have been moving forward in step while reducing the deficit. We have not been reducing the deficit on the backs of people.

It is very important that there is a surplus in the UI fund. The last thing we want is what previous governments have done and not build up a surplus in the EI fund. When you are in a recession you have to increase premiums in order to cover the unemployment insurance benefit payments and as a result you start to kill the economy. It is very important to build up a surplus in the EI fund.

The hon. member says the government is not creating jobs. The most tremendous potential of the country is its youth. The budget has set aside funding for increased summer employment of youth. It looks at measures for training. It looks at new technologies. It sets up a new agency to try to increase spending in those areas where youth will be gaining jobs in the future. It is trying to build on that potential so that Canada has a sound economy in the future. I would suggest that the member re-read the budget.