The hon. Minister of Finance. It is much nicer anyway.
Basically, what we need to wonder, as Canadians and as Quebecers, is just how, after these budget choices, after all the polite and general small talk of the budget, we will face the economic and social realities?
I must pause here to add the bad news announced last year, which will have a dramatic impact on provincial budgets and on the most disadvantaged once again, or on the middle class: the Canadian social transfer. It will be cut by $2.5 billion, which will force the provinces to make painful choices between education, welfare and health. These are painful and agonizing choices, which will have economic and social consequences.
It is not true that this budget contains no problems, that it is a good budget, that the government is headed toward its objectives, that everything is fine, that everything is going along well and thus the economy will start picking up. It does not strike me as appropriate to say such things. Why has unemployment insurance been the target of so many attacks? Why? The gist of the government's defence was that continuation of social programs must be assured. But that cannot be applied to UI. It is a self-sustaining plan as it is required to be, and one that is sustaining itself admirably well since the first cuts.
Mr. Speaker, are you aware that, without the additional cuts in UI, by the end of 1996 there would be a surplus, an accumulated reserve of at least $4.3 billion? So, this reform, which will have such serious effects, is being launched despite a reserve of $4.3 billion and the rock hard certainty that, with the cuts approved in 1994, next year there will be another surplus of at least $2.4 billion. My figures are very conservative.
This means, that at the end of next year, there will be an accumulated surplus, very conservatively, without the announced reform, of at least $7 billion. Is this the program to be cut to bits? It is time to call a spade a spade. This so-called reform, counter reform of unemployment insurance is aimed simply at reducing, very temporarily and very artificially, the deficit or we could say it allows the minister to reach many of his objectives, because, let us be honest, that is what it is all about.
It must be said, however, that this approach to reaching objectives is faulty, because, if we sink-and I hope we will not-in two years' time into a deep recession, where the number of unemployed is such that the accumulated reserve does not meet the need, the government will not only not collect any more contributions, it will have to borrow. This is not a real response to the needs of the fight against the deficit. It is wrong. Unless, and this is unthinkable, unless the government decided at the start that, after collecting such excessive contributions to unemployment insurance, if necessary, rather than borrow, it would further cut benefits, this sort of action would be not only inexcusable, it would be downright manipulation.
If the government really wants to get down to the problem of employment and of preparing Canadians and Quebecers for the labour market and really wants jobs to be created, I can tell you this is not the way to go about it. It looks for shortcuts, simple solutions, the easy way out, although perhaps it will not be as easy as that, if the truth be told. Perhaps the rallying of forces we have seen is an indication of the disillusionment of the people who always end up paying. Maybe it will grow.
We have not seen a movement such as this for a long time in Canada and the hon. members opposite can tell us that the union officials and social organizers are professional agitators, but from experience I can tell you something. All the union officials and social organizers in the world can organize nothing when people, who do not let themselves be manipulated, know that it is not worth the trouble. But when people know that it is worth it, that there is
something there, they wake up, and you never know where it comes from or the proportions it can take.
We are talking about the people, and maybe they are angry because it makes no sense. There is such a huge gap between the conditions in which so many people live and the ease with which it is decided to cut here or there without considering the aftermath on social and economic productivity. It is possible that people are truly angry.
The Bloc Quebecois feels a responsibility to speak out, not because it wants people to rise up for nothing, but because it wants the people of Canada and of Quebec to have hope.