Mr. Speaker, the purpose of my remarks today is to offer some few clarifications concerning the 1996 federal budget tabled on March 6 by the Minister of Finance.
We must admit that, overall, this year's budget was perceived in a very positive light by the people of Quebec and of Canada. Their general impression of it was there there will be no new direct tax increases for individuals this year.
This is a budget that did not make any serious waves, and left everyone feeling that they had been let off the hook, but appearances are deceiving. The Minister of Finance pulled it off very well, we must admit. He pulled off a really good one this time.
This year, the deficit will be a mere $32.7 billion, which shocked few people. According to most of the experts, the Minister of Finance has presented a good budget, because the taxpayers of Quebec and of Canada were expecting the worst.
I would like to point out, too, that the Minister of Finance has managed to have a lesser deficit than his predecessors, which seems to be a great accomplishment. It was managed in two main ways. First, by passing the buck. The buck was passed on to the provinces by reducing transfer payments for education, health and social programs by $7 billion over two years, which means $1.2 billion in additional cuts for Quebec alone, or possibly more. Second, by dipping his hand into the surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, to the tune of over $5 million.
In concrete terms, this means no tax reform, no public debate on social programs, no intention to review the question of tax havens for those who are not paying taxes.
Furthermore, this budget provides absolutely no measures to revive the labour market. Nothing new to create jobs. Already they have run out of ideas; the Liberal government is already worn out.
The government continues to hold out for a long-overdue economic recovery to carry it along. Why are the Liberals in Ottawa not delivering the promised jobs? Page 89 of the Budget Plan tabled in the House of Commons provides, and I quote: "-the average level of output in 1996 is forecast to be 1.9 per cent higher than in 1995-" This means that the federal government expects a moderate growth of 2.5 per cent for 1996. Reality, however, is quite different from the budget plan the government drew up for itself in order to create the jobs that never materialized in 1995, but were the watchword of the red book of the 1993 election. Unfortunately, in 1995, growth was no more than 0.6 per cent. However, in the 1995 budget, the government forecast a significantly higher level of growth, a level of real growth of 3.75 per cent, which is six times less than forecast. What a minister.
The fact of the matter is that, since the Liberals came to power at the end of 1993, the economy has not stopped collapsing, and the deficit has not stopped growing exponentially, despite appearances of sound management of public funds and reforms that have not stopped expanding the gap between rich and poor. It is a very sad state of affairs.
The cost of the public debt of the federal government is the prime component of federal spending, representing 29 per cent of all expenditures in 1995-96. In 1996-97, debt charges will represent over 30 per cent of the federal budget. I should also point out that 36 cents out of every dollar of tax revenue collected in 1995-96 currently goes to paying interest on the federal debt. It is written in black and white on page 121 of the Budget Plan. At this rate, less than two years from now, debt charges will be the federal government's single largest item of expenditure.
In 1993-94, the first year the Liberals were in power in Ottawa, the deficit was $42 billion. The second year, it was $37.5 billion. And the third year, $32.7 billion. After three years of Liberal
government, we have accumulated $112.2 billion in debt. That is a large sum of money. What the government is doing is playing the financiers' game. Lenders are getting rich at our expense.
Just to service the debt in 1993-94, Canada has paid its creditors $38 billion. In 1994-95, creditors were paid $42 billion and, in 1995-96, we paid $47 billion to service the debt. Since the last election, in 1993, the government in Ottawa has added $112.2 billion to the deficit; as a result, the people of Quebec and Canada have paid more than $127 billion to our happy creditors. And they would have us believe that the deficit is being reduced. On the contrary.
Debt charges will be increasing faster, even if the annual government deficit is getting lower. Interests are making the deficit increase at an alarming rate. The total federal debt for the past fiscal year was $578.4 billion. This means that, next year, debt charges should be about $47.8 billion, or an $800 million increase over last year, in spite of cutbacks.
For 1997-98, according to government forecast, debt charges should be $49 billion, or a $1.2 billion increase in just one year.
At this rate, the federal government's debt will climb to $603 billion by this time next year. This is the unfortunate reality of Canada's public finances. Where does all this money go? Who benefits? Who pays the bill at the end of the day? It is taxpayers like you and me, more specifically the middle class. These people are getting sick and tired of being squeezed like lemons. Taxpayers are fed up with random reforms that do nothing to address the problem so that, at the end of the day, it is still the same people, and especially the middle class, who get stuck with the bill.
This year, individual Canadians will pay a total of $60.5 billion in income tax. Workers and employers will contribute $18.5 billion to the UI fund. Taxpayers will shell out over $17.2 billion for the GST. In 1995-96, taxpayers in Quebec and Canada will pay a total in excess of $130.6 billion into the federal government's coffers.
Does the government realize what it is asking taxpayers, and more specifically the poorest in our society?
Here are some realistic suggestions to help the government reduce its deficit and thus restore confidence. First of all, this year, the Governor General of Canada will cost taxpayers over $9.8 million and the Senate, $40.7 million. How much longer can we afford such luxury?
Do we still need a budget of more than $10.5 billion for national defence? There is still $6.4 billion in unpaid taxes this year. What is the federal government doing to collect these unpaid taxes? How long must we wait for the federal government to close the numerous tax loopholes, including family trusts that shelter billions of dollars.
In conclusion, why should the federal government not cut Canadians' tax rate? Is this an unrealistic or silly idea? Not at all. Reducing the tax rate would help stimulate the economy by increasing consumption, thus creating jobs while raising government revenue.