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.