Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-10, the Borrowing Authority Act 1996-97.
I am not going to dwell too long on the details. I believe the hon. member for St. Paul's, the Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Finance, laid out very well the details of the bill.
Very briefly, the government is asking for $18.7 billion of borrowing authority for the 1996-97 fiscal year. This amount is comprised of a financial requirement stated in the budget for 1996-97 of $13.7 billion, exchange fund account earnings of $1 billion and $4 billion non-lapsing amount.
The major portion of the borrowing requirement comes from the budget. Throughout this debate all day long I have sat here and listened to members comment on the budget and its relevance to the deficit, the national debt and the requirement for borrowing.
This is not subject matter which is only of concern to Canadians. I want to quote President Bill Clinton who, just a few weeks ago in his state of the union address, made comments such as: "We have opportunities for all who are prepared to work for it". He said: "We have to live within our means. The era of big government is over. But we cannot leave our citizens to fend for themselves. We need self-reliance and teamwork". Those words are also applicable here in Canada.
In November 1995, along with all members of my party, I had an opportunity to present to the finance minister our views and thoughts on how to approach the fiscal responsibilities of the government.
I want to read into the record the very first paragraph I wrote to the finance minister as I laid out some of the suggestions I had for him in this 10-page document. I stated: "Whether one talks about business or government affairs, the degree of stability shown and the level of confidence earned are critical factors to success. The public has responded positively to our government because we have demonstrated fiscal responsibility. Through our consultative approach, the electorate better understands our fiscal situation and the reasons for spending cuts and the reallocation of resources".
"We have also provided credible leadership, set overall fiscal targets that were realistic and achievable and, most importantly, we met those targets. We believe that these achievements have helped to promote the essential elements of stability and confidence that our future success depends on, continuing to reflect those elements in our policy initiatives".
The minister listened to the input of the House and of all Canadians because the members of this House reflect and respond, in our committees and in our communications with each other, the feelings of all Canadians.
Reflecting on President Clinton's comments about not allowing our citizens to fend for themselves shows the essential difference between the approach advocated by the Reform Party and the approach of the government. The government has said it has to get its fiscal house in order but it is going to do it in a way that does not leave tragedy in its wake.
Program spending for the government in the 1993-94 year, which was the fiscal year ending just after the last election, was $120 billion. When taken with revenues and other public debt charges, the deficit for that year was some $42 billion, a very large number. It is not a deficit that anyone in this place believes could be eliminated simply by doing something different, flipping a switch and making it happen. It cannot happen that way. It represented 6 per cent of the GDP of this country.
In his first budget the finance minister undertook to reduce that deficit to 5 per cent of GDP, 4 per cent in the subsequent year, 3 per cent for the year ending March 31, 1997 and in recent addresses has indicated that he will bring it down to 2 per cent of GDP by the 1997-98 year.
There is no question about the direction that the finance minister is going and why he has asked Canadians to look at the essential elements of what Canada must do to balance its budget, which is what all of us want to do. I should not just stop at balancing the budget, it is also to start creating a surplus in a way which will allow us to start paying down the national debt.
The national debt is somewhat over $550 billion.
It did not exist some 25 to 30 years ago. Over these last 25 to 30 years Canadians have taken out of the system something like $350 billion more in goods and services than have been paid for. The additional amount of the national debt is the compound interest that
has been accumulating. It is a problem to be dealt with. We have to deal with the deficit first. The deficit has been dealt with: 6 per cent, 5 per cent, 4 per cent, 3 per cent, 2 per cent of GDP by the 1997-98 year. We will have a balanced budget. We will be in a position to tell the Canadian people that a balanced budget has been achieved.
We will start addressing the debt which was the recommendation of the auditor general. We have to get past balancing the budget. We have to start looking at that debt. We have to reduce it to a sustainable level. The House will have to deal with that issue.
I could spend the rest of my time talking about each and every one of the budget elements and about how important it is to the achievement of meeting those targets that the finance minister has met. It is just as significant to have on the record what others have said. It is one thing to pat ourselves on the back, but let us see what others have to say about the finance minister's input.
Mr. Bill Good of B.C., a radio host on CTV Sunday Edition on March 10 said: "What the finance minister has done is he has gathered a considerable amount of credibility by hitting the targets he has said he was going to do".
Dalton Camp said of media reports: "Almost everybody liked the budget. The strongest defence of the finance minister's fiscal policies was uttered on budget night when the Reform Party leader simply was at a loss for words, saying nothing".