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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.

Topics

Canada Post Corporation ActRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-239, an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to provide for the establishment of a system allowing persons who do not wish to receive direct mail advertising or mailing of printed matter without further address than householder, box holder, occupant or resident to notify Canada Post Corporation accordingly, and that Canada Post respect the wishes of the residents if they do not wish to receive junk mail, and that Canada Post comply accordingly.

The bill would empower Canadians by having their wishes respected by Canada Post. It would also be good for the environment.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present pursuant to Standing Order 36. The first petition has to do with family taxation and comes from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families who decide to provide care in the home for preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill and the aged.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from Sarnia, Ontario.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems or impair one's ability, and specifically that fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable by avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to enact legislation to require health warning labels to be placed on the containers of all alcoholic beverages.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition which contains some 35 names, mostly from the Etobicoke area.

The undersigned Canadians are opposed to the approval of the synthetic bovine growth hormone, otherwise known as BST, the drug injected into cows to increase milk production.

The petitioners call on the government to keep rbGH or BST out of Canada through legislating a moratorium or stoppage on rbGH use until the year 2000 and to examine the outstanding health and economic questions through an independent and transparent review.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present on the Young Offenders Act.

The 468 petitioners, who are saddened by the brutal murder of Louie Ambas of Scarborough, request that Parliament pass legislation to strengthen the Young Offenders Act, including publishing the names of young offenders, lowering the age of application and transferring the most serious offenders to adult court.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions signed by constituents of my riding.

The first petition urges the government to not consider any increases in taxes at any time in the future.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by 50 petitioners who express a real concern that there will be an increase in gasoline prices.

Therefore the petitioners humbly pray and request that Parliament reduce government spending instead of increasing taxes and that Parliament not increase the federal excise tax on gasoline in any future budgets.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

March 18th, 1996 / 3:10 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, and the amendment, and the sub-amendment.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, to pick up where I left off, I was in the midst of condemning the unfairness of the finance minister's last budget. I was saying that nearly 50 per cent of Canada's industrial milk comes from Quebec, and that the farmers in my region produce 10 per cent of Quebec's industrial milk.

I was also saying that the Minister of Finance will cut Quebec dairy producers' income by five to seven per cent. I was demonstrating how unfair it is by using the rule of three-and I urge dairy producers to listen closely to my reasoning. Last year, the Minister of Finance paid close to $3 billion to grain producers in western Canada in compensation for eliminating grain transport subsidies. The Liberal government gave $1.6 billion out of this $3 billion to individual grain producers, depending on the size of their farms. Again, this $1.6 billion was not taxable and, by giving $1.6 billion to grain producers, the government will save $560 million in the future. As a result of eliminating dairy subsidies, the government will save $160 million in Quebec. If, in order to save $560 million, the government spent $1.6 billion, how much should it pay dairy producers in compensation for the $160 million in cuts? Using the rule of three, I arrive at some $400 million.

The Liberal government is imposing a $400 million penalty on dairy producers, if we want to be as fair to them as to grain producers in the west.

The agriculture minister stated earlier that he had consulted with dairy producers. With all due respect, what he said is wrong. Last weekend, I toured five ridings and met with dozens of dairy producers. I have here a statement showing that, for all of January, the Canadian Dairy Commission paid a dairy producer in my riding $506 in subsidies.

Would dairy producers accept losses of $7,000 or $8,000 a year? No way. What the minister should tell us is that he indeed consulted, but with milk processors, not dairy producers.

Dairy producers managed to adjust to competition by reducing costs.

Today, they are being rewarded with cuts of five to seven per cent, which represent average losses of $8,000 per dairy farm in Quebec. The government is being unfair.

This government told us that it had not raised taxes. That is true. It will, however, raise the cost of the food basket, including dairy products like butter and cheese. The cuts imposed by this government will translate into a price increase of 28 cents a pound for butter and 50 cents a kilo for cheddar cheese.

I therefore condemn the 1996 budget as unfair to dairy producers across Canada.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I paid great attention to the remarks of the member for Frontenac. I must say I am sometimes mystified by the position the Bloc Quebecois takes from time to time.

In the course of his remarks the member was commenting on how the Quebec milk producers produce 50 per cent of the industrial milk for the rest of Canada. In the same breath he was extolling the virtues of the milk marketing board which is a Canadian institution. This is a contradiction in the position by the Bloc Quebecois.

The milk marketing boards, the supply management system, are very much a federal institution. If Quebec were to separate it would spell the end of the supply management system. Would the hon. member not admit that this would cause great hardship to the milk producers and would lead to the loss of many hundreds of family farms?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing surprising about what my distinguished colleague told this House. Just this weekend, milk producers were asking me: "Why are Bloc members the only MPs rising in the House of Commons to represent our interests?" I can understand their feelings.

I had our research staff dig out the following information. New Brunswick-represented by only one opposition member, a Conservative-accounts for 1.25 per cent of all industrial milk production. There is not much point in making tremendous efforts. Nova Scotia, 1.32 per cent, all Liberals. I have not seen one Liberal member rise in this House to oppose the government. Prince Edward Island, 1.91 per cent. All Liberals anyway. They are playing dead. Saskatchewan, 2.49 per cent; Manitoba, 3.76 per cent; British Columbia, 4.31 per cent; and Alberta, 6.52 per cent.

The members representing these provinces cannot be relied on, especially Liberals. There is, of course, the leader of the Conserva-

tive Party who represents a riding in Quebec. I shall direct the following question to him: "Hon. member for Sherbrooke, why do you not rise in this House to defend the interests of your constituents?" He remains as mute as a maggot.

As for the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi, who boasted about coming to Ottawa to defend his farmers, these producers, whom I met, asked me: "What is our MP doing for us in Ottawa?" My answer was: "He remains as mute as a maggot. He does not say a word in your defence". That is true. Take a look in Hansard and show me when he rose in this House to defend his farmers. Never.

Ontario produces 30 per cent of all industrial milk in the country, while Quebec produces 47.57 per cent.

I did not see a single Ontarian rise in this House, not one, but that is understandable: 98 out of 99 are Liberals. They are buying their finance minister's budget. They will applaud it even if it is no good. That is why only Bloc members are rising in this House to represent the interests of Quebec milk producers.

What our producers will be forced to do is to go before the Canadian Dairy Commission to request a price increase. If they do not, some of them are facing bankruptcy, while others will literally be working for peanuts.

Did you know that each 10 per cent increase in the price of butter entails a 7 per cent drop in sales? All this because a number of consumers will no longer be able to afford to buy butter at the price it will have to sell for.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague, the Minister of Finance, on his excellent budget. The minister has once again reached his goal of reducing the deficit. This is the second time he manages to do that, thus succeeding where his predecessors of the last decade failed.

By targeting expenditures with determination, consistency and intelligence, the minister largely contributed to establishing a visible and sound financial environment. Indeed, a sound national balance sheet is an essential prerequisite to grow, prosper and improve our standard of living at the turn of the century. Such a balance sheet is the only durable basis that will allow us to maintain the best social security system in the world for future generations. Our goal is to achieve nothing less than that.

The United Nations, the OECD, as well as men and women around the world who seek to move to Canada all tell us that we have the best country in the world but here at home, Canadians need a reality check. We must challenge Canadians who do not agree that we are the best to tell us where countries do it better, more effectively and with better results, not where governments spend more money, but where they get more for their money.

We need to determine what nation allows low and average income seniors to retire with better security. What country has a better and more accessible post-secondary education system? What country has a better, more inclusive employment insurance system that balances the need for reasonable income benefits with active re-employment measures, including a basic income for low income families?

We must challenge Canadians who no longer have faith in our system to tell us in what country single mothers have better access to re-employment programs or child care assistance. What country has a more accessible and effective public health care system? Where in the world can disadvantaged citizens be assured of a stronger safety net to support their needs for food, shelter and basic services?

Canadians are going to have to learn to benchmark what we have achieved against the programs and practices of other G-7 and OECD countries, not against some phantom abstract notion of what we think we should have accomplished or deserve to have in the future.

The message that is fundamental in this budget is that the Liberal government is committed to modernizing and securing the Canadian social safety net and we make real strides toward meeting that goal. I do not hesitate to say that this is the first Liberal budget we have seen in this country in 12 years. We have reason to be very proud of it. The Minister of Finance had to struggle through his first few years cleaning up the mess that was left behind. Our objective is unmistakable: a Canadian social safety net that is affordable, effective and contemporary.

This budget is a major step toward a sustainable and reliable government pension plan for seniors in the next century. The new seniors benefit, which will take effect in the year 2001, is a practical and progressive solution to the costs related to our aging Canadian society. These costs must be contained, while also ensuring that most retired people will be as comfortable, if not more, than is currently the case under the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs.

Most retired people in the year 2001 will enjoy greater protection. A full 75 per cent of seniors will be treated as well, if not better, in the year 2001 than now. Given the demographic projections for the next 25 years, this is quite an achievement.

The second component of the reform is to design the Canada pension plan so as to make sure that all Canadians can rely on it when they retire. Negotiations are currently under way between

the federal and provincial governments to find a sound long term financial base for the CPP.

We must find the best and most sustainable balance between the necessary increases to the contribution rates and the amendments to the benefit structure, so as to ensure the plan's middle and long term viability.

The budget demonstrates the priority we place on helping young people find their place in an increasingly competitive and tough global job market. We are investing in jobs for youth. The budget provides $105 million extra per year for three years to assist our efforts to help our young people get jobs. As part of this new funding the Government of Canada will double to $120 million the support for private, public and not for profit partners to create summer jobs this year alone.

We are helping to make work pay by doubling the working income supplement by 1998 to $1,000 a year per family. This special supplement is targeted directly at our nation's low income working families and will give our children a better future.

The right of children of divorced parents to adequate financial support will be respected. Major tax changes linked to new standardized guidelines nationwide for child support will be brought into effect and will be backed by tougher enforcement.

At the same time, we are helping working parents, particularly single parents, by broadening the child care expense deduction. These are parents who cannot be at home and need child care because they are on the job or taking courses to help them get a job. Eligible parents with teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 will now be able to receive the deduction.

We are adding an extra $80 million a year to fund student tuition fees and education tax credits. The limits have been raised on registered education savings plans.

We are especially proud that this budget provides for a permanent floor for cash contributions to the provinces for health, post-secondary education and social services.

When the growing value of tax point transfers are included, worth some $14 billion this year, it means that overall the size of the CHST will stabilize next year and the two years following at $25 billion. By the turn of the century, the full value of these important transfers will begin to rise in a way that directly tracks economic growth. By putting these important transfers on a solid footing and establishing a growth path, we are demonstrating our unshakeable commitment to the Canadian social union.

We are ready to fulfil our responsibilities as a strong partner with the provinces which deliver the social programs and services to our citizens. This is the unique genius of the Canadian federation; this country was built by the national and provincial governments working co-operatively, recognizing and respecting the strains and tensions inherent to all federal systems. The implementation of the CHST marks a new era in the fiscal arrangements that support the Canadian social union.

The 13.5 tax points ceded to the provinces in 1977 to help pay for health and post-secondary education are now worth some $14 billion. They are every bit as important as is the cash component we hear so much about.

Indeed, in the speech from the throne as well as in last year's budget, our government committed itself to co-operate with the provinces to define by mutual consent the principles and rules of the Canadian health and social transfer.

Now that the long term funding rules have been decided upon, including the transfer distribution formula, we are going to have discussions on the principles. We have retained the five principles of the Canada Health Act with the proviso that provinces cannot discriminate according to the place of residence in the delivery of social services. Moreover, we are ready to discuss with our partners.

We are all increasingly aware of the unacceptable human deficit our society is confronted with.

This deficit can have all sorts of fiscal and other consequences for future generations of Canadians. But we do not have the means required to assess this human deficit, and we must understand the problem well in order to solve it.

We do not have a good system of social indicators similar to the economic indicators we all know-inflation, unemployment, growth, monetary aggregates, etc.-on which the government bases many of its decisions. This is a need that all governments should try and meet together. A lot of crucial work awaits us in this sector.

The budget clearly revives our plan to put our social safety net on a sound basis.

The employment insurance bill is before the House and it is hoped it will be implemented on the target date of July 1, 1996. This important pro-employment initiative is now being examined in committee where members will have an opportunity to make some adjustments that will improve the overall balance and fairness of the package.

Without prejudging the specific amendments that will be brought forward, I have already made it clear that we must have changes that will do the following. Resolve the problem of gaps in employment that unfairly affect benefits for workers in some

industries across the country where work patterns are irregular. The system must be connected much more closely to changes in local employment conditions. As jobs become available everyone should be obliged to take whatever work is available and must be well motivated to do so. The social safety net should be reinforced by ensuring an appropriate income floor for low income workers, particularly in our large cities where there are significant numbers of working poor who must have access to employment insurance.

A fundamental feature of employment insurance is the reinvestment in direct, results oriented re-employment measures for unemployed Canadians. We understand the enormous and turbulent impact of technological change on workplaces everywhere. Our intention is not to interfere with the provinces but to work in partnership with them.

As announced in the throne speech, the government is totally committed to accelerating discussions with the provinces to get agreement on how to best harmonize labour market activity. Already the draft report of the provincial Ministerial Council on Social Reform, the Quebec government statement of principles on a possible labour market agreement and part II of the EI legislation together provide for the orderly withdrawal of federal activity and training, and to explore new approaches and the appropriate roles and responsibilities of each level of government for strengthening national and local labour markets.

We plan to work closely with the provinces in the coming months to find a mutually acceptable way of strengthening access to child care services, thereby helping to reduce for many low income families and single mothers a serious barrier to jobs and economic independence.

However, I want to emphasize that as the throne speech stated, the Government of Canada will not use its spending power to create new shared cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction without the consent of a majority of the provinces.

To conclude, I repeat that the Government of Canada is determined to see to it that at the beginning of the next century this country offers its people the best social programs and the best tax and fiscal conditions in the world. The last budget tabled by my colleague the Minister of Finance will be a great help to that end, by giving us better control over our deficit while hastening the reform and the strengthening of the Canadian safety net.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I take note of the many members who wish to participate in the question or comment period. I will endeavour to facilitate the participation of as many as possible. I can only do that with the co-operation of both the members asking questions and the minister responding. Perhaps members could keep individually to two-minute interventions.

I will begin with the hon. member for Frontenac, then the hon. member for Calgary Centre. We will see how things go from there.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, you acted somewhat like King Solomon, which is very much appreciated.

I listened with much interest to the Minister of Human Resources Development, who, of course, was not about to criticize the budget of his colleague, the Minister of Finance. It was to be expected. However, I could criticize the member from Acadia, a riding that is not, relatively speaking, the richest of the country-no insult intended for its citizens-because his government is reducing the deficit largely at the expense of the little people.

It is for a good reason then that, in his own riding, the government's budget as well as its UI reform are being criticized. Are there any measures on tax shelters in the budget? No. Does the budget contain measures to tax big corporations, and I take the liberty of quoting the president of Bombardier, who does not remember the last year he paid one cent of tax to the federal government? What is there in the budget on major corporations-and the Minister of Finance himself is right in there-who register their boats in the Bahamas? There is absolutely nothing against that.

What is there in the budget for job creation, which was the Prime Minister's slogan-"Jobs, jobs, jobs". Nothing, except for the meagre $60 million more or the $60 million already earmarked for summer career jobs for students. There is nothing for job creation. This budget does not get a passing grade.

I invite the minister to take a few minutes to try to explain to his constituents, among others, how this budget is fair and equitable, particularly for ordinary people.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if you allow me, I would like to say that when describing the people from my riding I never make a distinction between big or small, rich or poor. I have a great respect for all of my constituents and I am perfectly aware that there are serious concerns every time we have to discuss social programs. What I regret is when those concerns are exploited and that is something I have no intention of doing today.

My hon. colleague made a few comments on big companies, including one I would have thought the hon. member would be particularly proud of because of its international reputation in the

aerospace area. But I will leave that to others because I would like to speak to a particular point.

The hon. member for Frontenac asked me what there was in the budget on job creation. He forgot to mention the $800 million in the reinvestment fund included in the employment insurance program we are proposing, $800 million when fully implemented. There is another $300 million transitory fund specifically aimed at helping regions where the unemployment situation is the worst. Of course, for my hon. colleague, that $1.1 billion was not important. Apparently, he did not even notice it when reading the budget.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is very seldom that I get a chance to make a comment and ask a question of a cabinet minister during debate so I appreciate this. This is one of my first opportunities and I have been here for over two years.

Could the Minister of Human Resources Development confirm the current size of the UI fund? I know during the campaign there was a deficiency of about $3 billion. I know there is a surplus and I would like to see the amount confirmed. I anticipate it is going to grow. At what point would he consider offering tax relief to this sector by lowering premiums?

I come from the private sector and I know what employers and employees think of payroll taxes. It is a subject of concern to many Canadian taxpayers.

My final question for the minister is this. Has there been talk or consideration given of reconciling the UI fund in the future? Has consideration been given to making it into an insurance program between employer and employee that stands alone, regulated and monitored by the federal government to ensure that people get their proper benefits as opposed to co-mingling the fund into the general account and using it to apply on current revenues?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, as usual the member for Calgary asks excellent questions and I want to address each of them.

First, we have to be very careful with respect to the principle of insurance as it applies to employment insurance. I have spoken to people who are involved in the insurance business. For example, I do not know of anyone who has bought death insurance. Agents usually try to sell it as life insurance. They do not sell sickness insurance. They sell it as health insurance. All of my adult life I have had term insurance. I hope the hon. member for Calgary will understand why I am glad no one has collected on it yet.

We have to be extremely careful because insurance can have different functions. There has to be a sharing. People who have full time jobs and long attachments to a job are probably extremely pleased that they have never had to go to the employment insurance system for support.

We have to be extremely cautious when we make the changes to retain equity and fairness. People told me on the weekend that they were prepared to change places with people who felt there was too much unemployment insurance money going into certain parts of the country. They would exchange the unemployment insurance cheques for the full time jobs that existed in certain parts of the country, for example, in the automobile industry in Ontario. I say that knowing my friend is from the great province of Alberta. There is always a need to try to keep some balance.

I agree we have to look at the surplus. The hon. member asked what the amount is now. We have just come out of a deficit position. We have been running a surplus on current account but there was an existing deficit in the UI fund. In the last few months, probably since December, we have moved into a surplus position. The budget documents indicate that we may get to approximately $9 billion to $10 billion in a couple of years.

I do not think there is any doubt that the Minister of Finance would be prepared to tell my hon. friend that there is a level at which the surplus has to be controlled. I will indicate my interest as well. The member would know that the surplus is merely a myth in the sense that it is a liability the government has when it uses it in the CRF because it is a debt owed to the employment insurance fund.

Although it is useful in managing the deficit to some extent, in the final analysis it will have to be used to protect against a downturn in the economy. We want to avoid the kind of scenario we had a few years ago when the country was in a recession and premiums were going up when companies and individuals were least able to pay them. I take my hon. friend's comments seriously. We have to look at where we are going to put a ceiling on the surplus.

To answer another point he made, I do think the right way to go about it will be to make some dramatic changes in the premium rate because it is a payroll tax. It is a disincentive. We can address that in the next 18 months if we continue on the present trend of an increasing amount in the reserve. Jobs are also being created in the private sector that will allow for premiums to be adjusted downward.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the minister's remarks. Naturally, when we hear such remarks, we must focus primarily on the role this minister plays within the Liberal caucus. Of course, the minister sidestepped the main questions. He did not talk about the debt,

which continues to grow, or the deficit, which is slowly shrinking, but only because of the surpluses in the unemployment insurance fund.

He mentioned a few figures, paltry in the context of billion dollar budgets, for job creation. In other words, there is almost nothing. He spoke about students but it was only a diversion.

Coming back to the minister's primary role, he is insinuating in this House that those who oppose the reform come mainly from organized groups, people who earn their living at the expense of the least fortunate making them aware of things.

I would like to draw to his attention something that was sent to me by teachers who do not work on a regular basis, who do not have regular jobs-this is why teaching is called a precarious profession. They sent me a little postcard, just to tell me that this reform is inequitable, unfair and ineffective. Because they can be classified as seasonal workers, they are asking for the pure and simple withdrawal of Bill C-12.

I therefore have a question for the minister. Does he plan to withdraw this bill? Do his plans include Quebec receiving the transfer of powers and money due it so that it can look after its own manpower and unemployment insurance?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Chicoutimi raised several questions. As far as the debt and the deficit are concerned, this is a mammoth, long term undertaking. We are familiar with the problem that exists in Canada, one that Quebec will also recognize, judging by what the Government of Quebec has had to say recently. This is a problem all governments in the country have to deal with.

As for what I had to say about those who organize demonstrations, I think accuracy is in order here. The French language press reported what I said with extreme accuracy. What I said is that I understand why people who are worried and nervous participate in demonstrations. I understand why they express their concerns and seek change. This is why we have said, ever since the month of December, that we would be proposing changes to bill C-12.

What bothers me somewhat is the presence of professional agitators in communities where they would normally rarely, if ever, be seen, people who do this for a living year round and earn very high salaries. They travel around to exploit people who have serious and legitimate grievances.

This is how I see it, and I have never been embarrassed to call a spade a spade. I must say, in all frankness, that the professional agitators who came into my riding did not spare me with their comments either. They said exactly what they thought of me. We will exchange views but, at the end of the day, I hope that we will have managed to find solutions for those affected by the changes.

I find this still hard to understand, because when I spoke just now about job creation I mentioned two funds totalling $1.1 billion. As for the summer jobs, which are described as window dressing, the fund has gone up from last year's $60 million to $120 million yearly, only for the program to create jobs for post-secondary students.

If, for Bloc members and for my hon. friend from Chicoutimi, $120 million this summer is merely window dressing, there are plenty of young people across this country who would like to have their windows dressed in this way.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister in his speech gave an open challenge to members to point out and compare the fiscal situation of Canada to other G-7 countries. I will do that.

Canada's debt to GDP ratio is the second worst of the G-7, second only to Italy, yet this government is continuing to add to that debt every year into the foreseeable future. There is no deadline set by the government to stop adding to the debt. This ever increasing debt is the biggest threat to health care and to other important programs in Canada. In this government's first budget it added over $10 billion in interest payments just to service the debt yet the debt continues to go up. I do not understand how the minister can sound so smug about the government's progress to date.

When will the government stop adding to the debt and to the ever increasing interest payments on the debt?

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if I appeared to be smug about any of our accomplishments I want to dissipate any notion of that kind because I think it has been a mighty struggle. I make no bones about it. I have said it in this place and in many other places that had one of my friends, the predecessor to the present Minister of Finance, been given the opportunity to do what he wanted to do in 1985 and 1986, I think Mr. Wilson would have been able to arrange the affairs of this country in such a way fiscally at least that we would be much better off today.

That is why I complimented my colleague, the Minister of Finance, and the Prime Minister for backing him. We have begun the process of going from a situation where the deficit to GDP ratio was 7 per cent and we have got it down now to 3 per cent. The minister has made an undertaking to go to 2 per cent. I know it is not as fast as my hon. friend would like to see it move. At least after many years with various stripes of government going in the

wrong direction, I hope that my hon. colleague would at least respect the fact that over the last couple of years the current Minister of Finance has been moving toward balancing the budget.

Besides that an interesting part of all of this is when we get to the cashflow situation which allows us to eliminate borrowing. In other words we will be able to operate on a current account with enough cashflow to be able to pay for our day to day needs.

There are a number of indicators out there. I understand how frustrating it must be for people who would like to have an instant solution to a very longstanding problem. We will continue to do the best we can to get a very difficult deficit situation under control. As Canadians who understand this recognize, we cannot start to do anything about the debt until we have cleaned up the deficit. We are on the way to doing that. I do share the view of the hon. member that we should get to balanced books and begin to pay down the debt as soon as we possibly can.

The BudgetRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I want to thank the hon. Minister of Human Resources Development and the four members from the opposition benches who participated in this exchange. I thank you all for your co-operation.