Mr. Speaker, we are here to discuss the federal budget. The Liberals say it is a good budget. What is more important is what Canadians are saying about it. In our view Canadians will say: If this is such a good budget, why don't I see the benefits. Where are the jobs? Where are the health care and pensions that I can count on? Where is the tax relief? Why is it that federal government revenues go up by 20 per cent and family incomes go down by 10 per cent?
The good news is that the majority of the provinces have already balanced their budgets and the benefits are starting to flow. It is Ottawa and the federal Liberals that are furthest behind and most off track. The big task facing Canadians in 1997, in a federal election year, is to get the federal government on track with respect to job creation and tax relief.
There are two options before Canadians. Reform offers its fresh start platform designed to balance the federal budget now, and then leave more dollars in the pockets of Canadians through broad based tax relief. Notice the order: balance first, tax relief second. The Liberals offer this tax and spend budget designed to get more tax dollars into the hands of the federal government and then further spending.
The options are Reform's fresh start tax relief versus the Liberal tax and spend budget. These are the principal fiscal options facing Canadians in an election year at the federal level and should be the focus of both public debate and this budget debate.
If we are going to have any kind of debate, one of the prerequisites is to establish the facts and to separate myth from reality. I would like to spend a little time on that because the budget is loaded with myths. Budget myth number one is that federal finances are finally under control. What is the reality? The federal deficit is still at $19 billion. The debt will pass the $600 billion mark this spring. The federal government will spend $46 billion per year on debt service, more by far than it spends on social programs. This is represented as prudent fiscal management. Only in Ottawa would that be believed.
Budget myth number two is that the federal government has reduced the deficit by controlling its spending. What is the reality? Almost the opposite. Eighty-four per cent of deficit reduction has been achieved by increasing tax revenues. Two-thirds of the remainder of deficit reduction has been accomplished by offloading on the provinces and through defence cuts. Only 6 per cent has been achieved by reducing the federal government's direct spending on other programs.
I noticed that at the beginning of the minister's budget speech, he thanked everyone and his dog for contributing to this speech. The people he did not thank were the Canadian taxpayers who are responsible for 84 per cent of the reduction of the deficit.
Budget myth number three, Liberals are the great defenders of medicare. The reality is that they have cut medicare by 40 per cent, closing hospitals across the country and increasing waiting lines in every province, but leaving others in local and provincial governments to take the blame. This pretence of defending medicare while gutting it is the ultimate hypocrisy.
Budget myth number four, Liberals are attacking child poverty. The reality is that their new $600 million child benefit is completely negated by the $7 billion federal cut in health, education and social spending since 1993.
If one thinks about it, Canadians are a kind, caring and compassionate people. If the average Canadian were willing to spend $1,000 on helping a poor family or a poor child how would they do it? They might make a direct contribution to that family or that child, or they might make a contribution to a local agency or church that was in the business of helping those people. They might even be persuaded to pay $1,000 in taxes to their local government or the provincial government which has services offered at the community level.
However, I doubt if there is one Canadian in 1,000 who honestly and sincerely wanted to help a poor family or a poor child who would think that the best way to do it was to write a $1,000 cheque to Revenue Canada because they know what would happen.
The $1,000 would go to the minister of revenue who would take a bite out of it for administration and then pass it over to the Treasury Board. The Treasury Board would take a bite out of it for allocation and then pass it on to the human resources minister. The human resources minister would take a bite out of it by having a conference with all of his provincial colleagues and a bunch of experts to decide what to do and then he would pass it on to his provincial colleague who would take a further bite out of it and then pass it on to some agency. Out of the $1,000 that went in at one end of the pipe, we would be lucky if a loonie got out the other end.
Canadians know a better way. Canadians know that if Liberals and Tories were so concerned about the poor and the children of the poor then why are these people paying taxes in the first place? Why is a single mother with one child making $2,000 a month paying federal income taxes at all, let alone $1,300 a year? It is because government after government made them pay taxes and offered no tax relief.
Of course the greatest thing one can do for the working poor is to get more jobs, which brings me to budget myth number five, jobs, jobs, jobs. The reality is 1.5 million Canadians unemployed, 2 million to 3 million underemployed, 700,000 having two jobs to try to make ends meet, 17 per cent unemployment among young people, 1 out of 4 workers afraid of losing their jobs, and the worst string of unemployment numbers since the depression, 76 consecutive months with unemployment rates over 9 per cent.
Some day the finance minister's picture will hang in the hallowed halls of Parliament. At the rate he is going, I suspect they will hang it next to the picture of the finance minister in R.B. Bennett's government, the only other government that ran up unemployment numbers like we are experiencing today.
The Liberal budget is accompanied by a booklet called the government's job strategy, but it contains no reference to tax relief. A job strategy without tax relief is like a beaver without teeth. It is like a truck with no wheels. We can rev the engine, flick the lights and honk the horn but it is not going anywhere, which is precisely the Liberal record on jobs.
That brings me to the biggest myth of all. The finance minister would have Canadians believe that he has not raised taxes. That is a big whopper. The reality is that since the Liberals came to power in 1993, the GST revenues, the hated GST, are up by $2 billion, corporate income taxes are up by $6.8 billion, personal income taxes are up by $15 billion, and other taxes are up $500 million. That is a $24 billion increase in tax revenues over what they were on the day the Liberals took office.
Just last week, in the biggest tax grab of them all, there was a 70 per cent increase in Canada pension plan contributions. It is the government's Achilles' heel, the tax grab that will be to the Liberal's what the GST was to the Mulroney Conservatives. It is the tax increase that brings to 36 the total number of tax increases introduced by the Liberal government.
Enough of these myths. Enough of the fudge-it budget. There has to be a better way and there is a better way. It is described in the platform which Reform has put forward under the heading of a fresh start for Canada.
I suggest that the next election will be a contest between two very different visions of the country, and the vision that captures the hearts of Canadians will be the vision that shapes the Canada of the 21st century.
One vision held by the government and by the Conservatives before them revolves around big government and the high taxes that go with it. It is based on the belief that the Canadian economy, Canadian social services and Canadian unity all need aggressive intervention and management by a big spending federal government. It is the vision of Ottawa and the politicians who control it as the centre of the universe.
This is a vision which has Canadians working more than half a year just to pay taxes. It is a vision that promises job creation and social justice and has delivered chronic unemployment and chronic poverty. It is a vision which trivializes Canadians' sense of themselves by implying that only through government programs, government spending, government initiatives and government propaganda can the country be held together.
The other vision, the one offered by Reform, is of a Canada defined and built by its citizens rather than by the government. The citizen, not the government, is at its centre. It is a vision in which strong families and communities and local governments, not more federal programs, are the principal pillars of social security. It is a vision of a country where tax freedom day occurs in April instead of in July. It is a vision of a country in which the unemployment rate is 5 per cent or lower instead of 10 per cent, thanks to initiative and entrepreneurship, innovation and hard work. It is a vision of a smaller government and lower taxes. It is a vision based on the proposition that a dollar left in the pocket of a consumer or a taxpayer or a lender or an entrepreneur will create more jobs and economic and social security than that dollar in the hands of a federal bureaucrat or a politician.
We are talking about the budget, so I want to conclude with the fiscal plan that makes that vision of a new and better Canada a reality. Our fiscal plan calls for balancing the federal budget by 1998-99 at a level of expenditure lower than that proposed by the finance minister, and then running surpluses thereafter.
Note that what we are proposing is balancing the budget first and tax relief after. Many members opposite seem to think we are trying to do the two things at once. We have made this abundantly clear; balance first, tax relief after.
We then get to surpluses and these surpluses are the real light at the end of the tunnel, the beginning of the hope for the future. We propose to apply those surpluses as follows. A $5 billion down payment on debt reduction by the year 2001, with a fixed proportion of future surpluses being dedicated to debt reduction. In other words, the federal debt would be set up like a mortgage and the first payment made every month is a payment on the mortgage.
Second, $4 billion per year transfer for health and education purposes to the provinces to repair the damage done by the Minister of Finance.
Most important of all, broad based tax relief which follows, not precedes, balancing the budget. Seven tax relief measures to deliver $1 billion per year in tax relief to the people of Atlantic Canada; $3.2 billion per year in tax relief to the long suffering people of Quebec, the most highly taxed jurisdiction perhaps in North America; $5.4 billion per year in tax relief to the people of Ontario; $2.3 billion per year in tax relief to the people of the prairies and $1.8 billion per year in tax relief to the people of British Columbia.
Put another way, it is $2,000 in tax relief per average family by the year 2000 or tax relief that lifts 1.2 million lower and middle income Canadians off the federal tax rolls altogether.
To put this into perspective, Reform proposes a trimmer, more focused $94 billion a year federal government. We can get a lot of government services for $94 billion. This compares with a bloated, unfocused $109 billion a year federal government from the federal Liberals and Tories. The difference between the two is about $15 billion per year. The number one question to be decided in the next federal election is whether Canadians should allow that $15 billion to be collected by the federal tax man and spent by Ottawa or whether that $15 billion should be left in the hands of the Canadian consumer and business community.
Reform believes that a fresh start for Canadians lies in the direction of leaving that $15 billion in the hands of the people to whom it belongs.
I therefore move:
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the words "health and social assistance" the following words: "a measure which is not the answer to stronger sustainable social programs";
and by inserting after the words "proposes no tangible job creation measures" the following words: "such as lower taxes to create long term jobs";
and by inserting after the words "electoral gifts around Quebec and Canada" the following words: "which, among other things, hampers the government's ability to balance the budget".