Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the Bloc motion.
While I agree with the opening of the motion, I cannot agree with much else. Unfortunately I cannot support the motion. The motion states:
That this House condemn the federal government which, because of its policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions-
The motion goes on to talk about Quebec. As a matter of fact the motion mentions Quebec four times. As the Bloc is the official opposition I would have hoped, as all Canadians would hope, that its members would have taken a Canada-wide view of the government's incompetence and what it has done to address poverty in the country.
Before I get into my remarks I have to make reference to the secretary of state's reference to low interest rates. I have heard more about low interest rates in the House as if they are the answer to job creation and to our future. Low interest rates cut two ways. Not everybody benefits. There are retired Canadians who count on decent interest rates. To say that low interest rates are the solution to Canada's problems is not true. It is certainly not going to get the economy moving or create the jobs I keep hearing about from the other side.
A survey was done by the Chamber of Commerce in my community on what the federal government needs to do to encourage, expand and create jobs. Ten items are listed in the survey: the elimination of the deficit; elimination of the debt; reducing business regulatory burden; making tax levels competitive; fixing workmen's compensation; fixing labour relations; reforming education; abolishing interprovincial trade barriers; improving the infrastructure program, and promotion of environmental sustainability.
Of the 10 items listed I do not see any mention of lower interest rates. Lower interest rates appeal to those who know about borrowing. We should not be encouraging borrowing, we should be encouraging businesses and, indeed Canadians, to pay their way. The cart is before the horse. Businesses are not looking to borrow more so they can put off their bankruptcy. To suggest that lower interest rates is the answer in a period of record bankruptcies is not going to work. Members can continue to talk about low interest rates but the unemployment figures continue to show that low interest rates are not creating employment.
The Bloc member for Laurentides talked about the mess the Liberal government has made of Mirabel. It brought to mind the mess the Liberal government has made of Pearson airport. Mixing Liberals and aviation is like mixing alcohol and gasoline, it is a bad combination for the taxpayers of Canada. Mirabel has cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and Pearson airport will cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
When the government talks about regional development, how concerned it is and how important it is, just think about Pearson airport. That airport means jobs and regional development all across Canada and the government decided to cancel it on the basis of a quickie 30 day report. Pearson airport continues to deteriorate, costing jobs not just in rebuilding that airport but in development all across Canada.
The motion before us is a little like a garage sale. Everything is in there except the kitchen sink. I am not too sure, it might be in there too, and of course it would be sink from Quebec.
The problem is that all of Canada is hurting. It is not just poverty in Quebec. Poverty certainly is there, unemployment is there but it applies from coast to coast. It is the result of the failed policies and the lack of vision of this Liberal government.
Speaking about vision, I saw in the media last week the Prime Minister has now realized that vision is important. He was talking about the fact that going from day to day or week to week is not the answer, that governments have to have a vision for the future. It is encouraging to hear after three and a half years that the government has discovered the need to have a vision, to have a plan that is longer than two years if the country is to be successful.
The Liberal government's failure to address the most serious problem of the country is the reason for such high levels of unemployment, the reason for the poverty, the reason for the crushing tax burden that we are all under and the reason for the deteriorating social programs. The government has failed to deal with the deficit and the debt. It has failed to deal with it quickly and decisively.
The government has the deficit turned around and it is coming down, but it is coming down far too slowly. It is not fast enough to stimulate the economy and it is slow enough that it is increasing the debt and the payments that are made on that debt.
The government has been in power for three and half years and the unemployment numbers are almost the same today as they were when it was elected. There are 1.4 million Canadians unemployed, two million to three million Canadians under employed and one in four Canadians worried about their jobs. They have no confidence.
The debt is $600 billion, or will be shortly, and $50 billion in interest payments on that debt. One-third of every tax dollar goes to pay the interest costs on that debt. It does not create one job. It does not do anything for poverty. It does not do anything for our social programs but it certainly is the reason our taxes are so high.
The answer to the motion that the Bloc has put forward today is to reduce the size of government and be able to offer tax relief, put more dollars in the hands of consumers and get off the backs and out of the pockets of industries, the entrepreneurs who really create the jobs.
Unfortunately the Bloc motion suggests that more government spending is the answer. Reformers disagree with that. You cannot buy your way to prosperity. That just cannot be done. It cannot be done in our home, it cannot be done in business.
Reformers are saying we have to reduce and rescue. We have to reduce spending and rescue those programs, rescue our social programs, rescue the initiative and the drive that our entrepreneurs have. Or we have to pare and preserve: cut back so that we can save those jobs and save our social programs, versus what we have been doing for the last 25 years which is tax and terminate. We have been going down that same road now for 25 to 30 years, ever increasing taxes, never doing anything about unemployment and the threatened social programs.
It never ceases to amaze me that someone does not stop and say: "What we have been doing is not working. There has to be a better way. We have got to look at an alternative". Even Mr. Bouchard, now that he is the leader in Quebec, realizes the importance of tackling the deficit. He wants to get the finances of Quebec in order because he knows that is important to the economic strength and job creation in the province of Quebec.
Look at what two cost cutting premiers have done. I am thinking of Premiers Klein and Harris. Premier Klein has eliminated the deficit and is creating jobs. He has just been rewarded for the job he has done with a resounding endorsement by the people of the province of Alberta. He has been true to his word. He has eliminated the deficit and Alberta is creating jobs. The debate that they are going to have in Alberta now is about what to do about the surplus. Should they be spending it on social programs, health and education. What a pleasant debate that would be to have.
Premier Harris is doing the same thing in the province of Ontario. He is doing what he said he would do and he is going to create jobs. He is going to get the economy moving again. The best social program people can have is a job.
I will quickly review the Bloc motion which includes Canada Post, regional ports and airports, the coast guard, fishing quotas and the EI changes. I will comment first on the 10,000 jobs lost at Canada Post. It was part time employees whose jobs were lost because of the elimination of unaddressed ad mail being delivered by Canada Post. The private sector will probably pick up those jobs. A lot of people objected to the fact that Canada Post delivered some of that unaddressed ad mail, to which some of them took exception.
The federal government had to do something about ports and airports because they were not viable. They have been losing money for years and have only been able to carry on because of huge subsidies from the federal government. The federal government cannot continue that. The reality is if they cannot be profitable then they should not be subsidized and supported by the taxpayer.
Coast guard fees are now set for each region. There are different costs in different parts of the country so the government has taken the position that those costs should be reflected. Where there is ice-breaking in one port but not in another, the fees should reflect that additional cost. One region should not be supporting another.
Concerning the fishing quotas, fish are like tax dollars. There is not an unlimited supply. Former governments overspent which has put us into the problem we are in today with the $600 billion debt. Fishermen were doing the same thing. They were overfishing with the belief that there was no bottom, that they could keep doing it. Unfortunately the reality is that there was a bottom, they could not continue to fish.
Reformers believe politics should be removed from the determination of quotas, that quotas must be established if this valuable resource is to be rebuilt. The government should remove the politics from the setting of quotas and hopefully that will see the fishing industry survive and grow again.
As a party we have always been very clear on what to do with employment insurance. We would like to see it returned to what it was originally intended to be, an insurance program to help those who through no fault of their own find themselves unemployed. It
should be a temporary bridge until people are able to find work again.
We do not believe that regional eligibility is the way to go. We believe that eligibility should be determined on a national basis rather than on a regional basis in order to be fair to all Canadians.
I have touched briefly on some of the things that are mentioned in the motion. We agree with the Bloc that the government is the problem but we disagree with the Bloc on the solution to the problem. We can fix the problem.
I would like to look at the record of the government that has put us in the position we are in today. It is a record that has disappointed all Canadians, particularly the 1.4 million who are currently unemployed.
We have had 77 months of unemployment at a rate above the9 per cent level. This is on the record of the government and former governments. Two to three million Canadians are underemployed and one in four Canadians are worried about holding their jobs. The federal debt is increasing to over $600 billion with interest payments approaching $50 billion which is more than is spent on old age security or the seniors' benefit, employment insurance and health care combined.
Because of the government's go slow approach to reducing the deficit, which should have been addressed far more quickly, it has added to the debt and it has added about $10 billion to the servicing the cost of the debt.
In Quebec and right across Canada the income of the average Canadian family has been reduced by some $3,000. There is less income because of fixed wages over those years. At the same time the government has brought in some 36 indirect tax increases. Therefore Canadians have seen their disposable income eliminated. The last tax increase will be the increase in CPP premiums which will represent about a $10 billion tax grab.
That is a killer of jobs. Earlier the finance minister acknowledged that payroll taxes were a killer of jobs. At a time when we need jobs the government introduces a plan that will hurt job creation.
The finance minister said the CPP premium increase was not a payroll tax, that it was an investment. I would like him to convince hard working Canadians who are deeper in debt than they have ever been and are having difficult times making ends meet that this is an investment. Canadians are not looking for investments. They are looking for tax relief so they can start meeting the bills that come due weekly.
We have record debt and record bankruptcies, and the Liberals are talking about lower interest rates. The savings of Canadians have been diminished. A report from an economist stated that the real problem in Canada today, aside from the fact that 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed, is that 13 million Canadians have lost their purchasing power. They have no ability to buy and get our internal economy moving. They are struggling under a tax load. They are not looking for investment. They are looking for tax relief, which is the answer to job creation.
The Prime Minister said he would run in the upcoming election on his job creation performance. We as a party look forward to that because in the 3.5 years he has been in power those jobs have not been created. The reliance on low interest rates will not create the jobs Canadians are looking for.
The latest numbers on unemployment are still 9.6 per cent and 9.7 per cent. The finance minister admitted his frustration but he certainly did not think there was any real problem. He continues to hope that somewhere down the road it will turn around.
He did not blame business, but the problem is that the finance minister and the government are not listening to business. This is not the route businesses have been asking the government to take. The Chamber of Commerce and the CFIB have been saying that the best thing the government could do to create jobs is to reduce the deficit and get the books in balance as quickly as possible. The business community is saying that is the way to create jobs in Canada. A letter from the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said very clearly that eliminating the deficit quickly was critical to job creation.
Unbelievably in the budget the government talked about another infrastructure program. The government's $6 billion infrastructure program created about 10,000 jobs. That is a pretty expensive job creation program. It was one that was criticized by the auditor general. If that $6 billion had been given to Canadians in the form of tax cuts, by the year 2000 it would have resulted in the creation of the 162,000 jobs. The auditor general indicated that many infrastructure programs would have gone ahead without that $6 billion of borrowed money. It was not money the government had.
Unbelievably the Liberals have another infrastructure program, although they are being a little cautious this time. I do not think they are talking about canoe museums, boccie courts or hockey arenas. This time they will stick to what they said in the red book about sewers and roads, which can really be described as infrastructure.
The finance minister spoke about how great the infrastructure program was and how it was supported. The infrastructure program is a shell game. It is a two for one deal with our own dollars. There
is one taxpayer in the country and that infrastructure program was buying their votes with their own tax dollars. The answer is to pay our way, not to go deeper and deeper into debt.
I talked about Pearson airport because it was mentioned by the Bloc member for Laurentides. What greater piece of infrastructure did we have in Canada than Pearson airport, and it continues to decline.
The government has failed to deal with interprovincial trade barriers which affect jobs across Canada. Those barriers are costing hundreds of thousands of job. The Canadian Manufacturers Association said they were costing Canadian taxpayers $6 billion. Yet government members travel all around the world talking about exports but not doing anything about enhancing trade in Canada, which would do something about creating jobs in Canada.
I appreciate the opportuntiy to speak to the motion today. I suggest to members of the Bloc who introduced the motion that the best thing they could do for poverty and job creation in Canada is to get off their separatist agenda and go after the government to do something about its out of control spending.