Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on the budget somewhat after the fact. The budget has kind of come and gone like the proverbial wind in a barnyard, but it is still with us today in debate. It will be with us in the upcoming election whether it is this spring or next fall.
It is good to talk about budgetary items since budgetary items will affect every department and all Canadians because they are footing the bill for the budgetary priorities of the government.
In the wake of the budget many people are asking why they do not feel so good if this is a feel good budget. Where are the benefits? What will the government do to address that we now have over 9 per cent unemployment for 77 consecutive months? The 1.5 million unemployed that shocked the Liberals when they were in opposition is the same 1.5 million unemployed of today. Many people do not see the benefits.
People are also saying they are not sure the government's priorities on spending are where they should be. When I talk to people they say the government's priorities should be a good health care system and a pension system that is supportable and gives the benefits needed. They see the federal government has cut health care and education funding to the provinces by 39 per cent since it came into power. They see hospitals closing. They do not see a lot of benefit for them.
They also see the government raising CPP premiums by 73 per cent. Private contractors will pay $3,270 per year in CPP contributions if they are their own boss. They must pay their entire working lives almost $3,300 per year all for less than a $9,000 per year pension. This is quite a contrast to the MP pension plan that the government has schemed to maintain. It will pay the equivalent of millions of dollars to some members of Parliament for a relatively few years of work.
There is no plan for tax relief in the budget. That is a shame for individuals who have seen their net income drop by some $3,000 a year since the government took office.
It is also a shame because private industry does not see why or how it is going to be able to afford to hire more people. Payroll taxes continue to go up. The general taxation level is staying too high and the federal government does not seem to be listening to businesses.
Provincial governments, for example the Alberta government, have asked the federal government to have a look to see what lower tax rates and the lowest tax rates in the country mean the most job creation. It is a direct correlation. Why does the federal government not see that?
All this comes in the context of the Liberals now doing their spinning as much as possible to try to create the impression that the Prime Minister is a man with vision, that he can see into the future, that he is able to see what we need and where we are going.
I do not know whether Canadians believe that. Certainly none of what the federal government has done to date budget-wise was visionary, especially its own red book promises. It is now rather waffling in the area of, do I borrow more money, or do I spend a little more on some programming, should I reduce the deficit, is tax relief a good idea or not?
A little while ago the Prime Minister said that tax relief was un-Canadian. Now we hear the finance minister saying that tax relief would be good some time, he just does not know when.
The national debt will exceed $600 million next year, some$111 billion more than when the Liberals took office. Deficit reduction is due mainly to higher revenue and not to reduced spending. The deficit remains some $19 billion, which proves that the country does not have a revenue problem. Revenues are up. We seem to have a spending problem but the government will not address that.
Since the Liberals took office, tax revenues have increased$30.4 billion. The Liberal vision seems to be that it is okay that the average taxpayer sends some $10,200 to the federal government each and every year, $3,400 a year to service the debt alone.
If that is the vision, then it is no wonder that so many Canadians are working two jobs, that they are moonlighting, that many of them are working on the underground economy and that people are saying they have to do what it takes because if they play by the rules this government is setting, they cannot even feed their families. That is where lack of vision from the Liberals is hurting the average Canadian family.
There are 7.3 million Canadians earning less than $30,000 a year. The Liberal vision seems to be that that is somehow okay. In other words, the chronic problem of the working poor is somehow okay.
Again I mention that by 1998 the Liberals will have cut health and education payments to the provinces by $7.5 billion while cutting its own spending only that much as well. In other words, a lot of the deficit reduction which it has been able to achieve is on the backs of the provinces with the reduced health and education transfers.
I would like to talk specifically about a budgetary item in my own constituency. The Liberals in the last budget, not this one, closed CFB Chilliwack. Now that we have the access to information documents before us, some of the retiring generals and so on have said that this move was a poor move at the time, that it was not a budgetary move but a political move.
In addition, it has been done without consultation with the local communities. That is in contrast to what it said in its February budget when it stated: "where warranted, the federal government is prepared to work with community leaders and other levels of government to assist in the development and implementation of community adjustment plans".
We have tried to do that. We met with Treasury Board in Ottawa on April 17, 1996. We were told that there was no money, no compensation, no second thought and that it was just there to determine the process by which the lands could be disposed of. The lands now, according to the Minister of Transport, may sit idle for as long as seven years, stuck in aboriginal land claims which are benefiting neither the aboriginal people nor the community at large.
There has to be something, I would argue, given the words of the federal government both in opposition and since its members have been in government, to mitigate this problem in our community. A $105 million impact on our community cannot be just shrugged off without consultation and without a plan B, a plan that will help the community to make that adjustment.
I have asked in the past and I am asking again today for the federal government to consider transferring E division headquarters of the RCMP to Chilliwack, to the lands at that site. It would be a good use of that land. I have written a letter again to the minister today asking him to do that. It would inject spending into the local economy.
It would be good for the RCMP. They could come into a federal facility where they would have new buildings. It is a lower cost for the RCMP to be in Chilliwack as opposed to where they are located now. It makes sense economically. It makes sense to the members of the RCMP who could enjoy a lower cost of living in Chilliwack. It would be fair because it allows the federal government to do something, as it promised, to make the adjustment from shutting down CFB Chilliwack lands to another use of those lands. It would also let the process begin about the uncertainty of what is going to happen to our lands.
Since the government has pushed ahead with this, the land at CFB Chilliwack has to be divvied up quickly in a way that will allow both the aboriginal people and the community at large to benefit. If E division headquarters were to come to Chilliwack we could make some use of some of the newer buildings and some of the new facilities.
We could then start the process of rezoning that land where applicable. The aboriginal people could get part of it, the community at large could have access to it, developers and home builders and so on could have access to that land. It would be a good budgetary procedure as well if the government could only do that.
I do not have time to get into all the Reform proposals, things like increasing personal deductions, some of our tax proposals and so on, but I am interested in doing that in questions and answers if anyone would be keen to get into that subject.