Mr. Speaker, I will continue my presentation. I want to touch on transfer payments and the cuts that have often been mentioned during this debate. Earlier on there were comments about a $7 billion cut in health care. We are being intellectually dishonest when we stand up in this honourable House and make those kinds of statements.
We know very well that it was not $7 billion to health cuts alone. This was $7 billion spread throughout the country. I would like to use Ontario as an example because that is where my riding is situated. Ontario's hit was $1.2 billion. In the election of 1995 before the current government took over in Ontario, the former government headed by Bob Rae just before the election gave out almost $1.6 billion in handouts. I can break down exactly where these handouts were but the question many people had was where the money came from.
I would like to repeat that Ontario's reduction was $1.2 billion. Most recently the Conservative government in Ontario stated that it was going to put back into the health program almost $400 million. It also indicated that the additional $500 million that was slotted to be taken out of the program in 1998 most likely will not be taken out. Therefore, when we take those two figures of close to$900 million that in essence almost adds up to the type of shortfall that Ontario will be receiving.
Let us be very clear about it. The closure, reduction or fine tuning of certain hospitals is not as a direct result of the less money going to specific provinces. That is a political decision of the respective governments, in this case the governments of Ontario and Alberta.
I would like to touch on tax relief. Earlier today we heard the leader of the Conservative Party indicate that he is going to reduce taxes immediately. Where is the money going to come from to try to balance the budget and give a tax break at the same time? The people of Canada know, because economists have spoken about it often enough, that we are on track. The underlying message is that we are headed for a balanced budget and we are very proud to say so.
Once the budget is balanced, what will we do with the surplus that we will hopefully have? The debate then will be, do we start eating away at the debt or do we rebuild some programs?
One big point we have debated over the last while has been the Canada pension plan. In the 1950s and the 1960s it was our responsibility to bring forward these programs. The challenge before us today is to make sure these programs are secure, not just for us and our children, but for generations to come. I believe the approach being used to secure the future of the pension program is the only way to go.
If we look at the alternatives that the Reform Party has put forward, using the example of Chile, today almost 40 per cent of the population of Chile have no benefits, no programs or pensions whatsoever. We can talk about super RRSPs or private pension programs. Most recently we read about the Route Canada program which after so many years is now starting to clear the company pension program.
In response to a question, the Minister of Finance indicated the difference in the Canada pension plan. There is one word I would like to stress and that is secure. Confederation Life unfortunately went into bankruptcy. What happened to the pensions and the savings?
There was an article in the paper not too long ago about the difficulties the retail store Eaton's is going through. It says here:
"Eaton's eyeing pension surpluses". If I had a private pension plan that I had no control over and a large organization is controlling that pension program and something unexpected happens, where is the protection? There may be some protection.
It has been claimed that the Canada pension plan has been exploited in a very extreme way. I would like the opportunity to put my constituents at ease by saying that the Canada pension program is one that now has been put on a solid footing. The money will be invested and reinvested. An independent group will be looking after it and, for example, investing much as teacher's pension funds or the firemen's fund are invested.
I am comfortable responding to questions from my constituents when I tell them they have no worries. The Canada pension plan is there today and will be here tomorrow.
Another important issue which I believe will be before us during the next election is the question of health. The National Forum on Health stated that the problems with the program are not monetary. There is enough money in the programs. What did we do as a Liberal government? We said we would like to go a step further and add an additional $50 million over the next three years.
I recall some comments I heard from my constituents in Scarborough Centre when speaking of the provincial government. I was hearing comments such as: "Why do we have just over10 million living in Ontario and 11 million health cards?" That does not make sense. What we have to do with our health system is spend our money wisely. We do not need four managers for ten staff, for example. That is the restructuring that is going on within the hospital environment.
It has been noted in the past that Reform Party members would like to see us take a much more aggressive approach to reducing the deficit. We know their statistics. We know their numbers. What good will it do to slash and burn from day one only to come back to re-energize? Who will we bring back to life? The dead patient? It is too little, too late.
We have taken a balanced approach, a humanitarian approach to cutting. As a government we have also taken our hits. They have been clearly noted. We are looking at supporting the health program in the best way we know how. I want to tell that to my constituents in Scarborough Centre and to anybody else who is listening.
I also hate it when they talk about the 73 per cent increase. Why do we not take the Canada pension plan and go through it step by step. Today we are paying almost 6 per cent. Next year it will be6 point something. What is odd here is how Reformers combine the employer's share and the employee's share. We know there are also private pension programs within company pension programs. That is not a tax. I do not understand how they term Canada pension contributions as being a tax.
I am not concerned with what the finance department says. I know what I said when I was an employer and hired people. When I hired people, the deciding factor was not how much I paid in UI contributions or Canada pension plan contributions. That was part of the employment package. The bottom line was productivity.
In closing, I would like to put out a challenge to the private sector. We responded to their concerns and put our financial house in order. I put the challenge out to the private sector: We have done our share. It is high time they do their share and recommence hiring.