House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


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

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 18th, 1997 / 10 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

Pursuant to an order of reference dated Wednesday, February 3, 1997, the committee has studied Bill C-300, the volunteer Canadian service medal for United Nations peacekeeping act, and has agreed to report it with amendments and with much thanks to the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Canadian Charter Of Duties And ResponsibilitiesRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-388, an act to establish a Canadian charter of duties and responsibilities.

Madam Speaker, one of the main problems I have identified in my research is that there are legal documents which describe the rights of Canadian citizens in great detail, but no legal document which describes their responsibilities. Consequently, Canadians are becoming more and more preoccupied with their rights, which is creating an unhealthy entitlement mentality in our society.

Today I am introducing a private member's bill entitled the Canadian charter of duties and responsibilities. My long term goal is to improve the balance between self-interest and public interest and to encourage a sense of trust, responsibility and generosity of spirit among all Canadians.

The specific purpose of my bill is to remind Canadians, every time they apply for a federal program, of this simple reality: we cannot continue to enjoy our rights until and unless we continue to fulfil our responsibilities.

My bill describes in very general terms 16 fundamental duties of citizenship and every time a citizen or permanent resident of Canada seeks any financial assistance from the federal government they will be required to sign a statement of duties and responsibilities. This routine process will serve as a regular reminder that the benefits of being Canadian also mean meeting one's obligation to our country, our communities and our families.

My bill will also ensure that all federal legislation is consistent with the principle that rights and freedoms must be balanced with duties and responsibilities.

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

Divorce ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-389, an act to amend the Divorce Act (marriage counselling required before divorce granted).

Mr. Speaker, this month the Vanier Institute on the Family reported that one out of every two marriages in Canada ends up in divorce and that 50 per cent of children will experience family breakdown before their 18th birthday. It also reported that 23 per cent of families in Canada are lone parent families and account for some 46 per cent of all children living in poverty.

This private member's bill seeks to amend the Divorce Act to require that spouses attend marriage counselling before a divorce is

granted, unless grounds of mental or physical cruelty are present or the court is satisfied that it is impossible or inappropriate for them both to take counselling. The issue here is not the divorced couple but the children.

Children of divorced parents are two to three times more likely to experience poverty and insecurity. They experience negative impact on their capacity to love. They are less likely to go to college or university. I could go on.

I want to conclude by saying that the children are the real victims of divorce, that mandatory counselling will provide reasonable guidance to ensure that a viable parenting plan is in place and that the acrimony in divorce is mitigated as much as possible.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have two petitions to table this morning.

The first one deals with the national highway system, 38 per cent of which is substandard. The petitioners point out that the national highway policy study identified job creation, economic development, saving lives, preventing injury and, more importantly, improving Canada's competitiveness on international markets as benefits of the proposed national highway program.

Therefore, constituents in my riding are calling on the federal government to join with the provincial governments in upgrading the national highway system.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, the second petition points out that the availability of sources of affordable fuel is a natural advantage to Canadians in reducing the high cost of shipping over long distances between source and market.

In addition, Canadians are paying approximately 52 per cent of the cost of a litre of gasoline in the form of taxes and the excise tax went up by 1.5 cent a litre in the last budget of 1996.

Constituents in my riding therefore request that Parliament not increase the federal excise tax on gasoline in the coming year.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions today. The first comes from Guelph, Ontario. The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that our police officers and firefighters place their lives at risk on a daily basis as they serve the emergency needs of all Canadians.

They also state that in many cases the families of officers killed in the line of duty are often left without sufficient financial means to meet their obligations.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to establish a public safety officers compensation fund to receive gifts and requests for the benefit of families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition comes from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The petitioners 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 assist families that choose to provide care in the home for preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


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

Madam Speaker, I suggest that all the questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from February 20 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government; and on the amendment.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Gary Pillitteri Liberal Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Fredericton-York-Sunbury.

We all know that budgets are delivered to the House of Commons and the nation as a whole, but budgets are lived every day

within communities throughout our country. This budget, in my opinion, has encountered a very positive response in the homes and workplaces of many families of my constituency, in fact, in hundreds of thousands of families across the nation.

This time the government did not speak to the corporate boardrooms of the nation nor did it speak to the international money making organizations, important as they may be. It spoke instead to the homes and families which are the real strength in the country. When we speak of families, every parent across the country will tell us that their greatest concern is the well-being and future of their children. The budget addresses the future of Canada's children.

In the budget, the Liberal government proposes a two-step enrichment of the current child tax benefit. What an historic undertaking, two levels of government committing to a new cross Canada child benefit system.

By investing in our children, we reflect Canadian values and priorities and make our investment in a stronger society. I am very proud that the budget allocates $230 million over the next three years to assist the disabled. Canadians with disabilities face real barriers. However, they do not seek any special treatment. They seek equal citizenship and need our support to secure it. For this important reason, the medical expense tax credit has been broadened.

In the budget, the finance minister addresses important family issues with his championing of medicare and his aid to the most in need among us.

My riding of Niagara Falls was lucky enough to be represented in the House by another champion of medicare. I am referring to the Hon. Judy LaMarsh, who was responsible for some of the most innovative legislation within the Pearson government. It was under her guidance, as minister of national health and welfare in 1963-65 that the Canada pension plan was implemented and Canada's medicare system was designed.

Recently, and always under a Liberal government, we have learned from the National Forum on Health that the money spent on health in Canada is more than sufficient. There is, however, a lot of evidence that the money is not being spent as effectively and efficiently as it could be. The budget has listened to this and is providing funds that will help to pave the way for more effective and efficient health care system which will bring Canada into the 21st century.

Despite the over 700,000 new jobs created since 1993, we strongly believe that the unemployment rate remains too high. What parent, as head of a family, is not concerned with how they make their daily bread? The budget addresses job creation, jobs which support the dignity of individuals as no one enjoys being unemployed, jobs which allow the breadwinners to give their families a decent standard of living, and jobs that will allow family members to contribute to the new revitalized Canada pension plan for which, Mr. Prime Minister, we all thank you today. The tourism sector is a very important component for the creation of jobs in the Niagara region. The industry is expected to grow by 125,000 new jobs in the coming years and the budget allocates $95 million for this very purpose.

My constituency of Niagara Falls borders the U.S. and it has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. I must admit that the budget's support and encouragement of tourism is good news for my constituency and for all the Niagara peninsula. The help provided in the budget to the tourism industry will be great for all of Canada. Is it not true that almost every constituency in Canada is a tourist destination?

Tourism is more that just the scenery. By working in conjunction with the aid provided to tourism by the Liberal government we will succeed in making our cities, towns and villages equal to our scenery as places for tourists to see and enjoy.

We are building our tourism industry not only for visitors from abroad but for Canadians who will then be able to meet and discover one another and explore each other's culture. I firmly believe that inter-Canadian tourism can do much more to knit the country together than all the politicians and constitutional lawyers will ever be able to do.

As our cities, towns and village grow older and our population stabilizes we have to renew and rebuild much of our infrastructure system and the budget has recognized this. Even the most right wing of private enterprise supporters would have to agree that if there is a place for government spending it has to be on infrastructure. It must be the streets, roads, bridges and schools. As we all know, those are not in the areas where enterprises excel.

Our families need good infrastructure for improved health care, education and safety. Businesses need good infrastructure to become more competitive and to create the profits which in turn will supply the economy with jobs and revenue. My appreciation, and I am sure the appreciation of millions of Canadians, goes out to the Liberal government for recognizing the need of this basic stepping stone for reaching the 21st century.

Lower interest rates are expected to generate between 300,000 and 350,000 new jobs this year. They have translated into real savings and real benefits to individuals and business alike. Furthermore, the measures announced in our fourth budget cannot but facilitate greatly the task of small business in creating jobs.

Speaking of small business, I would like to address the farming community and its constituents who in most cases are small or medium sized business owners. I am sure they will appreciate the budget measures geared to the Farm Credit Corporation, which will enhance economic growth in rural Canada by providing specialized and personalized services to farming operations. Family farms

and small and medium sized businesses that are related to farming will then be able to benefit from it. Increases in the Farm Credit Corporation's lending activities will help to enhance the economic development of rural Canada, particularly the agri-food sector.

In conclusion, when we took office Canadians knew that tough decisions and fundamental changes were required. Canadians did not want any tinkering. They asked for lasting solutions. They wanted us to develop a plan and stick to it. With our fourth budget we have done just that and we are continuing to do so because we know we are on the right track.

One of our greatest prime ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, said that the the 20th century belonged to Canada, and it surely has. However, our work is not complete. Our record is not perfect, but it shows that the Liberal government has taken its commitments very seriously. Our current Prime Minister and Minister of Finance have with this budget staked out our claim which will successfully lead Canada and all Canadians into the 21st century.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a comment and a question or two to ask of the member for Niagara Falls.

I know he is a businessman. I would like to make this analogy. He praises this budget. He says that it is a good budget and that he is proud of it. When the government first came into power its members talked about how they would reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of GDP. Somehow we thought the deficit was $38 billion but that was inflated to $42 billion.

According to the budget the deficit for the current year now stands at $19 billion. Would he agree with me that a deficit in a business can be stated as a loss? When the government took power the previous government had run up a loss of $42 billion. The Liberal government has now reduced that loss on an annual basis down to $19 billion.

The member is saying that he is proud of a budget, that he is proud of a business, that he is proud of a finance minister who brags about breaking the back of the deficit or that he is proud of a finance minister who loses on behalf of Canadians, who spends more money than he brings in by $19 billion.

How can the member say that he is proud of a budget that loses this kind of money when the whole criteria of a budget should be to get to a balanced budget, and the sooner the better. I know the member is a businessman. I know the member understands that he could not run at a loss for 30 straight years and keep adding to his debt unless he had unlimited natural resources in Niagara Falls. Maybe he does. I know Canada is rich as well. I do not understand how Liberal members can brag about a budget that brings in a loss of $19 billion.

The member talked about the serious commitment of the government. We found out yesterday that to reduce the deficit the government has cut transfers to provinces by $7.5 billion. That represented about 23 per cent of its overall deficit cutting regime. Then the government representatives said: "Yes, we know it's tough to swallow. You provinces will have to handle it. You guys will have to work it out at lower levels yourselves and locally. But we're going to bite the bullet as well. We are going to reduce program spending and departmental spending by 18 per cent or so, by $9 billion".

The government was supposed to cut regional development by 50 per cent but it is still the same. It is still half a billion dollars away on transport even though it has done a good job in that area. If the government is serious about its commitment, then why have the cuts to departmental spending, the government's spending within its own jurisdiction, not been made to their full extent? The cuts are only half of what they should be according to the member who said that the commitment was strong.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Gary Pillitteri Liberal Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent question.

When we went to an election in 1993 there was a $42 billion deficit. We stated at the time that we would bring our deficit down to 3 per cent of GDP, and we have done that. We are very proud of that. Not only have we done it, but we have excelled on it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

An hon. member

By tax increases.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Gary Pillitteri Liberal Niagara Falls, ON

It was not by tax increases. We have done this by lowering spending on behalf of the government. We lowered our spending by a ratio of seven to one that we transferred to the provinces. The provinces were warned two years ahead that their transfers were going to be cut.

In comparison we cut our own spending by seven to one. We have not done this on the backs of Canadians, as the hon. member across the way and his party wanted to do it. We wanted to do it fairly. We wanted to do it slowly so that in actuality people would reflect and understand what we were doing. We did not want to burn and slash as the hon. member across the way wanted to do. We wanted to do it in a way that was fair to Canadians, and we have done so.

Our job is not finished yet. We want to continue and certainly we will continue because we are on the right track.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Madam Speaker, this is my first occasion to congratulate you on presenting yourself in that part of my constituency that has been transferred. I

know you will represent those constituents in the future as ably as you have the people of Madawaska-Victoria.

In considering the budget we have to go back to 1995. I am sure that happens from time to time in circles on both sides of the ideological lines in terms of what the 1995 budget meant to Canada, what we have been able to accomplish, and what we have been unable to accomplish. I cannot disconnect the 1995 budget from our former colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. This is also the first opportunity I have had to pay tribute on the public record to someone who served this place with honour and integrity far in excess of the average.

The 1995 budget represented a challenge for many of us in the context that we had to do some very tough things. We had to exercise vigorous restraint on what we would like to consider Liberal programs. It did not come easily to us.

Because we did it we have found ourselves in a position where if the current deficit is not finished with the job must continue. We have to be vigilant to make sure that we retain our economic and fiscal sovereignty. Generally speaking it is considered to be manageable. All indications from outside observers would suggest that. That allows us to do some of the things the budget has done.

Specifically I refer to jobs. I will simply go through the list of things contained in the budget respecting jobs. There will be $95 million for tourism over three years; an extension for another year of the infrastructure program that was extremely helpful in terms of jobs and infrastructure development in Fredericton-York-Sunbury; a year of premium relief under the new hires program; a 10-cent premium reduction on EI premiums; $50 million for private sector infrastructure through the Business Development Bank; and $2 billion additional capital for the Small Businesses Loans Act. We often speak of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and its impact on universities. It is a job generator in terms of the R and D opportunities in placing Canada in a position to compete at that level internationally.

The opportunities fund which has been discussed with regard to disability is a program designed to allow Canadians with disabilities access to employment. The youth package was announced prior to the budget. The interest rate is low. All these things lend themselves to job creation in an environment that will see more jobs.

The second or third consecutive budget has attempted in a modest way, admittedly, to deal with the real problem of child poverty. In a relatively affluent society we have this anomaly. I do not mean to understate it. It is a terrible tragedy, but the real tragedy is that it could happen in a country as wealthy as this one. In the third successive way we have tried to deal with this problem in a modest way. It was recognized in the budget speech that we are just beginning and that it should be acknowledged.

In terms of universities and students I mentioned the innovation fund. We have done a number of things to make universities more accessible to deal with the problem of rising debt loads. We need to make sure that no one who is academically qualified to enter any post-secondary education institution is denied that access because of an inability to pay for that opportunity. We have had a very generous university program and that is one of the reasons Canada has been so successful.

It is important to recognize that there comes a point when the student loan program is not the answer. At some point a huge debt with high unemployment is an obstacle to a post-secondary education.

We mentioned the various responses that the budget contained with regard to the National Health Forum. These are opportunities to implement new programs or to enhance existing programs because we have made progress. The mission is not accomplished, but we have made progress in terms of dealing with the deficit.

I cannot let the opportunity pass by without speaking specifically of the 30 per cent increase in the money available for literacy. It is not something that has received a great deal of attention, but it is something very dear to my heart. Certainly the government has made literacy one of its major preoccupations and I welcome that.

In terms of the various things contained in the budget I bring attention to the announcements that related to Canadians with disabilities. As the chair of the government task force on disabilities I was very encouraged by the response of the government to our task force. I thank the four ministers who sponsored us and the many Canadians who appeared. Upward of 2,000 people from cities across Canada appeared before the task force to speak of what they believed the priorities of Canadians with disabilities should be.

Although it is a modest beginning, and I do not want to diminish in any way the extent to which the battle must continue, in reality the government did not break faith with all those people. It did not break faith with our task force that went in good faith across the country seeking advice. I am very happy the government has seen fit to recognize the work, to recognize the need and to respond with $230 million over three years in the budget. Approximately$100 million will be in the first year.

The budget exercise represents only a beginning. We found ourselves having to do things as a government that were borne of necessity. These were not ideological decisions. We had a deficit. I have always believed that the former government deflated the

deficit to $38 billion in the last campaign. When we got here we found that it was actually $42 billion.

My colleague across the way sees it a different way, that it was a $38 billion deficit that we inflated to $42 billion. It is remarkable how one can look at the same numbers from different sides.

It is also remarkable that we have been given credit. Members across the way during the course of the debate have acknowledged that some effort has been undertaken and some progress has been made. However the progress is not an end in itself. It allows us to get our house in order so that we can do what government is supposed to do: to address inequity and to recognize that not everybody in Canada starts from the same place. The reality is that people differ whether it is by virtue of their capacity, where they happen to live or what family they were born into. Not everybody has the same chance.

In our province we believe deeply in the concept of equal opportunity. The job of government is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to start at the same starting line. That is where government has to be. However, if government does not have the fiscal capacity to do that because too much of what it spends services the debt it cannot do it.

We have dealt with the very onerous fiscal problem we inherited from the former government. We have done it in a way that has attracted international attention, although it has not satisfied my friends across the way. That should not surprise anyone.

I have debated with colleagues across the way from time to time in committee and in other places. I remember, going back to 1995, talking about the nature of some of the reductions the government undertook to deal with the deficit. We have had that discussion. We have heard a lot about it lately as members have come forward with proposals with regard to social spending.

When given the opportunity to comment on the 1995 budget, members across the way and the Progressive Conservatives did not say that we cut too much. They did not say that it was wrong to cut transfers to the provinces. What they said was that we did not cut enough.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, the member opposite from Fredericton and I have served on committees together. Particularly we served on the committee for human rights and persons with disabilities. That committee worked in a non-partisan way on many worthwhile subjects, one of which addressed the very real concerns of persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities could be put into two separate groups. Although some persons with disabilities do not want to be put into two distinct groups, the fact remains that there are two groups. There are those Canadians who through accident, through birth or through other circumstances find themselves in absolute need of society's help on a daily basis to have, as the member opposite mentioned, the potential of equality of opportunity. There are those who have become disabled over the course of their lives and whose disabilities are very real but have come about as the result of aging or living. That is the distinction between the two disabilities.

When the Canada health and social transfer was first instituted persons with disabilities fell through the cracks. Most people acknowledge that happened.

Has the government considered a specific program whereby persons disabled for life will be held harmless from the cost of their disability both through proactive financial support and through the removal of the catch 22 where disabled people, who make the extra valiant effort to be gainfully employed, find that they lose the very benefits allowed them to get employment in the first place? Has that been and will that be addressed?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member from Edmonton for his question. He is well informed in this debate.

The task force concluded two specific recommendations. The first is that the role of the federal government should be to mitigate the cost of disability.

If we cannot make a disability go away, surely as an enlightened society one of our objectives would be that they do not have, in addition to the real obstacle that is presented by a disability, the other costs that go with that disability, such as the cost of the wheelchair, the cost of adapted transportation and so on.

Specifically, the medical services expense credit has been expanded to accommodate that. There is a list of items. There is the cost of an air conditioner if the person has conditions that require them to have air conditioning. It was dealt with.

The second thing has to do with the catch-22 that the member referred to. Many Canadians with disabilities want to go to work but cannot because they recognize that the moment they go to work they lose access to a variety of programs, usually provincial, that they need by virtue of that disability.

I refer to the changes in the limitations on the medical service and the disability tax credits that allow an increase in what might be covered under those credits.

That in itself will go a long way not only in terms of allowing people who are currently unemployed to go to work but also to take away the need for many people who are working to stop working so that they can access these programs.

It is a very real question put. It is a good question. The reality is that the budget spoke to it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the fourth budget tabled in this House by the finance minister, on February 18.

It is an election-minded budget because most of the cuts had already been announced in the three previous budgets. Once again, the main victims of that budget are the provinces, the middle class, the unemployed and the poor. The greatest tragedy, the biggest scandal in Canada, the major failure of this government is the unemployment rate.

However, this budget does nothing in the area of job creation. The Liberals rely solely on market forces and on the private sector for job creation. Up until now, that strategy has been a total failure. Yet, during the 1993 election campaign, the Liberals did promise they would create jobs, jobs, jobs, as their famous slogan said.

They did not meet that commitment, which was a determining factor in their victory. The Liberals have consistently reduced the access to and duration of UI benefits. Let me remind you that, when the Liberals came into office in 1993, only 33 per cent or a third of the unemployed did not receive benefits. Today, the figure is 55 per cent. It is appalling.

To these restrictions, we must add the carelessness of the government and its failure to act when faced with multiple business shutdowns. On that point, I would like to draw your attention to one human tragedy that occurred in Montréal-Nord, in my riding of Bourassa; at the end of February, the Zellers distribution centre announced that it would close on July 1. Because of that closure, 379 men and women will lose their jobs in my riding, which is already hard hit by unemployment and poverty.

I have asked the federal ministers of industry and labour and the President of the Treasury Board, who is responsible for Quebec, to take the necessary measures to prevent that distribution centre from closing so that these workers may keep their jobs and their dignity.

I hope that the federal government will act in good faith and co-operate on this issue. I hope also that the results of its action will demonstrate that it is truly trying to create jobs. Up to now, I have not had any response from the government on this.

Since 1993, I have been the official opposition critic for Citizenship and Immigration. Therefore, I would like to make a few comments on that department. The budgetary needs for 1997-98 have been set at $575 million, that is to say $40 million less than the previous year. The budget was reduced 6.5 per cent over last year, and the staff 20 per cent.

Since the Liberals came back to power, the government has imposed unprecedented cuts on the department. Several centres in Quebec and elsewhere were closed, and thousands of employees were let go, at a time where extra efforts are needed to integrate newcomers.

Yet, with the creation of an immigration tax of $975 per person, and a $500 fee per application, plus the steep increase in other user fees, revenues have increased tremendously. They will reach$363 million for the current year and cover 63 per cent of expenditures. Previously the revenues amounted only to 54 per cent of expenditures.

Despite budget cuts, the government will spend $3.4 million on the promotion of Canadian citizenship. This money will be used for advertising and propaganda campaigns to promote Canadian unity. If we add the tens of millions of dollars allocated to this same objective by the heritage department, it is clear that the government is making cuts in areas in which it should be investing, while wasting public funds on unnecessary things.

Last November, I went to Taiwan as part as a parliamentary delegation. In Taipei, I met with the diplomats and immigration officers of the Canadian mission. I learned that, just from granting visitor's visas and charging fees to the Taiwanese who come to live in Canada, the government had collected more than $9 million in the last year. It must be pointed out that more than 100,000 Taiwanese tourists came here in 1996. Yet, the mission only costs a third of that amount. At that rate, the citizenship and immigration department will be making profits in a few years, which is neither the role nor the objective of the government with regard to immigration.

I would also like to deal with the issue of child poverty. One child out of five lives in poverty in Canada. Among industrialized nations, this country ranks second after the United States for child poverty. The Liberal government forgets that children are the future of the country. The budget does nothing to create jobs and unemployment means poverty. There are 1.5 million poor children in Canada. That is appalling.

In the face of this disastrous situation, the government is only committed to injecting $600 million, which is clearly not enough. According to the Caledon Institute, there should be at least$2 billion more each year to really deal with poverty.

As in the previous years, this budget has been praised by big business and the financial sector. However, it has been denounced and condemned by the labour movement and anti-poverty organizations.

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, has this to say: "This budget is a cynical and political attempt by the federal Liberals to manipulate public opinion before the next election". He adds: "We were told that, if we reduced the deficit and focused on business, everything would fall into place. However, the private sector itself has shown that it is unable to generate

the jobs that Canadians need, and the finance minister's cuts have only made the situation worse".

As for Bob White, the president of the CLC, he condemned the fact that the Liberals have cut $14 billion in social programs since 1994. He said this: "The only plan this government had with regard to job creation is to put blind and almost reverend trust in the markets to do the job".

In Quebec, similar criticisms were voiced by FTQ, CSN and CEQ leaders. FTQ president Clément Godbout deplored the lack of job creation initiatives, particularly ones encouraging the reduction of work time and the restructuring of work. He also condemned the cuts made in transfer payments, which hit Quebec real hard.

I condemn this fourth budget of the Liberals because it does not give any hope to the 1.5 million Canadians and Quebecers who are jobless or to the 1.5 million who are employable but have given up looking for a job. It is a scandal to have 10 per cent unemployment in Canada, and more than 20 per cent in my riding of Bourassa. Even Chile, a developing country, has managed to bring unemployment down to 5 per cent, as in the U.S.

It is unacceptable that 17 per cent of our young people do not have jobs, that the wages of millions of workers have been either frozen or cut back, that 5 million Canadians and Quebecers-a 500,000 increase since the Liberals took office-live under the poverty line, that some businesses and some rich people do not pay taxes, that the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing. That is an immoral and outrageous situation the federal government should deal with.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, on this third day of debate on the budget, I am pleased to join my colleagues and to speak as the member for Trois-Rivières and critic for regional development.

This government and its Minister of Finance in particular are constantly boasting about their good performance, but, on our side, we never stopped shedding a different light on the facts to remind the public that their fight against the deficit is not really aimed at putting our fiscal house in order, but is done on the backs of the unemployed, the most disadvantaged.

We all know that, thanks to UI contributions paid by employees and employers, the unemployment fund has a huge surplus of some $5 billion that the Minister of Finance is using to reduce the deficit rather than speed up economic development. We this surplus, he could lower UI contributions for employers, and above all for workers, leaving more money in their pockets and thus increasing consumer spending.

No, this would be too wonderful, too generous. The Minister of Finance prefers using other people's money to improve his image just before the election, although this is not in the best interests of the public. He also did it at the expense of the provinces, as everyone knows, by recently cutting $4.5 billion in transfers to the provinces, not to mention, again, the $5 billion taken from the unemployment insurance fund.

So, the government is boasting about an amount of $10 billion when, in fact, it got that money at the expense of others. This is absolutely shameful, and we will make it our duty to inform the public accordingly, including Quebecers, in the months to come.

There was also no tax reform, even though the official opposition, through its members on the finance committee, provided a great deal of advice to the government in recent months. I am referring here to the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, the hon. member for La Prairie, and the hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies who, with the help of advisers, did a job that was even noticed by the Minister of Finance, but ignored.

The government turned a deaf ear, even though these were very reasonable, not "revolutionary" proposals, including a suggestion to make sure the tax deferred by corporations is better managed. The business sector is well aware that some companies are making excessive use of that tax provision. Why not crack down harder on these companies, given what is being asked of the poor?

No effort is being made either to ensure that the distribution of wealth is done more properly, and that those who are financially well-off make a greater contribution. And I do not mean the middle class, because it is all too easy to crack down on wage earners. I mean those who wield some financial clout. I mean those who can take advantage of tax havens, who can use several of them at the same time. These are the people we should be going after.

Of course, I also want to mention those who have family trusts of a very high value. I am not talking about a family trust of $50,000 or $100,000, but about the family trusts the auditor general mentioned last year: $1 billion in each one, and morevoer they were transferred to the United States.

When are these issues ever raised, nowadays? When will the government make the rich pay, the really rich people, not the middle class, which is being strangled and which increasingly is working for nothing, a situation which has a destabilizing effect on the social fabric? We are more and more critical of each other, while forgetting in the process that the money is there somewhere. As far as I know, there is no warehouse facility in Canada, in Quebec or in the world, where money is being burned. Money is not being burned. If wealth is not being shared, then it is being concentrated.

In Quebec, in Canada, in the western world, we are witnessing an increasing and abusive concentration of wealth. If this trend is not corrected, we have every reason for being concerned about the future.

There is a passage in the speech from the throne that particularly caught my attention; it is the second paragraph on page 12, and it is of special concern to the residents of the municipalities in my riding and of many communities, especially in Quebec. Some of my colleagues will no doubt feel concerned.

The paragraph reads as follows: "Therefore, we are announcing today that $10 million of funding in each of the next three years will be devoted to significantly increase the number of communities across Canada that have the electronic infrastructure required to access the communications technologies of the future. As a result of this program, virtually every community in Canada between 400 and 50,000 in population will be connected over the next four years-5,000 communities in all."

That is all very nice, but you have to know how much this is out of touch with reality as far as daily communications by telephone are concerned. You have to know that in my riding, in the new part of my riding adjacent to Louiseville, Saint-Léon-le-Grand and Maskinongé, as in many other small communities of Quebec-I got to understand that these last weeks-we have telephone service that cannot be called anything but rotten.

We are still living in the stone age as far as communications are concerned. In the Saint-Léon-le-Grand area and in some communities in the riding of Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister's riding, four subscribers still share a single line. Four people on the same line, and we keep talking about the electronic infrastructure across Canada. We have satellites and we still cannot even have fax machines at home. This is a far cry from the optic fibre era. We have four people on the same line. Some businesses are also on a party line of four. They cannot get personal calls because there is no confidentiality whatsoever.

Apparently, there are senior citizens homes with 10, 20, or 30 people using a single party line shared by four customers. There is no confidentiality, and it is impossible to make emergency phone calls. These people need to be able to call the police or the ambulance. This is not in the far north, but in an area between Montreal and Quebec City, right in the middle of the province.

I hear more and more that even in the Montreal area, this kind of problem occurs, just like in smaller towns. It is about time the government called the CRTC to order, and that the CRTC called to order big companies like Bell Canada, to make sure the public in Canada and Quebec gets some respect, to make sure taxpayers and subscribers get the kind of respect they deserve.

There is something weird here. We keep talking about the optic fibre networks, of globalization of markets, free trade and high technology-and technology kills jobs-and we cannot even make a simple phone call in decent conditions. This is unacceptable. We at least need the means to spread the bad news. In an area between Montreal and Quebec City, we still have party lines of four. It makes no sense whatsoever. These people sometimes need to call the ambulance. I would like to pay tribute here to the head of the Maskinongé RCM, Jocelyne Elliott Leblanc, the mayor of Louiseville, who has done a remarkable job.

The issue has been brought to the attention of the Office of the Prime Minister, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice. He better deal with the problems faced by the residents of these new municipalities still living in the Stone Age, because his government sanctions the CRTC, which establishes standards fit for large corporations, including Bell Canada, and where navel-gazing is a favourite pastime, except for those who do not have access to adequate phone services.

The Prime Minister has better take care of this. The ball is in his court and we will be waiting for him just around the corner in a few weeks or a few months because, if he is unable to deal with such issues-he was unable to settle other similar issues, as we know-the people of Saint-Paulin and others in that region who are faced with such enormous problems will let him know.

In some cases, Bell Canada's solution was to suggest that people buy cellular phones. There are no phone services in that area, and I am not talking about the far north, as I said, but about a region located between Montreal and Quebec City, one hour from Montreal and one hour and a quarter or one hour and a half from Quebec City.

It does not make sense; it is unacceptable. The government is bragging, something the Minister of Finance is quite good at. They are bragging about the information highway. But we will talk about that again during the election campaign.

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11:05 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague who has just delivered a very passionate speech. At the end of his speech he talked about communications. Certainly nothing is more important than communications. He talked about communications between Montreal and Quebec. He talked about telephone lines. In my riding of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, which encircles Kingston, we had those challenges. We have locations where telephones are barely available.

Would my colleague not consider that if his provincial government and his party, which I understand still has the status of the

opposition, the loyal, royal blue roots opposition here today, were to work together with us, we could make greater progress?

I have many friends and colleagues in Quebec. They want the same thing for their families that people want in my riding. They want to ensure the future, the health and the concern for jobs. It is time we speak for what we believe in and that we work together. This is reflected in value of real estate today. It is shameful what has happened in Quebec City to the very fine wonderful people there, what has happened to the value of real estate since the first day of 1997.

It is time to start to concentrate on working together instead of putting up this smokescreen to appease a few people who have a lot of money. I ask the member to represent all of his constituents.


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11:05 a.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. I think that the main characteristic of the official opposition since we were elected to the House in 1993, the first session starting in 1994, is indeed a spirit of co-operation, which was reflected in documents published during the October 1995 referendum, in which we spoke of partnership.

What we sovereignists ask for is mutual respect. This is something we as the official opposition can achieve here.

I spoke earlier of the work done by my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, who is our finance critic. It must be a rare occurrence in Canadian history when the opposition proposes very articulate and well-documented suggestions on corporate and personal income tax. We suggested ways for the government to improve the tax system. This is a good example of partnership and respect.

We are not here to destroy any country but to build one: Quebec. It is our country, our homeland, and we want to work in a respectful partnership, on an equal footing with our closest neighbour, with whom we have an indisputable historic relationship.

We are a people, just as Canadians are a people. So why not work together in an honourable and civilized way? Both our societies are civilized. So why are there such antagonistic feelings, especially in the Canadian press? Why not recognize that Quebec is profoundly distinct? Why not be pleased that this people will soon become sovereign? We would work together, not one against the other. Quebec's current economic problems should not be a cause for celebration.

Montreal is going through a very difficult period. Let us hope that this is not the result of a concerted effort. Let us hope that this will not lead some people to pat themselves on the back. The worse the situation is in Quebec, the more people will be scared and thus tempted to vote no; let us hope this is not a strategy. Let us hope that this is only a coincidence and that the Canadian government will put Quebec's money back into Quebec's economy, especially for R and D and the purchase of goods and services. We know that Quebec has historically been treated like an underdog by the Canadian government. Let us hope that the situation will get back to normal as soon as possible and that we will be able to work closely together as two peoples and two civilized nations.

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11:10 a.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. distinguished member for Burin-St. George's.

It is a distinct pleasure for me to participate in this debate with regard to this budget. I would like to congratulate the government, the Minister of Finance and of course the whole Liberal caucus. I want to single out the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the hon. member for St. Paul's, who is my seatmate. He has done a tremendous amount of work in the preparation of this budget and of course lining up the debate which is going on the House right now. I congratulate him. I am sorry that he has decided not to run in the next election and I wish him well as he goes down the road and continues his work as a great Canadian.

Our teamwork has resulted in a budget that will benefit not only the people of my riding of Hillsborough but all Canadians. Since the minister made his speech we have heard a lot of commentary. Some special interest groups say it is not enough, other groups say that it is too much but, more important, we have heard from a few Canadians who, I believe, represent most of the people who say it is just right.

I am one of those people. I am one of the many in this House and I am one of the millions of Canadians across the country who agree that the government as a whole has done the right thing. I agree with the budget approach, the extent of the measures and I agree with the timing of these measures. I would like to elaborate by explaining why my opinions are so positive toward this budget.

When we entered office in the fall of 1993 the federal government was deep in debt and it was falling ever deeper very rapidly. After just four budgets we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The deficit has been reduced by over half, a reduction of $23 billion, and if we look at the cumulative effect of those cuts we have lowered the net debt by $89 billion from what it otherwise would have been. For this we and all Canadians have been rewarded by the financial markets with lower interest rates.

We have heard many calls for cuts to payroll taxes, income taxes, sales taxes and every other tax that has been the flavour of the day. I would like to provide my hon. colleagues in the House examples of what our actions have meant to Canadians.

First, let us assume that you, Madam Speaker, have a $100,000 mortgage which is to be amortized over 25 years. If we compare the rates that were available in January 1995 and the rates available right now, by refinancing you could save roughly $230 a month on a five-year mortgage. Instead, if you took a one-year mortgage you could save over $300 a month. That is a lot of money.

But there is more. Let us assume that a small business person started a business and took out a $1 million loan amortized over 10 years. If we compare the interest rates that were available in April 1995 with the interests rates that are available now, by refinancing that loan, that person could save $33,000 annually.

If I went out tomorrow to buy a car and I borrowed $15,000 and amortized it over four years I would save $480 a year because of the lower interest rates.

These examples are not fiction. These are examples in the real lives of real Canadians. I have people in my riding, as I am sure in other ridings as well, who will save thousands of dollars because of our actions which have resulted in these lower interest rates.

To make my point even clearer, perhaps we should compare a cut in payroll deductions with one of the examples I have just given. What would happen if a payroll deduction was cut 25 cents per $100 in earnings? We have heard calls for this in the House and across the country. The Canadian who makes $39,000 a year would save, now hold on to your hats, a whopping $97.50 per year, not per month but per year. What is more, this meagre cut would cost the government $1.8 billion. Lower interest rates save money, not cost the government money.

Given the choice of a payroll deduction cut of $100 a year or interest savings of $480 on a consumer loan or $2,000 to $3,000 on a mortgage, what would members choose? I know what I would choose and let me tell the House it would be worth more than $100.

I would like to put the budget into perspective. The deficit is still falling. We are doing well on that front, so well in fact that the government was able to invest in health care as recommended by the National Forum on Health. It was able to invest in education by assisting students and their parents. It was able to relieve some of the burden on low income Canadians, and it was able to provide assistance to Canadians with disabilities as suggested by the federal task force on disability issues.

All this goes hand in hand with recent announcements and other budget items such as the funding for the extension to the community action plan for children and the Canadian prenatal nutrition plan. I applaud these extensions. I and my constituents are happy to see these important programs being maintained.

The government chose the right path. It chose a balanced approach by staying the course while providing some relief to Canadians. It has been a hard fight for everybody, but we must continue to reduce the deficit if we are ever going to be able to achieve our goals.

One of our primary goals is job creation. A lot of attention has been given to small business. Yet again, there are initiatives in the budget that benefit small business.

The Canadian Tourism Commission is a partnership of both the private and public sectors which designs and implements effective marketing strategies and programs to increase tourism revenues in Canada. The commission also provides services to the tourism industry to help it remain internationally competitive.

Tourism is a large part of the local economy in my riding, indeed in my province. The increase in funding to the CTC will boost the promotion abroad of Canada and thus boost our tourist industry on Prince Edward Island. This is particularly important to us now that the Confederation Bridge is opening in just a couple of months. Islanders are expecting a million tourists this year. This is a jump of some 200,000 tourists over last year, the largest factor for the increase of course is the bridge. This is twofold.

First the bridge will alleviate many of the travel problems associated with the ferry service. Second, the bridge is more than just mode of transportation. The bridge itself will be a tourist attraction because Confederation Bridge is the largest of its kind. When it was built a special crane had to be brought in, a 9,000 ton crane, to install the 8,200 ton girders. In fact, tours were given throughout construction just to see this operation.

Another boost to the tourism industry is the additional funding to the Business Development Bank of Canada. The $50 million will translate into $250 million in loans to small business and tourism. This means more opportunities for Islanders and for all Canadians. This increase in tourism will not only enhance the peak summer season in Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada, but it will also strengthen the shoulder season periods of spring and fall.

This will mean jobs. More help will be needed during the peak season and the shoulder seasons and that will mean more hours. In short, more people will stay on the job longer.

Boosting the tourism industry is good but what Islanders also need are full time, year round jobs. To assist in that area, the government is investing upfront $800 million in the new Canada Foundation for Innovation. This foundation will help strengthen the research and development infrastructure at universities, colleges, research hospitals and not for profit research institutions and organizations in the area of health, environment, science and engineering.

I have both a university and a college in my riding. These two institutions are eligible for financial support from the foundation to modernize their research infrastructure. The foundation will be an arm's length organization. It will seek partnerships to support these investments. Together with their partners, it will be able to fund up to $2 billion in infrastructure improvements.

I am sure that all hon. members are interested to hear what the president of the University of Prince Edward Island had to say about the foundation. Dr. Elizabeth Epperly said: "It sounds wonderful and you can be certain that we will take advantage of it". Those are words of encouragement from a key player in the field.

In fact, innovation is becoming increasingly important for international competitiveness and that is even more important in an open country like Canada. In light of this, the government continues to make every effort to improve competitiveness.

I am pleased with the budget. I know Canadians are pleased with it. It shows that the hard work that we have done over the last three years is paying off. I encourage all people in this House to support it.