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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Privilege

10 a.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to actions taken by officials of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration who, in my opinion, have acted in contempt of Parliament.

This morning I was told that I would not be allowed into a preview of a press conference with department officials giving details of proposed changes to legislation or regulations given by the minister. Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer you to Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 14 where it states that the Senate and the House of Commons have the power or right to punish actions, which, while not appearing to be breaches of any specific privilege, are offences against their authority or dignity. Such actions, though often called breaches of privilege should more properly be considered contempts.

I rise because I feel that the actions of the department of immigration have been in contempt of Parliament.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, it is the practice of this place to include opposition members when detailed briefings are given on changes to regulations. I feel that the attempt by the department to deny me access until after the media had received the information is to deny me my privilege to information.

It is time that we as members of Parliament object to departmental officials placing the needs and desires of the media ahead of members of Parliament and the House.

I would like you to consider seriously that this is a contempt of Parliament and of my privileges as a member of Parliament. The media was given information that was going to be denied to me until two hours after the fact.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I understand the hon. member's feelings and I sympathize with them.

From the point of view of parliamentary privilege I would ask you to consider whether what she is saying applies to matters that are extra-parliamentary or non-parliamentary. We are not talking about a sitting of the House of Commons. We are not talking about a sitting of one of its committees. We are talking about a meeting that officials decided to have with members of the press.

If the hon. member is right, does this mean that any MP has a right to go to any meeting officials have with the press or with interest groups, et cetera? Is there no right on the part of the officials, or the minister for that matter, to say that they are entitled to have under some circumstances what amount to private meetings?

While I understand the member's desire to be informed and it is commendable in terms of what she wants to do as critic for her party, I respectfully ask the Chair to consider whether what she is complaining about is, in fact, something parliamentary, raising all the rules and considerations of parliamentary privilege.

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wonder if the hon. member who raised the point of privilege would be kind enough to indicate where the meeting was held and who ultimately was present, who arranged the meeting and that kind of detail.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will. The meeting was called by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in the press building across the street on Wellington. It was a briefing of the details of the changes to the immigrant investors program. When we asked if we could attend, the department told us that we would not be allowed to attend and that I would be given the same briefing by the same departmental officials after question period, which would be more than two hours after the detailed briefing had been given to the media. The time of the briefing was nine o'clock this morning.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to respond to the words of the government House leader who talked about private meetings and how they relate to this matter. I cannot imagine how the government House leader would think that a briefing of the media could in any way be interpreted as a private meeting.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to Erskine May's 21st edition, page 115. It states that an offence for contempt may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence. It is, therefore, impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to contempt, the part punished for such an offence being of its nature discretionary.

These situations happen far too often. I refer to Commons Debates of November 20, 1996, at page 6505, when I stated in the House: That I had been advised that tomorrow''-being November 21-members of Parliament will not be given a copy of the report by the royal commission on aboriginal affairs. It will be given to the press, to the media, but not to members of Parliament.

You, Mr. Speaker, in the Chair replied that I would appreciate the word "inchoate" because it would not happen until the following day. Because I raised it as a matter of privilege, the government went out of its way to ensure that a few copies of the report of the royal commission were delivered in order that my question of privilege would be negated before the offence took place.

The meeting was at 9 a.m. it is now 10.10 a.m. Therefore I would state that the contempt has taken place and must be ruled on accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to draw your attention to a situation of some time ago where I raised a question of privilege regarding questions I have had on the Order Paper for almost two years. There have been some quotes in the newspapers-

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I do not think that is the matter we are dealing with at the moment. If the hon. member has anything further to say on the precise question that has been raised by his colleague, please deal with that.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was pointing out that the issue of contempt has arisen in this area on numerous occasions. Government staff have been quoted in the media as saying that they have no intention of responding to my question on the Order Paper. These types of offences are happening far too often. Now we have another one this morning from the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley.

I hope you take the matter seriously and report back to the House that there has been contempt.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Liberal

Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a constructive way I would like to advance a point that had not occurred to me when I spoke. The premises in question are not parliamentary buildings. They are occupied by the press gallery which I think as part of the traditional autonomy of the gallery runs the press conferences in the press theatre.

It may be that the hon. member has a complaint to the executive of the press gallery which manages the press conferences or briefings. In recent years it has become more strict about how many MPs and their staff it will allow even into the press gallery theatre to listen to open press conferences.

I am just in a constructive way adding a fact that I would have put on the table if I had thought of it when I spoke earlier. Also, do the hon. member and her colleagues intend to say that I will have a question of privilege if I am not allowed into their confidential briefings when they prepare for question period? Mr. Speaker, if that is the case I would be happy to ask you to take that into account as well.

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am going to reserve on this matter but I will allow the hon. member to speak for a third time on the matter that has just been raised by our colleague across the floor.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would be very tempting to do what the House leader of the government suggested.

To clarify the matter, because we felt the Department of Citizenship and Immigration did not have the right to deny us access, we did follow up by phoning the press gallery. We were told that the department did not have the right to deny me access to that building.

The point of my concern is that we had departmental officials trying to prevent members of Parliament from getting information at the same time as the media was getting information on the details of government regulations. My objection is to the treatment I was given as a member of Parliament by the staff in the office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, the hon. government House leader and the member for St. Albert. The Chair will reserve on this and will get back as quickly as it can with a ruling on the matter.

The House resumed from March 19 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on the 1997 budget. I will be splitting my time with one of my colleagues, so in my 10 minutes I will talk about an issue that has aggravated western Canadians for years: the endless attempt by successive governments, Tory and Liberal, to buy Quebec's love with large amounts of federal largesse.

To understand the source of this irritation I will point out a few blatant examples from this and recent Parliaments. Second, I will talk about why successive Liberal and Tory governments have felt compelled to perpetuate this habit of favouring Quebec to the detriment of other provinces and other territories. I would like to spend my last few minutes outlining why my Reform colleagues and I feel there is a better way to address the Quebec question.

On the first point, I have watched this dance play itself out between Ottawa and Quebec for the last 30 years. Quebecers say they are unhappy with the federal system and if something is not done they will leave.

Instead of sitting down and addressing Quebec's concerns, the federal politicians in Ottawa are consistent in trying to buy its love instead of dealing with the matter. Here are a few examples.

To put it bluntly, in dollar terms Quebecers benefit disproportionately from the federation itself. For example, Quebec accounts for only 25 per cent of the Canadian population yet it receives30 per cent of all federal transfers to provinces.

The equalization program is supposed to assist the poorest provinces to provide services to their people. Quebec, the fourth richest province in Canada, receives more equalization dollars than any other provinces. It receives more than the four Atlantic provinces combined.

The separatists will dispute these facts and claim that Quebec pays more to Ottawa in taxes than it receives in transfers and program spending. This is not true. The fact is that Quebec paid22 per cent of total federal income tax, which is less than its 25 per cent share of the population and considerably less than its 30 per cent share of federal transfer dollars.

This systemic bias in favour of Quebec is not what really irritates western Canadians. Rather, what galls my constituents in Lethbridge, in southern Alberta and in other places in western Canada is the blatant political pork which successive federal administrations, Liberals and Tories, have shovelled into Quebec.

Let us take some examples. The infrastructure program was supposed to be for roads and sewers, basic infrastructure. The very first infrastructure project announced by the government was a convention centre for Quebec City. Do we need another example? How about the canoe museum in the Prime Minister's home town of Shawinigan? Then there were business subsidies. Last weekend it was $600,000 for a hotel in Shawinigan in the Prime Minister's riding. The next day it was an $8.1 million sock factory for Montreal, with the taxpayers of Canada footing the bill.

How about Bombardier? Over the past 15 years total federal subsidies to this giant corporation totalled $1.2 billion: 1.2 billion of taxpayers' dollars to a company that earned $400 million in profit last year. It had a profit. It could have gone to the market and got the money on its own without the intervention and the handout of the Liberal government in Ottawa.

The final example I would like to use is the allocation of federal funds to assist provinces with the settlement of immigrants and refugees. Under the terms of a deal signed during the Mulroney administration Quebec was guaranteed $90 million per year for that program. In turn Quebec agreed to accept 25 per cent of Canadian immigrants. Quebec has not honoured that agreement. Today Quebec only accepts 12 per cent of Canada's immigrants but continues to receive the $90 million. That is wrong. That represents roughly 30 per cent of the total funds allocated to that program.

To illustrate this geographically, British Columbia receives about $1,000 in federal funds for each immigrant. For the same immigrant in the province of Quebec the allocation is $3,327.

My constituents want to know why there is a double standard. The reason is that successive Liberal and Tory governments-and this one is as bad as the rest-have refused to address the legitimate concerns of Quebecers about the federal system. Their selfish refusal to abandon the status quo and make real change means the federal government has nothing to offer Quebecers except federal largesse. Instead of renewing the federal union to keep them in Canada the government tries to buy their loyalty instead.

It is a losing proposition. After three decades of overspending the federal government simply does not have enough money left. More important, people's loyalty or love for the nation cannot be bought with government money.

The bottom line is that Quebecers are unhappy with the way the nation works and have been for some time. Quebecers object to a domineering federal government that intrudes into provincial jurisdiction. They object to an elitist status quo that vests powers to the Prime Minister and his respective cabinet which not allow them to elect their own senators or appoint their own lieutenant governors.

It is ironic that many other Canadians object to exactly the same things, especially western Canadians. As my leader said last week in Oshawa, Quebec sent 50 BQ members to Parliament and western Canada sent 50 Reform members to Parliament because both parties articulated the contempt felt by Canadians toward the political status quo. The big difference is that Reformers offered a plan to rebuild the federation while the separatists in the House are merely offering to tear it down.

What is the new path Reformers would like to offer Canadians? It should reach the ears of some Liberals who sit rather deaf in the House. What would we like to do?

We would rebalance the federation by transferring control of jurisdictions such as resources, training, culture, housing and tourism back to the provinces where they belong. We would forbid any new encroachments on provincial jurisdiction through use of federal spending power. We would replace federal cash transfers with a tax point system of transfers to prevent future governments from slashing such transfers the way the present government has done. We would reform our democratic institutions to allow for election of senators, freer votes in the House of Commons, provincial input into judicial appointments and much more. We would give the final word on any constitutional amendment to the people of Canada in the form of a national referendum.

The bottom line is that if the next federal government continues to resist fundamental systemic changes to our federation Quebecers will more than likely choose to leave. The concern in western Canada will continue.

If, however, the next government commits itself to real change and offers all Canadians including Quebecers a new deal then the Canadian federation would finally be placed on the foundation it needs to lead us in a confident and united way into the 21st century.

As we move into the possibility of a spring election it is incumbent upon the current members of Parliament to consider that it is easy to play political games and to seek re-election for the sake of having power in the country. However, if parliamentarians and those going into the next election look at their responsibilities and their goals and are unable to say they have a new plan to build a Canada for all Canadians rather than just for a political party, we are doing a major disservice to our history. That will be the challenge of the 1997 election.

Can the Liberal Party and the Tory Party step over the bridge and away from their continuous goal for years of seeking power and of handing out federal government largesse to Quebec and maybe to other provinces just to get votes which allow them to stay in power? Can they cross over that bridge and change their ways and take responsibility for building a better nation? It is time they tried.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague suggested, Ottawa seems consumed with appeasing Quebec. Federal funds flow into that province without reason. At the same time provincial policies drive money out of that province.

This enrages many people in the province of British Columbia and weakens the attachment of many of them to Canada. Does the favouritism shown to Quebec strengthen the national fabric of Canada?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, favouritism has been going on for years. Federal largesse has been handed out in an unplanned way to Quebec, the maritimes, Ontario and even to the west in an attempt to buy votes. That is one of the observations I made with respect to the current Liberal government.

When the Liberals were elected in 1993 it was over a year before we saw a budget plan. We heard about studies. We were told they were thinking about things. They were delaying. They were going to hear witnesses. They were going to do all kinds of things but they were not going to implement a plan.

What happened in the 1994-95 budget? The Minister of Finance was not ready with a plan. We lost a year in which we could have reduced the deficit significantly. We could have dealt with it when Canadians were in favour of that type of action. We had to wait until the budget of 1995-96 for the Liberals to do something.

As long as the government has as its priority handing out money to Quebec to get political support and to maintain political power, Canadians will be discontent whether they live in B.C., Alberta or the maritimes. Somewhere along the line that approach to government must stop.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Lethbridge mentioned a lot of things about Quebec, the Constitution, the security of Canada and unity. Those are very significant issues. However another area that has been of concern to me has to do with the promise to create jobs.

Could the member give us some examples of measures in the last two budgets which gave encouragement to young people in the area of job creation?

The Reform Party, with its fresh start program, is telling young people that there is hope. There is a vision for Canada which will give them job security, stability and hope. It will give them the things they want for their families and their future.

Could he say a few words about that?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate a point I made earlier. If the Liberal government had been elected with a plan to reduce the deficit and bring forward a balanced budget during the 35th Parliament, there would have been a greater amount of stability in the Canadian economy and a greater amount of confidence in the nation.

The 1997-98 budget could have been a balanced budget.

If that happened, the confidence of the investors in Canada would have been greater. We would have had investment in all kinds of small and medium size business across this nation.

The consumers of Canada who would have been more secure in their jobs would have been ready to spend money and buy. However, the problem is confidence is not there. The Minister of Finance stands in the House and says interest rates are low.

We remember what happened in the 1970s when interest rates ballooned into the 18 to 23 per cent range and there was a floating interest rate that a small company or as a small businessman or a farmer took out. It devastated their business. It took all the cash flow and we are scared that that could happen again. This government has not come to grips with its finances. The confidence level in this country is horrible even though it has been glazed over by a good media communications plan by the Minister of Finance.

That is not going to hold water very long. If the interest rates in United States start to increase, we know the Canadian interest rates are going to follow. That, in turn, is only going to reduce the confidence of the investor and the consumer.

That leaves our young people, 25 per cent between the ages of 18 and 25, who are now currently unemployed in a very unstable condition. We must deal with our budget in a more responsible way.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, four years ago I came to this place excited at the prospect of trying to affect some change here. At that time, I shared the enthusiasm of my fellow Reformers for fiscal prudence and for promoting the notion of fiscal prudence and some sort of social responsibility. As well, I came with an interest in the fishery, especially the fishery on the west coast.

Canada's fisheries represent a valuable national resource. The responsibility for that resource is vested in the federal government. It is a constitutional responsibility, one that the federal government cannot ignore. Yet this government has failed miserably in that regard.

It has ignored the best advice of the Supreme Court of Canada. It has ignored countless participants and shareholders in the fisheries who have attempted to offer good and solid advice to the government. Most curiously, it was ignored by a former Speaker of the House whom this government appointed to conduct a review of the Fraser River fishery in 1994.

Why I bring this up in the context of the budget is that the federal department of fisheries has a budget this year approaching $1.2 billion. We are not talking peanuts here. We are talking about a huge budget, one which is not spent wisely and one which puts this valuable natural resource at risk.

Mr. Fraser in his comments suggested the same: "DFO must formulate a strategy and a plan that will marshal the personnel, facilities, equipment and communications systems needed to re-establish a credible enforcement deterrent. The first step in the process must be a proper assessment of what is required at minimum to ensure adequate enforcement. This cannot be achieved in the context of a budget exercise".

What the former Speaker was saying was that when there is a department like fisheries and oceans with a constitutional responsibility to protect a national resource, we cannot simply take the accountant's view and start slashing at the budget. We first have to determine what is needed to protect that resource and go from there. In managing the budget this government has not done that.

That is not to say, necessarily, that we are standing here saying that more money must be spent. What we are saying is that a proper assessment must be taken of what is needed. We must ensure that the moneys spent are spent wisely.

In 1994 the government reaffirmed its support for something known as the aboriginal fishing strategy. This was a strategy that established a racially segregated fishery on the west coast which the previous government said was an obligation as a result of a Supreme Court decision and Sparrow. This of course was false.

Nevertheless, a mid-term review was conducted of this program in 1996. In that mid-term review it was noted that reallocation of money from within DFO to the aboriginal fishing strategy starved the real needs of the department such as enforcement.

What we have here is an abuse of priorities. Where the key priority must be enforcing regulations and laws and protecting the resource, the government in its wisdom took money from that critical area and put it into an area which came about as a result of a political need rather than a constitutional need.

Within a year of coming to power, the government reaffirmed its support for this aboriginal fishing strategy and approved the continuation of AFS commercial sales projects and allocated money away from key enforcement areas. This is totally unacceptable.

DFO auditors went over the results of the mid-term review and they noted two things. The first thing they said is that it was difficult to get an overall sense of what had been accomplished through the expenditure of almost $100 million over four years. That $100 million was spent on this aboriginal fishing strategy.

The auditors went on to say that most of the examples used in the document contained no hard data, thus they had no way of knowing the magnitude of the project, whether it was cost effective or how the results were determined.

The government asked Mr. Matkin, former head of the B.C. business council, to conduct a review of this aboriginal fishing strategy. The review was completed toward the end of January and

the government promised that this review would be made public. We are still waiting for the publication of that review.

At the same time as we are waiting, it is preventing the government from doing its job and that is preparing for the upcoming fishing season. In a draft of the Matkin report, Mr. Matkin noted that these pilot sales programs were in a rut and that something must be done. Yet again we are waiting and waiting for something to come about here.

The government further spent money on another study, a study which would deal with the coast wide implications of using the Nisga'a treaty as a model for treaties which would be established coast wide and the impact of using that treaty as a model, especially with this fisheries component. In other words, what is the cost of replicating the Nisga'a treaty coast wide to the commercial fishing industry?

Over a year ago we applied under access to information to get a copy of that study. It took 12 months. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in its wisdom, refused to release anything to us, not even the cover page of that 98 page document. We are still working through access to information to get it. What does the department have to fear from the public understanding of what it is doing and what the cost is going to be in settling these treaties?

My colleague from Fraser Valley East has also asked the department for a study it did on the Sto:lo and their budget. He still has not been able to get that. There was a May report, again commissioned by the department. We are waiting for action on that. It is yet to happen. This report was delivered last December and we are still waiting.

As I said, the department spends about $1.2 billion a year. There is no denying that the problems it faces are complex. Unfortunately the department has not measured up to the job. Time is running out for Parliament to examine the workings of this department and yet examine it must.

Last fall a federal court judge accused the department of a litany of corrupt behaviour which included vote rigging and sham consultative process. This had reference to dealing with the establishment of a halibut quota system on the west coast.

The federal court judge noted: "A DFO official's unwillingness to face the obvious meaning of his own words caused the court to doubt the reliability of the evidence offered in defence of the minister's, DFO's, and his own position". This is a tremendous indictment of the department. The judge went on to say: "Rules were simply broken because it was necessary to do so to reach the planned objective".

The minister has refused to this point to dissociate himself from the action of the official named by the court.

If the federal court of Canada can come down with an indictment of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with the intensity it did last fall, why should I or why should the Canadian public have any confidence in the ability of this department to manage this huge budget? It is an issue that needs to be addressed and addressed quickly by this House.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I found the member's speech very interesting because it dealt with an area of waste in the budget where there seems to be no control and no accountability, and the auditor general is very concerned about spending in the whole range of activities of the Indian affairs department.

I would like to ask the member about fishing rights and the cost of those exercises, those legal situations that are occurring on the Fraser River now. I realize he may not be able to speak in much detail about cases. Has he any idea of the cost to Canadian taxpayers for the constant intervention of officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in enforcing what are probably illegal regulations that give fishing rights to a specific group over another group? Yet these officials will keep spending taxpayers' money and forcing regulations that could be illegal and then not carrying them through to get a court ruling to actually prove whether they are legal.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for the question. The cost to the Canadian taxpayer for these court cases has been absolutely remarkable. We know that just the operation of this fishery which is operating beyond the law with the consent of the minister has cost Canadian taxpayers well over $100 million in the last few years.

The actual legal costs to the government I cannot recall at the moment. I do know that industry has spent over $1 million of its own money representing itself in an intervener status in pursuing these cases through to the Supreme Court of Canada. That is a huge amount of money.

What is most serious about it is in focusing its energies on this issue, the department is not able to manage the resource for other fisheries. I have an example at hand here right now which we are currently petitioning the minister about. That has to do with the eulachon fishery in the Fraser River. It is a small fishery. There are probably only 25 to 35 participants in it in any one year. This year there were 20 tonnes allocated to that eulachon fishery on the Fraser River.

Because the department could not get a management plan in place to operate this fishery it shut it down this year. It shut it down in spite of the fact that the participants committed that they would pay for an observer to monitor the fishery so that it would not go over the total allowable catch and so that it would not cost the

department any money. Yet the department has refused. It has shut down that small fishery this year and said it cannot fish because the government cannot get a management plan in place.

How outrageous is that? It is like saying to a farmer "you cannot plant your crops because there may be a snowstorm in the Fraser Canyon that is going to prevent the trains from getting to the coast". It is absolutely outrageous. Yet this is the kind of thing that goes on in this department time after time. Time permitting, I could give the House example after example just as outrageous as this one.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my hon. colleague to explain an area that he probably has not touched on directly, but I think ties into the categories of fisheries which have apparently been created.

I wonder whether within this mismanagement, this lack of planning, there is some sort of perpetuation of inequality among Canadians, of one group of Canadians getting one kind of advantage at the expense of others.

In the time that is left, I wonder if the member could talk about that a little bit because I think equality before the law is a very significant issue. It attacks the very unity of the country.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, no doubt the inequality promoted by the aboriginal fishing strategy has driven wedges between communities which have been able to get along for the last 100 years. There was harmony, people worked and played together and now wedges have been driven between these communities.

The industry has no faith in the department. In fact, it has been treated better by the courts than by DFO in the past. Many in the industry say it is preferable to litigate because the courts hear and take into account the arguments of non-aboriginals when dealing with the issue, something the department has refused to do.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 18, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, presented the government's 1997 budget, its fourth budget. I am pleased to speak on this budget. I will be sharing my time with the member of Parliament from Erie, Ontario.

It is a budget for all Canadians. It is a budget that works. It is a budget that stays the course. It stays the course in a manner that is seeing the deficit fall, but remains true to the ideals that Canadians hold dear. Through this budget the government has not only ensured but strengthened the social safety net for this generation of Canadians and for generations of Canadians to come.

The 1997 budget proposes selective tax cuts for low income families, charities, the disabled, students and workers pursuing higher education, and for parents saving for their children's future educations. But it is not yet feasible to consider a broad based tax cut. When the government does so, it will ensure that a tax cut is affordable and sustainable. Broad based tax cuts would be too costly at this time. They would require additional spending cuts or an increase in the deficit. Neither of these options are acceptable to the government.

The budget continues on the course of putting Canada's finances in order in a manner that is measured, deliberate and responsible. This is an approach that is giving Canadians control of their own finances.

Financial requirements will be eliminated by 1998-99. This means that the government will not have to borrow any new money from financial markets that year for the first time in 19 years. We are restoring self-sufficiency.

Keeping inflation low and progress in deficit reduction have paved the way for dramatic declines in Canada's interest rates. In the past three years Canadian short term rates have fallen close to 5.5 percentage points, the lowest levels in close to 35 years.

By creating a favourable economic environment, the government has enabled Canadians to save thousands of dollars a year on their mortgage payments and the benefits to small business have been even more dramatic. Let me give an example. On a $1 million loan with a 10-year amortization and monthly payments, a small business would save approximately $33,395 over comparable payments in 1995.

It is true that lower interest rates take time to stimulate the economy. However, developments in late 1996 show that the lower interest rates are beginning to stimulate growth. Let me give two examples. Housing sales soared in late 1996, stimulating strong gains in new home construction. This is very evident in the riding of Nepean. Sales of consumer goods have risen strongly, led by motor vehicle sales.

As demand has grown, so too has job creation. In the last five months 61,000 jobs have been created by the private sector, the majority of which are full time jobs.

The government is not alone in its optimism. It is shared by consumer, by businesses and by private forecasters alike. Consumer confidence has risen for four quarters in succession. Business confidence is at a record level with more businesses than ever believing that, now is a good time to invest.

Canadian forecasters expect the economy to grow by 3.3 per cent in 1997 and by nearly 3 per cent in 1998. They expect the economy to create between 300,000 and 350,000 jobs during 1997 with similar results in 1998. That is good news. Even international

forecasters are impressed with Canada's achievements. The OECD expects Canada and the U.K. to lead the G7 nations in growth for 1997 and it expects Canada alone to lead the G7 in job creation this year. The IMF also paints a rosy picture of Canada's economic outlook.

While the budget is helping to create a climate for long term jobs and growth, the government is also investing in immediate job creation, bridging the gap to the stronger growth that will result from lower interest rates. Through the Canadian infrastructure works program, the government has provided $2 billion in partnership with municipalities and provinces for $6 billion worth of investment in 12,000 different projects right across the country.

In the 1997 budget the government proposes to increase this commitment by an additional $425 million. When leveraged with municipal and provincial contributions, this could translate into approximately $1.8 billion worth of new investment and hence new jobs.

To further stimulate job growth, EI premium rates will be reduced by another 10 cents on January 1, 1998 and the new hires program will completely eliminate EI premiums this year for additional employees hired by almost 900,000 eligible small businesses. This reduction of payroll taxes will save both employers and employees, including those in Nepean, $1.7 billion in 1997. That is a very significant amount.

The budget invests in both the construction sector and needy households through a $50 million extension of the residential rehabilitation assistance program.

Tourism will get a further economic shot in the arm with a $15 million injection to the Canadian Tourism Commission. And $50 million to the Business Development Bank will help finance the private sector tourism infrastructure.

Neither is rural business forgotten. The 1997 budget provides $50 million to the Farm Credit Corporation to expand its capacity to support rural economic growth and diversification. Through the community access program, rural small businesses are being helped to plug into the Internet to the tune of $30 million over three years.

Another important initiative in the budget is the reduction of the paper burden for small business. Eligible businesses will be able to file quarterly rather than monthly. Then there are the budget measures that invest in long term job creation and growth. An important component of this long term strategy is the government's support for Canadian youth and for education and skills training.

In addition to the youth employment strategy, the funds for which were provided in the 1996 budget, federal assistance for higher education and skills enhancement will be enriched by $137 million in 1998-99. This allotment will grow to $275 million annually when the full impact of these measures come into effect.

Through the proposed education credit, the tuition credit and the carry forward of the unused portion of credits, the government has demonstrated its commitment to education. Students who need help repaying their loans will have their deferral period extended from 18 to 30 months. The loan repayment schedule will be tied directly to income in co-operation with interested provinces, lenders and other groups. The registered education savings plan contribution limit will double, and parents will be able to transfer unused RESP income into their RRSPs if their children do not pursue higher education.

No long term growth strategy would be complete without investment in innovation. Again, the 1997 budget proposes the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. One of the main budget initiatives, the foundation will help to modernize research infrastructure at Canadian post-secondary institutions and research hospitals in health, environment, science and engineering.

The foundation will help Canadians be at the leading edge of research and technology developments which keep our industries competitive and create the jobs of tomorrow. It will encourage the best and brightest Canadian researchers to stay in Canada. It will assist in generating the kind of technology oriented graduates the future workforce will require. With its vibrant high tech sector, benefits such as these will be invaluable to the Nepean high tech community. The foundation will develop partnerships among educational institutions, research hospitals, business and non-profit sectors, individual Canadians and the provinces which could trigger approximately $2 billion worth of spending in research infrastructure.

These initiatives are all important for the creation of jobs and growth. However, if we lost our compassion in the process it would not be worth the price. I want to stress that the government has not lost its compassion in its fight to bring down the deficit. That is evident in the budget proposals that sustain and strengthen the social safety net. Included among these measures is $300 million which will be spent over three years to improve the delivery of health services to Canadians.

These announcements address a number of recommendations made in the report by the National Forum on Health. That includes $150 million for a health transition fund to investigate new and better approaches to providing health care, $50 million allotted over three years for the Canada health information system and $100 million over three years in additional funding to the community action program for children and the Canada prenatal nutritional program.

The federal government is also providing support for medicare and other social programs through the Canada health and social transfer.

While health is of prime importance, so too is the need to ensure our children's successful passage into adulthood. That is why the budget proposal for a national child benefit system is a major step forward.

Under the national child benefit system, the federal government will introduce an enriched Canada child tax benefit, while the provinces and territories will redirect some of their spending into improved services and benefits for low income working families. The proposal includes a two-step enrichment of the current child tax benefit to create a new $6 billion Canada child tax benefit by July 1998.

Canadians with disabilities have also been addressed by the budget. As well, charities have not been ignored.

In conclusion, we are staying the course on deficit reduction. We are investing in short term and long term strategies to stimulate job creation and growth.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am terribly sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but her time has expired.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about compassion and how wonderful the budget was because it had gone slow. I wonder if the member recognizes that presently the debt is $600 billion and the interest payment on that debt is about $50 billion, give or take, per year at present interest rates. If the interest rates go up by 1 per cent it will add $6 billion a year, 2 per cent will add $12 billion and 3 per cent will add $18 billion.

How compassionate will her go slow budget look when interest rates rise 3 per cent and we have to slash $18 billion more from social programs because her government went too slow?