Mr. Speaker, this morning we now have 71 minutes left to talk about the latest budget, about Bill C-93, the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, and the motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading.
As the member for the beautiful riding of Frontenac in Quebec and as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, I can hardly be expected to be enthusiastic about the latest budget which as far as I am concerned is a lot of smoke and mirrors. This is an electoral budget.
First of all, when the Liberal Party came to power on October 25, 1993, about three and a half years ago, the Conservative deficit was around $42 billion. For the current year, the deficit should be around $17 billion. Sure, the deficit went down by $25 billion, because the minister was able to take advantage of favourable economic trends and because of the drastic and often brutal cuts he made in his budget.
First of all, let us remind the Minister of Finance that today the employment insurance fund has a $6 billion surplus.
So what did they do to get this $6 billion dollars? They kept employer and employee premiums very high. They reduced the time during which workers who lose their jobs can receive benefits. They also increased the number of hours worked-we now talk about hours-people need to qualify.
Furthermore, 1 per cent of 55 per cent is deducted for every 20 weeks a worker draws employment insurance. If a worker receives employment insurance every year, after 20 weeks of benefits he will reach the minimum, which is 50 per cent of his eligible earnings.
So there is a $6 billion surplus the government uses year after year to reduce its deficit. It also cut $4.5 billion in transfers to the
provinces. In other words, the government has offloaded a substantial part of its deficit onto the provinces, including Quebec. The Quebec government also has to make cuts in transfers to municipalities and school boards. This is a chain reaction. You kick your neighbour, who kicks the next person, and so forth.
What I really want to condemn this morning, during the 10 minutes I am allowed, are the promises made but not kept in the notorious red book that was distributed across Canada. Today, we are looking for copies to give our constituents before the next election, but they have become very rare. I am willing to pay a lot for the red books that were being circulated in 1993, just like Mao's little red book. I suppose the Liberal Party, in its shame, has collected all the red books and burnt them.
Mr. Speaker, you know the Prime Minister often has a colourful choice of words. He said they were going to scrap, and I imagine he meant tear up, the GST legislation. And now, less than three and a half years later, instead of scrapping the GST, he is doing everything he can to hide it. In fact, he gave $960 million, nearly $1 billion, to three small maritime provinces for harmonizing his GST with their provincial sales tax, the so-called harmonized sales tax, the HST. So that is what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance did to make us accept the fact that the GST would no longer exist, at least in part of the country.
I may remind the Minister of Finance that he is not being fair to all citizens of this country. Two weeks ago, in a pre-election tour of my new riding, I met the mayor of Saint-Ludger, in the Beauce region, who asked me: "Why is the government not treating Quebec fairly? How does it explain giving $1 billion to harmonize the GST in the Maritimes, when we in Quebec did it in 1991 with Robert Bourassa, the Liberal premier in Quebec at the time, and Brian Mulroney, the Conservative Prime Minister?" Mr. Mulroney had the courage to create the GST, and it is the cause of his downfall to a large extent and of the Conservative Party's being swept out of office in all but two ridings in Canada.
So, Brian Mulroney and Robert Bourassa agreed in Quebec to harmonize their sales taxes, the GST and the QST. The Government of Quebec collects them, while, in the case of the maritimes, Ottawa will be collecting them. Year in and year out, it costs the government in Ottawa some $60 million, because we split the cost of recovering the government's GST fifty-fifty.
What does this government give the Quebec government in exchange for having harmonized in good faith in 1991? Zilch. It gives it nothing. This government is not treating Quebec taxpayers fairly. And Frank McKenna is using the money he gets from the federal government to pay for advertising to lure our industry away.
Another fine promise I would like to look at in the now extinct famous red book is the slogan of "jobs, jobs, jobs". I was listening to the Prime Minister saying in a speech last week: "We have created 675,000 jobs in the past three years". In my region, while I was taking part in the opening of a new store known as Intermarché, the owner told me they were going to create 55 new jobs. At the end, off in a corner, I said: "You are going to create 55 new jobs, that is great. However, will there be layoffs in the other stores you will be getting your customers from?" He said: "Well, sir, one thing leads to another. Nothing is wasted in nature. I will create 55 jobs here, so 55 jobs will be cut somewhere else". The fact that there is a new Intermarché in Plessisville is not going to cause people to go grocery shopping three times a week.
It is the same story in the restaurant business. A new restaurant is opening on rue Notre-Dame, creating 43 new jobs. But I would expect there will be 43 layoffs in other restaurants.
I could remind the Prime Minister, who is going on about how he has created "jobs, jobs, jobs", that we have never, since the terrible economic crisis of the 1930s, seen an unemployment rate as high as this go on for so long.
Three weeks ago, one of my constituents turned up unannounced at my office with his tax returns. He asked my secretary if he could meet with me. Naturally, I saw him, but I wondered why he had brought along his tax returns. This was a man of 66, retired from the asbestos mines. Before sending off his tax returns, he had to add a cheque in the neighbourhood of $3,000 to each envelope, the one for the Government of Quebec and the one for Ottawa. I said to him: "Why don't you help us bring about sovereignty for Quebec?" Instead of having two agriculture ministers, a Prime Minister and a provincial premier, two industry ministers and so on, two of everything, you would just send your cheque to one place. Of course, the one cheque would be much higher but, proportionally speaking, you would pay a bit less and you would get better service". Right now, we have a premier, who is working to help Quebecers, and a Prime Minister, who is doing anything but.
Mr. Speaker, I request another 30 seconds in which to wrap up, 30 seconds to talk about the results of the Gallup poll that came out this morning. It says that a majority of Canadians, 45 per cent, say we are worse off today, after four years of Liberal government, worse off today after what this Prime Minister's Liberal government is going to try to make us believe during the next election campaign. The Gallup poll results appeared on page 7 of this morning's La Presse .
I take this opportunity to urge you to be wary and not to swallow everything you hear from politicians.