Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on the budget debate. In the 10 minutes that I have I would like try to dispel some big myths. The government has been making misrepresentations to the Canadian public over the last three years in what it claims to be doing with its budget and its fiscal, macro and micro economic policies. The reality is that the financial situation is very different from what the government portrays it to be. Members of the government have repeatedly said a number of things that do not represent the real economic situation of the country.
I would like to go through a few of them. The first myth the government likes to put forward is that it does not increase taxes. In my hand I have a list of over 30 tax increases that the government instituted since it came into power.
I will mention a few of them. The lifetime capital gains exemption was eliminated. The tax on private corporations dividends was increased. The air transportation tax all Canadians pay as they go through an airport was increased. The corporate surtax was increased. The excise tax on gasoline was increased, something that affects everyone, in particular people on fixed incomes.
There was a reduction of $8,000 in RRSP overcontribution. This is at a time when the government is telling people that the CPP is in a bit of trouble, that it will have to take some extreme measures to save it and that in future they had better look forward to trying to provide for themselves. What did the government do? It prevented people from actually taking care of themselves by saving money for future retirement.
It increased EI premiums from 3 per cent to 3.07 per cent. There have been a total of four increases in the CPP premium. That is a tax. It has gone from under 5 per cent to 9.9 per cent. That is what the government has done.
It is completely disingenuous to say there have been no new tax increases. There have been lots of them. That is not the way to get our fiscal house in order. The way to do it is to cut sensibly and compassionately, get rid of the waste, priorize spending, and priorize the money the people of Canada give to the government and spend it wisely on those things government does best.
Some would argue that increased tax on corporations is a good thing. When corporations are taxed it is the public that is being taxed. All those taxes fall on to the consumer to pay. It is not a tax on somebody who has deep pockets. It is not a tax on somebody who has a lot of money. It is not a tax on people with seven-digit incomes. It is a tax that has to be passed on to the consumer.
Further, taxing corporations will make them unable to compete within and outside Canada. That puts Canadians out of work. Hence the fact that our unemployment rate has been hovering around 10 per cent, the worst since the depression.
The government says it is a defender of medicare. It says it has put about $500 million into it. Bravo, but how could it possibly put $500 million into medicare when it has just removed $7 billion from education, health and welfare? It does not add up.
The government likes to say it is interested in jobs, jobs, jobs. As I mentioned before, the job situation is completely appalling.
There are things that can be done. This is not rocket science. There are real life examples of measures the government could institute to enable us to get our house in order. Where are they?
Two places come to mind. First is Alberta. Alberta is the top fiscal performer in Canada and in North America. It is the best. Why? It has cut sensibly, is now running a budget surplus and can bring down its debt, the real ogre in the situation. By bringing down the debt, the structural changes necessary can be put forward to get social programs in order and bring in tax relief. In essence, it provides economic impetus that puts people back to work and enables Canadian companies to be more competitive.
New Zealand is the other real time example. Instead of increasing taxes it drops taxes. Other countries such as Lebanon are doing the same. As a result, there has been a huge influx of capital and investment into these countries which has enabled them to create jobs and to become more economically aggressive.
There is no reason we cannot do this today. I suggest the government take a few suggestions from countries that have done something good for their people. There is more we can do. The government should have listened to the plan we gave it three years ago. My colleagues put forward a budget that would have given the government the ability to balance the budget by 1997. If it had taken the plan we put forward, the budget would be balanced. We would be running a surplus. We could have reduced debt and provided tax relief to all Canadians. Did the government do this? No, it did not.
Our party also put forward sensible solutions to decrease interprovincial trade barriers to prevent blocks to commerce within the country that prevent companies from being competitive across the border.
We also need to improve our education system. Making it more attuned to the needs of the 21st century is absolutely essential if we are to be competitive in the future. Similarly enabling students to have enough money to pay for their education is important. Students cannot do this if they cannot get jobs and once they are educated there are no jobs for them.
A massive brain drain is currently taking place. Our best and brightest students are going to other countries because they cannot get jobs in Canada. Furthermore, many who stay in here are finding it impossible to work in what they are good at. They wind up taking jobs for which they are overqualified. It is a huge waste of the best and brightest.
We need to do many other things. Above all we need to institute confidence in the Canadian public, Canadian corporations and foreign investors. It is impossible to do so if we continue to mismanage the finances and the fiscal responsibilities of the government.
Plans have been given to the government yet it has chosen for political expediency not to listen. If the government were to take the bull by the horns and put forth solutions, the public would fall in behind it. The public would say it has a government that is making decisions, that is taking action, that is not trying to be ruled by opinion polls and focus groups, and that is prepared to put forth sensible, effective solutions to the problems.
The government must consider several points. It has to get its fiscal house in order, bring our deficit to zero and decrease the debt and taxes. It has to provide strong educational support to the students and get rid of egregious restrictions, rules and regulations that prevent our companies from being the best they can be. It should take a leaf out of the books of other countries, look at what has been done there, look at what has been successful, employ it here, and above all else act.