Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-93, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18 by the Minister of Finance.
This bill, which was tabled last week, proposes measures to implement the government's latest budget. It was tabled just last week, and the government wants to use the fast track to refer the bill without delay to the finance committee for consideration.
As we all know, the main objective of the latest federal budget is to fight the deficit, but at the expense of the provinces, with cuts of $4.5 billion in transfers to the provinces, and at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society, with cuts affecting health care, education and social assistance.
This was a very harsh budget. Today, we read in the results of a Gallup poll that Canadians feel they are worse off than they were four years ago. It is the truth. Most Canadians feel they are worse off than they were four years ago when the Liberals were elected.
The article in La Presse says:
The majority (45 per cent) of respondents believe that they are worse off now than in 1993, in other words, since the Liberals came to power in Ottawa. A little less than one
third (32 per cent) feel they are now better off, while one fifth (20 per cent) have seen no noticeable difference in their lives during these past four years.
In practically all age groups, negative responses predominate. This is particularly obvious in the 50 to 64 age group, where only 16 per cent of respondents said they felt they were better off and54 per cent said they were worse off. There you have the Liberal government's disastrous record for the past four years.
However, the 1997-98 budget contains no job creation measures. Worse yet, the federal government has been the main source of collective layoffs during the past years: 45,000 public servants lost their jobs. And because of cuts made by the provinces, because of the reduction in transfers of federal funding, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in provincial and municipal governments and in our school boards. In Canada generally, 200,000 people lost their jobs at provincial and federal levels.
As I said earlier, I represent Bourassa, a riding in Montreal which is now the unemployment capital. The federal government has done nothing. It appointed a minister to look after Toronto but did nothing of the sort for Montreal.
As regards the deterioration of Canadians' situation, I have here figures on poverty for the year 1995, a report from the National Council of Welfare. In its report, the council says that the statistics on poverty for 1995 were alarming. Growing family poverty raised the overall poverty rate to 17.4 per cent and the number of Canadians living in poverty to close to 5.1 million, a new record for the past 16 years. The number of such people was higher in 1995 than in the darkest period in the two recent recessions.
As far as children are concerned, the rising level of family poverty has caused a corresponding increase in poverty among children. In 1995, the level of poverty among children reached20.5 per cent, and the number of poor children was over 1.4 million. This is the highest figure ever reached in the past 13 years. Those are the statistics for 1995. We are in 1997, and the situation has got even worse.
The immigrants form another sector of the population becoming increasingly poor in Canada. What does the report say? The levels of poverty among single people born in Canada and families where the heads of households were born here are invariably lower than those of corresponding groups of immigrants. In 1995, for single people born in Canada, the rate was 34.9 per cent and for those who had immigrated to Canada, it was 42.8 per cent. The poverty rate for heads of households born in Canada was 12.9 per cent, while it was 20.3 per cent for those who were born elsewhere.
In addition, the government has imposed a tax of $975 on immigrants, including refugees. These days, Canada is the only country in the world to impose a tax on refugees, which contravenes the Geneva convention.
We have said that the level of poverty is increasing among old people, especially among people who have lost their jobs. At the age of 45 or 50 they are no longer able to find work. The government has made the situation worse by eliminating the program for older workers adjustment.
The situation is very serious in my riding in Montréal-Nord, but there are also signs of hope. I took part in the inauguration of the Montréal-Nord CDEC, the Corporation de développement économique et communautaire. Discussions have been going on for five years, and this was my priority when I was elected a member of Parliament. The CDEC finally began operations in February.
The Government of Quebec made a contribution to the CDEC, as did Montreal North, but there has not yet been anything from the Government of Canada, which was to put in $170,000. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the exceptional work done to date by the CDEC's president, Claude Tessier, and by the chairman of its board of directors, Yves Deslauriers.
I also pay tribute to another organization that does a lot for the people of Montréal-Nord, the Montréal-Nord chamber of commerce founded in 1947, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It has made a major contribution to the economic development of our city. I would also like to pay tribute to its president, Richard Bertrand, and its executive director, Olive Lebeau.
This 1997 budget falls down in many areas. We are going to point these areas out in the election campaign to be launched in two weeks' time.
We are going to talk about the Liberal government's broken promises. We are going to attack the government for its total failure in the fight against unemployment. We are going to condemn this government that has cut tax credits for workers' funds, particularly the Quebec workers' solidarity fund, an important tool for the creation of lasting jobs. We are going to talk about the Liberal government's terrible record over the last four years.