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House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member wants to respond and I am going to let him. I would simply ask-

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is entirely normal that he make a comment and then ask a question, but the comment must be about what the hon. member said and not about any old topic.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member was talking about scrapping the GST but the other member was not here. I forgive him for not being in attendance to hear the speech.

However, in courtesy to the member, he knows that the Quebec government did not wait until the legislation came forward to harmonize its provincial consumption tax with the federal tax. It went ahead and made arrangements to implement it. Quebec did not wait because it knew the advantages. It knew that through harmonization it would have an input tax credit available on the provincial component of the harmonized sales tax.

Is the member aware that exports from Quebec to other provinces and outside Canada enjoy an input tax credit on the provincial sales tax component of the combined tax which the other provinces did not enjoy before the HST?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind my distinguished colleague, the member for Mississauga South, a good-hearted man, a man of courage and incredible loyalty, that we are not in politics to fool the voters. You can fool people once, but you cannot fool them all the time.

When we look at the latest surveys on how much confidence people have in various professions, doctors top the list, used car salesmen are at the bottom and one up from them are politicians. Do you know why? Because certain politicians often suffer from the Pinocchio syndrome, as my colleague has just shown. He says for all to hear: "We never promised to abolish the GST". That is a lie. I do not say he is a liar, I say it is a lie.

All the CBC and TVA footage showed the Prime Minister of this country saying: "We will scrap the GST". And the Deputy Prime Minister, who was one of the rat pack and who held a major post in the last election campaign in 1993 said: "I will resign in the first 12 months if we do not abolish the GST". It took 28 months. We had to give her a shove. This resignation cost the public $500,000, so that she could turn around and get re-elected with a much smaller majority in Hamilton East.

I ask my distinguished colleague, a good-hearted and loyal man as I was saying earlier, to find me six copies of his red book in French, because I need them badly in Frontenac-Mégantic for the next election.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-93.

First I would like to address some of the comments which were made a moment ago by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He was trying to defend the government's position on the GST. He suggested that it might be an election issue. I assure all members it will be a major issue in the coming election.

The promise that was made in the red book, without reading the weasel words or the fine print, to scrap, abolish or get rid of the GST was made by a government in full knowledge of the difficulties that would be put in place trying to do that.

When he says we cannot take a few isolated comments out of context, I remind him and all members that the current finance minister apologized to the Canadian people for the government's lack of performance on the GST.

Not only did the finance minister apologize, but the Deputy Prime Minister resigned. A member of cabinet resigned over their failure to do what they had promised the Canadian people.

Talking about the resignation, I have to mention that it was done only after a poll was taken in the riding to make sure that the Deputy Prime Minister would be re-elected, hardly a move to address the cynicism that exists between the politicians and the voters. Her denial to do what she should have done for over a period of a week certainly hurt politicians, not just the government.

We had the Prime Minister who, in a town hall meeting, took exception to people who understood what they were saying differently and challenged that they should have read the red book.

Again on the GST, the government talks about harmonization. While in opposition the Liberals fought harmonization. As a matter of fact, the current finance minister was very strong in his opposition to harmonization. He said that once it is in there, we will never get rid of it. How he has changed his position now that he has moved from the opposition to the government.

In order to save face, to try to put some kind of positive spin on the GST, we get the $1 billion incentive to the three Atlantic provinces to come on board with harmonization. That is $1 billion which will be paid by taxpayers right across this country.

In the province of Ontario, the Ontario treasurer resisted harmonization on the basis that it would shift the tax burden on to Ontario taxpayers. It would increase it by $3 billion. He rightly resisted it.

When we talk about the GST, it indeed will be an election issue. It is one that we have to be honest about. I do not think the government, in making the promise, was honest. Its members are still not replying to the reasons why they did not fulfil their promise in being truthful with the Canadian people.

We are talking about the budget as it relates to the deficit and the debt this afternoon. It is one of the main reasons for my seeking office in 1993. I was very concerned about the insanity of the annual deficits that both the Liberals and the Conservatives had been running, $30 billion, $40 billion overspending resulting in now $600 billion of debt.

My concern was not so much for me as it was for my children and my grandchildren. I realized that while I had been in business over the years, I had allowed the governments of the day to engage in this overspending. They had mortgaged the future of my children and my grandchildren.

We were enjoying the benefits of being the number one country in the world and enjoying the very best in social programs but we were not paying our way. We were mortgaging their future. They were going to be paying our tab for being the number one country in the world, which we are, but we have done it on the backs of our children and our grandchildren.

That is something that we should be ashamed of. I am here to do all I can to reverse that, to bring some fiscal sanity to this place. I am hoping we will be able to do that.

When I think of this fourth budget that we are dealing with today, I recall the first budget, the second budget and the third budget. I have to go back to the first budget and say what a shame it was that the government wasted that first budget. It did absolutely nothing to deal with the serious problem of the deficit we had been running which at that point was almost $500 billion.

As a matter of fact, when the Liberals ran in that campaign they made light of the deficit and debt by telling Canadian taxpayers that while it is a problem, do not be worried. It is okay. Do not fret. It is something they would look after. In the first budget the Liberals failed to address it any meaningful way. As difficult as it is to believe, they actually worsened the situation because they lowered the cigarette tax. They caved in to the smugglers. They said they have to deal with the smugglers and they reduced the tax on cigarettes. They were more concerned abut the smugglers with no regard for the health and cost implications to health care for Canadians.

I found it absolutely unbelievable to see the current health minister stand in the House and talk about the concern he has for the young people in our country who are smoking and that "we have to do all we can to make sure it does not happen". However, he is a member of the government that reduced the taxes on cigarettes and by doing so encouraged thousands of young people to take up smoking and put their future health at great risk. I found it extremely hard to believe when the health minister stood up today trying to show concern for the health of our young people, when by their actions they started many young people down that road.

The price of cigarettes was a major deterrent. I saw it in my own riding after the tax was reduced. When I drove by a high school I could see a significant number of young people smoking. The numbers increased because they could afford to buy cigarettes again and they were delighted. I find his concern now about the health of our young people a little difficult to believe. Of course, there was no thought of the future cost implications to our health budgets.

The second budget was a bit of an awakening. In the second budget the finance minister began to make a connection that the

deficit was resulting in high unemployment, in high taxes and was perhaps more serious than the government thought it was back in 1993 during the campaign.

Even at that point, the government still was not even serious enough to really tackle the deficit and come out with a program to eliminate it over a specific period of time. I recall very well that there was a warning issued by Moody's to the finance minister. Moody's told the finance minister, I believe before the second budget, that he had a very serious problem. "You have been living beyond your means. You have a huge debt load and you are going to have to sell your bonds to maintain this lavish lifestyle you have enjoyed. We are concerned enough about your position that we are considering downgrading your bonds. We are telling you this because we want you to know how serious we think the situation is and how it is going to reflect in the advice that we give to people you borrow from, because you will have to borrow".

There was another piece of information given to our finance minister at that time. He ignored the first and he also ignored the advice that he had to set a target date to balance the books. This rolling two year target where somewhere down the road we may get to a balanced budget is not going to fly with the people buying bonds. Give us a commitment. Give us a date. Of course, we know what happened when the finance minister ignored that advice. There were many who shot the messenger. Moody's was giving us good advice but there were those in government who asked who these young finance people in the red suspenders were to tell them what they should be doing. As a result of that advice being ignored, our bonds were downgraded with the potential to cost us more in interest payments.

In the third budget we did get some action. We heard again from the finance minister these deficits and debts were a serious problem. I am sure he was having a battle within his own party about whether to cut or spend more on social programs. Thank goodness his position prevailed and there were some limited cuts, but not nearly enough to eliminate the deficit and balance the books.

Now we get to the fourth budget, the budget we are talking about today. As difficult as I find this to believe, I actually heard cheering from the other side when the finance minister stood up in the House and bragged about the fact that we will only be overspending by $19 billion. This is an accomplishment to be recognized with great applause that we are now only spending $19 billion more than we are taking in in taxes. This is an accomplishment.

There was even the suggestion that the battle is won. It is over. Now we can start spending again. We do not need to worry about it. We have won the battle. I have not heard anybody in the private sector saying that the battle is over. Is $19 billion of overspending something to applaud? I cannot believe it, but they did. I heard it.

Then we look at the other side of this $19 billion of overspending. We are now approaching $600 billion of debt. I did not hear any applause when that was mentioned. As a matter of fact, that may not have been mentioned too strongly, as indeed it should not have been. This Liberal government has increased our federal debt from $500 billion to $600 billion.

I heard government members saying in 1993 not to worry about the deficit and the debt, then during their term of office they realized that we were right and they were wrong and the deficit and the debt are a problem. I heard what they were saying about OAS and health care, the great defenders of health care and OAS. They are now doing far more, as we talked about.

NAFTA and free trade they opposed when in opposition. Now they are the biggest free traders we have ever seen. The Prime Minister spends as much time out of the country as he does in the country. Free trade has been good for Canada and NAFTA has been good for Canada.

The government does not know how to create jobs. The Liberals did not know how to create them when they were in opposition. They are now starting come around but it is a complete flip-flop from what they were saying when they campaigned in 1993 on all those issues.

Credibility is going to be an issue in this coming election. I suggest there is not a whole lot of it on the government side. The Liberals are going to have great difficulty just on those two major promises that were made to the people to get their vote, job creation and getting rid of the GST. Those two promises, regardless of the 173 others in the famous red ink book, are the ones on which Canadians gave Liberals their trust. It was based on both of those. They have failed the Canadian people on both those major promises. They are going to answer for it in a few weeks.

Promises made, promises broken. Canadians do not like to have promises broken, not when it involves jobs and not when it involves their pocketbooks. The voters are about to have their say. There will be some very surprised people. The polls indicating some popularity right now are paper thin.

This was an election budget to try to calm the waters and plug the holes in the dam, and there are some pretty big holes in that dam. Going into this election the voters will be asking, and we will be encouraging them, are they better off today than in 1993.

I do not think we are going to find very many voters from coast to coast who will answer in the affirmative to that question. They will take a look at that and say "you are absolutely right, I am not and yet I was told I was going to be".

They will look at jobs. They were promised jobs. The facts are there are 1.5 million unemployed today, 2 million to 3 million Canadians underemployed today, one in four of those who have a job worried about whether they will hold that job.

There have been 77 straight months of unemployment in excess of 9 per cent. Am I better off today relative to jobs? I think not. That is about the same number as when the Liberals promised jobs, jobs, jobs to get elected in 1993. They have not produced them. They will have to answer for it.

Let us go to taxes now. The GST is a tax. Canadians hate that tax. Canadians heard the words "we're going to get rid of it" and the weasel words, "scrap, abolish, get rid of, read the red book if you can find one". They were looking for tax relief. What the government has given the taxpayers is 37 tax increases and it has not scrapped the GST.

That is why voters are so cynical about politicians. They do not have jobs. They do have the GST and their taxes have increased. All we hear is that there have not been direct personal tax increases, which is true, but there have been 37 indirect tax increases with the granddaddy of them all the CPP payroll tax increase. Some can call it an investment but it is a payroll tax and it is a tax increase.

The Fraser Institute has just released a study which states that the average Canadian family has taken a $3,000 pay reduction since the Liberals have been in office. That has come about because most Canadians have seen their salaries frozen and in that same timeframe Canadians have had 37 tax increases. The reality is the average Canadian family is $3,000 poorer than it was in 1993. Again, am I better off today than I was in 1993? I think not.

The record is there. We have record consumer bankruptcies. It was almost 80,000, just 79,000 and change which is up by 22 per cent since 1996. Am I better off today? There are 80,000 consumers who will say no very loudly.

Business bankruptcies are up by 7 per cent to 14,229. Canadian household debt as a percentage of disposable income was 54 per cent in 1985 and is 91 per cent in 1995. Am I better off today than I was in 1993? I do not think so. Canadians are asking themselves, "if this is a feel good budget, why don't I feel good?"

In this atmosphere the government is saying that low interest rates will get the economy moving, that there will be no tax cuts because low interest rates will do it. We have record bankruptcies and record consumer debt. How in the world will low interest rates get the economy moving? Canadians have lost their borrowing power. They are in debt right up to here.

However, we should remember that when the Liberals talk about low interest rates they are talking about going into debt which is one thing they know a great deal about. We have to give them credit for that. They know about going into debt. That is what they are encouraging the Canadian people to do: "Borrow, borrow more. You can borrow your way to prosperity. Just go deeper in debt". That is a terrible message to send to the Canadian people. We should be asking the Canadian people to be fiscally responsible, to not spend what they do not have because future generations will be paying for it. Of course, the government cannot do that because it cannot even do it.

The low interest rates factor is a two-edged sword because not everybody benefits from low interest rates. There are those who do but there are many who do not. I am thinking of those who are living on fixed incomes. Across the board tax cuts help all Canadians. That is what will get our economy moving. That is what will create the jobs Canadians are so desperately looking for. The government has not made the connection between high taxes and high unemployment.

We have been going down this road of government spending and high taxes for 25 years and it has not worked. Why in the world are we not looking for a better way, a different way? What we have been doing has not been working. The unemployment numbers support this claim and something has to be done about it.

There is a lack of vision, a lack of ideas. It is the status quo. The Liberals have been saying: "We have always done it this way so we have to keep going down this road. We can't do it any differently. We just don't have the vision or the plan to do it". I am proud to say that we have a vision and we are going to be offering it to the Canadian voters in the coming election. I believe there will be the change in this place that is so desperately needed.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member when he talked about jobs.

In 1993 when we were elected the jobless rate was at 11.2 per cent and now it is down to 9.3 per cent. I think that is a very good record. Is it enough? No. As the Prime Minister constantly says: "It is not enough but it is certainly going in the right direction".

The hon. member talked about low inflation and that is an important part. The average Canadian cares about that. Certainly home buyers care about it.

With respect to interest rates I do not know what riding the hon. member represents but in Ontario my people do care about low interest rates when they are buying homes or any other item. In my humble opinion it is totally irresponsible to promise a tax cut when

the deficit is not completely gone and when we have not tackled the debt yet.

Does the hon. member really believe that buying votes with such a see through method is honest? Does he believe it is correct to do such a thing when fiscally we have not put our house in order?

It is important that the Canadian people know that when we took power just 3.5 short years ago the deficit was $42 billion. It now stands officially at $19 billion. The rumour is that it is significantly less than that. Do the Canadian people think that is a good record? I believe so. I am proud to hold my head up.

It is really wrong to promise a tax cut when we do not have our books and our house in order. We are going in the right direction. The deficit is at the lowest level it has been for 15 years. That is a really good record.

Please do not let the hon. member promise a tax cut and put us further in debt. Please.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 22nd, 1997 / 4:05 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe what I have just heard coming from the government in that intervention. She talked about buying votes. She is accusing us of buying votes? I cannot believe it. Jobs, jobs, jobs, the GST, scrap and abolish NAFTA. Talk about buying votes.

We are not buying votes. We are saying we are going to offer tax relief after we get rid of the deficit. We make that very clear in our fresh start platform: after we get rid of the deficit we are going to act fiscally responsible and we are going to offer tax relief.

We also have a guarantee in our platform. We are saying to the voters: "Don't trust us, trust yourselves. If we don't do what we say we are going to do right now, we want you to have recall". That is something that the government does not believe in because it promised things it knows it cannot deliver.

Why do the Liberals oppose recall? Because they would be called to answer for the promises they have made and they do not like to be held accountable for their promises.

The government says that when it took over there was a $42 billion deficit. When the Conservatives took over from them the debt was about $200 billion thanks to annual Liberal deficits. Now the Liberals are extremely reluctant to slay the monster they created. We went down this path of insanity back in 1970 when the Liberal government started this deficit spending to the point that when they were booted out of office the debt stood at $200 million. Now it is approaching $600 billion. That is some kind of an accomplishment? I think not.

When I hear members over there say that we are being dishonest, I want to point out that we understand that cynicism. That is the fault of the Liberal government. That is why we believe in recall. That is why we believe in referendums. That is why we believe in freer votes in the House of Commons.

The Deputy Prime Minister tarnished every politician in this House and in this country when she did not do the honourable thing and resign-

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

She did resign.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Only after a week's haranguing and taking a poll in her riding. It lost its impact when she did not do it immediately, as indeed she should have.

I also want to talk about interest rates. The member talks about how interest rates are a big factor in her riding.

I have done a poll in my riding. The businesses are not looking for low interest rates to get the economy moving. That is way down on the chart. What they are looking for is tax relief. They want their consumers to have more dollars.

I wonder if the member has talked to the seniors in her community who are living on fixed incomes and looking for decent interest rates. Have you heard from them or are you listening to them? Low interest rates do not benefit everybody.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I would urge the hon. member to address his remarks through the Chair.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, I just saw another Reform Party member who wanted to rise after the previous speaker, so I thought I should rise as well to straighten out a few facts.

You may have noticed that the hon. member who just spoke was not altogether objective in his comments and was not altogether fair in the way he described the facts as we know them. And I am being generous, always abiding by the rules of this House.

I do not know why, but I kept thinking when I listened to the hon. member who just spoke about the words of Sir Winston Churchill. They have been ruled parliamentary by countless Speakers, so I guess I can repeat them in this honourable House.

He said about remarks which were similar to the ones we have just heard that the opposite to the truth had never been stated with greater accuracy. That is exactly what I thought when the hon. member spoke about the last budget of this government, this Prime Minister and this very excellent Minister of Finance.

Let us straighten out the facts before we go too much further. The member opposite talked about unemployment.

My position is that as long as there is a single person in my riding who is unemployed, there is too much unemployment. It would be a mistake to be satisfied with the unemployment rate, whatever it happens to be.

That being said, we still have to state the facts. Last month, 61,000 jobs were created in this country. This is a total of 800,000 jobs since the last election. A net gain of 800,000 jobs is quite an achievement.

Mr. Speaker, as the soul of objectivity in this House, you will have to admit that. Those are the facts, and I am sure this information is correct, since it was authenticated by Statistics Canada and other agencies.

The G7, the OECD and think tanks all over have acknowledged that the largest level of growth of any OECD nation this year will belong to Canada. It is not average growth. It is not a better than average growth. Only the best belongs to Canada. We are the best.

Of course it is not good enough to be the best, but it is a darned sight better than it would be under a Reform government. Heaven forbid that we would ever have such a thing in this country. That is not likely to happen at any time, let alone soon.

The hon. member opposite just argued in favour of high interest rates. I found it hard to understand the logic of what the hon. member said, when he stated that people on low incomes would benefit from higher interest rates. I would like to know what school of economics launched that idea. Did you ever hear about people on low and fixed incomes who benefit from high interest rates, considering that high interest rates are usually accompanied by similar levels of inflation?

How many poor people end up better off with inflation? The member across the way says that poor people are better off with high interest rates. I wonder which one of his rich friends taught him that. Which one of his rich friends is trying to invest money on the backs of those same poor people?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

He never said poor people.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

That is what he did say. He said that people on lower and fixed incomes are better off with high interest rates. All members of this House have heard it, except for perhaps the member across the way who is heckling.

People on lower and fixed incomes are the first to be vulnerable with inflation, the first when something is gouging away at their purchasing power. Inflation in this country is at the lowest level it has been in years.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

That is untrue.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not untrue. It is the truth. We have very distinguished members in this House, such as the member for Mississauga South who is an accountant and the member for Guelph-Wellington who is well known and well versed on financial issues, who can attest to this. Surely then all of us would know that this is a fact.

The hon. member for Simcoe-North, I believe, talked about-

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4:15 p.m.

An hon. member

No, it was the hon. member for Simcoe Centre.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

You don't even know my riding.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

No, I am trying to forget in his case. I must say I am doing my best to forget, and I hope the day will come soon when I can forget entirely.

Mr. Speaker, in the meantime, you have just reminded me of the name of the riding of the member opposite. He alleged that the government was wrong to put an end to the smuggling by lowering the Conservatives' tax on cigarettes. This scourge was affecting Quebec as well, because nearly 80 per cent of cigarettes were sold illegally. In my riding, I saw a native community torn asunder by the problem. I saw people in the same family opposing each other in this business of smuggling.

We had achieved an almost hobbesean state where it was every person for himself and life was brutish and short. People were going at each other with guns on the issue of contraband. Young people who broke the law were being rewarded by driving Corvettes and those who respected the laws were walking to school. That was the situation in this country.

Yes, it did take intestinal fortitude for the Prime Minister to take the decision that he did. I congratulate him and always will because he did the right thing. And the right thing is not always the easy thing.

When the hon. member for Simcoe Centre pontificates from afar-that is far right by the way-I say to him that he is wrong. The Reform candidate in his riding in the last election sure was singing from a different hymn book on that issue. However, that is not radically different for Reformers to disagree with each other.

Need I remind all of us of statements made by one member from across the way who said that people who were different from him

should be in the back of the shop. I remember that and we all will very shortly. That is the kind of mindset of the people across the way.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

You should be ashamed of yourself.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I am not. I want to tell the hon. member across the way, who tried to pretend that somehow the issue of cigarette smuggling was anything different than what it was for his own partisan ends, he had better look at himself in the mirror and maybe at the same time have a close look at some of his own colleagues.

That is the truth. We know what sort of leadership we had in this government. We recognize the honesty of the Prime Minister and his government. We know that we have renewed Canadians' trust in their parliamentary institutions, so much so that a poll revealed a few days ago that the level of confidence in Canada is the highest among the G7 countries, whereas it was the lowest before the last general election. Why? Because we have quality leadership.

I have had the honour for a number of months now of being a member of his leadership team, because of the mandate the Prime Minister conferred on me in appointing me to cabinet on October 4. I, like my colleagues, have tried to provide the people with honest and respectable government, and we have succeeded in doing so.

Whatever allegations the member opposite made earlier, the truth is the exact opposite. Soon, I hope, the Prime Minister will decide to return to the people and ask them to give us a new mandate. I know he can do so with his head held high. I do not know the date any more than the member opposite, who is having fun chatting. When he does decide, he can do so confident in the knowledge that he fulfilled his mandate and did what Canadians asked of him.

I am equally sure that the Prime Minister will again enjoy the confidence of the Canadian people. He and this government deserve that kind of confidence for having told Canadians the truth about every issue, even the issue we brought to the attention of all Canadians, that of the high deficit.

Today the European Economic Union is calling Canada the economic miracle of the western world. We are told that by people in Japan. We are told that by our other trading partners. Why? Because it is true. The whole world cannot be wrong, except the Reform Party. Not everyone is out of step except the member for Simcoe Centre. The reality is a little otherwise. The truth is otherwise.

I am proud of the quality of leadership by our Prime Minister, by our Minister of Finance, by this cabinet and by the entire Liberal team which has supported this government. It has taken difficult decisions for the good of all Canadians and for generations to come.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister used the word "truth" a dozen times with great conviction. It seems to me that the truth speaks for itself. One needs not make a big production of describing what it is. When one says: "We are on the side of truth", then the case for truth is made. I have my doubts about what he said because what do you call the Prime Minister saying he would kill the GST and not doing it? There is a long list of similar situations.

Now, of course, everyone agrees that the deficit must go down and even disappear completely.

Everyone agrees also that we should be paying off our debts. We all agree with that. But how do we go about doing this? That is the problem. Unfortunately, the Reform Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party have nothing better to offer in that, until this place passes an elections act like the one passed in Quebec under René Lévesque, under which large corporations are forbidden to buy, so to speak, governments, regardless of their affiliation, I assure you these governments will have their hands tied. There will be no end to family trusts, and families earning $100,000 and more per year will pay almost no tax because lobbyists will still have easy access to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the other ministers.

Until a government passes this kind of legislation, every Quebecer and Canadian will be justified in doubting the authenticity of the government and doubting, when promises are made, the truthfulness of these promises. Not that I doubt the ministers and the Prime Minister as individuals, but it takes political courage to pass this kind of legislation. When the suggestion is made that it be passed, the major national parties balk. Why? Ask yourself why they do not want such legislation passed. It is either because they have their hands tied or because they lack courage.

When companies contribute $10,000, $20,000 or $100,000 to a party's campaign fund, they are friends and the party is indebted to them. This is the truth.

Earlier, the minister told you, Mr. Speaker, and I have a great deal of respect for you, that you are impartial. That is true, but I believe that, except for you, the only party which can be impartial in this House is our party, and I will tell you why.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Just let me explain. It is because we are not trying to form the government. I do not think we will ever form the

federal government. Therefore, because we are not trying to form the government, we can be impartial.

In fact, we are the only party that is not interested in holding such power. In any case, it is not the real power. The real power is held, as we know, by the financial world. Until we can dissociate ourselves from these companies and family trusts, everyone knows that our hands will be tied. The government may try, it may make an effort sometimes, but it cannot do a good job.

I ask the hon. member: If his party is re-elected, will he have the courage to promote a bill that would correct this problem with campaign funds? The result could be similar to what was achieved in Quebec, thanks to René Lévesque. Mr. Bourassa himself congratulated René Lévesque a few years later, because it is a lot easier to be honest with voters and tell them the truth. I ask the minister if he will sponsor such a bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had heard everything. The member opposite has just said Bloc members are impartial. So we will ask the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, when the time comes, if she considers herself impartial.

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Of course.