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.


Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the hon. minister's response to that question or comment I was reminded of the politician who had the ability to

speak until he thought of something to say. The difficulty was that I was not quite able to determine what the minister was saying.

I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-93, the budget implementation act. It is an important act despite the dryness of the name because we are debating how the nation spends its money and the policies behind that spending.

Today's debate is very important for Canada and the Canadian people from coast to coast who are struggling. Why is it an important debate? I cannot remember another time, except perhaps for the chaos of the world wars or the depression, when life was so uncertain for so many people in peacetime.

For example, 1.5 million people are unemployed in Canada today, just as many as when the Liberals were elected in 1993. Another two million to three million Canadians are underemployed. One in four Canadians is worried about losing a job. We have had the worst string of unemployment numbers since the great depression, and perhaps the longest string as well.

After four years of what the Liberals call cost cutting, Canada will be over $111 billion deeper in debt. In total, 25 years of Liberal and Tory mismanagement have put Canada over $600 billion in debt. We spend about $46 billion a year on interest charges alone. The largest claim on the national treasury each year is the interest we pay on the debt. All this time families are hurting. Since the Liberals came to power the after tax income of the average Canadian family has dropped by about $3,000.

The Liberal government has increased taxes 37 times. The latest increase was the massive 70 per cent hike in Canada pension plan premiums. People are wondering how they can live with the creditor's hand in one pocket and the government's hand in the other. Many of them are not making it. Let us consider the number of bankruptcies that have occurred in the past year. Bankruptcies are at their highest level ever with almost 80,000 last year.

Let us also consider health care, education and social programs, how they have been gutted by $7 billion in the last three and a half years and the consequences of that.

Last year in my constituency in the city of Quesnel there was a tragic explosion. Five people lost their lives. Twenty people had to go to the hospital. The G. R. Baker Memorial Hospital has 50 beds. It actually has more beds, but if the administrator uses more than 50 he will get fired because of the closures and the cutbacks. The hospital was entirely occupied by patients; there were 50 patients when the explosion occurred.

That is the seriousness of the situation. There is no slack in the system. There is no room for exceptions. There is no room for people who are caught in unexpected emergencies.

It is no wonder that today more than at any other time people are extremely concerned. They are frightened. They are concerned about their finances. They are concerned about their families, the opportunities available for their children and the opportunities that are not available. They are concerned about their health care. They are concerned about how they will pay their mortgages. They are concerned about their futures. That is why Canadians were looking to the 1997 budget and praying for some relief, some help along the way, an oasis in the desert. Did they get it? No, they did not.

Let me explain why. The 1997 budget raised tax revenues another $4 billion. Tax revenues next year will be $24 billion higher than they were when the Liberals took office.

There was no real job creation strategy. People are still looking for jobs. People are still worrying about losing their jobs. There was no help for health care and no help for pensions.

I am afraid Canadians looked at the budget and said to themselves: "If this is supposed to be such a good budget, where are the benefits? Where can I look for some hope?"

The finance minister argued that one of the benefits of the budget was that government finances were finally under control. Only in Ottawa will people celebrate when the government is in debt $600 billion, when it borrows $19 billion a year and when it pays interest charges of $46 billion a year, acting as though it is all under control, everything is fine and the war has be won.

We watched the Tory administration struggle with the deficit. If the Tories ever came close to achieving what they sought, they immediately reversed the trend and began spending more money. That is what I am afraid we are watching as the election approaches. We are watching any gain that may have been won being used up to buy election votes.

The finance minister has argued that his government is reducing the deficit by controlling spending. Just a couple of weeks ago Canadians heard some very disturbing news about the government and the finance minister. We learned that the finance minister had not met his deficit targets as he had promised. He is $5.2 billion off his 1995 budget target for expenditure reductions in the federal government. To cover up his mistake, the finance minister redefined departmental spending under program review.

When we are in a game we expect to get the ball into the goal. If someone moves the goal to catch the ball, there is a name for it. In addition, the true reality of what is happening on top of the government fudging its books is that the Canadian taxpayer has paid for 84 per cent of the deficit reduction through increased tax revenues.

It is no wonder Canadians are still asking the government: "If this is supposed to be such a good budget, where are the benefits? Where is the hope for me?"

The finance minister argues that he has not raised taxes in this budget or in any other budget. However that is not reality. He may be able to move the goal to make the score but that score does not count.

Since the Liberals came to power GST revenues went up by $2 billion. Corporate income taxes went up by $6.8 billion. Personal income taxes went up by $15 billion. Other taxes went up by $500 million. That is a $24 billion increase in tax revenues over what they were when the Liberals took office. That does not include the $10 billion tax hike in the Canada pension plan. Again Canadians are asking the government: "If this is supposed to be such a good budget, where are the benefits?"

The finance minister has argued that he is the great defender of medicare and that this year's budget shows it. The reality, however, is something quite different. We see the reality when people are caught in extreme circumstances such as the explosion which occurred in Quesnel last week.

The Liberals chose to hack, gut and gouge health care. These are the finance minister's own words. They are part of his vocabulary. The Liberals chose to hack, gut and gouge health care to the tune of $3.6 billion, a 40 per cent decrease. The effects of these cuts have been devastating.

Over 170,000 Canadians are on medical and surgical waiting lists. Forty-five per cent of those people say they are waiting in pain. Fifty-five people have died while waiting for heart operations in Ontario alone in the last 10 months. Hospitals are closing and services are being cut in every part of the country. This year's budget gave no help to those hurting people.

Canadians are still asking this government: If this is supposed to be such a good budget where are the benefits, where is what Canadians need? Most of all, Canadians were looking for jobs from this year's budget. As I mentioned earlier, Canada is experiencing the worst and longest lasting set of jobless numbers since the great depression. The finance minister's budget has not changed this reality. In both months following the 1997 budget, February and March, the unemployment rate was still over 9 per cent. Let us ask why.

The government has failed to give Canadians job relief and has failed to give them tax relief. Reduced taxes mean more money in the pockets of families, consumers, small business people and investors. But the money is not there for them. Consumers who spend more money will create the permanent well paying jobs that Canadians throughout all of Canada need and are crying for.

The finance minister's message to Canadians is that low interest rates are the best medicine for the economy. Despite the lowest interest rates in years, the unemployment rate is still 9 per cent and there are still 1.5 million people unemployed. For a person who has just gone bankrupt, for a person who does not have hope or does not have a means, the low interest rates are not doing any good.

It is quite clear that the economy cannot be pushed uphill with interest rates. There has to be income growth. There has to be job growth. There has to be tax relief. What consumers need, what Canadians need is a tax cut. Government expenditures are breaking the financial backs of Canadians.

Although Canadians got no help from the finance minister or the government in the 1997 budget, there is a hope on the horizon and that hope is called Reform's fresh start. As I close, let me describe this fresh start for Canadians. A Reform government will cut government waste and trim government departments to balance the budget by 1999, two years from now. A Reform government will then use these budgetary surpluses as follows.

There will be a $5 billion down payment on debt reduction by the year 2001 with a fixed proportion of future surpluses being dedicated to debt reduction. We still have this enormous debt hanging over us. How are we going to deal with it unless we actually begin to start making payments on it?

A Reform government will provide a $4 billion per year transfer to the provinces for health and education purposes.

There will be $15 billion in much needed tax relief to the long suffering Canadian taxpayer. Tax relief of this magnitude will reduce the tax bill paid by the average Canadian family of four by $2,000 a year by the year 2000. That is what Canadians need and it is what the Canadian economy needs. This kind of tax reduction will spur job creation for parents and families who want and need jobs. It is a significant tax relief which will help them pay their bills.

I repeat, more money in the pockets of consumers, small business people and investors will mean greater spending and prosperity for all Canadians. Consumers that spend more money will create the permanent, well paying jobs Canadians are looking for, which is what they need and have not had for years.

What I have described is Reform's fresh start. What we are putting to the Canadian people is a plan that will give Canadians a hand up, not a hand out; a plan that will help them succeed in their goals in the 21st century.

The Liberal government has done nothing for Canada's sick, elderly and disadvantaged. It has done nothing for Canadian families and consumers except pick their pockets and impose hardship. It has raised taxes and has cut health and education

benefits. Canadians are asking where the benefits are from this budget. Where are the benefits from the government? Is the government here to serve the Canadian people or are the Canadian people simply called on to bear the burdens of government without hope of relief?

Reform's course is clear. We will balance the budget by 1999. We will begin paying down the debt. We will reinvest in social programs and create jobs by giving tax relief to every Canadian.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member. He talked a lot about his concern for health care. I think we can come to an agreement that all of us are very concerned about health care, along with all of our constituents across Canada.

I think the hon. member is quite misguided in believing that a tax cut somehow will help our health care system. We need only to look at places like Alberta where it offered a tax cut and where health care did suffer. We need only to look at places like Ontario where a tax cut has been offered and indeed health care has suffered. There is no question that a tax cut directly affects health care and hurts every Canadian across the country.

The Reform Party says that in its fresh start it will put additional moneys into health care. Here is a news flash: the Liberals have done that and continue to do it. There are a number of measures in the budget, as my colleague knows. Also I hope he understands that for the years 1998 to 2001, there already has been a promise made to increase transfers and increase payments for health care.

There is a large question around the fresh start proposal which has really been a quandary for me. Reform has also said that it is going to take $3.5 billion out of transfers. I guess I am really in great awe, wondering how it is going to do that and not affect health care. It must be going to affect education or perhaps other services people depend upon.

The hon. member talked about bankruptcies and asked what we are doing to help them, what happens to these people. We have a number of initiatives. But if the Reform Party carries out its threat, and I say threat of a tax cut because that is not positive, then we will see a decrease in services such as health care, education and all of our social safety nets. I do not know how that will help Canadians in the long run. In my view, it will not help at all. It has been proven in Ontario and in Alberta that it has hurt health care directly.

The other thing the hon. member did not touch on is the fact that this government has vacated 32 per cent room in tax points for health care. We never hear hon. members talk about that, that tax room has been given and has helped.

I would really like to understand in all honesty, in all fairness, in the name of this wonderful fresh start how a tax cut can benefit Canadians when it hurts health care, when it hurts education, when it hurts us.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and questions. They certainly give me ample room to make my own comments in responding to them.

The difficulty I have had in watching the government's layoff policy and put its plans into action is the difficulty it has had in priorizing. It seems that when a cut is made by the Liberal government it slashes through in such a way that destruction is done without a lot of benefit. For example, we see layoffs but where are the layoffs? On the front line, in the provinces and the communities where people live.

Look what is happening in what used to be called the unemployment insurance office. The service is not there. People can no longer drop off their cards. They can no longer go to counsellors. They have to use the telephone and punch buttons. One of the biggest fights I have as a member of Parliament is getting telephones to outlying regions of my constituency. What do those people do? How did the government cuts help them?

It is not only tax cuts we are talking about. I have noticed that while tax cuts are taking place on the front line, very little is cut at the top of the government hierarchy. In fact I have seen the front lines cut and at the same time the executive and the research departments expanded.

I watched layoffs take place and a few months later with the shortages that have been left after the golden handshakes have been given, what happens? Many of the same people are hired back on contract so that we not only pay for the golden handshake, we pay for the new contract as well.

The member says the Liberals are putting money into health care. It would be a pleasure to know that is happening, but the benefits have not reached our communities.

I remember when I was campaigning in 1993 I promised that a Reform government would take no money out of health care. Today we are in a position where we will be putting money back into health care and education to restore them and repair the damage done by this Liberal government. Our cuts will be from the top. There is lots of room at the top.

When the Liberal government came to power what was the first thing I heard? "Your friends are back", the Prime Minister said to the government departments, to the bureaucracy. They have been well looked after.

The member talks about the threat of a tax cut. That is not a threat. That is a promise. It is a promise made to Canadians who have been calling for a tax cut for years. All they have had is the imposition of more and more tax increases to the point where we are now looking at almost 80,000 Canadians who have gone bankrupt in the past year.

That is the serious situation we are in. We have to look at government. We have to priorize our spending. We have to make the cuts from the top and provide leadership.

Talking about leadership, I am amazed that while Canadians are having their Canada pension plan premiums increased and the benefits over the years decreased, I have not heard this government say anything about the gold plated MP pension plan. Nothing has been said about that. There are no cuts there. Believe me, there are no cuts there. They should be ashamed of that. There should be leadership by example, not what we are seeing from the Liberals: "Do what we say, not what we do".

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member of the Reform Party promise tax rebates and tax cuts. Well, good luck to him, considering the credibility politicians acquired with the last red book.

They promised to scrap the GST, but more than three and a half years later, the GST is still there, and even worse, they paid three small maritime provinces $960 million to make the medicine go down in one part of Canada where the GST will miraculously change its name. Quite a feat, this name change. From now on, it will be known as the HST, the harmonized sales tax. This means that in New Brunswick, for instance, they blended the provincial sales tax with the GST. They pay 15 per cent, which is added on to the price, of course.

My point is that the government is acting like Robin Hood, but in reverse. Instead of taking money from the rich to give to the poor, it is taking money from the poor to give to the rich. For instance, at Bombardier, where you have more than-

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

My dear colleagues, I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I have to give the hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin enough time to reply. We only have a few seconds left.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude. I want to comment on the issue the member raised about integrity of politicians.

It is an important issue and one of the reasons I got into politics. It is backed up in the Reform Party by a guarantee that if we do not do what we say, we will give the electors the opportunity and the ability to fire the MP or those MPs. That is a guarantee the Liberals would not understand. However it is one Canadians must have if they are to hold their politicians accountable.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5 p.m.


Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we start talking about budgets and finances a lot of people's eyes glaze over in this place. I do not think it is the sort of thing Liberals like to hear discussed. They have demonstrated in the last 3.5 years not a lot of vision or planning for the 21st century as many of our young people would like to see.

We see a group of Canadians, particularly young Canadians, who have lost confidence in what government can deliver for them. I cannot help but remember the faces of many young people with whom I have spoken in universities across the country in just about every province. Many of them were graduates of courses of varying lengths and in various trades. They would ask: "What about us? What has the government really done for us in terms of prospects going into the 21st century?"

We can touch on some of those things and some of the things we hear as we travel the country. Just this past week we have been asked how we got rid of the debt that was such a problem to us. When we tell them the debt that was zero in 1969 went to $18 billion in 1972 and climbed through from 1972 to 1984 to about $180 billion, they ask us how that was possible.

We have to tell these young people that governments promised a lot of things and Canadians accepted a lot of things. The question we did not ask was what it would cost and from where they would get the money. Had we asked that question we would have found out that it was borrowed money and that we had many more services than we could afford. Taxes increased and we got cradle to grave services.

In 1983 a guy came along who said that it was terrible and that we could not let it grow any more. In two consecutive elections we put that person in. By the time we got to 1993 it was at $489 billion. We went from $180 billion to $200 billion to $489 billion. Then we decided to get rid of that person because another government said it would rein in spending. Now we are at $600 billion.

Young people ask why they should trust politicians. Even more sinister, the finance minister stood and said they had solved the problem, that there was no financial problem any more. To prove the point, in the past week close to $8 billion was spent on various types of pre-election programs. How can it be helped? The Canadian population, particularly young people, are asking what these people are doing.

To go further, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $14 billion federal is spent on advanced education. Depending on the figures used, somewhere around $16 billion is spent on health care, $20 billion on pensions and close to $50 billion on interest payments. Out of a budget of $109 billion, Liberals have the nerve to tell

people there is no problem when they spend close to $50 billion on interest payments in a year and get nothing for it.

What is threatening our social programs? Certainly not our party. Not even the Liberals. Interest payments are threatening the country. It will take a concerted effort by a government to turn that around.

When we see the spending of $8 billion on vote buying in elections or when we see the heritage minister having a two-hour caviar party with around 100 people at a cost according to access to information of $65,671, Canadians say the Liberals are out of control and do not know what they are doing.

That is why people have lost confidence. That is why young people have lost confidence. To go further with the young people scenario, they ask about the Canada pension. Canada pension is in trouble. They will not get anything if we do not fix the problem.

They will not do it all at once because they do not have the courage. They will do it over six years. They will sneak up on people. People will wonder why they do not have more money but that they will not really know why it all happened. The Liberals will be a little deceitful about it and make it happen over six years.

What are they promising young people? They are telling them that if they earn $30,000 their premiums will be raised from a maximum $845 up to $1,600 and some dollars maximum and that their employers will match it. They will collect roughly $3,300 every year from young people and put it into a fund that will be used for the people who are retiring now. When they are 65 years of age they will be given $8,800.

Is that a wonderful thing to do? If young people took the $3,300 and put it into their own annuity fund, they would get about $26,000 and would have the principal, using a 6 per cent rate of return.

Young people say the Liberals have blown it on the debt and on the insurance plan. Why should they pay that kind of money? There will be a generational rebellion down the road when young people wake up to a 73 per cent increase in premiums that will be dramatic. Some government will face it very soon. Certainly, if not now, six years from now when it all kicks in.

What is even worse is that MPs have the nerve to collect a pension that is four to five times better than what people get in industry. That is not putting their money where their mouth is. It says to young people that they do not care about them, that they do not have a plan, that they do not raise taxes and rip them off, and that they do not mind taking advantage of them because they know best. They have a real problem with accountability. Politicians should be accountable.

Let us examine taxes. We have heard from members on the other side that it would be sinister to lower taxes and that they have to keep raising them. The Liberals set a good example of raising taxes. They threw a penny and a half on to the price of a litre of gasoline and said that it was not a tax increase, that it would not affect anyone because after all only rich people use cars. The Liberals said that they would get rid of the GST before the election, but when they were in power they forgot that promise.

They tax seniors. Recently I received hundreds of letters in response to a questionnaire I sent out. I was shocked at how many of them were from seniors with a gross income somewhere in the range of $17,000 to $18,000. They are living in their own homes. They are 75 years old. They are trying to make a living and stay in their homes as long as they can. This year they are paying $1,100 in federal income tax for the first time.

When I say to them the government needs that money, they say they heard me talking about the caviar party, some of the other waste in Ottawa. They say the other place has to be the best example of waste, that everybody likes to talk about it, and they do not know anybody who likes that place.

MP pensions is a hot issue. If our Liberal colleagues stand before their constituents and say they deserve a pension four to five times better than what any of they deserve, they have different constituents from the ones I have. My constituents are quite happy to pay me a pension equal to what I could get in industry, but they sure are not happy to pay the kind of pension that MPs get.

I found it interesting that a member opposite said that lowering taxes would hurt the economy. I spent some time in New Zealand this past July. That country had an economic problem. In 1984 its political parties got together to try to solve the problem. They lowered taxes by close to 50 per cent. The economy in New Zealand is booming. The unemployment rate is under 5 per cent. New Zealanders are enthusiastic about their country. Its young people have the choice of two or three jobs. If that kind of tax relief does not send a message, then these people across the way have their heads in the sand. They have no vision.

When young people hear figures like that they are shocked and ashamed of what has happened. This country should be at the top of the list instead of near the bottom in terms of the things offered to young people and the tax relief that is offered.

The most meaningful thing that struck me in New Zealand was when I read about how stamps had decreased in price three times

in a year. Can you imagine that? If that is not an indication of what lowering taxes will do, I do not know what is.

One of my colleagues mentioned privatization. New Zealand privatized its television network and it is now very profitable. It brings in a lot more money than it ever did before.

Lowering taxes is not a bad thing. Lowering taxes will provide a vision. Taking money from a senior who earns $17,000 a year is not helping the rich. The government is penalizing the poor. It is going after the poor people. When it takes 1.5 cents off a litre of gasoline, that punishes everyone.

What is the vision for the 21st century? Canadians know, particularly young Canadians, that there is no vision. Look at the justice system. How can people have confidence in the justice system?

I come back again to the 300 or more young parents who I met in a gymnasium. They said to me: "Our justice system is not fair". Why is it not fair? A pedophile who had offended nine times had just been released into a neighbourhood in our city. The reports which were read to those young parents that night had a message. The psychiatrist said: "This person will definitely reoffend". The prison authorities said: "We had to remove this person from the treatment program because he was too violent". The head of the RCMP in our community said: "We are really concerned about this individual reoffending".

I was very proud of those young parents. They were not vigilantes. They did not ask for blood. They asked why the system was failing them so badly.

Young people have lost confidence in this country. The government is overspending. The increase in Canada pension plan premiums is a terrible attack on young people.

The tax system continues to grind away and grab more and more. The justice system does not deliver hope to innocent citizens. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, when that 10th victim occurs how will I face that young family and say: "We knew that was going to happen and now we can put that person away". How will I answer that question for that young person?

We can touch on the area of unity and of course again we see no plan. Obviously Canada has changed an awful lot in the last 130 years. Where once we were two founding nations, French and English, we are now a great mix of many nationalities with one-third of us not being of either French English background. We must have something better to tell our young people than the solution to our unity problem is distinct society. We must have a better answer than that.

Then other things come to mind, such as how women are treated in the electoral process. Reformers would love to have 53 per cent of our members female. That would represent the community but it is difficult to achieve. However, when a party starts appointing candidates that is just not acceptable.

In the riding in Victoria, for instance, Reform had three candidates running for the nomination. There was a political scientist, a businessman and a woman teacher. They worked very hard and did what they had to do to try to win the nomination. When Arla Taylor won that nomination she can now stand up and say I won it because I was the very best. That is what our young people are looking at. That is the kind of thing they want to say is a vision for the future.

That bothers the people on the other side because they just cannot accept equality. They cannot accept that everybody is equal. They like special status for different groups.

Finally, we must have a vision for the 21st century. The Liberals certainly do not have one.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

April 22nd, 1997 / 5:20 p.m.


Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment and then ask my colleague a question.

The biggest problem I have with the budget implementation act, Bill C-93, is with the budgetary habits of the Liberal government and the budget of the finance minister this last time around. I gave him an F on the budget, not necessarily for what is in it and for the numbers that are in it, but I gave him an F for what is not in the budget. I gave him an F for the perception that he is creating by distorting the strength of our economy.

He brags and assures Canadians that the back of the deficit is broken with a projected $19 billion deficit which of course will be down around $14 billion range. How can the back of the deficit be broken when we are talking about $14 billion deficits? The finance minister becomes inept because he brags about how the Liberals have restored confidence to the Canadian economy and yet he takes all the credit. Let us look at the factors that created the turnaround in the Canadian economy in the last three and a half years.

First was a worldwide drop in interest rates. Second, the drop in those interest rates was as a direct result of the Bank of Canada's monetary policy and the high interest rate policy during the Conservative regime that tried to curb inflation. The Liberals railed, ranted and ravaged the Conservative government and the then governor of the Bank of Canada for their high interest rate policy. It is because that governor was right and did the right thing that Canada kept in pace and in tune with other world economies.

Now the finance minister is bragging: "We have brought interest rates down to their lowest level in the last 30 years. We have implemented such a wonderful budget that we now have the lowest interest rates in 30 years. We deserve all the credit. Canadians will put us back into power because of our sound fiscal policies and this wonderful budgetary objective and restoring confidence in the Canadian economy".

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

We are going to trounce them.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

In school I was taught that is called plagiarism. When you copy someone else's written material and claim it as your own, it is plagiarism.

The finance minister is the beneficiary of low interest rates. He has allowed our huge debt to grow. However, he will not give credit where credit is due. He is taking full credit.

For example, I will give a quote that I could use as mine: "In politics, perception is everything". I could claim that is my quote but I would be lying, it would not be true because that quote belongs to none other than the Prime Minister of the country who is more interested in creating perceptions and smoke and mirrors than he is about the reality of life in Canada.

I gave the finance minister an F for another reason. He failed to tell the Canadian public about the debt. It was mentioned once in his budget speech. He talked for 60 minutes and he mentioned the word debt once. He has added $111 billion to the debt. He says that he has broken the back of the deficit and improved the economy when the debt now is over $600 billion.

Should he be so lucky to be in the government the next time around, I feel sorry for him when the debt grows to $650 million or $700 million. Even with the low interest rate policy he is going to have a hard time making ends meet and paying for the departmental programs in place now.

What if interest rates go higher than 5 per cent, 6 per cent or7 per cent? What if they go back to 9 per cent? I am very afraid of that.

I heard members opposite during my intervention asking what we would have added to the debt. We would have added $45 billion to the debt as opposed to $111 billion. We would have balanced the budget in three years from when we took office. We would have a surplus this year ending 1997.

I am sorry, I talked right through my time. I do want to ask the member to make one more comment on the vision of the government. Why does he really think it has a vision when the Prime Minister and the justice minister say: "We will handle the problems one at a time".

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the question of vision, we have had a lot of examples of why there is no vision. I tried to focus on young people. I enjoy working with young people. I probably enjoy that more than anything else I do in this job. They are saying that there is no vision. In fact, they are saying worse. They are asking: "Is democracy really working?" They are asking a much more serious question than just about partisan politics. They are asking about democracy. I think that is critical. Some countries like the U.S. have sometimes as low as a 30 per cent turn out. That is saying a lot about what the people are seeing in government.

Fortunately in Canada we do not get down that low. Hopefully we can do things that will cause higher percentages. Australia has taken one approach to that by fining people who do not vote. I do not really think that is the answer.

We have to involve people in this vision. The real concern is with that debt. As the hon. member said, they do not have a plan for it. It is gone. Just think of the opportunity that has been wasted. With low interest rates and with inflation so low, what a great opportunity it would have been if they had had a vision to deal with this problem, to cut some of these Kodak tours, some of the caviar parties and some of the on top benefits that are around this place.

There are so many people who do not have the vision. To stand up in this House and say that this government controls interest rates and controls inflation, it does not.

I am afraid there is good reason for people to be very sceptical and dubious about where this government is going. They do not see that there is a plan. They are asking what happens when interest rates rise, when inflation returns, when the normal economic cycles take their course. What will this government do?

The government has been unable to deal with pensions, with unemployment, with health care, with education. If it has not been able to deal with those in the good times, what will it possibly be able to do in the tougher times when it is lacking vision?

Raising taxes is the answer that the Liberals possibly will choose, but I think Canadians have had it with that. They will have the opportunity to speak soon.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, what would be the consequence in my colleague's opinion of interest rates rising 2 per cent on the present debt repayment program of the government?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the answer to that would be a minimum of $10 billion in increased debt. As that goes up our ability to service it becomes less and less. Again, that is the big problem that will hang over us along with the other problems Canadians will face in the 21st century.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member for Red Deer referred to earlier, he is absolutely right. This government has missed the problem. It has identified the wrong problem.

The government has taken the low bar on the high jump and said deficit is the problem. "We will solve that. What we will do is we will promise Canadians to spend less than the Conservatives did. We promise Canadians that we will bring in a lower deficit than the Conservatives did and that will solve our problem". I submit that did not solve the problem. It only adds to the problem.

I know this bill will be voted on at the end of the day. This is probably my last chance to speak on a monetary bill. I do not know if there is anything else on the agenda this week. The one thing I would like to leave with the Liberal Party and with Canadians across the country is I would like to remind them that it is a noble effort and it is worthwhile and it is a necessity to lower our deficit and we have to get to a surplus.

To the degree that this government has lowered the deficit, I compliment it. It is the right direction to go.

The degree to which it brags and overexaggerates the benefits that we have achieved to date is a disservice to the Canadian public.

What I am really concerned about as a Canadian is that the finance minister, because the global economy and global markets have improved over the last four years, has missed the opportunity to make the cuts sooner in the other areas he has avoided. They dilly-dallied for a whole year before actually making cuts. The first budget was all talk. He then lobbied with his cabinet and colleagues and did a good job in getting them to agree to some cuts. They took some of our ideas from the zero in three, the ones they thought they could sell. That is smart. If you see a good idea just steal it, take it and take credit for it. That is fine as long as it is good for all of Canada.

They went too far on the cuts in social transfer. They put it all together. In health, education and welfare they cut $7.5 billion, which is way too much. Provinces are having trouble. Hospitals are having trouble. Everybody is concerned about this issue. It has been an issue in Alberta where a lot of angry people have had to be addressed concerning the closures of certain hospitals, especially in downtown Calgary. I am very familiar with the issue there and which hospitals were closed. That is from a regime that did not promise any tax cuts or give any tax cuts. It just promised to balance the budget over x period of time. This issue is important.

In our zero in three budget we would have only cut $3.5 billion from health care, education and welfare. This is clearly $4.5 billion less than the Liberal government did.

The reason I accuse the Liberals of downloading on the provinces is they made their cuts in social transfers to provinces rather than cuts to to their own departments, notwithstanding the promise of the finance minister that we will sacrifice as well in order to justify this. If Canadians would accept the government's $7.5 billion cut to the Canadian health and social transfer, it would cut 18.8 per cent from departmental spending amounting to $9.4 billion. To date, it is only at 4.2 or 4.5 per cent. It assures us that it will get there but it has now changed the rules on how it will get there. It is not quoting $9 billion any more. It is not quoting a final number any more.

What the government is saying is that it will reach its 18.8 per cent cuts in program spending but it will redefine what program spending is and then move a whole bunch of spending off balance sheet accounting. It is now going to say it has met its 18.8 per cent. Pretty soon we might find in a year that it is $5.6 billion or another billion dollars, because I know it is projected and I know what will happen, but $5.5 billion will now represent 18.8 per cent and once again it will brag about how it has met its targets and objectives.

My biggest problem with what the Liberals have done is that they will go to the public after they call an election and ask and seek for a vote of confidence to stay the course and support a pan-Canadian view of this country where we have to give inducements to three provinces to buy into a harmonized sales tax at a cost of a billion dollars to the rest of the country. That is not even revenue neutral. It means that the finance minister had to dip into the current account to pay for that. The Liberals are going to ask for a vote of confidence without telling the Canadian public what they will do if they ever balance the budget.

What will they do? We say we should balance the budget and the sooner the better. Our party makes a firm commitment date as to when we would do that. We say that we would cut. Where we would cut more than the Liberals of course is in direct subsidies to businesses because we feel that distorts the marketplace. There is another $2 billion to $3 billion there.

In my opinion, if the minister had done that he could have really been looking at a balanced budget a lot sooner.

We say a tax cut after we balance the budget and after we have created a surplus. We take that money, apply some of it to the debt and some to lower taxes for all Canadians, not just the rich Canadians they accuse us of. Everybody's personal and spousal exemptions would rise to $7,900. That helps everybody. That is what we would do with a surplus. We would then lower the cost of government and lower the overhead. We do not need 300 MPs in this House. I think the majority of MPs would agree with me on that on a non-partisan basis. Why are we increasing it by six?

The Prime Minister has said in his broken English and broken French, the same way in both languages, that maybe we spend, maybe we do not spend and maybe we will have more money. As

soon as we hit a balanced budget are they going to go back to increasing spending on different programs? Are they going to continue to create that dependency on a big federal government so big government will look after everybody? Then we will just add to that debt.

Somebody has to address the fact and the reality that sooner or later, I do not care how small it is, whether it is a $1 billion payment, this government or any government will have to make a repayment on that debt. In our personal lives we cannot go on forever and ever increasing our debt without making a payment on it. It is fine to reduce your interest cost, your deficit, but we cannot continually go on adding to our debt. Sooner or later the bank calls us on our loan. Sooner or later it takes away our car if we do not make a payment.

Somehow or other government politicians and the bureaucracy-I do not think it helps sometimes-seem to think that the public purse is somehow different. The debt is $600 billion but they think the only problem to solve to get to a balanced budget is the deficit. They think that will solve the problems of everybody. That debt has to be addressed.

A prudent government and a prudent finance minister would have pushed harder and talked about the debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product. They would have talked about how we are going to repay it over 30 years, or at least some of it. We do not have repay the whole $600 billion but we should be making a $1 billion or $2 billion principal repayment at least every term of government. I agree that the repayment should be over the long term, that we should bind government to no more deficit spending except under extreme circumstances or emergencies.

The difference between the United States and Canada is gross taxation levels. High taxes kill jobs. Lower taxes will create jobs. The proof is that in the United States total state and federal taxation amounts to 27 per cent of the gross domestic product. The total value of the goods and services the Americans generate is taxed at a level of 27 per cent for individuals and corporations. In Canada taxation at all levels represents 35 per cent of our gross domestic product. The U.S. unemployment rate is 5 per cent and our unemployment rate is close to double that. The United States has lower taxes, more people employed and a larger population than we have. It must be doing something right. I maintain it is in the field of taxation. Therein lies the problem.

If we could ever give tax cuts we would go a long way to solve our economic problems and to improve our economic situation. We have to create less dependency on a big federal government. If we want to do that we have to give more disposable income back to the people so they can look after themselves. There will be less need for people to look to welfare programs and unemployment programs. I do not want to talk about unemployment because I will get off topic with that slush fund he has cooking, taxing us to the tune of $7 billion which is in that EI fund already. That is a generous surplus. I agree the fund should theoretically contain that surplus, but it is not really a surplus. If he is so far ahead of his deficit target, that is one small selective tax cut he could make. He may do it.

I know a lot of economists make representations to the finance minister, and he does listen, of course only if it is politically convenient to do so. He may do it at some point during the election campaign after the Liberals receive enough heat and they get enough criticism from the general public about their arrogance and how they brag about how well things are. The Liberals may receive heat about keeping half the truth from the Canadian public, the truth about the debt, the truth about the rising interest costs. Even though interest rates are low, the sum total of what this government is now paying in interest has gone from $30 billion to $50 billion. Is nobody worried about that? Is nobody worried about a $650 billion debt, notwithstanding the interest rate? Is nobody worried about how much money we are going to have to pay? That will be the single biggest cost to any future federal government. That is scary and that is after spending is reduced.

I submit there is room for another $10 billion worth of cuts the Liberals have not touched. Some government will or through attrition we will get down to that lower level of spending. After we get there the federal government will be able to provide the services Canadians want. It will take us two or three years to get there but it will be done.

Interest costs will rise if the Liberals continue to add to the debt. They will brag. They will say: "Vote for us. Give us a vote of confidence because we will have a balanced budget in two years".

I am worried about what they will do with the surplus. Will they ignore the debt and increase spending? Will they say they have taken enough flack from the Reform Party on health care and increase spending on health care by $1 billion? If they feel they have taken enough flack from the Reform Party in an area will they increase spending there? Will they say the foundation for innovation is so great that they will double its budget? Will they say regional development is doing good they will triple its budget? Will they ignore the debt?

We cannot ignore the debt. It is the single biggest problem facing the country along with the interest cost that services it. It has to be addressed.

I must be a voice in the wilderness. I am the only person who talks about the debt and high interest costs. No government member talks about them. The finance minister mentioned debt once in his 60-minute speech. We do not talk about it. He brags about everything else in his economic statement. An economic

statement should fairly and accurately represent the economic status of the country at any given time.

The minister dwells on the positives. That is misleading. He gets an f from me for not talking about the other side of the story, the debt. While the deficit has decreased how much have interest costs gone up? That is an important component.

Yes, we are a rich country. Yes, we can sustain a high level of debt. Yes, people will continue to lend us money. However, we are 40 per cent indebted to foreign countries.

The finance minister and the Prime Minister can brag about not borrowing any more and about the decrease in borrowing requirements. The foreign borrowing or borrowing requirements of the government have decreased from $32 billion to $14 billion. That is tremendous. That is a plus. That is good. We all want that.

It could have been twice as good as that. We could have got there twice as fast if the cuts I am talking about were made at the time I am talking about. They should not have wasted time. They should have lived up to their commitment to cut $9 billion from departmental spending.

The Liberals wasted two years. They failed to act for two years. They did not make the cuts, even the cuts they said they would make. The President of the Treasury Board got all the other ministers to agree to doing it to justify the $7.5 billion. That has now been done. I would defend the $7.5 billion, but I would do so by ensuring that departments lived up to their commitment, which was to cut $9 billion. That has not happened.

They will come in with a $14 billion to $15 billion deficit. We must consider the two years of inactivity. If they had made those cuts during those two years they could brag about a balanced budget. The election would be about what they do next. Do they address the debt or do they talk about spending on new programs or increase spending on programs?

If the Prime Minister and the finance minister come up with a sequel to their red book they had better address those things. What will they do when there is a surplus? A surplus is coming. Spending has been frozen. Certain departments have been told to cut back. There will be a surplus. It will take them a year or a year and a half longer than it would take us.

Nevertheless historians and economists will be able to go back and refit the numbers to see what would have happened if they acted here or there.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Dear colleagues, time has run out. Pursuant to the order made Monday, April 21, all questions necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of Bill C-93 will now be put to a vote without debate or amendment.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?