My friend says disgraceful. It is a disgrace. They should be walking out of their seats. They should not be sitting there. How can they sit there with such hypocrisy and say they care about Canadians when the proof of the budget demonstrates they do not? That is just health care.
If there is one thing the finance committee heard travelling across the country it was that we had a job problem that was of paramount significance in our country. As a matter of fact, just days ago the Minister of Finance was in Europe meeting with the G-7 countries. He said he was going to go home and deal with the unemployment problem, work to reduce the economic inequalities and put these in the budget.
We listened carefully to the minister and I do not think he mentioned the word job. I do not think he mentioned the word unemployment. He certainly did nothing that is going to change the unemployment problem in this country. We told him that he should at least do one thing, something he did for the currency, for interest rates and even in the budget for inflation: set a target. He told us that at least as a society we want to achieve that goal and that target. Is there a target for employment? Is there a target to reduce the number of unemployed within the mandate or within the year? No. The government does not set targets for that.
What the government basically tells us is that it is quite happy the way things are. It it were not it would do something about it. Other countries do something about it.
One of the ways to measure a country's value is to ask how that society, that country and that government treat its children. In this country when we all got up this morning, there were about 1.5 million children living in poverty. In one of the richest country in the world, 1.5 million kids woke up this morning in poverty because their parents are living in poverty.
Somehow the government decides this is something it has to accept, poverty is just a reality. We need to have a million children in one of the richest countries of the world living in poverty. However, that is not the case. There are many countries in this world where there are no poor children. We cannot find a poor child in Norway, in Denmark or in many countries because their governments have instituted programs to ensure that poverty does not exist in their countries. It is a reflection of our value.
I can only conclude that the Liberals sitting across the way, epitomized by the Minister of Finance, do not care about the poor children in Canada, could not care less about the poor families in this country and could not care less about the unemployed because if they did they would do something about it.
However, I will try to be fair and balanced. The Minister of Finance said that if a child is poor in Canada, the government is not going to do anything in this budget and, as a matter of fact, it is not going to do anything in next year's budget. But if the child waits until July 1999, it has a program that will enable the child to receive about an extra 75 cents a day. Image what a poor family thought of that news.
Why does this government not care about children? I do not suppose the Liberals are mean. I do not suppose the Minister of Finance is an evil, mean person. However, children do not have paid lobbyists in Ottawa. They do not make contributions to political parties. They do not work in campaigns. They are not at the Liberal conventions hammering away for attention. They are not schmoozing in the cocktail lounges of the government parties and so on to bring their case before the Liberal caucus and the Liberal Party.
Children are voiceless and they are ignored by the government. It does reflect our value and tells us what importance the government places on certain Canadians. Children have been abandoned, particularly poor children. Their parents have been abandoned. The people who do not have employment have been abandoned.
Who else has been abandoned? The Minister of Finance waxed quite eloquently about his concern about education. Yes, we are going to enter a knowledge based economy and society in the 21st century, so he said he wanted to take some steps that would help students. There were steps that will help some students. The centre piece is the millennium scholarship fund, a $3,000 scholarship to 100,000 Canadians when it all gets into place.
Let us face it, that is going to kick in in a few years from now. If someone is a student today they can forget that, but sometime in the future there will be this millennium scholarship fund for $3,000, recognizing that it costs about $10,000 to go to school at the post-secondary level, and 100,000 people will get that.
Over 1.4 million people are in post-secondary education which means if everybody qualifies, about 7% of young people will qualify for the millennium fund. Seven per cent. Ninety-three per cent will not qualify by definition. It is just not enough. Seven per cent could qualify. Are they the young people who really need it? Is this a fund that will support young people or others who really need financial support? Not necessarily. It is based on marks and so on. It is not necessarily based on need.
As a country we have to be bold. If the Minister of Finance actually cares about the young people seeking post-secondary education, why does he not join with the other 16 OECD countries of which he is so fondly attached and do what they do. Have tuition free colleges, universities, technical schools and vocational schools across the country. That is what they do. They are tuition free, no tuition fees. And it is about time.
Let us face it. A few years ago we as a society decided that grade 12 was the minimum education necessary to become a productive citizen. We said that anybody would now have access to that level of education, grade 12. That was in the 1930s. Surely to goodness we can all agree that grade 12 is now inadequate. We need grade 13, grade 14, grade 15, grade 16. Let us be bold and say to young people and others that for the first 16 years of their education, we will at least eliminate tuition fees to remove that barrier to becoming a contributing citizen in the country.
It seems simple. I noticed with some encouragement today that the premier of British Columbia said it is about time we started to move in this direction. British Columbia is going to move to eliminate tuition fees in the first year of university and college. That is a progressive move. Twenty-seven other countries around the world do this. It is nothing new.
It is not a new idea. It has been practised for decades and decades in many countries, countries that put a value on their young people. They are countries that put a value on their most important resource, their human resources. They do not want barriers impeding their people from becoming productive citizens through education and training, but apparently we do.
I want to talk a little about poor children. We can no longer abandon the 1.5 million children living in poverty. I remember the Minister of Finance standing up not long ago saying that when growth in our country hit 3% for a three year period, the Liberals would introduce a comprehensive child care program. Remember that?
We have accomplished that. We are there now. Was child care mentioned in the budget? Not even a word. Was home care mentioned? That was the main plank in the Liberal platform. The Liberals were saying that they would introduce a comprehensive home care program to complement our health care program across the country.
Was home care mentioned? I do not remember home care being mentioned at all. Home care has been jettisoned. Not only that, there was no funding in terms of returning funds to the transfer payments for health care. We could understand perhaps that that would take place if the government had announced a major home care program to complement the hospital work, but it was not even mentioned.
We would understand that there might not be any transfer payments to health care if there was a pharmacare program introduced. Was pharmacare introduced? That was promised. I do not think that was mentioned either.
No pharmacare, no home care, no child care, no elder care, no care. This government does not care.
I guess the other highlight, what the government is trying to put a positive spin on, is that it will give everybody a tax break. Anyone who believes that would believe there are pink elephants floating around this Chamber. People would rather have a job than a tax break. And yes, they want decent access to education. They want a decent health care system.
Let us just talk about the tax break aspect. I give the previous Liberal speaker credit because I have a great deal of admiration for the work she does. But I guess what she was really saying is that the government should have addressed the whole area of bracket creep. I know bracket creep sounds like an odd term, but I think people who know taxes know what it means. It means the basic personal exemption has not been increasing because of the increase in inflation over the years. Consequently the government is collecting billions and billions of more money than it should be. Taxpayers should have that in their pockets to spend. But the government did not move on bracket creep.
Second, let us face it, we have changed the CPP system. The premiums are significantly increased. When we look at what people are paying out and the minor tax break, the reality is that Canadians are going to be paying a whole lot more than they did as a result of this budget. That is the reality, a whole lot more taxes of one kind or another. From CPP premiums alone it is $874 million this year.
This is a budget of hypocrisy actually. This is a budget of smoke and mirrors. During armed forces exercises they lob over a smoke bomb and it blurs the reality. That is what this budget is, a smoke bomb just chucked out all over Canada. Even some of the journalists for whom I have a great deal of respect said that there were some good things in the budget. We have to look long and hard to find some good things in the budget that will have any significant impact.
We have 400,000 young people out of work today. Talk about immorality. This ought to be enough to call an emergency debate in the House of Commons to find ways and means to find jobs for these 400,000 young people. What does the government do? It says “We are going to act”. Its concept of acting is pretty weird. The Liberals said “We are going to introduce a program that is going to create 5,000 jobs over the next two years”. For 400,000 people. That does not even register mathematically. That is it in the budget. The government is going to make some changes to EI which officials say might create an extra 6,000 jobs. Four hundred thousand young people in this country are desperately looking for decent employment and the government brings in a program that may create 11,000 jobs over two years.
This is pathetic. This is wrong. This is cruel. Yet my Liberal friends sit there on their benches—