Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate this morning. This debate gives us a chance to talk about priorities with respect to the upcoming budget, a subject very much on the minds of Canadians across the country. We are debating a resolution introduced by the official opposition to reveal what its budget priorities would be in respect to the upcoming budget. The opposition tries to build its case for the further erosion of government spending in this country.
Reformers have been quite specific about what they see as the formula. It involves a 50% tax reduction. They argue that 50% of any dividend from the reductions in our deficit should go toward debt reduction.
I listened carefully to the Leader of the Opposition as he spoke in this House concerning this resolution. I heard him speak not a single word about real investment in this country, in its infrastructure or in the well-being of its citizens.
Nothing was said to acknowledge the damage and destruction that has befallen the health care system over the past three years because of the misplaced priorities of the Liberal government. Nothing was said to acknowledge that we presently have a severe access problem in Canada with respect to young people getting the education they need. Nothing was said about the crumbling infrastructure. Nothing was said to acknowledge that we as a modern nation are doing very little and less than every other OECD country with respect to research and development in Canada. This is very serious in the area of medical research, for example.
There is nothing to acknowledge that their propositions and proposals would further erode any commitment to community based economic development and any commitment to address regional inequalities in this country. Much less there is no indication whatsoever that they recognize the urgency of doing something to introduce a national child care program, a national pharmacare program and some significant infrastructure to provide home care for the people who are suffering as a result of health care cuts.
People are suffering because the population is aging and less adequate health care is available to them. There is a big burden being heaped on to families and on to communities that do not have the resources to provide that home care which is desperately needed.
Reform advocates a cut in direct spending by another $8.9 billion. Let us be clear that the bulk of these cuts would hit unemployed workers, would hit regional development, would hit equalization payments to the poorer provinces in this country and would further erode any national commitment to Canadian culture.
The Reform Party does not seem content with the federal Liberal cuts in government spending. Let us be clear that those federal Liberal cuts have brought spending in Canada to a level not seen since 1949-50. I remember when the federal finance minister introduced the budget. He congratulated himself on reducing spending to 12% of the GDP, a level not seen in this country for 45 years.
Does the Reform leader recognize that there has been some damage done in the process? Does the Reform Party leader recognize that yes, Canadians want to see responsible fiscal management but in the main, Canadians feel that the Liberal government has already gone too far and we have to do something about the damage and the devastation that has been wreaked by this recklessness. What do we see instead? We see the Reform Party arguing that we should go even further.
It occurred to me as I listened this morning first to the Reform Party leader and then the spokesman for the Liberal government that what we are hearing once again are Liberals and Reformers talking about running Canada the way a business is run. It may seem like not a bad analogy to talk about being responsible and to talk about being able to balance budgets and so on.
However, they do not seem to want to run Canada's business in the way someone would run a business if they actually expected that business to succeed, if they actually intended that business to grow and prosper. They want to run Canada like it is the target of a hostile takeover, not a flourishing business; sell off the assets, lay off the employees, take the money and run, move on.
Reform and the Liberals treat Canada like a bad investment. “Pull your money out,” they say, “the stock is worthless”. Where will Canada be in 20 years if the finance minister and the federal government keep following that Reform vision for Canada?
Where will we be if Korea has invested in the education of its children and the skills of its workers while young Canadians are marching on the streets? Where will Canada be if the U.S. and Chile invest in a modern transportation network while we allow ours to crumble further?
What will happen to the competitive advantage medicare gives us in labour costs for example, not to mention our national pride and attending to the health of the people of our nation, if we allow it to shrivel further and die on the vine?
For the past five years this country has been caught in the confines of the narrow vision and the shrivelled horizon of the right wing debate. Not content with the growing inequalities its prescriptions having engendered, Reform wants to further dismantle the ability of government to act in the public interest and turn over still more of our economic life to the whims of the free market.
When I was listening to the Reform leader's advocacies in this House this morning, I was in my office meeting with a group of Canadians who are desperately concerned about what we are doing to the lives of children and families in this country. They are very concerned about what it does both to the lives of individual children and the soul of a nation for the government to be contributing through its calculated deliberate adopted policies to the growth of poverty among our children. They are concerned about what it does to the lives of people and to the future of this nation to be fueling those policies advocated by Reform and adopted by the Liberals, to be increasing day in and day out the inequality, the gap between the super rich and everyone else in this country.