Mr. Speaker, I am tempted, but I will divide my time with the member for Wild Rose and we will each give 10 minutes on today's motion which was supplied by the Reform Party to the House for debate.
For those who have just now picked up the debate, we are dealing with the fact the Reform Party thinks that we should target any future surpluses toward paying down the debt and offering tax relief, and chastising the government for its plans to spend 50% of any new spending or any budgetary surplus on new spending.
That is the essence of two different visions on the economic side of what we would like to see in Canada. On the one side is the view of the government. The government says that the way to prosperity is to tax Canadians more, to spend more and not to be concerned about the debt. The debt will somehow look after itself.
The opposition view is that if we are fortunate enough to hit a surplus this year that the surplus should be divided equally between debt retirement, which of course offers some hope down the road, and tax relief which offers hope for today. Therefore, we are offering two different visions and that is what this debate is about today.
Even if we are in the next two, three or four weeks, given a budget that shows that we may hit a budget surplus, a good part of the credit for that is going to go to the Canadian people who unfortunately have seen a record number of some 37 Liberal tax increases since this government came in, a huge and growing surplus in the EI fund, cuts in transfer payments to provincial health care, education and so on. If it is going to be a balanced budget, the credit should go to the Canadian people themselves.
That being said, what do we do with a surplus. The Liberals again mentioned in their throne speech not one concrete proposal for debt reduction or tax relief but there are 31 new proposals for increased government spending. The Minister of Finance's economic statement has no concrete proposals for debt reduction or tax relief, but there are 10 pages of new spending proposals.
In the finance committee's pre-budget report, it was weak in three different areas. Not one word is in there about how to achieve debt retirement targets or long term debt management strategy, which are hugely important items not only today but for our children and their children. There is a brief mention that certain tax relief measures will be examined or studied but there is no commitment that should happen.
There were a couple of recommendations from the finance committee that we would be pleased to support. They involved increasing personal and spousal amounts and removal of the 3% and 5% surtaxes on income.
Day after day we ask the minister if this is a direction he would be pleased to move in, would he please offer that hope for the Canadian people, and day after day we are told to just wait, that maybe the answer is coming in the budget and maybe it is not. It is a disease called spendicitis. It affects Liberal ministers of finance. It affects them somewhere deep inside. This spendicitis kind of puts a twist in them when they answer questions and they just cannot get out those words “I am a taxaholic, I suffer from spendicitis and I just cannot say the words tax relief”. Something wells up in their throats. It is a sorry thing to have to watch but I hope one day that our current finance minister will get over it.
New ideas about spending more money by the Liberals are being floated in the newspapers these days. They seem to think that spending more money is the way. If spending more money, borrowing more money, taxing the Canadian taxpayers were the way to prosperity we would have so much prosperity in this country, so much employment, our dollar would be so high, people would not know what to do. They would be saying there is a chicken in every pot. Instead they say if there is a chicken in every pot, why is the taxpayer the one who keeps getting plucked? They do not know why there is not prosperity but the answer sits in the policies of the federal government: No tax relief, no debt retirement, no prospects of any of those things happening.
Why do governments keep introducing new taxes like the Liberals and the Tories before them have done? Why was the GST introduced? Why have there been so many increases from the other side? Why has bracket creep been allowed to happen? Bracket creep is not a minister of the crown who lives on that side. The bracket creep I am talking about is something that happens in the tax system when personal deductions are frozen so that any inflation that comes along eats into your disposable income.
It happens because the government has an insatiable appetite for our Canadian tax dollars. That is why the average family's disposable income has dropped $3,000 since the Liberals took office. People probably do not even know that they spend more just servicing the interest payments on the debt than they do on food and shelter, housing and health care. It is a sad situation. That is what debt does.
More than that, taxes and high debt hurt job creation. I do not understand the logic from that side that says do not worry about it, what is a little increase in the CPP? The little increase in the CPP means this at home. There was a little item in my local newspaper. School district 33 just found out that it has to pay $170,000 more to service the CPP portion of its tax payroll. It says that three full time employees will be laid off in school district 33. By the year 2003 just the CPP portion will be $700,000 for that little school district in Chilliwack. That money will either pay for teachers and other staff or it will pay for a payroll tax. It is a job killing payroll tax.
Worse than that is what it means for our children. I travel around many high schools, especially those in my riding. When I talk to the kids at the high school level they say “I do not know why I should really care about the underground economy, about getting something without paying tax. I do not worry about declaring my tips. Why should I worry if I can get paid under the table by a construction company?” They do not care because they do not think the government is handling their money wisely. It is a sad thing to see. What do you say to them? When you are standing up there as one of the law makers of the land to say “You cannot do what is illegal but you are trying to make ends meet”, what do you say to them. You say “I sympathize with you but you have to find another way around it”. The way to do it is to change the direction of the government.
We have to somewhere make that philosophical decision in this country on where are we going. Are we going to go for bigger governments, more taxes, rely on government spending to look after us or do we make that change soon that says “Government cannot do everything. If you would just leave me the money as a taxpayer I will hire people, I will create jobs, I will look after some of my own expenses. But if you are just going to take my money and spend it on things I never asked for, then I will not be part of that system”.
In our area now there are people who speculate that in the housing industry alone—one of the few industries that is still doing well in my particular region—up to 25% of the entire construction industry is now done under the table. It is a shocking thing but that is what happens when people feel they are not getting a bang for their buck on their taxes.
What would Reform do? We say attack the debt now. This is the year when we make that division, that fork in the road, and we choose the one less travelled. This is the year. We take that road that says “Let's retire the debt. Let's pay it down now while we are still paying taxes in this House and taxpayers in this land that have rung up the debt. Let us start paying it down. Let us give our children some hope for that”. We want to hold the line on spending, eliminate the waste and then offer some tax relief.
In a document that we have put together called “Securing Your Future” we talk about not only where government should refocus its energies but also the kind of tax cuts that people can hang their hopes on: for example, tax relief for student loan interest, tax relief for capital gains so business people can have some hope, tax relief for families so that we can take home more of our money, tax relief for people trying to raise children. That is the kind of hope that people need. Retire the debt, offer some tax relief and do not ask the government to do everything. We will look after more of that ourselves.
That is the kind of future we could get with that choice in this next budgetary year.