Mr. Speaker, today is an opposition day which is when an opposition party can put forward an issue for debate and consideration of the House for the day. Today the Reform Party has put forward this motion for consideration and debate by the legislators in this Chamber:
That this House condemns the government for imperilling the economic and social security of Canadians with their reckless commitment to dramatically increase spending, at a time when the average family's share of the federal debt is approaching $80,000 and Canada has the highest personal income taxes in the G-7.
What I would like to particularly focus on in the few minutes I have to speak is how government spending increases are imperilling Canadian social security.
Security is one of the most important parts of human existence. We want to be secure. We need to know that when we are young we will be cared for, when we need to be educated and trained that there will be opportunities for us to gain the skills that we need in order to build a good life for ourselves with good jobs and good incomes.
We need to know that when we become ill we will have the health care measures that will preserve our lives, our well-being and our health. We need to know that when we become old we will be able to retire on secure, comfortable incomes.
Those measures and those aspects of our lives as Canadians are extremely important. If the case is that what the government is moving toward and what this Liberal government intends to do is going to further imperil the already shaky security or lack of security in many of these areas, then we in this House need to be very concerned about that. We need to do our job to urge and to push the government in a direction that will alleviate this danger to our personal security.
We have brought forward and our speakers have brought forward even today evidence after evidence that Canadians are moving toward a lower standard of living. And this plan by the Liberal government to continue the mother government's federal spending programs, many of which intrude on the jurisdiction of the provinces, will continue to lead to a lower standard of living and in some cases more so in some regions of the country, as one of the questioners pointed out a few minutes ago.
In some income groups the standard of living is so low that there is essentially not enough left for necessities. The government in noticing this says “We are going to do something about poverty among children and poverty in some rural and remote communities”. What it could have done was to not enact the policies which led to this tragic set of circumstances to begin with.
I would like to refer briefly to two studies, one which was just released by Industry Canada and one by the Ottawa based Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
There are some interesting highlights in the just released Industry Canada report. I wish I had time to refer to it in detail but I do not. I will specifically point to the areas that talk about the resources and the standard of living Canadians have and how they are being impacted upon.
The study specifically compared the Canadian standard of living, the kind of standard of living that Canadians have as compared to their neighbours in the United States. We have to remember that Canada does 80% of its trading in economic activity with the Americans. It is a very appropriate and very needful comparison that has been done by Industry Canada.
These are only a couple of things from this study. People who are listening to this debate may want to refer to it in more detail.
First of all and most tellingly, the employment rate in the United States, the participation rate in the labour market is much higher than in Canada.
There are people who are looking for work and there are people who have simply given up looking for work and are doing other things. For example they are working abroad, going back to school or simply just are not working at all and are relying on other family members for support.
The participation rate in Canada's labour force is far lower than the U.S. rate. The unemployment rate is much higher in Canada for those who want to work and are ready, willing and able to work. According to Industry Canada, if Canada had the same employment rate as the United States there would be one million more people working, which would put to work two-thirds of those who are currently unemployed.
My colleague from Medicine Hat was asked a question concerning regional disparities by a member of the Conservative Party. He mentioned the terrible problem of regional disparity. In the United States problems arising from regional disparity occur at about half the rate of those found in Canada.
The bankruptcy rate in the U.S. has fallen by 30% since 1995, while in Canada it has increased by 80% to record setting levels, which affects small and medium size businesses. Canadian businesses are unable to even make a go of it, never mind earn the decent return business people need to feed their families and provide for the necessities of life.
Real personal income per capita is 24% higher in the United States. Families earn nearly 25% more in that country just a few miles south of us than our families do. The household debt is a lot higher in Canada. The savings rate has fallen as Canadians have been forced to collapse their RRSPs and personal savings to cope with the increasingly harsh economic climate in our country.
It has been rightly mentioned that Canadian expenditures on research and development are half of U.S. expenditures. Our most highly skilled professionals including engineers, architects, surveyors, mathematicians, computer scientists and natural scientists earn far lower salaries than their U.S. counterparts and their tax burden is much higher. It is no wonder we are having a massive brain drain to the south because of these circumstances.
On average Canadian wage earners pay approximately 33% more in income tax than their U.S. counterparts. They also have our favourite tax, the GST that the Tories brought in and the Liberals failed to get rid of as they said they would. U.S. taxpayers can deduct mortgage interest payments and student loan payments from their taxable income. This all means that Canadians have far fewer resources left in their hands to care for their personal needs, for their children's needs and for their families' needs.
Even more telling is a study conducted by Ottawa based Centre for the Study of Living Standards. It compared the wealth created per person in Canada with the same figure for the other member countries of the OECD. Thirteen leading industrialized countries were compared. The results were absolutely shocking.
We created per person an amount of wealth that put us dead last among all industrialized countries. Every other country in the industrialized world increased their wealth, but Canada actually lost ground up to 1996. We scored a decrease of 0.4% per person. Norway increased its per capita wealth by over 22%. All other countries experienced an increase except for Canada
This means that Canadians do not have enough resources left in their hands to meet their needs and the needs of their families. Yet government takes more and more to fund the spending programs that have proven so ineffective when it comes to security and a good standard of living.
I urge the government, as we set out in our motion, to reverse this commitment to reckless spending and instead to pay down the mortgage on our future. Let us keep more of our own money to give us real social security.