House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spending.


SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

I am going to start by reading the motion again so that people who are commenting on the motion can really understand what motion is being debated today. The motion reads:

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 federal debt is approaching $80,000 and Canada has the highest personal income taxes in the G-7.

Some of the basic information in this motion has been refuted by members opposite. The information sources, in fact, mostly come from the government itself. It is kind of hard to understand why it is doing that. It is a little difficult indeed.

What I am going to do is talk about the four fiscal areas that have to be dealt with before this fiscal mess that we find ourselves in in this country can be dealt with.

The first is the deficit. The second is the chronically high levels of government spending. The third is the high level of debt that we have in this country. The fourth is the chronically high and increasing tax levels that we have. We have to deal with all four areas before we can solve the fiscal problems that we have.

Starting with the deficit, the balanced budget, we will have a balanced budget this year, no doubt. I think the Liberals should receive some credit for that. It is important we recognize that this government will be the first government in 25 years that has had a balanced budget. It deserves some credit for that. I am going to look a little bit later at how it arrived at this balanced budget. I think that is important.

I wonder what would have happened had we had the New Democratic Party as the opposition over the past four years. We would have had at least as high a deficit as was in place when the Liberals took government in 1993.

What if the Conservatives had been the opposition over these past four years? Then we would have had more of the same. If we look at the last 30 years, whether it was the Liberals governing with the Conservatives in opposition or the Conservatives governing with the Liberals in opposition, it really did not matter. We had ever growing deficits and we had this debt balloon to a level which is completely unmanageable.

It is really important to recognize that the real push for government to deal with the deficit came with the Reform Party as it was established first in 1987 and as we came to Ottawa in 1993. I give the government credit for being the government in place when the budget was balanced but it is important also to give Reform credit as being the force which nudged, prodded, pushed and cajoled this government into finally doing that.

Having a balanced budget only deals with one of the four key areas which have to be dealt with to solve this fiscal mess. The second is the high level of government spending, in fact overspending.

Interestingly enough, the Liberals have concentrated most of their speeches on how they are going to spend on all these very worthwhile causes. They are going to spend for this, spend for that. They have this program, they have that program. What about dealing with Canadians who really need help?

They are continuing. In fact they are returning to an increased pattern of overspending. That is pretty clear from what we have heard today. That is what is coming. Clearly the chronic overspending has not been dealt with.

The third area is the high level of debt, $600 billion. That probably does not mean much to a lot of people. My wife and I have five children. Our share of that debt is approximately $20,000 for each of us which amounts to $140,000 that we have to add to the mortgage on our house, the mortgage on our farm and the other payments we have to make. We have to make payments to pay down this $140,000 which is our portion of the debt. Because I earn probably higher than average income, our portion will be even higher than that.

What it means beyond that is that this government will spend more than $45 billion this year just to make the interest payments on the debt. The Liberals talk about caring and spending on social programs. I would like them to respond to how spending this $45 billion on interest payments is allowing more money for these important social programs.

It is a little difficult for me to understand. That $45 billion is not available for any social program. It only goes to pay the interest on the debt. Clearly that part of the fiscal puzzle, the high level of debt, has not been dealt with and as a result too much of our hard earned tax money is going toward interest payments.

The fourth area is the one which I want to concentrate on. I want to put it in personal terms. I only use my family as an example because they are the people I know best. I care about them and I talk with them more than anybody else, quite frankly, about these issues. This area concerns the chronically high tax levels in this country.

Disposable income under this government since 1994 has decreased by $3,000 for the average family. Yet the finance minister stands and with a straight face says “We have reduced taxes”. Liberal math is really hard to figure out. That is a well documented fact. This and various other tax increases, which I will refer to in a bit of detail in a few minutes, have an impact on my family.

As I mentioned, I have five children. My oldest daughter is 20 years old. She is taking business management and is in her third year of university. She has worked to earn money for university and she has taken on a loan to help pay her way through university.

I have two sons who have just turned 18. They are identical twins. The member for Crowfoot is not the only Reform member who can proudly say that he has twins. My sons are in their first year of engineering at university. They are very fortunate that they earned enough in the summer to pay for their education. They work hard. They have trained for years to gain the ability to earn their way through university.

They started their own business. The work they do amazes me. They rebuild combine headers. Farmers will understand what that is. They completely rebuild old headers, paint them to make them look nice, make sure they are in good working shape and they sell them. They carry on this business. More and more they are coming to me to talk about the high rate of taxes, how taxes are affecting them already and how they will be affected by them far more in the future.

The most recent tax issue which they brought to my attention was the Canada pension plan premiums. Because they run their own business and are self-employed, they pay both the employee and employer portions of the Canada pension plan premiums. That means as their business earnings increase, probably by the time they get to their fourth year of university they will be paying the full premium rates for the Canada pension plan.

Each one of them will be paying close to $3,300 in Canada pension plan premiums and for what? I have heard many Liberals say that it is for a secure retirement which will be guaranteed. The maximum amount they could ever hope to get out of that pension is $8,800 a year.

This tax increase and other tax increases have had an incredibly negative impact on my family and on families across this country. That part of the fiscal puzzle has to be solved and it cannot be solved until we start lowering taxes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, earlier today the leader of the Reform Party said that it took 15 years for Canadians to wrestle this deficit monster and to beat it and he was absolutely right. It did take 15 years. And it took more than this Liberal government to beat the deficit; it also took a Conservative government.

I will quote from The Economist . It stated that much of the credit for deficit reduction in Canada comes from the passage of time and successful reforms earlier in the 1990s introduced by a Conservative government, including free trade which the members opposite fought, the GST which the members opposite fought, and the deregulation of the financial services industry, the deregulation in transportation, and the deregulation of energy, like the national energy program which when we eliminated it benefited western Canadians. The Reform Party should remember that and give credit where credit is due.

When I hear members of the Reform Party speak, there is always a certain amount of warmth because they usually refer to their own family situations. I think that is wonderful because I came from that kind of Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver family as well. However I am not naive enough, like a lot of members of the Reform Party are, to assume that is typical of Canadians and that all Canadians are so fortunate.

The difference between the Reform Party and our party is that we care about all Canadians. We will continue to fight not just for the wealthy or for those who are privileged and have access to the economic levers and to bootstrap themselves out of poverty, but for all Canadians. That is why we propose in our party platform to raise personal exemptions to $10,000 and to actually help the poorest of Canadians and not just the rich Canadians for whom the Reform Party would fight.

I would like to ask the Reform Party member a question relative to student debt. In 1993 eight students in Atlantic Canada had $30,000 or more of student debt after a four year program. Today in 1998 there are over 900. What is the Reform Party's position on student debt? How would it address the student debt issue for young Canadians who are now looking to go into the 21st century to compete on a global stage with over $30,000 worth of student debt upon graduation?

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3:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, before I get directly into answering the question, I will say that when the Conservatives were in government they did some good things. They put in place the free trade agreement. I guess that is about it, but there must have been some other good things, such as the GST and the Airbus deal. Those are pretty good things too.

Unbelievably the member began by saying that his party also beat up on the deficit. The Conservatives beat it up to $43 billion a year, a record high. I do not know how that member can stand and somehow say that his government had anything to do with the fact that we at least have a balanced budget now. It is really hard to figure out.

The Conservatives talk about how they are caring and how they are not just concerned with those who have but also with those who have not. How have they shown that when they played a big role in driving that debt up to $600 billion? Over $45 billion is spent on interest payments on the debt alone. That is money that is not available to deal with those areas of concern to Canadians. We recognize there is a need out there. Therefore this is a little hard to understand.

Dealing with student debt is important. Having three children now in university and two more in about two or three years, it is important. The Liberals dealt with it by reducing transfers to the provinces for health and education by $6 billion to $7 billion a year as of this year and next year. That is how they dealt with it.

The first private member's bill the Leader of the Official Opposition tabled before this House was on how to deal with that student financing problem. It talked about things like making sure money is available, but making sure that it was going to be repaid, having income contingent repayment and so on. That is the importance we place on this issue. Our leader in his first private member's bill dealt with it. The member should read the bill.

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4 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, as we approach a balanced budget in the next year we must be careful to let people know that we are not here to praise the Liberals today. In fact we are here to condemn the Liberals for their high taxation, for their reckless spending, and for the mismanagement of the country's finances. They helped to get us into this debt crisis in the first place.

The balanced budget that will be coming down, I have to add, was not achieved through prudent spending of the Liberals. It was not achieved through cutting back on their wasteful spending, cutting back in the areas of little need in which they doled out millions upon millions of dollars to their political friends and special interest groups. That is not how we reached this balanced budget.

We reached this balanced budget through Liberal policies on the backs of hard working Canadian taxpayers. That is how we are getting to this balanced budget, not through the cutting of wasteful spending like the Reformers have demanded since 1993.

While the Liberals like to crow about their balanced budget, telling us that they are the heroes of the country, they should thank the real heroes, the Canadian taxpayers who have made it possible to achieve a balanced budget, the overtaxed workers of the country.

The Liberals should give thanks for their balanced budget to the students who cannot afford to pay their tuitions, to the students who are facing having to pay incredibly high student loans because the Liberals have taxed education out of the reach of the average Canadian student.

The Liberals should give thanks to the businesses that cannot afford to hire because of the incredible payroll taxes the Liberals continue to hang on to. Those are the real heroes.

The Liberals should give thanks to the sick people, people who are on waiting lists for health care and surgery. That is whom the Liberals can thank for their balanced budget. They have cut back billions of dollars from health care. There are no hospital beds. There is no room in the surgeries to look after the needs of Canadians to get them to better health. That is whom the Liberals have to thank.

The Liberals should thank Canadian families who are just scraping by, who saw their disposable income reduced by $2,000 to $3,000 since the Liberals came into power. They are the real heroes of this balanced budget, not the Liberal Party.

How can the Liberals now talk about dedicating half of a projected fiscal dividend to new spending programs when we have just barely balanced the budget? How can they in all common sense talk about new spending programs as they have been doing?

Have they forgotten something? Have they forgotten that the country is $600 billion in debt? Have they forgotten that there is about a $45 billion a year interest charge on this debt? That $45 billion is more than is spent on health care, education and old age security in a year; more than all of that. Our biggest expenditure is the interest charge on the national debt and the Liberals want to introduce more spending programs.

I find that absolutely astonishing and unbelievable. They are like kids in a candy store, just dying to spend more money. They are like spendaholics with a new credit card, just dying to go downtown and rack it up. That is what they are like.

They have introduced more than 30 new spending programs in the last year. We will see more of them in the upcoming budget.

The government is celebrating like a recovered alcoholic would celebrate with a stiff drink. It would put us back on the ways that got us there in the first place. It is like running us over, getting out of the car, picking us up, throwing us down and backing over us again. That is what these new spending programs can be compared to.

The Liberals want to pursue them. They want to get those cheques going out to their friends like the former minister, Doug Young, in the maritimes. He is just waiting for those Liberals to loosen up those cheques. They have already done it.

The Liberals just do not get it. They got us into this mess. The Tories helped them with decades and decades of reckless, irresponsible spending. Now it looks like they want to do it over and over again.

Have they forgotten the taxation levels? They do not consider all these things. They think we are out of the woods but we are not. They are ready to fire up that spending engine again and go full blast down the road. Oh, yes, for the Liberals happy times are here again. They just cannot wait to be spending.

The budget may be balanced this year, but the Liberals are not the heroes. It is tax paying Canadians who have to be thanked. They are the real heroes.

Perhaps I could talk about some other little recognized heroes. It is the official opposition party, the Reform Party, that has been pushing the Liberals since 1993 to get the finances of the country under control. Now that they are just about there they want to take credit for it. No way. The Reform Party has been leading the pack to make the fiscal health of the country healthier.

We have been leading the charge and we have the plan. We have the alternative. It is called “Securing Your Future”. The Liberals have it. They know it is a sound plan. It clearly spells out how to clean up the Liberal-Tory mess. We can distribute it after the debate today.

We have our priorities right. Our plans say that we should not start spending again. We should start paying down our debt. Our plans say we should not start new spending programs, that we should give tax relief to Canadians from the surtax and the blood sucking, insidious little bracket creep the Tories put in. I love that phrase.

Poor families today owe about $78,000 each of the national debt. They are paying an incredible amount of their income tax to service that debt. The priorities have to be right.

Our plan says we need tax relief, not new spending programs. These are the right priorities. We say a dollar left in the hands of a taxpayer does far more good than sending that dollar in taxes to these Liberals in Ottawa. That is the right priority.

Our plan states clear priorities for responsible spending. Those are right priorities, not spending on ski resorts, golf courses or free flags on which the heritage minister would like to spend her money but spending on programs Canadians care about like health care and education. These programs were gutted by the Liberal administration.

Those are not only the right priorities. It is the compassion needed in the country today. It is the common sense to get priorities straight. The Liberals have none of this.

The official opposition calls for paying down the debt, controlling spending, lowering taxes, and reinvesting in health care and education. That is a good plan. That is common sense. We have listened to the people.

Across the country columnists and journalists in the economic field have looked at our plan and said that it is a quick reading of the public mood. It is a compelling plan. It will point the federal government in the right direction.

We will keep the pressure on the Liberals to go in the right direction. Day after day we will remind them of their past sins and tell them how they can repent and bring the country back to financial health. We will be here day after day.

We have to keep the country on the road to a strong, secure future. That is why we call our plan “Securing Your Future”.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate being recognized.

I am listening with great interest to the Reform Party members, in particular the member for Lakeland who tries to rewrite history in the name of the NDP. Whenever Reformers write history on behalf of the NDP they get it dead wrong, just like many of their principles and their philosophies.

I want to set the record straight and ask the member who just gave his speech a question or two.

If the NDP had governed in the last four years, let alone being the opposition, we probably would have had a similar situation in Canada to what we had in Saskatchewan. For example, from 1971 to 1982 we had 11 consecutive balanced and surplus budgets and no debt, the lowest tax rate in the country, a free dental plan for our children 18 years of age and under, and an almost free prescription drug program. It was one of the best places in the country to live.

In 1982 the Reform cousins, the Conservatives in Saskatchewan who are now back to the Reform Party—they were Conservatives at that time—promised three things the Reform Party has promised. They promised less taxes, less government and more jobs. The people of Saskatchewan voted for Mr. Devine, the Reform Conservative in Saskatchewan, and they got less taxes, less government and more jobs not. They did not get that. They had higher taxes and increased government services. They gave away the assets. They bankrupted the province in nine years.

This Reform Party which bankrupted Saskatchewan in nine years under the Conservative banner is saying that NDPers are not very good governors. In 1991 the people of Saskatchewan kicked the bums out and re-elected an NDP government. Since 1992 there have been consecutive surplus budgets in Saskatchewan under the NDP.

What track record does the Reform Party have? It has a nine year track record in Saskatchewan of corruption, inefficiency, ineffective government, huge deficits and a 60 year debt to be paid off by the people of that province. It will take 60 years to pay off the Reform debt in Saskatchewan.

Just remember, members of the Reform Party promised less government, less taxes and more jobs. Their cousins in the Conservative Party are quite amused with the comment about how they are each fighting and bragging about “I supported the free trade agreement. I supported the GST”. They did and they are putting our country in very serious jeopardy. Ask any small business person.

I want to ask the member one question. They talk about eliminating equalization payments. The member for Dauphin—Swan River, a Reform member, does not agree with the Reform Party. He is a Reform member of Parliament and a former mayor of Dauphin, Manitoba. He says the leader of the opposition and his Reform Party have a screw loose when it comes to eliminating equalization because that is a leverage for small business and small communities in western Canada to create jobs and economic diversification.

I have a question for the member. Does he support the member for Dauphin—Swan River in his on-hands governing as mayor of the city of Dauphin before he got elected and used equalization to the benefit of the people of Dauphin? Does he agree with that member, or does he support his leader who says let's trash the west, let's trash the regions when it comes to economic diversification and eliminate equalization?

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4:10 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I inform the NDP member that in our party democracy is alive and well. We can disagree with each other. We are not led around like little sheep with a noose in our nose. We can disagree if we want.

The member said if the NDP had been running the country or in the opposition it would have been like Saskatchewan with the biggest out-migration of population of any province leaving the country. No. If they were the official opposition the country would be more like B.C. or Ontario under Bob Rae with out of control spending, out of control debt, corruption and dishonesty like we currently have in B.C. under Glen Clark, out of control ethics, dishonesty and corruption in our provincial government. That would be the scene in this Parliament if the NDP were in this spot here in official opposition.

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4:15 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier. It is a pleasure to respond to this motion. The motion contains a rather confusing reference to a reckless commitment by our government to dramatically increase spending. That is not unusual to hear from the opposite side which makes statements like that with no basis at all.

This is a highly speculative statement but at the risk of jumping to conclusions I assume it relates to the fact that our government is on the verge of delivering the first balanced federal budget in nearly 30 years and Reformers just cannot take hearing the facts. That is what it is.

We have our fiscal house in order, interest rates are low and our rate of inflation is among the lowest in the industrialized world. From a trade standpoint we have one of the most open economies in the world. We have an opportunity to build on this economic foundation to create a knowledge economy for the 21st century. We have the people, we have the institutions and we have the research excellence.

However, having such assets is not enough. We have to mobilize our resources toward the clear objective of being the best in a knowledge based economy. I will address this point shortly but first I will devote some time to a discussion of our achievements over the past four years which I am sure the opposition will want to hear.

After more than a decade of high deficits a balanced fiscal situation is in sight in Canada. We have achieved this by sticking to a rigorous deficit reduction plan that relies on the help and support of all Canadians from coast to coast, having budgets set and two years of planning to make sure we stay on target.

We all recognize that our fiscal progress is more than a federal effort. The Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have repeatedly said this. It is a national effort supported by Canadians across this country. It relies on the efforts of every province and territory from coast to coast which has set a goal of returning us to full fiscal health.

The results are striking. With the provinces' plans in place the total government deficit is expected to be eliminated by 1998-99, right on target. We have consistently hit all our deficit targets. In 1996-97 our deficit was $8.9 billion, about $20 billion lower than in 1995-96. Canada was the only G-7 country to be in a surplus on a federal financial requirement basis in 1996-97.

Our fiscal progress is so great that we are on the verge of a national debate, a debate that is happening here in the House. We often talk about what will be done with the surplus. We are on the brink of a post deficit era which was unimaginable four years ago.

Our government has not relied on across the board tax increases to hit its deficit targets. We have not relied on rosy forecasts. We are maintaining the same prudent approach we adopted from the beginning and it is starting to bear fruit.

Canada's inflation rate has gone from one of the highest among the G-7 economies to one of the lowest in the world with 1.5% annual inflation over the last four years. We outperformed the U.S. during this same period. Our interest rates are three points lower than they were in 1995 and Canada is poised to experience sustained economic growth. The OECD predicts that Canada will grow by 3.5% in 1998 and 3.3% in 1999, the best two year performance of any G-7 country.

But it is not enough to say that we are meeting our financial targets. Canada must also rise to the challenge and become a leader in the global knowledge based economy. Our government is investing in innovation and knowledge itself. We are targeting the knowledge based sectors where we are already strong and where the opportunity for growth is the highest.

This will spur job creation and sustain growth in our standard of living in the 21st century. We are helping to build a leading edge national system of innovation with programs like the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Our $800 million investment will draw up to $1.2 billion in additional public and private sector investments to create a total R and D investment of some $2 billion over the next five years.

This fund will renew and expand research infrastructure at Canadian hospitals, colleges and universities. This will create better research infrastructure and facilities for researchers and students. It also ensures that our best and brightest stay in Canada to pursue their studies and careers. We are helping to bring new innovation to market with the Technology Partnerships Canada. We are making repayable investments at the commercial end of the R and D spectrum.

These are real investments where the government and the private sector share both the risks and the rewards. Investments to date have ranged from aerospace to environmental technologies. We are building on the success of the National Research Council's IRAP program to help small and medium size businesses develop and commercialize new technologies.

The Business Development Bank has been refocused to better meet the financial needs of innovation in small and medium size businesses. In a knowledge economy, the only true competition advantage lies in developing the brains and skills of our people.

The Canadian millennium scholarship fund will invest in economic excellence and provide thousands of scholarships to give young Canadians access to colleges and universities.

These are part of our efforts to prepare our society to meet the challenges of a knowledge based economy head on.

In closing, let me repeat that we have invested our money wisely. We have reined in the deficit and we will continue to wage our battle against the debt. We have made a firm commitment to ensure that all Canadians can benefit from the new economy.

For the hon. member to suggest that we are on the verge of reckless commitment to dramatically increase spending is utterly ridiculous. As far as I am concerned, the motion by the opposition today is political hogwash. The same party said just a few years ago that Canada was going bankrupt. The same party said that Canada was part of a third world nation.

The Reform Party needs to recognize the reality of the last four years. It needs to understand the challenges of tomorrow. Like this Liberal government, it needs to see the limitless potential we have before us as we move Canada into the 21st century.

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4:20 p.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, when I listen to my colleague opposite, he sounds just like the members beside us. We hear the most interesting things.

They talk about the fight to bring down the deficit. I will tell you how to go about ruining the social fabric. When all is said and done, yes, I agree that the deficit must be eliminated. Deficits are a drain on future generations. But it is all in how you go about it.

I have a question for my colleague across the way: How is it that our economy is doing so well right now? The indicators show that we are in a period of full economic growth. Businesses have been making record profits for a few years now. How is it that, with business doing so well, poverty is on the rise?

They wanted to reduce the deficit. The federal government has taken the easy way out and cut transfer payments. The provinces are then obliged to make cuts in the social fabric: health, education. Right now, there is unprecedented poverty. The worst is that it is a trend, and that is what worries me. While the economic indicators certainly look very good, it is a bit like Canada Dry: it looks like champagne, but it does not taste like it at all.

What worries me is that, instead of making cuts as the government has done or lowering taxes as others have done, we should be debating the issue, as the Bloc Quebecois suggested at one point. If we are in a period of economic growth, that means there is money, there is wealth being created.

If wealth is being generated, why are we not able to get at it? I am alluding to tax increases, to ways of getting the money where it is, namely in the pockets of the wealthiest.

So, why is it that major corporations can take advantage of tax avoidance schemes, tax havens and all these sorts of things? Governments turn a deaf ear, and I feel that, all too often, they are puppets of the corporate world and of the wealthy. The government does not care about young students getting into debt, or about the poor. What is more worrisome are the new types of poverty currently found in our society. All this leaves a very bitter taste; the champagne has turned to vinegar.

I put the question to the hon. member opposite: How does he explain the fact that there is an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure that the member opposite realizes that when this government took over from the previous government we were $42 billion in debt. I am sure he realizes very clearly the amount of transfer cuts versus total spending cuts in the federal government. The federal government cut well over 14% of its own spending. It more important at that time to cut spending at the federal level in order to get our house in order.

I do not think the member needs to be reminded, but maybe so, where interest rates were and where they are today, where inflation was and where it is today.

Let us look at the number of times that investments have been put into companies in order to get jobs. There have been a number of jobs created, whether it be Technology Partnerships Canada, in research, in the Canada Foundation for Innovation with which I understand there has been some difficulty in Quebec with the Bloc and the PQ as far as making sure the scientists get the money. That will be resolved shortly I hope.

It is by putting money into these programs which has created the jobs to put more people off the poverty line and into earning a higher amount of money. That is how we get the economy going again.

Why are people saying outside of Canada, outside of North America, that Canada has been on the right course to develop its business plan to make sure that we will be having a better future? That is what is happening today. The member needs to understand that and needs to recognize that.

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4:25 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, our only reaction to today's opposition motion is a painful feeling of déjà vu, if not of reheated leftovers.

If memory serves me right, the same hon. member for Medicine Hat proposed something similar last fall. This must not be seen as admirable consistency in the opposition's concern for Canadians, but rather as an example of how the Reform Party refuses to admit that the people of Canada knew very well what they were doing when they brought our party back to power in last June's general election.

Although last year's Reform program, Fork in the Road , met with general public indifference throughout the country, these same people continue to take up the time of this House by calling for measures which Canadians have essentially rejected.

The truth is that Canadians are far smarter than the Official Opposition would care to admit. They know that the Reform Party is just trying to recycle a platform which repudiates a good number of the fundamental values and traditions on which this country was built. They know also that the results our government has obtained on the financial level leave them no other choice but to try to spread false ideas about how we govern and engage in scaremongering about the direction we want to take.

I am, however, convinced that Canadians are not as easily fooled as the opposition thinks they are. The June election results are proof of this, and our track record on deficit reduction and job creation demonstrates that Canadians made the right choice, in my opinion. They know we acted with determination over the past four years in order to put our finances in order.

They know that by doing so we have been true to the sense of balance underlying the Conservative ideology of the members of the opposition. They recognize that our plan for the upcoming budget surpluses, a balanced plan that will lead to a reduction in taxes and in the public debt and to investment in health and education, is the best choice for Canada's economic and social future.

As the motion before us today indicates, the Reform Party is trying to make believe that our government has already forgotten past lessons. This is not so. We were the first to note the economic effects of 27 years of deficit financing, the real measure of excess spending, and we do not want to expose the country to this scourge again.

That does not preclude, however, establishing priorities for our society and investing strategically and wisely for the future. We have certainly had to move carefully to achieve our financial objectives. We know that it has meant sacrifices for many. We are beginning to see the fruits of our investments and our efforts, efforts that should benefit all Canadians.

That is why this year we are allocating half of our budget surplus to improving social programs in Canada and the other half to reducing taxes and gradually repaying the public debt. That is what sets us apart from the right wing members across the way.

We on this side of the House believe in the role of government. We believe that it can help make our society a better and more equitable one. The best example of this is the tax policy pursued by our government as compared to the tax policy one might expect under a Reform administration.

Let us be quite clear. Taxes may be high in Canada, but that is the price Canadians have to pay for 25 years of accumulated federal deficit. That is why our government will be reducing taxes. The Minister of Finance let no room for doubt in this regard. We will see when the budget is tabled.

We however could not implement major tax cuts without immediately incurring another deficit with devastating effects or being forced to slash seniors, health, education and other important social programs. None of these options is acceptable to us, as they would nullify the social and economic progress we have worked so hard to achieve over the past four years.

Again, we are determined to ensure that tax reductions first benefit those Canadians who need it most, that is to say low income earners. That is why I am looking forward to the next budget. I would like to remind the House that one of the distinctive features of our previous budgets has been our commitment to ease the tax burden of the less fortunate. Our government is the one that has put a stop to rising taxes in Canada.

Think about it for a minute. Individual tax rates have not gone up in any of our last four budgets. In fact, the last two budgets did not include any tax increases. Instead, they offered selective tax cuts of immediate benefit to those whose needs are greatest.

There are $850 million in tax cuts for over one million low-income families and their children, cuts for individuals making charitable contributions, for disabled Canadians, for students, for workers pursuing higher education, and for parents saving for their children's education.

In fact, some of these tax measures in favour of charitable organizations and registered education savings plans were suggested to us quite recently when we passed Bill C-28 at second reading.

Canadians also know that, in each of the last three years, we reduced EI premium rates in order to ease the burden of payroll taxes. We also lowered maximum insurable earnings.

We took all these measures in order to provide the public with real social benefits, while meeting our financial responsibilities.

This is not what Reformers would have done, at least I do not think so. Given the motion before us, they would prefer immediate and major tax decreases, for the benefit of the wealthy. It seems to me that tax fairness is a foreign concept to Reformers.

If the $100,000 capital gains exemption had been eliminated under a Reform government, one wonders whether the deduction granted to corporations for meal and entertainment expenses would have been reduced to 50%. Would the tax rate of major corporations have been raised by 12.5%? Would Reformers have imposed a 12% surtax on the capital assets of banks and major deposit institutions? Did Canadians see our government take all of these measures? My constituents and those represented by all the members of this House have indeed seen our government take such measures.

When we amended the tax system, one of our priorities was to make it fairer, in order to spread the fiscal burden more equitably, and to ensure that every citizen and every business in Canada does their fair share to help reduce the deficit.

Fairness also guided us in implementing selective tax cuts. Indeed, it is only fair that the needy would be the first to benefit from government assistance.

Allow me to say it again for the benefit of the Reformers in this House: we do believe in fiscal responsibility. As members of the opposition, it is very easy for Reformers to advocate tax decreases across the board. However, we have done too much in the fight against the deficit and the debt to jeopardize the progress that has been achieved so far.

The fight to put our fiscal house back in order is not over yet. Victory is within reach, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. We cannot eliminate overnight a tax burden fuelled by 25 years of deficits, and we must recognize and accept this reality.

These are the few comments I wanted to make concerning the opposition's motion. I feel it is extremely unrealistic to cut taxes as aggressively as suggested by the Reform Party.

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4:35 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have just a short question for my Quebec colleague.

When he says there have been deficits for 25 years, and a debt has been accumulating for 25 years, it must be stated that for 16 or 17 of those years the Liberals were in power. They must admit it. It all started with Trudeau.

Second, since my colleague represents a Quebec riding, I trust that he has a bit of Quebec in his heart. I will therefore ask him a very simple little question and I would like to get a straight answer from him.

Both the Quebec government and the Bloc Quebecois are demanding $2 billion in compensation for the GST. Studies have been carried out, although the minister sometimes claims otherwise, and there ought to be $2 billion in compensation. Is the hon. member prepared, since he comes from Quebec, to claim what is merely our due, for the people of his riding, and ours as well?

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4:35 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to give my colleague a lesson in geography. I am flattered that he thinks I am from Quebec. I must admit that although I was conceived in Quebec, I was born in Ontario, I live in Ontario and I represent a riding called Ottawa—Vanier.

In fact, I was born in a village called Mattawa. It is where the Speaker was born as well. It is in Ontario, and my riding of Ottawa—Vanier is definitely in Ontario.

A brief anecdote springs to mind. The day after my election in the February 1995 byelection, the Globe and Mail reported that the Liberals had won three byelections in Quebec.

So the hon. member is not the first one to make the mistake. I find it flattering to some extent, but I am very proud of my Ontario roots.

As regards accumulated deficits, I did indeed say that over the past 25 to 27 years successive governments have accumulated deficits such that in 1984, when the government changed, the accumulated debt, that is the accumulation of annual deficits, amounted to some $180 billion. The responsibility for that rests indeed with the governments of those years, that is, from the early 1970s to 1984.

Between 1984 and 1993, the debt climbed from approximately $180 billion to $480 billion, and we inherited an annual deficit of $42 billion. So, yes, preceding governments, including the one in power from 1984 to 1993, which more than doubled the debt in nine years, have to bear a share of the blame. So, as far as that goes, we are in agreement.

The errors of the past must be put right, and that is what this government has done. In four years, we have reduced the deficit from $42 billion to zero perhaps this year, but certainly next year. We are in a surplus situation. That answers the first question.

As for the second, the one about the $2 billion for the GST, I will answer that question with another. Will the member admit that the finance minister in the last Quebec government admitted officially that there is no claim for $2 billion? Quebec's former finance minister, a Liberal, clearly said that there was no question of the Government of Canada owing the Government of Quebec $2 billion for the GST. So, I am prepared to accept the responsibilities of past governments, and I hope my colleague will do likewise.

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4:40 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Churchill River—The Environment; the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington—Literacy.

Now I am going to recognize the member for Fraser Valley. I am just wondering if he is going to give us 10 reasons like he does in question period.

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4:40 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

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.

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4:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I see there are two members rising. We have five minutes. I am going to take a minute for each question.

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4:50 p.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the hon. member for Fraser Valley. He has a great turn of phrase with the word “spendicitis”. But I must say that the Liberal Party has operated on that malaise called spendicitis since 1993. We have it completely and utterly under control.

I must also say that since he has a great turn of phrase there is an oxymoron that is like bitter-sweet. It must be bitter-sweet for the party opposite to know that we basically as they say have been nudged by them into controlling this wicked deficit that we inherited, $42 billion a year. We have that under control. That is the bitter part for them to swallow because we have it under control. In this current budget we are going to propose we have designated 50%—

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4:50 p.m.

The Speaker

A minute is not a long time, is it. The hon. member for Fraser Valley.

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4:50 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer in a minute.

I agree the Reform Party certainly has been championing the balanced budget idea for a long time. We would love to see balanced budget legislation to make sure it stays there, once it is there. We are not convinced it will, depending on who is in charge of holding the purse strings.

How has the budget been balanced? We have the highest income taxes in the land. Tax freedom day now is a full six months into the year. In British Columbia we spend 54%, our highest tax rate, just on personal income tax. Fifty-four per cent of income goes to income tax, plus the GST, plus the service charges. We have the highest taxes in the G-7. Canadians pay 56% higher income taxes than the average in the industrialized world.

We have to thank the Canadian people for balancing—

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4:55 p.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks a lot about lowering taxes. I have a short question and a comment for him.

If taxes are lowered by 1%, for example, it does not make a huge difference for a low income earner. However, the same 1% makes a noticeable difference for someone earning $100,000. The end result of this is that the tax decrease will provide greater buying power to the rich. It will benefit the rich. This is my first point and I am curious to hear what the member has to say about it. I am not playing politics here.

Now, here is my question. The hon. member often says that governments spend too much. Does he not think we should try to get money from the wealthy?

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4:55 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I take it in the non-partisan way it was offered to me.

What is the advantage to the wealthy? In a sense, the member is right. If you targeted your tax cuts for the wealthy, if you said only people making $100,000 plus are going to get a tax break under the Reform plan, I would be quite concerned.

Our plan starts with the people at the bottom. We say let's increase the personal exemption. We would eliminate 1.2 million from the tax rolls altogether. Let's cut them off. Let's not make them pay any taxes. Right now a single mom with a child making $15,000 a year pays $1,360 in tax. They deserve to pay no tax whatsoever. Let those people have that money.

Increase that amount. Increase the spousal amount for those that are living together to raise a family. They are perhaps staying at home for a couple of years. Raise that spousal amount to match the personal exemption so that they get to not only take home more because of the increased personal exemption, but they get to keep more for their spouse to help them during the period they are raising the child. That is more for them.

Lowering the GST by 1 per cent helps every single person who is buying. If you are buying clothes for your family and you do not have to pay seven but six, it helps. It starts to lower the tax burden. You have to offer the right kind of tax relief. I think we have the right combination of help for entrepreneurs which will increase job opportunities, help for poor people by taking them off the tax rolls and leaving that money in their hands. The socially responsible thing to do is leave that money with the poorest of the poor.

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4:55 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion which I thoroughly agree with. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke sort of triggered my selection in the direction I was going to take on this.

I want to get right to the spending. He said the Liberal government has done an excellent job of getting it under control. My colleague from Fraser Valley pointed out something very important that I think we really ought to applaud. That is the taxpayers of this country have bent over backwards to help eliminate the deficit. They are the ones who did it. They are the ones who deserve the credit.

Now that they have accomplished this balanced budget, the least that we can do for Canadian taxpayers is say job well done, now we are going to concentrate on reducing the debt and giving you a much deserved tax relief.

The member talked about spending, that everything is under control. He must not be reading the public accounts. I just want to point out a couple of them. One of them will really interest you, Mr. Speaker.

I have only been here four years. If you look through the public accounts you see money being spent for a committee to discover all kinds of different ways to use blueberries to make good jam, good pudding or whatever, a committee that was struck by this government. That is just one example.

The one I am really intrigued with cost $116,000. It is a committee the government put together to study seniors and sexuality. Old guys like us must really be appreciative of that kind of committee. Am I pleased that the government is willing to spend money like that to look after me and my sexuality. That is the kind of bragging the government ought to stand up and talk about.

Look at the public accounts. Look at all the stupid things the government spends money on. And the Liberals sit over there and brag. I hope there is one area where spending does not take place. I hope the Liberals do not have a bunch of money in each one of their budgets to pay chiropractors to help put their arms and shoulders back in place from trying to pat themselves on the back. They do not deserve a pat on the back. The kind of pat they deserve would be a lot lower than on the back, for the way they have spent this country into the situation it is in.

I know members have people coming to them with different complaints regarding this and that and one thing or another. Just the other day before we came back to this session, a fellow came to my office. He was absolutely displeased. He had received a raise. He was as angry as could be. We compared his paycheque before he got the raise. Guess what? He was taking home less money than he was before he got the raise. But guess who was getting more money? The Liberal Government of Canada was getting quite a bit more, more in income tax because it put him up in a higher bracket, and a whole lot more in CPP.

That is the kind of thing these people are doing to Canadians who are trying to make ends meet. Canadians are getting angry and are wondering why the government is doing this to them. We have to stop this and the only way I know of is to kick those guys right out of those seats and put people over there who are willing to look after those kinds of issues because they are not.

Let us look at priorities. In my riding young married couples with one or two children have been evicted from their homes because they cannot pay the rent or they cannot make the mortgage payment. Yet if we look at their paycheques, some of them earn $20,000, some less and some maybe more, but the amount of taxes is pathetic. The taxes would be enough to help them live in their homes.

In the meantime their kids, the wife or the husband might have dental problems but if they do not belong to a dental care plan they cannot think about going to a dentist because they cannot afford it. If one of them needs a pair of glasses, the best hope they have is to pick up a cheap pair at a drugstore rather than go to an optometrist because they cannot afford it. Yet the government can still take taxes and more taxes and smile at them. I do not see how they can be happy about what is happening.

Look at the prison guards. As prison critic I go around talking to the prison guards. They have not had a raise in nine years. There has not been a raise for our security guards, the people who clean our floors or our bus drivers. I am beginning to think that it might not be a good idea to give anybody a raise because it is only the government that will benefit. It means more taxes for the government. Maybe we should say to these people “We will give you a better deal. We will leave a lot more in your pockets rather than give you a whole bunch more money, because it will just be more for us”. I wonder if they think about that.

And how is this for priorities in the prisons? If you are a prison inmate a dentist comes and takes care of your teeth. It does not cost the inmate anything. If he has an eye problem we supply him with glasses. Well good grief, they might even pay for a sex change. Let us do that for them. One of the inmates said to me “You know, it is not bad in here. I have not been cold, it is nice and warm. I get three good squares a day”. We could go to many ridings and find lots of families who wished they could have three square meals a day but they cannot. They have a difficult time, unless they really like Kraft cheese dinners.

And the Liberals sit over there and pat themselves on the back and brag and boast and go to the press club or wherever else to celebrate their great and wonderful victories. But they have nothing to celebrate. They have a long way to go. They have started. We have a balanced budget. That is great. Now let us start thinking about the other things that have to be taken care of.

Canadians had better soon see some relief. They have been supporting this idiotic way of running government for the last 30 years.

I am not a happy grandpa. I really fear for the future of my grandchildren. I wonder if anybody over there is listening and hearing what is being said. Do not pat yourselves on the back too hard.

The statements we hear from young people. They say “We will have to work for the rest of our lives never utilizing the CPP”. They do not believe for a moment that it will be there. They do not believe the rhetoric they are hearing from the government that, boy, it is going to look after them. At the end of the day, after all of the CPP deductions have been made, which they cannot afford to pay because they might have to pay a dental bill or they might have to buy more food, they do not believe the CPP will be there.

They say “I am going to have to pay more and more taxes to help those who are retiring as the years go on”. They feel like they are the ones in Canada who will be burdened with the whole load. Under this government's policies they are not wrong. They are not far from wrong at all. Under our plan we want this shared. I am willing to share in the debt load. I am willing to pay my part. I do not believe any members over there are willing and I can illustrate that.

I am proud to be one of 51 members of this House, along with five members from the Liberal Party and five members from the Bloc, who gave up the gold plated pension to save taxpayers $30 million. I am proud to be part of that. At least it is something which we on this side of the House could do.

But there is not one of them over there who has the fortitude to stand today and say “Count me in. Do away with the gold plated pension”. I applaud those over there who did and I condemn those who have not. Boy, that pension is going to look good to a lot of them. I sure hope they pat themselves hard on the back over that one.

Young people say “We will never have a life as good as our parents'. Our generation will never be better off than the past generation”. They have no confidence whatsoever that can happen.

We can give them confidence if we start getting our priorities straight. The priorities are all wacky. The Liberal priorities are to make sure they cut lots of transfers to the provinces so health care and education will be a real problem. Boy, the provinces have struggled. I applaud those provinces that managed to balance their books a lot sooner than this government did. I applaud them. They are on the right track.

If you want to get on the right track, take a look at our booklet “Securing Your Future”. That is the right track.

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5:05 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am on the Standing Committee on Finance. One of the things we heard when we travelled across Canada was that Canadians were happy with the balanced budget and that they wanted to see sustainability.

I hear an incredible mix from members of the Reform Party. They talk about the kind of tax measures they would like to see implemented. I also hear them talking about concerns for health care and education. My understanding is that it would cost around $30 billion to achieve the things they are suggesting and that would grow by approximately $4 billion a year.

How could you balance the budget given those kinds of spiralling costs? Are you willing to give up the kind of stability which we have offered the Canadian public?

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5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

All of the questions and answers should be directed through the Speaker, please. That is so you do not meet head on head.

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February 5th, 1998 / 5:10 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again it goes right back to what we said earlier. Government has to get its priorities straight. It has to start considering what is actually taking place out there. Look at reality. Look at what we need to do for the people of this land.

Regarding travelling across the country with committees, I have seen this happen before. Travelling committees come to my territory in Alberta but guess who they meet with? Not the Canadian people. Not the average Joe. They meet with the selected crowds, the good old Liberals, the good old party supporters, the good old elite. No one in my riding has ever been interviewed by any travelling committee because they are just plain folks who work hard for their living. They have to spend a few hours a day earning an honest living.

That is the problem. Priorities. This whole idea of the government's wasteful spending being under control. But don't forget, your sexual life is looked after.

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5:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I know the hon. member was not referring to the Speaker.