Mr. Speaker, it is a delight to be able to stand and offer my few comments on Bill C-36, the budget implementation act. I support the budget and therefore I am quite pleased to support any legislation to implement it.
I want to describe the budget and the budget implementation act by using one word, credibility. I want to do so by looking at history.
I was first elected by the people of the then riding of Scarborough West to come to this place in 1988. In 1988 we were in opposition. We listened very carefully to the government of the day, the Conservative government. I am addressing now historical fact which can easily be checked by examining the records and by examining Hansard .
Michael Wilson was the finance minister. At that time, in 1988 and early 1989, there were no Reform members in the House. There were no Bloc members in the House. Michael Wilson, year after year, stood and made promises. Year after year those promises were broken. Year after year he blamed the previous government. Year after year the debt and the deficit kept growing. What did the Conservative government do?
In 1986 the general surtax was brought in. What for? To pay down the deficit and to pay down the debt. Were they successful? No they were not. The debt and the deficit kept increasing, yet every year Michael Wilson would stand in his place as finance minister, except for the year the budget was leaked, and remind everyone that this year his promises would come true. It was like shooting fish in a barrel to be in opposition. We knew he would not fulfil his promises. He had no track record. He had no credibility. Everything he said did not come to pass.
The Conservative government implemented the general surtax in 1986, which was followed by the GST. Hon. members will remember that the debate was centred around modernizing the tax system, getting rid of the old tax. Sure there would be more money coming in, but what would they do? It would be revenue neutral. They would only charge sufficient GST to bring in the same amount of revenue as the old manufacturers' sales tax. If they were wrong in their calculations—and remember, Mr. Wilson was always wrong in his calculations—if there was an excess, they would apply it to reducing the deficit and the debt.
There was a huge excess in the GST coffers. An election was coming so what did the Progressive Conservatives do? They gave GST rebates and GST refunds instead of applying that money to the debt. It was great for the people who got the cheques, but it did not help reduce the debt. What happened to the debt? It kept rising. What happened to the deficit? It kept rising.
We campaigned on a number of things in 1993, including getting a handle on the debt and the deficit. We promised that we would eliminate the deficit and we were elected. We were given a mandate to do that, among other things. Lo and behold we had the Reform Party here. It was not the official opposition, but it was here. When our finance minister stood and delivered his first budget he pointed out that he was going to do two-year rolling targets. He did not want to say things on which he would be unable to deliver. He only predicted two years into the future, using very conservative business estimates.
What was the Reform Party's mantra? Of course they have forgotten about it now. It was very simple. It was “Oh, these are Liberals. They will never do that. All Liberals ever do is spend. You cannot believe the Liberals. They will never pay down the deficit, never mind make inroads on the debt, because they are Liberals”.
Day after day in question period on the first budget the Reform Party stood and said “This government has no credibility. They are Liberals. We do not care who the finance minister is. We do not care who the Prime Minister is. This government has no credibility. They are Liberals and they are going to spend us into bankruptcy”.
What happened? In each budget the finance minister was more than right. That makes it difficult for members of the opposition, I admit. It is sure nice to be on this side where the finance minister says he is going to deliver and he delivers. In each budget he has delivered he has neither overestimated nor overspent. He has been measured in his responses.
Conservatives cannot say this because they can hardly throw stones at their own glass house, but the Reform Party, not having been in government and not having understood how things worked realized “Hey, we have been yelling at the Liberals now for three years saying they are not going to pay down the deficit. Guess what? They are going to pay down the deficit, so we had better change tactics. We thought they were going to do things differently, but maybe they are doing things differently because now they have changed tactics. What are their tactics now? Their tactics are to cut taxes”.
The Reform Party was not telling us to cut taxes when we were cutting the deficit. They were making fun of us that we would never cut the deficit. This budget shows us that the deficit is gone. It is gone for good. It was the Liberal Party which got rid of it and a Liberal finance minister who delivered on everything he said in the budgets. That is credibility and that is what we start with in a budget. We start by saying that we are going to do something and we do it. Then we go beyond that and do a little more.
What was the Bloc doing throughout all this? Quebec does not have enough. We can listen to parrots for only so long. The fact is, we run a country. There are 10 provinces and two territories, soon to be three territories. We have to divide everything. We have to run this country equally to make sure that all Canadians from all provinces and all regions are looked after as best we can.
Here we have this budget which, like all the other budgets before it, will come true. Why? Because all the other budgets have come true and the finance minister has the rolling targets.
What is going to come true? One, no more deficit. What happens when there is no more deficit? We still have a big debt. Like everybody who has a big debt we want to pay it down. We are going to pay it down. How do we know that? Because we have said we are going to pay it down and each and every one of the predictions that the finance minister has made in the time he has been finance minister have come true and these will come true as well.
That is the Liberal way. It is not about slashing to reduce things. We have to do things in a measured, orderly way to reduce the deficit to zero, which has been done, to start reducing the debt, which is a legitimate goal, as well as to help ordinary Canadians.
Yes we agree we should cut taxes. I pay too many taxes in my opinion. Ordinary Canadians want to pay less in taxes. It would be wonderful if we could cut taxes across the board. What have we done? We have at least started.
The 1986 general surtax that was brought in by the previous government has been eliminated for the vast majority of Canadians. We have come up with some innovations with respect to helping low and middle income Canadians. We have to start somewhere. We are not going to start at the top like the Tories and help the rich first and work down. We are going to start by helping low and middle income Canadians.
What did we do? Beginning in July of this year the basic personal exemption will increase. What does that mean? That means 400,000 low income Canadians will no longer pay any federal income tax. If some province wants to try and go in there and pick up the slack and steal some money from these folks they will have to deal with it at the ballot box.
The 3% general surtax will be eliminated for people with an income of up to $50,000 and reduced for those with incomes up to $65,000. What is that going to mean? That is going to mean $1.4 billion dollars in tax relief for 14 million low and middle income Canadians by the year 1999-2000, 90% of all taxpayers.
While we are doing this we are paying down the debt. The deficit is gone. We are paying down the debt. We are doing what the Reform Party wants and what most Canadians who have any common sense when running their own families do, and that is starting to pay down the debt. But we are also starting to give tax relief.
Because this budget has credibility and because the finance minister has credibility, I know that in budgets to come there will be more tax relief and greater debt payment. That is why I am pleased to support this budget.