House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair appreciates the intervention of the hon. member for Lakeland. It is the view of the Chair that his application for an emergency debate does not meet the exigencies of the standing order at this time.

The House resumed from October 13 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

October 14th, 1999 / 10:40 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the remainder of the debate on the Speech from the Throne the Reform Party members will be dividing their speaking time.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

As in the last six years, Canada continues to be the UN's choice as the number one country in which to live.

This week's throne speech set out a strategy that will ensure we maintain our number one ranking. It signalled the government's plan to build on the quality of life for all Canadians.

In the years to come we will address the challenges of globalization and the demands placed on a knowledge based society. We have committed to bring down the personal income tax levels of Canadians and to invest in families and in children. The government has set out a plan that addresses our diversity and responds to our responsibilities as a global leader.

Today I will take some time to explore this throne speech and how it relates to my riding and the constituents of Kitchener Centre.

First I would like to review the government's record. Let me begin with unemployment rates. They are at their lowest level since 1990. I am pleased to report to this House that the Waterloo region has the lowest unemployment rate among municipal centres across the nation, a rate of 4.9%.

This Liberal government in partnership with the private sector has created the proper climate for job creation. As a result, we have seen the creation of 1.7 million jobs since we took office. We have consistently increased our investments in research and technology and we have supported small and medium size enterprises.

In my community Industry Canada has worked in partnership on the creation of the business enterprise centre which houses the Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre. This centre provides one stop shopping for entrepreneurs. Users of the centre have access to extensive and current information and tools which enable them to both succeed and grow.

The region of Waterloo is a microcosm of the changes that are happening across the nation. A generation ago no one could have envisaged a vibrant local economy that lacked the kind of family businesses such as Seagram's and Labatt's, nor could they have imagined the changes that we have seen at Schneider's meats, yet these changes have occurred.

Today in Kitchener we see an ever increasing number of small businesses starting up. Across the country over 80% of the new jobs created are by this sector and many are in the high tech area.

Waterloo region has seen incredible growth in the high tech sector. Our community has not only thrived but remained on the cutting edge of a competitive global economy.

This week's throne speech clearly indicates a strong commitment to building our economy through developing a skilled labour force and providing the necessary research dollars and tools for small emerging companies.

The Liberal government will ensure that skilled development keeps pace with the evolving industries and markets. This will be accomplished through the sectoral councils in close consultation with industry leaders. The government has once again acknowledged the importance of foreign investors in Canada.

For Canada's technology triangle this is good news. The CTT has been funded by the federal government to attract foreign investors to areas such as Kitchener. They are working and spreading the news about Canada. It is this type of organization with which we must encourage and foster relationships.

We must also support companies that will help us meet our environmental obligations under agreements such as the Kyoto protocol.

Recently I accompanied the Minister of Industry on a tour of GFI Control Systems where they demonstrated to us how their automobile conversion kits will help Canada meet its clean air responsibilities.

Our environment is also affected by our infrastructure. As a former regional and municipal representative I have witnessed the benefits of working in partnership on programs such as our national physical infrastructure.

In the throne speech we have indicated our will to continue to work with all levels of government and the private sector to achieve a five year plan for improving the infrastructure in both urban and rural areas across Canada. This will be a commitment that will be reached by the end of the year 2000.

Children and youth are the country's key to success in the 21st century. It is the responsibility of government and community, family, friends and teachers to open doors and encourage young people to seize their dreams.

I first entered politics to assure that the decisions of government were working in the best interests of my four children. During my 10 years as a member of parliament I have taken special interest in the youth of Kitchener. Through visits to classrooms and graduations, I have had the pleasure to meet the young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

I have been pleased to support organizations such as the KOR Gallery and art studio. This studio was created by another mother who wanted to see the greatest opportunities possible for her very talented son and other young artists in the Waterloo region. KOR Gallery has been supported by the federal government and has received half a million dollars throughout its years.

In the spring of this year the Prime Minister's task force on youth entrepreneurship spent a day in my community meeting with young entrepreneurs and visiting their businesses. The task force heard that our youth need support to gain access to funding and resources. We are responding to those requests.

Our goal is to give today's young generation of Canadians, no matter where they live, the tools and the opportunities for personal success in the knowledge economy. We will provide them with career information and access to work experience and learning. We will hire them to work on Internet projects. We will offer them the opportunity to apply their talents overseas through youth international internship programs.

The government is committed to enhancing the skills and opportunities of young Canadians. We will do this through partnerships with local organizations and the provincial and territorial governments.

For example, this past summer Kitchener was the proud host of the skills Canada competition. The event, in connection with two other competitions, received $800,000 from the youth employment strategy fund.

Skills Canada is an important project because it gives our youth the opportunity to compete with young people from around the world. The competition tested participants in over 40 trade, technological and other skill areas. I can think of no better way to encourage tomorrow's leaders. Our children and our families deserve a high standard of living. This will require, as never before, an adaptable, resilient population that is ready to learn throughout life.

It is clear that the foundation for such capacities is laid in the very early years of life. I firmly believe that the strength of our society will depend on the investments we make today as a nation in families and in children.

The government has committed to making a third significant investment in the national child benefit by the year 2002. We will put more dollars in the hands of families with children through further tax relief. We will lengthen and make more flexible employment insurance benefits for parental leave.

Now that the deficit is gone and the debt is in a permanent downward direction, we as a government have the opportunity to invest in the quality of life of Canadians. Canadians have said that health care, children, education and tax cuts are their priorities. We have been responding to these areas in the past years and we will continue to be committed to these issues.

This nation has a high quality of life. It is a nation of which we should be proud. It is a nation that others envy. Our Prime Minister has provided us with a strong direction and an unwavering commitment for unity.

The new millennium will be wonderful for all Canadians.

The new millennium will be a bright one for all Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, with all the fluff that flies around here it is a wonder we do not break out with allergies. I wonder if the member has ever visited the reserves across our country, as I have for the last two years, to see the quality of life. The government continually talks about how wonderful we are in this land.

I wonder if the member of parliament has ever walked the streets of Toronto, Vancouver or other major cities and visited with the people who are on the streets, who are homeless, who are experiencing this wonderful quality of life we keep hearing about from this minister.

I wonder if the member and the government recognize the extreme value of Mike Harris, Ralph Klein and other premiers, and how much they have contributed and sacrificed in order to make things happen in their provinces, with no thanks to this government. In spite of the government, they have managed to achieve many things.

I wonder if the member is aware that only this morning it was declared that there has been a 66% increase in poverty in one year. One out of every six children is going to school hungry. One year ago it was not that bad.

I wonder if the member is proud of a government that spends money to hang dead rabbits in a museum or to form a committee to study whether we should have a national insect.

The government is doing all this funny fuzzy spending while we get these kinds of reports. What kind of a record is that? What are the member and the government going to do about these things that are real and actual, that are happening on our reserves and on the streets of our country?

We talk about the quality of life while we hang dead rabbits in museums and search for a national insect. When is the government going to wake up, and what is the member going to do about it?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the temporary promotion to minister.

I had the pleasure this past summer of going to the Arctic region and the Northwest Territories of this land and was very proud to see the process in place for self-government. As recently as last April we saw the creation of Nunavut. I will tell the member that the government is working very hard with our aboriginal people, who do not speak with one voice, to come up with self-government and empower them to use their voices to create what the next century will look like for them.

I also point out for the member opposite, if he would like to look at the Speech from the Throne, that there is reference made to the social union. One of the things that the social union does is allow all levels of government, with the leadership of the federal government, to stop pointing fingers at each other and to engage in solutions of the kind the Minister of Labour has heard in communities as she crossed Canada looking at the homelessness issue and looking at a variety of ways that all governments can work together to solve this problem. It is a national concern of the government, but not one that merely demands having money thrown at it.

The social union structure allows Canadians to hold all levels of government accountable. The one thing the government will not do is risk financial gains by having a balanced financial picture and dressing down the deficit. We will not run deficits to give tax cuts, which is happening in Ontario.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today in the House of Commons as a member of the government to address the Speech from the Throne, a speech which I can proudly say has been heralded as a return to traditional Liberalism.

I would like to thank our new governor general for her eloquent delivery of the Speech from the Throne and I congratulate her on her appointment.

In the Speech from the Throne the government has set out its vision for the next century by providing a comprehensive strategy to build a higher quality of life for all Canadians. The most striking thing about the speech is that the government has acknowledged that in order to successfully implement its strategy it requires consensus.

The Government of Canada cannot undertake this strategy alone. It can only do so in partnership and in collaboration, by working together with other governments, the provinces and the territories, the private sector, the volunteer sector and individuals. In fact, there is not a page in the Speech from the Throne which does not note the importance of working together or use the words “collaboration” or “partnership”. At the very beginning of the Speech from the Throne it is stated unequivocally as follows:

The best way to achieve the promise of Canada for every citizen is to work together to build the highest quality of life for all Canadians.

The issue that I would like to address today is the renewed commitment by the government to invest in Canada's arts and cultural sectors, for in doing so we are also investing in our national identity which ensures our sovereignty and serves as a method of nation building and of promoting a multicultural society.

As a passionate advocate of Canada's arts and culture and as the member of parliament for a constituency which is home to many of Canada's artists, including writers, singers, actors, performers, filmmakers and producers, I had started to hear concerns that investments in Canada's culture had become stagnant, that other interests and interest groups had overshadowed the importance of a continued investment in the arts.

I was actually confronted with concerns that the last two budgets had not addressed any new programs or incentives for our arts and cultural sectors, save and except those programs which had been envisaged in red book II, the Liberal election platform. While those programs and funding proposals had indeed been implemented, the fact still remained that these were not new commitments. Where was the vision for this sector that would lead Canada into the next century and ensure our cultural sovereignty and our national identity?

The concerns voiced by the arts community have been addressed and I applaud the government on its vision and leadership in continuing to promote our Canadian arts and cultural sectors.

The following are the themes that I trust will reassure and enhance our arts and cultural communities.

The government is now committed to ensuring that younger Canadians, from age 13, are given an opportunity to apply their creative abilities by providing them with a chance to produce their first works using traditional approaches and new technologies in the arts, cultural, digital and other industries.

This commitment acknowledges the importance of arts in making children creative and preparing them for a knowledge based economy. There is substantial empirical evidence to show that children who are exposed to the arts, especially music, at a very early age score much higher on the math and science components of the SAT examinations than those who are not exposed.

In November 1997 an article appeared on the front page of the arts section of the Globe and Mail which confirmed this evidence and concluded that arts, not computers, make kids creative. The article stated:

Arts education is not only cheaper, it may be essential training for a more creative flexible world. Arts, not IBM, makes kids smarter.

The article also went on to say that arts education by focusing on the creative process prepares our youth for the highly skilled jobs that our country requires and will require in the future.

Under international trade investment the Speech from the Throne noted that the government would increase its trade promotion in strategic sectors. It specifically noted that one of these sectors was the cultural sector. This statement gives new meaning and life to the maxim that culture is a third pillar of our foreign policy.

The government also committed to use the upcoming WTO negotiations to build a more transparent rules based trading system which not only provides for better access in world markets for Canadian companies in all sectors but also respects the needs of Canadians, especially culture as is noted.

On the section of infrastructure the Government of Canada has committed to building a cultural infrastructure. It is committed to bringing Canadian culture into the digital age, linking 1,100 institutions across the country to form a virtual museum of Canada. It will put collections from the National Archives, the National Library and other key institutions on line.

Specifically the speech also notes and vows to increase support for the production of Canadian stories and images in print, theatre, film, music and video, and the government has committed to increase support for the use of new media.

In dealing with physical infrastructure the government has agreed that it will work with other levels of government and the private sector to reach agreement on a five year plan for improving physical infrastructure in urban and rural communities across the country.

One of the areas of focus specifically noted for physical infrastucture was culture. I was delighted to see the cultural sector as a specifically designated area in which to improve our physical infrastructure. I say so because as a member of parliament from the city of Toronto we are looking at wonderful infrastructure projects. In the city of Toronto plans are under way to build a new state of the art opera house.

In Winnipeg the Manitoba Theatre Centre, at 41 years of age and Canada's oldest English speaking regional theatre, is in desperate need of repair. This need has also launched a private sector campaign to refurbish its two buildings.

This theme brings new hope to a request by the cultural community to restore funding for the arts in general and infrastructure matters in particular. More important, this commitment to improve physical infrastructure for culture appears to be a direct response to recommendations 32 and 33 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage report entitled “A Sense of Place, A Sense of Being: The Evolving Role of the Federal Government in Support of Culture in Canada”, which was tabled in the House of Commons in June.

These recommendations call upon the Government of Canada to re-establish a capital fund and a long term financial strategy to deal with Canada's deteriorating cultural facilities. I applaud the government for its quick response to the committee's report.

In the section of the Speech from the Throne entitled “Canada's Place in the World”, the government stated that it would act like like-minded countries to reform and strengthen international institutions such as the World Trade Organization. It also specifically noted that it would work to develop a new approach internationally to support the diversity of cultural expression in countries around the world.

This commitment is a direct endorsement of the report of the cultural industries sectoral advisory group dated February 1999 wherein it was recommended that the government champion a new cultural trade covenant, a new international instrument that would lay out the ground rules for cultural policy.

In addition, this commitment to a new approach internationally to support the diversity of cultural expression also is a direct response to recommendation 29 of the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled “Canada and the Future of the World Trade Organization: Advancing a Millennium Agenda in the Public Interest”, tabled in the House of Commons in June.

Recommendation 29 specifically calls upon the government to pursue the policy alternative contained in the cultural SAGIT report for a new international instrument on cultural diversity. Again I applaud the government for its quick response to the report and for the commitment to implement this recommendation.

In conclusion, I am proud to be a member of a government that not only has a vision but has strategies for all Canadians as we enter into the 21st century. The Speech from the Throne provides us with a blueprint to build the 21st century but, as the speech unequivocally states, we will build the 21st century together. All Canadians, every citizen, every government, every business and every community organization, have a part to play.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of time for the hon. member and I appreciate her commitment to the arts. It is very heart warming.

However I would like to know what the member thinks about what the federal government actually does with its so-called investments, that is to say wasteful spending in arts and culture. What does the hon. member think of the quarter of a million dollar investment of the minister of heritage in Bubbles Galore ?

Does she think the federal government's cultural agenda should include producing pornographic films? What does she think about Hanging the Dead Rabbits ? Does she think that is an important investment in the cultural future of Canada in the 21st century? Does she think that is necessary to defend our cultural sovereignty?

A few years ago, in part through a federal grant, the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibited something called Piss Pope, a picture of the Holy Father submerged in a jar of the artist's urine. That was another expenditure by the federal government of our tax dollars.

We could go on and on and on about the kind of absurd, disgusting, wasteful excuse for art which the government finances. How does the hon. member apologize for that?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the opposition member has reported some instances of what he calls wasteful expenditure. I must say that I see any kind of expenditure in our art and cultural industries as an investment. It is an investment in our national identity. It is an investment in our cultural sovereignty. It is an investment in who we are and what we are.

Everyone does not have the same taste but culture and art is a wide-ranging sector. It gives us a sense of place and a sense of being, as the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage so eloquently put it. I recommend to my hon. colleague that he actually take a look at that report and at the recommendations made by that committee.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there must be many Canadians who voted for the Liberal Party that are feeling pretty embarrassed right now that the member would stand to defend the disgusting display of art or excuse for art that was just talked about by my colleague from Calgary.

The Liberal member stood to defend spending on that trash that she refers to as art and a good investment. She owes Canadians a huge apology for her confirmation that taxpayers dollars were spent on that kind of disgusting culture and art, as she referred to it. She probably owes an apology to some of her colleagues that were not very pleased with her response to the member from Calgary.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support the government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage on continuing investment in the arts and cultural industries in our country. They are not only a vital part of our economic growth but, as I have said time and time again, they are an investment in who we are, what we are, our identity and our cultural sovereignty.

Let us never forget that arts and culture sovereignty is inextricably involved with our economic sovereignty. I am proud to be a member of the government and to support its commitment to arts and culture.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the throne speech today and to be back with colleagues on this side of the House.

In response to the hon. member who just spoke, it is contrary to what most Canadians believe when she suggests that they should have their tax money forcibly taken from them and given to projects which are completely contrary to their values, the things they believe in.

Some people have very strong religious beliefs, for instance. It is completely wrong and I believe most Canadians think it is completely wrong when their tax dollars are forcibly taken to devote to things those people would consider to be blasphemous. That is exactly what the Liberal government does, and I cannot believe it sits there and defends it.

At the beginning of a year most people sit down to make some new year resolutions. One point that is always universal about people is that they are always trying to improve their own situation. They are trying to improve the situation of their families. When they have the resources to do that, that is exactly what they do.

As the government moves into not only a new year but a new decade, a new century, and a new millennium, I would think it would want to do that too. It should want to make a special effort to set about reforming how it does things. I would argue, and I think most Canadians would agree with me when I say it, there are many areas where the government is simply not doing a good job.

It is not doing a good job in providing national defence. It is not doing a good job in our justice system. There is lots of room for improvement in the delivery of health care and social services. It is not doing a good job in ensuring that government is accountable. I would have thought the throne speech would be full of fundamental reforms to address those kinds of issues. However it was not. It was a lot of tinkering, and that certainly characterizes this administration.

I want to talk specifically about an area I am responsible for critiquing as the official opposition finance critic, the pathetic attempt the government made to convince people it really cared about the staggering tax burden. There was barely mention in the throne speech of why we need dramatic tax relief in Canada today.

When we wipe away all the rhetoric in the 24 page throne speech, what are we left with? We are left with an announcement that the government will make an announcement about tax relief at some point in the future. We are also left with a whole slew of tax increases which are coming our way very soon.

On January 1 we will see a payroll tax hike because Canada pension plan taxes are going up once again. We will see personal income taxes going up because of bracket creep. Some 85,000 people will be dragged on the tax rolls for the first time and hundreds of thousands of others will be pushed up into new tax brackets. We will see small business face a tax increase because their small business exemption will be eroded by inflation. They will pay more in taxes. It will be the same for the small business capital gains exemption and for farmers and their capital gains exemption. That will mean a tax increase for all those people. That is the reality.

All this talk that we hear on the other side about how much the government cares about taxes really does not amount to a whole lot when we look at what it will actually do. It will raise taxes.

The government talks about its plan to cut taxes. We will hear about that in the next few days. It is to reduce taxes by $16.5 billion, but it does not say at the same time that it is raising taxes by over $18 billion. The net result is that Canadians who now face the highest taxes in Canadian history will face even higher taxes thanks to the finance minister and the Liberal government. That is wrong. It is wrong for a couple of reasons.

First and probably most important, it is wrong because it hurts people. If the government really were compassionate and wanted to be fair and provide people with options and opportunities, it would have devoted the first 12 pages of the throne speech to explaining how it would deliver tax relief to help hard-pressed Canadians. It is unbelievable that we stagger under this tremendous tax burden today where families who earn less than $20,000 a year are paying $6 billion a year in taxes.

My friend from Crowfoot told me not long ago about a woman and in fact I saw her income tax return. She made $11,000 and paid $600 in federal income tax. That is shameful and that party claims to be compassionate. We have raised many examples in this place of people who make extraordinarily low incomes and pay extraordinarily high taxes.

I could go through some examples but I want to talk for a moment about an example presented to me yesterday by my friend from North Vancouver. He gave me a letter from a woman whose husband makes $65,000 a year, which is a pretty good salary in most people's minds. However, they have the misfortune of living in socialist British Columbia and on top of the high tax burden the Liberal government imposes upon them, they have an effective tax rate of 52%. Even at that, they had to pay $800 extra in taxes over and above the 52% of their paycheque they have to give to government every year.

The result is the family has to take one car off the road. They cannot live in Vancouver with the high cost of living and pay all the taxes this government and the British Columbia government demand. Believe it or not, because of the jeopardy the man's job is in, they are talking about resorting to welfare. They simply cannot put aside enough money to help them get through what will be a layoff period for this man. It is very disturbing when a person makes $65,000 and he can barely make it because of the tax burden imposed by the government.

I happened to be looking through some documents which were confidential until we received them through access to information a little while ago. Even the minister's own briefing notes acknowledge that Canada has by far the highest tax burden in the entire G-7. Out of all of our trading partners, out of all of the most prosperous nations in the world, we have by far the highest personal income taxes.

I always find it amazing that in Canada today people pay more in taxes than they spend on food, shelter and clothing combined. When we add all of that up, it does not leave much left over. When all those taxes are paid and money is spent on the bare necessities of life, there is very little left over. That is why we are in a position in Canada today where we have seen disposable incomes mired at 1980 levels. For 20 years we have had our disposable incomes mired at that 1980 level.

What did the government do about it in the throne speech? It devoted one line to the issue. There was much airy talk in the throne speech about Internet programs and acting as a big travel agency for young people and sending them around. That is really nice but it is not a luxury we can afford today, not when Canadians are staggering under that level of taxation. It is ridiculous. If the government were really fair, it would acknowledge that it was Canadians who balanced that budget for it.

Does the House realize that the average family today is paying taxes 30% higher than it was six years ago? That is $4,300, a staggering number. It is not the finance minister nor the government that balanced the budget; it was balanced on the backs of taxpayers. Fairness decrees that they should now get some tax relief.

The Reform Party has been arguing since it came into being 12 years ago that we need to give Canadians a tax break. We want to see that happen.

I want to speak just a little bit about the situation on the farm today. I come from a farm riding. I want to talk about how taxes hurt farmers. Do hon. members realize that taxes are embedded in just about every input they can think of? Fuel taxes take up about 50% of the price of fuel. On fertilizer and chemicals and machinery, taxes take up 15%, 20% to 30% of the price of those things. If we could lower taxes we could help people in a direct way on the farm, but we do not see that coming from this government.

In conclusion, I simply want to say that the fairest way to treat Canadians as we go into the next millennium is to lower their tax burden. They will take those resources and use them to help their families and to help children, which is something that the government claims it is concerned about. Canadians will use those resources to help their friends and their neighbours and to strengthen their own situation. Ultimately, I think most Canadians would agree that a dollar left in the hands of the taxpayer will be a lot better utilized than a dollar left in the hands of a politician or a bureaucrat.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the Reform Party finance critic, for his excellent presentation in debate today.

I would like him to centre in on one thing which I think is of a huge concern to Canadian families. That is the shrinking disposable income in the household money they are able to spend and how it has decreased since this Liberal government came to power in 1993. Also, perhaps the member could explain to us what that extra tax means in the lives of Canadian families.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address that question from my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

The fact is that Canadians have seen their disposable income stuck at 1980 levels. For the things the government claims it cares about most, for instance children, it means that children are put in a terrible position.

Not long ago I received a letter which had been passed on to me by the member for Cariboo—Chilcotin. In that letter a young woman explained that because of the EI rate of this government and the fact that people were not getting those employment insurance premiums back, she could not afford to put her young son into hockey. That is the sort of thing that happens on a day to day basis across the country.

It was not very long ago when the leader of the Reform Party brought a family from New Brunswick to Ottawa and explained what the Reform plan of reducing taxes would do for that family. About $3,000 would go back to that family. We actually gave them that money. What did they use it on? They used it on things like dental care. They used it for things like glasses. They used it to go on a family vacation, something they had not been able to do for several years. They also used it to pay back an RRSP that they had to cash in to pay their tax bill.

That is the situation many families in Canada are in today. I was ashamed of the government for not recognizing that towering fact which everybody else in Canada seems to know about but which this government always ignores.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has become quite clear that the Liberal Party, the Government of Canada, is using a new code word for its favourite thing to do which is spending, and that word is investment. I do not know how many times we have heard it throughout the throne speech. The intervention of the member for Parkdale—High Park, who is so proud of returning to liberalism, defends the outrageous spending habits of the government.

I would like my hon. colleague's comments on this word investment. Could he tell us what that really means in terms of government spending?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. At a time when we are trying to devote resources to the highest priorities, we are in a situation where the government is taking not a few million dollars but literally billions of dollars in all kinds of departments to devote it to what is stupid spending. It tries to cover it up by calling it investment.

Frankly, it is obscene what it does with some of the money but a lot of it is just serious waste. That money could be used for things that the government claims it cares about. What is a higher priority, spending money on pornographic films or providing hospital beds? Or should it be used to provide tax relief for Canadian families who are struggling? Should we be giving grants to big business or should we be using that money to ensure that children in Canada have a proper education?

Those are the sorts of things that are priorities, not grants to special interest groups, big business and ridiculous campaigns to impose certain cultural values on other Canadians using their tax money.

It is time the government came clean and simply explained to people that really its intention is not to use that money wisely but to spend it frivolously in too many cases.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise on debate on Her Excellency's Speech from the Throne.

As the member for Parkdale—High Park said in her articulate defence of anti-Catholic government funded pornographic art, this budget was filled with all kinds of marvellous Liberal-style investments. It was a return to old fashioned liberalism, namely the arrogance of a tax and spend philosophy which believes that politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa know better how to spend a scarce dollar than do a homemaker, a small business person, an entrepreneur or a taxpayer. That is the philosophy of the Speech from the Throne which we heard earlier this week.

The government devoted a couple of words in the speech to some token talk about tax relief, but it also said that the government has already cut taxes. We know we cannot believe the completely specious commitment to tax relief from the government given the fact that it has not yet delivered any tax relief. In fact what it has delivered are tax increases. It is tax grief for Canada, not tax relief.

If the government has lowered taxes, then why is it bringing $40 billion more into the federal treasury than it was six years ago? Why is it that federal taxes are up $4,200 or 30% for an average family since 1993? Why is it that federal revenues as a percentage of our gross domestic product, the most objective measurement, are at their highest level ever at over 18%?

Why is it that we continue to see, according to the major economic firm Wood Gundy that “the net impact of the last five Liberal budgets has been to raise Canada's tax bill some $6 billion in 1999-2000 above what would have been paid under the 1993 tax regime”? Wood Gundy also said “from a tax competitiveness standpoint, Canada ranks dead last in the G-7. While virtually every other G-7 economy lowered its personal income tax burden over the last 15 years, Canada's rose sharply, both as a percentage of GDP and of household income”.

But we do not have to quote the experts or look at the stats that the government ignores because we do not have to make this case to Canadians. They know when they get their paycheques. They know when they look at their pay stubs that they are going home with less than they did in 1993 when this government came into power with a pledge never to raise taxes.

I remember the Prime Minister saying when he was asked if he would raise taxes, “Well, I can't rule it out, there might be a war or something”. Well there has been a war. It has been a war on Canadian taxpayers and they are paying more than they ever have before.

The huge and growing tax burden has had a tremendous impact on Canadians. Just in the last couple of days while we have been debating the throne speech our dollar has gone down again by another half cent. That is the ultimate measurement by the international markets of the value of our economy, of our currency and it ultimately reflects the fiscal policy of the government. It is a reflection of the impoverishment of Canadians, Canadians who are coming home today with about $900 less after tax than they did in 1989, Canadians who are working harder but coming home with less while the average American taxpayer is coming home with an average after tax disposable raise of $2,000 over the same period of time. Americans are getting richer while Canadians are getting poorer.

The Liberal government loves to bash the United States. The United States has its fair share of problems, but I do not think we should take pride in becoming poorer as they become richer. I do not think we should take pride in what the Minister of Industry said last February, that had Canadian productivity, competitiveness and growth kept pace with that of the United States over the past two decades the average family in Canada would be $28,000 a year better off. That is apparently the moral high ground that the government takes in its posturing and its bashing of an economy which is growing much faster than our own.

We do not have to debate the statistics; we have to look at real people's lives to see the impact this is having. I spent all four weeks of September in nine of the ten provinces and in nearly 30 communities speaking to business people, entrepreneurs, chambers of commerce and small business folks. I was on university campuses and in high schools. Again and again in every region of the country I heard that we have a huge and growing drain of talent and entrepreneurialism out of this country, not just to the United States but to other more competitive, faster growing and lower tax jurisdictions.

This summer the Conference Board of Canada released a major study wherein it indicated that the number of Canadians who are going to the United States increased from 17,000 in 1986 to over 98,000 in 1997. The government denies it. The Liberals put their heads in the sand and say the problem does not exist.

Why then is it that nearly 70% of our computer science graduates are now leaving this country? These people will be creating untold future wealth and economic opportunity, and contributing to a tax base to finance health care, education and pensions. We want these people here, contributing to our tax base so that we can afford to pay down the debt, to grow the economy, to pay for health care and to pay for a civil society. We are literally eating away at the productive capacity of our economy.

I was on a university campus this summer where 120 of the 130 kids who graduated from computer science last year took placements outside Canada because they could not find economic opportunities here. The capital was not here to invest and create new cutting edge, information technology businesses and economic opportunities for those kids.

But this is not just a question of stats and dollars and taxes; it is a question of lives. Every one of those kids who has left the country represents the hopes and dreams of Canadian families who believed that if they worked hard, played by the rules, paid their taxes and invested in their children's education they would see their children and grandchildren raised happily and in prosperity in Canada. What do we have instead? We have thousands and thousands of broken dreams because of the broken economy delivered by this government's high tax, high regulatory, high debt, high spending policies.

We in the official opposition have a proposal to cut the tax burden overall by 25% through a whole suite of broad based tax cuts that would lift over one million low income people off the tax rolls, people who ought not to be paying taxes in the first place, single moms with minimum wages, and low income, fixed income seniors who are paying taxes today but were not six years ago because of the government's heartless and insidious bracket creep tax on the poor which forces low income people onto the tax rolls. That is our top priority. We want to relieve those people entirely of their tax obligations, which finance government investments like Bubbles Galore .

Reformers also believe it is critically important that we generate new investment and capital formation to create opportunities for those young people who are leaving today, as well as to cut the insidious tax on wealth creation called the capital gains tax. Canada has an effective capital gains tax rate of nearly 40%, while in the United States the effective rate has been lowered to 18% and Congress has just passed a law that would take it to 11%, fully indexed.

The United States is not going to stop there. The chairman of the federal reserve, the leading economic authority in the world today, has called on Congress twice publicly to eliminate the American capital gains taxes, as has been done in Ireland, Hong Kong and so many other jurisdictions. How can we believe that we can retain capital in this country to create wealth, jobs and quality of living as long as we have this enormous and growing differential?

Yesterday the finance minister made a specious claim. He said that the Reform Party would have to cut spending, and he picked some absurd number out of the air like $50 billion or some such fictitious nonsense, in order to finance our $25 billion in total tax cuts. The finance minister knows perfectly well that if he did not increase spending, as he plans to do, we would see surpluses of about $25 billion a year within five years.

That is not all. Every jurisdiction in the world that has cut tax rates has seen revenues grow. Ireland has cut its corporate tax rates from 40%, the highest in Europe, to 10%, the lowest, and it has seen an explosion in revenues and economic growth. It is the fastest growing economy in Europe.

The United States cut its taxes in 1962 and in 1982, its high marginal rates and capital gains rates. In both instances it saw an explosion in revenues from those sources.

Right here at home, of course, Mike Harris and his common sense revolution cut income taxes by 30% and saw a massive growth in revenues from the income tax.

The moral of the story is that tax cuts are necessary to grow the economy.

The government says we have to wait for growth before we can cut taxes. We will never get to that kind of real growth if we wait to cut taxes. It is time that we got our priorities right. It is time that we let those young people who are leaving stay here to build a brighter future so that their parents can see their dreams realized here at home in Canada.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the hon. member and the hon. member who spoke before him on their fine presentations. What they were stating is intrinsically true. Those regimes which have low taxes have high growth and the chance to create growth and wealth.

From 1992 to 1997 taxes have increased 15% as a percentage of income for Canadian families, to the extent that they now spend more money on personal income taxes than they do on food, clothing or household operations. Given that fact, if the government really wants to develop a children's agenda and it wants to invest in and enhance institutions that invest in the betterment of children, why does it not invest in the institution that has proven to be successful for children, that being the Canadian family? If the government really wants to enhance the welfare of children in the country, why does it not provide the tax relief to Canadian families that they so earnestly deserve?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. I can only assume that the answer is that the members of the Liberal government honestly believe, and I grant them that they believe this sincerely in their little red Liberal hearts, that they and their bureaucrats here in Ottawa know better how to spend an extra buck than a taxpayer in Fundy—Royal or Calgary Southeast. That is fundamentally what drives the philosophy of this throne speech and this government. It is a philosophy which has been abandoned by virtually every other government of the developed world.

Let us take again the case of Ireland. It had a subsidy drenched subsistence economy with the highest taxes in Europe, whose only major export was its young people. They could have kind of moped along and said “Oh, well, we politicians and bureaucrats are going to keep on subsidizing, raising taxes and intervening in the economy”, but they had the courage to do something different. They took a risk. They went out and cut corporate taxes from 40% to 10%. They cut income taxes. They cut their capital gains taxes. What they saw was a massive explosion in that economy, so that now 20% of the direct investment in Europe is going to a country with only 1% of Europe's population. They became the second largest software exporter in the world. Ireland's population is now growing for the first time in 150 years.

I cannot hesitate to remind my colleague from Fundy—Royal that, unfortunately, it was his party's government which oversaw the largest decrease in after tax disposable income in modern Canadian economic history because of its 72 tax increases, but I will not mention that.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the member opposite has raised the issue of the Tory tax increases that we all had to suffer through in the 1980s. However, there was a group of Canadians who enjoyed some tax reductions. Those are some of the wealthiest Canadians in this country.

As someone who lives in the province of Ontario, I hear all this talk about the united alternative, uniting options on the right and tax cutters for the rich. The only thing they are interested in doing is cutting taxes for the rich. They do not care about the health and the well-being of families in this country. They do not care about the struggles of the lower income classes. It is a farce when they talk about cutting taxes. What they are really talking about is making more money available for their rich friends, whether their rich friends are in Calgary or in Fundy—Royal.

I ask the member opposite if indeed he was willing to join in the hands of friendship and ideology with members of the Conservative Party as it slashed the taxes of the rich and made the poor continue to pay?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, this coming from a member whose government takes $6 billion a year from people earning under $20,000 a year. It is a government that takes $12 billion a year from people earning under $30,000 a year. It is a government that has put 900,000 low income people on the tax rolls through its back door tax increase called bracket creep. It is a government that gives billions of dollars of subsidies away to its big business friends like Bombardier.

When I hear the millionaires who populate the front bench of the government talk about concern for the poor, whom they put on the tax rolls and from whom they extract billions of dollars, it is a little bit disingenuous. The reality is that the top 1% of income earners in Canada pay over 20% of federal taxes. They are paying their share. Maybe it is time the millionaires on the front bench of the government paid their share.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the Ciceronian orator from Mississauga West.

I am privileged and pleased to stand in my place to speak on behalf of all constituents of the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to make a reply to that carefully crafted, compassionate, caring 1999 throne speech.

Last night I had the privilege of having the Minister of Finance appear at a function in my riding. I might add that he braved rather stormy weather to make it up to the Petawawa Civic Centre. When he spoke, and he spoke very eloquently, he thanked the many people of the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, in the upper Ottawa valley, for everything they have done in the last 150 years to make Canada the greatest country in the world in which to live.

I looked around the room to see some of the people who were participating in this rather auspicious event. There were 10 other members of parliament who attended. Some of them are here in the House as we speak. As a matter of fact, some of them were from the opposition. I must say, unequivocally, that I agreed with the Minister of Finance that he had definitely hit the nail on the head. What the throne speech effectively did was tell the Canadian people that the government has done a great job. We hope that it continues to do so as we continue to build the country to greatness.

I looked around the room and at a table was my 83 year old father, Hector Sr., who has a grade four education. I know the hon. member for Calgary Southeast wanted to talk about people with money. I will be the first to admit that my father has money. I have nothing. I do not even have hair. At the age of 83 he has more hair than I. My father worked very hard for everything he has accomplished in life. At one time he had two lumber camps on the go with 125 men in each camp. He paid his dues. He is a good French Canadian Catholic married to an Irish lassie. They had 10 children and, I might add, my mother said I was the best of the 10. I grew up to be the worst which I guess pointed clearly to a career in politics.

At that same table sat the two aunts of our current finance minister. I will not divulge their ages but my father apparently took one of the finance minister's aunts out on a date many years ago. What is interesting to note is that our finance minister's father, the late Paul Martin Sr., was born and raised in Pembroke. He went to school and launched his political career in Pembroke.

The hon. members opposite can talk about being American wannabes, but what do the Americans cherish most about Canada? They cherish our valued health care system, our medicare. Paul Martin Sr. was the genesis who promoted medicare back in the 1950s and 1960s. We would not have that valued program were it not for people like Paul Martin Sr. When they are talking about balancing the books and reducing taxes, in many instances the members of the loyal opposition are talking about a frontal attack on medicare. Let us keep things in perspective.

Sitting at that same table was a man by the name of Roy Geisebreck, whom the finance minister will remember playing hockey with back in the 1950s and 1960s in Pembroke and Petawawa. The Geisebreck family is not only famous for their hockey playing talents. The member opposite spoke rather eloquently about small and medium sized businesses. The Geisebreck family has been one of the business mainstays in my riding for well over 70 years. There were seven brothers involved in the business started by their late dad, Charlie. Now Roy Geisebreck, who is 82, is the patriarch of that remarkable family.

It is people like Roy Geisebreck and his family who have really built this county through hard work and determination. They did not skate around the issue like some of the hon. members from the Reform Party and some of the opposition. I might add that Roy Geisebreck's son, Don Geisebreck, and I are partners in a few racehorses. It saddens me to say that some of those famous Geisebreck brothers can actually skate faster than my horses can run.

John Yakabuski was there from Barry's Bay. His father was a member of the provincial government for over 23 years, the provincial government that Premier Mike Harris currently leads. John has seen the light. He has seen that I am going to support the Liberal Party. He was there last night supporting a well known Liberal in my constituency. His father was a former member of the Conservative Party. I believe that if Paul Yakabuski was alive today he would turn over in his grave for the way the provincial Conservative government has treated the quality of life for the people in the province of Ontario.

The hon. member opposite talks about tax cuts. They made tax cuts, no question about it, but with borrowed money. One should not make tax cuts with borrowed money. As a result of making those tax cuts with borrowed money, they had to do some closures.

In my riding they closed the Civic Hospital in Pembroke, Ontario. They tried to close a senior citizen's complex in Cobden, Ontario but there was a real brouhaha. We fought back, as only we can do in the upper Ottawa valley, and it did not close.

John Yakabuski, as we speak, is on council in Barry's Bay. He has also taken over his dad's hardware business and is doing a remarkable job. Again, I say to the member opposite, he is one of these people with a small and medium-sized business who is certainly promoting not only the quality of life for Canadians but also the Canadian culture. He was absolutely delighted last night with the throne speech that was brought down by Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson.

Mr. Speaker, you are well aware of Renfrew, Ontario. I believe that you have a cottage up in Renfrew where on occasion you go canoeing and swim. You would know Mac Wilson from Renfrew. Mac Wilson was at this very auspicious event last night. Mac Wilson suffered some health problems about six or seven months ago. He was hospitalized in Ottawa because we have great medicare and he took advantage of the medicare system. Mac was on his back. What did he do? Did he give up? No, he fought back. He picked himself up and went back to work in Renfrew. He is the industrial commissioner but not only that, as you well know, Mr. Speaker by knowing Mr. Wilson personally, he is one of the great entrepreneurial spirits in Renfrew, Ontario.

We had big Len Shean there last night. He is the mayor of Arnprior. Len got up and asked the finance minister what we were going to do about the four-laning of Highway 17. I completely agree with Mr. Shean, the big mayor. He said we should have more funding set aside for the four-laning of Highway 17. The finance minister clearly indicated to him that we were looking favourably at it but that basically it was at the disposal of the provincial Conservative government. However, we will arm-twist and I am sure that we will get the job done.

We had Tommy Donohue there from the farming community of Douglas. He is another person that you know, Mr. Speaker. Stay in your own riding, Mr. Speaker, and do not run in mine because I would like to be here again and again and hear many more throne speeches to make sure that we take the lead in providing what the country needs.

One singular characteristic that is endemic to all of these people I have spoken about, and not only to those people but to many people throughout Canada, is simply that they have taken personal responsibility for their lives. They do not want us, nor do we want as a government, to infringe upon their entrepreneurial spirit or their joie de vivre by saying that we are going to tell them what to do. These people take personal responsibility for their lives. They have the vision. They have the values of this party and, I am sure, of every colleague in the House.

I am absolutely delighted to speak on this the last throne speech for the 20th century and hopefully, if the voters from the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke see fit, I will be here for the first of many throne speeches delivered from this side of the House I might add, so that we will continue to charge on to greatness for this wonderful country called Canada.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in reply to my colleague on the throne speech.

Before I do that, I would just like to congratulate Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson on her appointment to the position of Governor General.

What my colleague from the other side said is quite interesting. I would just like to remind him that he is in a federal parliament not in a provincial legislature talking about provincial issues.

Let me ask the member this question. It was quoted today in the paper by the Minister of Industry that a stronger focus is needed on tax cuts. It states here that he is wise enough to put on the record that tax reform is an important issue. The government is not taking this issue as seriously as its own industry minister. I would like the hon. member to comment on that point.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we go again. When the Reform Party first got elected their mantra for years and years was that we have to reduce the deficit. There was really no talk about tax cuts. Its plan, fresh start, or no start, or behind start, or whatever it was, false start, kick start, clearly said to the Canadian public that we had to eradicate the deficit that was left behind by the Conservative government. I might add that probably 98% of those members—and I just saw a former Liberal, who is in the Reform Party, leave—were probably Conservative supporters before they joined this other party. They were responsible for a $43 billion annual deficit. We eradicated that deficit. We now have a surplus and are giving tax cuts. We have given $16.5 billion in tax cuts.

I do not know of what the member speaks. We are moving in a comprehensive manner. We will give further tax cuts. That is clearly in our red book agenda. I do not know where he is coming from. I might tell the hon. member opposite something which I said to the Civitan Club last week in Cobden, Ontario. One person got up and asked me if I liked paying taxes. I told him to get on the band wagon. I said that I do not like paying taxes but that they are a reality of life. If the hon. member opposite does not want to pay taxes he should move to some third world country where there are no taxes. However, my friend, there is also nothing else, no schools, no infrastructure, no security, no nothing. We will reduce and we have reduced taxes.

It is egregious, it is polemic, it is downright stupid for the Reform Party to stand and say “cut taxes” when we have already done that. All their mantra was to get rid of the deficit and we have done that. As a matter of fact, in the Reform Party's false start agenda it stated it would reach a no deficit in the exalted timeframe of the year 2000. Let me get this straight. I am not a mathematical genius, but we did it two years in advance and we will continue to do it. This is the first time there has been two balanced budgets since 1951-52. I hope that answers the hon. member.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member speak about his family's history. It was interesting. However, after four months of inactivity, I was expecting to hear something about the throne speech.

The purpose of a throne speech half way through a term of office is not the same as one at the beginning of a term of office. Right now, there are problems. The focus of the member's speech could have been very specific.

I would like the member to take a few moments to talk to us about the constitutional crisis, the fisheries crisis, the health and education crisis, the transportation crisis, the poverty crisis, the EI crisis and the millennium scholarship crisis.

After four months of inactivity, I think it is time to deal with serious issues and leave family history aside.