Mr. Speaker, as always, I will start my comments on the bill by telling the folks back home what it is all about.
Bill C-10 is an act to amend the Municipal Grants Act. It talks about administration. It talks about payments. It talks about taxes. It talks about common tax due dates. It talks about government leasing its properties to non-departmental third parties. It mentions the Canada Post Corporation and goes into the discretionary power of the federal government.
Let me make a few points about those subjects. We have a situation where we have three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, and this government is trying to establish a fourth level of government. This is despite the fact that the country is already overgoverned, despite the fact that we have a $600 billion national debt, and despite the fact that we have unfunded liabilities with the Canada pension plan that will max out in 2017.
Despite the fact that we have all these concerns—and the government certainly has a full plate if it were willing to deal with it—it is creating a fourth level of government by what it is doing with Nisga'a. That impinges because we have three levels of government and we are already having difficulties. It is troublesome at times to deal with those issues, especially for the taxpayer, because there is one taxpayer and there are three levels of government, and now we are to have four.
On top of that is the whole issue of taxation without representation. That is exactly what will happen with the fourth level of government that I mentioned. Not only will that happen in the new level of government, but it will learn from the previous ones. It will be picked up as precedent.
We have a situation where we have taxation without representation going on right now with municipal governments. I asked a question of one of my colleagues about the whole issue of municipalities across the country that are paying more employment insurance than they get back in return.
I am a taxpayer in Calgary. By contributing my money to municipal taxes in Calgary I am paying for municipal workers in the city of Calgary, and the overpayments this government is collecting in employment insurance, in the EI fund, is therefore going into federal coffers. The situation is the same for all those who pay municipal taxes
It is absolutely unfair that the federal taxman is robbing money out of municipal coffers across the country, especially when we consider the federal government has cut back its transfers to the provinces and therefore also cut back transfers to the municipalities dependent upon provincial funds. That is a shame.
This government continually says that it believes in some of the programs that it holds high as sacred cows in the country, but time after time it makes cuts to them. On top of that it raises taxes. I could talk about the CPP tax hike and the EI taxes.
On top of that as well municipal governments are forced to go ahead and overpay employment insurance for their employees. In the city of Vancouver alone the people of Vancouver are overcontributing over $2 million to the federal government. It is not as though the people of British Columbia and the people of Vancouver are not overtaxed as it is. On top of that $2 million of their money are being transferred to the federal government. That is an absolute shame.
The bill also includes appointments. I happen to be the Senate and patronage critic of the official opposition. Patronage all too often takes place in all aspects of government legislation. There are thousands of positions, and this bill is no different, that include patronage positions. People meet with the Prime Minister on a regular basis to go ahead and dole out the precious positions Liberals love to give to their friends. Part of what the bill is about is appointments and patronage.
In 1990 this government said it would change things. When the Prime Minister ran for election as leader of the Liberal Party he said that things would be different under his rule. We do not have that. The Liberals promised in the red book in 1993 and again in 1997 that patronage would change.
As a matter of fact, the government House leader helped to author the McGrath report in which he said that some of those positions would be vetted by parliamentary committees which have the ability to go into these matters and would love to be able to scrutinize people based on the merits they have to hold their positions. Instead, we continue to have this government push forward its agenda of patronage.
It gets worse. It goes into the whole idea of tax sharing and tax agreements. I have been in this place two years. The longer I am here, the more I believe the provinces should divest themselves of the tax sharing and tax agreements with the federal government because they are done wrong by them. I applaud the Government of Alberta for moving ahead. Within the next few years it will go ahead and separate the tax collection situation from Ottawa.
The federal government is collecting taxes and collecting taxes for the federal government. That is a result of the first and second world wars and the Great Depression when no other government had the ability to meet the needs of the country in those dire times.
Since that time the federal government has abused that privilege. It has gone ahead and is using the money for buying votes like it always does. It is cutting back on programs. It entered into arrangements with the provincial governments on things like health care, and I could name others, where it said it would fund 50% of the programs. Instead it has cut, hacked and slashed.
Every time it came to an election government members said “Trust us, we will increase the money”. When push came to shove, they cut and cut deeply, to the point where the provincial Government of Alberta now receives only 15% for every dollar, even though the federal government promised Ernest Manning and that province when they entered into the agreement on health care that they would receive 50%.
Government members have the gall to stand in this place to tell us that they will somehow shove their way down the throat of the Government of Alberta. The tail is wagging the dog. They are only funding 15% of the show and they said they were committed to 50%. They preach high morals about how they want to defend this and that, but they do not ante up with the cash. They continues to cut. Shame on them.
I also want to talk about the whole idea of government leases, third party leases, mentioned in the bill. That is when the government leases some of its properties to non-departmental third parties. I will pose a general question, and I hope the folks back home are listening.
If the federal government has more property than it needs to do its job, why should it be going ahead and renting out the property in competition with private sector renters? Taxpayers have been calling for money for certain programs. Why does the government not sell off the property, that taxpayer asset, and give the money back to taxpayer programs or give taxpayers a long awaited tax break?
If the federal government has assets or property it is not using and is renting out right now, it should get rid of it. It should be sold off and given back to the free market or given back to the people. There is no reason the federal government needs to continue to hang on to it.
Another aspect of the bill is that of the Canada Post Corporation. It touches on that. It is another example of a government institution that does not believe in competition and will not allow anybody else to give it a fair shake for the money.
T2P Overnight, a company in Calgary was willing to deliver anywhere within the T2P postal code in Calgary for significantly less money than what it costs for a first class stamp. The company delivered overnight, in one day. Can we imagine Canada Post Corporation promising the delivery of mail in one day and doing it for less money?
They did not allow that. They shut the company down and said it was competition for Canada Post. They could not handle it. As a result they closed it. A private sector entrepreneur who wanted to start up something offered a better level of service. It could have provided an incentive and an example for the government and for the Canada Post Corporation, but they would not even allow competition. They would not even think about it. As a result, an entrepreneur in the city of Calgary suffered for it, jobs were lost and the government won.
The bill talks about arm's length relationships. Those arms continue to grow and grow, not only in terms of the multiplicity and the number of arms on this government beast but the length of the government's arms. Everywhere we look the government wants to establish longer arm's length relationships, because ministers in the House do not want to have to stand and answer for their own departments.
They would rather be able to stand and say “I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that is not my department. It is not my department that is responsible for that. It is that arm's length body, that arm's length organization. I do not have anything to do with that. It is not directly involving me. It is now independent”. That is a joke. It is going on right now with Revenue Canada.
They wanted to go ahead and establish an arm's length relationship. More and more they want to distance themselves from the actual business of governing because they realizes they are not doing it well. They realize they are squandering taxpayer dollars, that they are not accountable, that they are overtaxing people and that they are doing it poorly. As a result they want to distance themselves from their poor record, from their shoddy record.
Setting themselves up in some sort of arm's length relationship is a code word for saying that ministers do not want to be accountable for abrogating the whole idea of parliamentary responsibility, the whole idea of the cabinet being accountable to the country, and the whole idea of the minister being responsible for the actions of all those employed beneath him. Those are just some of the problems with the bill.
I will talk about priorities for a second. There is a real lack of priorities around this place when we talk about bills like this one with all their inherent flaws, and I went through them.
This type of thing occupies our time when instead they could be talking about cutting taxes and coming forward with tax cuts. They could be talking about employment insurance reform. They could be talking about putting money back into health care. That does not happen. Instead they talk about arm's length relationships and cutting back on their accountability. Shame on them.