The few words I quoted earlier show only too well how, since 1993, the Liberals have continued to feed the public increasingly rosy promises in order to blind it to an ever darker future.
What the budget is really saying is that some of the cuts will be reversed over the next three years. We were promised $42 billion by 2003, and now it will only be $33 billion. So they are still cuts. Before they talk about giving presents, they should make sure the people getting the presents are not left with a debt at the start.
The result is that the provinces will have to face cuts of $33 billion under Liberal management between 1994 and 2003, as opposed to the $42 billion in cuts they promised.
However, true to itself, the government never gives without taking away. This time, it is taking advantage of the difficult situation it put the provinces in to impose a whole lot more meddling. The millennium scholarships are a case in point. They put their finger on the sore spot and talk about fixing it.
After bleeding the provinces of billions of dollars for health care, the Liberals now want to spend hundreds of millions, a total of $1.4 billion, on statistics and paperwork. There will be $400 million in administrative costs.
All this money is going to go into reports on waiting lists and on the assignment of doctors. What has the federal government to do with all this? The Canadian Institute for Health Information will be spending $95 million over three years, and it will have the new task of providing periodic reports on the health of Canadians, the health care system, including waiting lists, doctor and specialist assignments and the most effective courses of treatment.
A national health surveillance network will be created. It will monitor the outbreak of serious illnesses and will provide an electronic link among laboratories in Canada. This represents an investment of $75 million over three years. It will give Canadians access to information on health issues from nutrition to colds and from breast cancer to diabetes.
Here again, how is all this money—millions of dollars, $75 million over three years—going to help people waiting for hospital beds? We will know how many are waiting, but I do not know how many we will cure.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information is another institution that will receive funds to report periodically on the health of Canadians and their health system, specifically on waiting lists, and the doctors and specialist assignments.
There will also be $115 million over three years for telehealth and home telecare pilot projects. This will overlap what CLSCs are doing. More duplication.
We must not forget accountability measures, all for the purpose of providing Canadians with better information. This will cost another $43 million over three years, so that Canadians are better informed about the results of federal health programs, in accordance with the social union agreement.
There is also the research and evaluation fund for nursing staff. The fund will be used, it is said, to seek solutions to the challenges facing nursing staff. We know the challenges they are now facing. An amount of $25 million has been earmarked to help nursing staff provide quality health care, and find ways of recycling existing staff and attracting new recruits.
The prenatal nutrition program is another example of duplication.
This new initiative in health care is a scandal because of the duplication and the mountain of paper and statistics involved. That is not the way to improve health care in the provinces, and we will oppose it.
They are taking another approach to health care in rural communities. In order to attract doctors to rural regions, the federal government plans to spend $50 million over three years as it gives us another glaring example of duplication.
What is the real intent of the government with this intrusion into health care? It is to centralize. When I was elected in 1993, the government was being criticized for its tendency to centralize and its failure to respect provincial jurisdictions. This will be another very unpopular budget in Quebec.
I can tell you what the Quebec minister of health can do with $20 million. She can invest $3.2 million to be distributed to hospitals with crowded emergency rooms. This also represents 830 additional hospital beds, the hiring of 900 people for one month, as well as the cost of ambulance transport and new equipment for emergencies.
There you have four measures with $20 million. One can only imagine what we could have done in the Quebec health care sector with the money the federal government is going to use to duplicate services, collect statistics and follow doctors around to see how they are responding to demand. We will therefore continue to condemn this federal interference in provincial areas of jurisdiction.
We know that the public has commented on the surpluses. Provincial governments, health and social organizations, the public, everyone agrees that the massive cuts in health care were responsible for some of the most difficult times the health system has experienced in recent years.
The saddest thing of all is that the federal government ended the 1997-98 fiscal year with a surplus of between $5 billion and $6 billion. It could therefore have achieved a zero deficit in 1997-98, without cutting so much as one red cent of social transfer payments to the provinces.
It obtained this budget surplus through cuts in the Canada social transfer for health, education and social assistance.
Then there is the misappropriation of the money in the employment insurance at the expense of the unemployed. Now six people in ten are excluded from employment insurance, which swells the employment insurance fund by $20 billion. Non indexation of tax rates brought in a lot of money too, billions of dollars. Tax rates and tax credits have not been indexed since 1986. So the middle class is again bankrolling the government's need for visibility and control.
Since they have been in power, the Liberals have dramatically chopped transfer payments to the provinces. In 1994, payments intended for the provinces were $18.8 billion. In 1997-98, they were $12.5 billion, that is, cut by $6.3 billion. And the government tells us it is being generous with this budget.
In 1994, the social transfer was, on average, $678 per capita. In 1998, it was only $386, and all the while health care costs were increasing because of population aging, the cost of new technologies and increase in the cost of medicines.
There is another impact as well raising the cost of health care. When a population becomes poorer, it eats less well and the quality of life decreases. That means also the stress resulting from loss of employment, because employment insurance is not an option. That is what that means.
People are distressed. They perhaps need more medical care. What does the government do in the new budget? It pulls the rug out from under the provinces and Quebec with the new way of calculating the Canada social transfer in health matters.
The federal government has reached its deficit objective. It has reached it and now it gloats. It wants credit for the fact that Quebec will eliminate its deficit. That is shameful. It has emptied the pockets of the provinces, and they will not have $7 billion to give the public health care, education and social assistance. That is what that means.
I will give the example of what happens because there is no indexation. It is the case of people who, in 1986, had two children and earned $25,800. With the increase in the cost of living, they earn $35,400 in 1996. That does not mean they earn more. Because the tax on the additional income is not indexed, they have $3,790 less in their pockets since 1986. Since the GST credit was not indexed, they have $944 less in his pocket. Since the federal family allowance is not indexed, it means $554 less. For the child tax credit, it means $602 less. The refundable child tax credit—I know it does not exist any more, but I am talking about 1986—means $1,157 less.
So people earning $25,800 in 1986 get $7,047 less this year, with a salary of $35,400. Members cannot say people earning $35,000 a year are in the favoured class.
And what about the $7 billion that came out of the EI surplus every year to lower the deficit?
I know that they do not like it when we talk about robbery in the House, but this was robbery of the poorest—