Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House. I will start my debate with a sentence that mentions Reform. I am sure my colleagues on the other side will listen.
We in the Reform Party have been after the government since 1993 to develop some foresight, identify some of the inevitable changes to agriculture and develop a plan to prepare our industry to meet these challenges head on and safeguard our farmers. Instead we got foot-dragging and inaction.
We pushed the government on its 1993 red book promise to decrease input costs and implement a whole farm income stabilization program. However, like so many Liberal promises, it was forgotten on election night.
This past fall the government even denied that an income crisis existed in agriculture and pointed to the NISA program as a suitable safety net for any disaster. Farmers know that NISA is just not designed for the type of crisis we experienced. By the time the Liberals acknowledged their mistake, it not only cost farmers severely but we lost a whole bunch of young farmers.
The Liberals stalled in coming up with a program and when they finally did come up with something, it was totally inadequate. They went through the motions of listening to people in the industry. Then they came up with something nobody asked for.
The AIDA program is poorly designed, costly to apply for and will not target the producers who need the compensation the most. What is more, when it was announced, the key details of the plan were missing. The government had enough time to study the problem and consult but it launched its program with no consensus with the provinces or farmers on how to implement it. It did not do its homework. It is widely recognized as a failure. It is not bankable, it is not providing relief.
Many farmers in my riding are not even bothering to fill out the application because it will not benefit them. The accountants tell them the cost of completing the form is going to be more than they will obtain from the AIDA program. That is how much Liberals care about westerners.
Look at the comparison when foreign governments were overfishing in Canadian waters. The Liberal minister at that time chased those foreign boats across the high seas and even fired a few guns. But when foreign governments attack our Canadian farmers with tens of billions of dollars in unfair subsidies, we get inaction and useless rhetoric.
Recently the Liberals struck a committee to travel in the west to try to understand why westerners will not vote for them. They do not understand that the answer lies in their own record.
This lack of foresight is so evident in our trade negotiations. One of the reasons for the agriculture income crisis is that the Liberal government dropped the ball in the last round of international trade negotiations.
Our negotiators agreed to a 15% reduction in subsidies to farmers, which is what everyone else was supposed to follow, but we reduced our subsidies by 85%. While the U.S. maintained 24% of its subsidies in a green box program, Canada only maintained 8%. Today European subsidies are providing farmers with an average of $175 an acre to grow a crop plus a $2 per bushel export subsidy in the event of a surplus. We created an unlevel playing field that is financially breaking every farmer in western Canada.
This is just a lack of anticipation and planning and this Liberal government has to take responsibility for it. That is why farmers will not vote Liberal. Farmers have no money left to tax. I heard the hon. member for Medicine Hat so appropriately recite that poem about taxation and it fits perfectly the bill of the western farmer.
On the whole, the government's high tax policy has undermined the productivity of the Canadian economy which in turn has reduced our standard of living. We have seen devastating results from the wrong-headed policies of this Liberal government and the Tories before it.
In 1970 Canada ranked number four in the world in terms of per capita income. In 1995 after 25 years of overtaxation and overspending our per capita income global rating fell to 12. Next year the average Canadian family will be paying $5,000 more in taxes than they were in 1993, and they were already overtaxed then.
Our finance critic has pointed out that our standard of living has fallen behind those of the poorest states in the U.S., such as Alabama and Mississippi. The downward spiral seems to be well established and there is an urgent need for a policy that will regain our standard of living and the stability of our economy.
Unfortunately the current government seems unwilling or unable to meet this challenge. The bill we are speaking to today is a prime example of how the government continues to overspend and still not reduce taxes.
I have heard a lot of complaints today about taxation and overspending. A lot of blame has been pointed in different directions, at provincial governments and federal governments.
We are getting to the point where we will finally have to blame Christopher Columbus for all the problems. The impression is that he was a Liberal. Why was Christopher Columbus accused of being a Liberal? When he started off from Spain, he did not know where he was going; when he got to North America, he did not know where he was and he did it on borrowed money.
Maybe that is where the fault lies because we do not seem to understand in this House that it lies with previous federal governments.
I remind taxpayers that an election is coming. Reform is on the move. No matter what the opposition says, we will be there in the next government and we will fix things properly.