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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, the mini-budget brought down today by the Minister of Finance would do any member of the Canadian Alliance proud.

It is a budget that leans to the right. It is a budget that will satisfy a certain cross-section of taxpayers in Quebec and in Canada, but which ignores a large chunk of the population.

With the staggering, not to say exploding, surpluses at the disposal of the Minister of Finance, we were expecting that he would do something for those who were really responsible for helping put the fiscal house in order, those whose efforts have made the last three years of zero deficits possible and are still being gouged by the federal tax system, those who are the reason the minister can stand here today and boast about surpluses.

We thought that the main beneficiaries of these tax cuts would be low and middle income families, not families at the top end of the scale, those earning $250,000 and up, not the millionaire friends of the Minister of Finance.

We were expecting that a major effort would be made to provide relief for the neediest families, those who are responsible for Canada's improved finances.

Instead, we see tax cuts for those at the top, those earning $250,000 and up. Many of them are listening today. We see tax cuts for these folks that are 40 times the tax cuts for a Canadian family earning $35,000. That is 40 times higher.

Tax cuts for a family with one dependent child and a $35,000 income represent 1% of that family's income, whereas tax cuts for families with an income of $250,000 or more represent 8% for that income bracket. What kind of fairness is this? It is worse than the flat rate advocated by the Alliance.

With the tax cuts, the change in the capital gains taxation, and the elimination of the surtax, a family that has an income of $250 000 will get a $20,000 reduction in its tax bill this year. This is $20,000 after taxes for people who do not need it and did not contribute to the surplus. So this family will get $20,000, and a single income family with one dependent child and $35,000 will get only $500. That is $20,000 compared to $500.

Can we imagine what we could have done by transferring to low and middle income families the tax cuts being granted to the rich? We could have eliminated all federal income tax for families with an income of $40,000 or less. Families in need, families that are in need because of this government and this callous finance minister, could have been dropped from the federal income tax roll.

Today, the finance minister candidly gave us an interesting bit of information. We have often risen in the House to ask him to do something to ensure that single parents with one dependent child earning less than $35,000 not pay any tax. He has always said “It is already taken care of, those people no longer pay any tax”. How can he explain now that he wants to reduce the income tax level for this bracket of income when these people supposedly no longer pay any tax?

After saying just about anything about the surplus, after hiding the real figures from the Canadian people to prevent any public debate on the Liberals' priorities right wing priorities, they are now fudging the figures on income tax reduction. They want Canadians to believe that they will benefit from extraordinary income tax cuts and from the government's generosity, but this is not the case at all. The only ones who will benefit from all this, as was the case in the last two budgets, are Canadians with very high incomes, friends of the party, and they say that there are income tax cuts.

With the last budget for the same family earning no more than $35,000, there is a $200 reduction. For a family earning $250,000 and more, there is a $9,000 reduction. Is that the kind of fairness the government is talking about? Is that what is meant by responsibility in the minister's documents? So much for social justice. Our viewers will not be fooled. They will realize that for the vast majority of taxpayers there might be some tax cuts, but inadequate cuts, since the Minister of Finance has surpluses coming out his ears.

This year he dares to say that the surplus will reach $6 billion only, whereas close to $12 billion has already been accumulated in the coffers of the federal government. That is more than double his forecasts for this year. He might have doubled the effort he is making now, but for ordinary people.

Given the proposals that are made, I think that is pretty clear. Over the next five years $74 billion will go to tax reductions, but these should be directed at the real people. Nine taxpayers out of ten should get tax reductions because they are the ones who paid in order that public finances could be placed on a sounder footing. We are talking about people earning less than $80,000.

That is what should be targeted, that is the unfairness that should be corrected, for these are the people who paid for fiscal improvement. These are the people who are still getting bled white by the tax system so that very affluent families can enjoy those incredible tax reductions. People within those same income brackets workers and small business people contributing to the employment insurance system are funding, through the surplus accumulated in the EI account, the tax reductions the finance minister is giving today on a silver plate to the very rich taxpayers.

I am talking also about the unemployed men and women who are not receiving any EI benefits since they were literally thrown out of the system because of the drastic cuts made in this system and because of the tightening up of the eligibility criteria.

In rural areas in particular, families are out of a job eight weeks every year and cannot qualify for EI. These people who are in dire straits are the ones who pay for the tax reductions granted to the rich. It is unacceptable.

In this statement as in the last two budgets tabled by the Minister of Finance, the last two Liberal budgets, where are the liberal values and the social solidarity? Where?

The purpose of these measures is to gain the support of the right wing, being courted by the Alliance. The Liberals are starting to look like the Alliance.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

They are further right than the Conservatives.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

That is right. That is the choice the voters are given, to vote for people who serve the very rich, the millionaires and the billionaires. That is what the government did first with the family trusts and now with the tax reductions.

The same thing goes for the Alliance and its flat rate. It will increase the gap between the rich and the poor. Low and middle income families will continue to pay, while the rich gets richer.

We in the Bloc Quebecois, are ready to manage the real things, the real surpluses. For four years now, we have been talking about the real surpluses the government has. We do not wail until the eve of an election to release the real figures and talk about our real priorities.

We in the Bloc Quebecois, believe the minister could have done things differently. His priorities could have been different than those he has listed. He could have addressed the real problems. He could have given massive tax cuts to middle income earners. He could have reorganized the employment insurance system instead of literally stealing the surplus from the workers every year.

He could have done more to help the poorest families faced with the oil crisis. A senior citizen, for instance, or a woman living alone, will receive a cheque of $125 to make up in part for the increase in the price of oil heating. Actually, the price of oil has almost doubled since last year, from $600 to more than $1,000. What good is $125?

Incidentally, if the government had not given a $20,000 income tax cut to those earning $250,000 and more, it could have been more generous. We could have done more for those people.

We could also have given a hand to the trucking industry. Some people are in difficulty right now because of the oil crisis. We could have helped taxi drivers or farmers who are going through an incredible crisis because of oil prices.

Instead, the government has chosen the easy way, the flag on the cheque. It chose to give $125 to make up for the constant increase in the price of oil and as a means to help the poorest, the ones the government has hit hard with such drastic measures as the cuts to social transfer payments or the restrictive rules of eligibility for employment insurance benefits.

This is what it has done. A $20,000 income tax cut for millionaires and a $500 cut for middle income families and the poorest families during an unprecedented oil crisis. It has given them $125. It is the flag that counts.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

This is political marketing.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

It is political marketing, and political opportunism too to come out with such things just before an election.

It is shameful to come out with such things. It is shameful for two reasons. The government forgot to say who actually cleaned up the public finances. We did not forget those people.

We know that those who had to bear the brunt of most of the $25 billion increase in taxes, to which bracket creep must be added, since 1993 are low and middle income families, those who earn less than $80,000 a year. We did not forget them.

We did not forget the unemployed either, because by being robbed of the EI fund surplus, they are the ones who are paying for the tax relief given to the rich. We did not forget them.

During the next election campaign, we will fight with all our might to force the Minister of Finance to go back to the drawing board and apply tax resources to the priorities of ordinary people, whom we have consulted. We have been consulting people for seven years since we were elected here. We know what the priorities are.

For his part, the minister consults his friends the millionaires and people from big corporations, like Thomas d'Aquino, before deciding what would be good for society as a whole. Of course, he ends up helping a few millionaires.

We will know what the priorities are. Here they are: tax cuts as high as those proposed generally by the Minister of Finance, but for families that really need them. As for employment insurance, it is a reform that would use up most of the surpluses generated in the next five years, the rest serving as a contingency fund, to improve the system so that more than 40% of Canadians are eligible. For women and young people, the exclusion rate is even higher.

We will fight against the fact that there has been no index adjustment to the Canada health and social transfer for health, social assistance and especially education which has been neglected by the government for the last seven years.

We will also ensure that the social priorities mentioned by various groups are recognized. It is urgent that sufficient funds be awarded to social housing nationally. The government could even afford to spend $8 billion on social housing over the next five years if it rethinks its priorities properly.

For the first time, the Minister of Finance and the Bloc Quebecois have forecast the same surplus. Eminent economists had to speak out last week before the minister finally recognized the existence of surpluses.

He has the means to act. He could also increase old age security benefits. According to a recent report by the National Council of Welfare the rate of poverty for single and older women is 47%. These women live below the poverty level.

There are budgets to increase old age security benefits for these women whose poverty rate is incredible. There is more money available than what has been spent so far on the environment. There is money for shipyards. Instead of having his ships built in China, the Minister of Finance could have them built in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada and could provide tax measures.

Thousands of workers are waiting for this. He could have come with an announcement today, but no, he has his ships built in China. He pays taxes in the Caribbean and asks us to tighten our belts while he gives handouts to his buddies. This is incredible.

He could have put a lot more money into international aid. This is really shameful. We are now at 0.3% of GDP while the established goal is almost 0.7% of GDP. He could have done this. He could have stopped squandering public funds to really control grants and how they are handed out.

What is management at the Department of Human Resources Development doing with our money?

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

It is used for friends, it is cronyism.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

That is it, cronyism. There are five RCMP investigations in the Prime Minister's riding. This is no joke.

He could have announced some measures to put public finances on a healthier footing, to make fair use of the proceeds of that operation of putting policies and fund allocation on a healthier footing. He could have announced that he was giving them to those in need. No, in keeping with his last two budgets, as soon as he began to accumulate major surpluses, his priorities were to please in this order: number 1, the highest income group; number 2, big business; and number 4, 5 or even 6, his last priority, to help out ordinary people. Those are this government's priorities. It has shown us that again today. The next election campaign will be one based on truth. People will have to choose between the Liberal right and the Alliance right. I believe that the Bloc Quebecois has demonstrated that it is the true defender of the interests of Quebecers and even of Canadians, when possible. The real interests of real people who must be served by democracy, not the millionaire buddies of the minister or the Prime Minister, but real people.

Today that is not the priority of the Minister of Finance. His priority has gone directly to the people with the highest incomes. The minister may have forgotten that Halloween falls on October 31. He has already put out his pumpkin and started distributing his goodies. The goodies are for the rich; the poor will get the crumbs.

This is the conclusion that can be drawn from this mini-budget. We are going to fight with all our might to send the minister back to the drawing board and to have the truth come out.

People are going to see that real income tax cuts are not for those who are watching us, the nine out of ten taxpayers who earn $80,000 or less and who are not going to benefit from it, but they are the ones who are going to pay, through their contributions to the UI fund for tax relief for those who make upwards of $250,000. I think people are going to find out about this.

I would like to move the following amendment to the amendment:

That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “restored” the following:

“, for not having given enough tax relief to lower- and middle-income families and too much relief to high-income earners, for having done nothing to resolve the Employment Insurance problem, for not having solved the social housing problem and for not having indexed the Canadian Social Transfer, for having provided those who are most in need with completely inadequate compensation for the rise in oil prices, and for having done nothing to help the trucking, taxi and agricultural industries facing this crisis;”.

By the way, there is nothing there about Mosel Vitelic either. We would have expected to be pleasantly surprised by the finance minister telling us that Mosel Vitelic was a done deal, that the government was going to participate and it would happen in Quebec. Unfortunately not. When it comes to job creation and economic growth in Quebec, we are the poor relations. This is not a priority for the finance minister and the Liberal government.

To conclude, I would say we are going to fight the government every inch of the way and the truth will come out even more than it has in the past.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The amendment to the amendment is in order.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2000 / 4:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that the Chair and table officers were asking about the intention of the motion that was introduced yesterday regarding the debate tomorrow at private members' hour.

So that hon. members will know, the officers of the House were asking if that meant that there were two private members' hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In fact, no, that is not the case. It is the private members' hour of tomorrow afternoon that was advanced to tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock, just so that the House is clear as to what that in fact meant.

If someone were to seek unanimous consent later, as I am not doing it now, to permit that a full slot be held for the Conservative Party later this afternoon, our party would not object to it.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the diatribe from the Bloc on the budget. Unfortunately what we usually get from the Bloc is a diatribe. The member talked about defending the interests of Quebecers and almost as an add on said and of course Canadians as well. Unfortunately what we get from the Bloc is a diatribe about more taxes, more of this, more of everything.

The Minister of Finance's speech this afternoon was about two visions of Canada. Sure he has introduced some tax reductions. He was following behind the Canadian Alliance. He was playing catch up to the Canadian Alliance policy of tax reduction. The problem is he cannot make it because of the auditor general's report.

The report contained a whole litany of waste and mismanagement about the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle which is now perhaps a $3 billion boondoggle. Grants were given to the Prime Minister's friends in his own riding. A $6.3 million CIDA contract was given to somebody who did not qualify, apart from the fact that he happened to be the Prime Minister's friend. Another one of the Prime Minister's friends is under investigation. I am talking about a $5 million grant by Industry Canada that was given to someone who is under police investigation by HRDC. The litany goes on and on. That is why the Liberals cannot offer the tax relief that we would offer. We want to clean up all of that.

The Minister of Finance talked about more grants and money going to the poor. Through the income tax returns we would take them right out of the Income Tax Act so they would not have to pay money to the Government of Canada in the first place and then get the money back.

Perhaps we are looking at an election. It sounded like an election style statement by the Minister of Finance.

If members of the Bloc see that tax reduction is feasible by the Liberal government and that tax reduction is feasible by the Canadian Alliance, why are they still ranting on about their agenda of separation when they recognize that if we all work together, we can build a great country?

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I find the latter part of the member's question irrelevant.

I would like to talk about the Canadian Alliance's tax reduction proposals. Last week I had the opportunity, along with other economists, to speak with the Leader of the Canadian Alliance in Montreal. I can tell the House that as far as progressivity goes, the tax system proposed by the Canadian Alliance is a bust. It does not make the grade.

No one found the Canadian Alliance proposal credible. It increased disparity among the various income levels and did little to solve the real problems of taxation.

We on the other hand, have been working hard since 1993 to observe and analyse this taxation system and have reached the conclusion that the important thing is not the rates of taxation but deductions, tax credits. We analysed all that, as well as the taxation structure. I would remind the Canadian Alliance member that the discrepancy in tax cuts is worse with the Canadian Alliance proposal than with any other proposal.

For instance, we looked at a family with one dependant earning $250,000. The tax cut would be 14 times greater than that for a middle income family. It would be 11 times greater for the Liberals. They are still leaning to the right, but the Canadian Alliance proposal is far from being a solution to the problem and being fiscally fair. On the contrary. Relatively speaking, tax cuts for top income earners are far higher than for middle income earners.

By the way, Quebecers are paying $35 million in taxes to the federal government. This is a huge amount of money. They are therefore entitled to have a say in how this money is spent, particularly in light of the government's patronage, cronyism, and squandering which the member mentioned.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

I think he must know that when it was announced recently that there was a $12.3 billion surplus in the general revenue fund, 75% of that money came from the employment insurance fund.

When I was young we used to say that Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. Today Robin Hood steals from the poor to give to the rich. What is happening in the House today is another example of stealing from the poor to give to the rich; a 3% tax cut for the rich and a 1% tax cut for the poor.

I would like my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to comment on the fact that 75% of the federal government's surplus comes from the employment insurance fund. Today, more than 800,000 people are no longer eligible for EI benefits. Children are going hungry because of the cuts made by the Liberals to the employment insurance program in 1996.

Today, they are singing their own praises to win votes. I want to hear the member on this. Does the Minister of Finance and the government think they still can buy votes as they did in the past? I can assure the members today, as I did last week, that we, in Atlantic Canada, are not for sale at such a laughable price.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for his particularly relevant question and remarks.

The government has grown wealthy on the backs of the most disadvantaged. It has always been so. We are talking about the employment insurance fund. For six years the fund has had significant surpluses contributed by workers and employers. The federal government does not contribute a cent to it any more.

Yet it has the gall, on page 101 of its budget document, through its Minister of Finance, to liken cuts to employment insurance contributions to tax cuts. It does not contribute one red cent to the employment insurance fund and it considers cuts to employer and employee contributions to be the equivalent of cuts in income tax. How twisted can one get?

The member is right. By creaming off $38 billion in surpluses since 1994 the Minister of Finance has funded most of his surpluses from the surplus in the employment insurance fund.

Moreover, savage cuts were made in funding for health care, education and social assistance to the provinces. It took a first ministers meeting and the realization that the government could no longer reasonably say that it had no surplus when surpluses were arriving by the shovel full to get the government to react and repair the damage.

From one end of the country to the other, Canada's health care system was cracking while the Minister of Finance was cracking under the weight of the surpluses. Is it not shameful to wait until a few weeks before an election may be called to announce he was putting money back into health? People have been waiting for that for years. The system was cracking.

We expected an employment insurance reform because, as my colleague accurately pointed out, only 43% of unemployed workers qualify for EI benefits. Some people are on the street because of the Minister of Finance. Since a surplus of between five and seven billion dollars was generated each year for the past five years, we expected the Minister of Finance to allocate more to improving the program than the $250 million announced a few days ago by the Minister of Human Resources Development. We expected that the unemployed, the poor and the families on the street would benefit from the minister's generosity, not the millionaires. But we were wrong.

Even though the Liberals are electoral opportunists when they make people believe that there are tax reductions and so on, they cannot even manage to do so in a way that will benefit them. This budget is clearly a budget for the wealthy. It is not a budget for the middle class, the poor, the unemployed, or for young people striving to get an education. There is not any additional money for education.

This is not a budget for the poor, who are faced with the oil crisis. It is not a budget for the elderly or for the women who marched in the streets to call for special measures for them. This is unbelievable. The hon. member is right and his comments are to the point.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise today to respond with very mixed feelings to the government's economic statement. In one sense I have a heavy heart about the choices the government has made as expressed in today's mini-budget.

I must say in another sense I have a real feeling of optimism about what Canadians are going to say about the priorities expressed in this budget. I have a feeling of optimism about what Canadians are going to do to seize the opportunity the upcoming election will give them to take corrective action and corrective measures to try to put the federal government back on a more progressive course.

Budgets and economic statements are an expression of a government's values. They are an expression of its priorities and its choices.

Once again what we have seen today is that the government has chosen to leave a great many Canadians out in the cold. Once again the government has chosen to give a major nod and a major boost to the tax cut lobby in the country. It has chosen to continue the Liberal obsession of catering to the interests and dictates of large corporations and the wealthy elite.

For seven years the Liberal government has had the opportunity to make different choices. Yet at every turn it has chosen to cut services for people who need them and now to cut taxes for the wealthy and the powerful.

The Liberals have chosen to cut taxes over cutting waiting lists for hospital beds and for cancer treatment. They have chosen to cut taxes over cutting rates of child poverty, over cutting down on the numbers of homeless, over cutting pollution of our air and our water.

Today's economic statement sounds more like a page from the reform alliance platform than a progressive vision for Canada's future. They actually seem proud of that. The member for St. Albert actually stood and said that this budget is playing catch up with the reform alliance vision for Canada. I say that this is a government that has swallowed whole the reform alliance vision for Canada. We could hear the loud burp of the indigestion of members opposite on that revolting decision to swallow whole the reform alliance platform.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Some contest of values.

Economic PolicyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Some contest of values my colleague says. He would want to say that again.

Liberals together with the other party are boasting about the size of their tax cuts. It is as if they are caught up in a game of one-upmanship; my tax cuts are bigger than your tax cuts. Meanwhile the federal Liberal government turns its back on Canadian families who are struggling to make ends meet, who are struggling to pay for their own home care and who are struggling to pay for the prescription drugs they need.

Canadians have paid dearly so that Liberals could flaunt around and boast about their big surplus and the big tax cuts they are making. But for the vast majority of Canadians, the government has tragically replaced the fiscal deficit with a social deficit.

We see that social deficit around us every day. We see it in the unacceptable waiting lists for vital health services, like radiation therapy for women with breast cancer.

We see the social deficit among our students. Tuition has risen by 126% over the past decade. Graduating students from last year faced average debt loads of $25,000 and we know it continues to rise. The debt load continues to rise in every province except the NDP provinces.

We see the social deficit on the streets of our largest cities. For example in the city of Toronto 5,000 children are homeless every night.

We see the social deficit on farms. Families are trying for the third straight year to make ends meet in the face of falling commodity prices, high input costs and reluctant and inadequate federal support.

We see the tragic social deficit in regions where work is seasonal, unemployment is chronic and workers are scrambling to scrape by on woefully inadequate insurance benefits.

We see it in communities where families can no longer turn on their tap and be assured that their water is safe for their kids to drink or to brush their teeth. They cannot be assured that the water is safe to make a cup of tea for their grandmother, for heaven's sake.

We see the social deficit at food banks where a quarter of a million Canadians are now forced to go just to be able to put food on the table for their families.

Today we see none of these crucial deficits count with the government. It is too busy figuring out its tax cuts for its elite friends.

That is the real record of the Liberal government. It has a great deal of answering to do to the people of Canada.

Over the past five years the government has taken $50 billion out of social spending, $30 billion out of unemployment insurance, and another $25 billion from health care, education and basic social welfare services.

The Liberal government has chosen to give the banks a $500 million annual tax cut instead of reducing child poverty. The Liberal government has chosen to eliminate regulations instead of standing up to polluters with new tougher national standards. The Liberal government has worked harder to stall the loophole case, which my colleague raised again this afternoon in the House, than it has at ensuring Canada's tax system is fair for everyone, not just the country's wealthiest families.

The government has slashed funding and retreated to the sidelines while some provinces welcome in private hospitals instead of working with the provinces to build up our health care system so that it is there when people need it; there when people need it regardless of their financial circumstances and regardless of where they happen to live.

The recent deal with the provinces fails to restore the level of federal funding for medicare even to its pre-Liberal cutback level of 1994-95. It fails to restore the level of funding for medicare to what it was under the Mulroney government when the Liberals took office.

There is another vision of what Canada can be. Canadians know that Canada could be so much better. There is another vision to which the vast majority of Canadians aspire. It is a vision where governments are on the side of working families, where government is committed to the services that ordinary Canadians need, where the hopes and dreams of ordinary Canadians can be put first.

Canadians need a federal government that shows the kind of leadership that truly restores funding to our health care system, the kind of leadership that halts the growth of for profit medicine, the kind of leadership that extends medicare so that it includes the home care that people need and includes the basic prescription drug that people in many cases need to stay alive or maintain some kind of quality of life.

Canadians need leadership that sets tough national standards to stop pollution and to protect people's health. They need leadership that attacks the shame, the national disgrace of child poverty and attacks it head on by reinvesting in our children and in our young people through increased child tax benefits and a national child care program, a national child care program promised by the Liberal government from the day it came to office.

We need leadership that makes sure our young people have the skills that they need to succeed in today's knowledge based economy. We need to roll back tuition fees because if not, we are graduating students into poverty and making it impossible for them to get on with their lives.

We need leadership that creates training programs to make full, meaningful employment a reality so that people do not have to work longer and harder for less. That is what is happening to Canadian families. We need leadership that fights for a new approach to global trade, that puts the interests of ordinary Canadians ahead of the interests of global corporations.

Canadians know that Canada can be a better place.

We can do better in Canada. The federal government can afford to invest in the future, in our children, our families and our communities. It can do it without adding to the debt. It is a matter of choice and priorities.

It is a matter of political will, the political will to invest in the priorities that we share in common as Canadians: medicare, education and training, housing, community development and environmental protections. We need the political will to say no to the dictates of the banks and the wealthiest Canadians, to re-establish the role of the federal government as the true guardian of medicare and national standards for other social programs as well.

The finance minister has shown us today that the government and the Prime Minister simply do not have the political will to do any of those things.

Canadians have clearly indicated what their priorities are. Today the Liberals have clearly shown that so-called Liberal values mean very little to most Canadians because the fact is that capital gains cuts will not pay for nurses. Corporate tax cuts will not shorten waiting lists for hospital beds or cancer treatment. Despite our aging population and rising health care costs, the Liberal government still has not restored health funding to the 1993 Mulroney level. Let us remember Liberal commitments on pharmacare and home care. They have been shoved right off the Liberal agenda.

It is a great budget for a homeless person who has a big, fat stock portfolio. The Liberal's notion of what the reality is for most Canadians is that they all have big, fat stock portfolios. This budget will be great for them because they will enjoy tax benefits of $25,000, $30,000, $35,000 from the government's tax measures. There are $100 billion in tax cuts while over one million children grow up in poverty in this country.

I say shame and the vast majority of Canadians say shame as well to a government that puts tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of dealing with the reality that we have one million children in the country growing up in poverty. By medical assessment, 57,000 children go to bed hungry and are considered to be suffering the effects of malnutrition because of hunger.

Liberals just do not seem to understand what it does to our young people to tell them that they absolutely have to have higher education in order to participate in the knowledge based economy and then turn around and saddle them with debt loads of $25,000 and $30,000 on average, and that is just for students getting an undergraduate education.

Hon. members should think about that. The average student debt that our students have had heaped on their shoulders is larger than the per capita share of the national debt. Yet what we see in this mini-budget today is $10 billion a year for the national debt and not one single red cent for student debt.

I could not believe my ears when the Prime Minister said yesterday that the biggest problem the government faces is that it has too much money. Then I thought about it. I thought maybe that was a promising sign of what we would see in the mini-budget. When we look at the size of the social deficit, the health deficit, the education deficit, the environmental deficit and the infrastructure deficit that have been run up by the Liberal government over the last seven years, heaven knows there are some real priorities for which that bundle of too much money the Prime Minister talked about yesterday is desperately needed.

The tragedy is that today we saw a mini-budget that completely fails to address the hardship and the heartache that have been suffered by a great many Canadians as a result of the priority choices the government has been making over the last seven years.

The reality is that not only are there individuals and families in many corners of the country suffering from these misplaced Liberal priorities, but whole communities are paying the price. Whole regions of the country are paying the price. In the process a lot of division and tension has been created in this country of ours.

The sense of pride that we have in ourselves in the kind of country we are has been eroded. The only thing I can say is what I said at the beginning, that I receive this mini-budget with a heavy heart but also with a sense of optimism. The fact that the federal Liberals will have to start accounting for themselves in an upcoming election is a good thing.

The Liberal government thinks the most important thing to do is to brag and to congratulate itself for the big bucks that are available because of the surplus that has been created by the social deficits the Liberals have heaped on people. But Canadians have a very different set of values. I am absolutely optimistic that Canadians will understand the cynicism, the crassness, the self-serving nature of the choices the government has made in the budget it has introduced today. It is a reminder of why we should be grateful for the fact that we do live in a democratic country.

Perhaps the government does not care about the hungry and the homeless and the people who suffer from the lack of health care and education because they do not have the private bucks the government is pumping up with its tax cuts for the wealthy. However, Canadians do care about those things. On election day Canadians will have their say. They understand how important it is that the values, the social democratic values of the New Democratic Party be well represented in the House. A lot more New Democrats are needed in the House to push back against this meanspirited, cynical, crass approach to governing.

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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I seek unanimous consent of the House to extend the debate.

We would respectfully submit that it is in everyone's interest that we hear from all parties on this debate, in particular a former Prime Minister. I would hope that all members of the House would afford every party the opportunity to speak to this important motion.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The hon. member for York South—Weston is not present to move the order as announced in today's notice paper and accordingly the bill will be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Since the member in question cannot be here and the time has been set aside, it cannot be said that there is no time. Therefore, I seek unanimous consent to consider Bill C-213 at third reading.

If the bill were to be adopted, it could be done before the election which is very important. I think members on both sides will agree to that.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The House has heard the request made by the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in such a fashion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.