Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House to speak to the budget and what it means not only for the provinces and territories but for Canadians wherever they live in this great land of ours.
When we first dealt with the whole issue of the deficit, it was a huge problem in terms of what it meant for Canadians. We knew that over time great sacrifices would have to be made. Finally we are in the position where we have a surplus. As a result of that, we can start to fulfil the very important promises which we made concerning what to do with the surplus money.
I am pleased to be part of a government which recognizes that there needs to be reinvestment in things like education and, especially, health care. Health care is one of those underlying core Canadian values upon which Canadians generally expect us to act, and to do so in a meaningful way.
As chairman of the all-party Standing Committee on Health it is very gratifying to see the kind of reinvestment that is being made in this all important area.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a number of researchers, specifically on Bill C-13, which would establish the Canadian institutes of health research. It is important for them to know that the Government of Canada is there for them in terms of money. Dollars to researchers all across Canada will double over the next number of years. We hope to find cures for cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
In the budget we saw that Génome Canada was given enormous amounts of money to get up and running. It is involved in an important health area as well and is something which all Canadians applaud.
We invested in this budget $2.5 billion in health care, on top of the $11.5 billion that was invested in last year's budget. That underscores the commitment of the Government of Canada in this all important area, which is consistent with the values of Canadians. We know that there is still a way to go. We understand that, which is why the ministers will be meeting. The federal health minister, along with his territorial and provincial counterparts, will meet in May. The deputy ministers are meeting as we speak. Early on, as quickly as possible, they will try to carve out the kind of health care system that will take us into the 21st century.
The areas that will be looked at are primary health care, as well as community and home care, and the whole issue of accountability and making sure that Canadians get what they want in their health care system.
Those three topics will be dealt with, and hopefully dealt with effectively, knowing that it is what Canadians need and want. We certainly want to act in that appropriate way.
I spoke about the promises which we as a government had made. We know full well that in addition to the reinvestment that we are making in a number of areas we also had to cut taxes. That was very important. We were on the leading edge when it came to the reduction of taxes, unlike members of the Reform Party, who talked about balancing books and trying to get the deficit reduced two years from now. We were far ahead of them. More to the point, we were ahead of them with tax cuts as well. I think that speaks volumes about who we are as a government, what we do and how we do it. It underscores the commitment on this side of the House to give Canadians, especially lower and middle income Canadians, the kind of tax relief that is important, not only for themselves, but for their families as well.
My constituents in Waterloo—Wellington, as well as constituents across Ontario and elsewhere in Canada want to see us move on the national debt. I am pleased to note that we have done that and will continue to do that.
The finance minister was very clear. He said that it is important to move on all these fronts and that there be tax relief in a staged fashion. He indicated that it would be a plan over five years. I think that speaks volumes to our commitment as a government, our commitment as Liberals, to act in an appropriate and timely way, knowing that it is the right thing to do. Canadians not only expect it and need it, but actually deserve it because of the sacrifices they have made over the last little while.
The tax cuts, coupled with debt reduction over time, coupled with reinvestment in all important areas, are simply good news for Canada. We can see the economy responding as a result. When was the last time we saw the economy soar to the extent it has over the last little while under our administration?
We have seen over time the great benefits that have taken place as a result of good fiscal and monetary management that we on the government side have been able to do. I am very proud to be part of a government that is in tune with Canadians and sees the kinds of things that need to be done, done well and done effectively. We can and do run an effective administration, and that shows. We do it in a way that is consistent with the values of Canadians. We do it in a way that makes economic, social and political sense. I am proud to be part of a government that is able to do that.
I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time. This is an important topic and other members want the ability to speak to it.
Let us go back to the time of the Conservatives for a minute. We inherited a huge deficit from the Mulroney administration. It really was a terrible thing, a great millstone that hung around the necks of all Canadians. Over time we whittled that away and took care of it in a very good way that really did not create havoc and upheaval. In a consistent, incremental and solid way we were able to take it down to zero and do so with minimal disruption.
It is interesting to note that in that sense we were able to do the right thing. It is important that we do that.
It is interesting to see the Conservatives these days and the kinds of things they are doing. I point only to the clarity bill as an example, Bill C-20, and the inability of the Conservatives and Mr. Clark to stand for Canada. I find it most distressing and I find it very shameful.
Again I want to come back and hook into health care. I find it equally and even more distressing that Mr. Clark, out of step with Canadians, has decided to support Mr. Klein's Bill 11 in Alberta. I find that outrageous and out of touch, but it is part and parcel of the Tories and their ability, it seems, to trip at every misstep. That is most upsetting.
I also note that the NDP is often on interesting ground when it comes to a number of the issues, but when it comes to health care, when it comes to employment and other major issues, the NDP always wants to throw money at them. That is just simply unacceptable. Canadians see through that. They find it unacceptable. The NDP always wants to throw money.
When it comes to the Bloc, after Bill C-20 I really have to wonder who and what it represents. It really is quite outrageous that its members are so out of step with their constituents and Quebecers in that wonderful province.
It is interesting to note that the Reform Party has transformed itself into a new alliance. We witnessed the members not so long ago in the House taking, I suppose, a modicum of pride in what they have done, trying to reinvent themselves and come out in a new metamorphosis.
My position is that a dinosaur that does Tae-Kwondo, a dinosaur that tries to be hip is still nothing but a dinosaur. It is important to note that those people opposite who want to rip Canada apart, who want to pit region against region every time they can and pit people against people, they stand for the flat tax.
Since we are talking about the budget today let us talk about the flat tax. Let us talk about what those Reformers stand for. Even their right wing NRA friends, Charlton Heston, and their televangalist friends in the United States, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye and all the other ones of that ilk, reject the flat tax. They say it is rubbish. Still those dinosaurs caterwaul away about how important it is to have a flat tax.
Canadians do not buy into that nonsense. Canadians reject it because Canadians see through whatever they call themselves. They know that the Reform Party switched into an alliance is still nothing but a Reform Party; the politics of hatred, of extremism, of division, of everything that most Canadians do not want to be a part of. That is what the Reform Party represents.
I was reading today a little about our friend Stockwell Day. Does he ever some interesting baggage that needs to see the light of day. We need to turn over the rock and take a look.