Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to speak in the debate on the budget that was set down on February 28, 2000.
A lot of people looked forward to that budget. They thought we would get a millennium surprise, that we would get a forward looking 21st century type of budget. Instead, I think we got a shell game where money was transferred from one place to another place to another place. A lot of people, not able to follow the movement, said at least it was better than what we have had before.
Let us talk about some of the failures of that budget. Mr. Speaker, I know you are most interested in pinpointing those because obviously within your caucus you would have been told all of the good points. Let me try to highlight some of the less than good points in the budget. I know you are looking forward to this and will take accurate notes.
First there is the total failure to even recognize the fact that we have a debt. There is talk of this great surplus and what will be done with the money, how the government can create more programs. There is program spending. Certainly Liberals love program spending. They have always loved to create programs because programs lead to bureaucracy. Bureaucracy leads to boondoggles. Boondoggles lead to ways to patronize friends. It is a wonderful scene, except for the taxpayer and all those people who are deprived of that money.
What about that debt? What about that $588 billion? Let us go back and see where that came from. In 1969 we had no debt. By 1972 we had $18 billion in debt. As we went along through the spending years we ended up coming to about $160 billion in debt by 1983-84. At that point everybody said we must stop the growth of that debt.
A new party came into power and said it was going to stop it and it would not let it grow any more. Of course we know that by 1987 we had a debt somewhere in the neighbourhood of just under $300 billion. At that point of course a new party, the forerunner to the Canadian Alliance, was born as a response to that huge debt. But that same government carried on. By the time it finished, the debt was $490 billion with a deficit of some $42 billion.
Since then we now have a debt of roughly $580 billion. We have an interest payment of about $43 billion, depending on how the economy goes and so on. Let us look at where that places us. We spend somewhere around $12 billion on education, $14 billion on health care and $22 billion on pensions. There is Indian affairs at $7 billion and defence at $9 billion. The critical thing in these numbers is the fact that we have $43 billion in interest payments. That is what we are passing on to future generations.
How does the budget deal with that? It says that as long as everything is going fine, we may be able to put $3 billion on that debt. Let us figure out the mathematics of that one. If there is $580 billion and we add $3 billion a year while paying $43 billion a year in interest, then we are not getting ahead. A home could not be run that way. A business could not be run that way. A farm could not be run that way. They would be bankrupt. They would be taken over.
Obviously it is a great disappointment for Canadian taxpayers. Future citizens and taxpayers, our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren are going to be burdened by that debt. This budget did not even address that.
One could put one's head in the sand and not recognize that as a serious problem for our country. That is why some economists are predicting that within 50 years this country will have a standard of living at 50% that of the Americans. Right now the quality of life, the standard of living is somewhere around 70% that of the Americans. Is that acceptable? Is that what we want to leave for our children and our grandchildren? I do not and I think I can speak for my colleagues in saying that they do not either.
That is the first failure, Mr. Speaker. I know you are looking forward to hearing some more so I will satisfy your curiosity.
Let us talk about the business community and employment benefits and the shell game that is played. The government trumpets the fact that it has been able to cut EI premiums and that has saved business and individual workers a great amount of money.
About 38% of people can actually be eligible for employment insurance but we do not talk about that figure. We also do not talk about the fact that for the last five years and into the next couple of years, CPP increases totally wipe out the EI premium decreases. There is a net loss to individuals and businesses. That means that small businesses, and remember that is most businesses in Canada, are going to employ fewer people, are going to have more overhead costs and are going to have a greater chance of failure. This may not affect the big guys but it sure does affect the 90% of Canadian small businesses.
What about the 11% increase in HRDC grants? I know it is in the right phase of the cycle to be increasing because if we look at HRDC grants and contributions, they go with elections. The year after an election they are at their lowest point. As we get closer to an election, grants and contributions increase. One could say it is natural that in the 2000 budget there would be an 11% increase in grants. What about those grants? We have heard much in the House about the boondoggles. Where it gets right down to the nitty-gritty would be something I experienced last Sunday.
A band in my community is leaving this coming Sunday for Australia. It is going to be accompanied by a number of teachers and parents. This band is doing a cultural exchange and wanted to leave something in Australia that was a celebration of the millennium from the town of Innisfail in Canada to the town of Innisfail in Australia where it would be spending three weeks. The cost was under $1,000 for a plaque. The government chose to say in a letter to the band that this was not a very good millennium project, that it does not really help Canadians to be good Canadians, to be proud Canadians.
When I wished them well at the band concert on Sunday, I felt sorry for the government for the letter that was read to the parents and the students. Many people said to me after, “What about the $250,000 for a fountain in the river? How about the canoe museum? How about the armouries with a good view of the fountain?” They asked about the $7 million spent on golf courses and sock factories. They asked how it was possible to be ineligible for any funding for a project that was truly, I believe, a millennium project. The only answer I had was that perhaps they had voted the wrong way. That is a sorry commentary in a democracy.
There is another example in my riding and I should have brought the letter to read but I can paraphrase it. The letter was from the Deputy Prime Minister. The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame is celebrating 100 years of sports in the province of Alberta, Canada. It wanted to do a special display for all Albertans who had been on Olympic teams representing their country over the last 100 years. If that is not a millennium project, then I do not know what is.
The letter from the Deputy Prime Minister indicated that this project did not qualify because it was asking for 100% funding. The community raised $3 million to build the building which is finished and opens next month. The cost of the celebration of the Alberta athletes who were in the Olympics for Canada was going to be $750,000 of which $500,000 has been raised.
They were asking for funding from the Government of Canada for a millennium project to celebrate 100 years of Canadian athletes coming from Alberta on Olympic teams. The answer from the government was that it did not fund projects 100%, so it denied their request for the millennium project. There was $3 million raised in the community of which $500,000 was for that particular project. That is not 100% funding coming from the federal government. That is the kind of stuff that happens with these grants. We have to be from the right place and not a safe seat or something like that in order to get that. People in my community do not find that very appealing and are not pleased with the budget raising the grants by 11%.
Let us talk about health care. How did this budget deal with health care? It gave $2.5 billion over four years for the subject that all Canadians are concerned about. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians polled say that they are worried about their health care. A poll done by the department which was released yesterday said that 70% of Canadians felt this budget did not give enough money to health care.
The government says it has returned all the money. How does it figure that? It is difficult to explain but let me attempt to. It says that there are tax credits that make up half of its donation to the provinces. Where did that come from? In 1977 the provinces and the federal government agreed on these tax point transfers. Immediately upon doing that, the federal government raised its taxes. The provinces were to have room to raise their taxes. But they could not do it because the federal government had already filled the space for that tax. They would have had to raise taxes and take the blame for raising them for health care. The tax credit is really a figment of the government's mind. The money is really not there.
Let us talk about actual transfers of cash. What has the government done with that? In 1993 the cash transfers were $18.8 billion for health care. In 1994 they were $18.7 billion. In 1995 they were $18.4 billion. In 1996 there were $14.8 billion. In 1997 they were $12.5 billion. In 1998 they were $12.5 billion. In 1999 they were $14.5 billion. Guess what? Over the the next four years they will be $15.5 billion. Remember, they were $18.5 billion in 1993.
What has happened in between besides inflation? There has been improvement in technology. Increased costs in our health care system and medication have gone up by 17% per year. These have not been accounted for in the cash transfers to the provinces. Why does the health care system have a real crunch right now? Because of the lack of funding. Who is to blame? It is not just the provinces. The federal government can be blamed for it as much as the provinces.
This government does not have a vision for health care in the 21st century. We have a 1960s state run socialized health care system that would compare to North Korea and Cuba. We do not have a health care system that would compare to any of the industrialized countries. We are rated 23rd out of 29 in terms of health care in the industrialized world.
We are in fifth place in spending on health care. We have fifth place spending with 23rd place ranking in our health care delivery. There is certainly something wrong there.
I should state that we are opposed to two tier, U.S. style, for-profit health care. I am sorry that the hon. member who alluded to that earlier has left the Chamber. We are opposed to that. We can clearly state that we do not believe in that. That is not what Canadians want. Canadians would like to be in the top third of OECD countries in the delivery of health care. That is what they would like.
This budget did not deliver that. Last year it was $11 billion over five years. This year it was $2.5 billion over four years. That is after taking out $26 billion. That is just not good enough. The responsibility stops right here and it stops with this budget.
The other fact concerning health care that we should be emphasizing is co-operation with the provinces. We need to co-operate with them to solve a problem that is a Canadian problem. The people in my constituency and in the Ontario constituencies I have visited are not interested in who does it, what is happening, or all of these facts and figures. They want to have a better health care system. They do not particularly care whether it is federal, provincial or whatever. They just know that there is something wrong.
We could go through all the problems, but I do not believe we need to do that. I think we can simply say that we must fix that system. How do we do it? We have to do it by co-operation with the provinces. What do we do to the provinces? We have our drive-by smear that occurs. We have the taunting and the constant attacks on the Government of Ontario. We have Mr. Romanow and even Mr. Tobin asking for things and the government treats them the same. One cannot even say it selects the people it picks on. This government bullies the provinces. It does not worry about co-operating with the provinces and, of course, that is why the health care system of this country continues to deteriorate.
Canadians want that fixed and they expected that in the budget. Certainly our health minister was the big loser at the budget table this year when one considers that grants and boondoggles got as much money as health care. That is a disgrace, Mr. Speaker, just as not touching that debt is a disgrace.
What about taxes? There was tampering with the tax system again, but it was not adequate and not what people really needed. We need to have a level playing field if we are going to compete. We have 85% of our trade with the U.S. We need a level playing field and that certainly has to be in the area of taxation. It was disappointing.
With respect to agriculture, what did we do for our farmers? We did nothing. We showed no interest in agriculture whatsoever in this budget.
Finally, in terms of Canadian influence around the world, the international perspective of the government, our position in the world, was probably at its peak in 1945. Mr. Pearson did a lot to maintain that, but where have we gone since then?
I am disappointed to say that in all the travelling I have done, I have seen a decline. I have seen our peacekeepers, great men and women, working hard in counties with 40 year old equipment. You have seen them, too, Mr. Speaker. What are we doing to our NATO and NORAD partners?
I was not happy with this budget.