Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the Calgary East constituency. This is my second speech on the budget. I have chosen to speak on this topic again because I would like to tell the House what my constituents and other Canadians have been saying. My remarks are based on two concepts.
The first is what constituents are saying are their two major concerns. Time after time the phone calls I receive have one theme, that people's take home pay is dwindling. People are having a hard time making ends meet. One of my constituents wrote, “We love our work but we are always in a financial bind due to low wages and no recognition of our qualifications and college degrees”. Despite having a college degree all she earns is $7.50 per hour.
I understand it is quite difficult to tell a business to raise wages. But a lot of our money disappears into the government coffers. It is interesting the way the whole taxation system is designed. We take it at one end and then we go around in circles and try to send it back in another way, and either we tax them or we say that we do not tax them and that we are taking care of the lower income workers. At the end of the day, at the time when people need the money which is when they get their weekly paycheque, the money is gone. It takes months for the money to come back to them at the other end. In between what are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?
My riding is made up of blue collar workers, single mothers and parents trying to send their children to school. When I go knocking on doors I hear time after time, “I am earning $30,000 and I cannot make ends meet. I am paying so much in taxes”. Many government members have said to me “No, no, we are taking care of all these things”. True, it comes back through social outlets such as cheques for family allowance, child care, GST refunds and all those things. The GST refund can take four months. What are they supposed to do until then?
Why can the government not address the issue for single parents, growing families and those who are earning low wages? Why not give it to them up front so they have more take home pay?
I have a letter from another individual in my riding. He asked for a T-1 slip. He had to go through a huge bureaucracy. Revenue Canada said he had to fill out so many forms and the guy just said to forget it, that he was not interested. The paperwork burden in the taxation system is so humongous that people are fed up. I have heard time and again “I am not going to respond to Revenue Canada. I am not going to fill out all the paperwork”.
A constituent phoned me, a pensioner, who said on the one hand the government gives money to pensioners and then, bingo, Revenue Canada needs $248 back right away. For what? He got phone call after phone call and letter after letter until he was fed up. We intervened and the matter was resolved, but why did it not get resolved in the first place?
The finance minister has said that we have not been asking questions about the budget because he thinks the budget is great. Perhaps the poll which came out today indicates why the opposition has not been asking the finance minister questions on the budget. There is nothing to ask. He will talk about budget cuts and all those things but we know, Canadians on the street know, and students know that when they look at their paycheques and when they look in their pockets, their take home pay is less.
It does not agree with what the finance minister is saying. It is better to tune out what the finance minister is saying than to listen and ask where is the tax break he is talking about. He gives a tax break, but at the same time CPP premiums are hiked up.
Look at EI. Surplus after surplus is going into the EI fund that the government is using to spend in other areas. It will not even reduce the EI premiums. How will Canadians feel? Will Canadians actually get the feeling from their take home pay that taxes are going down when the government is set on spending?
We have people in the government who have their own agendae. Our heritage minister wants to be recognized as the Canadian cultural protection person. She keeps writing out cheques, cheque after cheque, and doing her best, but what do we hear on the streets? We hear on the streets from Canadians that their take home pay is shrinking.
Let us go to the issue of the economy. I am critic for international trade, so what happens in the economy is quite important and of concern to me. I have been on many trips to see how Canadian trade officials have been working hard to promote trade in Canada. That is one of the areas of prosperity for the country.
Time after time the Minister for International Trade boasted in committee and everywhere that 43% of our GDP is in the export market. That is great. I applaud him for that. I hope it goes higher and higher. After all, it helps the Canadian consumer and it brings prosperity to Canada.
I give credit to our trade officials, those who are in the field and have been working very hard to ensure that Canadian companies are out there seeking the opportunities that globalization has opened for them. I commend them. I have seen them hard at work. I have seen Canadian companies working hand in hand with these people, promoting the goods and technology that Canadians have developed.
The subcommittee on international trade is now studying how to improve trade with Europe. As we know, trade with Europe has been gradually declining. It is improving but not to the level that we thought it should have improved.
All this points to the fact that there are people who recognize the need for Canadians to be taking advantage of globalization. If there are problems at home with Canadian companies which we have not fixed, how will we market ourselves outside the country? If the foundation at home is not strong, what is the point of trading outside? Somewhere down the line it will crack.
We have free trade agreements through NAFTA with Mexico and Chile. We are trying to get agreements with Costa Rica and other countries. We have seen the demand coming in for Britain to join NAFTA. These are all good things. They are great things, but we need to address the issues at home.
Time after time new cries are being heard that there is a need to address the issues at home and the need for productivity. The biggest one is taxation, the way we are taxing our companies. The way our economy is being overtaxed leaves little room for companies to aggressively seek foreign markets.
Let me quote here for a second an editorial in the Globe and Mail . Where it says country, I will substitute that by saying the past government was too dumb to understand that 25 years of high deficits would lead to a debt and tax crisis and maybe too dumb to understand that another 10 years of uncompetitive taxes and regulations would lead to a permanently reduced standard of living.
Let me read from the Calgary Herald of today, written by one of the CEOs of Alberta Energy Company Ltd. He said that Canada looked good but was moving too slowly. Perhaps the finance minister should read the article which contains that warning from an executive of a very important company in Alberta.
All of them have one simple straightforward message: taxes are too high. If the government does not address that issue and take it seriously, 43% of GDP in exports will start going down. Canadians will be unable to take advantage of the globalization of economies that is taking place.
Our ambassadors, including the minister of trade and I, travel around the world pushing to expand trade. We sign agreements but if at the end of the day there is no competitive advantage for Canadian companies, what is the point? They must be able to take advantage of market opportunities. The government is not selling the products. It is the Canadian companies that are selling them. They are the ones who are out there selling their products.
We talk about the greatness of Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin and other big companies. At the end of the day we look at the companies that do the majority of the exports. We could name 10 of them. That is all. Big companies like Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin and mining giants are the few that are on the international market. If we want to have prosperity we need small and medium size businesses. Everyone knows that. I do not have to repeat it. Everyone talks about it. Everyone says they are the vehicles of growth and that is what should happen.
Time after time when we talk to them they express concerns. They do not have the infrastructure or the competitive advantage to go out and grab these opportunities. The Americans are doing it and now we have the European Union with its $500 billion market. They take advantage. Canadian companies need to be aggressive.
We are saying that Canada should be the route for European companies into NAFTA, into the U.S. market. That is a great idea. It is fantastic if we can do it. At the end of the day, if taxes in Canada are not reduced, competitiveness will not be there. How will we become the conduits that we aspire to be and our trade officials want us to be?
It is time the Minister for International Trade had a talk with the Minister of Finance and said that something should be done. There is no point in each one going in different directions. Then the industry minister, who recognizes what is happening, tries to speak out but his chain is pulled back.
Canadians are worried. Today's polls indicate the priorities of Canadians. Health care is a priority of Canadians. Irrespective of what the government wants to say, every Canadian knows that it is the federal government that cut the money. This is creating the crisis in the health care system across the country. It is the number one concern, and rightly so. Why should it not be? The population is getting older and is looking down the road to see that health care will not be there when it will be needed.
This is a government run by polls. Everything it does is by polls. Maybe it will wake up and address this issue. I am sure it will. Today's poll said that Canadians want the federal government to put more money into health care.
We know what happened when the industry minister tried to give money to professional hockey. I am glad that Canadians spoke up about it. That is what Canadians should do.
Let us talk about health care for a moment. There is a hue and cry about bill 11 in Alberta, saying that it is an attack on health care. We listen to the grandiose statements of the Minister of Health. He is a lawyer, after all, so he can use the flowery words he loves, but at the end of the day the point is that the government cut money for health care.
This has created a crisis for the provinces. They are trying to address the needs of their constituents. The federal government is saying that this is the money the provinces will get and that is about it. There are millions of dollars sitting in Toronto which have not been used, but we are asking for long term solutions. We are asking for stable funding on which the provinces can count so they can address their health care needs and not deal with the business of either a reduction in the budget or little more than crumbs.
There is no stable funding for the provinces so they cannot address long term health care needs and issues. When they come up with a solution we hear the government screaming. I would like to state that it is very important for the government to address what the economy is demanding. The budget has not addressed it. We all know that.
The Canadian Alliance, with the proposal it is putting forward in the 17% solution, addresses many issues. Why do we propose the 17% solution? It is because we have heard from the grassroots. We have heard from businesses. We have heard from Canadians who have told us their priorities. The 17% solution we are talking about is something Canadians want. Hopefully when we form the next government that will be the solution.