This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I could answer that question in part by saying what some of the priorities are not. We could be cutting out some of the corporate welfare to save a bit of money. We could be abolishing the Senate and saving $60 million a year. We could be perhaps scaling back on some of the very generous tax cuts to some of the wealthy people and large corporations to save a bit of money.

We could then spend that money along with the projected surplus on the priorities I listed: long term investment in education, research and development, infrastructure and housing. Housing kick starts the economy and creates a lot of jobs. We should not forget the farm crisis.

The finance committee has heard that those are very important priorities. The parliamentary secretary should be aware that we are hearing very little about more tax cuts and paying down the national debt at this time of economic slowdown. He knows what I mean by priorities. I have stated them a couple of times now.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, a few years ago the Alliance came to the House asking the government to get out of the lives of Canadians and to let the marketplace rule everything. It claimed everything would be okay if that happened. I was completely shocked yesterday when in question period Alliance members asked for government intervention in the economy. What a complete flip-flop by the Alliance.

Would my hon. colleague comment on the complete reversal of the Alliance's economic policies?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, it was Halloween yesterday. When members of the Alliance, the Reform or whoever they are came to the House in 1993, they spooked the Liberal government across the way into the biggest cutbacks we have ever seen in terms of social programs in Canada. The government gutted social programs. It privatized and it deregulated because it was scared of the member for Calgary Southwest and the Reform Party.

Now we see the flip-flop. Members' pensions is a very good example of that. We were all pigs at the trough for accepting pensions. All of a sudden that party did a flip-flop with regard to pensions and those members are now accepting the pension plan.

There was also the issue with Stornoway. That party was to turn Stornoway into a bingo hall. I recall the leader of the Reform Party doing a photo op with Audrey McLaughlin's old used car that she got as leader of the third party. The leader of the Reform Party would not accept the leader's car when he was the leader of the third party.

I also recall sitting in the gallery a few times between 1993 and 1997 when I was not an MP. The leader of the Reform Party sat in the second or third row of the House of Commons and said that politics would be done differently. That was another flip-flop by the Reform Party or Canadian Alliance.

Today the Alliance wants the federal government to spend more on security because there is a security crisis in the world. It wants the government to spend more on national defence, customs, CSIS and the RCMP. It is interesting to see these flip-flops by the Alliance.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Almost as good as Liberal flip-flops.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

They are not as good. The Liberals say one thing when they are out of office and another thing when they are in office. Maybe the Alliance is trying to imitate the Liberal Party sitting across the way.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to our prebudget consultations. It is unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is not here to listen to the views being expressed.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order please, I remind the hon. member that we are not to make any mention of who might not be here because we never know ourselves that for whatever reason we might not be here. That is a good policy.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for my lapse of judgment. The fact is that it would be important to have the Minister of Finance here to listen to these views because they are important views which reflect the people whom we represent not only in our own constituencies but across Canada.

His opinion of parliament is so low that he has not presented a budget to the House since February 28, 2000. Some 22 months, over 600 days, have gone by, which is far too long for a country to go without a defined and accountable economic plan. The government's opinion of parliament is so low that it does not believe it owes parliament a budget every year.

An annual budget imposes a discipline on the governance system. It provides important fiscal information to the domestic and foreign communities. It enforces deadlines on the public service, a feature well known to any municipal council in Canada, and provides accountability to parliament and to the people represented by parliamentarians. Constitutionally it enables the House to pronounce judgment on a government by debating and voting on the motion to approve government policy.

It imposes a discipline on opposition members by forcing us to present to the public our views on alternatives to government policy. Perhaps the government's view of the opposition is best summed up by Jeffrey Simpson's label of friendly dictatorship when he describes the Liberal government.

I am prepared to share with my fellow members of the House some of my views and our party's views as to what should be done in the upcoming budget notwithstanding the disdain that the Minister of Finance has demonstrated for the people of Canada represented in the House. Clearly Canada needs leadership at this very difficult time.

The events of September 11 remind us of how desperately important it is for governments to be there during times of crisis to provide some guidance and reassurances to people. However we should not make the mistake of assuming that the events of September 11 caused the recession or caused this economic downturn. It deepened the recession, but we were heading to a recession long before September 11. We had the worst quarterly results in Canada in the last six years prior to this recession.

In a post-September 11 environment we are probably in one of the greatest periods of economic uncertainty that Canada ever faced. This is a time when the finance minister had to be dragged kicking and screaming to introduce a budget in the House. During this time of economic uncertainty the finance minister has done very little to provide some level of reassurance or certainty. He consistently fudges his numbers, inadvertently or otherwise, and provides very little firmness in terms of the estimates to the House and parliament.

Some estimates are that there would be a surplus of perhaps $1 billion while other estimates are saying $13 billion. Bank of Nova Scotia chief economist Warren Jestin is saying a deficit of $5 billion. We need to have a budget and we need some guidance to move forward to firmer ground with this range of potential outcomes.

The industry minister is more optimistic than the finance minister, but the industry minister would not let a problem like lack of cash prevent him from pursuing some new opportunity to spend money and invest in opportunities that might not make a great deal of sense.

The government coasted for nine years and relied on the success of previous government policies such as free trade, the GST and deregulation. When the economy grew as a result of Progressive Conservation policies the finance minister actually took credit for growth. When our economy grew as a result of our closer integration to the U.S. economy and that juggernaut that performed so well during that period, the finance minister took credit.

He is now saying it is not his fault that we are in an economic downturn. It is the fault of the U.S. economy. He cannot have it both ways. The government cannot have it both ways. There has been a lack of accountability for their own actions. That is what has been fundamentally missing. He is again trying to avoid and duck responsibility when Canada faces a recession.

There has been no post-NAFTA vision from the government and it is little wonder that the government has been ill equipped to provide a post-NAFTA vision because that party when in opposition was opposed to NAFTA. Donald Macdonald, who chaired the commission that led to NAFTA, actually stated that the current Prime Minister and the current government would not have pursued NAFTA in the vigorous and courageous way that Brian Mulroney and his government did at that time.

I am proud to say that our party had the courage, vision and foresight to pursue aggressively and lead the agenda that helped attach the hands of Canadians to the economic opportunities that led globally in the 1990s. However I am disappointed in the current Liberal government for its lack of vision and its inability to provide any level of vision and policy in a post-NAFTA environment.

The greatest economic changes in the last hundred years have occurred in the past nine years. If we look at any barometer or gauge, whether it is technology or integration of economies, notwithstanding what occurs in terms of trade agreements, but globalization led by technology and the telco revolution, there have been so many changes, challenges and opportunities and there has never been a more expensive time for Canadians to have a caretakership, cruise control style of government.

Under this government our dollar has lost approximately 13 cents U.S. Under the previous government, over a nine year period the dollar only lost one penny. We are now seeing our dollar trading at record lows. The low dollar is the price Canadians are paying for nine years of cruise control, visionless government.

Every time the dollar drops Canadians take a collective pay cut. The Liberals were applauding the finance minister yesterday when there were questions asked about our low dollar. They do not really care about Canadians taking a pay cut because they live in an insulated little world where people can actually vote themselves a pay raise if they need it. Canadians cannot do that.

In 1998 in response to a question about the low dollar the Prime Minister said it was good for tourism. The logical corollary of his flawed argument would be that if we were to reduce the dollar to zero we would be the greatest exporting nation in the world. The minister said in 1998 that the problem really was not the Canadian fundamentals, the problem was that the market just did not get it. Three years later the market is still not getting it. I think Galbraith said it best when he said that we should beware of governments that say the fundamentals are good.

The biggest flaw in our current fundamentals is our lagging productivity growth, particularly relative to that of U.S., and not just the U.S. but most OECD countries. Our dollar, better than almost any other gauge, reflects our productivity levels.

The government, instead of pursuing the types of policies that can strengthen productivity, has been tinkering with policies. The best example of this is that instead of actually pursuing a tax reform package that could revolutionize productivity in Canada, that could actually put Canada on the leading edge as opposed to the bleeding edge, the government believes in tax tinkering based on polls and focus groups. More than anything else right now we in Canada need major broad based tax reform, starting with our profit insensitive taxes and capital taxes in particular. For every $1 in capital tax revenue collected by the government our economy loses $1.50 in productivity. There is no more expensive tax than capital taxes in regard to productivity, growth, opportunity and prosperity. Our federal capital tax revenue is about $1.5 billion per year. I would suggest that should be a good starting point in terms of tax reform.

Profit insensitive taxes in general, including payroll taxes, have to be given a more serious look. Not using payroll taxes, employment insurance in particular, which is in and of itself a regressive tax to begin with because it levels off at $39,000, should be addressed.

Our capital taxes have to be addressed. Other countries are addressing theirs. I was in Germany for a conference last week and learned that in Germany all capital taxes will be eliminated in 2002. In fact we are in the minority of industrialized nations that tax companies not just simply for the profits they make but on the capital they have.

When we tax capital we reduce investment. When we reduce investment we reduce productivity. Our dollar reflects that. Locking up our equity and capital in a capital gains tax prison is not a way to spur productivity. Other countries like Ireland and the U.S., and social democratic countries with vision, like the U.K. and Germany, are pursuing tax policies and tax reform packages that have significant potential to make a difference and turn productivity numbers around.

The approach of the industry minister and the government is one that is focused on spending. Could anyone actually disagree with the notion of broadband availability across Canada, in every small town and every rural community? No, of course no one could disagree with that notion, but let us look at it objectively. The fact is that in most of our cities now we have broadband availability yet the majority of people living in those cities still does not use broadband. The fact is, if the minister is speaking of the problem of a digital divide existing in Canada, the issue is not strictly rural-urban. The issue is a socioeconomic divide that exists even in our major cities.

It is an inconvenience in rural communities to access the Internet, but it can be done. I do not disagree with the notion of moving forward aggressively with this sort of plan in time, but in the short term it simply is wrongheaded. In fact the greatest single economic issue facing Canada right now, in a post-September 11 context, is the issue of a perimeter and the security of our external borders to ensure that the $2 billion of trade per day with the U.S. from which we benefit is not jeopardized. There is no better defender of our economic sovereignty than continued access to the U.S. trade that we need as Canadians. This is not a security issue alone. It is an economic issue.

Before I go further, I should have mentioned from the beginning that I will be sharing my time with the member for Brandon--Souris.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret that it might not be possible unless we have unanimous consent because the member already has surpassed the time limit of 10 minutes by approximately two minutes. That being the case, I will now turn to questions and comments for the hon. member for Kings--Hants and would recognize his colleague which would complete the 20 minute portion.

Does the House give consent?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the member for Kings--Hants. He gave us a history lesson on what has been going on for the last few years. Some of it I agreed with, but I thought he would come forward today with some specific ideas. This is a day when we put all our ideas on the table. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is taking notes on all the ideas and I noticed from the member's remarks that there were no new ideas here today. I am surprised and I want to say that the single biggest challenge we face as a nation is consumer confidence.

Consumer confidence right now is being challenged. It is very low. I would like to know if the member has any ideas on what we in the House can do in terms of giving recommendations to the Minister of Finance and the parliamentary secretary for the budget coming forward in three weeks or so. What can we do in this budget to stimulate consumer confidence so that we do not miss the Christmas cycle, which represents about 60% of a year's purchasing power, a year's consumer buying?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Toronto--Danforth is right that consumer confidence was jettisoned after the events of September 11. Prior to that, the last bastion of optimism was in the consumer confidence area.

Clearly there is no better way to make Canadians feel optimistic and comfortable with the future than securing and ensuring that our trade with the U.S. is not jeopardized. That is one of the biggest fears currently, so our perimeter issues are extremely important, issues like defence, like funding for our military, CSIS, the RCMP and coast guard. These are the types of policies that are required now. We need to reverse the trend that the government has pursued in gutting these institutions, which has jeopardized our sovereignty.

Ironically, the government is dilly-dallying and dithering on perimeter issues under the guise of sovereignty. There is no greater threat to Canadian economic sovereignty than the loss or jeopardizing of that $2 billion of trade per day with the U.S. The government has allowed itself to be dragged to the table, as opposed to leading as the Progressive Conservative government did under the leadership of my leader, the member for Calgary Centre, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at the time of free trade. That took leadership.

We need that type of leadership now. I thank the hon. member for Toronto--Danforth who earlier referred to a deathbed conversion on behalf of the Alliance. I do not know what they call it in Liberal circles when they flip flop on issues like free trade, the GST and deregulation, but it is not a deathbed. They are still living. I guess Liberals must have more lives than the rest of us mortals.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I as well enjoyed the sometimes caustic remarks from the member for Kings--Hants, but I also noted an absence of ideas, an absence of anything concrete that might be recommended here in terms of stimulating the economy or even in terms of availing ourselves of this opportunity to give some direction to the government in this prebudget period.

The hon. member did mention the 62 cent Canadian dollar. He pointed this out as a negative. Then he mentioned economic sovereignty in another context.

Would the hon. member agree with me that perhaps the biggest challenge to our economic sovereignty is not what I believe he mentioned, consumer confidence, but the fact that with a 62 cent Canadian dollar all of our Canadian industry sectors are vulnerable to foreign takeovers? As our country loses its economic sovereignty to foreign ownership, inch by inch and step by step we lose our national sovereignty as well.

Is it a concern of the PC Party that our economic sovereignty could be jeopardized through foreign ownership as a result of the 62 cent Canadian dollar?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from the New Democratic Party for his intervention. He may not have heard ideas he agreed with, but if he had listened closely he would have heard some ideas. I suspect the New Democratic Party is not with me on this capital tax elimination proposal.

That being the case, he is absolutely right that a low Canadian dollar certainly jeopardizes our sovereignty. We have seen our forestry industry effectively taken over. We have seen companies such as MacMillan Bloedel taken over by Weyerhaeuser. We have seen our petroleum industry largely taken over, with huge levels of takeover and unprecedented levels of acquisition by U.S. companies.

The hon. member's solution would be different from my solution. His solution would be to put up artificial barriers and try to pretend that Canada can live insulated from the pressures of a global economy.

However I would suggest that the best way to address the issue of the Canadian dollar or the best way to address the question of our economic sovereignty or the threat of a U.S. takeover of our Canadian economic interests is to strengthen our productivity. The best way to address that is through major, broad based tax reform, addressing capital taxes, capital gains taxes, those taxes that pummel investment, that punish initiative and those taxes that hold Canadians back when the rest of the world is moving forward and seizing opportunities that we simply do not have here because of the visionless government that continues to dilly-dally as other governments leap further ahead.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak briefly and will use only the remaining time. I have no difficulty with that for the simple reason that my colleague from Kings--Hants, the finance critic for our party, is very knowledgeable and understanding of the issues which face Canadians right now and which face the government as it tries to create the confidence in the Canadian economy that is required in these days of uncertainty.

I will reduce my time to simply say that my colleague did an extremely good job. He had some good ideas that he put forward to the House and to the government. As was indicated, if people do not wish to agree with or listen to those ideas it is certainly not my colleague's fault. No one can say he did not try to instill a change of direction into the rather lethargic economic pace of the government we have today.

I thank the parliamentary secretary for being here. I have had the opportunity to talk to the member for Markham on a number of occasions although not necessarily about the economic situation that faces us. Every chance I get I ask the member for Markham what the economy is like. He simply sloughs it off as his government and the Minister of Finance have done in the past.

However the member for Markham, the parliamentary secretary, has some good ideas. He was a chief economist for a very large corporation in Canada and he has implemented processes in the past that have stimulated his industry. However he acted in a proactive fashion. What we are seeing from the government is more of a reactive policy with respect to finance and economies.

I will give an example. We have asked the Minister of Finance over and over again in the last 12 months what the government sees happening in our economy and why there is a lack of confidence in Canadian society today. Unfortunately it is because the Minister of Finance in all his wonderful rhetoric rails upon what happened 8 or 10 years ago but does not put forward to Canadians what it is that he should be dealing with today to stimulate the economy.

If I have heard it once I have heard a dozen times about what happened in 1993 when the government took over with respect to the unemployment rate, deficits and interest rates. That is not what Canadians want to hear. When we ask the Minister of Finance what he is prepared to do to stimulate the economy he has no ideas. Let us not blame the member for Kings--Hants for not putting forward ideas. The Minister of Finance who should have the ideas has not demonstrated those ideas. That is deplorable.

I would rather hear some of the ideas of the parliamentary secretary. Perhaps he has some fresh ideas as to where the Minister of Finance should be going.

The first question we asked in the House was why there had not been a budget for some 600 days. A simple question should have a fairly simple answer. Why was the Minister of Finance so terribly embarrassed to bring forward a full budget in the last 600 days? He should tell Canadians why.

Why would the Minister of Finance not tell Canadians what the revenues were in the last fiscal year? Why would he not tell Canadians what the expenditures were in the last fiscal year? Why would he not tell Canadians what the surplus would be? The surplus figures have been fudged since the minister became the Minister of Finance.

Why could the Minister of Finance not do this? Was it because the PMO was not allowing him to do his job properly? Was it because other leadership contenders in the government benches would not allow him to put forward proposals he thought would be necessary to get us out of the doldrums? He cannot stick his head in the sand any longer.

Day after day economists tell us we are not only in a recession but a deep recession. Day after day economists tell us the falling Canadian dollar is putting us in a worse position to compete with our major trading partners. The Minister of Finance must come forward. He has been forced to do so. He says the events of September 11 have exacerbated the situation and forced him to come forward.

Let us not think that Canadians do not recognize that the situation existed long before September 11. The Minister of Finance cannot use that as his excuse. The government cannot use it as an excuse for not putting in place other policies, tax cuts and positions that were necessary prior to September 11. We want answers. We want suggestions. We suggest that the capital tax could and should have been cut.

This morning on television when I awoke I heard the president of the United States say that congress had better have a stimulus package on his desk by the end of November. That was leadership. That was the president of a country who said he knows what is happening and knows how to fix it.

Never once has the Prime Minister stood and said we must put in place a stimulus package to get things going. Do members know what he said? He said it does not matter if our dollar is 62.96 cents because it is better for exports. That is sticking one's head in the sand. That is letting the standard of living we have developed in Canada go continually down.

The parliamentary secretary knows we need a stimulus package. He knows we need tax breaks. Capital tax is a start. He knows we must make sure we are retroactive in dealing with trade with the United States. Some 80% of our economy comes from trade with the United States. The United States is showing protectionism with softwood lumber right now. It has attacked agriculture in the past. There will be a ruling in the WTO today regarding the American attack on the Canadian Wheat Board.

If we do not have open access to our major trading partner our economy will suffer dramatically. Where are the proactive positions of the government to stop that from happening?

I am nervous. I am concerned. Canadians are concerned. The member asked what we would do to promote consumer confidence. What has happened in the past up to this point on those benches has done nothing to instill confidence into Canadians. That is the job of those members. They are the government. They should come up with the ideas, put the packages in place and let Canadians get on with their economic livelihoods. That is not happening at this time.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I must confess that notwithstanding the kind comments toward me from the hon. member I have a bit of a problem. I have been making notes on suggestions. I have a quarter to a third of a page from the Alliance, a quarter of a page from the Bloc and a third of a page from the NDP. When I come to the fifth party my page is blank. To be charitable I have three words: lower capital tax.

My question seeks to amplify what has been said before. Other than a statement of platitudes about needing higher security or a potted version of history, which I would dispute, I have heard absolutely nothing in terms of concrete suggestions as to what the budget should contain. That is the purpose of this debate.

Are the two leaders of the fifth party bereft of ideas? Do they have anything concrete to put forward?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, if we were bereft of ideas we would have to sit on the government side. Obviously we do not, so we are not bereft of ideas.

Did the member not hear the words capital tax reduction? It is pretty simple. Did the member not hear the words reduce frivolous spending? He should have. Let us get the departments together and if there has been exceptional or frivolous spending in certain departments let us reduce that spending and put it into priority items.

Did the member not hear that we must make sure we are proactive in the trade we have between Canada and the United States? Does he need to sit back and say we should close the borders to our major trading partner? Is he suggesting that? We should make sure our borders are open to trade. If we do not our fiscal position will become even worse than it is now.

Did he not hear us say we should demonstrate confidence? Let the Prime Minister stand and give Canadians the consumer confidence that is lacking right now. He should show confidence. That is leadership. We have not seen any of that.

Where is the Prime Minister during this debate? He should be leading by example but that has not happened. The president of the United States has done that. Why has the Prime Minister of Canada not done the same?

Does the parliamentary secretary want more ideas? I would love to have a cup of coffee with him. We could certainly run the Department of Finance a lot better than it is being operated now.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with shock when I heard the hon. member for Brandon--Souris speak. On the heels of $100 billion in tax cuts, much of it to the middle class and to the corporate tax rate, we are entering a period of increased spending for the military because we find ourselves in a long and complicated military conflict. In the current situation the only thing the hon. member recommends is capital tax cuts.

The hon. member's party has been accused of being devoid of ideas. Is that all its members can recommend at this juncture in our history when we are going into a new budget that will require extra spending on the military side? Most people would hope opposition parties would come forward with recommendations as to from where the money would come so that it does the least harm.

To even suggest that this is a time for further tax cuts boggles the mind. The hon. member's party believes that is a panacea for everything as if people with toothaches could feel better by giving themselves a tax cut.

From what part of the budget does the hon. member believe the new spending will come? Will it come from the aboriginal issues raised in the Speech from the Throne? Will it come from transfers to the provinces through the CHST? Who will be asked to tighten their belts to pay for the extra money we need for this military intervention? What does the Tory party think about that?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I find it rather interesting that all of a sudden there has been a change of heart in the NDP. All of a sudden it feels the military should have more spending. I thought it was the NDP that did not support the military action and did not want to look at increased spending. I find inconsistencies in the position of the member from Winnipeg.

I said we should look at areas that do have frivolous spending attached to them. The first thing we should talk about is the potential $1 billion going into Mr. Tobin's pet project. I think it started out as $6 billion. Those new priorities--

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member causes me to rise again on the same matter as when I intervened earlier. I know that sometimes with all our enthusiasm we might get a little carried away so I caution the member for Brandon--Souris.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Your caution is well taken, Mr. Speaker. I apologize. I should not have used the name of the Minister of Industry. However his pet project is not a priority expenditure line item right now. That should be identified in the budget that comes forward.

I understand that the minister of HRDC wants to expand her empire quite substantially. That is not a necessary expenditure right now as we enter an economic downturn and require expenditures of priority.

I see priority expenditures in defence, as I have just heard from the NDP. I see expenditures of priority in CSIS, the RCMP and certainly in agriculture. I say that honestly. I am sure the member from Manitoba would agree that agriculture throughout the country has a necessary expenditure attached to it because of the huge drought we suffered over the past year.

It can be done. We all do it in our own households. We make sure in our budgets that we live within revenues lines. We cut back where spending is not necessary and spend money where there is a priority.

That is all we are saying. We should have done this a long time ago. We should not have to wait until the 11th hour for the Minister of Finance to come forward with a budget when one has not been presented for almost two years.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Liberal

Sophia Leung LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the prebudget debate. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for London West.

I want to speak about the priority my constituents of Vancouver Kingsway request for the coming budget.

It is clear that our country has fundamentally changed since the September 11 attacks in the U.S.A. It is for this very reason that the security of Canadians has emerged as the number one priority for my constituents.

The government in recent weeks has taken some major steps to address this new reality. I would like to outline a few of them now.

The safety and protection of Canadians at the border is of paramount concern for all of us. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency took on the important task of reforming border management by introducing Bill S-23, a bill that would modernize our customs system. The bill was passed last week by the House and received royal assent October 27.

The fundamental premise behind Bill S-23 was the concept of risk management. Advances in technology combined with our experience at the front line have paved the way for many of the initiatives contained within the bill. The expansion of the Canpass program, the expedited passenger processing system for airports, and the customs self-assessment program will all help to speed the flow of low risk personal and commercial traffic into our country. At the same time, those programs will free valuable resources to focus on those who would try to break our laws.

The horrific events of September 11 let us pause to think about how we manage our borders. It is important that this budget addresses the concerns of Canadians regarding the border by providing additional financial resources to ensure that trade and commerce in Canada continues to grow and flow to drive the Canadian economy.

Since September the Standing Committee on Finance has been conducting its prebudget consultations with various institutions and organizations throughout Canada. The committee has listened to Canadians, including my constituents.

It is very clear that national security is the most important issue for all of us. It will require increased financial resources for defence and security measures to support additional needs for customs, immigration, the RCMP and CSIS, et cetera. It is important that the budget addresses this new concern of Canadians.

Throughout the years Canadians have made sacrifices in order to reach the government's goal to eliminate the deficit. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the members of parliament have worked very hard to be able to use our surplus to offer $100 billion in tax cuts over the next five years while at the same time increase spending on such things as the child tax benefit and reinvesting in our national infrastructure innovations, education and green environment.

It is very clear that our economy is slowing and the surpluses as a result will be smaller. However we cannot allow ourselves to slip into deficit once again. This is what I heard from many Canadians.

The government has made it clear that we will continue to fulfill our commitment to health care, education and innovation programs for Canadians. I believe, despite a slowdown in our economy, that we must continue to invest in Canadians and ensure that our economy thrives in the long term.

In British Columbia, we are facing financial difficulty in the forest and tourism industries. We need economic stimulus from the federal government. The small and medium businesses have repeatedly asked for a capital tax reduction. The universities need support for their core funding.

I have no doubt that, despite the increased cost of national security, the government will continue with a balanced budget while providing the programs and services that Canadians need and want while avoiding any unnecessary spending and waste.

The people of Vancouver Kingsway and indeed all Canadians can expect that the government will be responsible for Canadians' needs. I hope the upcoming budget will be a fair and balanced one and one that will restore the confidence of Canadians.

First, the budget should support security measures to provide protection and safety for all Canadians. Second, it should fulfill the commitment for increased funding for health and education. Third, it should provide additional support for international development for peace and foreign aid. Fourth, it should keep Canada out of a deficit situation.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the member for Vancouver Kingsway opened her remarks by saying that the people of Canada have just come out of eight or nine long years of budget and spending cutbacks to where most people felt that the deficit was paid down on the backs of social spending.

I certainly agree with her because of the $100 billion that we have now given away in tax cuts: $30 billion came from the Canada health and social transfers to the province; $30 billion came from the public service pension plan surplus; and another $30 billion came from EI surpluses. I agree that after eight long years Canadians have just about had enough.

Now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel again and we have had budgetary surpluses, we are told we cannot get into a spending mode and go back and deal with some of the social deficit because we now have this military intervention we have to worry about.

Given the fact that there is no longer a surplus but we now need a whole whack of money to go and fight this new war, and given the fact that Canadians are being told they will have to tighten their belts and water their wine down somewhat because of the military spending, where in the budget is she going to see the cuts happening? Will it be in aboriginal affairs? Will it be in the Canada health and social transfer? Where does she see this new money coming from and what direction would she give to her government in this prebudget debate?

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have indicated that we will fulfill our promises and commitments, whether it be on tax cuts, health, education or any other social program.

I am not saying there will be cutbacks. I must stress that we will, wherever possible, attempt to ensure that there is no unnecessary spending or waste. We know there are perhaps delays in some programs. In the meantime, we have made commitments and we will fulfill those commitments.

Prebudget ConsultationGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver Kingsway says that some programs may need to be put on hold and that maybe we will have to wait until the government introduces some of the things that were advertised in the Speech from the Throne, some of these things Canadians have been looking forward to after eight or nine long years of cutbacks and lack of social spending.

When she says that some things may have to be put on the back burner, I wonder what she means and what issues her government is contemplating. The information we have gives us reason to believe that some spending will go toward aboriginal issues which was much vaunted in the Speech from the Throne. People welcomed the fact that the government was finally going to deal with some of the terrible backlog of need in aboriginal communities.

Does the member think that perhaps aboriginal affairs will be one of the things that might have to be put on the back burner? In other words, will someone be dipping into the budget or future budgets or the future spending plans of aboriginal affairs to fund the military intervention?