Mr. Speaker, I would like to say what my personal priorities are. Hopefully these reflect the views of a number of my constituents on issues that have been raised across the country and in a prebudget debate that was held in my riding a couple of weeks ago.
I will start from the premise that fiscal credibility is important to our government. Fiscal credibility was paid for by Canadians. It was paid for by processes and successive prudent expenditures, prudent investments and prudent budgeting which have brought us to the point where we can enjoy the $2 billion plus of savings on interest on our national debt. This brought us to the point before September 11 where we were looking at a very large skills and learning agenda and a very large innovation agenda. These are good, positive things for Canadians to invest in. I believe there is a difference between spending without thought and true investment that is stimulus.
So many hours, so many days of weeping and wailing have been spent wondering whether or not we were going to have a budget. Whether or not it was called a budget, there were $100 billion of tax cuts spread over five years and $20 billion went into health care. A year ago many things went through this parliament and were effective. President Bush, our neighbour to the south, had to wait for the legislation but we were already on that train and that is part of the stimulus that will continue.
Most Canadians would agree that we should not go into a deficit position at this point in time. I have heard from some people who are willing to go with a debt to GDP ratio that continues downward which would allow for a few billion dollars in deficit in one year. Fiscal credibility is important psychologically at this point in time. The prudence that has been the hallmark of our government, even though it has not been the traditional Liberal philosophy is the current Liberal philosophy. We are an accountable government. We have made proper investments.
Turning to my priorities in investments, I come from London, Ontario. I represent a city that is very rich in industrial research capacity, medical research capacity, engineering and social science research capacity. Over many years the government has talked about having moved Canada up the scale from being one of the lower countries in the OECD to being fifth in the world in supporting R and D. This is a valid investment. There can be no interruption in the current flow of money to research and development in my opinion.
Another issue that has been spoken about in research circles is the indirect cost of research. The part of me that thinks with a jurisdictional hat says that historically at our post-secondary education facilities the infrastructure supporting all of this work has been borne by the provinces. However it is our productivity agenda. It is our innovation agenda. Therefore I believe there is no more capacity for these researchers to absorb the cost of their work if we are not contributing in some way to the soft costs of doing that research, whether it occurs in a university or in a hospital. I come from the province of Ontario where unfortunately per capita spending on post-secondary education is the lowest of all the provinces and territories. That is an appalling situation but it happens to be the truth.
If this cannot be done in this budget, I would ask the Minister of Finance to put a marker on the table so that the research community knows that this is a concept that has been agreed to, understood and will go forward. I would urge that there be some start in this budget. The position has to be made very clear so we can extend hope to all the people who are helping with future productivity in Canada. That is very important not just for my riding, but it is important across the country, whether that comes from our granting councils or the CIHR, which took over from the Medical Research Council of Canada.
There are some fine point tools that we can utilize. On October 12 when I was in my riding the United Way asked for favourable tax treatment on capital gains when people donate stocks to charities. The United Way was very pleased to see that was extended permanently. The tool is appropriate for use in public foundations also.
More and more as governments, especially provincial governments, circumnavigate themselves into a corner by putting the no deficit legislation into place, we are going to be looking to our charities and our public foundations to help carry the weight of the true social need that exists in the country. That is a technical provision which I do not think will cost large sums of dollars to the fisc. However it will have an incredible impact on donations by concerned corporations and individuals in this country to transfer shares by having a more favourable capital gains tax situation. That is being extended to the charities right now. There is no logical reason that the foundations could not get similar treatment.
I would like to talk about the aboriginal communities. One of the reasons I asked my government to go on the finance committee was so I could move the aboriginal agenda forward. There has to be sufficient funding to continue all of the necessary work. It is true that the standard of living enjoyed by most Canadians is not shared to the same degree by our aboriginal communities. This is a necessary agenda. It seems that some communities always are told to wait. There is always a reason that we cannot take care of their needs.
The needs are pretty basic in the aboriginal communities. They are safe water, housing and education needs. We should understand as a government that the demographics of this particular population is different from that of average Canadians. There is going to be a huge increase in aged people in the non-native population but it is the reverse in the native population. In fact there is going to be a 25% increase in aboriginal youth before 2015. All of those youth need the tools to be educated and the department is the all encompassing vehicle for transfers at this time, unless they come out from under the Indian Act like the Nisga'a which I celebrate. They need those funds.
A number of people across the aisle have talked about human capital and I concur. My metaphor for this budget is an accordion. Some programs, for instance the security programs, will have to be squeezed in. In other words what might have been a five year roll out on security items and security spending perhaps will have to come down to a one year or two year roll out. Obviously that will have to go up and that means that type of spending will not be a one time hit. It is something that Canadians are demanding.
There are ongoing security needs in our country, not only for personal safety reasons, but economic security as well. This includes making sure our borders are working properly and that low risk goods and people get through in a timely manner. All of our resources, whether human intelligence resources or enforcement resources, must be there to help our markets work properly. We are a trading nation. We have to have the confidence at our borders and in our land of all of our trading partners to make our economy work.
The security agenda is high on my list but I see other areas being expanded a bit. I believe in our innovation agenda. I believe in our jobs and skills agenda. If it is necessary in the very short term to roll out those programs a little slower, it is not saying we do not value what we are doing. I am just saying we must live within our budgetary means. This is important to Canadians.
Many valuable tools, techniques and programs are being put before us. No one in this Chamber does not want the preservation of our environment. No one in this Chamber does not want a federal park that we can all enjoy. Perhaps we cannot acquire the 14 parks that we say we need to complete the infrastructure of parks across the nation right now. Perhaps that is not on the table today. Maybe we should be doing the options to lease around the parks where we think we will be working in the future trying to make sure they are there when we do have the fiscal capacity.
This is an important debate. It cannot be about the historical context or the wish list because from what I have seen, everybody comes to the table saying, and very rightly so, that their investment is more important and is the one that needs to be funded. Most of them could be funded if we had a wish fountain but in reality we have tax revenues. Our economy is now slower than it was and that means there is less money coming into our fisc. There may be more drains on it as people need temporary employment and to get to their next period of employment, assistance from the government.
It is interesting that for the first time across the country, including the west, I heard that there is an important role for government in the lives of people. On September 11 it was not the private corporations that they looked to for security, it was the government. We have to fund properly our security element which has a military element.
To my mind there is a division between the military component and the security component. How I have interpreted what I have heard across the country is that it is not so much a discussion about hardware as it is about humans and using technology properly.
Even the technology costs are not going to be a one time cost. Nobody has ever set up a technologically advanced office and said that now that they have bought a computer, that is it and they do not have to do anything for the next 20 years. We all know that updates are needed. Even the hardware is not a one time cost when we get into biometrics at our borders. These are important points to consider.
I want to talk about dedicated taxes. I heard that especially with respect to highways. Dedicated taxes take away from the flexibility of governments to react appropriately in times of crisis and need.
It is with very good reason that money comes into the federal government by way of general revenues. Those people arguing, and they know who they are across the country, that they have spent so much on a certain tax and therefore so much should be reinvested, cannot understand that if everybody had their silo of dedicated taxes, we as a government could not respond to the true needs. The true needs are here and abroad.
I will put one small marker on the table. Historically Canada has done a very poor job overseas as a percentage of GDP in contributing to international assistance. We, with many countries, had a goal of 0.7 of 1% at one time. We are well below that.
Even if the foreign aid goes more to the good governance envelope, which I firmly believe should be part of the agenda, there are situations where we are spending money overseas on military and peacekeeping operations where if the governance of a country, the strength of the democracy of a country were there and assisted in the first place, perhaps we would not be going out in a military fashion after the fact.
Canada has a role to play. It is a very small portion of the overall budget picture and I would not like to see it abandoned at this time.