Mr. Speaker, I move:
that the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented to the House on Monday, November 26, be concurred in.
I rise today to speak in concurrence with the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Finance, the prebudget consultation report.
We have completed two days of budget debate in the House but the government has not seen fit to continue the budget debate before the Christmas recess. It would rather debate gun control and animal rights than the essential business of the people of Canada in building economic and national security.
I know the government House leader has been trying to change that today but he is not having much success with other parties within the House to continue the budget debate so I am having to use this method to make sure that my party lets the Canadian public know how we feel.
Before we get into the budget and into the substance of my remarks, I have to use this opportunity to express the outrage of Her Majesty's loyal opposition at the remarks made by the spouse of Her Majesty's viceregal representative.
John Ralston Saul is known by the title, His Excellency, and performs official functions as consort of the Governor General and is prominently featured on the Governor General's website. Therefore his remarks are not those of an ordinary private citizen but those of a representative of the crown.
In his latest book he attacks our American allies accusing their aggressivity of leading, at least in part, to the horrific September 11 attacks. He, as the consort of our royal representative, personally attacked President George W. Bush, the head of state of our greatest ally, the United States.
The Prime Minister himself has called the United States not only our friends and neighbours but our family. This is not how we treat family.
I urge the government to rein in these highly inappropriate political remarks by the representative who is supposed to be above politics. As a former governor general, Ed Schreyer, said “Mr. Saul is leading us into uncharted waters”. He said of his own spouse, who was deeply involved in social issues, that she kept her political opinions private. Her judgment was to refrain from making any statements that directly or indirectly related back to contemporary political controversy. There will be more to follow in question period on this issue.
In order to continue the debate, the official opposition would like to bring the attention of the House toward the excellent report of the committee, which made sensible recommendations, and the travesty of the finance minister's budget, which has been justly dubbed 2001, a waste odyssey.
Like the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey , this may be called budget 2001 but it seems to have been written in the 1960s. One of the Prime Minister's communications staff said a couple of weeks ago that the budget would be written by one person. It happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada, not the finance minister.
I thought it was quite funny yesterday when we actually asked that question and we got both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance not knowing who should stand up. They both stood up and grabbed the Deputy Prime Minister's hand and said that maybe he did it.
If it is true that the Prime Minister wrote the budget, it certainly explains why it so closely resembles the tax and spend budgets of the Liberal governments when the Prime Minister was finance minister in the late 1970s.
Indeed, the spending increases we have seen in the last two years were the biggest spending growth in real terms that we have seen since the Prime Minister's own budgets. Program spending in the coming year will rise by at least 9.3% or $11 billion. This is on top of a 6.7% increase in spending the year before. This is a 16% spending increase in just two years from a government that boasts about its sound fiscal management. These are irresponsible and unsustainable levels of spending.
Spending is growing nearly nine times faster than the economy which will only grow by 1.1%. It is increasing far faster than the growth rate of inflation and population. It is increasing faster than the productive capacity of the economy to grow and sustain this level of spending.
Dale Orr of WEFA, one of the country's leading economists, said “these spending increases are unsustainable”. Let us consider the wild growth and projected spending for the current year. In the 1999 fall economic update, the finance minister projected $118 billion in spending for this year. By February 2000 that had risen to $121.5 billion. By the fall 2000 mini budget, it was up to $124.6 billion.
Today the government is saying it would spend $130.5 billion. Clearly the spending path of the government is out of control.
We in the official opposition agree that in the wake of September 11 increased spending in some areas was necessary, especially in national defence and security. Most of this money could have been found by cutting waste and mismanagement in the pre-existing $120 billion in government spending.
Furthermore it is important to point out that of the $10.4 billion in new spending over the next three years less than 40% would be allocated for national security as promised by the government since the election. Over 60% of the new spending would be on Liberal pet projects, not for safety and security of Canadians. Of that 60% not a dime would be provided for health care services. So much for priorities. The finance minister said on September 17:
We are looking at what are the lower priority areas and how do we make sure that we can fund the higher priority areas.
The finance committee endorsed this sensible approach in its prebudget report. The parliamentary secretary to the minister who stands up and defends the government in question period put his name to the report. The committee's report stated:
To the extent that new spending on security and defence could lead to a deficit, the government must balance this new spending with spending cutbacks elsewhere.
I looked at the Liberal website where the Minister of Finance said that he could not find any waste areas. He should take the auditor general out for lunch. She could fill him in on about $16.5 billion in waste that the government could cut.