The unemployed, because these surpluses come from the employment insurance fund. This has been proven. Even the auditor general criticized this. The employment insurance fund, workers and the unemployed are currently paying off the debt. This makes no sense, when the government is not contributing a cent. It is actually stealing from them. This week all the newspaper articles on the subject were saying this very thing, not just the Bloc. All the analysts are saying it. This is cooking the books, this is theft, no doubt about it.
By falsifying the true picture of public finances in Canada, the federal government has also misappropriated considerable funds from the public domains of health and education, for example. It has also hindered public participation, since the public is receiving very mixed messages.
We condemn the alarmist tone of the report, the report tabled by the Liberal majority at the Standing Committee on Finance. We did not support it, because it does not contain the information and the priorities witnesses came before us to express. The report simply indicates the government's fear about the deficit, while we say this concern and uncertainty are mistaken. The figures were once again falsified, and the Minister of Finance is doing this deliberately.
If they really had good intentions, a statement to this effect would have helped maintain consumer spending at higher levels and would have sent a positive signal of an economy that can slow down without collapsing.
As well, we do not at all agree that there is a danger of slipping back into a deficit position. The budget surplus for the first six months of the fiscal year reached $13.6 billion. In six months, there was a $13.6 billion surplus. The economy was already slowing down before the events of September 11, but even with this slowdown, there is a $13.6 billion surplus. As far as I know, Canada is still in a downturn, but there has not been a collapse. Plus, there are all the current inflows. This is the holiday period and consumers are spending on consumer products.
So where is this crisis? We know that there have been layoffs in some plants, but the situation is not catastrophic. There was already a surplus of $13.6 billion. At the close of the fiscal year, at the end of March, there will be yet another false estimate of the surplus. This false estimate will allow the government to say that it has no choice, that it must put the money toward paying off the debt and creating a new infrastructure foundation instead of increasing the Canada health and social transfers for priorities such as health and education as the provinces had asked. This is but another way to stick their noses in the business of provinces.
Infrastructure comes under provincial jurisdiction. Instead of injecting the $2 billion promised into the existing program that the provinces are already used to, as there were already negotiations and there are already agreements, no, the government had to go and create yet another administrative monster. The directors have yet to be appointed, but we can safely guess that they will be friends of the governing party, those who contributed the most to election campaigns. We have no doubt about that. They want the public to believe that this process and this budget are transparent. Once again, this is hogwash.
How could the government make the entire $13.6 billion surplus disappear? Even with a downturn, this week's increase in military spending, and beefed up security, it is hard to imagine a balanced approach, which is apparently so dear to the government, pushing the bill as high as $13 billion.
In fact, for the country to slip back into a deficit situation, annual growth would have to drop below minus 5%, or spending would have to jump by 11%, showing just how ridiculous this alarmism is.
Finally, the Bloc Quebecois wishes to remind the Liberal majority on the Standing Committee on Finance, and the Minister of Finance himself, that a large portion of last year's federal surplus, approximately $7.5 billion, came from the EI fund surplus. We have spoken about this. According to the fund's chief actuary, this year's surplus will be in the neighbourhood of the $7.8 billion squirrelled away during the last fiscal period. This means that it will be $7.8 billion at the end of March. No small amount.
We would also have preferred to see the economy given a little boost in this budget. In the context of the present economic downturn and the impact of the events of September 11, the Bloc Quebecois proposed to the Minister of Finance a $5 billion plan for stabilizing the economy, without producing a deficit. That is what we proposed.
This plan is built around two key notions: supporting the economy and supporting jobs. It was realistic, effective and responsible. Sadly, the Minister of Finance did not draw from it.
Furthermore, despite the spending this plan would have entailed, the federal Minister of Finance would still have had ample leeway to meet the new security and international aid requirements.
With respect to international aid, we had a plan which could have boosted us to the 0.7% of GDP suggested by the UN. Instead, aid spending has gone up by a meagre one hundredth of 1%, to 0.26%. It is absurd, and then the government tells us about its wonderful foreign aid programs, when several millions of dollars went towards propaganda.
It spent a few million dollars on propaganda in other countries about our leadership in this, that and the other, and about how we are the greatest country in the world. Yesterday, someone even jokingly referred to Canada's greatest terrorists. This strikes me as a bit odd. Overuse of the word greatest will eventually prove one's downfall.
The plan we had proposed was based on more realistic estimates, since it draws on the most conservative scenario. Out of a concern for caution, because the Bloc is a responsible party and does not want to plunge Quebec and Canada into a budget deficit, we chose the hypothesis based on negative growth of 2% for the first two quarters of 2001-02.
As the case may be, at the end of the present fiscal year, as we have said, the federal surpluses would amount to $13.6 billion. We are not talking of the last months, but of the first six months. We think the surplus will be $13.6 billion. We already know the facts. We think it could be slightly higher, but these are conservative figures.
Our estimates reflect the tax cuts and transfers to the provinces. If we deduct from that the $5 billion required to implement the economic recovery plan proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, which represents one time expenditures, the Minister of Finance would still have a comfortable margin of $8.6 billion.
In this recovery plan, which I will discuss it briefly, because time is running out and I have only two minutes left, we proposed to provide $1.85 billion to support small and medium size businesses, and $1.15 billion for employment insurance. The Bloc Quebecois felt that the federal government should implement a series of measures to restore confidence and put back to work the thousands of Quebecers and Canadians who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the crisis.
The government should immediately implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. That report, which contained 17 recommendations, was unanimously approved by all committee members.
Out of these 17 recommendations, the Minister of Finance has followed up on just one, which is totally meaningless. It provides for a shorter waiting period for apprentices, such as a labourer or cook apprentice, but there is no new money.