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House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Business of the House

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, under the business of supply today there is an opposition motion in the name of the hon. Leader of the Opposition. Due to circumstances beyond his control he is unable to be here this morning. I therefore seek unanimous consent to allow the supply motion to stand in my name.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “The Guaranteed Income Supplement: The Duty to Reach All”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, your committee requests the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

The report contains seven recommendations that strive to address a longstanding problem that has adversely affected a sizeable number of low income seniors for too many years.

Code of Canadian CitizenshipRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-417, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Fundy--Royal for supporting the private member's bill, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.

The PC/DR coalition bill is about Canadian citizenship. It speaks to and unites all Canadians, Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice. The bill would ensure there is only one class of citizenship in Canada, unlike the last Liberal bill, Bill C-31, which promoted two classes of citizenship.

It is time for Canada to have a new citizenship bill, an act for all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

December 4th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the upcoming budget should:

(a) reallocate financial resources from low and falling priorities into higher need areas, such as national security;

(b) reverse the unbudgeted spending increases to a maximum growth rate of inflation plus population;

(c) increase national security and defence spending by $3 billion;

(d) reduce Employment Insurance (EI) premiums by at least 15 cents for next year and continue reducing EI premiums to the break-even rate as soon as possible;

(e) commit to enhancing job creation by eliminating the capital tax over a maximum of three years beginning with a minimum 25% cut this year; and

(f) sell non-core government assets and use the proceeds to accelerate debt reduction.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Today being the last allotted day for the supply period ending December 10, 2001, the House will now proceed as usual to the consideration and passage of a supply bill.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that this bill be now distributed?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Edmonton--Strathcona. This motion is an effort on the part of the official opposition to allow parliament to express itself in advance of the federal budget expected six days from now.

It is a budget which will come some 652 days since the last accounting to this place by the Minister of Finance. It will constitute the longest period without a budget being presented to parliament. This is yet another example of the government's long and formidable record of contempt for this place and its conventions of democratic accountability.

It is an important convention that allows the executive branch to present comprehensive accounts of the nation's fiscal and economic health to this place. It is a convention which is at the heart of parliament and it is contemptuous for the government to have waited for over 652 days to satisfy that important tradition.

What exactly is going on with this budget exercise? The government is floating trial balloons about another budget coming down perhaps next February or March. We read stories about open public cabinet fights over the content of the budget, a document normally produced with some internal coherence by the government. The Minister of Industry is actively lobbying businesses to lobby the government to include his political agenda items in the budget.

We hear the finance minister's acolytes publicly attacking the industry minister for so doing and suggesting, hopefully, that his $6 billion in requested pork will not find its way into the budget. On the weekend a senior member of the Prime Minister's Office said:

This budget will be written by one person. It happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada, not the Minister of Finance.

What is going on? Who is minding the store? Who is in charge of the nation's finances? Why is it that we cannot have normal regular accounts to the nation on an annual basis in this place like we had for some 130 years? I simply do not understand.

The budget will be a test for the government as to whether or not it can get its priorities straight. Canadians have their priorities straight. They understand that in the post-September 11 environment the top priority of the government must be, as it always ought to have been and should have been for a federal government, the maintenance of national security and the protection of citizens. That is the first obligation of a federal government. That is an obligation which for too long has been sloughed off by the government.

We will first be looking to see whether or not the government gets its priorities straight in terms of reallocating resources from low and falling priority areas to the urgently imperative priorities of national security and defence. Our defence capability and security services are sorely underfunded and underresourced. Canadians spend 1.1% of our gross domestic product on national defence. That is about half of the NATO average of 2.2%. We would require a doubling of the defence budget to come up to the average expenditure of our treaty allies.

I do not have time to detail the sorry state of our equipment and the fact that our personnel dropped from over 90,000 to some 56,000 in the past few years. The government cut its defence budget more than any other departmental budget reflecting that defence was the government's lowest priority. Now we find that the world has changed. We have been mugged by reality and our holiday from history is over.

The utopian Liberal notion that peace is a normal condition of humankind is no longer the case. We find ourselves part of an international struggle against terrorism by moral and treaty obligations. We must put adequate resources back into defence, the RCMP and CSIS. The latter two have fewer personnel and lower budgets in real and nominal terms than they did when the government came to office in 1993.

We must invest more in customs and immigration services, technology and personnel. We must increase our ability to screen would-be criminals and terrorists who seek entry into Canada. The coast guard needs additional resources to allow it to more effectively monitor incoming vessels along our enormous unguarded coastline. We need to do all these things.

The official opposition calls for an immediate injection of at least $2 billion of annual funding into the Department of National Defence and further increases into that department so that eventually we could move toward achieving the NATO average. Clearly that cannot be achieved overnight. It ought to be our goal as it is our obligation, both legal and moral.

We need to spend immediately approximately $1 billion dollars to increase the infrastructure and personnel for other non-military security areas that I mentioned earlier. Together we are looking for a minimum of $3 billion in immediate annual funding. The government is talking about $3 billion in security funding spread over five years. That is not adequate. We are talking about a downpayment on restoring security to Canada and Canadians.

Let me say that $3 billion could be achieved notwithstanding the zero sum mentality of the government without increasing overall spending. We could achieve that by reallocating fiscal resources from low and falling priorities. One of the problems the government has in fiscal management is that with all the various interest groups it tries to satisfy it sees nothing as a low priority but everything as an equally high priority.

We have identified at least $6 billion in low priority and wasteful spending in areas like corporate welfare; regional development schemes that do not work; grants and contributions to interest groups and assets which the government ought not to have; subsidies to bloated crown corporations; and waste in some of the most notorious departments like industry, heritage and human resources as identified by the auditor general.

There is at least $6 billion, which is only 5% of the $125 billion program budget of the federal government. That can be realized. Those are moneys which can be reallocated to national security and still have money left over for the longer term economic challenges faced by Canada and for further tax relief and debt reduction.

We need to get our priorities straight not only in terms of security but in terms of the economy. The finance minister has sleepwalked Canada into a recession. There is no doubt that we will see negative growth in the third and fourth quarters of this year and probably into next year.

Unemployment rates are going up as tens of thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs. Our dollar is reaching an all time low despite efforts by the Bank of Canada to shore up demand by reducing interest rates. That means there must be some action on the part of the federal government to address this immediate threat to our economic health and the long term decline in our standard of living.

Canadians now have a personal rate of disposable income which is merely 70% of that in the United States. We continue to have the third highest level of debt in the OECD, the highest level of income taxes in the G-7 and an historically low currency. We do not have our economic fundamentals right. We must get our priorities straight.

It is possible not only to reallocate resources from low priority spending to national security but low priority spending to the urgent priority of becoming a more competitive and productive nation. We could raise our standard of living through meaningful tax relief, eliminating the capital tax, reducing payroll taxes and further reducing income taxes.

All these things could be achieved if the government were to limit the rate of program spending growth over the next five years to 3%, a level of inflation plus population, as opposed to the 5% slope upon which it is currently engaged. That would allow an additional $50 billion in fiscal resources which could be redirected toward real meaningful tax relief and debt reduction, both of which would make the country more competitive and productive and raise the standard of living of Canadians.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell LiberalSecretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's comments and I have a question for him. Why does he believe that rural Canadians are second class citizens? That in essence is what he said. He talked about the broadband issue as a low priority and something to which we ought not to pay any attention. However he does not understand it. He is not only ignorant of it. He is ignorant of his ignorance.

It is not about putting computers in people's homes and having access to e-mail faster. It is about ensuring that rural Canadians have access to health care. It is ensuring that whether or not someone living in a rural or remote community has an opportunity by using today's technology to have first class medical service. That is what the hon. member does not want rural Canadians to have.

It is also about ensuring that rural Canadians have an opportunity to access educational opportunities. He is denying rural Canadians the opportunity to access these types of educational opportunities by denying them the opportunity to move forward on this initiative.

I know what interests the hon. member when it comes to ensuring that businesses operating in rural Canada have an opportunity to be successful in creating wealth and jobs. He denies rural Canadians the opportunity to be competitive in today's world by denying them access to this type of modern technology. That is why I want to know why the hon. member believes rural Canadians are second class citizens.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the minister is so shameless in trying to fabricate a political case for a program that will not succeed. He should save his pontificating for the cabinet room where the finance minister, according to published reports, thinks this is an equally ridiculous idea.

I do not know to what rural Canadians the member has been talking. I am originally from a rural community. In 10 years of public life, reading polls, speaking on talk shows and attending public meetings in rural communities across the country I have never heard a single Canadian say that he or she wants billions of dollars spent on handout programs for Internet hookups for people in rural or urban Canada.

I see four members of rural ridings. Perhaps they could indicate to me whether they have ever had a single constituent ask for a billion dollar government handout for broadband Internet hookups.

What rural Canadians want is a viable economy. They want lower taxes and a competitive and productive Canadian economy. They know that will not happen if we continue to invent new corporate welfare schemes of this nature. The enormous access that Canadians have in rural and urban Canada to the Internet today and the advantages it presents have occurred because of market supply and demand. The economics of the market will work for rural Canada just as they do for urban Canada in this respect.

It is quite pathetic that the industry minister has to lobby industry to lobby the government. Only one of over 500 submissions to the finance committee asked for this broadband Internet scheme. Public polls show it does not even rank as a priority among Canadian business communities including those in rural Canada. The member has it wrong on this issue. I hope the finance minister has it right.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question about a comment which made no sense at all. The hon. member said that the finance minister was walking Canada into a recession. It appears he does not have a clue that this is global.

All countries in the world are slowing down. Indeed, in sharp contrast to the recession of the early eighties and early nineties, everyone under the sun from the OECD to the IMF to the private sector is saying that Canada would perform better than the United States. We are not an island but we are doing better than the United States. How can the hon. member possibly contend that this is in any way a made in Canada recession?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary seems to have forgotten that the very same finance minister who eschews any responsibility for this recession was quite willing to heap upon himself responsibility for periods of modest growth in the recent past, even though that was contemporaneous with growth in other jurisdictions. One cannot suck and blow at the same time. Either the finance minister was responsible for the growth and the recession, or neither. His parliamentary secretary should make a choice.

The Americans are not doing better than we are. Yes, they may be in a deeper recession because they were the immediate victims of September 11, in the short term, but their labour productivity continues to grow at twice the level of Canada. Their personal disposable incomes continue to grow higher relative to Canada. Their currency continues to trounce our currency under the management of this finance minister.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the opposition motion, especially after the heated and passionate discourse of my hon. colleague from Calgary Southeast. I am very happy to contribute to this particular debate. I would like to start first by just reiterating the motion in the House today:

That, in the opinion of this House, the upcoming budget should:

(a) reallocate financial resources from low and falling priorities into higher need areas such as national security;

(b) reverse the unbudgeted spending increases to a maximum growth rate of inflation plus population;

(c) increase national security and defence spending by $3 billion;

(d) reduce Employment Insurance (EI) premiums by at least 15 cents for next year and continue reducing EI premiums to the break-even rate as soon as possible;

(e) commit to enhancing job creation by eliminating the capital tax over a maximum of three years beginning with a minimum 25% cut this year; and

(f) sell non-core government assets and use the proceeds to accelerate debt reduction.

As the official opposition revenue critic, I would like to take this opportunity, and I believe the word opportunity is key here today, to address the issue of funding national security initiatives, particularly the adequate funding of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

It is the assertion of the official opposition that the protection of Canadian sovereignty and the safety of its citizens is the government's top priority and must be reflected as a budgetary priority. The impending budget must remedy Canada's security deficiencies while proactively equipping Canadian businesses with the tools to claw their way out of this current Liberal recession.

As a trading nation, with close to 90% of our trade destined for the United States, it is imperative this trade relationship be a priority for the government opposite. The aftermath of the tragic events of September 11 has severely hampered our ability to deliver Canadian goods to U.S. markets. Border impediments, consumer confidence and the onset of a Liberal recession have set the stage for the finance minister to finally deliver a federal budget.

I would like to take a moment to talk about this particular issue. As my colleague from Calgary southeast identified, we have not seen a budget in this place for close to two years. This is completely unacceptable. Not only that, we do not even know who is writing the budget over there. Quite frankly, we saw an article this past weekend in the National Post which indicated that it was not the finance minister writing the budget, but it was the Prime Minister writing the budget. Maybe that is why it has taken almost two years to have a budget come out. That is what I would put forward to the House.

Also my hon. colleague from Calgary Southeast talked about the fact that the finance minister or someone over on the government side has been musing the fact that this will be a temporary budget for another budget that we will see in the spring.

If the government took its job seriously, if it budgeted effectively, if it did its job in the House and was accountable to Canadians, we would have this normal cycle of budgetary sequence. However the government has become so arrogant and is leading us now into a recession. It is catching up with this budget to deal with security issues and hopefully to create the right atmosphere to stimulate the economy, where it failed so miserably. Unfortunately that is why Canadians will go down this road of a recession because the government has mismanaged its responsibilities so miserably.

Yesterday Canada's business leaders, who have formed the Coalition for a Secure and Trade Efficient Border, released a comprehensive report entitled, “Rethinking Our Borders: A Plan for Action”. This coalition employs millions of Canadians and accounts for the lion's share of Canada's exports. It has experienced firsthand the economic fallout from the September 11 attacks. Members of the coalition are the ones who had to issue the pink slips and are in the best position to waken the Liberal government to the Canadian economic reality.

The position and demands of the Canadian Alliance are virtually identical to those of the coalition, and I would like to take this opportunity to quote excerpts from the coalition report. If I state the words of Canada's employers rather than that of Canada's loyal opposition, maybe the words stand a better chance of reaching the ear of cabinet.

These are some of the statements in the report. The report states that a commitment is needed at the highest levels in Canada and the United States. It goes on to state: “It is useful to recall that the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would never have been signed without the strong personal commitment of the most senior ministers and their U.S. counter-parts, the Prime Minister and the president.

The determination to redesign how our borders are managed must start at the top in both countries and individual agencies must be told that their job is to make the strategy work. Without this clear direction from the top, the sweeping changes needed risk being lost to the thousands of inter-jurisdictional jealousies. It is also important to recognize that these issues will not be solved overnight and will require sustained resources and commitment from both governments.

The goal must be to ensure that terrorists cannot defeat us on either front”.

The report goes on to say: “Solutions must be developed cooperatively with the United States. The business community is keenly aware of ongoing budgetary constraints, particularly in light of the current economic slowdown. However, the government's success in improving Canada's economic health through spending reductions has eroded the effect of certain measures that were already in place.

It is time to rebalance spending priorities, in accordance with the demonstrated need, to reflect the new imperatives of the post-September 11th reality. Increased resources will lead to increased security and a better business environment if they are properly allocated.

Border management depends on better funding transportation infrastructure. The federal government must work with provinces and municipalities to provide necessary road and other infrastructure improvements leading to and at the border crossings.

Transportation security must be improved. Among other measures, Transport Canada should develop principles for cargo and passenger security, shoreside infrastructure should be constructed to increase access to AIS (Automatic Identification System), and visa requirements should be introduced for ships' crews”.

The excerpts I just referred to address the priorities that must be addressed in the upcoming budget.

I would like to close by addressing the specific funding priorities targeted by the Canadian Alliance that we believe must be included in next week's budget.

The finance minister must allocate a minimum of $1 billion base funding increase to enhance national security for the RCMP, CSIS, immigration and customs. There must be a $2 billion base funding increase to enhance national defence, bringing spending up to $12 billion based upon public accounts. The budget must demonstrate a control of program spending by limiting growth to the sum of population growth and inflation, about 3%.

Finally, the budget must show respect for the legitimate concerns of Canadian families and businesses. Too many times in the past, Liberal budgets have been selfish manipulations of the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians. Canadians are feeling insecure both economically and physically.

This is an opportunity for the finance minister, or whomever is writing the budget over there, to respond with the real measures that will renew Canadian confidence in our ability to protect ourselves and the subsequent renewal of economic confidence that consumers, investors and Americans will have of Canada.

I hope that the finance minister will not squander this opportunity as he has squandered billions of tax dollars in the past. Much responsibility rests on his shoulders. On behalf of the constituents of Edmonton--Strathcona and Canadians everywhere, I hope he is up to the challenge.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing the word “by” in line (c) with the words “immediately by a minimum of”.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment is in order. The hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member. What we need in the budget is some stimulus in the economy to create jobs. One area is in agriculture.

Since the government across the way took office in 1993, there have been cutbacks of almost 50% in federal farm support programs, cutbacks that amount to almost $2 billion. The United States house of representatives has passed a new farm bill for $173 billion in farm aid in the next 10 years, on top of the previous farm aid of $70 billion in the last four years. I notice that this is missing in the Alliance motion before the House.

It seems to me that is a very important part of our economy. The farmers need help. It would stimulate the economy. It would be a great investment in the future of the country. Why is that not in the motion before the House today presented by the Leader of the Opposition?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member understands, being a longstanding member of the House, it is often very difficult to include many priority areas in a motion such as is before us today. I think he knows, as well as most members in the House, that our caucus is well represented by agriculture and rural areas and we often fight very hard with the government to stand up for the farmers in the country, especially the agriculture producers.

In our policy we have been calling for a half billion dollar increase in agricultural subsidies. Our agricultural critic has hammered the government and the agriculture minister, who seems to be absent from much of the debate regarding agriculture and really does not seem to put agriculture as a priority on the agenda.

To turn back to today's motion, we have identified some key areas that have become a priority, especially after the tragic events of September 11. This is why we focused specifically on things that can happen, not only to address the security concerns but also to deal with the looming Liberal recession, which I spoke about. This would allow the government to create an atmosphere, according to some of the things we are suggesting, and to stimulate the economy and allow investors, employers and workers to stimulate the economy in these troubled times so that we are not as hard hit as some of the other regions of the world.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of the hon. member, as well as the member before him. As I listened, it was rather entertaining and amusing to see the limits that that party would go to try to find some glimmer of political hope in what has been for it a very dim period, particularly when it went to the length of saying that we were in a Liberal recession. I did not hear the Alliance members say that it was a republican recession in the U.S. or that some other party was causing a global slowdown.

In trying to gain some political advantage for themselves, the Alliance members are trying to suggest that this global slowdown is somehow connected to the government party. That is really stretching it. That clearly shows they are not listening to people, the way the government is. In fact, that is the way the budget is being prepared, by listening to Canadians, by consulting them and by hearing from them.

Over the past few weeks we have heard endless questions and statements from the Alliance in the House calling for tax cuts and spending, the kind of things that would put us into a deep deficit. However, I would ask the hon. member this. If he calls it a Liberal recession here, what does he call it in the U.S. and in the rest of the world?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that at a time when we are in a recession the parliamentary secretary finds some of the concerns we have raised humorous and entertaining. I do not think Canadians would feel the same way he does. It just shows that the government is completely out of step with the rest of the country.

To address particularly what he said, and my colleague from Calgary Southeast spoke directly to this question earlier, when times were good, the government was not shy about taking credit, especially the finance minister who talked about how Canadians were experiencing growth due to his work and the government's spending priorities. However, when the tables are turned and things go downhill, the government runs and hides from its responsibility and fails to take the responsibility for Canadians and for the direction of the economy, which is heading into a recession. We have these waves under this particular government.

Just as the government likes to take credit when times are good, it should equally take the responsibility when times are bad, and it should take responsibility for the recession.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Hillsborough. In a sense this is a strange motion to have less than a week before the budget because members opposite should understand there is such a thing as budget secrecy. There is no way we on this side the House can tell them what is in the budget or respond to their proposals in a concrete fashion.

Over the last several weeks we have been hearing the views of Canadians across the country through the finance committee, the report of which has just been published. If there is something sensible and novel coming out of the opposition today it is perhaps not too late to include it in the budget.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

An hon. member

Don't hold your breath.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

I am not holding my breath for sensible ideas from over there. I cannot reveal the extent to which I know what is in the budget. I will briefly review the opinions of the opposition parties regarding the budget and then come to the core principles the finance minister has already referred to.

I will begin with the Canadian Alliance. Until the last election I did not think it was possible for a party to propose economic measures which were both slash and burn and deficit creating. Until then I had thought if we slashed and burned we would not have a deficit or if we went into deficit we would not have to slash and burn.

The Alliance's happily defunct flat tax proposal in the last election campaign was so utterly fiscally irresponsible that politically neutral economists of the day, not including myself, indicated that the proposal would have taken us to an $18 billion deficit. It was utterly irresponsible. In terms of the flat tax favouring the rich it would have led us to an $18 billion deficit. To partially compensate for that the Alliance was talking about slash and burn on the expenditure front.

When we listen to Alliance members today we are getting a warmed over version of their happily defunct electoral flat tax proposal. What they are saying does not add up. They are proposing substantial new tax cuts although I am not sure of the sum. They are proposing billions of additional dollars in expenditure and telling us to have larger surpluses. The only way to do that is to slash and burn on the expenditure front. This is a point they tried to hide from us.

One example of the kind of thing the opposition calls corporate welfare or pork is in my riding where IBM recently opened a new state of the art software lab. The lab has a global mandate providing 2,500 of the highest tech jobs. It is universally acknowledged by those who know what they are talking about that had it not been for a federal government investment of $33 million into the project it would not have occurred in Markham or anywhere in Canada but in Asia, Ireland or somewhere else.

IBM is ahead of schedule in repaying the loan, with interest, to the Canadian taxpayer. If that is pork all I can say is let us have more pork. That excellent project which created high tech jobs in my riding would not have occurred had the Alliance policies been in place.

The notion we hear from the Canadian Alliance that we are on a spending spree is absolutely ridiculous. If we measure the size of government in the correct manner, which is program spending relative to the size of the economy, the federal government today is smaller than it has been at any time in my lifetime.

The NDP will not like this but the Alliance pretends we are spending recklessly when the size of the federal government today is smaller than it has been since 1949 or 1950. It is something like 11.5% of the gross domestic product. Unless the Alliance changes its present tack I do not see much in what I have heard from it today that would influence our budget.

As for the Bloc Quebecois, we often hear its finance critic saying the government has a $13 billion surplus. He is the only economist in the country to think so. All the others think the surplus will be much smaller.

This Bloc member repeats incessantly that he alone has the accurate forecast and that all the other economists in the country are wrong.

So, if this Bloc member is right, the solution is obvious. What an enormous waste of talent for this brilliant economist here in the House. If he is right and he alone has the accurate forecast, he should quit politics and start his own firm. He would become an instant multimillionaire.

As the members are aware, this accurate forecast from this Bloc member has an exceedingly high commercial value. If he is right, he could become an instant multimillionaire. If not, I will continue to disbelieve his forecasts.

As for the NDP, I will need to be brief or I will not get to our own program. The NDP has about eight priorities for massive new spending. When one has eight priorities it is like having no priorities. Unlike the new labour party in Britain, the labour party in Australia or the Scandinavians, the NDP remains mired in the past. It alone has failed to realize that the permanent tax and spend and deficit policies of the seventies and eighties have failed.

Given that my time is getting short I will not mention the fifth party because during a previous take note debate it did not suggest anything. I will simply comment on our four priorities which the finance minister has already enunciated.

First, we will move heaven and earth not to go back into deficit. Second, we will do whatever is necessary on the Canadian security and safety front. Third, we will honour the $100 billion tax cuts we announced just over a year ago. Fourth, we will honour the $22 billion investment in health care we announced just before the last election and which will take place over the next five years. These are the priorities of the government.

Finally, in contrast to the ridiculous notion of a made in Canada or Liberal recession we in Canada are in good shape compared to our neighbours. As I said earlier, all major forecasters, IMF, OECD and the private sector are united in the belief that Canada this year and next year will perform better than the United States.

In part the reason for this is that having achieved surpluses we moved early to put $17 billion in tax cuts and more than $3 billion in health care and other expenditures into the economy this year. This year we have more than $20 billion of fiscal stimulus. In American terms that would be like $200 billion.

The point is, and this is in large measure why our economy is doing relatively well during these difficult times, as of January 1 this year we have provided a fiscal stimulus which is coursing through the economy as we speak and which is larger than the Americans are contemplating. This is one reason Canada is in such good shape in relation to our neighbours. After the budget measures are announced we will be in even better shape, as the House and the country will see.