Mr. Speaker, if the premier wants to have a debate let him come forward and have a debate. He has asked for a debate. The facts are patently clear. Our government is cutting taxes as well, but we are minding our responsibilities. We dealt with the deficit first. We are cutting taxes for Canadians, but we are not laying blame and scapegoating others for any problems or situations that we have to deal with federally. That is what the premier of Ontario is doing.
Likewise, the Bloc Quebecois and the separatists, when they enjoined the debate earlier, talked about taking more tax points from the federal government. We know that the separatist cause is on weak knees. It has no support in Quebec so those members are looking for some galvanizing issue and taking more tax points from the federal government seems to be it, because they know the federal government would probably not do that. They are trying to find some rallying point in their hopeless cause. I think Quebecers will see through that and Canadians will see through that.
I do appreciate speaking today on the motion and will be sharing my time with my colleague from Durham.
As hon. members are aware, the budget is the main economic event in Canada. It is the tool by which the government signals to Canadians its plans and its priorities. This in turn helps consumers and businesses plan for the coming year.
Even before September 11, Canadians were becoming concerned about the state of the economy. The terrorist attacks on the U.S. only exacerbated these concerns. The events of September 11 have compounded the challenges facing the Minister of Finance in terms of what his budget will contain. These events have brought home the fact that we are indeed living in a global economy. The minister, in preparing the budget, must take these terrible events into consideration.
I would like to take the opportunity to point out that one thing that remains a priority with this government is its ability to listen to what Canadians want and to respond to their needs.
Consulting with Canadians remains this government's priority. Whether it be on reforms to the Canada Pension Plan, a new agricultural policy or prebudget consultations, we can count on a government that will listen.
If the measures put forward in the opposition motion meet the needs expressed by Canadians to the minister, if they are economically viable and if they respect a cautious budget management process, they could well be considered.
However, if they do not meet these requirements, then the government would not be able to include them in its budget.
Only the Minister of Finance can follow-up on this question and, given the secret nature of the budget, the minister cannot provide the Alliance with what they are asking for at this time.
As in previous years, the Standing Committee on Finance, of which I am a member, travelled across Canada in what is referred to as prebudget consultations. We heard from individuals and groups representing all regions and all sectors of our society.
Members of the hon. member's own party were part of the process. Indeed, were he to inquire they would be able to tell him what Canadians asked for.
As hon. members may have heard, Canadians eagerly awaited this round of prebudget consultations. They sent a strong message to the minister about the nation's budgetary priorities. Canadians do not take the health of the economy for granted and they told the government what their priorities were. They prepared their briefs during the summer, setting out their prescriptions for sound public policy, but alas, we all have to wait until Monday to find out what the end result will be. I do not know, my colleagues on this side of the House do not know and my colleagues opposite certainly do not know what will be in the budget on Monday.
What we know for certain is that the Minister of Finance next Monday will continue to stick to his long term economic plan, the plan he introduced back in 1993, the plan that is working, the plan from which he will not stray. He will stick to prudence in the management of the nation's finances.
Another thing is also certain. Next Monday's budget will provide a full accounting of the Canadian economic and fiscal outlook and situation.
If I may, I would like to remind hon. members opposite that their premise in today's motion is too simple, as usual. In essence they are saying to introduce these measures and the economic difficulties facing our nation will be resolved. Finding solutions to the global economic slowdown is not that simple, I am afraid. If my colleagues opposite would sit back and think for a moment, they might realize that the prudent approach our government has taken and continues to take to the management of our economy is what works best.
Another point I would like to make is about the inappropriateness of the motion at this time given the tragic events of September 11, because of course our government policies must be carefully weighed in light of how the events of the global economy changed after that day. Granted, there has been a global economic slowdown, and I emphasize the word global, in recent months. These tragic events have added a new layer of economic uncertainty.
I suggest that no one should even begin to pretend they know what the intermediate or long term effects may be on the economy or what the immediate and long term answers will be after that tragic day, but it is guaranteed that Canada's response will be methodical, well thought out and, above all, cautious. Our government is realistic in knowing that Canada is not and cannot be immune to what is happening elsewhere in the world and especially in the United States.
I urge hon. members to think for a moment about Canada and where it stands vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Canada is a competitive nation in the global economy.
I would like to point out a few facts to the opposition members.
As I said, since last winter, the global economy has slowed down in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, and especially in the United States.
The events of September 11 and their after-effects have magnified this slowdown.
This downturn, and the uncertainty it is causing among Canadians and their families, is of concern to the government.
Make no mistake, the economic welfare of Canadians has been the preoccupation of the government over the last eight years, through a number of tough global circumstances such as the Asian and Mexican crises. Indeed, one of the main reasons the government worked so hard to put the fiscal house in order was to be able to handle this sort of economic uncertainty. As a result, the government was able to introduce $17 billion in tax cuts this year alone, tax cuts that are supporting the Canadian economy and will continue to support the economy in the months ahead.
In addition, our much improved fiscal situation, combined with our inflation record, has allowed the Bank of Canada to reduce interest rates nine times this year for a cumulative decline of three and a half percentage points. As a result, the bank rate now is at its lowest level in 41 years. These interest rate cuts, half of which occurred since September 11, will help to support consumer spending and business investment in Canada in the months ahead.
Yes, there is no question that the global economic slowdown is having an impact here in Canada and Canadians are concerned about what this will mean for them and their families, but our Liberal policies and other initiatives are working, for example, the 7% corporate tax cuts. Contrary to what the member opposite said, by 2005 the average tax rate for larger businesses, including capital taxes to which this motion refers, will be about five percentage points lower in Canada than in the U.S., creating a Canadian advantage.
I would just like to finish by saying that our cuts in the EI premiums and our paydown on the debt are all having a very positive impact. I would ask members here to reflect on the motion put before the House today which calls for simplistic solutions.
This is a long term plan that our government is implementing. I certainly will not be supporting the motion and, as well, I would ask my colleagues not to.