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”.