Mr. Speaker, short of hiding the truth or the real state of public finances, this government cannot possibly be in a deficit position this fiscal year and it is practically impossible in the next.
This year, we calculate, according to revenues and expenses, that as of March 31, 2002, the end of the current fiscal year, there will be a minimum surplus of $13 billion , once all the tax cuts provided in the last budget and the new spending already announced for security and national defence have been made. The figure is $13 billion.
With the Minister of Finance presenting a budget in December, he will be astride two fiscal years, and will therefore have two sums with which to play: this year's surplus of $13 billion and next year's, which even according to the most pessimistic estimate, will be $11 billion. So the Minister of Finance has $24 billion to improve things, to use for the public and to see that the real public service provided by the provinces and by the Government of Quebec is improved.
It must be remembered—and this is our first priority—that the Canada social transfer, which the federal government gives to the governments of Quebec and of the provinces, has been savagely cut by this government since 1995. It was all very well to reinstate the money over the past two years, but the transfer is still $5 billion per year short of what it was prior to the savage cuts of the Minister of Finance.
We want to see the Minister of Finance take the first step in the coming budget, by converting the cash payments for funding health and education into tax points to be transferred to the provinces. Let him pull out of this field and convert these cash transfers into tax points. There are two reasons for this. First, to ensure that the provinces and the Government of Quebec have sufficient funding for health and education and, second, in order to provide them with protection against possible future slashes to this funding, like those we have been treated to since 1995.
This constitutes a first step. It will cost the federal government nothing, except that in future we will have protection and be spared federal mailings about services for you and health being a priority, education an investment, and so on. Yet, as far as health is concerned, the government invests only 13 cents yearly for every dollar invested by the Government of Quebec.
In education, the federal investment is a mere 8 cents for every dollar invested by the Government of Quebec. Yet it boasts in various general mailings of providing services in health and education. This is not only shameful, it is hypocritical as well.
So, the first step would be to convert cash payments into tax points. Before the government does that, we want it to top these cash payments up by $5 billion, which is what it would take to restore the Canada social transfer to the level it was at before the Minister of Finance's deep cuts.
The second priority is employment insurance. As my colleagues, including the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, have already pointed out, this is systematic, annual theft from the EI fund. It began with a $6 billion surplus, ill-gotten by the Minister of Finance, and it has now grown to almost $8 billion. This is where the federal government gets its fantastic surpluses from.
All we are asking for is that action be taken on the consensus reached by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, a consensus containing 17 recommendations, if memory serves. The Bloc Quebecois' second priority is that men, women and youth be entitled to EI, that they no longer be disqualified, that seasonal workers be treated not as second class citizens but as full members of society. That is our second priority.
Third, we want the members opposite to quit playing petty politics and transfer the amounts already provided for under the Employment Insurance Act to the Government of Quebec so that it can reform its parental leave system. It is our right. The federal government is denying young families money to which they are entitled today. They want to have children and look after them and to be treated fairly for their contribution to the social and demographic development of Quebec.
That side of the House is preventing, through despicable petty politics, these amounts from being paid. There are provisions in the Employment Insurance Act that allow for the transfer of these funds to the Quebec parental leave policy. The government is preventing the implementation of that policy. It is shocking to see such things. This is our third priority.
As for infrastructures, we are talking about a contribution to the economy, which is slowing down, if not in a recession. It might a good idea, as was asked by the Canada-wide coalition and the Quebec coalition, which is chaired by the Mayor of Laval, Mr. Vaillancourt, to increase transfers for infrastructures. The government has the means to do so, with surpluses of $13 billion this year and $11 billion next year, for a total of $24 billion.
At some point, will the Minister of Finance show enough judgment to realize that it might be a good idea to increase spending for infrastructures, in particular investments for road construction? There is a great need for such measures all across Quebec and Canada.
International aid is another fundamental priority for the Bloc Quebecois. It was Mr. Pearson, a true liberal in the literal and philosophical sense of the word, who set the standard of 0.7% of the GDP for international aid.
It is time that Canada invest in international aid, particularly since a recent study conducted by Informetrica shows that this aid has a greater impact on Canadian economy than investments in national defence. At some point, those whom we help in various parts of the world get richer and buy our goods and services. The study clearly and accurately shows that a dollar invested in international assistance is much more profitable to Quebec society than a dollar invested in defence and military equipment.
Finally, we are not stupid and we are not blind. We realize that we need to increase security and defence spending. However, the $3 billion increase proposed in the Canadian Alliance motion is excessive.
As we recently proposed, we think that a $1 billion increase over the next year should be enough to ensure significant investments in defence and security, and thus meet new requirements, particularly since September 11.
I would like to use my remaining time to reiterate one of the principles that we have been defending since 1993, that of justice and fairness.
For all of the government measures, the budgets, that have been proposed, from the first budget in 1994 to last year's budget, which was something of a political budget, if you will, coming right before an election, we have been motivated by this one single credo: justice and fairness.
We are conscious, and this is another priority, that the tax breaks announced in February 2000 and repeated in October of last year during the pre-election budget, should have been better targeted to help medium and low income earners.
It is not right that 80% of the tax breaks are going to the richest people in society and that families at the low end of the middle income bracket are being overlooked, those just above the low income cutoff, that could not and will not benefit, in years to come, from tax cuts that they had the right to expect.
Yet, someone earning $150,000 or more who benefited from the partial elimination of the capital gains tax is saving $9,000 or $10,000, while middle income families are pocketing approximately $300 in savings per year. I am talking about families earning $40,000 that will benefit from a $300 tax break this year.
It seems to me that this upcoming budget should take into consideration this concern for fairness and justice, and that tax breaks should be readjusted, or there should at least be further tax breaks targeted to middle and low income earners. As I mentioned earlier, the government can afford to do so.
Despite what they say on the other side, I will say only one thing. The Minister of Finance and his parliamentary secretary, always cynical and disdainful, often in public, are threatening us with the spectre of a deficit next year, if we are not careful.
That is pathetic. As I said, the Minister of Finance has extraordinary means at his disposal, even with the current recession.
If we look at the 2001-02 forecasts, with an upswing in the course of the year, we see he may still have a reduced surplus, which will reach $11 billion nevertheless. For us to have a deficit this year, spending would have to increase by 11%. Spending in real terms would have to increase by 11% for us to have a deficit this year. It is virtually impossible and ridiculous to claim that there could be a deficit this year.
Or, the GDP, annualized, that is, for the entire year—I point out that there are only four months left in the current fiscal year—would have to shrink by 5% since last March 31. That is ridiculous. The gloomiest forecasts refer to a 2% reduction over the year, that is for all the months between March 31, 2001 and March 31, 2002.
There is virtually no way we can have a deficit. When they say that, they add another argument on the other side in order to do nothing, nothing about reforming employment insurance, nothing about cutting taxes for middle and low income earners, nothing about investment in infrastructures and nothing about social transfers to finance health care and education. It is another pretext.
I often say that, by being too pessimistic, especially in the last four years, the Minister of Finance himself has contributed to the economic doldrums. It is partly because of him that consumers are a bit more careful with their money; they wait before spending. This has slowed down the economy. And he continues his game by adding to the slowdown, which has in recent months become a recession in Canada. He is continuing with this ploy and adding to the gloom and doom, instead of boosting people's confidence; yet he has the means to do so.
As I mentioned, there will be at least $13 billion in the surplus this year. And when there is, we will be asking the wise guys opposite whether it is sheer genius or whether it is scheming or intellectual laziness that prevents them from forecasting these surpluses year after year.
If I could give the Minister of Finance one piece of advice for next week's budget, it would be to stop crying wolf, to stop fearing fear itself and making others fearful. Because he himself is beginning to add to the economic slowdown, to the slowdown which taxpayers in Quebec and in Canada are bringing on themselves when it comes time to spend or buy a house, a car or whatever, in order to support economic growth through domestic spending and help us out of what is starting to look more and more like a recession.
It would be the advice a friend would give. It would be advice that would benefit everyone.