Yes, that is just the interest on the debt. Imagine the amount of infrastructure that could be built if we were not paying so much interest on the debt: 200 brand new Lions Gate bridges every year. That is four every week, four brand new highway bridges that could be built every week. These are huge bridges, not just normal small highway bridges. This is enough money to twin the freeway in Vancouver every month.
These are enormous amounts of money we are talking about and the bill would do very little to reverse the legacy that really dates back to the Trudeau days. All these problems that the bill would take tiny little steps to address go back to the days of Trudeau.
I have an article here written by Michael Campbell, quite a well known author in the Vancouver area, about the problems we have today and how they relate to those days of Trudeau. It does relate directly to the bill. I would like to read a little bit from the article because it illustrates the size of the problem. It was written on October 3, 2000, a little while after all the public outpouring of grief after Mr. Trudeau's death. Michael writes:
Trudeau is the godfather of Canada's interventionist government policies regarding the economy. It was Trudeau who spearheaded the drive for the “Just Society” through aggressive increases in government spending and wealth distribution that led to Canada leading the world in the growth of taxation.
It was the Trudeau government that brought Canada's federal deficit from zero in 1968 to $38 billion by the time he left office in 1984. It was the buildup of debt during the Trudeau years that laid the foundation for today's $40 billion in interest payments.
While socialists or Marxists might like to take credit for the philosophical underpinnings of his economic policy, it was Trudeau who put the thoughts into action.
In 1968 the federal government launched what was then called the short-term bailout of the Cape Breton Coal Company—
Do you remember that, Madam Speaker? It was a short term bailout in 1968. In the year 2000, after $1.7 billion in subsidies had been spent on that project, it was finally shut down.
Michael Campbell continues:
It was during the Trudeau era that unemployment insurance subsidies became a way of life for some in the Maritimes with the results still well in evidence today.
Under Trudeau we got nationalization of companies and industries. Canada curtailed foreign investment and exploded the government bureaucracy.
But his legacy extends beyond specific economic policies into a mindset that still dominates the landscape today in Canada.
We are still stuck with the problem that was built up in the country during the Trudeau years, as Michael Campbell notes:
It was during the Trudeau years that the anti-business, anti-success attitude—referred to by Nobel Prize-winner Robert Mundell as the chief obstacle to our economic prosperity—took hold and flourished.
Marketing all government policies as part of the pursuit of the Just Society has permanently linked the concepts of government intervention and justice in many people's minds.
We see the results today where opposition to extending government programs is regularly regarded as a form of inactivity at best and godlessness at worst.
As (the) Prime Minister...has told us regularly, only the selfish and greedy want to lower taxes. Only the most cold-hearted could oppose a national day-care program or business subsidies.
What's interesting to note is that before we headed on the path toward the Just Society, Canada had the second-highest economic output per person in whole world.
This fact is important to note. Before we headed down the Trudeau road we had the second highest economic output per person in the whole world.
Michael Campbell continues:
The latest numbers from the OECD put us at 20th out of 29 in the developed world. Our economy grew at an average pace of five per cent, excluding inflation, before 1968, which is 40 per cent higher than the average since.
Whatever economic indicator we look at since the Trudeau just society began, we have gone downhill in economic performance every way we measure it.
Michael Campbell says:
Our federal debt has grown from 0 to $750 billion, while our currency has gone from being at par with the U.S. dollar—
It is below 65 cents today. How can anyone spin doctor it so well? It is absolutely amazing to westerners that somehow there is this line at the edge of Manitoba and everyone to the east of it cannot see what is going on. They have bought into this terrible scam that was started back in 1968 and has been perpetuated.
As for the pursuit of the just society, poverty advocates tell us that nothing has changed. There are more people in poverty than there were before, which always leaves us somewhat startled considering that so many Canadians continue to call for more of the same policies.
The bill, as I have mentioned, would really just take tiny baby steps to reverse that terrible Trudeau legacy that has led us to where we are today. Also part of the Trudeau legacy is the beginning of western alienation. It was Trudeau who gave us the finger from the train in Kamloops many years ago. It was Trudeau who started the national energy program that destroyed the economy in Alberta.
Still to this day the west is not getting its fair share from this Confederation. For example, my colleague from Elk Island mentioned that there was recently a temporary increase in the transfer payments, but he did not mention that more than half of that went to Quebec, which somehow still manages to portray itself as a have not province.
It is totally ludicrous that this situation exists. I know from working here on the Hill that practically every product we use, every service we obtain, is supplied by Quebec. The pens and pencils, the paper, the water supplies, the computers, the people who work here: just about everything comes from Quebec. This shows that the Quebec economy is extremely well diversified. They build automobiles. They have manufacturing plants for aluminum extrusion. They export electric power. It is a complete mystery to me that it is a have not province. It is certainly a mystery to the people out west who are receiving less than their fair share of the transfers.
For example, spending in B.C. by the federal government is comprised of direct goods and services expenditures as well as transfers to individuals in the form of EI payments, pensions and so on. However the one area of spending that is 100% under the control of the government is the procurement of goods and services.
If we look at the data from 1992 to 1998, and that is the latest year for which we have figures available, on average the federal government spent about $3 billion on goods and services in B.C. in each of those years. Our share, based on the population, should have been between $4 billion and $4.5 billion. That difference amounts to a shortfall for B.C. in goods and services alone of $9.5 billion in just six years.
Worse still, no attempt has been made by the Liberal government to correct the problem. It has kept that figure stagnated between $1 billion and $1.5 billion steadily since 1993. It has done nothing, not a thing to increase it.
In a typical year, taking into account all federal transfers to the province of British Columbia, we receive about $1.7 billion less than Ottawa collects in revenues from B.C. For example, in 1998 the following differences can be found between British Columbia's actual share of expenditures and the hypothetical share based on population.
We had a goods and services procurement shortfall of $1.178 billion, almost a $1.2 billion shortfall. We had a shortfall in transfers to persons of $40.4 million and we had a transfer to business shortfall of $89.89 million.
In addition, because B.C. is rated as a have province despite our awful NDP government and the terrible deficits that it runs, we received approximately $1.1 billion less in direct transfers to the provincial government.
Of course it is no secret that B.C., Alberta and Ontario all contribute to the so-called equalization transfers to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland. Quebec is the strange one and how it still qualifies as a have not province despite its productivity is a mystery.
I noticed recently that the government of Quebec announced a tax holiday for some types of business. Equalization transfers are supposed to be based on the government's inability to raise sufficient revenues from its residents, so how can a government justify giving tax reductions to some businesses and at the same time saying it cannot raise enough taxes so it wants more equalization payments?
I suppose in theory the government of B.C. could reduce all the taxes to zero for its constituents and then say that it cannot raise any money from its constituents and ask Ottawa to transfer all the money back to it. It is a ludicrous equalization program in which we find ourselves entangled. It does not make sense at all.
It is interesting to note the fiscal outflow from B.C. caused by the weak federal spending on goods and services. It is not only proportionately higher than any other province, but it is higher in absolute numbers of dollars. We receive $295 less per capita than any other province. It is just not fair.
With the Prime Minister regularly saying that westerners would get a better deal if they voted Liberal, I hate to think of the mess we would be in today if that had happened. When we look at that federal debt and the way it was exploding in 1993, I well remember the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives calling us extremists because we wanted to balance the budget back in 1993 with our zero in three plan that we promoted in 1993 to get the government's fiscal policies under control.
At that time every government in the country was running deficits. The federal government was running $40 billion deficits a year and we were called extremists for wanting to fix that problem. The government and the Progressive Conservatives scared people by saying we were extremists.
We managed to get 54 members into the House. We made the difference because today when we look across the country there is not a government, federal or provincial, that does not want to balance its budget. All of the credit, 100% of the credit for that goes to the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance for taking it from extremism to being mainstream.
Anybody who tries to claim that it was the Liberal government that did it is misinformed or misinforming because it was not the Liberal government that did it.
The way to correct western alienation is not for more people to vote Liberal. It is for the government over there to stop the scare tactics, to stop the distortion of facts and to start looking at what is best for the country. What is best for the country is not what is contained in the bill. It is a sham, a complete sham.
As my hon. colleague said, we will end up at the end of this term with more debt to pay and with $40 billion a year in interest payments. If we had followed the Reform Party plan that was promoted in 1993, we would already have significantly paid down our debt. We would be in the range of $30 billion a year in interest payments, freeing up $10 billion a year to spend on infrastructure and other programs.
It is frankly dishonest to present the bill to the House and accuse us of holding it up when we are trying to take our entitled time to show the people of Canada exactly what is going on.
The bill is not only a sham. It adds to the complexity of the tax act. Every one of us in this place gets complaints from our constituents about the complexity of the tax act. There is hardly anybody who can even do their own tax returns any more; they have to hire an accountant or a specialist to do them. The Canadian Alliance promoted, which should be included in Bill C-22, a reduction in the complexity rather than an increase in it once again.
My colleague from Elk Island mentioned briefly how the numbers actually do not tell the whole truth. In my finishing minutes I would like to go over those numbers quickly.
The government claims a $100.5 billion gross tax reduction, but when we take off $3.2 billion over five years for social spending because of the child tax benefit, which is really spending and not a tax reduction; when we take off the $29.5 billion over five years for increased CPP premiums; and when we take off the $20.7 billion over five years for cancelled tax hikes due to indexation, we end up with $41.7 billion in tax relief over five years.
That is better than nothing. We are pleased that at least there is some. It certainly is not honest to portray it the way it has been on the other side of the House. The biggest problem we still have is the size of the debt and the size of the annual interest payments which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, could build 200 brand new Lions Gate bridges every year.