Debates of Jan. 29th, 2002
House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.
- Government Response to Petitions
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Question No. 90—
- Question No. 91—
- Question No. 93—
- Question No. 96—
- Question No. 98—
- The Budget
- Science and Technology
- Frank Shuster
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Baldur Stefansson
- Gala Sports-Québec
- Habitat For Humanity
- Michael Belliveau
- Middle East
- Veterans Affairs
- Canadian Avalanche Association
- Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
- Foreign Affairs
- National Defence
- Foreign Affairs
- The Economy
- Foreign Affairs
- Crown Corporations
- National Security
- Foreign Affairs
- Public Works and Government Services
- Access to Information
- Foreign Affairs
- Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
- International Trade
- Young Offenders
- National Defence
- International Trade
- Official Languages
- Foreign Affairs
- Ways and Means
- The Budget
Oral Question Period
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, a Philippine congressman says that Placer Dome is giving Canada a black eye in his country. That is because a massive leak of toxic tailings has caused the biggest environmental disaster in that country's history, and a bigger spill is looming as we speak.
The president of the Philippines is in this country tonight for a state dinner. What will the Prime Minister tell President Arroyo to restore Canada's reputation in that country and what will he do to rein in this Canadian corporation whose polluting activities are embarrassing Canada?
Oral Question Period
Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet with the Philippine secretary for natural resources and the environment, where we discussed a number of issues, including mining related issues.
On this particular issue we have been informed that Placer Dome mine has spent $50 million U.S. to help with the cleanup. It had 39% ownership. It has now sold this firm to a Philippine company and it has also fulfilled its agreement to make sure that it continues to work on the cleanup, but it is Marcopper that is responsible now.
We expect all Canadian companies to make sure that they take seriously their responsibilities for the environment and be good corporate citizens no matter where they are in the world.
Ways and Means
Oral Question Period
January 29th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
John McCallum Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion respecting an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in parliament on December 10, 2001, and I ask that an order of the day be designated to debate the motion.
Oral Question Period
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Monday, December 10, 2001, by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby. I thank the hon. member for raising this matter and the then government House leader for his intervention.
In his presentation, the member referred to statements of the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration quoted in a recent newspaper article, and argued that these statements constituted a personal attack on him and an offense against the dignity of parliament.
The Chair noted that during the oral question period just before the holidays the House heard some unusually strong language and forceful expression of opinion. On Monday, December 3, there was such an exchange between the hon. member and the then minister. I refer all hon. members to the Debates of December 3, 2001, at pages 7765 to 7766.
It is understandable that such exchanges should sometimes occur when there are strongly held views on either side on contentious issues. Therefore I thought it appropriate on Wednesday, December 5, to remind hon. members to use care in their choice of words both in answers and in questions. Again, I refer all hon. members to the Debates of December 5, 2001, at page 7896.
The situation before us at the moment is rather different for it concerns a statement made outside the House itself. I had the opportunity to review the newspaper article referred to by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby and to examine the relevant precedents. The cause for offense, as the hon. member described it, is the reporting of remarks made outside the House by the then minister and reflecting on the exchange during question period on December 3.
I refer hon. members to the following passage from page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice :
Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order.
In the case before us the comments were phrased generally and not directed at the member. Furthermore, Marleau and Montpetit in the same paragraph goes on to state:
The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.
After careful examination I have concluded that the case raised by the hon. member fails on two counts: the remarks in question were not clearly directed at the hon. member personally and the remarks were made outside the Chamber.
The Chair therefore rules that this is not a question of privilege though the hon. member may feel aggrieved by the remarks of the then minister.
That being said, I would like to reiterate my remarks of December 5 and encourage all hon. members to be careful in their choice of words in the Chamber during question period in both questions and answers and outside the House when responding to matters that arose in the House. I do not think I am being unrealistic here.
My predecessor, Mr. Speaker Fraser often said of the House of Commons that it was not and never had been a tea party.
On October 10, 1991, Debates , pages 3562-4 he said:
I do not think we need…to remind ourselves that there is often provocation in this place and it comes on both sides. There has to be, of course, some common sense in our approach because…strong-minded men and women who believe passionately in things are going to express that passion and conviction from time to time [but ]…when decorum degenerates , it leads to further and further excess.
It seems to the Chair that the sort of escalation in language complained of sheds more heat than light on important issues being debated. I would again ask for the co-operation of all hon. members in using more temperate language.
Oral Question Period
Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to the very grave matter relating to information I requested through Question No. 94 on the order paper.
Events have led me to believe that there has been a deliberate attempt to deny me the information by the Deputy Prime Minister and his staff with respect to the question. Accordingly I charge the minister with contempt of the House.
On December 3, 2001, I used an order paper question to ask for details about all real estate sales by Canada Lands, a crown corporation that sells surplus federal properties which at the time reported to the minister of public works and now reports to the Deputy Prime Minister.
My question sought information about all land sales since the Liberals took power in 1993. I indicated my desire to receive this information within 45 days pursuant to Standing Order 39(5)( a ). As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the 45 day period has long lapsed and according to new procedures a committee investigation could be launched to look into this matter pursuant to Standing Order 39(5)( b ).
Under normal circumstances I would await the outcome of such an investigation. However I am in possession of information that elevates this matter to privilege. This is not a case of mere negligence or incompetence but involves and requires the attention of the House and a resolution through its authority. As a result, I am duty bound to bring this matter to your attention, Mr. Speaker.
While we may have a new procedure to deal with late questions in committee, order paper questions are instruments of the House and contempt against such proceedings must be dealt with in the House itself.
Before I present my evidence regarding the withholding of the information, I would like to set the procedural stage for this question of privilege. I requested information from the government through Standing Order 39(1) which states:
Questions may be placed on the Order Paper seeking information from Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and from other Members, relating to any bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House, in which such Members may be concerned;--
On December 16, 1980, at page 5797 of Hansard the Speaker ruled:
While it is correct to say that the government is not required by our rules to answer written or oral questions, it would be bold to suggest that no circumstances could ever exist for a prima facie question of privilege to be made where there was a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member--
As I stated earlier, I requested information under the provisions of Standing Order 39 on December 3, 2001, and the deadline to answer my question pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) had lapsed.
Yesterday a National Post reporter called Canada Lands to find out why the information I requested through Q-94 had not yet been delivered to me. You may find this article, Mr. Speaker, in today's National Post .
The reporter, Andrew McIntosh, put his question to Gordon McIvor, a vice-president of communications for Canada Lands. Mr. McIvor replied that information was sent off to the minister's office several weeks ago. The National Post article reported Mr. McIvor as saying:
It's all been completed and it all went to the minister's office, two weeks ago, three weeks ago. There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't have been passed on to--
And he mentions my name.
The information I sought has been available for some time. The government agency responsible, Canada Lands, has complied with my request but the Deputy Prime Minister and his staff acting as the middle agent have deliberately withheld information from parliament for several weeks now. This dismissive view of the House and its members is contemptuous.
As members of parliament it is our duty to scrutinize the government and to hold it to account. The order paper question is one of those tools that we as members use to seek information from the government. The order paper question is part of our rules and is considered a proceeding of parliament commanding respect from ministers and necessitating protection by the House.
I ask that you allow me to move the appropriate motion to secure that protection and to bring a swift resolution to this matter.
Oral Question Period
John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations
Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed in this member who raises this issue and uses the time of the House today. Quite frankly his constituents would also be appalled to think that he missed the news about the cabinet shuffle. It is either that or he was not willing to give me at least a chance to return and review the matters that were pending and to sign them off.
As it happened, for very important state reasons I proceeded with a trip to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan immediately following the cabinet shuffle, which was an important trip for me to take. It was important in relation to our re-engaging with both India and Pakistan. It was an opportunity to restore our diplomatic relations with Afghanistan and meet with the new interim administration in Kabul.
Upon my return late Sunday night I returned to the House yesterday and received the prepared answer to his question, signed it off and sent it to the appropriate authorities. I understand that it may not have been tabled immediately. It is undoubtedly in the process. However, if he has a telephone and would use it, he could have determined that in no way were we attempting to try to withhold information from him, certainly not deliberately. The fact that he impugns my willingness to provide him with the information to which he is entitled is very regrettable.
In the different portfolios I have held here I have worked quite well with opposition members in order to try to provide the best possible responsiveness to ensure that the people's interests are well represented and taken care of. I understand he has a job to do. I hope he understands I have a job to do. He will get his answer very quickly. To suggest that somehow or other we were deliberately withholding information is just scurrilous.
Oral Question Period
I think we can deal with this question of privilege. The hon. member for Edmonton Centre-East in his initial remarks indicated that Standing Order 39 was the governing standing order. He has quoted it, saying that questions may be placed on the order paper seeking information from ministers of the crown relating to public affairs and so on.
He also indicated that there are rules relating to the time that answers must be given. Standing Order 39(5)( a ) states:
A Member may request that the Ministry respond to a specific question within forty-five days by so indicating when filing his or her question.
Standing Order 39(5)( b ) states:
If such a question remains unanswered at the expiration of the said period of forty-five days, the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond shall be deemed referred to the appropriate Standing Committee. Within five sitting days of such a referral the Chair of the committee shall convene a meeting of the committee to consider the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond. The question shall be designated as referred to the committee on the order paper and, notwithstanding Standing Order 39(4), the Member may submit one further question for each question so designated.
I do not think I need read the rest of it. I note the fact that this question was unanswered yesterday and as appears at pages 966-7 of the Journals of yesterday the question was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations. It remains on the order paper as an unanswered question.
Some of the questions that were referred yesterday were in fact answered today during routine proceedings, but his was not one of them apparently. However it is before that committee and within five days the committee will be having a meeting to discuss the matter. I think the hon. member for Edmonton Centre-East, if he has a complaint, ought to raise the matter there.
I point out, as he pointed out in his remarks, that there is no requirement that answers be provided to questions which are tabled by members and placed on the order paper in accordance with Standing Order 39. There have been rules relating to the 45 day rule for some time. The change that was recently brought in allowed members to file additional ones and referred the matters to committees for study.
I believe in this case, the matter having been referred to the committee yesterday, it is entirely appropriate that the committee take the matter under advisement if the question is not answered within the five day period. The referral is still there in any event. If the member has a complaint, in my view it is reasonable that it be raised there.
I have considered the remarks made by the hon. Deputy Prime Minister in this regard, as well as those made by the hon. member for Edmonton Centre-East.
In my opinion, this does not constitute a prima facie case of privilege at this time. The approach adopted with respect to this question on the order paper is fair and equitable for the House and for all hon. members and, in my view, that concludes the matter.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Before question period, the hon. member for Fraser Valley had the floor. He will have five minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to completing an analysis of the budget. We are able to do that after several months of looking it over and seeing the impact on the Canadian economy and the issues that were touched on in the budget.
It is interesting to note that the budget has completely failed to address the issue of the dollar. The dollar has hit a record low. The budget has not dealt with the mismanagement of taxpayer funds. It has not addressed the concerns of the military. It has failed to mention agriculture in a meaningful way. It has completely ignored the health care crisis. The budget is a failure. It was and is a failure.
I will rattle off some quotes from the leader of the coalition that sits on this side of House about the budget. I would especially ask the members of the official opposition to compare them with their own position, which I think is very similar to the one I campaigned on in the last federal election.
On debt repayment, the quote is:
We must pay down our national mortgage. There should be a scheduled debt reduction plan that would force the government to pay down our debt.
I like that. I campaigned on that. It is a good policy.
On waste and mismanagement, the quote is:
The Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Human Resources Development are allowed to keep on wasting millions of dollars in their grants and contributions programs despite the clear and repeated criticisms of the auditor general.
In other words, they have ignored the auditor general. They continue to ignore the auditor general. The advice from the new AG is the same as the advice from the last AG, which is for the Liberals to get their act together over there. Learn how to spend our dollars properly. Quit wasting government money, which is tax dollars that come out of the hard-earned paycheques of Canadians. They should get with a system over there that looks after the waste concerns and addresses the auditor general's consistent demands.
On national defence, the quote from the member for Calgary Centre is:
As part of the much vaunted security package, the budget gives the Department of National Defence $629 million over five years for the Canadian forces. However, the department's own business plan states that it is $1.3 billion short per year to fulfill the tasks already assigned to it.
The government adds more new tasks than money. Absolutely we have to rebuild the military. I totally agree with that statement. It is consistent with what I campaigned on. It is consistent with what the official opposition has said. I believe that it is the right way to go.
On health care:
The same goes for health care financing. The budget contains no new initiative for this issue of such great concern to Canadians.
Of course it is of great concern. We see problems from coast to coast. In fact, because of the abdication of leadership by the federal Liberal government, the provinces now are getting together. They are putting together plans. They are going it alone because of the lack of leadership and the lack of funding, the lack of direction, the lack of focus, the lack of concern for the number one issue in the country which is health care.
Even with the money in this budget, the health care funding package is less than when the government took office. Eight and one-half years later, it is still inadequate. Instead of transferring the money from wasteful spending over to the health care package, the government is happy to let it go. It sifts like sand through the Liberals' hands to be spent on every project under the sun including the ministers' pet projects.
On tax relief, in the analysis by the member for Calgary Centre, the right hon. former prime minister says that tax levels are too high. By the time we add the CPP premiums and the EI premiums, there is no tax break in the budget. In fact, the only major tax breaks are re-announcements of old tax breaks. Even they show that there is no real tax relief in the overall package. We are paying more taxes. Our tax as a percentage of our gross income continues to go up and the government seems unconcerned.
The position of the coalition on this side of the House is that EI premiums are too high. They are too high and the benefits do not match the amount of money going into the program. In other words, EI's own auditor says there is too much money in the package. We are being taxed at too high a rate. That money should either be reduced or given back to the workers in the form of benefits, one or the other. It is an insurance program. It belongs to the workers. Lower the premiums or allow people to draw on them, but the government does neither.
We could go on with other things we have in common, things that are not addressed in the budget but are firm policy commitments on this side of the House and on which there is a lot of agreement.
We are seeing again the fiasco of the government's handling of Bill C-68 and the amount of wasted money. Our coalition and the official opposition say to repeal it because it is not doing the job of increasing safety. It is increasing our tax load. Hundreds of millions of dollars that should go toward preventing crime and addressing the concerns of crime and violence against women instead are used in a registry.
We now see that the administration of the registry is being handed over to the private sector. I can hardly wait for the contract on that. No doubt some longtime associate of someone over there will be very happy to see it.
The point I am trying to make is that there is a broad consensus in a good part of the country that things need to change. There is a consensus on this side of the House that things need to change.
During the Alliance leadership race I would invite those members to examine how much commonality we have. We can agree there are things that should change. As we have been saying for some time, why do we not find ways to work together? The government obviously does not have its act together. If we had our act together, perhaps it would listen to the collective words of all of us.
Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. He asked a question in the House yesterday having to do with a Liberal scandal and mismanagement in terms of grants and contributions. He pointed out that in 1997 there was a Liberal fundraiser by the name of Pierre Corbeil who was convicted of influence peddling. This is very serious. Over the last couple of years other things have sprung up. There was the Prime Minister's intervention with the Business Development Bank. The recently departed minister of public works, Alfonso Gagliano, was involved in similar kinds of things.
How is it that Canadians are to trust the government with their hard earned tax dollars when this kind of scandalous behaviour continues by the government? I would like my colleague to comment on that.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same over on the Liberal side. The Liberals say the minister is no longer here. He has been transferred out of the country, far from probing microphones, noxious journalists and others who want to get to the truth of the matter. He is not just out of town, he is out of the country. He is an ambassador, so of course we cannot ask him those political questions any more. That is very convenient but it does not get away from the truth.
The truth is while he was the minister of public works, one body which answered to him was Canada Lands Company. The president of Canada Lands Company was handed a file which said he was to sell a specific piece of land in Montreal to one of the minister's former Liberal supporters for a certain sum of money. This was not up for negotiations. This was not left in the president's hands because the Canada Lands Company has an obligation to maximize the return for the taxpayers.
It was not open for serious bidding. A small little ad regarding a multimillion dollar property was run in a newspaper for one day. It is unbelievable.
If I had a piece of property that expensive and that rare, I would make sure to advertise it well. Realtors would spend tens of thousands of dollars to increase and enhance the value of that property to sell it for the best dollar. Instead, although it had been appraised at over $9 million during the slowest time in Montreal's economy, it sold for $4 million. The day it was sold it was said to be worth $12 million on the market. The purchaser subdivided it the next week because he had pre-approval by the city of Montreal. The realtors say he will make $16 million off that property. That is not a bad deal.
The important thing is not what a person knows or what is the best deal for the taxpayers. A membership card in the Liberal Party makes the difference. It is scandalous.
Today we asked again why it is that in opposition the Liberals said that if there is so much scandal and so much stuff up in the air, to clear the air one way or the other, there should be an investigation.
I suggested an independent ethics commissioner, if the Liberals over there can figure out what that is. It is the one who reports to parliament, the one they promised in their red book and never delivered. That would be one solution.
What about the RCMP? When the cabinet minister in charge of public works was in opposition, he said that when there is this much of a cloud over an issue, there should be an investigation. When the president of Canada Lands Company says he has been neutered in his job, that he cannot do his job and maximize the benefit for the taxpayers, there should be an investigation.
The response from the Liberal side is to not talk about it. The minister is sent away, given a golden parachute to somewhere else with the hope he can learn the language in some other country because he does not know it and with the hope that he will do the job even if he does not have the qualifications. The main thing is to get him out of town before the scandal gets worse.
It is a pattern. If a minister gets into trouble, if there is a scandal or the auditor general says there is scandal, the Liberals will even switch the ministers around. I have seen that happen. The minister can then say he cannot answer a certain question because he is not the minister of that any more. My colleagues remember that. It is unfair and it sure flies in the face of what the Prime Minister said years ago before he became Prime Minister. He said “My cabinet ministers will have to answer for their actions and they will not be able to hide”. Not only are they hiding, they have been ballooned to another country. They have disappeared from the country.
I do not know what more the Liberals can do to protect themselves. They use all the tools in the trade. Ministers are sent to the Senate or are given another portfolio or are sent out of the country if there is something to hide. They do not want to deal with the corruption that is evident in their own departments.
Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to stand in the House on the last day of debate on the budget that was presented to the House in December. As it is now almost the end of January it tends to lose a little bit of its urgency. However it does give us an opportunity to look at what has happened over the last month with this particular budget.
I would like to thank the member for Fraser Valley. It is very difficult for me to walk in behind my newfound best friend and all the wonderful things that he had to say, certainly about this coalition and certainly against the government. I would agree with him on all of the points he made.
I have been in the House all day listening to the last day of the budget debate. I have to say that I cannot go forward until I respond particularly to the member for Guelph--Wellington. When the member spoke she effectively epitomized the Liberal pap that goes on on that side of the House that is regurgitated and supposedly sold to Canadians. I was embarrassed as a Canadian and as a thinking individual to think that she honestly believed that what she told me I would take as gospel.
I must respond to three things the hon. member said and then I will get into the budget debate and to what I feel is right and what is wrong with it.
The first thing the hon. member said was that this was not a budget that was planned for. Take that in context. The government had over two years to plan a budget. All of a sudden, with the September 11 scenario, the government comes forward with a budget that was not planned for. It was a reactive budget, not proactive. That in itself speaks to the kind of management by this government which is totally reactive, never proactive, does not have any vision and does not understand not only the economy of the country but what really is happening to the grassroots, to the people.
The second thing was that the member for Guelph--Wellington decided on a number of occasions to talk about 1993 and the pre-1993 era. She talked about the deficit and about the unemployment of the day, but she forgot, and I am sure it was just an oversight, to talk about the free trade agreement that her and her government decided they would get rid of when they formed the government. I did not see that happen.
I am sure it was an oversight but she forgot to talk about the GST and the dollars that were generated from that GST being put into the budget deficit. She did not talk about the interest rate policy that was put into place at that time and which her government right now is taking advantage of to balance the budget.
I find it unfortunate that she did not deal with those things.
The last thing she did talk about was the $5 million that was going to her university in Guelph. That speaks to the mismanagement of the whole Liberal government. That speaks to the HRDC issue that we dealt with in the House. That deals with the way the government thinks, that in fact the budget and the economy are built around her riding and her university in Guelph.
We all have universities. We all have needs and desires. She did not decide that was important. She decided that only her needs were important.
In my opinion after the December budget the Liberal government is still in denial. We hear it in the House every day. We heard it today and we heard it yesterday. Let me say that this propaganda, this spin doctoring of what is happening in our community, will not sit well with the citizens of our country.
Let me talk about the propaganda. Yesterday and today I heard that there has been no deficit for five years, that there is a huge trade surplus, that interest rates are low, that the inflation rate is low and that everybody should be happy.
What we heard was that there was nothing wrong with the economy and that the December budget satisfied all the needs.
Let me talk about reality. The reality is the unemployed. The member for Guelph--Wellington said that the unemployment rate was seven something. I remember that when the Tories were in power it was 11% but right now it is just seven something. Well the unemployment rate today is 8% and going up. As I stand here right now 80,000 Canadians have lost their full time jobs over the last few months. One million three hundred thousand Canadians are currently unemployed, but it is only seven something. It does not matter much to the Liberal government.
The jobless rate in Canada jumped from 7.5% to 8% in December, its highest level in almost three years according to Statistics Canada, but it is only seven something. It does not really matter because our government is doing such a wonderful job. By the way, the interest rates are low, there has been no deficit for five years and there is a huge trade surplus, but there is an 8% unemployment rate.
Let me talk about another reality. Today we heard that the currency basket, which we are being compare to, the krona and the pound, the Canadian dollar is doing just wonderful. It went below 62¢ yesterday. It is trading just above 62¢ today. The reality is that at that level the Canadian standard of living is falling like a rock. It has lost 20% of its value against the American dollar. The spin on that side is that it is strong against the yen and against the pound. Eighty-five percent of the trade that we do within the world goes to the United States. Thirty-five percent of what Canadians consume is imported from the U.S. That in itself translates into a 7% reduction in our standard of living since the Liberals took government.
The Liberals can spin all they want and tell Canadians they are doing really well but the fact of the matter is that we now have a 7% lower standard of living today than we did when this government came to power. That is reflected in the budget because nothing has changed and nothing in the budget will allow that to change.
There is another reality, the reality of Canadian personal disposable income. Since the government took power, Canadian disposable income has fallen 8%. Today, compared to 1993, Canadians now have 8% less disposable income. Why is that? Taxes usually come to mind.
At the same time, American personal disposable income rose 20%. Why is that? More productivity, a stronger economy and less taxes are the reasons. That is what the American government did as opposed to what the Canadian government has done for our Canadian consumers. We are poor.
Another reality is health care. We heard from that side today that we have the best health care in the world. Who says that? The people who have never accessed the health care system in this country say that. The people on that side say that we should not worry, that we should be happy because we have the best health care system. They say that health care does not need more money and that the money taken out of it since 1993 does not really matter. I guess it also does not matter that we will never reach 1995 levels until 2004 because we have the best health care in the world. The only ones who think that way are the ones who have never accessed it. We could have some really good conversations about that.
Reality number six is the markets. They are reflective of what is happening in the country. Capital is fleeing from our markets in Canada. They are down substantially and the dollars are going to other places. That speaks specifically to the finance minister and the budget.
In a previous life I had the opportunity of doing a number of budgets. What we did was line by line zero based budgeting. With this particular government it is what it had last year and then add on top of that.
In the auditor general's last report she indicated there were 16 departments in the government that were out of control and could not control their spending.The auditor general also said that $16 billion in grants and contributions put public funds at risk. I would have thought that in a budget that goes to zero based budgeting, it would have allowed the government to reduce costs in these departments because the auditor general said that it had the ability to do that.
No, the government did not do that. It simply kept those dollars in place, spent some money on some priority areas and did nothing for Canadians beyond that. The necessary dollars were not put into defence. The reason I mentioned the 16 departments and the $16 billion is because we can find dollars from those areas of mismanagement and misappropriation and put them back into the areas of priority.
We know that the reason we have a budget today as opposed to perhaps next month is because of September 11, a reaction instead of being proactive. It was said so by the Liberal members. We should have put those dollars into defence a long time ago.
All I can say is that Canadians are smarter than the government gives them credit for. They recognize that this budget is not the budget they really deserve. Agriculture should have been--
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The hon. member for St. John's West on questions and comments.
Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the points made so eloquently by my colleague. As he was sitting down he referred to agriculture. The beginning of his remarks centred on the unemployment rate.
We have abundant natural resources in this country, two of which are agriculture and fisheries. I could add many more but I will pick just those two. These two industries alone could eliminate unemployment but nothing is being done to develop these great resources. We are paying no attention to the efforts being made by those involved to try to create the type of employment that could be created from such resources.
I would like the member's spin on that. Does he not think a properly developed agricultural industry and the proper use of the lucrative fishing resources would help to reduce the horrendous unemployment rate we presently have and help bring benefits to our country?