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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.

Topics

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy 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.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

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.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Before question period, the hon. member for Fraser Valley had the floor. He will have five minutes in which to conclude his remarks.

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3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance 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.

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3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance 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.

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3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance 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.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative 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--

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3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for St. John's West on questions and comments.

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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative 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?

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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague from St. John's West is absolutely correct.

However the problem with the agricultural and fishing industries right now is that they are adding to the unemployment rate when it should be going in the opposite direction. It should in fact be helping. The last numbers I have indicate that there were approximately 347,500 people employed in agriculture in December 2000. In December 2001 there were 312,000, which is a net loss of 34,700 jobs. If we were able to compete on a level playing field with our competitors, the Americans and the Europeans, these jobs would be back into the sector. We would be adding to the job base because we would then have other markets to get into that would allow us to develop our agricultural industry.

Let me also say that nothing was said about agriculture in the budget. Only $435.5 million was budgeted for 2000-01 and less than that for 2001-02.

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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

No mention of the fisheries at all.

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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

I do not know the fishing industry as well as I do the agricultural industry but my colleague can deal with that. He knows it inside out and backwards, but the fact of the matter is the same. If we had proper resource management, which the government has not shown, we could add people to the fishery, not take them away.

That is what the economy is all about but the budget does not speak to that. It speaks to absolutely none of this. All it does is speak to a leadership requirement from the Minister of Finance.

In contrast to the do not worry, be happy scenario put forward by the Liberals regarding the unemployment rate being only seven something, in the last little while we have lost 40,000 jobs from Nortel. JDS Uniphase has cut 7,000 jobs and Ford has cut 35,000 jobs worldwide, a lot of them here in Canada. Every day we read in the newspapers of new job losses. Those are not being reflected in the budget or in the government's vision for the country. That is a waste of Canadian talent and I am sorry for that.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak in support of the Minister of Finance's November 2001 budget.

I particularly wish to congratulate him because, once again, he is offering Canadians a window of opportunity for the future and a balanced approach.

Without detracting from the progress made to date and the prospects for the future, the 2001 budget brings crucial aid at a critical time. I for one particularly wish to congratulate him on his openness to the large cities of this country.

My riding of Laval East is located on Île Jésus. It is part of Laval, which, before the amalgamation of greater Montreal, was the second largest city in Quebec.

Looking at the broader picture, Laval is now part of greater Montrea, and greater Montreal must be competitive internationally.

Yesterday I listened to opposition members telling us that the Government of Canada should leave the cities to the mercy of the provinces, with only property taxes for revenue.

This strikes me as lacking foresight and something to be deplored. Fortunately, we in government are thinking on behalf of the cities. It is a Canadian reality that 80% of our population is urban. Undeniably, life in the big city holds a certain attraction.

Not surprisingly, this influx of people to the cities means that they are having to deal with some very serious problems: transportation, housing, homelessness.

Every day, our major cities, such as those in my riding of Lava East and those in your riding of Ahuntsic, Madam Speaker, need to be on the alert.

Companies in the major centres need to offer an environment that encourages innovation. They have a duty to be constantly improving their productivity in order to improve their competitive edge.

Our researchers need an environment that stimulates their creativity. Our entrepreneurs need opportunities to be entrepreneurs. Our finance minister has realized that this requires investment in research. The research of today is what produces the jobs of tomorrow.

Our government is making a substantial investment to ensure that Canada is on the leading edge of knowledge, and to ensure that research outcomes become a source of employment and growth for Canada, not just a source of ideas for others.

Providing assistance to the universities, collaborating with the academic world, funding basic research, all these are the way of the future.

I am a member of the Liberal task force on urban affairs, and I can say that our cities, our major centres, have a multitude of needs and face a multitude of challenges. If our government does not lend an attentive ear, they are in danger of running in to serious trouble.

I am therefore proud to see that this government is including in its investments the allocation of a minimum $2 billion for a new strategic infrastructure foundation, to finance major projects across Canada that exceed the capacity of existing programs.

As the member for Laval East, I cannot but applaud this, for how else could greater Montreal remain competitive, except with a decent highway system?

There are some examples. Is it normal for the people in my riding to still not have a bridge in the east of the island to get to their jobs in Montreal? Is it normal for the people in my riding to have to spend hours on the road to get to work? Is it normal for there to be no bypass in the northern part of the island? Is it normal for the western end of highway 440 not to be finished? Is it normal for the original plan for the work on highway 13 to still not be implemented?

We are citizens who are tired of being confronted with all these problems on a daily basis. We, the residents of greater Montreal, are pleased with the openness of our government, which will allow for the construction of highway 30. At last, trucks and cars that come from Toronto will be able to bypass Montreal and go directly to the United States or to Quebec City without clogging up traffic on Montreal Island.

With this infrastructure foundation the government is saying “Let us set aside this money; let us use it to help our cities; let us set it aside and then we will see”. The real question is, what are the chances of seeing our cities truly play their role if we leave them at the mercy of the provincial governments?

Municipal authorities in major cities everywhere told us that they needed funding. They all said the same thing, whether it was in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal or Halifax. The cities are all urging us to help them.

It is somewhat sad to hear the opposition criticize the new infrastructure foundation, considering that the federal government sees it as the only means that will allow cities to be confident about the future.

I say to the members of this House, let us stop engaging in demagoguery and let us realize that this government knows how to manage and how to listen to Canadians. After the events of September 11, we showed how effective we were in our response. Our government invested $2.2 billion to strengthen security for Canadians. We reviewed our legislation in record time.

I know the work that was done by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights—I sit on that committee—to tighten the noose around terrorists. Today, Canadians are safer, again because this government took its responsibilities.

The nice thing is that all these investments were made while preserving our country's fiscal balance. We maintained the tax cuts that had been announced for all Canadians. Indeed, $100 billion in tax cut will be maintained, because the Minister of Finance felt it was important to give some hope to Canadians by lowering taxes.

While the opposition meets with Mexican leaders to discuss globalization and monetary union, Liberal members are consulting with leaders in our major cities to try to find solutions to the plight of the homeless, to the housing issue and to the transportation problem. Given that attitude, it is no wonder that the Liberals were elected for a third consecutive term.

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3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberal member who spoke before me emphasized the infrastructure program, mostly for large cities.

In Quebec, there are outlying regions, rural regions in which there are small municipalities with very little infrastructure and not much tax revenue.

We did not just arrive here; we have been here since 1993. We would have been happy to leave earlier if the referendum had been won, but unfortunately, as long as we pay taxes to Ottawa, members of the Bloc Quebecois will rise in this House to claim their due.

There has already been a Canada-Quebec infrastructure program, and it worked quite well. There was a department in Ottawa, headed, at the time by the President of the Treasury Board, now the Minister of Defence, and in Quebec, there was a ministry in charge of municipal infrastructure projects. It worked just fine.

Since 1994, we have been calling on the government to reach an agreement with the provinces regarding infrastructure programs funded equally by the three levels of government. Today, Quebec is forced to contribute two dollars for every one dollar given by Ottawa. It is a frenzy, because municipalities want to get in on it.

Montreal needs bridges. I cannot prevent the people of Montreal from demanding infrastructure projects, but folks living in the regions also need bridges. In my riding of Charlevoix, the bridge between Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine is a project that those living on the North Shore and in the Charlevoix have been hoping for. The Government of Quebec has invested considerable amounts of money on a feasibility study.

Can the member reassure us that there is no danger that the federal government will spend pots of money to manage this foundation? There is always the danger of ending up with a department along the lines of Alfonso Gagliano's department, full of Liberal cronies and friends of the government.

I believe that members and ministers are elected to Ottawa to administer and manage; it is the same thing in Quebec City. Public servants are accountable to a minister. Personally, I do not like the idea of a foundation whose sole role is to manage. Is there not a danger, once again, of patronage plums and of spending lots of money on the administration of such a foundation? The minister will not be accountable before the House of Commons and members will not have any ability to advocate for municipalities in their regions. We will have to kowtow to a foundation and beg for our money.

We are now in the year 2002. It is important that both governments fulfill their responsibilities, particularly the federal government. There is no need for a foundation, it is a monumental waste of money.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, we see how out of the picture the members opposite are.

If they were to listen to what the people of Quebec were saying, what would they hear? They would hear mayors saying that they need federal government funding, that they need the Canadian infrastructure foundation. I simply cannot understand the member's question. I think that he has it all wrong. This shows, once again, that opposition members are not listening very hard to Quebecers.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, this is something we could debate anyway.

I ask the member to stop listening to herself speak. If she were to take the time to listen to what I am saying, she would understand that our problem is that the federal government decided to put money into the highway infrastructure program, to reach an agreement with the provinces. The problem arises when the Minister of Finance decides to create a foundation.

We do not want foundations; we want results. Once again, I hope the question is clear for her. When she answers, I hope that she will stop listening to herself speak and answer my question.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I think that our friends across the way are not making any sense. They are criticizing the infrastructure program. They are criticizing a vision for the future, the infrastructure program, for which $2 billion has been earmarked.

Where should these $2 billion have gone? They should talk to the mayors of cities in Quebec, who will tell them how badly they need it.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, it has become commonplace in the House to hear the words that on September 11 the world was changed. I do not know whether the world changed on September 11 or whether what we witnessed was the darker underside of evil, but it is clear that September 11 has had a transformative impact on our psyches, policies and purposes.

Prior to September 11 terrorism was not even on the parliamentary radar screen. Since September 11 it has dominated parliamentary debate, and security has been a central motif in budget 2001. However security does not only include components of counterterrorism law and policy, however important it may be, and which has parallel budgetary expression.

Security also includes investing in people. It includes investment in early childhood education and development, in protecting and securing the most vulnerable among us, in securing and sustaining a healthy and holistic environment, and in sustaining a strategic investment in our schools, colleges, universities, the sciences and humanities, and lifelong learning.

In a word, it is investment in people across the full spectrum of education and science, in an environment of excellence and equity. That kind of investment is an investment as well in the security of Canada and Canadians.

Accordingly, I will confine my remarks to the promotion of security through education although I am not unmindful of the imperatives of health care, environment, child poverty, aboriginal justice and the like. I will focus on two themes: equity in education and excellence in education.

In the matter of equity in education, the budget builds on a number of initiatives taken in budgets 1999 and 2000. They include tax credits and scholarships to help defray the costs of education, contributing to provincial support for post-secondary education, making significant investments to encourage innovation, urging Canadians of all ages to engage in lifelong learning, and working to bring the Internet and e-education to all Canadians.

A number of express initiatives were undertaken which first found expression in budgets 1999 and 2000 and which have received widespread support. They include awarding a million scholarships worth a total of $2.5 billion over 10 years through the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation; establishing and sustaining 2,000 new Canada university research chairs with $900 million in federal support for five years; developing and providing increased support for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation; and connecting individual classrooms across the country to the Internet.

Budget 2001 continues to build on these initiatives with the following new and specific démarches: First, $10 million a year will be provided to improve support for persons with disabilities who pursue higher education. The maximum amount for assistance delivered through the Canada study grant will increase to $8,000 from $5,000. In addition, a supplementary grant of up to $2,000 a year will be provided to students who require more money to meet their special needs.

Second, there will be $5 million a year to exempt from income tax any tuition assistance for adult basic education provided under certain government programs including employment insurance.

Third, there will be $20 million a year to extend the education tax credit to people who receive taxable assistance for post-secondary education under certain government programs including employment insurance. This will provide approximately 65,000 Canadians with significant tax relief to upgrade their skills.

Fourth, there will be $5 million a year to promote linguistic exchanges and activities for young Canadians. This is part of a program for the protection of minority language rights.

Fifth, there will be support for early childhood development across Canada with a particular focus on first nations children on reserves. This will include initiatives such as the head start program.

Sixth, a further $110 million will be invested to build the world's fastest all-optical Internet backbone to connect our major research universities and colleges.

Seventh, budget 2001 will make a number of targeted investments to help Canada stay ahead of the international competition in leading edge research. They include a one time $200 million investment to help Canadian universities, particularly smaller ones, deal with the financial pressures associated with federally supported research activity. There will be a 7% increase in the annual budget of the granting councils. This represents $36.5 million a year for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and $9.5 million a year for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Eighth, there will be a $25 million investment over five years to sustain and enhance the research program of the internationally renowned Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. This will assist in the recruitment and retention of top researchers in Canada.

Ninth, $110 million over three years will go to the National Research Council of Canada so it can acquire leading edge technologies and expand its regional innovation initiatives.

Tenth, there will be continued support for and enhancement of the Networks of Centres of Excellence across the country which has promoted collaborative intellectual inquiry across disciplines and cultures.

Eleventh, there will be continued support for and enhancements of the Canada Research Chairs Program which has recruited the best talents including returning Canadians while retaining the best Canadian talent.

Twelfth, it will provide $75 million a year to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research which includes the Institute of Gender and Health and the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health. Apart from the transformative impact of focusing on prevention as well as treatment in matters of health care, this strategic investment will have a specific impact on groups such as women and aboriginal people.

Thirteenth, $95 million in funding for a further four years will go to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This is a preventive as well as a curative approach to medicine and health care.

These welcome investments in people, education, research and science do not mean there are no serious concerns in the matter of education, particularly education equity for which budgetary support is still required. There are concerns about differential access to higher education and the ongoing limited provincial funding of higher education in many jurisdictions. There are concerns that the allocation formula of granting councils and other agencies will result in some regions and institutions benefiting significantly less than others. There is a need for an infrastructure program to deal with our crumbling college and university campuses.

Research today is the source of new jobs and new ideas for tomorrow. Strategic investment in people will make Canada a leader in the knowledge economy and help protect human security for all Canadians.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Westmount for his remarks. He exclusively emphasized the new spending initiatives announced in the budget but neglected to address the larger economic context in which we now find ourselves and which the budget failed to address. The budget did not address the fact that Canada is in a recession; that unemployment is going up; that our dollar has reached a record all time low; that our standard of living and labour productivity continue to significantly lag below the levels of our major economic competitors, particularly the United States; and that we continue to have the highest income tax burden and second highest debt burden in both the G-7 and the OECD.

Will the hon. member comment on whether he believes it is adequate for the government to simply increase spending and do nothing in the budget to address Canada's disproportionately large tax and debt burdens? Is he at all concerned about the judgment being passed by international currency markets on the economic policy of the government in the form of our 62 cent loonie?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, there are a number of initiatives in the budget which deal with what my hon. colleague has referred to as disproportionately larger tax burdens and which provide express and specific tax relief.

I indicated at the outset of my remarks that for reasons of time constraints I would confine them to issues of research and of equity and excellence in education. The budget is part of a larger package of investing in people and programs, and we should not simply look at it from a spending dimension. These investments will promote and protect human security. That was the purpose and nature of the budget.

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, after hearing the comments made by the Liberal member opposite, I think that it is imperative that Quebec achieve its independence as soon as possible. The reason that I believe that Quebec needs its complete sovereignty is that the federal government is interfering more and more in areas under provincial jurisdiction, and Quebec's jurisdiction in particular, in matters of education and health.

I believe that it is important to note that if there are any two areas where the federal government has no right to intervene, it is most certainly in health and education, which fall exclusively under provincial jurisdiction.

Is the member aware, and does he agree with me, that the Liberal budget's $42 billion deficit reduction has been to the detriment of transfer payments to the provinces for health and education, mainly to these two departments? Is he aware that it has also been paid for on the backs of the unemployed by cutting $8 billion a year from the employment insurance fund, which is no longer available to seasonal workers in Charlevoix, on the North Shore, and across Quebec? Is he aware that it has been paid for by cutting funds for regional airports and ports, as the government is giving up its infrastructure, and also by cutting the guaranteed income supplement for seniors?

Eliminating the deficit is incredibly easy when the Liberal government takes money in, but does not give any back to anyone.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said in my speech, I only referred to financial support provided to Canadians and Quebecers, to protect and promote the human security of all Canadians and Quebecers.

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4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I will take a moment to address the content of the hon. member's speech. He spoke at length of the necessity to have access to post-secondary education.

Under the Liberal government tuition rates have skyrocketed 126% over the last 10 years. Student debt levels have quadrupled over the same period of time. More of our best and brightest are choosing not to seek post-secondary education because of the actions of the government and its lack of action on other initiatives.

Does the hon. member feel it should it be a paramount initiative of the government to ensure we can once again look every high school student square in the eye and say that if they have the intellectual means to seek post-secondary education they can? Will he team up with all members to ensure post-secondary education becomes accessible again and to address the heinous issue of student debt? Will he follow the Progressive Conservative initiative which would allow students to deduct up to 10% of their debt and interest--

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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member but there is no time left for an answer from the hon. member.