This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Give them money.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Sure, put more money into them. We can put more money into the RCMP, but part of the problem with it is that not all cities in Canada have the RCMP, including the City of Port Moody, which is the third largest of the five in my riding. It is a local municipal force so they have to raise money locally, so give them more tax room. Stop ripping off Canadians at the pump and let them raise the gas taxes for the needs that they want.

The federal Liberal government finds virtue in taking gas tax dollars and using them for resources that are not infrastructure related. Why does it not apply the same principle and let municipalities put gas taxes in place to finance what they need? The first responsibility of the state is always to protect citizens. The government is ripping off citizens and is doing nothing to protect Canadians. It has failed young Canadians and is going to stack my generation with debt and taxes that are going to bury young Canadians in the future.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Actually I want to talk about spending, Mr. Speaker. The member unfortunately is totally wrong, but I want to make a comment with regard to the issue of gas tax. It was this government in March 2000 that proposed suspending the GST on gasoline. We wrote to each province. How many provinces responded? One. Because they would not suspend the PST. There is no documentation to show that if we were to suspend it without the provinces doing the same the prices would go down. In fact, New Brunswick is a good example, where they did that for 2% and the oil companies raised the prices.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the provinces probably did not twin that tax cut because provinces need to pay for health care that the government is gutting from them. They need to pay for other things in the provinces that the government is cutting them off from.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

An hon. member

They cut the funding by 25%.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

As my colleague is saying, the government keeps cutting them off from health care, cutting them off on transportation infrastructure, and cutting them off on the things that they need to provide because this government is tax happy, spend happy and driving Canadians into the ground.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Let us cool things off a little here. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, Employment Insurance.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 25th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think that if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study on border security and enforcement, a group comprised of 2 government members and one member of each of the opposition parties of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C., U.S.A. in March 2003, and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there consent to table the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to rise to respond to last week's budget. I certainly want to take this opportunity as well to congratulate the finance minister on what I and I believe most Canadians believe to be very fine work.

Before I address the budget, though, I would like to clarify the record. I know I have to govern myself within the confines of using parliamentary language. For the hon. member who questioned the amount of time that I spend in the House, I will put my attendance record forward, my voting record forward and my attendance records at committee forward against his. I would be more than pleased to do that, because my commitment has been such that from Sunday to Thursday or Friday, when the House is sitting, I am away from my family working on behalf of my riding, trying to accomplish the good things with which the government is vested by way of responsibility. I do not appreciate the assertion that I am not in Ottawa representing the people of Simcoe--Grey when in fact the complete opposite is true. I find it a slight by the hon. member but typical of the kinds of comments that come from that side of the bench. It is shameful of that member and I am so disappointed.

I say we are in a very unique situation here, a terribly unique situation when we compare ourselves to the other industrialized and developed nations of the world. That was the challenge I was trying to throw out to the Alliance Party: to stand up and try to instill confidence in Canadians and remind them of the excellent fiscal shape this country is in today as opposed to five or six years ago and to create consumer confidence, because we are in a very unique position. We are in a unique position not only because of the hard work of the finance minister and the budget that he brought forward last week, but we are in a great position because of the leadership of the Prime Minister and the leadership that has been shown by the members of Parliament, my Liberal colleagues from all across this country.

This is a Canadian budget. Canadians have spoken. They have spoken to us in our ridings. They have spoken to us by way of survey. They have spoken to us by way of talk shows. They have spoken to us by way of presentations before committee. And this government listened. What did it listen to? There is a $35 billion increase in health care.

Mr. Speaker, show me somebody in this country who does not think that a $35 billion increase in health care spending over the next five years will help to raise the quality of life in Canada. Clearly it will, both in urban areas and rural areas.

In my riding of Simcoe--Grey, the three hospitals I have will directly benefit, as long as the province transfers the money in a timely fashion, of course. They will directly benefit from this. We are in a position to do that not simply because of the budget and the hard work on behalf of all my colleagues, but I think we have to take our hats off to the past finance minister as well, for it was under his watch that we went from a $43 billion yearly deficit to eliminating it in its entirety and to actually starting to reduce debt, to actually seeing the economy grow and the debt to GDP ratio spreading ever wider. Originally it was 66% and now it is 46%.

The country has not been in better financial shape as opposed to its allies or the G-7 countries in many years. Canadians need to know that. This economy is strong. It is stable. Quite frankly, we would not be in a position to invest the kind of money that the government invested in Canadians by way of its budget if we did not have those kinds of surpluses within our budget.

A number of things about the budget certainly impressed me tremendously. Health care, absolutely, but I would also like to talk about some of the other things, like the Department of National Defence. CFB Borden is located in my riding. It is one of the largest training bases in Canada. There are no people in this country that I am more proud of than the men and women in our military.

I get an opportunity to visit the base on a regular basis to meet them and hear their stories and I am here to tell the House that this nation is well served by the men and women in our military. I could not be more proud, more happy, to see a $1.6 billion increase for the Department of National Defence over the next two years and again an incremental increase of $800 million over the following three years. This is not chump change. This is $4 billion. That is a significant amount of money for our military, and I am proud to see it go to our military men and women because they certainly deserve it.

We talk about things such as the infrastructure program. When I was chair of the southwestern Ontario caucus for two years my caucus was proud, along with many other caucuses, to champion infrastructure in the House and to tell the government that there was a need for an infrastructure program and a need for cost sharing on some of the demands municipalities are facing today.

Do members know what happened? The government listened. We invested over $5 billion into infrastructure pre this budget. It had enormous consequences all across the country. My riding was likely one of the largest beneficiaries within rural Ontario. We had a number of tremendous projects that were announced over the last five years that have clearly raised the quality of life, that have created an environment where business wants to invest and that have had a substantive impact on the economy. We asked and the government listened.

What the municipalities want now is a long term sustained infrastructure program, not a one year or two year program but long term. They got it; it is over 10 years. Maybe $3 billion is not enough over that period of time, I will give that, but let us not lose sight of how it will extrapolate within the public sector, municipal governments, provincial governments and the private sector. We are not all of a sudden talking about $3 billion, we are talking about $10 billion or more. Therefore it will have a substantive impact over the next 10 years.

As the government has proven time and time again, when we have the resources to give more we will. As the demand is there, as municipalities are facing challenges, whether they be rural or urban, the government will be walking with them, shoulder to shoulder, as we have in the past. I would challenge anybody in the House to suggest that the infrastructure money we have invested in our great land, in my riding of Simcoe--Grey, has not offered significant benefit.

When I start talking about the wonderful things that have taken place in the budget, I am truly hopeful that both sides of the House will espouse the virtues of a budget that will create the level of confidence that Canadians rightly want to hear and deserve to have.

When I hear that $985 million will be invested in a national day care program, I say bravo. That is for the working class family. When my wife and I were raising our oldest boy 14 years ago that was the kind of program we needed. It certainly would have helped to elevate our quality of life and to provide a more stable environment for our son. No, we cannot go back and do it, but I am proud of the fact that I am sitting with a government that has the foresight to recognize that kind of investment sometimes needs to take priority over a road or a sewer.

The fact is that this budget invests in the most important thing any government can, its people. I could not have been more proud when some of these approaches were articulated in last week's budget.

There has been mention across the hall with respect to some of the lack of accountability in government spending over the years.

I forgot to say this at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, but I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

The members across the hall raised a very good point. I believe the official opposition is doing its job when it points out these deficiencies in government and in spending. Bravo to them for pointing them out. We do the same thing in the backbenches. If we see there is mismanagement taking place, if we see that we are not maximizing taxpayer money to the best possible ability of the cabinet and the government, we stand up and holler and shout and ask for corrective action.

The fourth principle of this budget, for which I could not have been more pleased, was clear and transparent accrual accounting. Based on a recommendation from the Auditor General, Canadians will now have as clear a picture as they have had in many years of the state of governance is in this country.

What more could they ask for: investment in health care; investment in security in these troubling times; investment in day care; investment in poor people; and investment in our children, while still balancing our budget and still setting aside a contingency to reduce the debt? I say bravo to the Minister of Finance, bravo to the Prime Minister and bravo to all Canadians who will benefit from this budget.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will only bring up a couple of the issues but I am sure others will bring up other issues.

I cannot believe the nerve of the member to bring up the issue of health care funding. When his government in the 1960s signed on to health care, it promised to pay 50% of the cost of health care. Now it is down to 13%. This budget brings it up over several years to 18% rather than the 50% that was promised. He has the nerve to stand in the House and say that they are doing a good job on health care when they are funding less than half of what they promised when they signed the deal with the provinces. That is disgusting.

The other issue concerns the debt. The member made a claim earlier that his government was in fact reducing the debt. If we were to check last year's budget documents against this year's budget documents, we would see that our national debt is higher this year than it was last year.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, he has brought up two points but I will address the health care issue first.

I sit here and question how we get a clear message out to Canadians when we have absolute foolishness being espoused by the other side. These are non-truths.

They do not take into consideration such things as tax points. I am here to say that the provinces certainly took them into consideration when they started to accept them. When we transferred those tax points, those were taxes that we were supposed to be collecting. However in order to save bureaucracy we allowed them to collect them on our behalf. We are talking about billions and billions of dollars.

The hon. member stands and says that we made a promise back in the sixties that we would fund 50% of health care. I challenge the hon. member to find a piece of paper that states that. I challenge him to do so because based on the last budget increases that we have just put forward, $35 billion over the last five years, we will be putting more than our share into health care.

We have transferred money to the Province of Ontario. Members know that. We transferred money to them and they have put it away in their treasury. They did not dispose of it in a timely fashion, reinvesting in health care.

I am saying that the government is committed to a national health care program.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for his comments about accountability in another file that has been very evident to Canadians of recent. I am speaking of the homeless file where $753 million has been spent over the past three years but absolutely nothing for independent living homes; $753 million in funding that has gone into a system and this winter we have people sleeping on the streets. We are opening up LRT stations in Edmonton to put up homeless people. This is the gain after three years of funding into the system.

If $753 million was spent and the homeless count is up 60%, how much higher will those homeless numbers go with the $400 million that is in the budget now?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not be more pleased that the hon. member actually raised these particular points. I have to address them in two ways.

First, I want to articulate what the Alliance, Reformers or whatever they were at the time, suggested about these kinds of social safety nets, the soft money they refer to by way of investing in the homeless. The government has continually supported homeless initiatives by way of supporting the communities partnership initiative. We have invested significant amounts of money in that.

The suggestions being made by the people across the hall in many areas like this are to cut it, to lower taxes and to make tax cuts for the wealthy because we do not need to worry about these kinds of social safety nets that the government puts forward.

I am here to say that we will be working with municipalities, such as Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Stayner and Clearview, to address this problem because, I agree, it is a shame that we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we still have a homeless problem. However rather than rhetoric we are going to put words into action on this side.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was not an hour and a half that I was sitting in my place and found myself immediately behind the member for Toronto—Danforth, who spoke about attack editorials and attack editorial content against the Liberals for failing to invest mightily in metro Toronto. That really surprised me because the coincidence is that I am a former employee of the Toronto Star . I was an editor at the Toronto Star in the late seventies and early eighties. I would have liked to have said to the member for Toronto—Danforth that this parochialism, this idea that MPs exist to get money for their ridings, in this case one of the richest regions in the country, is not typical of the Toronto Star I once knew.

The Toronto Star is a great paper. It is recognized as one of the world's great papers in fact. I think certainly in the early eighties it was seen as one of the top 25 newspapers in the world.

At the time I was at the Toronto Star it had a great reputation. First of all it was an enormous paper in terms of the number of copies that were distributed, so it had an enormous influence, but it also had a strong sense of community. It was a local paper in the sense that it covered the news in metro Toronto. Our job as editors was to make sure that we were never beaten on a story in Toronto by the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Sun .

Despite that, the Toronto Star then had a vision. By focusing on the Canada that was Toronto it enlarged its view that took in the entire country. Consequently, in my view, in those days the Toronto Star had the best national pages and the best foreign pages. It had foreign correspondents prowling the world and writing stories for the Toronto Star . However the important thing is that in those days the Toronto Star had a genuine sense of nationalism.

Now what we see in today's editorials is that the Toronto Star is criticizing the federal budget because it has not given money directly to the cities. As we heard earlier here, the total amount of money set aside for municipalities has been approximately $3 billion over 10 years. That is not a lot of money but there is all kinds of other money in the budget that goes into municipal infrastructure. We do know that Toronto is the economic heartland of the country. Consequently, indirectly all kinds of money flows into Toronto.

The important point that I want to make and why I was disappointed to hear the complaint of the member for Toronto—Danforth was picked up precisely by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam when he rose during questions and comments and said that we as MPs do not represent just our municipalities and just our ridings. He said that every one of us first represents the entire country.

What is good in the budget and what is lacking in the criticism in the Toronto Star and what was the Toronto Star years ago was this idea that each one of us, be we federal politicians or be we journalists of one of the greatest papers in the country, look not just to our parochial interests, not just to whether we can get votes or sell newspapers in our small localities, but look to the benefit of the entire nation. That is what this budget has done, in my view.

We have all heard comments from other members in which, quite apart from the $3 billion for infrastructure, there is a wonderful section on new money for our students and universities. This is tremendous progress. There is a program of scholarship for post-graduate students. I think there are about $1.6 billion for the various science, social and humanities research councils. This is the kind of thing that a progressive government invests in. It invests in the future of all Canadians by investing in our youth.

I was really disappointed to think that anyone should be calling upon us on either side of the House. I know this is not shared by the opposition. The opposition would agree that we should be looking to the entire country, not simply to Calgary, Toronto, Fredericton or wherever else. We should be looking to benefit the entire country.

The other flaw in the argument that we see in the Toronto Star is the suggestion that the 40 MPs from the GTA should be bringing benefits to the GTA. The reality is, if we are going to invest in municipalities let us invest in those municipalities that really desperately need it. Winnipeg for example is desperately in need. My own area of Hamilton is desperately in need of municipal infrastructure renewal. There are other areas across the country. Look at rural Canada, look at Saskatchewan where the road infrastructure has completely deteriorated and the province does not have the money to upgrade it.

This is the kind of a vision that a budget should have. I think that the budget goes very far toward meeting the expectations of Canadians and trying to help out Canadians who are in need. That is our first concern.

The second concern is to invest in our ability to be competitive. I have a direct criticism of the budget. I would have rather that the budget gave more detail on how there would be better mechanisms of accountability and transparency. The budget talks a good story about how the government will try to bring better transparency to the delivery of health care services. It wants better transparency for corporate Canada. However what is lacking in the budget is in the actual detail.

I would like to have seen some commitment to reform the Access to Information Act or to revisit the Canada Corporations Act to bring in new rules that require higher standards of accountability to businesses and especially non-profit organizations and charities. There are enormous savings to be had there.

On balance, it is a budget that in my mind looks to Canadians and reaches one plateau. I would like very much to see it reach a higher plateau, but perhaps next time.

I do think that whatever anyone says about the budget it does not look parochially. It does not look at getting votes for individual MPs because they happen to be in government and come from one of the largest cities in the country and one of the richest regions. That is exactly what it should not do and that is what it does not do.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech on the budget. I agree it could certainly be at a higher plateau. I want to ask the member specifically about some things that are fact. They are not make believe.

Fact one is in 1993, when I came here, a big plea began and it has happened every year for the last 10 years. That is to make some highway improvements to the international highway, Highway No. 1, which is a two laner that goes beyond Banff, through British Columbia. It has been a two laner ever since we got here. We have been fighting and begging for improvements. In the meantime hundreds of people have lost their lives in tragic accidents on that terribly over populated road.

Fact two is we came here asking for help on the reserves regarding poverty. The United Nations declared Canada as the number one country in which to live but if the reserves were factored in, it would be 38th because of the third world conditions. In 2003 in my riding third world conditions still exist on many of these reserves.

I am really concerned that these kinds of serious problems exist and that have been brought to the attention of the Liberal government for over 10 years. Nothing has happened. Why?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the first point I remind my colleague opposite that road construction is 100% a provincial responsibility under the Constitution, including the Trans-Canada Highway. The Trans-Canada Highway was built with federal money given to the provinces to undertake the construction.

My point is this. I would much rather see, if the federal government is going to get involved in spending on roads, that it make that investment in those provinces that cannot afford it.

Alberta is one of the richest provinces. If the road to Banff needs improvement, then Alberta should fix it and let the federal government make its investment in Saskatchewan. The farmers of Saskatchewan are having a terrible difficulty getting their grain to market because of the poor quality of the road infrastructure.

On the member's second point, I agree that we have not made progress that is sufficiently adequate with respect to the problems on the Indian reserves. However that is not a matter of money. That is a matter of the kind of legislation that is now before the House that will bring transparency and accountability to those bands, those reserves and those communities that up to now have received federal money and there has been no transparency or accountability.

The member knows full well that this is probably the central problem to the management of Canada's aboriginal people and the government is finally moving on this. I know the member will support the legislation of the Indian and northern affairs minister that is now before the House.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer back to an issue that has already been raised in the House and that is the issue of spending. I know my colleague is concerned about good fiscal management.

In 2000-01 spending was 11% of the GDP. In 2003 it will be 12.2%, the lowest since 1950. The reason for the increase is the $34.8 billion for health care, something that people on the other side said we needed to do. We deliver and as soon as we deliver, they are not happy. The budget projects figures will fall under 12% in the next two fiscal years. We are the only G-7 country paying off the national debt. It has gone from 71.5% to 44.5% in 2003. I believe it will go below 40% in 2005.

Could the hon. member comment on what he sees is the government's ability to balance the books, pay for health care and still deliver quality of life to Canadians.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a balance. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and this government did bite the bullet when it undertook the various cuts during the mid-1990s. Now we have reached a position where we have a significant surplus. I tend to be one of the bluer Liberals on this side and I want to see debt reduction always as a major priority.

We cannot turn our backs on the average Canadian across the country who is worried about their private physical health. That was my original point. We should not be looking to parochial local gain. We should be looking to the budget to helping all Canadians, and that is exactly what we have done by our investments in health care.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for Yellowhead.

I rise today to address the budget proposed by the Minister of Finance last week on behalf of the people of Edmonton Southwest and as the official opposition critic for industry.

During my address I would like to first offer a general reaction to the budget. Second, I will comment on some specific initiatives that fall within the industry portfolio. Third, I will present the alternative Canadian Alliance approach.

First, and in general, this is a budget of missed opportunities because so much could have been done that was not done.

I will be the first to admit that there are some positive fiscal and economic signs here in Canada. The economy is relatively strong. We have low interest rates. We have relatively good job growth rates. We have stronger than expected government revenues. This is the time for us as a nation to capitalize on our positive points by focusing on our weaker points: lagging productivity, the lowest in the G-7 over the last 25 years, a low dollar, a high public debt and high and punitive tax levels.

This should have been the budget that propelled Canada to the forefront of the most innovative, the most productive nations on earth by substantially paying down our national debt, providing hard-working Canadians and businesses with some real tax relief and re-prioritizing spending from areas such as corporate welfare to health care.

Instead, the finance minister has not only adopted the track of his predecessor with his massive growth in government spending, he has escalated the process. The budget announces $17.4 billion in new spending initiatives over three years without identifying more than one cut in government spending.

Three things should have been done. First is some real substantive tax relief. It is Canadians, not the government, not the cabinet, who are balancing the yearly budget and they deserve some tax relief from this rapacious Liberal government.

Second, pay down the debt and establish a long term debt repayment plan. We have yearly surpluses but we still have a massive public debt, as well as large unfunded liabilities with the CPP. Passing debt on to future generations is not only fiscally unwise, it is morally wrong.

Third, spending should be re-prioritize. There have been no spending cuts particularly in the area of corporate welfare programs. The government has funded in stop-gap ways for health care and it has funded in absurd ways for climate change for which it has absolutely no plan on how it will meet its Kyoto targets. There is no long term vision on issues such as pensions or EI premiums.

I would like to comment on some specific initiatives that fall within the industry portfolio itself.

First, on the capital tax and following on the Alliance's recommendation both in the last two finance committee reports and in the industry committee report of June 2001, the minister has indicated that he will eliminate this tax. This five year elimination does not make sense. It should be eliminated in one year.

Second, there is the resource income tax change, making it equal to other corporate tax reductions. We agree with this. Also, this could be moved up rather than done over a five year period.

Third, we support funds to research granting agencies. We support addressing the indirect costs of research, as the industry committee has stated in two successive reports. This is simply recognizing that universities need this to sustain a level of service to all students.

We have the Canada graduate program. I know this has been welcomed in most corners. I want to offer a different perspective on this. I know that this may in fact be well intentioned, but in our view this is not the proper way to proceed on education.

Instead of putting in education dollars or transferring the money to the provinces, the federal government is setting up programs for Ph.D. and Master's students. It is setting up the millennium scholarship fund, and last year it set up the Trudeau fellowship. The government is taking money away from students who are in university studying and is putting it into these boutique programs, setting up bureaucracy upon bureaucracy.

If the federal government wants to support education, it should do so through a simple transfer to the provinces and let the provinces and the universities fund it. They are closest to the students and they know how to best do this. If the government wants to also support research and development, then do it through the federal granting agencies. Do it through NRC, NSERC or SSHRC, rather than set up other programs such as the Trudeau fellowship.

This brings me to the Alliance approach. I would like to present our alternative approach to industrial policy and research and development.

First, we need to eliminate corporate welfare. We need to move away from an industrial policy where the government attempts to pick winners and losers and selects certain companies within certain industries in the marketplace. Instead, we should target our public research funds into basic and developmental research and development, preferably through the federal granting councils.

We in this party distinguish between grants and loans to specific companies and funding through the granting councils. Those should always be distinguished. The government, whenever we criticize public spending on R and D through corporate welfare, always says that we would eliminate programs through NRC and NSERC. That is absolutely false. It is not true.

The fact is we do support research, if it is done through these granting agencies and if it is a peer review. We have always supported a peer review process, which is non-political, which ensures that the colleagues will ensure that the research has some merit.

We have always supported prudent investments in innovation and technology. As I said before, we support basic and developmental research. We have called, particularly in the last election, for increased funding to these granting councils.

Second, we would also simplify the funding for research and development.

I mentioned in education how the government is making things more complex and more bureaucratic. In the R and D section, one thing it could do to simplify it is to end the duplication through the regional agencies.

The regional agencies in this country are funding R and D. The reason the government is doing that is to try to justify the regional agencies. It uses it as a corporate welfare program but it also then puts through funding for R and D. Through western economic diversification, it will put in a lot grants to specific companies but then it will fund the synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan.

Whenever people in our party say that we should not have regional developmental agencies of this type to funnel corporate welfare to certain businesses, we get criticized and people say that we want to end funding for the synchrotron. That is absolutely not true. The funding for the synchrotron should occur through the National Research Council, which it currently does. If we fund the synchrotron through both the National Research Council and through western economic diversification, there is duplication, there is double bureaucracy. It is not necessary. Even one or two government members have recognized this and have spoken publicly about it.

We in this party have consistently called for a funding framework for science and technology, as the former Auditor General did in his report in 2000. Unfortunately, numerous secretaries of state for science and technology and ministers of industry have ignored this advice and failed to establish a framework. This was recommended in the committee report of June 2001. The industry department ignored it again. It was recommended in the Auditor General's report of 2000 in which he stated quite explicitly:

For big science projects, the government should ensure that: A single federal authority is established for accountability purposes. The identified authority reports annually to Parliament on the project's status, on behalf of all the federal participants.

The government responded by saying that this was not necessary, that the program was working well as it was. That is absolutely not true. It is not working well.

One example is the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy. It went to the finance committee, the industry committee, the finance minister and the industry minister. It went to two respective departments. It went to the NRC and the CFI. Five years later the coalition actually thinks it has enough funding. It went through all that instead of having one window where it could present the project and have it approved or not approved, depending on the merits. That is what should be set up. That is what the Auditor General and the Canadian Alliance have recommended. That is what the government has so far refused to implement.

We also hope that the government will appoint a chief scientist of Canada. This is something we have called for in the last two elections. This person would coordinate science activities in all government departments, help scientists communicate their findings and help bridge the gap between scientists, bureaucrats and elected officials.

Also, the government failed in this budget to address the problem with the R and D tax credit. The R and D tax credit on paper is one of the most generous tax credits in the world comparatively. However, if we talked to the researchers and the accountants, we would find that it is simply not effective. The government was asked to address this in the innovation agenda. It failed to even mention it in the budget.

The last point I want to make is with regard to infrastructure development. There was some debate earlier about how we fund infrastructure. The fact is the provinces and municipalities need some guarantee of long term funding.

The way the Alliance believes we should do this is by transferring some of the tax room from the gas tax and from the federal excise tax to the provinces and allowing them then to determine best their infrastructure needs. This would be a source of long term stable funding that the provinces and the municipalities could count on.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that this is a budget of missed opportunities. Because of some of the good economic conditions, we could have really taken on our fundamental problems like productivity, high debt and high taxation. We could have addressed them and propelled ourselves to the top of the nation. Unfortunately we did not and that is why the budget is so disappointing.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I pick up on the member's last point with regard to infrastructure. We have in fact delivered a 10 year program with a down payment of $1 billion leveraged with the provinces and municipalities.

The reason the member's suggestion is not a good one is that from past experience I can tell him that when provinces like Ontario get transfers, they tend to squander it. Cities complain in Ontario that the province simply offloads and they do not get the dollars. I will give a good example of that. On the housing initiative, we put money on the table for housing in this country and the province of Ontario did not put a quarter down, not a quarter. It simply had municipalities put in their share instead of coming to the table. We believe in partnership over here and we believe in working effectively.

The hon. member has raised some very important issues on skills and innovation. The government certainly has moved forward on the skills and innovation agenda. We did it all by balancing the books, by not going into deficit and by continuing to reduce the national debt, the only G-7 country to do so, down to 44.5% and below 40% by 2005.

The major issue that Canadians raised was health care. We have delivered in partnership with the provinces and the territories. I ask the hon. member, because that was the most expensive part of this budget, what would he have not done, or done in his case, in terms of not delivering on health care? Where would he have put the priorities?

The priorities seemed to be that health care was number one and continuing to balance the books was number two. We think that is extremely important because we are never going back to a deficit situation again.