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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

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, my response is not only honest, it is accurate. The member knows it. The Auditor General said that the costs were $688 million. That is over eight years since 1995. The $1 billion figure would be at the end of 2005, in three years time. They are running fast and loose with the numbers and they know darn well they are doing it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, at some point in his speech, my Liberal colleague was complaining about the opposition. He said that if we said something often enough people would come to believe it. This certainly would characterize the strategy of the hon. member when it comes to the budget and to many other things.

I have witnessed the Liberal Party in government adopt this strategy over and over again with respect to their budgets. This is certainly true in the case of this budget, where the government members hope that if they say over and over again that this budget is generous in so many respects, when it actually is not, Canadians will come to believe it has been generous with respect to health care, the environment, the infrastructure and many other things. I hope the hon. member will have an occasion to reflect on the fact that what he accuses others of, his own party specializes in.

I might also say, Madam Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Dartmouth.

One thing I have find amusing about the budget debate is the way in which the Liberal strategy has been complimented by the Alliance strategy. They pretend that they are really at odds with each other but there is a funny kind of way in which they serve each other's purposes very well.

The Liberals want Canadians to believe they have spent ferociously and generously on things like health care, the environment, infrastructure and on a variety of other things. They want Canadians to believe they have opened the purse strings and they are beginning to deal with the social, human and environmental deficit which they created over the years with their cutbacks in federal transfer payments to the provinces and in various federal programs themselves. They have not done this.

In fact the overwhelming evidence is that the budget continues a tradition of being very tight with respect to the federal purse strings, allocating more money to tax cuts and to debt reduction than in any way to begin to address the social deficit that has been created in this country since 1995, when the then minister of finance, now the lowly member for LaSalle—Émard who in many people's judgment the future prime minister, brought in his budget of that year and commenced the destruction of so many things that Canadians held dear.

How does this relationship between the Liberals and the Alliance work? The Liberals want us to believe they are really spending and addressing these deficits they have created, social and environmental, when in fact the budget is a real disappointment. However they have an ally in their propaganda with respect to their budget. That ally is the Canadian Alliance because, as I said the other day in the House, the Liberals pretend to spend and the Alliance pretend that it is true.

The Prime Minister has had no firmer ally in wanting to get Canadians to believe that he has actually done something significant in the way of spending than the leader of the official opposition and his colleagues who day after day get up in the House and criticize the government for spending. Our position is that they are both wrong in this respect and that they are collaborating, either intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead the Canadian public as to the real nature of the budget.

This budget is truly a disappointment. I think even for those in the opposition, the New Democrats and others, it is always more difficult if a government brings in a budget that has in it truly welcomed measures. It is a more difficult job for the opposition. We were prepared for a budget that would be hard to criticize. Given the surplus and fiscal environment, we really hoped this would be the moment that this Liberal government would begin to address some of the many needs that existed before they were elected but which were aggravated as a result of policies that they followed during the last 10 years.

In this the Prime Minister's last budget and the Minister of Finance's first budget, though it might turn out to be his last budget too, we thought and hoped we would see real progress toward addressing the needs created by the Prime Minister's own policies over the last 9 or 10 years. That has not happen and it has not happened to the extent that Canadians do not fully realize that is the case. They have the Alliance to thank for collaborating with the Liberals in getting out the wrong message on this budget.

One thing is welcomed in the budget and that is the announcement of changes in the rules of accrual having to do with pensions for firefighters. This is something for which many people on all sides of the House have fought many years. I noticed that the Minister of Finance tried to pretend that this came about as a result of the individual efforts of one particular Liberal backbencher, but firefighters and those who have paid attention to this issue know differently. They know that last year, during the week the firefighters were here for their annual lobby it was myself who rose in the House and pressed the then minister of finance as to why this had taken so long.

At the same time as we welcome it, we also note how long it has taken. For years and years Liberal government backbenchers have agreed with the opposition that something like this should happen, yet it literally took 8 or 9 years for this to happen.

At times we have to wonder who is running the country. It is certainly not Parliament, if almost all members of Parliament agree on something yet it does not happen. However in this case it finally did happen, and I welcome that particular measure. I also have to give credit not just to Liberal members, but to all members of the House who over the years have argued for that. The NDP played a big part in that.

People really hoped this would be the budget in which the needs of Canada's various communities, particularly its cities, would finally begin to be met. We know that the urban infrastructure is deteriorating. We know there is a need to deal with problems now. There was a need to deal with these problems yesterday. We have not dealt with the problems of water and sewer systems, roads and mass public transit. We have been sitting on these problems for a decade. Perhaps the government was hoping they would go away. Others hoped that someday when the government actually had the money and the surplus it would begin to do something about them. This was the hope that people had for this budget, but it was a disappointment.

In the budget the funds provided for community infrastructure are laughably inadequate. In total, municipalities called for $2 billion a year in infrastructure investment within five years of which $1 billion would be for environmental infrastructure. They also called for unique programs for northern and remote communities in recognition of special needs. The Liberal plan will actually spend less on community infrastructure a decade from now than it will today.

This year, only $150 million will be invested in terms of new money. Over 10 years, only $300 million will be available a year. At this rate of investment, it may take 190 years to meet existing community needs. That is even longer than the average Liberal lead time on how long it takes to keep a promise. We know there was a lead time of something like 45 or 46 years between the first time they promised medicare in 1919 and when we finally received it in 1965 or 1966. One hundred and ninety years is really pushing even the Liberal envelope for delay when it comes to the realization of promises and meeting of needs.

I wish I had more time because I could go into detail on just how little the government has provided in this budget. If we were to divide it all up it would come to about $50,000 per community, which is not very much. It certainly will not provide all the water treatment plants that are needed in the country if we are going to take the Walkerton crisis seriously.

We need to have much better water treatment plants in our cities and towns. I know that in Winnipeg we need a backup system, which we do not have and we had a terrible environmental disaster last year when a system failed. The equivalent of 200 Olympic sized pools of sewage flowed into the Red River. If we are going to build a backup plant so that kind of thing cannot happen again, we will need more than the $50,000 that the budget has provided for every community.

Let us have an end to this unholy relationship between the Liberals and the Alliance, both of them pretending that the Liberals have actually spent something significant on what Canadians need. They have not.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is very interested in municipal infrastructure. I understand that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated that the infrastructure deficit across Canada is something like $50 billion. It is a very large amount and I think Canadians will have to wrap their minds around how to deal with it. We have to deal with it, I agree with the member.

However if the budget provides, as the member has advised, about $50,000 per community, the moneys that were included in the budget, I wonder how much would have to be included in the budget over a period of time, some this year and some over the next number of years, that would satisfy the appetite of Canadian municipalities for infrastructure funding.

I hope the member can give us a little bit of insight, because of his interest in this subject, as to the jurisdictional responsibility of municipalities, provinces and the federal government with regard to municipal infrastructure. How do we deal with the support?

There is no question that strong cities make a strong Canada but it is not just large cities. We also have to invest in the smaller communities so they can build an economic base and attract and keep skilled workers, et cetera. There are important benefits to having strong cities.

I guess the debate has to centre around how we look at the jurisdictional responsibility and, if the federal government is taking more responsibility, is it at risk of having municipalities divert resources they have available for infrastructure to other purposes and continue to look to other levels of government to sustain them? It has already been very critical of the provincial levels because of downloading.

I am very concerned that if we continue on with an unbridled contribution to other jurisdictions for municipal infrastructure that it will be almost impossible to wean them off that support in the future.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I certainly do not see any evidence of unbridled support for municipalities in this. I do not know what the member is talking about.

The fact is that there have been some estimates made as to what would be needed to satisfy that appetite that he talked about. I even said myself that the municipalities were calling for a $2 billion a year investment in infrastructure within five years. To give just some rough figures, at $2 billion a year, if it is a $57 billion deficit, that would be a whole lot less years than the 190 that it would take under the regime being set up by this budget.

We all know that infrastructure replacement and the building of new infrastructure takes time. It is not something that can be done overnight but 190 years is a little long. Maybe trying to meet all the needs that we have identified here and now in the course of the next decade or two might be more reasonable, and that would require funding by the federal government.

The member says that we do not want the federal government to just intervene over and above or interfere with some sort of jurisdictional realities. It did not bother the federal government elsewhere. It did not bother the Prime Minister when he wanted to set up the millennium fund and direct money to students in provinces, in spite of provincial jurisdiction over education. It did not bother the Prime Minister then, so why would it bother him now?

We have real needs that need to be met. Surely the federal government could use its spending power to make that money directly available to municipalities. Instead of trying to leverage money out of the municipalities it should recognize that particular needs exist and fund those needs.

I think the member is creating a false anxiety. The real anxiety is that if the federal government does not step in the municipalities will increasingly have to do these things themselves because they know they have to be done. They will do it on the backs of property taxpayers. Property taxpayers tend to be working class folks and they are the ones who will be driven out of their homes or, as a result of high property taxes, will be more vulnerable to arguments about the need to privatize everything. Then everything will be private.

This is all part of a grander strategy that I do not think the member across the way sees, because if he did, I would hope he would not be in favour of it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak after the member for Winnipeg--Transcona. He has an eloquence about him that I often admire.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to the budget and to the implications that it has on my community and on the areas for which I advocate.

We have all heard that this was billed as a legacy budget. When we actually saw the document unfold last week, it did not have that kind of quality at all. It appeared more to be a patchwork budget. I was hoping, as were I am sure many of the people in the House, for a legacy budget. We were hoping for some relief from the years of cuts to the very important services and social infrastructures in our communities.

So far the legacy that we have seen from the government has been long waiting lists for surgery, soaring debts for university students, a rise in child poverty and a reduction in the meagre assistance for persons with disabilities. We have seen a deterioration in our housing stock, more homelessness, more kids growing up in shelters, crumbling municipal roads, and a generation growing up in overpriced, underregulated day cares. A legacy was what we needed and what we continue to need.

In my community of Dartmouth, post-secondary students are facing another rise in tuition, where tuitions are already the highest in the country. Nova Scotian students pay over $1,500 above the national average for tuition.

In my community, seniors in nursing homes pay costs that normally would be covered by medicare, and MRIs and bone density scans have been shipped to the for profit sector. These are scandals and they mark serious violations of the Canada Health Act. The Liberal government has done nothing to defend the fundamentals of medicare in Nova Scotia so that private medicine would not continue to gouge the sick.

I will acknowledge that only part of the problem in the health care debate is money, but if we look at the public versus private sector mix of money and medicare, we now see that Nova Scotia's per capita spending on private health care is second only to Ontario, having now surpassed Alberta. That would not be allowed if the Canada Health Act were being defended by the Minister of Health.

On top of all of that, equalization payments are expected to drop by $600 million, which means a cut of tens of millions of dollars in Nova Scotia. This is not the legacy that I want for my community.

When I put on my hat of advocate for persons with disabilities, for culture and communications, and for children and youth at risk, I see how this budget is a PR exercise designed to help the leadership fortunes of the Minister of Finance, not designed to help Canadians.

For example, the budget is nothing less than a slap in the face for culture and for creators in this country. We see no mention in the budget that the CBC funding of $60 million, which has just become a top up fee to the very small parliamentary appropriation that is now in existence for the CBC, will be renewed. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has indicated that the CBC will still be getting some money from a mysterious pot of money called the fiscal framework, but it is safe to say that it will probably be significantly less than $60 million. I know the CBC has no idea what will happen in terms of its funding so it cannot effectively plan its programming for the upcoming year.

I have heard over and over again how important it is to have a distinctive public broadcaster to protect and promote Canadian culture. This new cut will probably mean that our national public broadcaster will have to cut further into English and French TV and radio production. It means that fewer Canadian stories will be told.

However even more sinister is what the Minister of Finance has done in the area of film and television incentives. He has increased the film and video tax credit for foreign production, while reducing the federal contribution to the Canadian television fund by 25%. This means that our largest support for distinctively Canadian programs, with all Canadian scripts, casts and crews, will be cut to make way for more Hollywood productions.

A major Halifax producer, Michael Donovan, has said of this that “either the government is saying that we no longer wish to support Canadian programming or it is a mistake...It's not saving money--it is taking money from Canadian pockets and giving it to Americans”. It is almost like the Minister of Finance is remembering the days when he was industry minister and constantly fought with the heritage department over his view about culture as being simply an industrial product. As Minister of Finance, he is using his position to finish the job, to entrench our culture as a product of Los Angeles policy, open to Los Angeles whims and desires and, eventually, trade deals.

The budget gets worse. The disability tax credit is still not fully refundable, so that the most vulnerable, those with no or low taxable income, the vast majority of those in need, still get nothing. I was proud to lead the fight, with my colleagues from all sides of the House, against the Minister of Finance's proposal to further restrict who would be able to claim this small tax credit. We received thousands of letters from people across Canada, and my friend from the Bloc received over 6,000 names on a petition. Every member of the House, except the Minister of Finance, stood up and asked the minister to withdraw these restrictions.

The budget shows that the minister, his deputy and his department think they are above the will of the House, for in the ways and means motion tabled in the House as an appendix to the budget plan last Tuesday, once again there are increases in restrictions for section 118 of the Income Tax Act, increases in the eligibility restrictions for the disability tax credit in matters of feeding oneself and dressing oneself. What the minister lost on the floor of this place last November he is trying to sneak back in through a technical amendment buried in the budget papers in a vote of confidence. I do not think that on this section of the motion he has the confidence of any MP, including government MPs. He has no confidence but has obvious arrogance. In my opinion, this action shows a contempt of Parliament.

Even more damage can be found throughout the budget. The renewal of the employment assistance for persons with disabilities program, for example, is a meagre measure, which delivers no increases after five years. This program funds a variety of vocational training, mental health services and addictions programs tailored to each province's needs, but to beg the question, why on earth should the provinces continue to work with the federal government for this program under the social union framework if the federal government is not even going to keep the level of financial commitments indexed to inflation? As well, there is no sign in this budget that core funding for disability organizations will be continued, so the people out there on the front lines dealing with clients face great uncertainty.

Much has been said about the infrastructure program. People had very high hopes for urban centres across the country, including Halifax. The municipalities had the hope that there would be $2 billion over five years to help them with their sewage and water and the many infrastructure programs that are waiting. In Halifax, there is a sewage harbour cleanup project bill of $300 million at this point in time. With the federal government's commitment that might be coming our way for this particular infrastructure project, we might be seeing $50,000 in Nova Scotia. Someone has made the point that with that kind of financing it would take 3,000 years to get our sewage treatment plant.

Where does the money come from? With a small tax base like Halifax-Dartmouth's, it will inevitably end up coming from property taxes. It will come from user fees. It will come from increases in rent. It will come, really, from people who can ill afford it. All this just simply so they will be able to have a decent sewage treatment plant.

In terms of housing, again very small amounts actually have been put into housing. We have a deteriorating housing stock, certainly in Dartmouth, and we have determined that in fact we might see perhaps 100 homes started in our community in the course of the next year.

In terms of day care spots, we may see 10 new day care spots.

In closing, the legacy we see here is one of continued disappointment in terms of infrastructure, culture, housing and day care. I guess we again will have to wait for another year and another budget to see a government come through on the promises it made to Canadians.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Durham.

Budgets, particularly this budget, tend to cover an awful lot of detail. I do not want to comment briefly on everything, but I do want to dwell on a couple of items. First, in terms of the macro thinking, I can tell hon. members and Canadians that when our caucus would look at budget preparation, we would need to have some assumptions built in. There have to be some benchmarks against which we are going to operate. The government has now achieved basically six balanced budgets in a row and that is an overriding benchmark. The government has made the commitment that we are not going to go into deficit financing. Canadians want us to make sure that we have a balanced budget and that we deal with the important needs of Canadians, with their safety and security, health, et cetera, and that we continue the important programs they would like to have and which they deserve.

At the same time, having been a member of the finance committee, I have often been at the round table discussions and the budget consultations across Canada. We always come to the same conclusion, which is that the cumulative value of the proposals that come forward from various groups across the country usually is about 10 times more than we have available to spend.

Budgeting and governing are basically about making choices. Certainly Canadians agreed that health spending was an important priority and in fact the top priority. Indeed, the budget reflects the accord reached with the first ministers prior to the budget.

The budget also deals with the environment. The House approved a commitment to meet the Kyoto criteria and there is money in this budget to start those first steps toward achieving our objectives.

There were items in there for aboriginal housing, for homelessness, and for children, through day care and through the increase in the national child benefit. The government has consistently shown its sensitivity to and the priority it has for children, particularly poor children, as well as the disabled and those who are unable to care for themselves, such as the homeless.

These are very important benchmarks which have been established and have been the pattern through recent budgets. They demonstrate the priorities of the government and, we believe, reflect the priorities of Canadians.

Much has been said about the infrastructure funding. In past budgets, as we know, the government already has given over $5 billion to municipalities for infrastructure projects proposed in concert with our provincial and municipal partners, but there is never enough money. There is never enough money to cover all the things that municipalities would like to do. The moneys that are there are certainly not what the municipalities would like to have. The member for Dartmouth wants $300 million for Halifax harbour. That is 10% of the moneys being allocated in this round.

Probably every municipality needs roads, sewers, bridges and basic infrastructure to ensure the efficient operation of their municipalities, but no one said that this would be the last budget to ever deal with infrastructure. Governments cannot make commitments beyond their means and Canadians have told us that. I think that the responsible approach was to make a firm commitment to what the government felt it was able to afford while at the same time meeting the more significant priorities that Canadians have told us about.

Having said that, let me say that people will now tell us what is not in the budget, why it should have been and how upset they are, and I would like to add my name to the list. One of the things that is not in the budget is the subject of fetal alcohol syndrome. I asked someone very close to the budget why it was not there after it had been included in the last couple of throne speeches. I had seen a little funding in the prior budget, modest funding buried in some blanket or a large envelope, but there was no mention of it this time. I asked someone very close to the budget why not. The response was that money has been given to aboriginal health issues and fetal alcohol syndrome can be taken care of there.

I was absolutely devastated, because fetal alcohol syndrome is not just an aboriginal issue. It is a health issue, it is a children's issue, and it is an issue that was not in the budget. I think it should have been.

Because lobbying for the next budget starts the day after the current budget, let me say for members and Canadians who do not know that fetal alcohol syndrome is a terrible situation in which alcohol ingested by a pregnant woman damages the fetal brain to the extent that there are severe difficulties.

I certainly do not have enough time now, but I can say that in addition to some of the mental disabilities, the problems with the central nervous system, and the physical disabilities associated with it, there are some secondary symptoms associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. Ninety per cent of those affected have mental health problems. Sixty per cent will be expelled or suspended from school or drop out. Sixty per cent will get into trouble with the law. Fifty per cent will go to jail or be confined to an institution. Fifty per cent will exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour. Thirty per cent will abuse drugs or alcohol. Eighty per cent will not be capable of living independently in adult life. Eighty per cent will not be able to hold down a job.

Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of mental retardation in Canada. I think it is important that we do something on this file specifically. We have to target it. This is an issue that Canadians should know about. When I suggest to people that they should not consume alcohol during pregnancy, they say everybody knows that. The fact is, not everybody knows that. They think this is for people who are alcoholic, but it is not. In fact, in 1992 the minister of health of the day stated, “Changes in fetal breathing and reduction of fetal blood flow to the developing brain have been linked to the ingestion of a single drink during pregnancy”.

In conclusion, let me say that this is not only an issue for pregnant women. It is an issue for women who may become pregnant. Fetal alcohol syndrome has associated with it characteristic facial features. The facial features in a human being are established between days 15 and 22 of pregnancy. At that time, no woman even knows she is pregnant. It is not good enough to carry on with the existing messaging that has gone through Health Canada and all of these other agencies that pretend they are doing something about fetal alcohol syndrome when they say if a woman is pregnant she should cut back or abstain. The messaging must be that if a woman is in her birthing years, if she is sexually active, if she is not using protection, she should abstain from alcohol if pregnancy is possible. That is the messaging. We have not said that and we should say that.

Therefore, my recommendation for the next budget is that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and therefore the prudent choice for women is to abstain. Everyone in Canada should know that fact and should have ready access to clear, concise, consistent and correct information about the risks and consequences associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. I think that budgets have to do the big things, but I would really like to see the next budget start to embrace some of the smaller discrete issues and show a sensitivity to and a knowledge of the impact of this on the health of Canadians, on the social system, on our well-being and on our criminal justice system.

I think we have to be specific. We have to give hope to those hundreds of groups across the country, all those NGOs that have been working so long and hard on issues such as fetal alcohol syndrome, and tell them that we know what the problem is, we are with them and the federal government will do what it can to make sure that we reduce and maybe even prevent incidents of fetal alcohol syndrome in Canada.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the member wanted to speak about some of the issues that were not mentioned in the throne speech.

I would like to refer to one and ask him a question about it. That is the issue of agriculture. The government announced on many occasions that it has spent $465 million in new money for farmers. That is entirely incorrect and I will ask the member for his comments on that.

The government has told us that it is giving $220 million for crop insurance. There is a small word in the budget that changes entirely what it is doing and that is the word advance. The government is giving an advance to the crop insurance program, but that has to be made up by producers over the next 15 years. The government is not giving any money in terms of crop insurance but just giving an advance to farmers, and the farmers themselves will have to pay that money back into crop insurance over the next years.

The government also said that it is giving $20 million to Farm Credit Canada which is interesting because this is an institution that is supposed to be an independent financial institution. It has a portfolio of over $1 billion and the government has $20 million to give to it over two years. That is $10 million a year over two years to FCC, which is again money that farmers do not see and do not access.

The government announced with great fanfare $113 million to veterinary colleges. That money was announced months ago. Now the government is announcing it again tricking the farm community into thinking that it is giving them some of that money when, in fact, it is not going to farmers.

The government also announced another $50 million this year and $50 million next year to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for food safety programs. That is interesting because Canada probably has the safest food system in the entire world and the government is throwing even more money into the bureaucracy.

Does the member not find it hypocritical that the government would announce this money when not one cent is for farmers and all of it is going toward an expanded bureaucracy? Does he not find it hypocritical for the government to pretend to be giving farmers money and pretend to be supporting them when, in fact, it is not doing that?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pretty sure that the member thinks that an urban member of Parliament does not have any idea what is going on in agriculture. What he forgot though was to look at my c.v. where he would have noted that I was the corporate treasurer for United Cooperatives of Ontario. I know very much about farmers. I know how much the federal government has invested in the farmers of Canada, not just Ontario but right across the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been on his feet day after day correcting the erroneous information that the opposition has been putting on the table. Even from the standpoint of Farm Credit Canada, his information is absolutely incorrect and he should check the facts. Indeed, it is not simply a matter of relying on Farm Credit Canada or the other instruments that are available within the farm network. We must also look to the traditional banks and regular commercial banks to understand better the farm community.

We need to partner and that is why we need what he calls a bureaucracy. We need those people, who show the leadership and the agricultural interests, to ensure that we partner with more sources of assistance for all farmers all across Canada.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga South and to support his campaign regarding fetal alcohol syndrome. Certainly all of us have been enriched by his interest in that file, including myself. I appreciate his comments.

This budget is another in a long series of budgets with fiscal responsibility. I was happy to go to my riding the morning after and do a budget breakfast. The business community came out in fairly good droves. I would like to thank the Clarington Board of Trade for its support and also the local accounting firm of Hobb Bakker Bergin Hill. The budget was well received among the business community.

The only way I can measure whether people are happy with our policies is when they phone us, contact us, or tell us we made a mistake. I would say that by a long country mile the people have been telling us that the government is going in the right direction.

I want to touch on a few points in the budget that concern me. There are some positive and some negative things as well.

My first point deals with the whole accountability framework. We talk a lot in the House about accountability in government and I was happy to see that within the budget documents not only is there a commitment for improved accountability in the government itself, but actually there is a mechanism which will make it work.

It is clear in the documents that $1 billion worth of resources are to be allocated on a yearly basis and that $1 billion is being reallocated from older programs to finance new initiatives. In fact, over 15% of the new spending initiatives announced in the budget would be financed by reallocating dollars from other programs.

People ask why we have to do that. What I have discovered in this place is that often governments set up various programs for good reasons, but they often take on a life of their own. We do not spend enough time reviewing them, maybe five or ten years down the road, to question whether in fact these programs are doing what they originally intended. Maybe the problem has gone away, maybe it has been exasperated or maybe there are better ways to solve it today. We do not spend enough time doing that. Governments are good on policy decisions, but they have been pretty bad in some ways about program delivery when it actually hits the people in our riding.

I was happy to see that the government not only has a commitment there but a line in the sand saying we must find at least $1 billion every year to reallocate in this fashion. That is a positive thing for the taxpayers in the country because it will force governments to ensure that the programs that they are executing have efficiency and will require, through the Treasury Board and individual departments, for them to be accountable.

They will have to step up to the plate and explain why it is that their program should continue or whether in fact their program should be either curtailed or eliminated due to this provision in the budget. This is a positive thing that we have put in place and I look forward to seeing how that is going to be executed.

Another issue that was quickly mentioned, glossed over and people quickly forgot about was the whole issue of the move to accrual accounting in the budget. The Minister of Finance made passing reference to it saying he was not sure what it meant but finally has learned to embrace the concept.

Accrual accounting is the concept that we have to take in all of our assets and all of our liabilities into our balance sheet.

For the government, it was quite complicated, especially in the area of defence, where it had to determine the value of a destroyer or the House of Commons on its balance sheet when we never actually thought of putting that in as an asset of the government. Similarly, some of the liabilities that have been outstanding for years have often been almost forgotten, things like government guarantees on loans. Even the liability of pensions for members of Parliament must now be included as a liability of the government.

Every year I give my constituents an analysis of where the debt is going. When preoccupied by the debt, a lot of people say we do not have to worry about it any more because it is based on a percentage of our GDP, it is something like 50% and therefore we should not be worrying about it. However, that is erroneous because the debt to GDP ratio is just that, it is a ratio and it presupposes that our gross domestic product continues to rise. Heaven forbid that we ever get into a recession or a contraction of the economy where in fact the GDP goes the other way because the debt to GDP ratio will start to rise again.

That is important because it gives governments flexibility in how they spend money and if we have a high debt commitment and high debt servicing cost, then we have a lack of flexibility in government financing. The budget from 2002-03 showed an $8 billion reduction in the overall debt. At the same time it showed about a $2 billion reduction in debt service payments.

Let us think about how much flexibility we would have if we could reduce our debt service payments, that is, money that we pay out in interest on government debt of something like $2 billion a year. This would allow us to make all kinds of decisions for the betterment of the people of Canada. I would encourage the government, and I know the numbers going out show contingency reserves and so forth, to flatline the debt even though some members across the way are doing comparisons with the Americans. They talk about the deviation in income tax rates and so forth even though our rates are now equal to or better than theirs.

Even so, the United States has one big problem and that is it has not funded a lot of its social infrastructure. Its social insurance system is unsustainable based on the current levels of premiums and government financing. Without increased government financing it will have difficulty in the future years servicing those kinds of social commitments. In Canada we have the old age pension and other pension systems. The Canadian system is a lot more sustainable than the American one. Even though it would appear on the surface that Canada's taxation system is marginally higher than that of the United States, the United States is simply having short term gain, but in fact will probably have some long term pain when these factors start kicking in.

I mentioned the debt of the accrual accounting system because I was amazed when I was preparing this summary for my constituents that all of a sudden $30 billion seemed to disappear from the debt. I had to go back and try to figure out why that was. It was a sleight of the pen that said that the increase in assets, the destroyers, the House of Commons, et cetera, minus the addition of liabilities, in fact, saw $30 billion more showing on the financial statements of the Government of Canada.

It is probably more a result that people did not understand it, but I am surprised that more people from a political point of view did not run around saying that there has been a $30 billion payment on our debt. In fact, it received little attention whatsoever. It does seem to indicate one important factor and that is that the previous system did not acknowledge all of the assets that we really had. It is nice to know that we are not nearly in debt as we thought we were. However, the problem with the accrual system is that managers in the future may have a tendency to look at the fact that asset acquisitions are no longer being expended. They are being amortized over the life of the asset.

This is a concern as we go out that managers will have a tendency to buy more fixed assets than they would do normally in their budget because it does not show as an immediate expense. We are hoping that does not happen.

Finally I want to touch on a major issue. I want to talk about seniors and the importance of increasing the payments to the old age pension.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Unfortunately, the time has expired.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I always enjoy listening to my accountant friend across the way. He can explain things in a really good way so I am going to ask him for a really good explanation.

He lauded the move on the part of the government to go to accrual accounting. He said we now have to account on the public record for all of the liabilities we have. I would like to know whether that includes the liability for the pensions not only for members of Parliament but for all of Canadians, and whether it includes the unfunded liability of the Canada pension plan. We know there is much less money in the fund than the present value of the amount that could be collected from it. Is that going to be included?

He talked a little about our national debt per se. I would like him to explain how, by going to accrual accounting, magically we lost around $20 billion of our debt, just by adopting a new accounting method.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, to answer the initial question, I believe that the CPP liability is included in those figures. I am less sure about the old age pension and some of those things. Maybe we could look at that another day.

I talked about the $30 billion that sort of disappeared from the debt. He said $20 billion; I get $30 billion. Be that as it may, it is a recognition that there are significant assets that the government has.

The problem with this issue is, what is the value of the House of Commons? It would presuppose that somebody would want to buy it for a hotel or something, I suppose, but that is the reality within those statements. Some people say that they are suspect. If we are never going to sell the assets what are they really valued at? That is the move toward accrual accounting.

One thing I did want to touch on is that our seniors have not been mentioned in this document nor indeed in many of our budget documents for years and years. I am concerned about seniors who are trying to live on the combination of the old age pension and the GIS. It is about $12,000 a year. It seems to me that they are the people we are ignoring constantly year after year.

It is time that we sat down, reviewed the GIS, and announced whether we should increase it. People are phoning my office. They are being hit with high energy costs, especially during this cold winter. They are the people quite frankly who cannot afford it. They are not the people who stand outside the House of Commons with placards and phone us on a day to day basis but I think it is time that we started to do something for our senior population.

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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, as you know, I am not one to dominate. I was looking around to see whether any other member wanted to ask a question and none stood, so here I am again.

The member mentioned the problem of our national debt. He talked about the fact that it is always bragged about. The Liberals love to brag that the debt as a proportion of the country's gross domestic product has gone down. That is due greatly to the fact that the economy has really taken off in the last nine years. The government keeps on saying it is because of the very fine government.

I contend that if it were not for the mismanagement in the government, our gross domestic product and certainly the taxation levels and everything could have been much more favourable to the taxpayers. We would have had a better economy, even better than it was. We could have had lower taxes but that never happened.

I would like to have the member's comment about the fact that the only time to pay down debt is when there is a surplus. Does he share my regret that the finance minister in this budget chose not to take a major portion of it to reduce the actual numerical value of our national debt?

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I always enjoy answering the questions from the member for Elk Island.

He asked if we could not do it better. The reality is that Canada leads the OECD countries in economic performance. Can we do it better? I suppose we could, but the reality is we are doing pretty darn good relative to most other countries.

We have to look very closely at the budget papers that show things like contingency reserves and so forth. Some $3 billion a year will be applied to the debt. The estimates of revenues and expenditures of the Government of Canada are probably, and have been historically, on the conservative side. We are hopeful there will be more down payments made on the debt as we go forward.

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1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Cumberland--Colchester.

I am pleased to speak to a very important facet of what we do in the House of Commons and that obviously is putting budget numbers together to take us into the next budget year and in this particular case, into the next 10 budget years. I do not see any expenditures here that are not extended for a period of time upward of three to ten years.

There is no question that the budget is simply a matter of spend, spend, spend. It goes back to a Trudeau era budget where the Liberals found their left-leaning ideology and decided that instead of taking a focused approach with respect to the Canadian public's money, to shotgun this thing and try to hit just about every possible area of their desires. It goes back quite frankly to the 1993 red book. The Liberals were not able to put in place a very good financial situation.

The first thing that should be done in a budget of this nature when there is a potential for a surplus is to retire the debt. A relative of mine who is a farmer sometimes asks for my counsel as to what he should do when he has a little spare money left over, which in farming nowadays is almost nonexistent. My comment to him is very simple. The best investment anyone can make, and that includes governments, is to retire debt. If people retire their debt and can remove that yoke of debt from around their necks, then they have the ability to put in place the types of programs that the Liberals have identified in this budget.

The Liberals have not done either. They certainly have not retired the debt, and they have not received the benefits of retiring that debt to put it back into programs. They have effectively budgeted for zero surplus going into the next budget year. That must be the legacy the Prime Minister has been looking for. It does not matter whether there is a surplus or whether the debt is retired, it is simply a position put forward by the Prime Minister. It is a matter of spending money willy-nilly so the Prime Minister can walk away from the House with what he thinks is his legacy.

There are a number of areas that have not been dealt with terribly well in the budget. I mentioned debt reduction and the accumulation of surplus. I would be remiss if I did not mention agriculture.

It was mentioned earlier today in some of the questions and comments that the agricultural section of the budget was very small. There was one particular clause. All it did was reinforce and re-announce the APF program in agriculture with dollars already in place over the past number of years and simply extended six years into the future. It allows for $1.1 billion for a range of particular agricultural programs. However it does not speak to trade injury, which has been brought to the attention of the House and brought to the minister's attention in the past, caused by Americans and Europeans in particular. It does not take into consideration the huge discrepancy between the safety net programs of Europeans and Americans and that proposed under the APF for Canadian agriculture.

I have one quote from the president of the Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba. It speaks to the whole section on agriculture:

At best, this is an agriculture maintenance budget with very few announcements to help agriculture move ahead.

As we know, in agriculture particularly, moving ahead is what we have to do. Unfortunately, the budget does not speak to that.

Infrastructure is another deficiency in the budget. The government has indicated in the past when I have asked questions in the House that the infrastructure budget is to be acclaimed by all.

There is $3 billion for infrastructure in the budget. That in itself is a good step, but when we analyze it, we find that $2 billion of that has been allocated to special projects. In a previous life I had the opportunity to deal with special project dollars that came from the federal and provincial governments to the municipal governments, where the moneys really should be expended. Special projects have a tendency of being caught up in bureaucracy and politics. Unfortunately the dollars do not necessarily go to the right projects at the right time. That is a travesty because the country absolutely requires solid, well deserved infrastructure in order for us to continue with our economy on a positive note.

The other $1 billion is going to be over a period of 10 years. Here we go with this wonderful smoke and mirrors of the budget. We could have had $3 billion dumped into infrastructure but unfortunately in the first budget year of 2003-04 it is $100 million. The second budget year it is $150 million. I have experience with a municipal organization which says that somewhere in the neighbourhood of $50 billion is needed to put in the proper infrastructure that the country needs.

One hundred million dollars in the next budget year would fund one major sewage treatment plant in a major city. In all of Canada it would fund one. What we need is more dollars invested now as opposed to 10 years from now when the Prime Minister will not be here, and we hope beyond hope that the Liberal government will not be here.

There are other issues we have to deal with in the budget, one of them being security. There is very little, $50 million, for the next year, and $25 million in 2004-05 for a security contingency reserve.

The Canadian economy is based upon open borders. Two billion dollars a day move across the American-Canadian border so that our economy can continue with the strength it currently has in the world. Not to have addressed security issues more in this budget is a glaring omission by the government. If we cannot make sure that the border is an open border, as Canadians it is going to have a terrible effect on our economy.

Another glaring mistake in this budget was the employment insurance premium. It was 2¢, but with the smoke and mirrors of the government it says it is 12¢. It had announced a reduction in employment insurance premiums in the previous budget and that is included in this budget which means it is 12¢. The fact is that in budget 2003-04, it is a 2¢ reduction.

People in my constituency continually come to my office and say that this is not meant to be general revenues for the federal government. It is an insurance program that is meant to be an insurance program. That means it should balance itself. It should not have a $7 billion to $8 billion surplus on an annual basis so that the Prime Minister and his ministers can spend it on their little pet projects.

There are a lot of deficiencies. I cannot possibly deal with all of the deficiencies in the budget in the one minute and 24 seconds I have left. To sum it up, there is no surplus, no debt reduction, nothing for agriculture, an infrastructure program that is basically smoke and mirrors and spending in a timeframe 10 years in the future, and employment insurance that should have a much larger reduction in the premiums being paid not only by the employees but the employers, so we can get back to some semblance of what a real insurance program is.

I know the government members stand and say that they have done a wonderful job in the 2003-04 budget. What I really know is what people tell me on the streets of my city, my community and my constituency. They are saying that the government failed miserably. It has over 50 spending examples in this budget and not one dollar for debt reduction. It has over 50 spending initiatives in this budget, in a shotgun approach, and it has not focused on the real issues of the day that Canadians want the government to deal with.

Has the government dealt with health care? Yes. I did not mention that because it negotiated that prior to even the tabling of the budget. In fact the government leaked so many things about the budget prior to the budget. I know that the parliamentary secretary would like to debate with me on infrastructure, so I will have an opportunity to speak again.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I have great respect for my friend across the way. He is a former mayor. He and I fought a number of battles together on the issue of infrastructure when we were on the FCM together. I am rather surprised to hear his comments. It is like a pyromaniac giving lessons on fire safety. That party over there of course, we take no lessons from them either.

My friend should remember that in 1983, when the FCM proposed the infrastructure program, his government in 1984 let it lie dormant for nine years. Since this government came in we have had three very successful national infrastructure programs.

The member says that it is not enough. Let us take a look at the facts. First, we have a commitment for the first time in history of a 10 year national infrastructure program. The member forgot to say anything about leveraging provincial and municipal dollars. He also forgot to say that the minister said this was a down payment. I am quite astounded that my friend would make such comments, knowing the struggles we had in the early 1990s when his party was in power and it refused to do anything.

I would like him to comment on leveraging and how, with co-operation and partnership, we will work with the provinces and municipalities to deal with national infrastructure issues.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not think the hon. member's government has anything to say with respect to provincial-federal co-operation. His government and his Prime Minister know not of any co-operative federalism. If anything, they seem to want to push programs down the throats of provincial governments, inclusive of health care, inclusive of education and now inclusive of infrastructure.

I should tell the hon. member, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, that the $100 million in this budget year for infrastructure for municipalities is nothing but tokenism. The Liberals say that they have the programs and the vision with respect to infrastructure in this country. That is absolutely not true because $100 million in this next budget year and $150 million in the following budget year for Canada is absolutely deplorable. What happens in the third year of the budget? Does that mean the new leader of the Liberal Party will simply walk away from the commitment of infrastructure? I would much rather see the long term financing program.

The member had one good thing to say. There should be a long term funding program. However the Liberals should put the numbers in place. They should not leave a dark hole with about $2.75 billion that nobody knows how it will be expended. Will it be expended in those areas where there are Liberal contractors and Liberal partisanship? Is that where it will be expended? Show me where it will be put in the municipalities where it is really meant to be. What the member just said right now is completely deplorable.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Madam Speaker, I am practically out of breath listening to the debate back and forth. In fact it is questions and comments. Maybe the fellows should just grab a quick glass of water and they will have time to regroup.

Nonetheless, I was interested in what the member had to say and appreciate his input on infrastructure for sure, because he certainly knows about that as a former mayor.

I would like him to address the national debt situation. I think he agrees with me that if we have a few bucks in our pockets, why go and spend it all? Although I realize there is a $3 billion contingency fund in there, it seems to me that we have not seen spending like this for quite a while, since the last government was in place. I know the hon. member was not here but I was, and we watched that. However I will not get into a squabble about it.

The problem is we have an enormous national debt. Regardless of who rang it up that high, how will we solve it, rather than just saying that we have a fistful of dollars? What will we do about that in terms of the national debt?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from my new best friend. I would certainly like to say that the Progressive Conservative Party has put a policy forward with that very issue. There should be, as there should be in infrastructure, an ongoing understanding as to how many dollars are there for what length of time.

We are saying that debt reduction should be a line item in the budget. The government has failed to do in that this budget year and it has put everything into general revenues to be expended. There should be a line item there and a long term plan. It should be a 20 year or 25 year plan. We did not get this debt in one day and we will not get rid of the debt in one day. We need a long term, well thought out, fiscal plan that says how the debt will be reduced over the next 20 years. We would like to have that line item in the budget where there always will be debt reduction.

Forget the possibility of $3 billion going into debt reduction from a contingency plan. The Liberals will spend the money and they will not put into debt reduction.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to participate in this debate. I will hone in on an area that came to my attention late last year, and that is the disability tax credit issue which affects people with disabilities.

The Government of Canada has a recognition system that allows people with disabilities to claim an extra expense against their taxes to reduce their cost of living. People with disabilities often have extra costs, perhaps for canes, ramps into their houses, hearing aids, low counters or whatever the disability may be. The Government of Canada alleges to have recognized that these people incur extra costs in their day to day lives that people without disabilities do not endure. This process is now in place.

However I think in November 2001 the government decided to reassess everyone receiving the disability tax credit. It sent 106,000 letters to people who had qualified for the disability tax credit in some cases for decades. Some of these people had lost their legs. Some people in my own riding, who brought this to my attention, had cancer or terminal cancer. All of a sudden after decades of qualifying for the disability tax credit, because of the new way the government looked at it, people were determined to no longer be disabled. Even though, for instance, one person had been run over by a train, had lost a leg and was still disabled, someone in the department decided that person was no longer disabled and in fact was now able.

As a result of the number of constituents that came to my office with the issue, I carried out an access to information and found that the government sent out 106,000 letters to people who were already qualified for and received the disability tax credit. They were told by the government that they had to re-qualify and reapply under a new set of rules and a new dandy little form.

Of the 106,000 the government sent out, 36,000 of these disabled people did not even respond either because they were intimidated, or they could not afford to have the doctor perform the required assessment or for whatever reason. Right off the bat the government took them off the disability tax credit rolls. The access to information report also indicated that of the 70,000 who did respond, 22,000 of them were refused after having qualified in many cases for decades for the disability tax credit.

Every member of Parliament has people in his or her community with disabilities. Every one of us were approached by people who had always qualified for the disability tax credit. All of a sudden now, under the new rules and the new form, they no longer qualified.

A lot of pressure was put on the government, and I give full marks to the minister. She did stop the process when it was obviously wrong. I know in my case she met with me and went through the whole issue. She explained exactly what was happening, that they were reviewing process, that they were going to change the rules and perhaps address it again.

I was really surprised to see it addressed in the budget. It is obvious that much of it is as a result of the March 2002 federal court appeal decision. When it was rendered, it was interpreted as expanding the eligibility for the disability tax credit. It goes on to say that people who cannot feed themselves should be deemed disabled.

In the budget the government proposes to change the wording of the disability tax credit. It is going to replace the phrase “feeding and dressing” with the phrase “feeding or dressing”, which is a good thing. Prior to this, if people could feed themselves but not dress themselves, they were not considered to be disabled. It is one or the other now under the new proposal. If people cannot either feed themselves or dress themselves, then they are considered disabled. That is a little movement ahead.

Then right off the bat the government starts putting exclusions in saying that the act will exclude “the activity of preparing food, to the extent that the time associated with the activity would not have been necessary in the absence of a dietary restriction or regime”. In other words, if disabled people cannot prepare their own food, that does not count. The only thing that counts is if they cannot feed themselves. It seems to me that this is getting pretty specific and is not giving any disabled person the benefit of the doubt, even a little.

Then it goes on to state, “excludes any of the activities of identifying, finding, shopping for or otherwise procuring clothing”. If people are not able to shop, that does not count. If people are not able to identify clothing, that does not matter. They are still considered able. It is only if they cannot put on clothing.

It seems to me that the government is nickeling and diming and not giving any consideration to disabled persons. It is doing everything it can to disqualify people and still meet the criteria of the decision in the Federal Court of Appeal. It is unacceptable for the government to do this.

Another thing that continues to bother me is the government requires a disabled Canadian to get a doctor's opinion as to whether he or she is disabled. If the doctor says that person is disabled, the application goes into the office. However anybody can overrule the doctor. The government still has not changed this.

The government does not need a doctor to pass an opinion but the disabled Canadian does. That opinion can be overruled by a clerk, rather than a doctor overruling a doctor. If the government requires a disabled Canadian to have a doctor's opinion, then only a doctor should be able to overrule that opinion. That is not included and I do not think there is any intention to change that. How can we have this double standard where a disabled Canadian requires a doctor's opinion but someone else other than a doctor can overrule that opinion?

The other thing I have found in my experience as a member of Parliament in dealing with people with disabilities, is people with emotional disabilities have an extremely hard time qualifying because they cannot hold up an X-ray or a diagnosis that says exactly what is wrong. It is up to the doctor. Often the opinions of doctors are not considered, or trusted or accepted. Someone can overrule that doctor's opinion. That should never be allowed to happen. If a psychiatrist says that a person is emotionally disabled, then only a psychiatrist should be allowed to overrule that opinion, and then only after a second opinion.

We will be pressing for this to be dealt with on behalf of disabled Canadians. At least there is some movement in the budget. Because we have raised the issue so many times, the minister has at least acknowledged there is a problem and is reviewing the process.

However the government still has not gone far enough. It is still trying to nickel and dime disabled people. It is trying to prevent disabled people from qualifying. It is right here in the budget book, where it gets down to one word “feeding” or “dressing”. However it then defines feeding and dressing to ensure that it is difficult for a person with a disability to qualify. It seems to be an attack on the people with disabilities and an attempt to disqualify them from the disability tax credit. If they get through that, however, someone in the government can overrule the doctors. That is absolutely wrong. It is a double standard. If the patient requires a doctor's opinion, then the government should require a doctor to overrule the doctor's opinion.

We will be pressing those issues as we go forward with this. We will ensure that we get as much consideration for the people with disabilities as we can. This is not a big request on behalf of Canadians. The government has already eliminated half the people who qualified for the credit for decades because 36,0000 people who did not respond to the form. Out of the people who did respond, 22,000 were refused, even though they had qualified for decades prior to that.

Right off the bat, the government cuts its cost of the disability tax credit by half and now it is trying to do it more by juggling the words around to ensure that it just barely meets the court decision but does not give the benefit of the doubt to disabled Canadians.

We will be watching this very closely. We want the government to consult with the disabled community and the disabled association representatives who know what these people go through. They know the hurdles and the road blocks they face every day. We want the government to ensure that these people are part of this process in developing the new rules and regulations in the budget.

Fredericton Boys and Girls ClubStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate the Fredericton Boys and Girls Club which has been awarded a grant of $32,000 from the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation to support its after school program for 2002-03.

The RBC Financial Group partners with local charitable organizations focused on meeting a growing challenge in today's society: keeping kids safe and positively engaged after the school day is complete.

The Fredericton Boys and Girls Club after school program gives a real boost to the skills and knowledge that participants gain in a formal classroom, offering a wide variety of activities that address the full range of what a child needs to develop fully.

These programs are truly a third watch, bridging the gap between school and home, helping kids, strengthening our families, enriching our communities and helping to ensure the future health and prosperity of Canada.

Child PornographyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, recently the Toronto police arrested four more individuals in the investigation Project Snowball. In one case a dentist had over 50,000 images on his computers and over 2,000 home movies of children being sexually abused.

Child pornography is not a victimless crime. These images are of real children. Unfortunately, here in Canada very little is being done to find out who these children are and to stop the abuse.

In 1998 Canada was an observer to an international program that was pioneered in Sweden and has enabled investigators to determine the origin of these seized images, and thereby assist them in identifying the children being abused.

The technology is out there and it is affordable. When will Canada go from being an observer to a full participant in this program and stop the production of this disgusting material? When will we have our own national image database and catch up with the rest of the world?

Order of CanadaStatements By Members

February 25th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my constituent, Dr. Jacques Dubois, who has received the Order of Canada.

For over 50 years Dr. Dubois has been an important influence on various aspects in the City of Welland in the francophone community. A general practitioner, he has worked in the fields of health, education, culture and social causes. As chair of the public school board, he increased the number of elementary schools in the area. At the provincial level he chaired a commission of inquiry on health care delivered in French in the clinics and hospitals. As a volunteer, he contributed to the development of charitable organizations such as the Red Cross and Club Richelieu.

On behalf of the citizens from my riding of Niagara Centre, I would like to thank Dr. Dubois for his dedication to our region.

MarijuanaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, recently the Mississauga mayor's youth advisory committee considered the issue of decriminalization of marijuana. Extracts of their conclusion are as follows: “The decriminalization of marijuana fundamentally contradicts education programs that have been running for years that strive to prevent and to curb substance and drug use among youth. Decriminalization would encourage Canadian youth not only to use marijuana, but to move onto more dangerous drugs, which can pose a more serious threat. Decriminalization only makes drug abuse more accessible to a larger population”.

They conclude by saying “we would just be giving in and surrendering to drug addicts and illegal drug dealers”.

I want to thank Scott Norsworthy and the entire youth advisory committee for their constructive input. I fully support their position and I thank them for demonstrating yet again why it is so vital for the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole to fully consult with our youth on the important issues of the day.

Grosvenor Elementary SchoolStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to tell the House about a memorable experience I had on Friday, February 21, 2003.

I was at Grosvenor Elementary School in Winnipeg South Centre for I Love to Read Week, reading to grade four students in Mrs. Gerry Daly's class. The students surprised me with a beautifully illustrated peace petition, along with letters to the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, the peace petition is not in the prescribed format to be presented to the House. Be that as it may, I did want to make sure that the young voices were heard. In their petition they say with unrestricted candour that they despise war and want peace.

It seems to me that the young people in grade four at Grosvenor school are representative of children across the country. I would suggest that we listen carefully to those who will be the leaders of the future in this great country.