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 #68 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fish.

Topics

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

That is not a point of order first of all. That is a point of debate.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I was going to say that it is sustainable because it is only 12%. It was 16% in the early 1990s.

Could the member very quickly comment on the budget from an environmental standpoint? I know the member is very strong in this area. How will it help her community in terms of the initiatives for spending targeted for environmental purposes?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Madam Speaker, I represent the riding of York North, which is about a one hour drive from Toronto on a good traffic day. I have to say that there are times in the summer when we have real pollution issues in our community and indeed in the farther edges of my riding along beautiful Lake Simcoe. There are people who have difficulty breathing air. On one particular initiative I would like to commend the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Finance for the investment that they have made in cleaning the air for Canadians.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to the budget. Simply put, the budget is a failure. It has failed Canadians in some very basic ways. Why? Because the budget is born out of petty internal Liberal politics. It is a budget which says to Canadians that the billions lost to scandals and the massive tax burden do not matter because the Prime Minister wants a legacy. This is no way to budget the money of Canadians, never mind run a country.

By looking at specific examples within my critic portfolio of national revenue, such as the GST, the air tax, RRSPs and income tax, I will lay out the case that the budget has failed Canadians and failed my constituents of Edmonton--Strathcona. Also, as the Canadian Alliance has done in the past, by providing examples of fiscal responsibility that often the government has followed, I will put forward solutions that will rectify the shortcomings of the budget.

As the revenue critic for the Canadian Alliance, I had few expectations the government would do anything to help Canadian taxpayers in the budget. However, I did hope the government would allocate money in the budget to fight GST fraud. In fact, it did not.

GST fraud, simply put, is the writing of fraudulent GST rebate claims on non-existent international shipping orders and then submitting them to Revenue Canada. CCRA then cuts a cheque back to the perpetrators of the fraud, such as organized crime. What is worse, the government knows about these criminals and does not even care enough about this type of crime to investigate it properly.

In fact, the history of the GST under this government, and the previous Conservative government, has been marked by the refusal to heed numerous warnings.

The first warning came from New Zealand tax expert Norm Latimer. At the time, he warned the government that this kind of fraud had been committed in New Zealand and that very specific changes needed to be brought in to stop it, including asking businesses submitting claims to attach receipts. Twelve years later, this requirement has yet to be applied.

In 1994 the Fraser Institute held a conference that discussed this very issue and put forward recommendations. In 1997 the Auditor General once again raised the alarm bells. What was the response of the government? It was to disband the special GST fraud investigations unit at Revenue Canada in 1995. This action was undertaken by the minister of finance at the time. The GST fraud unit was responsible for investigating these crimes. Now, thanks to the man who wants to be prime minister, there is no longer anyone watching the store.

Why is this important and why have I laid out the case that the government needs to address GST fraud in the budget? The answer is simple. GST fraud could be costing Canadian taxpayers a reported $1 billion or more a year. It is $1 billion disappearing into the pockets of those, in the words of the Parliament Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, described as drug dealers and gun dealers. In another case in Surrey, B.C., $22 million was stolen and laundered through the Khalsa Credit Union, whose founder and CEO is under arrest for participating in the Air India bombing, Canada's worst act of terrorism.

The Canadian Alliance hoped that the government would have reallocated funds under CCRA to re-establish the GST fraud investigations unit. We had hoped that it would have finally heeded the numerous warnings and implemented regulatory changes to stop this type of fraud. It did not. It is just another way the budget has failed Canadians.

More important, a Canadian Alliance government would undertake to reduce the overall level of the GST. We believe that this is an important step in the overall process of reducing the tax burden of all Canadians.

Like the GST, the air travel security tax is a heavy burden this government is imposing on Canadians. In the previous budget, the former Minister of Finance chose to impose a uniform $24 tax on the Canadian travelling public. He argued that this measure was to improve safety following the events of September 11.

However, the fact is that this tax went directly into the consolidated fund and was used to fund numerous white elephants, such as the gun registry and the sponsorships awarded to Liberal cronies.

Instead of investing the money of Canadians in such a way as to ensure their safety and security, the Liberals are investing it to ensure they get re-elected.

Sadly, the money has not gone toward security upgrades at our airports, especially where it is needed the most, like resources for our customs agents who do a great job despite the government's poor management. What it has done is to further hurt Canada's airlines, already reeling from the downturn in air travel following 9/11.

The Canadian Alliance has been calling for an end to this tax since its inception. The government's response was to slightly reduce it, not eliminate it. This is totally unacceptable, yet another failure of this budget.

Another thing the government has failed to act on is the immediate increase in the RRSP contribution limit to enable Canadians to save for their retirement.

This budget will have the RRSP contribution limit increase to $18,000 by 2006. While commendable, this measure is spread over a much too long period. Canadians must have the assurance that they can save for their retirement now, not later.

Also, this limit is lower than the one recommended in the report of the Standing Committee on Finance, which was an all party report.

Just as Canadians need to be secure in their ability to save for their future, they need to be secure in the knowledge that the money they earn is not gobbled up by income tax. Unfortunately, this budget fails Canadians in that respect. As a result, Canadians will continue to be taxed beyond their means. Nowhere in the budget is there reference to cutting the personal income tax rate. Instead the Liberals seem content to continue the harsh level of taxation on families and other Canadians who are struggling to get by.

The Canadian Alliance has pledged on numerous occasions that we would cut personal income tax rates. We are still committed to that and will follow through when we become government.

With the surplus as large as it was in this budget, it would have been prudent for the government to give most of it back to Canadians and not spend it like drunken sailors. It is unacceptable that in the budget the spending is up by 88% and tax reduction is only 12%. Outrageously, in the case of EI, the reduction will only amount to 2¢ on every dollar. The money belongs to the workers and employees and deserves to be returned, not spent by this irresponsible government. We would have liked to have seen much more on that front.

Let me conclude by bringing this full circle by looking at what a Canadian Alliance government believes and what we would have done differently.

The Canadian Alliance stands for tax relief for all Canadians. The Canadian Alliance is working for individuals and businesses to ensure payroll taxes do not destroy jobs. The Canadian Alliance is for a strong health care system. The Canadian Alliance is for a vibrant military, able to defend the interests of freedom and democracy around the world. The Canadian Alliance is for reducing the national debt level so our children and grandchildren do not have it hanging over their heads like an albatross. Most of all, the Canadian Alliance believes in respecting all Canadians.

This is what the Canadian Alliance is against. We are opposed to giving away government contracts as a way of securing corporate donations. We are opposed to wasting a billion dollars on a gun registry that will not stop criminals. We are opposed to a billion dollars in HRDC grants that just seem to disappear. We are opposed to allowing organized crime and terrorists the freedom to defraud our GST system for another billion dollars. Most of all, we are opposed to a government that openly disrespects Canadians.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments. I am a little disappointed because the fact is we have made strategic and significant investments in health care, which is what Canadians wanted. We have been able to do it without a deficit. We are the only G-7 state paying off the national debt, down to 44.5%, and spending is at 12%. It was at 16% in the 1990s and it will decrease to below GDP in the next two years.

If we did everything the Canadian Alliance said, we would spend ourselves broke. At the same time, if we cut everyone's taxes, there would be no more revenue coming into the government and therefore we could not invest in the areas that the hon. member has suggested we should do.

The hon. member forgets that we have a $100 billion tax cut in five years, and we are presently in the third year. In the budget we have dealt with the issue of the capital tax, again responding to small business. The hon. member should know that the finances of the nation have never been better.

We go back to 1995 when the New York Times said that we were a basket case. Today we are not. I would like the hon. member to respond to the issue that in June 1995 the New York Times said that we would almost have to go to the IMF because we were in such dire financial straits. Today, we have no debt. We have six balanced budgets or better. We are able to cut personal income taxes and invest in Canadians. Could the member respond to that?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am not sure if I mentioned I am splitting my time with the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned he was disappointed. He was disappointed because the truth hurts, let us face it. I want to remind the parliamentary secretary, which he failed to address in his comments, that we have seen one of the largest surpluses in the budget than we have ever seen. The government could have put some of that money back into the pockets of Canadians.

Let us face it, the parliamentary secretary talks about strategic investments for Canadians. Some of the best people to make those investments are Canadians themselves. When we compare the tax rates of this country with our biggest partner down south, we know why we have these productivity gaps. We know why we are losing a lot of youth to the south. The government should start realizing that unless it starts to bring personal income tax in line with that of the United States, we will continue to lose to our partners to the south. There is no reason that should happen, especially in a country as rich as ours.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary bragged about balancing the budget. Anyone can balance a budget if taxes are increased. That was the challenge. Balancing a budget by increasing taxes on the backs of taxpayers is not a miracle. The government members are bragging about the budget. I consider the budget to be a tax and spend budget.

The member for Edmonton--Strathcona mentioned that EI premiums were decreasing by only 2¢. Would the member agree with me that the government, instead of reducing the premium significantly, has stolen $25 billion from the EI fund that belongs to employers and employees?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, there is always a thoughtful question from this side of the House. I am always pleased to respond to my colleague who is a very thoughtful member in this place. He is absolutely right. That money belongs to the employers and the workers of this nation who would have created more jobs if that money had been left in their hands.

Let us face it, the government fails to recognize that. It is giving a measly 2¢ to workers. It could have done a lot more if it had reduced that EI surplus, of which it has taken advantage. Even on the side of CPP, the government has actually raised the premium. Payroll taxes are incredibility high in this country.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned one thing about debt. Debt did not even come to the lips of the Liberals. It was because of the opposition that the government actually followed through in reducing the debt. I wish the parliamentary secretary would give credit where it is due.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from Edmonton. I think it was the Liberals in 1993 who talked about how they would kill, scrap and abolish the GST. Now that they have had a huge budgetary surplus, whatever happened to killing scrapping and abolishing the GST? What has happened to even reducing the GST?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, again that is an excellent question. We have to remind ourselves that the government made one of its biggest promises, which was to eliminate the GST. The government has not done that. In fact it has managed it so poorly that now we are losing almost billions of dollars in fraud. That is a shame.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I found it extremely interesting listening to the parliamentary secretary brag about a government that has cut the deficit. He forgets that the government when was elected it promised Canadians it would eliminate the GST. That is not the real reason why it paid down the deficit. It paid down the deficit by cutting the guts out of health care and the defence department. I could go on and on. That is the real reason it got the deficit down. Then the government had the GST money to play with, to spend on its Liberal programs. The government also does not talk about the fact that the debt is larger today than when it took over.

What is there to brag about? The debt is larger. The government could have used a lot of the money it spends on its wasteful programs, like the billion dollar boondoggle and the gun registry, to lower the debt, to ensure that our dollar was stronger and to ensure that Canadians did not owe so much money. That is the Liberal way.

The budget of February 18 was as close to a socialist Liberal document as the House has seen since the wild spending days of the sixties and seventies. The word “prudence” has been ripped from the Liberal vocabulary.

This was an equal opportunity budget. Every working Canadian has an equal opportunity to watch his or her hard earned dollars squandered by a lame duck Prime Minister and a wannabe Prime Minister. Every mother, father and child is equal in Liberal eyes as a potential source for the dollars needed to buy off the special interest groups or as inspiration to write reams of new legislation to control their lives.

This is a government that believes every living Canadian has an equal opportunity to be denied a higher standard of living because Liberals like to chase hare-brained schemes that cost billions of dollars more than the millions they promised.

Last week the finance minister boasted about the number of new jobs created within the Canadian economy. Liberals are always quick to claim credit for employment gains but they are painfully slow to recognize and respond to the needs of the people who are responsible for job creation. Remember that. Liberals take credit for the job creation but rarely do anything to help the real creators of jobs: Canada's living, breathing and risk taking entrepreneurs.

Let me cite figures regarding Canada's food services industry. This is an industry with annual sales of $42 billion with more than one million employees. It is the largest employer in this country. That is over 6.5% of Canada's total workforce. These are employers and employees who fund the employment insurance program, and $45 billion over recent years has been stolen from them by the Liberals.

The Liberals rattle on about a $45 billion employment insurance fund but they hide the truth from Canadians. There is no fund. There is no surplus. All that money, all $45 billion has been spent, squandered by the Liberals who all time pretended it was being banked for the employers and the employees.

Now the Liberals are promising to reduce contributions by 12¢ and that is beginning next year. That will give the Liberals a juicy $3 billion to add to their slush fund in the next 12 months. Why could it not have been now, not next year?

I have two questions. Why is it when Liberals promise to return money to the taxpayers it is never immediately? It is always next year or the year after that. Why did they not reduce employment insurance premiums immediately? It would have pumped $3 billion into the economy this year alone. That would have been $3 billion for those employees and employers, the people, the entrepreneurs and the risk takers in this country. That $3 billion, circulated among taxpayers, would help our economy a lot more than having Liberals pick it over like vultures on a carcass. We know that a lot of good and dedicated people at senior levels and middle management are as dismayed by political spending as we are.

Here is another question which has to do with the Liberal belief that equal opportunity means the working poor must feel more pain than wealthy Canadians. Why will the Liberals not adopt a yearly basic exemption which would benefit those most truly in need: low income Canadians and labour intensive businesses? A $3,000 yearly basic exemption would benefit lower income Canadians and working students who pay a higher percentage of their incomes to the system than the higher income earners. Those Canadians who would benefit from this system should know and remember that it is the Liberals who are resisting this wonderful idea.

The Liberals who are resisting are those who pretend they have the talent, compassion and vision that leadership requires. They are the ancient mariner himself, the member for LaSalle--Émard, and the present finance minister, the member for Ottawa South. Many people who are employers and employees in the food services industry in both of those ridings should remember they have no friends in the Liberal Party.

What last week's budget confirmed for thoughtful Canadians is that the Liberals will never change. They will continue to gouge all Canadians for more tax dollars because the Liberal priority is to spend.

A party that cared about the future of Canada, and not about the future of the party alone, would have brought in a budget of compassion and vision. A party that cared less about power and more about the people it purports to govern would have reversed the spending and tax cut numbers in that budget. It announced $17.4 billion in new spending over three years, but returns only $2.3 billion to the taxpayers over that same period. That tells us what the Liberal government is all about.

It would amaze and please taxpayers if just once the Liberals announced they planned to return more to taxpayers and to spend less on HRDC boondoggles, the firearms registry, or to lose less to GST fraud.

A government that cared less about power and more about its citizens would never have promised and then tried to implement a firearms registry program. This is another billion dollar scandal on top of so many that have gone on before. I mentioned the HRDC boondoggle and we are waiting with trepidation for the final cost to taxpayers of the GST fraud, but a billion dollars is not out of the question.

A government that cared about families and lower income earners would listen when the Canadian Alliance called for a reduction in the federal tax on gasoline. A government that cared would immediately implement a yearly basic exemption for lower income earners.

A government that cared would never have squandered all the billions of employment insurance money sent in by trusting and hardworking Canadians. They all believed that money was being banked for their use on a rainy day. Little did they know that the Liberals did not put one penny in the bank. They spent every last one of those pennies, some $45 billion dollars.

A government that cared about Canadians would have listened when the Canadian Alliance said there was sufficient surplus in last week's budget to allow for a reduction in the much hated goods and services tax. A party that cared about Canadians would never have lied in 1993 and promised to scrap, kill, and banish forever the Conservative goods and services tax. This was a promise made during the election, but totally ignored after the election.

A compassionate and caring government would understand that many of the people who work at lower paying jobs are not always there out of choice while others are. It would never occur to a smug Liberal finance minister that many of the people in the food services industry, for instance, are there because they are working their way through school. They do not have scholarships like the ones awarded to up and coming Liberals.

Only a Liberal could sit back smugly and say that only Liberals know best when it comes to day care and one Liberal size fits all.

Why can families not choose on their own the way they want to raise their children? For instance, a married couple employed in the food services industry with children might well be working opposing shifts so that one parent is with the children at all times. That is good parenting by any definition except the Liberal definition.

If the finance minister and the Liberals had any compassion, they would have introduced a yearly basic exemption of $3,000. That would make a small difference in the lives and well-being of that married couple employed in the food services industry. Had the government listened to the Alliance and implemented a $3,000 per child deduction, that couple would still be productive members of society and have the option of choosing what they deem best for their family and their children. We do not understand, nor do Canadians, why the Liberals believe only they and the bureaucrats know best how Canadian parents should raise their children.

Another question that must be asked is, why do Liberals keep on committing our military people to foreign assignments while letting their clothing and equipment become tattered and rusty? It is bad enough they cannot make up their minds about what to do regarding the Iraq crisis, but to treat our military the way Liberals have treated our military is beyond comprehension.

Liberals ask so much of our military personnel and yet give them so little of what they need to do the job that is asked of them. Unlike Liberals, we in the Canadian Alliance are proud of our men and women in all branches of the armed services. Like Canadians generally, our people in the armed forces deserve better.

This was not a budget for Canadians. This was a budget for the ambitious and vindictive, on one hand a finance minister's leadership agenda, and on the other hand a Prime Minister who seeks revenge. It was not a budget for future Canadians either. The debt today is higher than it was when the Liberals were elected in 1993.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member's comments. I must say that his definition of compassion and ours on this side of the House are entirely different.

This is a government which makes no apologies for the fact that we have reduced the national debt from 71.5 % of GDP to 44.5%, and going to 40% by 2005, and that we have had six balanced budgets or better.

What areas in which the government showed compassion would he cut? Would it be the investments we made for people who have low incomes, child poverty, or the homeless? Would it be the military, our urban communities, or health care, which is the number one issue of Canadians? In terms of compassion, is that what he would cut?

Clearly, a government must be accountable. When in opposition, one can rattle on and say one would do this, that and the other thing. The bottom line is that we have shown a balanced approach. We have been able to cut taxes and reduce debt. We have been able to invest in key areas of this economy and continue to provide so that Canada today is the envy of the G-7, not the basket case it was viewed as in 1995.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, to say that Canada was a basket case is an embarrassment to me as a member of Parliament. It never was a basket case. The government had a deficit and cut health care in the country by $20 billion which affected every poor Canadian. That was not compassion. That was the government wanting to help its friends.

Let me go through some of those areas. The government cut the heck out of the military. Where was the compassion when it sent soldiers away with uniforms that were the wrong colour, things that did not work, and boots that did not fit? Where was the compassion in the Liberal Party? Its compassion is for Groupaction, an agency in Quebec, where its friends got money and grants and kicked it back to the Liberal Party. That is where its compassion is. Do not talk to me about compassion in this party.

Let us talk about money. I will tell members right now what we would cut. We would cut the scandal in GST fraud. All the money that has been ripped off there, which the minister keeps denying, will come up before the next election. We would not have had the billion dollar boondoggle of HRDC, having spent millions on computers still sitting in warehouses. That is where the compassion is in the Liberal Party, giving its friends contracts for computers they never use.

We would not have spent $1 billion on a gun registry after telling the Canadian public it would cost $2 million. Where is the compassion about a gun registry that does not work? Some 90% of the registration is not working properly. Ask any major police force in the country if it really helps and they will say no. We can always find a Liberal police chief somewhere in the country who will write a nice little letter so the minister can rap it off his sleeves. The Liberals keep on wasting money on the whole damn program.

Liberals talk about compassion. There is no compassion in that party over there. Let us talk about Groupaction and that whole scandal with 13 police investigations.

The Prime Minister talked about having a government that would not be like the one before it and would have no scandals. We have more police investigations on that side now than there ever were on the other side. The previous government might have had a couple of big scandals, but the Liberals have major scandals. They have taken money and gone through agencies, and that is correct. That is why there are police investigations. That is why there have been charges laid and convictions.

Liberals talk about compassion. We would not have cut that $20 billion out of health care. They ruined the health care system in the country, then gave Mr. Romanow another $25 million to wander around and tell us what we already knew.

A parliamentary committee is talking about democracy. Democracy should be happening right in the House of Commons. We should not be hiring Mr. Romanow to be telling us what to do in health care. We should be dealing with elected members of Parliament in committee telling the government what should be done, and the government should be listening. But no, the government likes to hire the Romanows, have a committee somewhere, investigate, and look into things.

That is not compassion. They do not even answer the questions. Let us give food service workers a $3,000 cut-off. These kids that are going to school are putting money into EI that they are never going to collect. Does that make them think that government is fair and equal? No, it does not. That is not compassion to our young workers.

The food services industry is the largest industry in the country. The industries of lumber and building cars do not equal the food services industry. It is the largest employer with 1.02 million employees. It has been begging the government to do what would help it with its businesses and employ more people. It employs a lot of young people who are working their way through high school or college, or helping families who do not have a lot of money.

There is no compassion there. The Liberal government is not a government of compassion. It is a government of helping its friends.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Unfortunately time has expired for questions and comments.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If the parliamentary secretary would like to ask another question, I would seek unanimous consent to let him do that. It would be a wonderful idea.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to allow one more question from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the tirade of the hon. member across the way. Let us deal with health care. The reality is that health care is delivered by the provinces. The province of Ontario last year announced $1.2 billion in new health care funding, to which $1.1 billion were federal transfers. While it was busy cutting taxes before it dealt with its own books, it was busy slicing up the health care system. It reorganized the hospital system and fired 5,000 new nurses, not us. I would like the member to respond to that.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, it was not a tirade. I was simply mad because the government has no compassion. Every time it talks about health care, it tries to knock the government of Ontario.

I went through the health system in Ontario. I went for an operation in a hospital right here in Ottawa. My mother has been in the hospital. The hospital care that my mother and I had in this province was as good as it could be. The nurses and doctors were spectacular. Do members know what they all asked me? Why did the federal government cut this $20 billion out and slow down what the provinces were doing?

Do not knock Ontario. Ontario is the most successful province, other than Alberta, in creating jobs and through no help of the federal government. It is the government that has no compassion that hurt all the provinces in health care and tried to blame it on the premiers who were re-elected. I can remember sitting in the House and hearing all members on the other side saying Harris will never be re-elected. He was re-elected because the people of Ontario liked what he was doing, contrary to what the federal Liberals said. He was a good manager and did a heck of a good job. So is Ralph Klein who is doing a great job in his province, which has some of the best health care in Canada.

In my riding alone the hospital was voted as having one of the best systems in all of Canada for health care. There is nothing wrong with our health care program, except the lack of federal money that the government stole out of it to pay off--

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Resuming debate, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for York West, who has done an absolutely amazing job on a caucus committee of bringing to the attention of the government and the Prime Minister how important municipal infrastructure is.

I heard my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance a few minutes ago. I think that our country is better than members of that party would have us believe. Had he spent time working in countries where misery abounds, he would better appreciate this country, which is sometimes a bit too easy-going to defend its initiatives.

When we consider our country's performance over the past few years, particularly during the past two years when international politics have been extremely troubling, some statistics bear repeating.

Canada had the best growth in 2002 of the G-7 countries, a performance that it is expected to repeat this year. Of the G-7 countries, the wealthiest countries in the world, Canada alone forecast a surplus for 2002-2003. We expect balanced budgets or a surplus for the next two years.

Some 560,000 jobs were created in 2002, the biggest 12-month increase, compared to the 229,000 jobs lost in the United States. The Americans are an important reference for the world. Given our performance, we have reason to be proud.

I am not saying that the budget is perfect. However, the budget has achieved an essential and extremely important balance between budgetary control, as there is still a modest but significant surplus, also forecast for next year, and important social initiatives.

Obviously, the provinces could be less critical. However, what I clearly understand—especially the criticisms from the Bloc Quebecois—and what is of primary interest to my hon. Bloc colleagues, are the transfer payments. Their goal is to get rid of Canada. They want transfer payments for labour force training, which have been provided for the past few years. These amount to $600 million per year.

Before, the Canadian government had a program for manpower training, which was greatly appreciated in all of our ridings. In 1996 we agreed to its transfer, and new programs were created. Emploi Québec was created. Many people have expressed the opinion to me that the federal government's pulling out of manpower training programs was pretty much of a mistake.

Just look at the municipalities, the NGOs, the rural municipalities in Quebec in particular, where the Canadian government had 1,100 employees involved in manpower development. This was thought of as transfers of funds. But the only purpose the Bloc Quebecois representatives had in mind was to get the federal, the Canadian, government, to hand over the funds, with the hidden agenda of eliminating the Canadian government's presence as much as possible.

Obviously, this is not a view I share. This is the pet theory of a Quebecker whose constantly refrain was, “Dump the blame on the feds all the time. Say everything is their fault”.

I recall the situation with health when the Bloc managed to create a consensus with the PQ in Quebec to the effect that “the Canadian government puts in a mere 14¢ on the dollar”. That is absolutely false. It has been said, and it has been written, but the truth needs to be revealed. It is not easy to do so. The reality is that, prior to this last budget, the Canadian government invested 40¢ on the dollar, not 14¢. That was before the announcements in the budget.

All in all, it is important to say that, while not perfect, the Canadian government has brought down a budget on which I congratulate the Minister of Finance, and of course the Prime Minister, who is primarily responsible for all budget decisions. It is important to point that out.

We keep hearing that the budget is doing nothing for the provinces. The fact is that in excess of 50% of budget commitments will go into the provincial treasuries. One can therefore not say that the Canadian government did not make any effort to improve the services provided by the various provincial governments.

For health care, it will be $35 billion. The accord provides for $16 billion over five years for the health care reform that will take place in the provinces and territories and target primary care, home care, which is extremely important, and drugs, whose costs are prohibitive.

Over five years, $9.5 billion will go to increasing cash transfers to the provinces and territories. There will be an immediate investment of $2.5 billion as part of the Canada health and social transfer. We will be providing $1.5 billion over three years to improve access to public diagnostic services; $1.3 billion over five years to support health care programs for the first nations; $600 million to speed up the implementation of a national system of electronic health files; and $500 million for research hospitals, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

In the area of health, the Government of Canada has proven that it is listening to Canadians. It is not the fault of the federal government that some provinces, particularly Quebec, have forced thousands of nurses and specialists into retirement. That is not the fault of the federal government. We are making a massive contribution, covering 40 to 50% of health care costs, not 14% as the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois say.

Our country deserves to be told the truth. We may not be perfect, but we are leading the world in economic performance. We can take some criticism, but such falsehoods cannot be repeated over and over. That is what the latest budget allows us to show. We are doing more, even considering that we were already doing a lot in major areas.

For families, the budget includes an increase of $965 million for the national child benefit supplement; there is $935 million to help the provinces improve access to quality day care services, and $50 million per year in a new benefit for children with disabilities. That is significant.

We do not expect the Government of Quebec to shout this from the rooftops, but these are funds that, for the most part, will be transferred to provincial initiatives. Facts are facts. It is impossible that there is nothing good in the budget.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Wait and see who will be elected during the next election.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

A Bloc member just told me to wait and see who will be elected during the next election. It is always a pleasure to run against the Bloc during election campaigns. The pleasure will be even greater since more and more Quebeckers are questioning the role of the Bloc Quebecois in the House of Commons.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Look what happened in Lac-Saint-Jean.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

The public is smart. It knows very well that in 1993 the Bloc was elected, boasting it would hold real power. The public now realizes that was a joke.