Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the tag team of the Prime Minister and the former finance minister increased personal and corporate taxes 53 times since 1993. Budget 1994 increased spending $1.7 billion and increased taxes by $1.3 billion. Let us remember that the early budget of the former minister of finance had a deficit of $37 billion in it, $37 billion adding to that national debt. It was not until the budget of 1995 that the Liberals were forced to reduce spending but still managed to increase taxes by $1.4 billion. Then again, the deficit for that year was $28 billion.
The early years of the former finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, what was his record? It was to increase taxes, increase spending and run another deficit. When those guys inherited the government from the Mulroney team the national debt, which is the accumulated deficit, was $508 billion. What did they do? They ran it up to $583 billion before the message got through that we simply could not do that any more.
What caused this change? What were the events that led up to the change in the Liberal philosophy of actually having some fiscal discipline for a few years? I think they were forced to the wall. There was the Mexican situation where the peso was in crisis in 1994, fears that New Zealand would fall into insolvency and Canada's own debt was downgraded by many of the debt rating agencies. The message was pretty loud and clear that the Liberals had to do something.
They did take some action. What did they do? This is important. Was it done fairly? No, not really. The former finance minister and his team took the easy way out. They offloaded their problem by slashing transfers to the provinces. According to national accounts, federal spending decreased by just 9% or $11.3 billion. This was a time of crisis. They had to get a hold on this so they decreased their own spending by 9% but slashed the transfers to the provinces for things such as health care by over 20%.
The crisis that we see in health care today, the money that had to be pumped in and today's fiscal problems between the provinces and their municipal governments, are a product of the Liberal government. It is a product of the government offloading its big problem to the provinces.
As soon as the Liberals had an opportunity, and once we started to get to the stage where we were no longer deficit spending, when the U.S. economy was growing by leaps and bounds, when 87% of our exports were going to the United States and when roughly 40% of our GDP came from exports, we were dragged along.
What did the Liberals do when they had the opportunity and things improved? They did not make the fundamental changes that were required. They returned to their old practices. They returned to their old tax and spend ways. It did not take very long. The aberration was only two years.
Federal program spending has been on the rise since 1997 and has increased dramatically since 1999. Those are all years that the former minister of finance was here. The tag team of the Prime Minister and the former minister of finance did it together.
Over the last two years federal spending has increased by 6% on average. That outpaces the formula for population growth and inflation by roughly 4%. Those are the kinds of things that put us into the difficulties in the 1970s to begin with.
The current finance minister, as I said, could have changed course but instead he opted to spend and spend. Federal spending is forecast to increase 83% faster than population and inflation growth between 1999-2000 and 2004-05.
I submit that budget 2003 is not an aberration at all. It really just ups the ante of the old Liberal spending patterns. As soon as the Liberals had a little cash in the bank, instead of improving the fundamentals, they went back to their old ways of tax and spend.
The Minister of Finance likes to brag about how Canada is a true northern tiger. He must know, as do many in government and the private sector, that despite recent reasonable economic times there is still considerable distance to make up for the bad public policies that the government and other governments have engaged in since the 1970s.
The industry committee conducted three separate studies in terms of Canada's productivity and competitiveness. What it found was a long standing decline in Canada's competitive position in the world going back 30 years. I submit that it is not an accident. This has a direct correlation to public policy. That public policy is just bad government not recognizing what Canada should be doing.
Thirty years ago the United States was number one in terms of productivity which equates to living standards. Canada was number two. That is a long term historical fact. The United States has not changed. It is still number one in terms of productivity and living standards, but Canada has fallen to 13th place in terms of productivity in the world.
In the Globe and Mail today, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters reported that Canada's competitiveness has fallen to 50% of the G-7 average. The report prepared by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said:
The competitiveness of Canadian industries continues to fall compared with their G-7 counterparts, although this country's businesses no longer hold last spot--
It is no longer in last place. That is some consolation. It does not really address the issue of Canada and United States. Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters went on to say:
--the so-called excellence gap between Canadian industries and those in other Group of Seven nations has widened “significantly” since the period before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The CME's last assessment, undertaken in the summer of 2001, put Canada's performance at 62 per cent of the G-7's overall best practice. Its most recent analysis, however, shows that figure has fallen to 50 per cent.
We have had a long term decline in the economy in Canada. We have seen it; we know it is there. We recognize it because the Canadian dollar is in big part a reflection of that. But this is 30 years of decline and 30 years of bad management by the government.
In the 1970s and onward we saw huge increases in government spending and in the design of government programs. Deficit spending was characteristic of the government and, in fact, it ran up the accumulated deficit to $583 billion. It now has it down to $536 billion and it is cheering that it is some kind of victory. I say it is not very much.
Decades of spending increases have increased Canadian tax burdens so now government represents 42% of all of the GDP of Canada. That is how much it is sucking out of the life blood of Canadians. Compare that with the United States where government takes 29%. If that was productive spending maybe we could accept that, but what do we have? We have waste in the government. We have a lot of misdirected industrial policies where it is pumping billions of dollars into so-called winners. I suggest that those winners are showing the tendency to be more losers these days than winners.
We have the aerospace sector, for example. The government has poured literally billions of dollars into that sector. I believe that it should not be involved and the Canadian Alliance believes that we should not be in the business of trying to pick winners and losers in our society.
Our standard of living has fallen to only 70% of that of the United States over a 30 year period. Canada has one of the highest personal income tax rates in the entire G-7. Once a historical home for direct foreign investment, our share of direct foreign investment has been falling over 30 years. Investors see other countries as better places to reap a profit. It is no wonder with the taxation levels on the corporate and personal side that we have in Canada.
Even Canadians are looking increasingly outside our borders, particularly in the United States, as a good place to invest. There is an article in the National Post today to that effect. Canadians are investing billions of dollars outside our country. Why? Because they see it as better place to get opportunity to have return on their investment. That should not be the case. It is tragic that it is actually happening.
Yes, they should have opportunity to look outside our country, but they should also have the opportunity to get good rates of return here. The government's response has been to devalue the dollar. We have become the big discount sale house of OECD countries. Our dollar has seen a little bit of strength in the last couple of months as the U.S. dollar is depreciating against European currency, but still we have seen a decline to where we are at 68¢ U.S. today. We have been as low as almost 60¢ and it is no accident that the dollar is a reflection of Canada's productivity and standard of living.
A National Post article today by Jacqueline Thorpe talks about the Conference Board study and what it is saying. Is it not ironic that our industries are now saying “Do not let the dollar go too high because we cannot compete”. Why can they not compete? They cannot compete because the government has not taken advantage of good times to make the fundamental changes that are necessary to allow that dollar to naturally rise and exporters to be able to benefit.
I am talking about tax decreases. Let us get off the backs of the corporate sector. Let them make a profit and we will see more investment in Canada. We will gradually see our Canadian dollar rise as it should. But the government has not taken that opportunity in good times. If it does not take the opportunity and make the fundamentals right in good times, when will it ever happen? It certainly will not happen in a downturn which we may be seeing.
This is the kind of problem that I am talking about, long-term historical problems where we see a Liberal government that has a total disregard not only for the economy and Canadian standard of living but also for its constitutional mandate.
It is clear what the division of powers were when the Fathers of Confederation designed the Constitution . The provinces were largely responsible for social areas and the federal government was responsible for foreign affairs, defence, trade, monetary policy and security. However, we have a federal government that has muscled its way into provincial jurisdiction. We see it in the budget of February 18 with all kinds of intrusions into provincial social areas, but what is the government's record in its own areas? I say it is dismal.
Let us take foreign affairs as an example. This House is being consumed with that issue in the last several weeks but it goes further back than that. Our place in the world has slipped dramatically. What are we doing to protect Canadian industries in trade agreements? What about agriculture, where we have been beaten up really badly? What about softwood lumber and defence policy? The government has deliberately gutted the Department of National Defence so it could use the money that it would save in the budget to throw at some of its special pet projects and patronage.
We have seen waste in government, and waste in the gun registry of $1 billion and running to $2 billion shortly. We have seen waste in the HRDC scandal where the minister was largely credited or discredited with blowing $1 billion, not knowing what happened to it. We have seen advertising scandals. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Together with waste and misdirected policy no wonder Canada has been in decline. We need the opportunity to get this country back on track. We need political parties that would get the federal government into the areas that it is responsible for and work cooperatively with the provinces in areas that the provinces are responsible for. That would seem to make perfect sense in a federation, but instead, that is not the case.
This country could get back on its feet fairly quickly if we had a party that would stand up for the things that Canadians should be standing up for and exercising responsibility that is really required. The Canadian Alliance has a totally different view than the Liberal government. We do not believe in intervening in the economy. We believe that we need to put the framework in place for business to do well, that we should be the stewards for Canadians, that we should not be interfering, and that we should not be investing in business.
It seems to me that the time has come for that to happen to get Canada back on track. We can no longer afford to have the kind of interventionist government and a poor public policy that has put us in this deep hole. It is a deep hole that I am concerned about. We are not recovering. In fact, it threatens our economic security.
It makes us so dependent these days that we have trouble acting. We are in a huge trade dispute. What is our answer? We have trouble defending our own economic sovereignty. The government has put us in a hole where we are $536 billion in debt. Out of every tax dollar 21¢ goes to Ottawa to pay interest on the debt. That makes us very vulnerable. The government did not do anything about it in good times, when is it going to? That is going to represent a bigger part of the total scene when things get bad and it may well happen.
The United States economy has not recovered. It had 12 years of growth and in any economic cycle we will see that growth period followed by a period of stagnation before it can happen again. Canada has not really entered into that although I believe that we are vulnerable.
These policies that we have in the budget would not protect us. They would not give us the kind of tax relief that we need to have to make this a more viable situation for Canadian individuals and companies.
We must ask the question, why would a party think that government needed to increase in size? Historically that has not been the case. In fact, we are pretty much out of the loop in terms of the business cycle in North America. At one time there was never a period when the economies of Canada and the United States did not act in a similar way. We can chart that over a hundred years. There are people that do that. It is an analytical way to approach business. They chart when business cycles are on the upturn, when there is inflation, and when there is a decline.
Up until about the 1970s we can see that the economies of Canada and the United States have been very closely together in terms of that economic cycle. However, after the 1970s there started to be a divergence which became fairly acute. People have been doing a lot of work to decide why that took place, what is this aberration?
Former Prime Minister Trudeau was successful in increasing the size of government with his public policies. There were a lot of social programs that were introduced. Even in Ottawa, during the days of the 1970s, the growth was phenomenal in the city, particularly the growth in government buildings.
Let us look at the employment insurance program, for example. It became not an employment insurance program any more because it also had a social element to it. Maybe there is a role for government in that, but we would not think that the government would expect employers and employees to fund it. However, that is exactly what it did.
The result is that Canadian unemployment figures are about 3% to 4% higher than that of the United States all the time. In good times and bad times they are 4% higher. That was not the case up until 1970. It was roughly the same. Our cycle might have been out a little bit but it was basically the same. Why is that?
The reason is that we have built a lot of components into the system. There are something like 40 different areas in Canada where qualifying for employment insurance is different. Maternity benefits are just one example of that and there are many others.
In addition to that, what did the government do with employment insurance when it came to power in 1993? It decided this would be the vehicle to generate a fair amount of money for the government. Even though the chief actuary said that in order to ride out a cycle in the economy we probably needed about $15 billion in the employment insurance account, the government decided that this was a cash cow that it simply could not resist. What did it do? It overcharged Canadian employers and employees to the tune of over $30 billion.
Supposedly, there is a fund somewhere that has $45 billion in it for employment insurance. We all know that is not the case because it went into general revenues and has long been spent. The government took advantage of this cash cow and how did it decide to spend this money? It spent the extra $30 billion of employers' and employees' money in a number of ways that I am not sure that employers and employees would think was reasonable.
There are regional development programs in many areas that take up billions of dollars a year. The Auditor General has been very critical of those programs from coast to coast. Whether it is western economic diversification or something else, no matter where it occurs, it is like pouring money into a hole in the ground.
In many cases once the money is gone and the business is no longer collecting the money, it cannot exist. In fact, some businesses receive money from regional development programs that their competitor down the street does not receive. For example, if someone receives a government grant and builds a service station and the existing one down the street goes out of business, is there any net gain to society? The Auditor General does not think so.
Billions of dollars have been wasted in that program, as well as billions of dollars in economic development programs. I do not think government is very good at this. That is one reason I do not think government should be in business.
Businesses in Canada have benefited from programs like technology partnerships Canada to the tune of billions of dollars. The aerospace industry, I pointed out earlier, is just one of those. Companies such as Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Bombardier, some of the biggest companies in the world are receiving money from Canadian taxpayers.
In addition to the technology partnerships program, what else is there? There is Export Development Canada, a bank owned by the taxpayers of Canada. It subsidizes the credit so those companies can sell their products to Air Wisconsin and United Airlines in the United States at a lower than market price in terms of interest rates. Who pays the bill and who has the vulnerability if something goes wrong? There have been all kinds of cancellations for aircraft orders not only in Canada but in places like Brazil which have similar regional development and economic development programs. I understand our aerospace sector makes up something like 70% of the exposure at the Export Development Corporation these days. If something goes wrong, who pays for that?
Those are the kinds of misguided public policies which I think have gotten us into trouble. It shows why the government is addicted to having more taxes rolling in all the time. The government is going to have $195 billion in tax money coming to Ottawa in the next year.
The growth in the size of government is unprecedented. It is returning to the levels of spending and taxation of the 1970s. For 25 years the government seemed to be drunk with power and had to expand the economy not only in government, but in all kinds of pet projects that it thought was best for the country, such as economic development in certain areas, whether it was through business or regional development. Those are the kinds of programs that have to stop.
Canada has been a member of the World Trade Organization and the OECD. They are critical of a lot of those kinds of programs. They are critical of export credit. They want to move away from that. Canada should be a leader. Canada at one time was a leader, but I think we have abdicated our responsibility pretty seriously.
What is the role for government? What role should government really play? The Canadian Alliance feels that government has a very serious responsibility. It is pretty clear in the Constitution how it is set out. Traditionally Canadian governments moved into other areas such as health care. We do not disagree that health care funding needed to be brought up to new levels. We recognize the need for that. When the government in the 1970s brought in the Canada Health Act, it said that federal government funding for that program would never fall below 50%. What happened over time is the provinces could not trust the federal government. They simply could not trust it.
Spending levels by the federal government last year fell to something like 12%. Provincial governments were left with the balance, having to struggle with that even though they had this guarantee from the federal government that they would never fall below 50%. No wonder provinces are knocking at the door telling the government that it is putting the constraints on them in asking them to have a national system, which they accept, but the federal funding levels have dropped.
As I pointed out, it was a pretty easy target in the mid-1990s when the tag team of the former finance minister and the Prime Minister decided they had to do some cutting. They were sort of at the wall and were being downgraded in terms of credit and they had to do something about it. What did they do? They cut transfers to provinces. What is the largest transfer to the provinces? It is health care and $25 billion was taken out of the health care system during those years.
No wonder the provincial governments had trouble with their municipalities and their own services. Imagine a federal government that would hardly do anything in its own backyard in terms of cutting spending, but it would attack the easiest target. That was the easiest target, so it cut the transfers to the provinces. That is the type of thing that worries Canadians for the future.
The commitment made in the budget that the federal government put about $35 billion into health care is the kind of commitment that was needed to increase the health care funding to the required level. The provincial premiers and others must wonder what will happen the next time there is a bit of a downturn. What is the commitment worth from the federal government? The experience from the mid-1990s under the former finance minister was not that good. The government took the easy target.
The role of government must be to recognize the jurisdictions given to it in the Constitution and actively work hard to improve things such as relations in foreign affairs. Our relationship with our major trading partner is in serious decline. Historically we have had an excellent relationship with the United States. We are a next door neighbour to the United States. As I have said, our trade relationship has grown greatly, which seems to be a natural outreach.
Mr. Trudeau back in the 1970s decided that he wanted to distance himself from the United States. He wanted to direct business so that there was more trade between Europe and Canada and less dependency on the United States for trade. It was a pretty superficial look at it. At the same time the European countries were busy developing the European Union, which is a very inward looking organization. They were not looking at trade with Canada. In fact their trade with Canada declined dramatically during that time.
The natural consequence of being close to the United States and having similar cultures means that trade between Canada and the United States has grown dramatically. During the 1970s, 60% of our exports were to the United States and today it is 87%.
It would be nice to diversify that, but that is a pretty easy place to do business, or it has been until now. The government seems intent upon sticking its finger in the eye of the United States and souring that relationship. I wonder how much support there will be for the government when people start to lose jobs as a result of what members on the other side of the House have been saying recently about our closest ally and closest trading partner. It seems to me to be a pretty silly policy to tweak the noses of our friends in the United States, our major trading partner, because that is the kind of relationship we need.
Instead of working in the areas the federal government was given in the Constitution, in foreign affairs, to improve trade relationships, to do something about improving things so Canada is not hit with trade actions any more on a number of issues, what is it doing? Tweaking the nose of Uncle Sam. It is not good enough. The government has to do better. A Canadian Alliance government would take this role a lot more seriously.
We do have a place in the world. We are not a superpower but we are certainly a midsize power. There is an increasing capacity in the country, a potential to reach a much bigger proportion than we have today in terms of influence and also economic size. However it will not be done with a government that has such inward looking policies and policies of trying to be interventionists in a control command economy.
A free market economy is a very powerful engine. We should unleash it and let it work. We should take the constraints of high interest rates, high income taxes and high regulation out of the government, off of our industries and let them work. That could have a dramatic effect, but it seems the Liberals across the way do not share those views. They think that this sector has to be controlled.
Canada has a whole set of regulated industries. A lot of them are looking for the harness to be thrown off. Our telecommunications companies are asking for foreign investment limits to be removed. They want access to foreign capital. That has not been the case. The transport sector has been highly regulated and look at the results of that. It looks like the government is going to be pumping more money into Air Canada.
It seems that the Liberals have not grasped the idea of a market economy. Maybe there is a reason. Maybe they feel they have to have their hands on the levers of power so they can stay in power and grease enough palms along the way that the money will come back. That seemed to be working pretty well up until now, but it does not serve Canadians well.
Defence is an area of responsibility given to the federal government. A lot of people in the defence industries and analysts say that the defence department needs about $2 billion a year to help out in its capital expenditure to get it back to some reasonable level so our forces can perform in peacekeeping or peacemaking operations. It is sad that our fighting men and women who belong to this organization do not have the ability to get over to the operations. We do not have the ability to fly them there. We have to rely on the United States to do that for us.
We rely pretty heavily on the United States for our defence. We are a member of NATO. Our funding level for our military in terms of GDP is the second lowest of all NATO countries. Luxembourg is the only country lower than us. Either we belong or we do not. This latest conflict in Iraq and the war on terrorism point to the need for Canada to do something to improve the morale and the conditions for our service men and women and improve the equipment for them.
The responsibility for defence was given to the federal government in the Constitution. Instead of working to improve things in foreign affairs and defence, what is it doing? The government is getting involved in provincial jurisdictions. It sees its role as being more that of a provincial government. Maybe that says something about the mentality of the government. It needs to respect the constitutional authority it was given and do something. It needs to improve the conditions. It needs to work in the areas it was given responsibility for, such as foreign affairs and defence.
What more could the government do in trade policy? In the next little while Canadian Alliance members will be speaking more specifically about a number of areas. Trade policy is one of them.
We need to be moving in areas such as agriculture. The Uruguay round only made small changes in agriculture. Huge subsidies are still being given by the European Union and the United States. Our Canadian farmers have been beaten up badly as a result. In addition, even with the small amount of progress that was made, 15%, in the Uruguay round, what did the government do? It went beyond the cuts that were necessary according to our contribution level and it cut heavily in the area of agriculture.
Some would argue that New Zealand does not have any subsidies and that is a good thing. However, when other countries are subsidizing very heavily, such as the United States and the European Union countries, we get frozen out of market share. There is work to be done to bring some discipline and some trade rules to other sectors of the economy in agriculture in other areas such as the European Union and the United States. Canada has a dyslexic position and I do not think it is respected very much. More work needs to be done in trade areas.
Let me talk about monetary policy for a moment. Canada has a 68¢ dollar today versus that of our major trading partner, the United States. That is higher than it has been for some time. A lot of people think that the U.S. dollar needs to be lower than it has been because the U.S. has a fair amount of deficit in its current account. People thought it would come down over time. Not too long ago our dollar was almost as low as 60¢ and it could well go back there. What does that do to Canadians? Let me talk about farming for a second because I was on that subject.
Combines do not cost $100,000 any more, but let me take a figure of a piece of farm equipment that would cost a Canadian farmer $100,000. That same equipment made in the United States would cost a farmer $68,000, and most of the equipment is made there, so we have to import a lot of product into Canada. That puts us a disadvantage.
Some would argue that of course we have our exports that take advantage of the low Canadian dollar. Yes, they have, but to some extent it has been a bit of a crunch. The proof is when we see the Canadian dollar start to go up a bit, Canadian companies start to get concerned. They say that they cannot compete because taxes and regulations are too high.
I want to introduce a motion, but just before that I want to conclude by saying that things could be a whole lot better. Public policy is directly related to how well the country does and how our badly our standard of living has slipped. The Canadian Alliance will be outlining that over the next few days in this debate. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following: “therefore Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003 be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time, this day, six months hence”.