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House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention. It gives me the opportunity to say that, certainly, there is a lot of fear among Canadian businessmen that there will be some reaction in the United States against our trade relations because we did not get on side with the Americans.

However, I would point out that we are not accusing the President of going to war for oil. I would never suggest that is what the war is about. He is going to war for higher moral reasons, even though I do not agree with the way he is going to war.

Having said that, we would not expect Canadians to go to war for economic reasons, solely to protect our jobs and our trade. We would only expect to send our soldiers to war if it was for a reason of high principle. In this case, we could not agree that the high principle was there.

I thank the member for his intervention. I am sorry I do not have time to answer the second half of his question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I am sure I will not be able to keep up with the passion of the previous member but I want to speak a little about the budget. I see the budget process as planning for the budget, debating in advance in whatever way we can, receiving the budget and responding, the response being the first day of the planning for the next budget.

First, I want to say that I was quite pleased. The reason I say that is because of this. After the throne speech, I took quite a bit of time to try to make the links between the throne speech and what I thought might happen or should happen in February when the budget came around. I identified things in the throne speech that I wanted to see financed and identified things that were not in the throne speech with which I hoped the budget would deal. Specifically, I identified health care, a significant increase to buy change, the health council, which we are discussing now, and guaranteeing the sustainability of the health care system.

I spoke of increased funding for disabilities, in particular around the disability tax credit. I talked about the innovation agenda and increased funding for the granting agencies, more money for SSHRC, indirect costs made permanent, aboriginal issues, particularly in terms of infrastructure and opportunity, Kyoto and other environmental issues, a national infrastructure program that was more predictable, developmental funds, an increase in national defence and so on. I also spoke of my disappointment in the fact that I did not think the CBC got just treatment in the throne speech.

To take that to what we got in the budget, I am pleased with the significant increase in funding for health. I think it was the issue to which Canadians were looking to the government the most. In my case I had two forums in Fredericton on health care, once in advance of Romanow and once following Romanow but before the premiers and the Prime Minister met, and I had one in the fall on the budget itself. In all three of those forums they pretty much said the same thing. They wanted a significant increase in funding with an emphasis on primary health care and home care, catastrophic drug care, human resource issues and the need for this to be accountable.

The money is there. Certainly we could always use more money but I do not think anyone can deny that it is a significant increase in funding. It is important the way we structure the third party audit, if I could call it that, so the federal government and the provinces will not be constantly fighting over who is doing what and who is holding up their end. The Canadian public frankly is tired of that.

The second issue of which I spoke had to do with disabilities, an issue quite important to me. I was pleased to see the $80 million around the disability tax credit and the establishment of an advisory group of concerned Canadians. I also was pleased to see the $50 million child disability benefit for low and modest income families.

I was also pleased to see the employment insurance change to allow for people to attend to their disabled children and so on, but I would like to see the disability tax credit made refundable. That is critically important because the people who were shut out of the program now are the ones who can afford to be shut out the least.

I would welcome the motion from the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. The member did not hear a denial of consent from this corner.

On the innovation agenda, I was very impressed with the $1.7 billion in new money over three years. I live in an IT university, knowledge based community of Fredericton, with a wonderful municipal council that is doing a great job for the citizens of Fredericton.

There were items in the budget that were particularly important to us, such as more money for Genome Canada. We have a potato research centre in Fredericton with perhaps up to $12 million in potato based research through Halifax and in Fredericton. The $225 million a year in indirect costs are very important to the small universities throughout Atlantic Canada and across Canada because the formula that is used to determine how much money goes to the universities is based on a sliding scale, so the smaller the university, the greater percentage of indirect costs are covered. That is very welcome news to Atlantic Canada. I hear my friend from Musquodoboit cheering now.

In addition to that, 60% of graduate student scholarships would go to SSHRC, which again is a significant contribution to the well-being of social science research in Canada. The secondary benefit of the split of the CHST to a health and non-health transfer would give us the opportunity to seriously look at the possibility of a post-secondary education act, like the Canada Health Act, that would establish a national vision for post-secondary education and transfer funding to the universities appropriately.

I also called for increased spending for the Department of National Defence and welcome the $270 million set aside for Operation Apollo. I have a large military base in my constituency and I have occasion to meet with the families of military personnel all the time. I welcome the foreign policy defence review, but I believe we needed to make an immediate cash injection to recognize the kind of commitment these people have to our country as they make us proud in peacekeeping roles that have become synonymous with Canada.

The budget also deals with the reduction of child poverty; new spending in the aboriginal community in terms of infrastructure, water and opportunities; and the climate change initiative.

I want to mention the pension accrual rate for firefighters. My colleague from Ontario, and I forget his riding, has fought so hard for this. I must say how pleased I am for the firefighters of Fredericton that their pensions have been enhanced in that way.

The removal of the equalization ceiling is critically important to Atlantic Canada.

I still remain somewhat disappointed that there is some confusion around the investment in the CBC. As I said during the throne speech debate, as a nation we need those institutions to hold us together and the CBC is an important contributor in that exercise.

This country cannot claim the kind of prosperity that it should rightfully be able to claim unless that prosperity is shared. I think of the aboriginal community, the disability community, and I think of regions in Canada that do not share in that prosperity. I would hope that, for the next budget, we take a view of Canada that would recognize that as a nation it is not achieving its full potential if any part of the country is not achieving its full potential.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Fredericton, who just spoke. He spoke about the budget. It is interesting. He said that for him, the budget addressed health, the Kyoto protocol, defence and poverty.

I have a question for him, because this budget contains one incredible oversight, in my opinion. Last year, I took part in a tour of Quebec to discuss, among other things, the guaranteed income supplement. Thousands of poor and vulnerable seniors were forgotten by this government in connection with the guaranteed income supplement.

The scope of the problem was such that the tour and the work of the Bloc Quebecois and others resulted in finding more than 20,000 seniors in Quebec alone who are now receiving the guaranteed income supplement, an annual supplement to which they were entitled before, but did not receive. The minister, and I commend her, improved the situation by providing more information and making it more accessible.

However, there is one thing that needs to be mentioned. I am not saying that all seniors are poor, but the government is now acknowledging that for at least eight years, the poorest seniors have been denied what they needed. They were denied the minimum they needed, the vital minimum.

It seems to me that in terms of poverty, it would have been possible to find the money in this budget to give to these seniors, out of honesty. This is money that was taken from them, immorally, or that they were deprived of, immorally.

I would like to ask the member for Fredericton if he agrees with me that this budget should have included measures to reimburse these amounts owed to seniors.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for his question. I would certainly join with him in urging the government to enhance the income supplement for seniors. It speaks specifically to a targeted group and it is critically important.

The fact is that many people who are eligible have not claimed this supplement. In my own case, when this was brought to my attention, I began a massive outreach program in the community. I did two or three television programs and used my franking privileges to bring attention to this matter. I would commend that the government do anything it can in addition to what has already been done. If we find ourselves inadequate in terms of what we have done in the past then compensation should be made.

I would like to take this opportunity, because this place never ceases to amaze me in terms of being able to bring to my attention answers to outstanding questions, to identify the member that did so much good work in terms of firefighters. It was the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, sometimes we wonder why members of Parliament keep being elected all the time. We have the fine member for Fredericton who has one of the finest Picasso's in the country hanging right in the beautiful gallery in Fredericton.

I have three questions. First, I have a large military base as well, as the member knows, and he talked about his base in Gagetown. A few years ago he fought very hard to prevent alternate service delivery from happening in his riding, which happened in Goose Bay. Does he think the funding is enough for the military, especially after the recent announcement about Afghanistan with close to a thousand troops?

There is also the Coast Guard. The member comes from Atlantic Canada and he knows the value of the Coast Guard. It did not receive as much funding as we were hoping. In fact, the estimates show there was actually a decrease in funding to the Coast Guard.

My third question, could he explain why half of his party, not him personally because he supported it, but half of his party and half of the official opposition voted against Bill C-206, one of the finest pieces of legislation ever to grace the halls of Parliament?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, on national defence, the member is correct. Obviously, circumstances now make the needs even greater. I cannot speak with a lot of authority in terms of the Coast Guard. Fredericton is a distance away from the water. I do not understand why half of my colleagues did not support the member and I also do not understand why half of his did.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on the budget bill. However, before I speak on the topic of the budget I would like to talk about something which is extremely important that happened yesterday and I would like to bring it to the attention of the House, to the Canadian public, and to the Solicitor General.

Yesterday evening I was in a grocery store shopping. As I was walking down the aisle a gentleman walked by. That is incorrect. He was not a gentleman. He walked by and said to me, “Muhammad, you bloody” something. He walked away mumbling these words. For a second I was stunned and shocked. I turned around and walked over to him and said, “Exactly what did you say. Did you abuse me? Did you use racist remarks?” He was a little stunned that I had stopped him and wanted to talk to him. I told him that this kind of behaviour was not acceptable. He then tried to say that he did not say it, but the next words that came out of his mouth were “September 11”. I asked him what he was trying to say.

In light of the fact that there is war going on in Iraq, the fact that there is tension among communities, and that there are those who are against something, this should be totally unacceptable.

I want to say to people of visible minorities and others who are targets of these kinds of racist remarks to challenge the people who make these racist remarks, ask them to repeat it, and tell them that there are hate crime laws in this country that will hold them accountable. We should not tolerate this kind of comment or insult against the dignity of Canadians. Every Canadian, irrespective of race, religion or creed, has the right to walk down the street with dignity and respect. We should tell these people who make these comments, especially now, that in Canada this is unacceptable. I hope and I am sure every member of the House will send that message out that it is unacceptable.

I will now go back to my speech on the budget. The finance minister talked about the prosperity of Canada, and how that would lead Canada down the road. If I recall correctly the Minister of Finance talked about how great the budget was and that it would put Canada on the road to prosperity.

My colleague from the other side who spoke about five or ten minutes ago talked about the strain in the relationship that is now being experienced between our country and our greatest trading partner. He was trying to blame this side of the House but because his riding is next to the U.S.A. he could feel the pressure coming on.

This strain is a cause of concern, as he rightly mentioned, although putting the blame on this side of the House is something that only somebody who has his head in the sand could think about. I do not understand why he could not make that speech to his own members of Parliament to refrain from doing that.

Business leaders and other political leaders across the country are now sounding the alarm. Fine. I buy the argument that there are those who will support the war and there are those who may be opposed to the war. That is acceptable; that is democracy. It is everybody's right to make a judgment with their conscience.

It is absolutely wrong to abuse somebody for that, to call someone names, to get down to the level of personal insults. This is not an argument. A person loses an argument when he or she makes personal insults. If someone has an argument to make against a cause, then that person should stand up and make it, but when it gets to the abuse level, the person has lost the argument.

If someone wants somebody else to respect his or her argument, then he or she should learn to respect other people's arguments. There may be dissent over it. It could be a different argument, but an individual must learn to respect other people's arguments if he or she wants people to listen to his or her arguments. As far as I am concerned, certain members of the governing party have lost their marbles.

Today two witnesses appeared before the foreign affairs committee. One gentleman was from Carleton University and the other was from IRDC. The committee is dealing with a review of foreign affairs as requested by the foreign affairs minister. Both gentlemen outlined the danger of what is happening in our relationship with our greatest trading partner, which in turn will have financial consequences for Canada.

The budget presented by the finance minister should be chucked out the window because it has no relevance. What he projected will not happen. Over 40% of our economy is tied to overseas trade, out of which over 80% is tied to one country. This decision was not made by the government but was made by Canadian business people about where they are going to trade. They made the decision to trade with the U.S.A.

With those numbers, external factors play a major role whether we like it or not. Our economy is tied to the U.S.A. Over 40% of our GDP is in exports. Naturally outside influence has a major impact on our living standards. This is something that members on that side need to understand. They need to understand that if they strain this kind of relationship it will come back to haunt us on the level of prosperity.

The have provinces of Alberta and Ontario are already raising flags. It is not an issue of being for or against the war. It is an issue of whether we are insulting them because we are not with them. Could we not give them a hand? That is the issue and the government has failed.

I do not know what those members are afraid of considering that the Prime Minister has been in politics for 40 years and considering that our trade has been tied to that country for a long period of time. He should have known because he has had so many cabinet positions. It is all right to stand up and say that we are independent. That is good because we are independent. That is what this House is for. That is why we are standing and talking here. By having a close and good relationship with our friends does not mean that we cannot be independent.

Every time we talk about an issue with our friends in the U.S.A. or other allies, we bring up the issue of our sovereignty. The United Kingdom is sovereign, as is Spain. Why does it have to be here in Canada that we lose our trade relations? Britain does not have a strong trade relationship with the U.S. and neither does Spain. We have to make a judgment of strategic interest to Canada.

The budget that was presented is now irrelevant. There are going to be strains and the budget will go out the window. It may be a good budget according to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but I can tell him that with the events taking place elsewhere, it will go out the window. It is just a good budget that will remain on paper and there is a debate about whether it is a good budget. We do not agree, but it is going to remain on the paper. There are serious flaws that do not address the issues.

Of course the Liberal member on the other side is now saying that the Americans are great people, that the Americans will understand our childish actions and they will forgive us. It is not a question of forgiving anyone. Canada has to look at its own strategic interests.

We go out and trade. We have team Canada. The Prime Minister trots around the world with the 10 premiers trying to sell Canadian goods. We know our prosperity is tied with exports at over 40% of the GDP. It is quite an impressive figure. We need that. Money was spent on social services, on health care of which we are very proud in this country and rightly so, because our defence expenditures are very low. We rely on somebody else for our defence needs.

It is important that we look at our strategic interests, act accordingly. It is important that we do not act with emotions, do not pound our chests saying that we are sovereign and that we want to make a point, and in the process create a situation for which we will pay for many, many years.

I hope the Prime Minister does not leave a legacy for which Canadians will pay for generations in higher taxes, higher unemployment and a lower standard of living. I hope that is not the legacy of the Prime Minister because of events that are taking place outside the country. I do not even know why, because of a dictator who has never given democratic rights to his own people, we are jeopardizing our own future. It is beyond my understanding.

The government announced yesterday $100 million in aid to Iraq. We need to provide aid to Iraq. It is important that we provide aid to Iraq because the people of Iraq, as we have seen on television, are paying a heavy price. The country is being bombed. Innocent people are dying. Coalition soldiers are dying and Iraqi soldiers are dying because of a dictator. A unanimous decision was passed by the Security Council that he had to be brought into compliance with the request for disarmament, which he did not.

Naturally the $100 million which the Government of Canada has contributed to Iraq is extremely welcome. Our only concern, which we have expressed, is how effective it is going to be. We do not have our own presence there so we are relying on others to provide aid. How effective is that going to be? We have given money for this but we are not there. It is like giving it at a distance.

In the budget the Prime Minister has committed for the next 10 years an 8% increase in foreign aid. This will increase the foreign aid budget to close to $4.6 billion by 2010. Again, the irony of the situation is that he is not going to be in power. I do not know how it can be said that foreign aid is going to be increased until 2010 when the Prime Minister is about to leave. By February of next year he will no longer be the Prime Minister of Canada, so how that will work is beyond understanding. In talking to some of my Liberal colleagues, they expect it to carry on through pressure. The numbers that have been given are not going to tie the government down but they are hanging out there to make Canadians feel good that they are doing something.

Let us talk about doing something. Let us talk about real effective dollars that are being spent now. Let us talk about what CIDA's budget is now. Forget about 10 years down the road.

CIDA needs to re-prioritize its expenditures. Yesterday, the human rights subcommittee listened to the ambassador from Zimbabwe and talked about the dictator living in that country who has no regard for his own citizens. An extremely bleak picture presented by our ambassador on Zimbabwe. Yet sitting on the other side were CIDA officials talking about giving aid.

I understand it is not the people of Zimbabwe who are responsible for what their leader is doing. There are NGOs over there. We need to send to send a message. I am calling for CIDA officials to get out of Zimbabwe and to not give any legitimacy to that government. It is time to leave. The NGOs will carry on with human assistance. A strong message needs to be sent.

Today we are at war with Iraq because we need to send a strong message to a dictator. That is the reason we went over there. So why are we stepping back and saying that we will not send a strong message to the dictator in Zimbabwe? I am not saying we are going to invade the country. I am not saying we have to attack him. We have to tell him that he will get no legitimacy by our presence there. We need to remove our officials.

Will that stop humanitarian assistance? No. Sometimes we need to give responsibility to the other side. We seem not to do that. What we seem to do is say that we will take their travel rights away. Who cares? If we take travel rights away from this Mugabe fellow, it is not a big deal. The next minute, we see a big picture in the Globe and Mail showing the guy in France, with the president of France giving him a red carpet welcome. Imagine that. What travel did we stop? What kind of games are we playing with the poor people over there?

In wrapping up my debate, this is a budget only on paper. Events have taken it. I hope the government will realize the damage it is doing. Pretty soon the government may have to present a new budget, but hopefully by that time the Prime Minister will be gone.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing the House that the Senate has passed certain bills.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 27, 2003

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Louise Arbour, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 27th day of March, 2003, at 5:00 p.m., for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck,

Secretary to the Governor General

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, Public Service.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member and I must say that although he raised some very important issues regarding foreign affairs, I would have to say I understand why he did not spend a lot of time on the budget. He did not want to talk about the fact that the debt has gone from 71.5% five and a half years ago down to 44.5%. He did not want to talk about five consecutive surpluses or better. He did not want to talk about economic growth of 3.2% this year and projected growth of 3.5% for next year, or the fact that we contributed in a health care accord with the provinces $34.8 billion over five years, or the fact that the $100 billion tax cuts over five years are still going on.

Obviously there is the fact that with the finances of the nation Canada is the only G-7 state paying down the national debt. While our national debt is going down, Japan's is up to 130% of GDP, for example, so I can understand why, with all this good news, the hon. member did not want to talk too much about the budget.

But the reality is that the budget affects the lives of each and every Canadian here. It impacts on cities. It impacts on families. That, I think, is important.

The member talks about our commitment. Internationally, it is $2.2 billion over 26 months for the Canadian armed forces, our commitment in Afghanistan to help our American allies, to relieve them in the war on international terrorism.

The fact is that the government does not need to take second place to anyone when it comes to strong fiscal management and when it comes to prudence. The fact is, and I would point this out again, that the minister has dealt with a number of issues and particularly in terms of transparency and accountability in the budget. These are things that Canadians want.

If we want to have a debate on foreign policy I would suggest that it may be for another time. I would certainly like to engage on that in particular, and I would agree with his comments about Mr. Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Kim Jong-il of North Korea. I think the question, though, on that one would have to be that since all countries are governed by their national interests, in this case I would have to say that for the hon. member to suggest a policy of removal of anyone by any state, that is an issue which I think needs to be debated in the House.

Since we have outlined to the hon. member very carefully the good work that is going on and the positive things that have been happening in the budget, I expect that hon. member to stand in his place and support this budget, because it has helped his community and other communities across the country. I would appreciate his comments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to say to the parliamentary secretary that he took quite a long time to get his government's propaganda out and that it was very good propaganda. I can argue each and every point of his propaganda, the good times and the good things that the government is talking about. We can counter argue and ask how many times he has increased the budget. The spending has increased, with a 22% increase in program spending. The member will not talk about all these things.

He talks about tax cuts. What tax cuts? Ask Canadians. He is the one who has refused to bring down EI premiums. His government enriches itself on the backs on Canadian workers. There is the Canada pension plan. It is his government that increased the Canada pension plan too.

What the hon. member did not mention is the fact that I alluded to in my speech. If his members continue putting a strain on our relationship with our largest trading partner, then his budget will have no wealth. The government will not be able to implement anything that it has stated because it will be facing a major crisis.

It is time that his Prime Minister and his people who are opening up their mouths see that it is not right for somebody else to jeopardize our prosperity. Otherwise he will have nothing to brag about in what the government is trying to do right now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary had some friendly criticism for the previous speaker, pointing out that he had forgotten to talk about various things in this budget. For example, he forgot to mention the alleged 7% reduction of the debt.

However, I could add that the hon. member forgot to say in his speech where the money to pay down the national debt came from. He forgot to say that some $40 billion came from the employment insurance fund. This money did not belong to the government but to the workers, including those from the forestry industry in our region, which is grappling with a system where the mills are closing due to the government's neglect and the agreement with the Americans.

He also forgot to say that, in terms of the money taken to pay down the debt, over $3 billion belongs to seniors, who are among the poorest members of our society and who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement that the government deprived them of for eight years. In fact, $3 billion of the amount used to pay down the national debt did not come from the wealthiest members of our society but from the poorest; they are owed this money.

I would like the member who had the floor to answer my question. Could he elaborate, for example, on these two subjects?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc for bringing up a very good point. After listening to the government propaganda, what the government forgot to say was that a billion dollars went down with the gun registry. Let us talk about the GST fraud. Let us talk about the softwood lumber dispute that is going on where my colleague comes from and about the forestry workers who are facing this massive problem. These are situations the government will not talk about. My colleague is absolutely right. I have had seniors come into my office who have had piddly little increases in their Canada pension plan.

Let us talk about GST fraud for a second. Revenue Canada will go looking for seniors for $10 or $50, which may have been an overpayment or something, and yet GST fraud is going on through the back door. There is an old saying, “Don't let an ant go in the front but an elephant can pass in the back”. That is what the government talks about when it allows the gun registry to cost a billion dollars. Like the Prime Minister said, “What is a billion dollars? It is loose change”. Let us ask our seniors. It is not loose change. It is hard earned money for people who have to make ends meet.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who just spoke and of course his colleague from Elk Island, two Alliance members who are from the family values party, which we have heard about from that party many times, and who supported Bill C-206, a bill to offer compassionate care leave for caregivers in our country.

I know that one good thing about the Alliance is that it allows free thought and free votes in its party and I support that. We have heard the words family values many times from the Alliance Party. I would like to ask the member to comment, if he could, as to how the leader and the former leader of that party could vote against the bill. Half the Liberals voted against it too, but I am just working on the Alliance right now.

How were Alliance members able to stand up in the House and purport to be a party of family values when all I asked was that this bill, which would offer assistance to caregivers, at least be debated in a committee? They did not have to agree with the bill. The member supported it and so did his colleague, but his front bench and the official opposition leader said no. All we asked was that it go to committee.

I know why the Liberals did not go for it, which is despicable in itself for half of them, but why did the leader of the Alliance Party and his colleagues vote against that great recommendation in regard to, again, one of the finest bills ever to enter this great hall?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I regret interrupting my colleague because I am sure he has a good answer to the question, but it seems to me there is a standing order which does not allow us to reflect on a vote that has been taken in the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member raises a point of order on something that is new for the Chair. I will get back to the hon. member, if he will allow me a few minutes so I can check the Standing Orders. However, I will allow the hon. member for Calgary East to answer the question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it was my understanding that the leader of the NDP had appointed another critic to look after Alliance affairs. I see that my other colleague has taken up that responsibility, which is very good.

However, I will say this. As far as I am concerned, I voted with the member's bill because I felt it had merit. As far as I am concerned I voted for his bill and he is more than welcome to ask the rest of the question when my leader is speaking. Let me tell him that my leader made it a free vote. He gave an opportunity for the caucus to address that issue. That is an excellent step, which he should appreciate.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on the budget implementation act 2003. This bill, once enacted, will implement the measures of the budget that was delivered by the finance minister in this chamber on February 18. That budget built on the very fine work of the former finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, as he built the economy into a sound footing. We got our government books back in order and eliminated the deficit. This budget builds on those successes and the contribution of all Canadians in dealing with a very serious fiscal situation which we encountered when our government came into office in 1993.

For example, by paying down roughly $46 billion or $47 billion on the debt, our debt to GDP ratio has fallen to 46.5% from a high of roughly 71% not too long ago. This will go to 40% within the next two to three years. That is saving Canadians $3 billion a year in terms of interest costs. The $3 billion is an annual annuity and those moneys can be reinvested in other priorities.

This budget does just that, $3 billion for example in sustainable development initiatives and in the environment. It also builds on the $100 billion tax cut that was brought in the budget 2000 and the mini budget of the same year. It also introduces some new tax measures which I will touch on later.

Economic growth in Canada is the best in the G-7 and is predicted to be the best in the G-7 again next year. Of course, it depends to some extent on the economy in the United States and the war in Iraq. We wish our American friends the very best of luck and the very best in terms of results in the war on Iraq. That will have economic consequences as well but so far the Canadian economy is predicted to grow at a very fine rate again this coming year.

I should have said at the outset, Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Ottawa Centre.

We have made major investments in health care, $34.8 billion over five years. Our economy has created 564,000 jobs in the last year, the best again in the G-7. Unemployment, although we never like any unemployment, is at 7.4%. Although there are inflationary pressures, and inflation has risen somewhat, we still have a relatively low inflation rate. We also have good monetary policy that will manage that situation going forward.

One thing that the proposed budget implementation act will implement is the new Canada health transfer and Canada social transfer which will replace the existing CHST. The existing CHST was introduced by our government and it replaced established programs financing and the old CAP program. Now we are making another change. This is to ensure that the health funds are segregated, that there is a greater accountability in what the provinces do with the moneys that are transferred to them for health care.

As part of this transfer this new money for the provinces, the $34.8 billion over five years, there will be a greater accountability to Canadians on what the provinces do with that money. Frankly, I think we are moving to the day perhaps, and there have been pressures already from the post-secondary education stakeholders, to have segregated funds of that new transfer for post-secondary education. We have seen a deterioration there as well in terms of rising tuition fees and students with increasing debt. The provision that starts the process where the funds are segregated in the first cut. The health care funds will be separate and then the social funds will include post-secondary education and other social transfers.

We cannot forget also the tax points and the direct delivery that the government provides through Health Canada and other agencies and foundations.

The value of this most recent initiative is that the Government of Canada has said it wants to target certain health care initiatives like home care and prescription drugs. These are two areas that are growing considerably and need to be managed better. Home care can be a very effective, lower cost alternative to institutional care. To this point in time, the provinces have been slow to put the community care into the system. This targets those funds and says that we want to have more home care. It is a lower cost alternative and actually has a better patient care result as well.

We have also indicated that we are going to be putting more funding into equipment. This budget would implement $1.5 billion that would go into a trust to be used for acquiring diagnostic and medical equipment. I am assured by the government that this time around this fund will have a greater sense of accountability. We heard stories about lawn mowers being acquired under the previous $1 billion fund. In any large organization or fund there will be the odd story and the odd case of mismanagement. I am assured that this time around there is a much stronger regime to ensure that those accountabilities and funds are targeted and will go to the right places. I am very encouraged by that.

This proposed budget implementation act also implements important changes to the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. One particular aspect is very relevant in my riding, where I have a large number of convention refugees, many from Somalia. A lot of the young people are now at an age when they need to go to college or university. They were unable to access the Canada student loan program. This budget and this act would change that so those who had the convention refugee designation would be eligible to apply for Canada student loans. This is a major step because many of the refugees in my riding and their children were unable to receive a decent education, and this deals directly with that. I am very happy that is part of the budget implementation.

The budget implementation act also would implement a number of very important changes in the Employment Insurance Act. One particular aspect is the introduction of compassionate care benefits. These new provisions pay up to six weeks of special benefits to claimants who provide care or support to a gravely ill family member. Many of us in the chamber and many people across Canada have faced the situation of someone being gravely ill, either dying or in a very precarious position, who seek the support of their family members. Many family members work and this provides an opportunity for family members to support the ailing member of the family. That is a very positive thing.

The budget also sets the premium rate for the year 2004 at $1.98. Since the government launched this program, every year for the last seven or eight years it has reduced the employment insurance rate. That has saved employers and employees about $9 billion since we started this program. The Minister of Finance has also indicated his intent to come up with a new rate setting process, one that is more transparent and reflects the true cost of insurance. That has to be looked at over a business cycle because we do not want to be in a situation where we have to go back and increase the rate if the economy moves into a slower pace of growth.

That is a very important announcement and one that I think helps to clarify for many Canadians the fact that there is no employment insurance fund. I believe it was in 1984 or thereabouts when there was an employment insurance fund and it was in a deficit. At that time, under the previous administration, the government was in deficit. The auditor general said that the unemployment insurance fund, as it then was called, needed to be consolidated with the consolidated deficit of the government to paint a truer picture. Therefore the fund at the time was consolidated in with the consolidated accounts of the government.

That fund does not exist any more. In fact seven out of the last ten years or thereabouts that the employment insurance notional fund has actually been in deficit. The Canadian taxpayers have subsidized or supported that deficit in the notional employment insurance fund. It is true that over the last few years the surplus has grown quite considerably.

However I notice there is some business in the Senate and presumably I will be able to finish my remarks when we get back.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Unfortunately, I must tell the hon. member that he was at the end of his debate one minute ago. There is no time.

On the point of order raised by the member for Elk Island I would like to thank him. He has raised this point of order before. It is Standing Order 18 to which he was referring. For the benefit of most members, I will read Standing Order 18, which states:

No Member shall speak disrespectfully of the Sovereign, nor of any of the Royal Family,...nor use offensive words...No Member may reflect upon any vote of the House, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.

Furthermore it is stated in Marleau and Montpetit, House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 495:

It is not in order for Members to “reflect” on (i.e., to reconsider or go back upon) votes of the House, and when this has occurred, the Chair has been quick to call attention to it.

The Chair unfortunately was not quick enough but I thank the member for Elk Island for bringing that to my attention. I caution members, especially the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, to please not mention the votes of members in the House. I thank the member for Elk Island.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, we really hear it all in this House. I just heard the previous speaker say that the government had invested in health. He failed to mention that the provinces suffered cuts in health care. The government eventually gave part of the money back, but not all of it. This is money that belongs to the provinces, and health is an area of provincial jurisdiction.

Moreover, he said they had made sure that the money would be properly spent. A system had been put in place to ensure accountability in how the provinces spend their health care dollars.

I think he forgot to say that the federal government is probably the last one who should offer advice on how to spend money properly.

I would like to hear him briefly on the sponsorship scandal, where money was paid for services that were never provided. I would also like to hear him on gun control, and the 11% or 12% increase over the initial budget.

Is this the example the federal government is setting the provinces. It wants to control the provinces and show them how to spend in health. I would like him to comment on that because I find that not only insulting but also completely wrong.

I think—and I take Quebec as an illustration—that we could give the federal government a few examples of proper spending. One good way, and the hon. member could address that as well in his comments, would be to withdraw from areas of provincial jurisdiction and stop this systematic duplication. I would like him to comment on these issues.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from the other side of the House very much for his comments.

With regard to the amount that was transferred to the provinces under the Canada health and social transfer, when our government faced a deficit in 1993 of $42 billion, everything was on the table. Everything had to be reduced or the government was faced with a very serious dilemma. In fact the amount that was cut from direct government programs, forgetting the transfers to the provinces, was significantly more than the cuts that were made to the provinces. The provinces were also given much lead time so they could adapt to those changes.

Once we returned to surplus, the Canada health and social transfer was increased significantly. As I said earlier, it is $35.8 billion in this budget over the next five years.

The other point I should highlight is that the Province of Quebec for example receives equalization. The equalization that the government pays to the provinces is approximately $10 billion a year. Of that $5, billion goes to the province of Quebec.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Deputy to the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Royal Assent

5:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-29, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003—Chapter 3, 2003.

Bill C-30, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004—Chapter 4, 2003.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.