House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was year.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition from the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, specifically from the federal riding of Témiscamingue, in which the petitioners ask Parliament to put pressure on the federal government so that it ends the transitional measures, raises benefits for workers and adopts a real, universal employment insurance plan.

We must be particularly sensitive to workers in the softwood lumber industry, who have been seriously affected by the measures imposed by the Americans, and also workers in seasonal industries.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first petition calls upon Parliament to take whatever steps are necessary and required to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I present calls on the Government of Canada to have provision of affordable disability supports such as an adaptive devices program for all Canadians who are blind, visually impaired and/or deaf and blind.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following petitions presented in the House is deemed referred to several standing committees of the House as follows: Petition No. 3730183 presented by the hon. member for Red Deer to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario


Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 45 will be answered today.

Question No. 45Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

With regard to the way that shipyards of the South Shore—St. Margaret’s constituency are barred from the pursuit of maintenance and structural repair contracts due to the United States Jones Act, chapter 46 United States code USCS, appendix 688, which stipulates that no more than 20% of structural work on U.S. vessels can be done outside the United States, what avenues are being pursued by the government to rectify this situation and bring substantial economic gain to Nova Scotia and other Canadian shipyards?

Question No. 45Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Jim Peterson LiberalMinister of International Trade

The Jones Act, a collection of U.S. maritime laws, and other marine legislation, imposes a variety of limitations on foreign participation in the U.S. domestic maritime industry. These restrictions, coupled with the national security, defence-related prohibitions of the Byrnes-Tollefson amendment, which precludes the acquisition and repair of ship hull structures by non-U.S. entities, effectively limit Canadian participation in U.S. shipping activities.

Despite continued calls, both within the U.S. and internationally, for reform of its maritime laws, the United States continues to maintain the U.S. Jones Act and its cabotage and cargo preference restrictions. Canada has been particularly vocal in seeking the liberalization of these restrictions in the context of trade negotiations, such as the NAFTA and the WTO.

Although in the past the U.S. allowed for two exceptions to its Jones Act provisions, there is no indication it intends to alleviate further the current restrictions in its maritime laws. Under the first exception, Canadian yacht producers benefited from a waiver, exemption, for foreign passenger vessels carrying fewer than 12 people. Second, following NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. undertook to clarify interpretation of allowable ship repair levels done outside the U.S., an action which benefits Canadian shipyards by allowing the replacement in Canada of up to 7.5% of the hull and superstructure of a vessel and up to 10% with pre-authorization.

Canada participates in various international bodies which provide regular opportunities to raise concerns regarding the Jones Act. The most recent example was at an informal meeting at the World Trade Organization in November 2003 where members had the opportunity to question U.S. officials on the Jones Act in advance of the WTO’s 2003 review of the act. The U.S. responded that neither congress nor the administration was prepared to consider changes to the legislation, and no amending action was likely in either the short or long term.

Issues relating to the Jones Act are discussed regularly at shipbuilding and industrial marine advisory committee, SIMAC, meetings. Industry stakeholders have recommended that the Government of Canada take stronger measures to gain an exemption for Canadian shipyards under the Jones Act. The Government of Canada continues to be ready to explore any bilateral or multilateral route to reduce or eliminate this barrier to market access.

The Canadian shipbuilding and industrial marine industry must be able to compete globally if it is to achieve growth. Accordingly, the government has developed the structured financing facility (SFF) to encourage shipowners to commission new building projects in Canada. Upon qualification and project approval, the SFF provides financing cost support of up to 15 % of the cost of the project to shipowners who commission new buildings or overhaul existing vessels at Canadian shipyards. This support is applied in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, understanding on export credits for ships.

It is recognized that there are systemic subsidization and overcapacity issues in the global market that inhibit the ability of Canadian shipbuilders to compete on a “level playing field”. The Government of Canada is participating in the OECD shipbuilding negotiations in an effort to achieve an international agreement prohibiting government subsidization of the shipbuilding industry. Such an agreement would enhance the competitive position of Canadian shipbuilders over the medium to long term by reducing trade distortions in the global shipbuilding market.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario


Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 36 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 36Routine Proceedings

March 29th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

With regard to all contracts (including amendments) awarded by Health Canada in each fiscal year since 1993-1994, what was: ( a ) the value of all contracts for communications, polling, speech-writing and stategic analysis; and ( b ) the name of the vendor, the amount, the purpose, the deliverables, and the names of other firms competing for the procurement of each?

Return tabled.

(Return tabled)

Question No. 36Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 36Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 36Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 36Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following questions on the Order Paper is deemed referred to the several standing committees of the House as follows: Question No. 42, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North, to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

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

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

When the House broke for question period, the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville had the floor and there remained to him three minutes in the time allotted for his remarks.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to complete my remarks. I was describing the hardships borne by the people of my riding because of the fiscal mismanagement of this government.

The recent financial injection is very welcome for farmers, but it only helps those who are left in the agricultural sector. Even for most of them, it is rather ineffective.

It took the government 10 long months to finally come up with something to offer our cattle producers. However, in those 10 months ranchers have lost so much money that they have had to choose whether to feed their animals or feed their families, whether to waste fuel transporting an older cow to auction or waste a bullet to eliminate one more cull cow, and whether to trust this government will come through with some help or sell a farm that has belonged to a family for 100 years. These are some of the decisions they have to make.

Every day another auction is being held in my riding, selling off whole herds and in some cases entire farms, all because Liberal aid came too late. For some who are selling their farms, they are also selling the only home that they have known and a family heritage piece. The tragedy is not only in witnessing the loss of a livelihood, it is in knowing that the livelihood is lost because this Liberal government could not get its act together quickly enough to deal with the crisis.

Tragedy is seeing farmers sell their homes because this Liberal government made them wait for compensation just so it could have a photo opportunity to announce aid to the agriculture sector. Tragedy is seeing the resentment on the faces of those people abandoned by this Liberal government. What does the government have to offer those who already have had to leave behind 100 years of family tradition and heritage? Members can believe that the picture-perfect press conference last Monday in southern Alberta did nothing for those farmers who have already gone broke.

With the death of our farms, we are also seeing the death of our rural communities. As the population ages, more and more people are moving to the cities. My riding has seen the migration of people to the city. Farms are being abandoned and with that comes the closure of businesses and schools.

Since 1997, one school division in the Yorkton--Melville riding saw four of its eight schools close before the division amalgamated with the city division. One community fought so hard to save its school that in the end it formed its own school division in order to remain open. Another school in the division has been granted one more year before its closure. Parents are struggling to keep even elementary schools open so that children as young as five do not have to sit on a bus for an hour each morning and again each afternoon.

While cities are seeing population explosions so great infrastructure projects cannot keep up, the rural communities are fighting to survive. A half hour drive one way for a jug of milk or the mail is a common event for rural people. As our agriculture industry continues to slump under Liberal rule, rural communities will continue to disappear. That half hour drive will become 45 minutes and then it will become an hour. There is resentment toward this government and how it has abandoned our rural population.

Just like the rest of Canada, my constituents are well aware of the little surplus game that the Prime Minister likes to play. They know the Liberal way: underplay the surplus only to see the surprise and delight on the faces of the Liberal bigwigs when they reward Canadians with supposedly unexpected money. Nobody is falling for it. Canadians do not want to pay into a surplus so that the Liberals can play the role of hero and suddenly hand out money just before election time.

No matter how we look at it, the Prime Minister is not suddenly coming up with more money for health care or the cities. It is still our money, but the Liberals just hoard it and that suits their purpose. In this case, the purpose will be an early election call and an attempt to buy votes with taxpayers' money. I am sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but my constituents and voters across the country cannot be bought off. In fact--

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but I have tried my best to accommodate him on his three minutes. He has gone a little over. The hon. member for Athabasca.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back in the House today to participate in this budget debate, having been away for a while contesting a nomination back in Alberta. Of course that process gave me a great opportunity to connect with hundreds of people in my riding and get a sense of how they are feeling these days about the government and its budget. It is a real opportunity to be able to bring those thoughts back to the House.

Of course there is a huge amount of distrust out there among the public concerning the government and this budget, particularly when we look at the budget and see that really there is nothing new to speak of in it. With a few exceptions, it is simply recycled promises from the last 10 budgets of the government. We could not believe in the government following through on those promises in the last 10 years, so I do not know why anyone would believe that it will be any different this time.

The Liberal government claims that it is new and changed, but besides the facelift that the front bench has been given, the Liberals have not created any new initiatives. The budget just gives more proof to Canadians that the government is stagnating and has nothing new to offer.

For instance, we see no return of tax dollars to overtaxed Canadians and Canadian families. There is no reduction in individual tax levels, and the promise to reduce them seems to be absolutely empty. Do members know why it is empty? It is empty because the government and the Prime Minister had 10 years to do better and did nothing. Why should Canadians believe any of these promises in the new budget when the Prime Minister, as finance minister, had 10 years to make them happen? He had his chance and that chance is past.

The budget tries to make the claim that the government can be trusted to manage public funds, but clearly it cannot. We have continued record levels of spending. The government has been exposed as ripping off taxpayers in scandal after scandal. The government has been exposed as wasting taxpayers' dollars in program after program. This budget will change none of those things.

What reason has this government given Canadians to trust it? For a decade, the Liberal government has refused to create a genuinely independent ethics counsellor, failed to allow Parliament to review its appointments, failed to prudently spend Canadian tax dollars, failed to deliver on municipal infrastructure programs that adequately meet the needs of our communities, and failed to clean up contaminated sites such as the Sydney tar ponds.

These do not seem to be promises that were followed through on and, more so, they are failed attempts to pull the proverbial wool over Canadians' eyes.

I am my party's critic for natural resources. The budget has promised $70 million for mapping purposes in the Arctic as well as on the east coast. The government should have used this opportunity to start mapping the west coast, where there has been a moratorium in place for the past 32 years. The area off the Queen Charlotte Islands on Canada's west coast is believed to contain some 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 10 billion barrels of oil. With the moratorium lifted and the go-ahead to begin development, the west coast offshore drilling project could be one that brings British Columbia back to being a have province.

It would have a positive effect, not only on the local community and the province of British Columbia but also on Canada's oil and gas supply as a whole. With the technology available today, it is possible to develop energy resources without destroying the environment. As well, the record of offshore drilling in Canada is an exceptional one, as we have never had any major oil spill due to offshore drilling.

The government's involvement in Petro-Canada is a relic of the old national energy policy. The Conservative Party has long held that it should sell its stake. The free market is the best mechanism to determine prices at the pump. The government should get out of the business of selling gas.

The revenues from the sale of our $2.25 billion stake in Petro-Canada should not and must not disappear into the black hole of general revenues of the government. The profits should be used for fixing environmental problems that affect Canadians day to day in the prevention and elimination of air and water pollution.

The money from the sale needs to go to programs that are well defined and managed as well as having the ability to be measured. Gone should be the days when money is just thrown into programs that are more dreams and less reality.

The reduction of smog in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary is an environmental priority that is a reality. If it is not used for this purpose, then the profits should be used to pay down the federal debt which is a result of the creation of Petro-Canada and should not be used to pay for more Liberal boondoggles.

Like everything the Liberals do, their timing is off. The government has waited too long. A month ago Canada's share of Petro-Canada stocks was worth $3.3 billion. Who knows what it will be by the time it finally gets around to actually selling the shares.

I, along with millions of Canadians, thought that in 1993 the Liberal government's plan was to eliminate the GST. It is now 2004 and this tax, which created endless surplus dollars for the government, seems nowhere near being eliminated. This money could be better used by returning the massive surpluses to taxpayers' pockets instead of ripping them off and taking it out.

The EI surplus, or EI ripoff, is sure to continue with an increase of $4.3 billion. The surplus will go from $43.8 billion last year to $48.1 billion.

The overspending on the ridiculous gun registry will continue. As well, the government has created an incredible amount of room for spending scandals in the future. The government's spending is rising, but the outcome for Canadians is not changing.

We have seen tragically in the past few months that our soldiers are dangerously ill-equipped. When will the government start making decisions for the betterment of Canadians, not for the betterment of its individual luxuries?

This new budget also promises an aid package for farmers hit by BSE. This aid is long overdue and much needed in this torn industry. Canada's case of BSE was detected 10 months ago and our beef industry has been suffering since. I have a hard time believing that the announcement came in a genuine act of support and concern. I believe it came more as an act preceding a federal election campaign. Sadly, it does nothing to address the issue of surplus cattle on farms, nor what to do if the U.S. border does not open soon. This aid package did not include any solutions for that situation and therefore is left wanting.

The budget reannounced a $2 billion Canada health and social transfer supplement promised in the previous budget. I think it has been announced five times now. The government announced $665 million over three years for the new public health agency that does not exist yet. Both measures were promised in the throne speech.

When the current Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut $25 billion in purchasing power from transfers to the provinces for health and education. Without this money, provinces were forced to double tuition fees in the 1990s and put more of the burden on students. I must point out that the government has made more promises to assist students, but its track record has been less than stellar for the past 10 years.

For instance, the government has not met any of the education targets it set out in the 1998 budget. If a budget from four years ago which the Prime Minister himself presented failed, why then would we believe that this one would work?

The millennium scholarship program has been so unsuccessful that even the government's own review has realized that it was flawed. Like this program, most of the other programs announced in the 1998 budget have failed to deliver even half of the money promised to our students. Our students are buried in debt.

The government has attempted to do something positive in terms of education, such as the Canada learning bond which would allow an RESP contribution of up to $2,000 for low income families. It is a good effort but quite frankly, who can predict what tuition fees and education costs will be 18 years from now? To help students in the first year and abandon them in the following years is unforgivable.

I could go on and on, but obviously I am out of time. I will save the rest for another opportunity.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Paul Bonwick LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Student Loans)

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure and an honour to address the budget delivered last week, and on behalf of the residents of Simcoe--Grey and I believe on behalf of the majority of Canadians, to indicate how they feel about this budget and how this budget has impacted them.

In Simcoe--Grey the budget will have widespread positive impact. Certainly it will provide excellent footing for me to continue to work closely with municipalities, to continue to work closely with student groups, to continue to work closely with all those in my riding who are truly interested in providing a brighter future for many generations to come. The budget, in some of the things that I will articulate, does that very thing.

We have to put into context how this budget was delivered and compare it to other G-7 countries as well. It is important that Canadians do not simply listen to the opposition, or for that matter listen to the government, but clearly look across the board, look at our competitors, look at the industrialized nations of this world and see what their economic track records are compared to our economic track record. The results are stunning. The results are not only stunning simply because of our track record as compared to theirs, but also because of the impact it is having on Canadian society. That is the true measurement.

We can sit here today and we can reflect back over the last few years. Not that long ago, for example when I ran, we were dealing with an unemployment rate that was almost 12%. In many regions it was far beyond that. As members well know, it was not that long ago when we were sitting here looking at youth unemployment rates of 15% to 20% in this country. The unemployment rates were even higher than that in some areas, such as in northern Ontario.

We have to have some measuring sticks. We have to look at where we were, where we are, and most important, where we are going. I would propose to members and to all Canadians that there is only one party in this House that is focused on where we are going and how to get there for the betterment of all Canadians.

It is no secret that this government has run seven consecutive balanced budgets. Under the stewardship of the former finance minister who is now the Prime Minister, this government has turned around the country's economic situation, the likes of which no other country in the world has accommodated.

Not that long ago one of the major financial daily newspapers in New York called Canada a developing third world nation. It talked about us in terms of moving toward a developing nation by way of our finances, by way of our debt, and by way of our $43 billion deficit. The rest of the world looked at our country not as a ripe environment for investment, not as a ripe environment for business expansion or to maintain existing business. Double digit interest rates, families paying huge amounts of money on relatively small mortgages, the car market, the auto sector, people trying to finance cars with double digit interest rates; these things were all having a catastrophic impact on the economy.

Under the stewardship of the former finance minister who is now the Prime Minister, that changed. It did not change simply because of the people on this side of the House. It changed because Canadians bought into that vision. It was done on the backs of hardworking Canadians and we were able to change the economic status of this country.

Then all of a sudden in 1997-98, in that same financial newspaper out of New York we read of the G-7 economic miracle. Imagine that, a country like the United States with all its wealth and all its power, recognizing Canada out of the OECD or out of the G-7, saying that we are the economic miracle, that we were able to turn our economy around. That is where we were and this is where we are.

We now flutter around a 7% unemployment rate. It is important to recognize that 93% of this population's workforce is working. Is that not an incredible thing? When unemployment rates are rising in the U.K., rising in Germany, rising in France, rising in the United States, and we compare Canada as an investment opportunity for foreign and domestic businesses to keep their dollars here, what better than to sing the praises of what Canadians have accomplished over the last seven years? They have accomplished a lot.

I commented earlier about the $43 billion deficit, the $586 billion debt that had accumulated over a period of 30 some years. What a thing to leave to our children, that kind of debt to GDP ratio. It is unacceptable. It is not unacceptable simply from my vantage point, the Prime Minister's vantage point or the finance minister's vantage point. It is unacceptable to the next generation. We owe them more than that.

I cannot speak highly enough about the commitment the finance minister has made with regard to keeping our debt to GDP ratio on a downward track. What that means to Canadians is almost difficult to comprehend. Ten years from now we very well may be at a 25% debt to GDP ratio.

We are already in tremendous shape and moving in the right direction. These accomplishments cannot go unnoticed, because when we notice these accomplishments, we do a couple of things. We establish consumer confidence in this country. People have a sense of confidence that this is a good economy and a strong economy. When we are able to do that, they feel comfortable investing their money in retail. They feel comfortable putting their money into investments. They feel comfortable with a stable political and economic environment. That is exactly what we have created.

My constituents have been loud and clear in the numerous town hall meetings that I have held over the last number of years that we need to focus on debt reduction. The debt to GDP ratio is very important.

It is also important to recognize that we are saving $3 billion each and every year in carrying costs because we have reduced the hard debt as well. That $3 billion allowed us to do some pretty exciting things in this past budget.

There is $2 billion for health care, which is new money. Not only was the $2 billion there, but there was also a commitment by the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and certainly the Prime Minister to continue to work with the provinces on tackling the major issue we call health care to make sure that the country has a sustainable medicare system, a universal health care system that is enjoyed by all. I do not think we can put a price on that. That is one of the cornerstones of Canadian society.

This government has invested over the last three years over $30 billion more in new health care spending. What are the results of that? We are seeing a new era in federal-provincial relationships.

When the Prime Minister came to office in December last year, he made some fairly significant commitments. He had been speaking about them throughout his tenure as finance minister. He certainly spoke about them leading up to the Liberal Party leadership convention in the fall of 2003.

He talked about the dawn of a new era when federal, provincial and municipal governments would work together. At the end of the day the taxpayers do not care whether it is at the provincial, municipal or federal level. What they care about is services. What they care about is three levels of government working together to achieve a better Canada and that is what is happening. We are witnessing things the likes of which we could not have dreamed about, other than on this side, 10 years ago.

I remember when people were renewing their mortgages at 11%, 12% and 13%. The carrying costs on those mortgages were astronomical. For a moderate middle income family in my riding, the difference in four or five basis points is huge. It is absolutely significant. We have to understand the positive impact that a difference of 4% or 5% has on our economy. It cannot go unsung. It is not about singing the praises of the Liberal government. It is not simply about singing the praises of the former finance minister, the present finance minister or the Prime Minister. It is about instilling a sense of confidence, a sense of recognition in the hard work in which Canadians have participated to right a wrong, to create an economy that is an absolute leader. Canadians know that. They need the opposition and government to buy into this kind of promising new future.

Clearly, I come from a rural riding, the riding of Simcoe—Grey. The largest municipality in my riding of about 25,000 is New Tecumseh. A number of the smaller communities within my riding need the support of the federal government.

I was the chair of the southwestern Ontario caucus for two years in 1997 and 1998. You were there, Mr. Speaker, when our caucus pushed so aggressively for a sustainable long term commitment for infrastructure in the country, to recognize that the government had an obligation to work with municipalities because of their limited tax base and to partner with them to see some of the very critical things moves forward within their respective jurisdictions.

We yelled loudly in the House. We yelled loudly in caucus. At the time we told the finance minister, the industry minister, the prime minister and cabinet that we had to do this, not for our political fortunes. We had to do it for the fortunes of the young people in our riding and to provide opportunities for them. If we are supposed to grow in rural Canada, ridings like my own need help. We need help from the provincial government and we need help from the federal government.

When I saw the GST announcement come forward in the budget that had a widespread and positive impact in my riding, I thought once again what a great step in the right direction. However, I have to emphasize it is only a step. There are many more to go.

We hear about an infrastructure deficit that could be as high as $60 billion. We require a strategic approach, partnering with provincial and municipal governments and, quite frankly, the private sector in many areas as well to address that deficit. As we begin to address that deficit in a more aggressive fashion, what will we see? We will see opportunity for our youth.

For years, certainly my generation and ones before me, in the rural communities of Wasaga Beach, Town of the Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Essa and Clearview, saw a mass exodus of young people once they finished high school. They moved on to post-secondary education or employment opportunities in larger urban centres. Why did they do that? Because these larger urban centres were experiencing growth and development.

As a result of those budgets in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, which were significant infrastructure budgets of over $12 billion federally, we are starting to see rural areas like mine expanding. We are starting to see investment. We are starting to see expansion to the tune of several billions of dollars even in my own riding.

I think of Honda. Honda has done an incredible job of providing a massive industrial employment base within my riding, with good paying jobs and hard-working associates. It is on the map not simply in Ontario and in Canada, but all around the world as a world leader in automotive production. That comes by way of partnership. That comes by way of instilling a sense of confidence in what was effectively a Japanese based auto manufacturer. It says that this is the place to do business, that this is a place to provide opportunities for young people.

We now have a Honda employer in our riding that employs over 4,500 people in good paying jobs. It is not simply the 4,500 who are employed at Honda. Let us take that a step further and talk about the seven or nine to one job ratio that comes from an auto assembly plant. There are auto parts manufacturers throughout my riding. Gas stations, builders, plumbers, electricians are all reaping the rewards of such significant economic investment.

Why did Honda decide to invest in Canada when it had the choice of Mexico or the United States? Why did it decide to become a Canadian corporation as well? It is very proud of that, and it considers itself every bit as much a Canadian manufacturer as anyone else in this country. It decided to do that because of a right, sustainable, economic environment. It knew the potential was there to grow, and grow it has. The opportunities that it has provided goes beyond words, particularly when I think of the employment opportunities provided in my riding over the course of the last 10 years.

It is also important to recognize this giant investment that came by way of Honda, and so many others came by way of a number of different things, was not simply because of the economic environment across the country or in Ontario. It came by way of things we were able to do federally.

We partnered with the town of Alliston over a term to the tune of $8.3 million federally on infrastructure to service that plant. Not only does it service that plant, it services satellite plants and small businesses in the downtown core as well. It did things that the town of Alliston, now township of New Tecumseh, simply did not have the financial wherewithal to do itself.

When I hear the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister saying that we have not seen anything yet, that these steps have been positive and that they are prepared to do more as our finances permit, I get quite excited about those opportunities, especially in rural Canada. When we look at the makeup of the House, where else should we be investing our dollars and providing support than rural Canada? That is a critical element within my riding. We have measured the successes and we will continue to measure them. It is absolutely critical that we continue to invest in that which is our most precious asset and resource, our young people.

How do we do that? We do it in a number of different ways. We do that through creating this economic environment that allows the kind of expansion and investment. We do it by creating opportunities and partnerships with municipalities. We do it by supporting learning. I do not think we have witnessed a budget in the House for some time, which has focused in on learning opportunities for young people, like this one.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, with a special emphasis on the Canada student loan program, I could not have been more proud when I sat here and listened to the budget as it focused in on the access and financial aid issues surrounding post-secondary education and lifelong learning.

Since the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has come to office, he has been an absolute champion in this regard. I have met with him on many occasions and he has but one agenda and one focus in his mandate in dealing with this and in supporting me in dealing with it. That is to ensure that the environment is better tomorrow, that is better 5 years from tomorrow and that it is better 10 years from tomorrow than it was yesterday.

Yes, we have seen some very measurable steps come out of the recent budget. It was not invented in the House. Nor was it invented in the caucus chambers or in my office. The solutions that were presented as a vision within the Speech from the Throne and that were articulated by way of numbers within the budget came from people in the lifelong learning sectors and in the post-secondary education sectors.

When I stand and recognize the Canadian Federation of Students today, it did not go far enough. I am the first to recognize that. We have to take other steps, but the steps we have taken are good, long and are in the right direction. We have had countless meetings with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, not only here in Ottawa, or in Ontario or by visiting universities and post-secondary education centres. Keep in mind that post-secondary education and lifelong learning is not simply about universities. It is about trades, it is about technical schools, it is about community colleges and about many of the things that provide opportunity for young people in ridings like mine in Simcoe—Grey.

It is imperative for the government to remain focused and buy into the vision in the Speech from the Throne by providing access to post-secondary education and lifelong learning. That is the exact responsibility with which the Prime Minister and the Minister for HRSD have charged me.

I have been a very busy person over the course of the last number of months. We have met with over 20 different organizations, from Minister Ottenheimer in Newfoundland to UBC in British Columbia. We have met with universities and colleges, their faculties and student groups across the country. One thing can be said and said clearly: we listened, we acted and we included it in the budget. That is the kind of vision Canadians want. That is the kind of government Canadians want. I could not, as I stand here today, be more proud of the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and my caucus colleagues for creating this kind of bold vision and a budget that supports it.

I extend my thanks for the opportunity to espouse my beliefs on the budget on behalf of the residents of Simcoe—Grey.

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3:55 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will split my time with the hon. member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis.

First, this year, unlike in previous years, very few people in my riding of Saint-Jean have told me, “Claude, I have something to tell you about the budget”. No one told me, “Claude, I would like you to tell me about the budget”. No one talked to me about the budget. In fact, I would call this budget a non-budget.

Earlier, my colleague commented that 93% of Canadian workforce is working. The hon. member should also think that these 93% of those who get a paycheque must pay taxes. When a budget is presented, they wonder what is in it for them. Many are forgotten in the budget; in fact, just about everybody is forgotten. That is why I call this a non-budget.

Let us begin with employment insurance. A few months ago, the Canadian Labour Congress did an excellent study that showed us how much money each riding in Quebec and Canada is losing because eligibility to that program is restricted. For example, my riding of Saint-Jean would receive an additional $34.4 million annually if more people qualified for the program, and this has been going on for several years.

Workers and employers know that they are contributing to the program. They can see this on every pay stub. They know that, whereas 7 people out of 10 used to qualify, there are only 4 out of 10 now. And the situation is worse for women, because they hold precarious jobs, often on a part-time basis. Only 3 women out of 10 qualify for employment insurance.

People realize that this is an indirect tax. The government takes between $7 billion and $9 billion annually from the employment insurance fund to pay off the debt. It is workers and employers who are paying off the debt. Yet, that debt was not incurred by them alone, but by society as a whole.

People think that their contributions will not decrease, and they also realize that if they lose their job, they will have three or four chances out of ten to qualify for and receive benefits. When workers are entitled to benefits, there are restrictive conditions: they get benefits for fewer weeks at a lower percentage. This means that a $7 billion to $9 billion fund is created each year, which goes to paying down the debt and not to helping the workers.

I am thinking in particular of seasonal workers in the fishing and forestry industries. At any moment, they might find themselves unemployed, in the middle of winter. They are told that they have not accumulated enough weeks to qualify for employment insurance. They can qualify for benefits but will be entitled only to a certain number of weeks or else only to a certain percentage of their salary. People can see what is happening.

The government should not be surprised, today, to see that no one in Quebec likes this budget. We were the first to condemn it.

Employment insurance was not the only thing they forgot. What about seniors? My colleague for Champlain did an excellent job in this area. There were 68,000 people in Quebec, including 1,000 people in the riding of Saint-Jean, who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, and the federal government failed to tell them.

As a member, I undertook an advertising campaign in the riding of Saint-Jean. It cost me a great deal of money, but it was worth it, in my opinion. Already, 300 out of 1,000 people have been found. Members should have seen the reaction of these individuals, who are not often able to treat themselves to a meal out or a movie. Grandparents called me to say, “Mr. Bachand, I want to thank you. I will be able to give my grandchildren presents this year. I could never afford to do so in the past”.

We want to move on to the next step. We have to make this adjustment retroactive. We discovered the error last year, but it dates back to when the Liberals came into power. What are we told about this? That they will go back 11 months. When tax authorities go after someone, they go back more than 11 months.

Why not do the same thing for the elderly? They are the ones who built our society. We should ensure that they get an adequate old age pension so they can enjoy a comfortable retirement.

That is not the case today. We still have 700 individuals in Saint-Jean who did not receive the guaranteed income supplement, so we must launch another campaign to try to locate them. Once again, these people were forgotten. Nothing in this budget recognizes the work done by the elderly, all the work the previous generation did. Yet they are the ones who built our society. It is because of them that we enjoy the quality of life we do today. It is thanks to them.

What kind of recognition do we bestow upon them? None at all. We give them the barest minimum. We know that some of them are eligible for more, but God forbid we should tell them. People from their generation are sometimes not strong in reading skills, as evidenced by statistics on literacy. I am not the one saying this, and I do not mean to be negative. That generation did not stay in school as long as we did.

My father took pride in telling me “Claude, I did not go to school for long, myself, but I want you to stay in school”. He himself realized he had trouble with school. Sometimes people like him are unable to read, or can barely read, and they get no help at all from the federal government. Instead, it takes advantage of them in order to keep money from them, once again helping solve the whole national debt problem with money that ought to have gone to seniors as the guaranteed income supplement.

If retroactivity were paid, these people should get $3.2 billion. We often lose sight of the regional economic impact of such a measure. I have already referred to the figure of $34 million in EI for the riding of Saint-Jean. What do hon. members think people will do with their guaranteed income supplement? Certainly not invest it in Barbados, unlike some who have the means to do so and do not pay any taxes. Everyone realizes I am referring to the Prime Minister in saying this.

They instead hurry out to buy something for the grandchildren, or take their wife out for a meal once in a while, something they could never afford to do before. They will see a movie, or perhaps spend a little more on clothes. They will provide themselves with a reasonable lifestyle. Like it or not, the reality is this: money gets injected into the regional economy. Once again, the government does not care, and is completely forgetting these people.

Now, what about social housing? Not a week goes by that I do not hear from people in my riding wanting to get into social housing because they can no longer afford their apartment rent. Not only is this government short of ideas, it is also short of budget investments in the communities. These are also job creation measures, and measures that will enhance regional wealth.

This is all completely normal. If new housing is built, using federal investment combined with provincial investment, the people who will then be paying less for housing will have more to put into their local economy. Then there is the whole matter of the jobs directly or indirectly related to the construction of this social housing, on top of that.

Health is also a big loser. We know it is a provincial jurisdiction. We know that the government used to give 50¢ for every dollar invested in health and that today it is giving 16¢. This is with strings attached from coast to coast.

Once again, the Bloc Quebecois has always denounced this. We often say that we in Quebec have a better way of doing things. Often, obstacles are put in our way and we are told we have to do things as they are done everywhere else.

I have many other examples. Social housing, employment insurance, and seniors were all forgotten and that is starting to hurt quite a few people in society. It is no wonder people are not taken with the budget. Rest assured, they are not taken with the sponsorship scandal either. If anything, they might want to take this government to task.

With respect to the sponsorship scandal, in defence of the forgotten and against this budget, I think that dark days await the government in Canada, but especially in Quebec, where people see that money comes off their paycheques, but they never get anything in return.

That is what I wanted to say about the budget. Incidentally, I would like to say hello to my constituents in Saint-Jean. It is always a pleasure for me to speak on their behalf. At home people talk about those who were forgotten in the budget. Nonetheless, during the next federal election they will not forget which side has their best interests at heart, and that is the Bloc Quebecois.

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4:05 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to have the privilege of rising today to address the budget. Perhaps it might be more accurate to talk about a non-budget.

I have been listening to hon. members since this morning. We almost always get back to the same issues, because these are the most obvious. I would like to raise a very interesting point about health.

As regards the $2 billion promised by Jean Chrétien, the government confirmed in the budget that it would pay this amount. That money has already been spent. Therefore, it is not very beneficial to those who have to prepare provincial budgets. Their situation will not improve very much with $2 billion that are slow to come and that, in fact, have already been spent.

This investment of $2 billion raised the federal government's contribution to 16%. But since these $2 billion have been taken out, this means that the federal government's participation is 14.5%.

Mr. Speaker, I want to submit something interesting to you, because you are probably good in math. The Romanow commission said that in order to make sense, in order to make things work properly in health and to improve the situation of the provinces, the federal government's contribution should go from 14.5% to 25%. This is from Mr. Romanow, who was hired by Jean Chrétien and paid by the federal government to produce a report and make recommendations on how to improve the health system.

I am concerned about the fact that the Liberal government claims that its contribution to health is 40%. If this is the case, we should expect huge cuts in health, since the government is claiming to be already contributing 40% when in fact its contribution is only 14% when it should be 25%.

It does not make sense to lie to the public like this. It does not make any sense at all. This has become so common that we no longer believe anything that comes from this government. It is very unfortunate, but the public is firmly convinced of that. Either we should expect cuts in health, or else the government lied when it reacted to the advertising campaign run by the provinces to point out that the federal government's contribution is 16%.

There is another thing that concerns me. The government did not find new money for infrastructure. Now it is saying: “We had $1 billion over 10 years; we will spend it over five years”. Do you know something? There is not one cent more. This is not new money, and the $1 billion has already been fully allocated. Thus, if there are people and municipalities in Canada that think they can come up with projects, they are wasting their time. There is not one cent left in the fund. The $1 billion has already been allocated.

Of course, the government will spend it over five years, so it does not look too bad in its budget, so it can put more in its pockets and have more in the surplus, because it will get to spend it over five years instead of 10.

However, it is making promises, and I would almost be tempted to say that they are promises from drunkards, but it would not be very polite. With regard to highway 185, it could not care less; every week, someone dies on that highway. As for highways 20, 30, 35, 50 and 175, they were all promised to Quebec. Imagine what it may have promised to Canada. I did not look into this, but I did go to New Brunswick. They have nice highways. All highways in Canada should look like the ones in New Brunswick, where highways are very nice. I do not know what New Brunswickers did for that. They do not all vote for the Liberals.

There is another thing. In the budget, there is nothing about poverty. In 1995, the Chrétien government allowed the finance minister at the time, the current Prime Minister—as it says in a book entitled Paul Martin, CEO for Canada? , that I recommend to all Canadian citizens, we understand quite well who the Prime Minister is after reading this book—to make a huge change in public administration.

He decided that it would be the end of social programs in Quebec. Moreover, he arranged that it would never again be possible to return to social democracy in Canada. In fact, it was better to be on the right with the neo-Liberals than to arrange—as my hon. colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve said earlier—that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

What has happened is that we are no longer able to offer social programs. What does that mean, when we no longer want to share the wealth? It has two very serious consequences. It increases poverty instead of decreasing it, which leads to an increase in crime. These three things go together. The best social programs decrease poverty and criminal activity; a decrease in social programs increases poverty and crime.

Is that the sort of country this government is leading us into? That gives us one more reason to leave this country and be even more thoroughly sovereignist than before, when we discover how much this government is impoverishing us.

As for any surplus, it has been hidden. Representatives of this government have no memories. They do not recall. They do not know. They are not up to date. They do not comment on the issue. They have no opinion. But they do know how to hide a surplus.

The Prime Minister has taught the new finance minister how to hide a surplus. Why hide a surplus? So that, in 10 years, the debt will stand at 25% of the GDP. This is excellent news for Canada, and Canada will pile up another surplus. During those 10 years, some $450 billion in surplus could be accumulated, while the provinces will all be impoverished, go further into debt and have enormous interest charges to pay, since it will be difficult for them to borrow money. That is another reason to leave.

If I had the time, as before, when we had unlimited time to talk, I would take this 450-page text—its weight signifies nothing—and, on each of these pages, I could say that it is written between the lines, “One more reason to leave this country”. On every page we find that we would be better organized if we paid all our taxes to Quebec and then decided ourselves what kinds of programs to create.

There is nothing for employment insurance. There is nothing for seasonal workers. The minister may rise every day and tell me: “We are taking care of this. We are looking at the problem. We have identified that—It is possible that—” , there is nothing happening, absolutely nothing. This makes no sense.

Once again, these are promises. I said it last week: “While the shirtless, the Sans-chemise, are out on the street, the heartless are across from us in this House”. They cannot understand that this is a problem for people who are currently living through the spring gap. They have no money. When someone comes to your office and tells you that he has $1,000 less in his monthly income to support his four children, this is serious. It is a huge problem to be confronted with: you are a little too rich to receive social assistance benefits, and ineligible for employment insurance benefits.

Unfortunately, the time that was allocated to me is already over. I had so many interesting things to point out that it flew by. I hope that, no matter when we go to the polls, the people will remember that this government needs to spend some time thinking in the opposition benches.

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4:15 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak in support of the proposed federal budget.

I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Scarborough Centre.

This budget is exactly what Canada needs today. It is responsible and it is prudent in its spending. It develops a new plan for spending management and oversight. Budget 2004 presents a program of focused investments that will have an enduring impact on the lives of Canadians.

This is a budget that works hard for Canadians, Canadians who work very hard for their money. With the Canadian learning bond, budget 2004 helps young families who are working hard to enable their children to obtain an education that offers them greater opportunities.

The proposed budget works for cash-starved municipalities with GST-HST relief.

Proposals in budget 2004 work for Canadian Forces personnel and police on high risk missions by providing them with income tax exemptions for the periods when they are away performing these missions.

Budget 2004, an agenda for achievement, reaches out to Canadians, reaches into their homes and provides the tools with which they can build a better future, a future filled with opportunity.

On this side of the House we believe that every Canadian has the right for a better tomorrow. No responsible government can be all things to all people, but clearly every government has a responsibility to empower its citizens with the tools to brighten their own future.

A responsible government makes commitments to citizens' priorities. When Canada's Minister of Finance consulted with Canadians on this budget, they reflected priorities in a very clear manner: balance the budget, reduce the debt and invest in health care.

Canada's universal public health care system is the backbone of the Canadian identity. Budget 2004 reaffirms the government's commitment to work with our provincial and territorial partners, not only to reform but to reform with an eye to sustaining Canada's health care system.

With an additional $2 billion in transfers to the provinces and territories, federal funding through the 2003 health accord will reach $36.8 billion. That is an incredible figure. This brings the federal contribution to public health care spending in Canada to about 40% of the total moneys spent on health care.

The Speech from the Throne presented an agenda that reflects Canadian values, those of fairness, generosity, respect and caring, while enabling citizens to take charge of their own lives. Our goal is the success of Canadians in every region of Canada. To achieve this, we must strengthen our social foundation, we must build a 21st century economy and we must ensure Canada's role is one of pride and influence throughout the world. The proposals in budget 2004 move forward with this new vision.

There is no dispute that Canada is a nation that is blessed. Budget 2004 recognizes that we have a responsibility to share with our children and our grandchildren an even better life in an even better land. Budget 2004 institutes investments to ensure Canada's communities provide a quality of life that is second to none, and to put knowledge in the hands of all Canadians.

Kitchener Centre is part of the Waterloo region. It is an area that is rich with innovation, research and education. Canada is creating an environment in which ideas flowing from scientific discovery are being generated at an unprecedented rate. The innovations stemming from these ideas are essential to our future economic success. We simply must support our researchers.

Since balancing the budget in the year 1997-98, the Government of Canada has made significant investments in research and innovation. Funding for research and innovation has increased each year, and by 2004-05 we will have reached an investment of $13 billion.

While budget 2004 continues to support new research initiatives, we will also focus on bringing these research discoveries to the marketplace. In addition, the budget will enhance the availability of early stage capital financing to provide Canadian entrepreneurs with the opportunity to bring their innovative ideas to the market.

Our government's commitment to funding research and innovation has moved Canada to 4th from 13th place in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and to number one among our G-7 counterparts in terms of publicly performed research.

A passion for research and innovation is often cultivated in Canada's post-secondary institutions. Investing in people is an important economic investment. Learning is key to securing a higher standard of living and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

To meet the challenges of the new economy, all Canadians must be given the same tools to succeed. We want everyone to be able to contribute and to benefit from the knowledge economy. That is why the future education of Canadians now is so very important.

A post-secondary education is an imperative in today's society. Do members know that post-secondary education is required for about 70% of all new jobs created in Canada? That is why in budget 2004 our government introduces targeted measures to help low and middle income families save for their children's education.

The new Canada learning bond will provide low income families with a new incentive to encourage savings for post-secondary education. The Canadian education savings grant was introduced in 1998 and was created to encourage Canadians to save for their children's education. Budget 2004 proposes doubling the contribution rate for this program for families with incomes below $35,000.

Early learning and child care play a important role in the development of young children. Over the years our government, in partnership with our provincial and territorial governments, has developed a strong agenda in support of Canada's children.

Budget 2004 proposes to accelerate the implementation of the multilateral framework on early learning and child care by providing an additional $75 million in the year 2004-05 and another $75 million in the year 2005-06 to improve access to affordable, quality and provincially regulated early learning and child care programs. This is an incredible step forward and something that is key for many women who find themselves in the workforce. More important than it being a tool for earning income, which is something the task force of women entrepreneurs heard from the female entrepreneurs with whom it spoke over the last year, it was also key to giving families choices on what is the best role for them as parents and their children in society.

Further, over the next two years our government will commit $375 million to early learning and child care. This will create 48,000 new child care spaces, or up to 70,000 fully subsidized spaces for children from low income families.

The government wants all Canadians to have an opportunity to learn and we will provide 20,000 students from low income families with new grants worth up to $3,000 to cover a portion of their first year tuition.

Each year the Canada student loans program provides financial support for half of all full time students in post-secondary education. However students across Canada have told us that the program needs to be updated to reflect the changing realities of students and what they face today, and we agree.

We will improve the Canada student loans program to help students overcome financial barriers by increasing the loans from $165 a week to $210 a week.

This budget is built to create opportunities for Canadians to reflect their priorities and to empower their ambition. That is why budget 2004 focuses on health care, learning, communities and the economy. Each and every Canadian wants a better life than we have today. The proposals in budget 2004 lay a foundation for a nation where individuals can achieve as never before.

Budget 2004 is good news for Canadians.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the member's enthusiastic support for budget 2004. Sadly, I do not share her enthusiasm. I want to raise a few concerns.

She talked about promises to help students with education and the nice language in the budget about helping students get an education. However the promise in 1998 was to help 12,000 students with their massive debts accumulated from the Canada student loans. In the first year how many were delivered? Forty-four students actually received help when they were targeting 12,000. By 2001, approximately 600 students were helped when the government had promised 12,000. By 2003, 1,300 students were helped when the government had targeted 12,000.

How can Canadians have confidence in promises such as this when the 1998 promises have not been delivered beyond a maximum of 10%?

My final point has to do with the students and this education grant for low income families. Low income families making less than $30,000 are only surviving and yet the government puts this great program forward to put up $500 and then $100 a year so that in 15 years they will have $2,000. Student tuition is increasing by almost 40% a year. Students are on survival. This is a cynical joke that it will help--