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House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to figure out the NDP's approach on fiscal numbers and how his leader came up with $222 billion, taking into account $3 billion of contingency debt relief times 10, which is $30 billion, or $40 billion, or perhaps even up to $50 billion if one wants to be generous.

The member opposite speaks about fiscal balance, prudence, opportunity, fixing leaky roofs and paying down a mortgage once in a while. Since the NDP's numbers rarely add up properly, can the member enlighten me, the House and Canadians on how the NDP calculates $3 billion times 10 to equal $222 billion.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, there is a phrase in the House that “you never lead with your chin” and the hon. member, who I have great respect for, just did that. He talks about numbers. Have we ever once seen projections from the government on budgetary surpluses that were correct? Never.

To answer the question on where that figure comes from, if we calculate what the government is asking for, 25% of GDP, that is a $200 million drop from what it is now over 10 years. That is a fact. However, reality is that when it comes to numbers and fudging the budgets, the government is an expert at it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I just listened to that answer and I still do not understand it. I suspect it is really a non-answer.

I heard the hon. member talk about balance. I am looking at where tax dollars went in 2002-03. What would the hon. member cut? Major transfers to persons is about $40.2 billion. That is the EI money and elderly benefits. Would he cut that back to change the balance there?

There are major transfers to provinces and territories. That is about $30 billion, which is about 17% of the government's revenues. Would he cut there?

Would he cut direct program spending, which is about 35% of the money to be spent by the government, which frankly is about the only discretionary money any finance minister has? Would he not pay the mortgage payments, which he is so fond of not paying because he thinks the roof leaks? If the roof leaks, that is the major transfers. If the kids are not going to school, that is the major transfers to persons. However, people still have to pay their mortgages even if the roof is leaking. This last year we spent $37 billion on mortgage payments, plus we paid a bit of principal of $7 billion.

In the hon. member's reorganizing of our balance, just what parts he would cut? Would he cut out EI benefits? Would he cut out the elderly? Would he cut out the military? Would he cut out the transfers for health care?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would not cut them out because they have already been cut.

The member talks about the NDP not wanting to pay down the mortgage. Not once has anyone in the NDP said that we would not pay down the mortgage. We will. Like our households, a mortgage payment comes due and we pay it. The question is if we have extra money, should we put that extra money on the mortgage? That is the point of the debate.

The member talks about cuts. If he wants to know what program I would cut if I were Prime Minister right now, it would be Bill C-68, the gun legislation, a billion dollar boondoggle that wasted taxpayer money and did not provide any security for the people of this country. If I wanted to cut something, I would cut that in a heartbeat.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on the budget implementation act and to follow the very wise comments of my colleague, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

New Democrats in the House are taking the matter very seriously. We will give the bill very serious scrutiny and consideration, as we have done throughout the whole budget process, despite the fact that the government is already out across the country attempting to trivialize its importance in the eyes of Canadians.

I guess we had all thought that this might have been an election budget filled with goodies, which has been the tradition of the Liberals. They bring in a budget just before an election filled with all kinds of surprises and goodies for Canadians, only then to see those promises broken after the election and the spending on those goodies cut back drastically.

It is interesting, the Liberals did not try it this time. The tight-fistedness of this government certainly has continued through the budget, but this time around the strategy is certainly different. I suppose it pretty well had to be, given the $100 million sponsorship scandal and the multitude of other Liberal disasters now surfacing almost daily.

While the Liberals have openly admitted that this budget is about demonstrating their credibility, the reality is this budget is about saving face for the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party. Canadians are being told to put their budget priorities on hold so the Prime Minister can repair his scandal tarnished image.

What do Canadians really need right now? They need Romanow and they need Kyoto. They also need roads, affordable housing, lower student tuition, pay equity and safe water. They need all that, whether the Liberals are re-elected or not.

What are we offered instead? What is the great vision in the budget? What is the road map? We are offered accelerated debt reduction. Accelerated is what we are talking about, not whether we should not continue paying down the debt. Of course we should, and the members opposite are absolutely silly to suggest that the NDP is saying something otherwise. We are talking about the ludicrousness of the government coming forward with one national project. It is not like the old days with the national railway, or old age security or medicare. What do we get from this government? What is the legacy the new Prime Minister wants to leave this country? It is accelerated debt reduction.

We are going into the golden age of accounting. As I said in previous debates, that is good for the bankers, but it sure is not good for Canadians. We have children living in poverty, students in debt, families without affordable homes, all suffering budget whiplash as the Liberals put the accelerator to the floor on debt reduction. Urgent needs are being needlessly neglected today that will bear heavy costs in future years, both in dollar terms and in human terms.

Economists drafted another approach: the balanced people-centred alternative federal budget. Those economists point out that a better way of reducing the debt to GDP ratio is to strengthen the economy with targeted spending in the public interest by investing in infrastructure projects, health renewal, green energy production thereby generating jobs and other economic pluses.

I am glad the Liberals across the way think they are excellent ideas, but they have to make better choices. They cannot take all the surplus money and put it into a contingency fund or a prudence fund and then let it slip into paying off the debt on an accelerated basis. They cannot have it both ways. They have to have a balanced approach and that is what we do not have from the government.

As my colleague from Nova Scotia just said, New Democrats absolutely support responsible debt reduction, but we do not support ideological debt reduction. We do not support the fetish that the Prime Minister and his colleagues have with this accelerated debt reduction plan because it means sacrificing the needs of Canadians who are crying out today for the government's support and assistance.

This is the perfect budget for the conservative Prime Minister. Is it an ambitious budget to support the ambitious agenda the Prime Minister keeps talking about? Of course not, not by any stretch of the imagination.

It calls for another year on previous tax cuts with the only concrete new commitments made to setting up future privatization partnerships with Liberal corporate cronies. Program spending for the rest of us remains at 1950 levels, around 11% of GDP. The cynicism of the government does not just end there. It is true there is no imagination in a budget whose vision is limited to debt reduction. The imagination comes afterward as the Liberals try to sell Canadians on the fantasy of their election promises.

Three days after the budget was delivered, before the ink was even dry on the government's economic blueprint for the coming year, the Prime Minister was out giving speeches offering up a very different picture. He told an audience in Winnipeg “There will be more money for health care. The federal government will increase its share of funding. Roy Romanow was right”. Then why did he not deliver in the budget?

There was not a single mention of Romanow in the budget, just like the throne speech before it. There is no new money to bring the federal share of health funding up to 25% from its current level of below 17%. The Canadian Medical Association, the health care association and other health care advocates pointed with disappointment and despair to the budget's failure to dramatically improve medicare's sustainability.

The Prime Minister went on to talk about a new relationship with the provinces and territories, yet the government had met with the premiers and knew very well what they wanted to see in the budget. What has the government done to further health funding stability since December? It has played a cat and mouse guessing game about whether it would even deliver on its promised one time $2 billion from the surplus.

The same pre-election sleight of hand is going on in other areas where there was no concrete budget commitment. There are areas like employment insurance where the Liberals are announcing study groups, promising changes that were not seen in the budget or any other Liberal budget in the past 10 years. Here we are, only one week after the budget, another the Liberals will get to it later budget, waiting for an election call and this year's version of the Liberal red book with a new batch of promises.

The national child care program still has not been delivered after being promised in 1993. It is just like sustainable health care funding; like clean air and accessible education; like surplus spending equality between tax cuts and debt reductions on the one hand and program spending on the other. Unlike the Liberals' election promises, the budget tells a different story. It tells a story of 10 years of Liberal government, 10 years of Liberal neglect, largely under the financial guidance of the Prime Minister.

The lower 40% of Canadian families have less after tax income while the top 20% have seen their income rise by 16%. Unemployment consistently has been above 6% the whole time. Some 38% of the unemployed have been unable to collect benefits. There is a wider gender gap for full time, full year work and women's earnings are only 72% of men's. There are skyrocketing tuition fees. Child poverty levels are virtually unchanged. Single mothers and elderly women are more likely to be trapped below poverty. Canada's aboriginal people are still living in third world conditions.

Yes, it is no wonder that the Liberal government wants to move quickly past its conservative budget. It wants desperately to move on out of the reality of its budget failure to the glowing promises to be realized by taking a bite of the Liberal election apple. The Liberals are already well on their way trying to ride Canadians' unfulfilled hopes and dreams to another Liberal election victory.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre could clarify the ideas of her party. To me they sound like ideas from the former eastern European bloc countries, the communist ideas that they would do this and that, and there would not be any unemployment at all because everybody would have to work. Look at what happened to the nations that formed the eastern bloc countries in Europe.

I am just wondering, with all those great promises that she would implement, where would she get the money? The NDP cannot just talk and mislead the nation with empty promises without any fiscal responsibility.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me try to respond to that very simplistic view and certainly inaccurate representation of our position.

If members read very carefully the speeches that I and others in our caucus have made, they would know that mainly we are talking about Liberal promises. We are talking about broken Liberal promises. We are trying to get the government to live up to its promises and to move on its promises to Canadians.

For example the national child care program is the longest running broken political promise in the history of this country. Affordable accessible housing has been denied to many Canadians because the government chose to leave the field. It vacated this important public policy area because it just was not important enough in terms of the overall mandate of the federal government. And what about the Kyoto accord which the government signed?

What about the promise to ensure sustainable health care and preserve medicare? The government pretends it is in support of that even though every time we turn around it seems to be more interested in privatization and for profit enterprise in the health care field than in standing up for universally accessible, non-profit publically administered health care. I could go on and on with the numerous broken promises of the Liberals.

When we talk about how we would do this on a fiscally responsible basis, may we also remind the Liberals of their promise to do it by taking the surplus and dividing it equally among program spending, tax cuts and debt reduction. If we even had that much from the Liberals today, students, farmers and workers would not be facing the serious situation that they are facing right across this country. The government could have lived up to that promise instead of putting 90% to tax cuts and debt reduction and 10% to program spending.

That is the imbalance we are talking about. Is that a balanced approach? No. All the New Democrats want is a balanced approach. How do we get there? We are not suggesting cutbacks in any of those valuable areas that have been listed. We are talking about using the surplus dollars.

Talk about tomfoolery going on, it is the government that has underestimated the surplus for all these years, leaving over $80 billion in unestimated surplus and it has gone automatically against the debt. Is that fair? Is that reasonable while students are facing huge tuition increases, while young people cannot even think about their education, while patients line up in emergency wards? Does that make sense? No.

We suggest that the government take a good chunk of that surplus which it keeps lowballing, the contingency fund and the prudence fund, and start looking at the fact that there are contingencies that have to be met today. It is raining in Canada and Canadians ought to have the support they deserve. After taking the hit and helping out the government for 10 years, they ought to be given a break today. They ought to be the first priority of the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak about the budget.

In Trinity--Spadina there are people from all economic backgrounds. As a member of Parliament for the last 10 years I have tried to add extra value, whatever I could muster, to work toward creating opportunities. It has been a balanced approach that will give the people of Trinity--Spadina the tools to allow them to achieve their dreams.

Ten years ago when I first came to the House there was a $42 billion deficit, $42 billion in interest payments year after year. That was money that could have been used to benefit the many social programs that we believe in to ensure that Canadians have the standard of living to which they aspire.

The budget is a continuation of that. It is a balanced approach. It deals with the fiscal concerns. It ensures that when Wall Street speaks about third world nations, it will only look at itself. Canada is a symbol of what Canadians have done. They have sacrificed together to achieve the goals and have worked in a way that does not leave anyone behind in our society.

In the last 10 years there have been many programs that we have worked toward to ensure that side of the equation. When we lead the OECD in economic growth, in the debt to GDP ratio, we are going in the right direction. We also want to ensure that we use Canadians' money for programs that in the future will help us go forward in this new millennium with great hope and aspirations.

In Trinity--Spadina we have many things to be thankful for and many opportunities that we have to work toward to ensure that no one is left behind. We have a vibrant cultural community in Trinity--Spadina. That can be seen today in Trinity--Spadina. Cultural institutions are being refurbished and expanded to improve tourism and to add to the kinds of things that we value, our soul. The arts community and cultural community adds that to a nation. In Trinity--Spadina expansion and growth is taking place, whether it be the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Roy Thomson Hall, the Gardiner Museum, I could go on and on. The Opera House and Harbourfront Centre add so much to our community down at the waterfront.

This has been possible because 10 years ago the government came up with a process of investing in a cooperative fashion with other levels of government in an infrastructure program. It allowed us to continue to help municipalities and communities invest their money, as they would have done anyway, and to contribute along with the provincial governments. In this way it increased the number up to $12 billion of spending that might not otherwise have taken place. That has helped provide opportunities for employment, aside from tourism and many other things that make up the fabric of our communities.

There are many other things that make us proud in Trinity--Spadina. On University Avenue there is the University of Toronto and the hospitals. There is research and development. The government saw fit in 1993 to work at becoming the fourth instead of the 13th nation in the OECD group of communities. The government has increased its spending on research and development.

There are all the various programs we have put in place, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the graduates program, the programs in terms of research and development with the NRC, medical research, the CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Bright intelligent Canadians who had gone abroad to do earth shattering research now feel comfortable about coming back to Canada.

Canadians can come back to Canada because the government has reinvested tremendous amounts of money. This has created critical mass on University Avenue. We are still trying to get the disease control centre in Toronto because of all the talent that exists on University Avenue with the university, the hospitals and the biotechnology centre.

The MaRS program at University and College will be for the commercialization of talent that brings on basic research all the way through to venture capital. This will ensure that there is commercialization with good and innovative technologies and ideas, thus allowing Canada to continue to be in the forefront of the new economy which is the economy of brains and opportunity, especially on the medical side of the equation. There is a buzz in Toronto, and in Canada as a whole, because of that.

There are many places from coast to coast to coast, whether it be Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, or Halifax, where greatness is occurring, whether it be Genome Canada or opportunities on the Internet. The University of Toronto is working with England, Australia, and throughout Canada, to piece out research money that it has received from the government so it can look for opportunities to break through some of the challenges in medical science. The university is working in a cooperative manner. Many talented individuals are working together to achieve greatness.

That greatness will benefit all Canadians. They will benefit from the breakthroughs in medical opportunities so people will live longer and healthier lives. Business opportunities will be available. Canadian businesses will be able to expand, and export their goods and services. I am very proud of the work we have done in terms of research and development.

Without a post-secondary education, people will not have the opportunity to participate in the standard of living that we are talking about. Most jobs require a post-secondary education, whether they are jobs on cranes where everything is computerized or whether they are jobs in the high tech field. Everything in between requires added intelligence that comes through post-secondary education, aside from those who continue to learn through their daily experiences and do not have the opportunity to attend post-secondary institutions.

We have done a lot to ensure that low income Canadians have the opportunity to continue their learning so that economics will not constrain them to the point of not allowing them to continue to aspire to greatness.

The government has provided a learning bond in the budget for low income families. Some people will say that it is not available today, but tomorrow has to start today. The learning bond will help low income families and their children born after 2003. The government has also increased Canada student loans by providing $3,000 to low income Canadians.

There are many other things in the budget to ensure that low income Canadians will have the opportunity to get a post-secondary education, whether they have disabilities, or whether they come from a family that is not in a great position economically.

Let me speak now about communities. The Prime Minister and many of my colleagues in the provincial and municipal government, in a cooperative fashion, announced on Tuesday $1 billion for public transit. That is what the government is all about. We work in a cooperative fashion with other levels of government to ensure that $1 works 10 times over. Creativity is something we have to work toward. Entrepreneurship thinks about solving problems with the least amount of money and the least amount of work, and will in the end give Canadians the best they can possibly have.

We see a new spirit of cooperation in Ontario and throughout Canada. The government has put forward many things. The GST rebate for municipalities will allow them to use this money for other important aspects in their city living. Infrastructure projects will speed up as the money becomes available from four years to three years.

We at the federal level continue to work in our communities, in places that people often do not see, to ensure that the fabric of our society continues to work together in a way that the web is not seen.

Community centres, often with federal support, have access programs that allow those who are not able to have computers or Internet in their homes to go to local community organizations, whether they be the libraries, schools or community centres, and access whatever it is that they require or need.

We are working toward summer career placements in a way that allows those community centres to hire students in the summer in order to offer summer programs.

I could go on and on in terms of how the budget has helped sustain some of this because we continue getting calls, whether it be from St. Christopher house, University Settlement Recreation Centre, or St. Stephen's. Basically, it is about the federal government and crime prevention programs or seniors with the new horizons program. That has been put forward so that in effect communities can access some money to ensure that there is active living with seniors.

That brings me to the pleasure and privilege that I have to work for the Prime Minister on a task force for seniors to ensure we come out with a report that will ensure that low income seniors have more tools available for them so that they can live with dignity taking into account all the work that they have done to make this country as great as it is today.

There are many more things I can speak about in terms of what the government has done with this and previous budgets. Years ago I was fortunate enough to be on the mayor's task force on homelessness and we pushed, as a caucus and as a government, to find a way to create an opportunity so that the federal government would help communities, from the bottom up, find ways of alleviating homelessness.

We have a responsibility to work with other levels of government to help people who cannot help themselves, for whatever reason. Anyone of us here today can be in that situation of becoming homeless with a bit of bad luck.

We have to continue giving dignity to the people who are on our streets and who may not have the opportunities that we have here today. With the $753 million we have created many opportunities in my riding of Trinity—Spadina whether it is Eva's Phoenix or 25 Leonard. It is housing people who are homeless in terms of transitional housing and allows them to have a home and dignity, and the opportunity to work.

The other day I went to the Parkdale area. We were doing an announcement on crime prevention. The person serving at that establishment, which was a not for profit organization, said he lived in my riding at 25 Leonard.

I said, “Great. How long have you been there, is it working, how are you feeling?” He thanked me for all the work the federal government had done in helping create the SCPI program so in effect we were building many fabrics of our society within that community.

That gives me a great deal of pride, to know that in effect we are using our dollars to help real people so that they can have the kind of life that we all want for our own families.

There is lots more to be done and it is not going to be possible all in one budget. It is important that we lay foundations and that we put down payments in the direction we want to go because spending $42 billion today might cost us billions in interest payments alone and that is a shame.

We must continue working those interest payments down, so that every time we get $5 billion or $6 billion more we can put it into programs that count. That is the reason we stand here in the House of Commons and in front of Canadians, to make a difference in their lives. Without us actually trying to do that and working on their behalf, this place will not work.

I know that, regardless of which party, people come here to do their best, to give of themselves, of their families, so that we can make a little bit of a difference. We all have different approaches to this. Some of us want things faster and some of us want things slower.

In the end, we are trying our best to ensure that we take a balanced approach. We want to go toward what we are trying to achieve in the end, which is to help Canadians so that they can help themselves. The budget is continuing on that foundation and with the change of course that we have brought to this Parliament and to this country in the past 10 years.

If Canadians in the end believe that we are going in the right direction, even though there are errors along the way, I think we will come back and continue working on their behalf.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be nice to start off. I know the hon. gentleman is sincere when he speaks. I think he is a pretty decent fellow.

However, the government is still in charge. The Liberals are the government and they have been the government for 11 years. When they took power, student debt was roughly around $5,000 to $7,000 per student. It could be a little more or a little less, depending on which school the student was at and what courses were being taken.

After 11 years, tuition fees have literally doubled or tripled in some circumstances. Debt to students has gone incredibly high, to the point where many of them feel very restricted with this huge monkey on their back. It was the Liberal government that brought in legislation that would not allow a student, in extenuating circumstances, to claim bankruptcy on that debt. I believe there is a 10 year freeze or moratorium on students declaring bankruptcy.

Businesses do not have that. If a business goes bankrupt, it is bankrupt. However, students carrying a debt cannot do anything for 10 years, even if they become severely injured or disabled.

Students are facing a great difficulty. I would ask the member to address the students of this nation and answer, why are they under such heavy financial burden? Why are tuition fees so high? I would give the member the opportunity to explain in a positive way, what would he do right now to correct those problems?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

I thank the hon. member for his compliments. In terms of tuition fees, just to deal with it from my perspective, in Ontario they went up, because as we know, tuition fees are a provincial jurisdiction. Even though we give provinces transfer payments, they decide how much they want to give to their universities and how much they decide to allow the universities to raise their tuition fees by. Unfortunately, even in the 1990s when there was an NDP government, tuition fees almost doubled, which created a great burden on the students. Many of them were not able to afford the tuition fees and they unfortunately were left with big debts because of that.

If I had my way, I would have zero tuition fees, if the member wants to know the truth, because I believe that in the end higher learning is a right, an opportunity for students to go to university, to learn and to continue to improve the standard of living for all of us in the future.

Unfortunately we have to deal with jurisdictions and provincial governments and we have to compete for dollars in this process. What we have done is created the framework in such a way as to at least allow low income Canadians to have a better opportunity in the future. With the tools available to them, they will be able to learn. That is why we have reduced their interest payments and have given them a longer time to pay. Less will be incumbent on the parents to give, so that students would still be eligible for Canada student loans. We will continue to work toward that to ensure that any student who wants to learn has that right and that opportunity. Cooperatively with other levels of government, we will work toward that because unfortunately tuition fees are set by the universities which are directly responsible to the provincial governments.

We have to continue to work toward this so that we relieve these problems. One way to do this has been that in our jurisdiction in post-secondary education we have increased our funding in research and development through the foundations, the graduate programs and the millennium scholarship fund. All of these things have been geared toward ensuring that there is more money available in the university system to continue allowing students to be paid while they are going through their graduate studies. In effect, they will be able to continue with and complete their post-secondary degrees. There is a great deal of work still to be done but together I think we can achieve it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully and I think that was perhaps the most self-delusional speech I have heard in a long time, and I think the member actually believes it. This country labours under the burden of a bad government. We just heard the member. He is proud of it. He used the words boastful and proud. Really, I think it is delusional.

I will give him an opportunity to redeem himself out of this phoney balanced theme he mentioned. He used the word balanced a number of times. I will ask him simply and give him an opportunity to redeem himself now. What is his explanation of and commitment to the reduction of the national debt? What is his vision for paying for past excesses of living off the national credit card with high interest? What is his explanation to deal with the national debt? I will be listening.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have a question from the hon. gentleman. First, I am very proud of Canada, of where we are and of what we still have to do in order to make it even greater.

Of course the member opposite, now from the Conservative Party, would know that when Brian Mulroney, his leader, took over in 1984, the debt was $100 billion or so.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

It was $180 billion.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

It was $180 billion then and of course when we took over it was about $560 billion. Of course, one could say that for nine years they had to deal with whatever they wanted to deal with, but in the end they gave us a balloon of a big debt. What we have done is pay down the debt. The NDP member who spoke earlier said it was $80 billion we paid toward the debt, but it was only $52 billion. However, it is $52 billion less that we have to make interest payments on.

Let me also explain this from an economic perspective for the hon. gentleman. Out of the $500 billion debt that is there now, $130 billion is the superannuation, the employees' pensions. The market debt is at the $370 billion to $380 billion mark. If we take as a line item the $130 billion and just pay the $5 billion that we have to pay extra from the employees and the government on that basis and put it on a line item, we will see that our market debt is only $370 billion.

When we look at our debt to GDP, it is the best anywhere. Of course, on that process, the OECD, all the other nations in the world, except for one or two others, do not use the employee superannuation debt on their overall debt. We are the only ones. We are boy scouts--or girl scouts. What we do is put everything together and then say our debt is $500 billion. If everyone else did the same, their debts would be so much more. In fact, the finance department sent me a letter saying I was right, that it was going to speak to the OECD and make sure that we are comparing apples to apples.

When we take it all into account and take the growth in GDP, as we are going to work toward, why will that happen? It is very simple. When we took over the government in 1993, there were 12.8 million Canadians working. How many are working today? There are 15.9 million Canadians working. That is three million more. Twenty-five per cent of the workforce has expanded in the last 10 years. Why? It is very simple. We have worked toward getting our economic house in order. We have made sure that the interest rates were lowered by letting everyone know that they should have confidence in Canada.

On that basis, what took place is that Canadians, whether they own their own home or whether they are renting, the money they are saving on the mortgage rates is after tax dollars that they can spend on their families, on education or on anything that is valuable to them.

I am very proud of what this government has accomplished and will continue to accomplish, because when we continue putting our hearts and minds together with all Canadians, we will achieve. Canada has a special place and the people of Canada are actually low key, hard workers who know how to sacrifice. That is why we have achieved this, not because of the government alone. It is because of the people of Canada who have worked with this government. They chose this government time after time.

I hope and believe that the next time it will also be a Liberal government because Canadians trust us. Yes, there have been a few errors along the way. There is no doubt about that, but overall they know our hearts are in the right place. Canadians know that we care about them. We will not leave behind the person who is disabled or hurt and only go for survival of the fittest. That is not what we are about, although the members across may be, I am not sure. I know that some of them are not.

We in this party believe, as most Canadians believe, that we work as a community. We work together and we share. Together, working with small and medium sized businesses, which have created 85% of those new jobs, we will continue to achieve. When we deal with the environmental technologies and the new technologies of R and D, we can see that the future is very, very bright and I know that Canadians will continue to support this vision.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member did almost redeem himself.

Much has been said about the budget and the ways and means motion, but I want to take a quick recount of the 2004 budget at a glance. I will give some statements and responses.

It is the seventh consecutive balanced budget with a projected surplus of $1.9 billion for 2003-04, which must go to the $510 billion debt. The problem is that there is no long term plan for national debt reduction; it is just what happens to be left over. That is a very inadequate signal to the foreign investor market.

Second, program spending jumps by 7.6% from last year to a record $143.4 billion and jumps by another $12.7 billion over the next two years. It is up a massive $41.1 billion or 40% over the last seven years. The government is taking too much out of the economy into the public sector, which puts a drag on job creation and overall economic development for the future.

Third is a promise to improve accountability and integrity in government spending in wake of the sponsorship scandal, and no deficits. That is an admission that ministerial accountability and oversight up to this point have been completely inadequate and that Parliament has not been sufficiently informed.

Then the budget stated that the Liberals would re-establish a comptroller general to oversee all government spending. That is an admission that unqualified employees approve and sign cheques and comptrollership accounting is sadly lacking. The Liberals cannot manage.

Next, government is to identify $3 billion in annual savings within four years. That is an admission that the Liberals' financial planning cycles contain much waste and imprecision and they must be continually corrected after the fact.

Mr. Speaker, I should say that I am splitting my time with the member for Dewdney—Alouette.

Next, the budget says that the Liberals will reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 25% within 10 years. That is a laudable goal, but it is an unambitious goal in view of the possibilities. It is a plan of a missed opportunity for debt reduction when it is possible, for it may not always be possible in the future. Despite some payments, the debt is still $23.1 billion higher than when the Prime Minister first became the finance minister.

There is $7 billion over 10 years for cities by rebating the GST. That is a helpful but small benefit. It is also an admission that this should never have been collected in the first place through taxing a lower level of government, through one government taxing another government.

Then there is the promised $4 billion over 10 years to clean up contaminated sites across Canada. That is a very helpful gesture to a very old and neglected problem. I remember visiting the Sydney tar ponds and embarrassing the minister to get him there so that he would at least look at it for a change. That is a re-announcement of a promise made many times before.

Then there is the $1 billion for cash strapped farmers, with about $680 million targeted to cattle producers hurt by the mad cow crisis. The $80 per cow is only a partial but helpful and welcome benefit. It is too little and far too late for many farmers already bankrupt and gone from the sector, even though government was repeatedly warned.

Next is $665 million over two years for public health, including $165 million to establish a national public health agency. It is a needed adjunct for public health safety but no help for the basic underfunding to meet national health care standards. There is just a promise to talk in the summer after the election.

There is $605 million over five years for intelligence, border protection, marine and cyber security, threat assessment and emergency response. Certainly we should have a concern with the effectiveness as these large bureaucracies increase in size.

There is $270 million to provide venture capital for start-up technology companies and to help get private sector financing for leading edge technologies. Here we find out that the government is trying to pick winners instead of concentrating on lowering the cost for all in a level playing field.

There is also $250 million to cover Canadian Forces missions in Afghanistan and efforts to prevent terrorism. Unfortunately, that is an unavoidable expense for the basics without any real equipment enhancements. It is just the basic cost of being there.

There is another $240 million more for international assistance in 2005-06. It is an opportunity for much waste if it is not well managed.

Then there is the Canada learning bond to provide up to $2,000 for children born after 2003 in lower income families and a grant up to $3,000 for first year post-secondary dependent students from such families. It could be more vote buying posturing than actually helping many students as only small numbers will be able to qualify for this provision.

It will reduce the air traveller's security charge for domestic and international air travel. It is long overdue and still too high for the actual service delivered.

There will be faster spending of $1 billion in funding to cities and towns to repair roads and sewers, including $350 million for Toronto transit. Again, there is no realistic national plan for transportation infrastructure in partnership with the provinces.

There will be reinstatement of a $1 billion prudence reserve on top of the regular $3 billion rainy day fund to ensure the country's books stay balanced. That is a cosmetic gesture as revenues are always grossly underestimated. It is also an admission that budget plans are not very accurate or reliable.

There will be tax act changes to allow bigger write-offs on computers, heavy machinery and other capital investments. The government is disturbing the marketplace by playing favourites rather than improving write-down schedules for all equipment upgrades equally for all sectors on a predictable internationally competitive basis so markets decide rather than government bureaucrats just guessing.

Petro-Canada promised to sell the government's 19% stake in the company in the next fiscal year. The current market value of this ownership is close to $3 billion. About $1 billion will go to fund environmental technology development and commercialization. The proceeds will no longer have to apply to the national debt.

The Liberals repealed the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act that required proceeds from such asset sales to be used to pay off the debt. The Prime Minister has promised to put part of the funds into a green technology foundation, adding to the nearly $9 billion doled out to foundations under the finance minister. It was criticized by the Auditor General in the past.

Then there was the promised employment insurance. The budget announced the EI surplus would swell to $48.1 billion from $43.8 billion last year, and the premium rate is frozen at $1.98 for 2005. The EI rate setting provisions of the Employment Insurance Act have been suspended once again. Rate setting provisions have been suspended since 2001 to keep the premiums artificially high while the Liberals slowly consider changes to the rate setting mechanism. The Auditor General has concluded that, since 2001 rate setting did not observe the intent of the EI act, they are basically balancing the books on workers. “High EI rates is a tax on jobs”, is a quote from the current Prime Minister when he was in opposition.

In the budget the Liberals are promising targeted spending and a plan to clean up government if they are re-elected. Can we trust the Liberals? Just look at the track record. The Liberals have done an awful job and Canadians are not getting value for dollar. Canadians are sending more and more to Ottawa, but hospital waiting lists are getting longer, students go deeper in debt and our soldiers are spread as thinly as ever.

Meanwhile, the tax dollars flow like cheap wine for Liberal friends and bureaucratic sinkholes like the long gun registry, corporate welfare, Challenger jets, grants to special interest groups, the Governor General's spending, friendly advertising agencies and so on. These tax dollars would be far more productive for the multiplier effect to be involved if they were left in the pockets of workers, investors, business persons, homemakers, farmers, fishermen and students rather than in the hands of a government bureaucrat.

It is a contrast of visions: the Liberal old world view, the old bad habits, or the confident march to the future. Canadians demand better and they deserve no less.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few remarks at the opening of my speech, if you would indulge me, in light of the impending election. I will not be seeking re-election, and I want to thank some special people who have been very helpful and encouraging to me during these past several years.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my family: my wife Wendy and my four children, Jordana, Reanna, Kaelin and Graedon. As my colleagues know, our families sacrifice a great deal in order for us to be here in the House of Commons. Our families know the stress and demands this job puts on our personal lives, and I want to thank my family for enduring my frequent absences during these past seven years.

I want to thank the constituents of Dewdney--Alouette living in the communities of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Mission, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs for bestowing upon me the great honour as serving as their member of Parliament. It has been a privilege and a great opportunity to bring their issues and concerns to the House of Commons. I will remain forever grateful for the time I have spent here on their behalf and for all the special people that I have met as a result of doing this job.

I want to thank my friends and supporters for their help and encouragement throughout the years as well. I would never have been here without their help, especially my good friend Mark Bogdanovich for his help over the years, and all those who served on the Reform Party board, the Canadian Alliance board, and the new Conservative Party board for their help through both good and bad times.

To those who have worked with me over the years, all my staff, Tara Bingham and Mark Strahl, they are more than employees. They are loyal and hard-working and they have helped me in so many ways. They have become my confidants and my good friends, and I thank them.

I am happy to predict that the man who has been with me from day one, the man who has run my constituency office for seven years and who knows the issues and concerns of Dewdney--Alouette will soon come here to carry the torch on behalf of the new Conservative Party of Canada. My executive assistant Randy Kamp has won the nomination and is ready to go. I thank Randy for all his help, his advice and his friendship. I am quite confident that the people of Dewdney--Alouette will choose him as their next MP and I know he will do an excellent job on their behalf.

To my colleagues in the House of Commons, to Mr. Speaker, and to all my friends, it has been a pleasure and an honour to work with them and to get to know them. I share one regret with my former colleague, Preston Manning, in that I did not get to know more of them better. I often tell people that we have more in common with each other, regardless of our party affiliation, than anyone else in the country. Regardless of which party we belong to, we are all here to do what we believe is in the best interests of our country and our constituents. I have made some special friendships which I am sure will endure long after we have all left this place.

On a personal note, which is usually a note we do not share in this place, I want to thank my colleagues, family, friends and constituents for their words of encouragement and prayers during the past four years as our son has battled cancer. They have been kind and thoughtful, and we really appreciate the support they have offered to us in so many ways. I am afraid my allergies are flaring up a bit, but I am sure I will fight through it. I do want to tell the House that Graedon is now seven, doing really well in remission, and I thank everyone again for all their help.

In regard to the budget--

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I always hesitate to interrupt members, but the member for Dewdney--Alouette has given me an opportunity to just interrupt briefly so that the Speaker might bring a ruling to the House that I know is of significance to members here. We then we will get right back to the matter before the House.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Dewdney--Alouette for allowing me to interrupt his very moving remarks.

I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised by the hon. opposition House leader earlier today concerning proceedings in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for presenting this issue to the House, as well as the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for his comments.

The opposition House leader stated that the public accounts committee had before it a motion concerning the making public of in camera testimony delivered before the public accounts committee in the first session of this Parliament. He pointed out that the past practice with respect to in camera testimony indicated that it had only been made public by order of the House, and he relied on a precedent I believe cited to him concerning the year 1978, as I recall. He argued that the proper course for the committee would be to seek such an order and that, in acting on its own initiative in this matter, the committee would be exceeding the power delegated to it by the House. In support of his position, the opposition House leader cited a letter from the Clerk of the House to the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, in which the Clerk indicated that it would be prudent for the committee to seek such a House order.

The opposition House leader also stressed that, if no preventative action were to be taken to prevent the committee from making the in camera testimony public, the harm done would be irreversible and that it was therefore necessary for the Speaker to rule as soon as possible in order to forestall that eventuality.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader in his intervention, stated that it was contrary to our practice to intervene while a matter was before a committee. He indicated that the proper course procedurally would be to wait until the committee reports to the House. At that time, any potential procedural irregularities that had occurred could be raised and the Speaker could deliver an appropriate ruling.

I would like first to indicate the extent to which the Chair views this as a question of the utmost importance. The Standing Orders accord to committees considerable powers in order that they may carry out their work. Committees are also accorded extensive freedom to organize their inquiries as they see fit and to control their own proceedings.

At the same time, they remain creatures of the House. They are bound by the applicable provisions of the Standing Orders and may not exceed the powers they are given or conduct themselves in a manner that is contrary to the practices and traditions of this place.

It is, however, precisely on that basis that, in the first instance, it is the public accounts committee that must take responsibility for its actions. I certainly agree with the opposition House leader that there are important procedural questions at issue here. It is evident, by their seeking advice from the Clerk of the House, that the members of the committee are aware of those issues.

The Speaker is however not empowered to substitute his judgment for that of the committee prior to any decision being taken by it. The members of the committee will, mindful of the rules of the House and the precedents in matters of this sort, decide on what they consider to be the proper course of action. The Speaker has no power to anticipate such a decision, nor to intervene in the internal deliberations of the committee. I have stated that on many occasions.

While I appreciate that the subject matter before the committee is of considerable interest both to members of the House and indeed to all Canadians, that does not change either the Speaker's role or his obligation to refrain from intervening in the committee's business. If members feel that the committee requires some direction in this matter, beyond the advice that has already been provided, they may wish to consider having the House provide an instruction to the committee.

Once again, I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for having raised this matter. I am sure that we can rely on his continued vigilance with respect to proceedings in the committee and to any issues raised by its reports to the House. That is my ruling on the matter today.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have full respect for your ruling. I would ask you, based on what the government's parliamentary secretary said, will this committee have to report to the House before this document is released to the public? My great concern is that the committee could do something that is against the rules of the House before we have a chance to rule on it.

Could I get some understanding as to whether it could release a document of this effect, based on the comments made by the Clerk that this would be improper?

Yes, I agree that committees have the power to do what they want to do. However, if the committee is going to do something that will embarrass the House of Commons, what can we do or what assurances can we have that they cannot just go and throw something to the wind and then the rest of us have to take the blame for that?

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast knows that we are unable to cite any rule that prevents committees from making decisions to release this kind of information. That is not in the standing orders. We have had the clerk explain the past practice. The committee is free, as I have indicated, to make its own decision in respect of this matter.

If the House wishes to give directions to the committee, by either changing the rules or by issuing a specific order by way of a motion to the committee, that is fine, but it seems to me that the committee is master of its own proceedings. If, for example, something happens that is clearly wrong in a committee and it takes place there, it is a little late for the House then to take action to stop the action from taking place.

These things are raised in the House from time to time, as hon. members know. Sometimes members have raised complaints about what a committee did and asked the Speaker to fix it. The Speaker, as I have indicated, is not in a position to interfere in the workings of a committee. The committee is master of its own proceedings. The House can issue directions, but if the directions are not followed explicitly, what does the House do, is always an interesting question.

Perhaps it is for that reason that the House does not often issue instructions to committees except for directing them to go and study something, but it does not usually tell them exactly how the study will take place. The committee is master of its own procedures and makes its own decisions in that respect.

I think if the hon. member reviews the words of my ruling he will see that is exactly what I said in the ruling I gave, perhaps not in exactly the same language, but very close.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

April 1st, 2004 / 1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will close by perhaps mentioning the budget in one small regard. On behalf of those of us who will be leaving the House, I would ask those who remain and those who will soon come to this place that they manage the funds wisely. They are not government funds. They are hard earned dollars and Canadians will be trusting them. I ask everyone to be wise, to be prudent and to provide peace, order and good governance because Canada is counting on them.

In conclusion, and I have waited a while to say this, I am coming home.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole has been a better place because of the member for Dewdney—Alouette. He has many friends in this place. I know he is a member who has taken his work responsibly and I know that he has earned a great deal of respect. I know the member also is aware that we all share his burden with his family and pray for the best outcome possible for his son.

That is an example of the pressures and real circumstances that many members of Parliament face during their tenure here. Canadians should know that our best friends in this place have nothing to do with political parties. It has to do with the common bond of association that we have. This member has been a friend to all and has earned our respect and our best wishes in the days to come.

On behalf of all hon. members, I believe, I want to thank him for helping Parliament to be a better place.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I too, on behalf of my party and the many friends that the hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette has, wish him and his family the very best of luck in the future.

I originally came from British Columbia and I know the area he represents very well. I still have friends in the riding and they speak very highly of him.

In a non-partisan way, I know he truly is a very decent, caring human being who has always put his family first and his job second, which is exactly how it should be.

I for one will probably miss him more than anyone else in the House. We have the annual soccer game of members of Parliament versus the pages. He has been to many of those games. What I would like to tell his son and his friends is that he is a terrific team player and a very good soccer player. I am giving him an open invitation. He is an honorary member of our soccer team and any time he wishes to come back he can play against the future pages this House will entertain.

On behalf of my family, I say God bless him.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a couple of minutes to congratulate the member for Dewdney--Alouette for his great career here, as the former leader of the party and house leader in British Columbia, and also as House leader of our party here. He has been a great friend and a great member of our caucus.

We all know he has had some real trying times in the last few years and we appreciated his strength during that period of time. We are happy that he will be going home, but I would not be surprised to see him back here some day. He will go home and spend a bit of time with his family and let them grow up again. Some of us will have to retire sooner or later so we will be needing some good, young guys to come back to this place and fill in for us.

I thank him for the great job that he has done for not only our great province of British Columbia, but for all of Canada. We wish him well in the next few years.