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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca is not present to move the motion for second reading of Bill C-428, an act to amend the Canada pension plan, as announced in today's Order Paper and Notice Paper. Pursuant to Standing Order 94, since this is the second time this item has not been dealt with on the dates established by the order of precedence, the bill will be dropped from the order paper.

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Accordingly, the sitting of the House will be suspended until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:13 a.m.)

The House resumed at 12 p.m.

The House resumed from April 1 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 Act, 2004Government Orders

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and address Bill C-30. I want to start by reminding the House how hard Canadian taxpayers work to make their money. I think it is appropriate to talk about this given that we are talking about how the government spends a lot of the money that people make and work very hard for.

I want to begin by reminding the House that in the last number of years the government has driven spending to record heights. I know for a fact that we have never seen spending this high in the history of the country. Today in Canada the government spends more money per capita than it has ever spent in the history of the country. There is a tremendous amount of money that is being spent, supposedly on behalf of taxpayers.

I also want to point out that today in Canada the big problems that face this country are as big as they have ever been or, in many cases, bigger than they have ever been.

I have been here for ten years. I came here in 1993. At that time, I can tell members, the issue of health care was not nearly as big a problem as it is today. Despite the fact that this government and this Prime Minister have said that health care is his number one priority--and the government has talked about all the spending announcements it has made for health care--the problem has only become worse. Today people are waiting on waiting lists for all kinds of vital surgery and treatment. Despite the fact that the government has said this is its number one priority, the situation has only gotten worse and worse.

When I came here in 1993, the military was in a lot better shape than it is today, despite the fact that the government has said that it is a big priority. The Prime Minister made a big deal of going to speak to our troops in the last couple of weeks. His claim is that the military is a top priority for him. If that is the case, why are our troops so overstretched and under-equipped?

We must remember that he was the finance minister for nine years. He has been the Prime Minister for a number of months now, and certainly he was preparing to be prime minister for a long time, but the situation with respect to the military has only gotten worse in the decade that the Liberals have been in power.

When it comes to an issue like student debt, I can tell members that many of us in this place have children who are going to university. I have a son who is in university and many people are in the same boat. Over the last while many of us have had student organizations in our offices talking to us about the problem of student debt and the fact that not only are students going into debt, but there is just not the capacity in universities and colleges these days to accommodate all the people who want to go to university. As a result, we have universities placing very high standards on allowing people into university. A lot of people who do not have great marks cannot get in, and those from low income families probably cannot afford to get into university.

The Prime Minister has said that this is a top priority for him, but he has been here for nine years. He was here for ten years, nine of them as finance minister. Now he is the Prime Minister, but we are actually in worse shape today when it comes to the issue of accessibility to higher education than we were when the Liberals came to power ten years ago.

I could go on and on about the areas where there has been an actual decline, where the ability of people to have access to government services has gone down over the last ten years. Why is that? I want to argue that it is because this Prime Minister has no vision. He has absolutely no vision when it comes to addressing the big problems that face the country today. Frankly, I think we saw that reflected in the recent budget and of course Bill C-30 has to do with implementing the particular provisions of that budget.

I will argue that the government has done a terrible job of addressing these big priorities. I want to argue that taxpayers who pay 50% of their incomes to taxes--the average family pays something like 48% of its income to taxes these days--deserve better. When taxpayers pay half of their incomes to various levels of government, including a federal government that taxes way too much, they expect to get services when they need them.

They expect their military to have proper equipment and to have enough troops to address some of the hot spots in the world that Canadians have typically addressed and to fill the role as peacekeepers that they typically have filled in the past.

They expect that when it is time for their children to go to university those children will actually be able to get in: that there will be a spot for them in university and that tuitions will not be so high that they will be in debt for the rest of their lives. This is what people expect and it is not an unrealistic expectation.

I think I have laid out what some of the problems are and now I want to talk about what the government has been doing to address these things. Has it come up with some visionary plan to address an issue like health care? No. It says it is going to do that, but down the road. It will get together with the premiers down the road, and by the way, the government says, it will probably be after an election, so we should re-elect the government and then it will address that problem.

What about the military? The government has no plan for the military. In fact, in the budget all it had was some spending for particular missions that our troops are involved in right now in Afghanistan and in Haiti, but it has no plan to address the problems of the military, even though we all know how important that is, especially these days when we are fighting a war on terror.

When it comes to the issue of student debt, I think everyone would agree it had some very impractical ideas in the budget, things that really do not come close to addressing the issues of student debt, accessibility and all the problems that face higher education today. The budget did not address those things.

What about initiatives since the budget? What kinds of initiatives has the government undertaken? We know that in the first two weeks of the fiscal year it came up with about $1 billion that it wanted to spend, basically on pork barrelling, on funnelling money into the ridings of Liberal ministers and candidates in a blatant attempt to try to buy votes. Was this for high priority things like hospital beds or more money for the military? No. In one case, it was money for an archeological dig in a Liberal minister's riding.

I am not going to argue that if we have money left over those kinds of things are not important. They are important, but we do not have money left over. We are seriously underfunding all kinds of very important things today, including, again, health care, higher education and the Canadian military.

Let us consider this. Instead of taking that $1 billion the government just spent on all kinds of pork barrelling, why not leave it in taxpayers' pockets? Why not allow the people who work so hard in supporting their families to keep more of that money?

Mr. Speaker, you have probably heard me say this before, and forgive me if I have already gone through this, but I always like to ask this question. What would people do if someone came to them and said they were going to be given $1,000, but the only proviso was that they had to spend the money in a way that would benefit their families? My question is, would they give that money to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to spend on their behalf to look after their families? It is more likely that they would say no. They would say that they know what their family's priorities are. They know that their son needs braces or they have to pay the bill to get their son into hockey, or their daughter into ballet or whatever it is, because families have a much better sense of their priorities than the government does.

Whenever the government is preparing to make a spending decision, it should ask itself, is this the best possible way to spend the money or should it be given back to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes so they can decide for themselves what their priorities are?

Today a lot of people have trouble paying medical bills. If parents have a sick child and do not have a great drug plan, they are going to be spending a tremendous amount of money out of their own pockets to look after things.

Whenever there is a question of whether this is a high priority item, why not leave that money in the pockets of taxpayers? I can guarantee the taxpayers will make better decisions about how to spend that money to benefit their families than a bureaucrat in Ottawa, or a politician. This pork-barrelling exercise of the last couple of weeks is a perfect example. We are typically seeing money going into all kinds of individual Liberal ridings to start to grease the wheels for an election campaign. Frankly, that is wrong and it should not happen. In fact not only is it wrong, it is exactly the same way Jean Chrétien used to operate.

The Prime Minister worked for 13 years to knock Jean Chrétien off and get him out of here. The expectation was he would come in and do things differently. However, he is doing things exactly the same. Jean Chrétien spent a bunch of money at the end of a fiscal year to buy a couple of Challenger jets. At the beginning of a fiscal year, this Prime Minister spends a bunch of money on things like archeological digs, because it is in a riding, or on some shelving for a library.

Again, those are well and good and they are fine things. Are they a higher priority than health care, or education or ensuring that our troops have proper equipment when they are putting their lives on the line? I do not think so. Those things are critical, and I think the Canadian public wants to see their hard-earned tax dollars go toward these vital projects.

I want to talk for a moment about the government's record when it comes to overall spending.

Right now down the hall a public accounts committee hearing is going on. To me this underlines not only how terrible the government has been when it comes to managing money, but in some case how corrupt it has been. We are in a situation where down the way we have a number of members of Parliament who right now are asking questions of executives from advertising agencies who were the recipients of $100 million in commissions for work that in many cases was never done or work that was of questionable value, to put it mildly.

I want to argue that this is a perfect example why the government cannot continue to come to the public and ask for more money. It is playing the public for suckers. It is basically saying that Canadians should give it their tax dollars and that it will take that money and line the pockets of a bunch of Liberal-friendly advertising firms. By the way, some of that money found its way back into Liberal Party coffers.

It is time for that to come to an end. When the government brings down a budget where it proposes to spend a bunch more money over and above last year, $4 billion more this year if I remember correctly, then we say no. What the government should do is go through the current envelope of spending, find where the waste and corruption are and get rid of that. Then at some point down the road, when it has gone through every department, when it has found all the waste and gets rid of the corruption, it might be justified to come to the public and say that it wants to have more money for a particular project.

Right now the whole country is watching as the advertising scandal unfolds in the room just down the hall. I think that is the most powerful possible argument there can be for not giving the government a bunch more money to spend on all kinds of projects that in many cases are simply not of very high priority. In fact in some cases they are completely wasteful and are things that the money should not be spent on at all.

It is not just the advertising scandal that saw $100 million paid out in commissions for things like delivering a cheque for public works to Canada Post. There are many other examples.

I mentioned the Challenger jets. That was $100 million situation where at the end of the fiscal year the government went mad and decided to buy a couple of jets, even though our troops in Afghanistan did not have proper equipment.

I could point to the firearms registry of $1 billion, heading for $2 billion. This is a situation where the government basically made the choice at some point that the best possible way to protect the public was to pour money into a database that would record where the shotguns of duck hunters were. It was supposed to cost $2 million. It is now on its way to $1 billion and, according to many sources, it will hit $2 billion.

I would argue that the government has made a terrible calculation when it comes to using that money to protect the public. It has not put the money where it should go in a way that will protect the public. I would argue that when money went missing in Human Resources Development, that boondoggle demonstrated that the government was not capable of managing the public's money very well. This was a situation where an internal audit showed that the government had no idea where money had gone when it came to particular grants and that kind of thing.

Has the government learned any lessons from that? No, it is doing exactly the same thing right now in spending $1 billion in the first two weeks of the fiscal year on all kinds of pork-barrelling and handing out grants to friends. That has to end and the only way that will end ultimately is not to just change chairs on the Titanic . It is to elect a new government.

I want to argue that my leader and the Conservative Party could make some positive changes. Those guys have had their chance. They have been here for 10 years and all we have seen is mismanagement, waste and in some cases, I am sad to say, outright corruption. That has to end.

That is where the new Conservative Party can make some very positive changes. We are advocating that the government be much more careful with taxpayer money and that we trim wasteful spending. We would get rid of the firearms registry. We would get rid of the huge amount of discretionary spending that is used by Liberal ministers to reward friends. All the grants and outright gifts to friends has to come to an end. Huge bureaucracies for crazy programs like the firearms registry have to come to an end.

We have to take the savings and put it into things that really do make a difference in the lives of people like cutting the waiting list for surgery, ensuring that students are not in debt up to their ears when it comes to higher education and of course properly funding our military and ensuring that it has the equipment it needs when it takes on dangerous missions around the world.

My time has just about come to an end. I will simply wrap up by asking the public to consider what we have discussed. We are in a situation where an election will be soon. The two parties will trot out their election platforms, which is fine. However, one thing we will not find on an election platform is this government talking about its records when it comes to spending. I think we will find that the Liberals will try to dodge that issue.

I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the word “That” with:

“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, since the principle of the bill fails to address the government's record of wasteful spending and does little to tackle the real priorities of Canadians”.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The amendment is in order.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pose a question to my colleague. He has touched on a couple of issues that are of real importance to Canadians. One is the funding of secondary education, in particular the student debt load that we see many students taking on today to get through universities and colleges. The government has come up with a couple of ideas in the budget. One is a savings plan for low income families, which I think is fine. However, it is only for $2,000. We know full well that it costs a lot more than that to go to university. The other is because the government feels it costs more to go to university, it will just let the students go into debt more. I just find almost outrageous that it would consider that as a plan to get more people into university.

Therefore, could the member give us his thoughts on what really could be done to help student debt load?

He also has talked about national security and the fact that the government, through the firearms registry, claims that Canadian citizens are safer somehow. That is the real crime behind the billion dollars wasted on it. As well, safety and security of the citizens of a country should be the primary concern of a government. The government has failed, not only in the armed forces but in other aspects of security in Canada which need to be addressed. Could the member also touch on this?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me declare off the top that I have a son in university, so I know about this firsthand. It is a very expensive proposition to fund a student. I happen to be in a situation where I can help my son out a lot. However, a lot of people are not in that situation and they have to take on student debt. It is particularly difficult for people at the low end of the income scale. In fact studies show that if students are from low income families, they are far less likely to go to university or college, due in part that it is so expensive.

What do we do about it? Frankly, there are a couple of things. First, it is appropriate for students to bear some of the cost of their education. I am certainly not in the camp that advocates completely free education for students. I think students pick up about a third of the cost right now.

The issue here is twofold. First, there has to be an agreement with the provinces that the money which comes from the federal government ends up going toward post-secondary education. Right now we have a block transfer of funds. That money is what people call fungible, which means if that money goes to the provinces for things like health care and education, the provinces do not necessarily have to spend it on those things. They have their other priorities. Therefore, we need to come to some kind of an agreement with the provinces that any money that comes from the federal government should go toward these things which are clearly priorities in the minds of Canadians.

The other side of it is this. What can we do through tax policy to help parents so they can ensure money goes toward their student's education? Maybe we have to consider all kinds of different tax proposals such as if people are in a situation where they pay for their children's education, they get some more tax breaks to make it more viable for them to do that. Those are a couple of things at which we should look.

Other people have talked about other things such as remissions, where basically if students complete their studies successfully, some of their student debt is forgiven. There is merit to that idea. However, these things all cost money. It boils down to priorities.

That is why we have to eliminate the waste. If we are to fund these things, firearm registries that do no good have got to go because that money is vital for the types of things about which we are talking.

When it comes to some of the things the member has touched on, again, it boils down to priorities. If we are to ensure safe streets and safe borders, that means that we have to go through our spending with a fine tooth comb. We have to go to a government, which has driven spending up by 40 some per cent in seven years, and say that there is waste and mismanagement. We will go through this and we will find it because this government has done a terrible job.

I have touched on the sponsorship program, the Challenger jets, HRDC and all the things the government has done, including the billion dollars in spending over the last couple of weeks. These are examples of where the government can trim back, find savings and reallocate those toward things that actually make a difference in people's lives.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Liberal

David Pratt LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the hon. member's comments over the course of the last 15 or 20 minutes and I was struck by how many inaccuracies there were in his comments with respect to the Canadian Forces.

The hon. member is giving the impression that Canadian Forces in places like Afghanistan do not have the right equipment. I can say without hesitation, having been to Afghanistan, that our troops probably have the best equipment in that theatre of operations.

The same applies to Haiti. We do not take second place to anyone in that theatre of operations either. I have not been to Bosnia recently so I do not know what is happening there, but we do have some 600 troops still in Bosnia. I would fully expect that they are equipped to the same level as our troops in Haiti and Afghanistan.

Regarding the neglect of the forces that the hon. member speaks about, I really do not know where he is coming from because frankly, if he had been paying attention over the last few months, he would have known that we moved on the maritime helicopter project, a project that cost $3.1 billion. In fact, we moved on the MGS system for $700 million, we moved on the fixed wing search and rescue aircraft for another $1.3 billion, and just last week the government announced the joint supply ship at $2.1 billion, for a total of over $7 billion in capital equipment moving forward for the military.

The hon. member mentioned that we do not have a plan. When I was in the position of chair of the defence committee, we put together a report which indicated that the government should do a defence and foreign policy review. The government has decided to do precisely that. That report had the support of the hon. member's colleague, the hon. member for Lakeland. He signed off on that report. We are in the process of putting together a strategic plan which should be available over the course of the next number of months.

I would ask the hon. member, why does he feel it is appropriate to provide all of this false information to the Canadian public with respect to what is happening with the Canadian Forces.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course the member for Lakeland signed off on it, precisely because the government did not have a plan. It wanted to ensure that it did have a plan, so it signed off on this report so the government would actually go ahead and produce this paper so that there would be a plan. I guess what the minister is acknowledging right now is that it does not have a plan at this point, but that at some point down the road it will, once this paper is done.

He asked me about equipment. I have been to Bosnia. I was there just a little over a year ago. I rode around in an Iltis jeep. It was so rusted out we could see the ground underneath through the floorboards. If we had hit a mine with that, there would be nothing left of anybody. The Iltis jeeps are still in Afghanistan, or were until very recently. I think they are still there. In fact, the Iltis jeep is one of the jeeps that we lost one of our soldiers in precisely because it is like a tin can. The jeeps are so worn out, it is unbelievable.

I do not know if the minister remembers the images of Sea King helicopters lying on their sides on the deck of a frigate not very long ago as they prepared to go across the water to Afghanistan. The government cancelled the EH-101 contract in 1993 when it came to power 10 years ago. It was going to replace it. To this day, 10 years later, we do not have helicopters to replace the Sea Kings.

The minister says, coincidentally by the way, as we get closer to an election, that the government is going to do all these things in the future, that it is going to have some ships, that those submarines that are still getting fixed a couple of years after we bought them are going to be fixed pretty soon, and that there is more equipment coming down the road. Well, the government has had its chance. It has been 10 years. Why has it not done anything?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. chief government whip on a point of order.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all chief whips and they have reached an agreement. I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), the recorded division scheduled for Tuesday, April 20, 2004 on Bill C-25 be taken at 3:00 p.m. rather than at the end of Government Orders.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the House give consent to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, likewise, discussions have taken place between all parties as well as with the member for Peace River concerning the recorded division on Bill C-246 scheduled for Wednesday, April 21, 2004. I believe you would find consent for the following motion:

That the recorded division on Bill C-246 scheduled for Wednesday, April 21, 2004 take place on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 at 3:00 p.m.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Réginald Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

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, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to enter the debate on Bill C-30.

I listened to the member for Medicine Hat and others. Normally the member for Medicine Hat, being on the finance committee and vice-chair, is quite lucid on these topics. I heard something about the budget, but I did not hear much about Bill C-30.

Bill C-30 is an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004. It deals with a number of the very specific ways and means to implement some of the very specific recommendations in the budget. The budget is followed at a later date with the estimates, which gets into departmental spending in a very specific way. We had the debate on the budget itself not too long ago in this chamber.

I am very excited about this particular bill because it implements a number of key provisions of the budget that was tabled by the Minister of Finance on March 23. One of them is the first down payment on the cities agenda, which will cause municipalities to be exempt from the GST, effective immediately. In fact, I think it was effective last month. That is the first phase of a new deal for cities that will be a real deal. As our Prime Minister announced just last week, he is hoping, and he will strive, to have a new arrangement with the provinces, the cities and the communities by the end of this year.

What does the elimination of the GST mean for cities? That is what is being enacted in Bill C-30. For a city like Toronto, where I come from, it means another $50 million each and every year for the City of Toronto. That is a fairly tidy sum of money. What can that money be used for? It can be used for a number of different priorities at the city level. It can be used to fight crime. It can be used to better fight fires. It can be used to put up affordable housing. It can be used to invest in public transit and improve the environment in the City of Toronto. Fifty million dollars a year in perpetuity is a very good start and I know that in working with the provinces and the municipalities in the months to come, there will be another arrangement.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have talked about a sharing of the excise tax on fuel. I am sure it will be something along those lines that will give more stable and secure funding for municipalities and communities. In the Province of Ontario, our municipalities, communities, and towns have been starved of funding by the former Harris and Eves government. It cut taxes, devolved responsibilities to the municipalities, the towns and the cities, but did not follow that up with the resources necessary to implement that agenda.

That is why we have to work with the provinces, the cities, the towns and communities to cut a new deal. This will be quite an earth shattering and revolutionary approach to better relations between the different orders of government.

The member for Medicine Hat seemed to forget the tax cuts that were implemented in the year 2000. There was a $100 billion tax cut, the largest tax cut in Canadian history. It is true that the last year of that package is being delivered this year. In fact, in this fiscal year, it is a $30 billion tax cut. The government will have to consider what further it does with cutting taxes.

As chair of the finance committee, we will be asking Canadians that question: What should follow the $100 billion tax cut? Should we have more tax cuts? If we do have more tax cuts, at what should they be directed? Should they be directed at reducing personal income taxes? Should they be directed at reducing corporate income taxes? Should they be directed at reducing the GST, et cetera, et cetera? That will be a very useful dialogue and debate that we will have.

Against all that, the government has a number of very serious priorities to deal with, the biggest priority being health care. That is where I found the comments of the member for Medicine Hat again slightly at variance with the reality of the situation.

In 2003 the government, along with the premiers and the territorial leaders, signed the health accord putting $35 billion into our health care system through the CHST. That was recently topped up by another $2 billion per year.

What does that mean? That means that over the next few years our contributions to the provinces and territories under the CHST will increase somewhere in the vicinity of 8% per year, when the economy is targeted to grow at around 3% or maybe 5%, somewhere in that range. That is a very sizeable contribution to health care, and that is only the start.

The Prime Minister has indicated that he will be meeting with the first ministers this summer. He has said they are not going to leave the room until they come up with a new deal on a sustainable health care system. That is vitally important.

I do not know about members opposite or Canadians in general, but when I go into an acute care hospital in my riding of Etobicoke North or into any nearby acute care hospital, I see elderly patients occupying acute care beds. Some may ask, what is the problem with that? There is no real problem in one sense. Those patients will not be put out on the street if they cannot be put into home care or put into lower cost alternative care, but why are we housing elderly patients in expensive acute care hospital beds? That might not be the best care for the patients because they may prefer to be in a slightly different environment such as their own home where they could be cared for by a nurse or by their family.

Why is it that after so many years of debate and discussion in Canada we still have this problem? We do not have the capacity in terms of long term care, extended care, home care and homemaker programs. We have been talking about this for years. Let us get on with it. Let us provide lower cost alternatives. Let us provide care levels that are appropriate for patients. While we are at it, why not deal with the huge cost pressure that is emerging, not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of prescription drugs? We need to look at this question in a much more fulsome way.

Collectively, we need to make some capital investments in capacity building. We cannot fool ourselves any longer. If we keep saying we need to have lower cost programs, then we have to build those programs. That might mean some one off spending up front. The provinces and the federal government and other orders of government need to work together to get the job done.

We have been talking for years about health education, health promotion, and lifestyle issues, but we have not been investing enough in those programs. We need to do some front end investment in those types of programs. If we do not deal with these types of issues, then we are not going to have a sustainable health care system.

A report recently came out that was commissioned by the Department of Finance. It was reassuring to some extent and indicated that the problem may not be as severe as we thought. However, the reality is that, given the demographics of our country, we do have more older people. I am going to be one of those at some point in time. In fact, some people may argue that I am one of those now. However, Canada has an aging population and we need to deal with that.

That is why we need to have a sustainable health care system. That is why we need to have a discussion with the premiers and the territorial leaders about how to get there. I look forward to that. That is really where we need to go. We need to provide sustainable, secure and stable health care funding to the provinces, but we cannot simply throw more money at it. We have to have a well managed system for the benefit of all Canadians.

The budget that was tabled by the Minister of Finance recently put into play more resources for public health. The member for Medicine Hat probably forgot that or maybe it was just a slip of his memory. Perhaps he is one of those individuals getting on in years as well. The government put another $400 million in new money into public health.

What will that new money do? It will provide a much more coordinated approach to the tracking and dealing with diseases such as the SARS outbreak that we had last summer. I think we handled it as well as we could but, unfortunately, there were different agencies and groups. This will bring that together in a cohesive whole, not necessarily in one building but in terms of a network and consolidating that expertise so that we are prepared for these viruses, epidemics and flus as they come into Canada. Hopefully we will not have them again but we have to be realistic and be prepared.

There also will be more money for municipalities for immunization programs, which is a very important feature.

Something often gets lost in this whole debate about our fiscal performance. We recognize that with the sponsorship program we have had some challenges that the government is dealing with. We will be centralizing and tightening up on the comptrollership function and we will be spending more money on internal audits.

When our government came into power in 1993 we had a $42 billion deficit and a lot of programs had to be cut. We tended to cut administration rather than programs. Programs affect Canadians on the front lines so we had to cut administration.

In hindsight I suppose the government might have said that maybe it had cut back too much of the administration, that maybe it should have left the comptrollership general's office there and all these accountants running around adding things up and making sure the controls were good. I suppose with the benefit of hindsight we could have done that but we wanted to make sure Canadians got the benefits of federal programs. However in this whole debate I am absolutely amazed that we take our eye off the ball and lose the big picture.

I want to remind members opposite here today of some of the big picture items. When we travel abroad and meet members of parliament from around the world, when they come here to Ottawa their first question is how we did it. They want to know how in Canada we dealt with the $42 million deficit in four years, that we are paying down debt, that we have such low interest rates and that the Canadian economy has generated so many jobs since 1993, in fact two million plus. Those are good questions which I think Canadians should be asking themselves.

The United States has had good economic performance until more recently. The economic performance in Canada has been equally strong. In fact, if we factor in job creation, there has been more job creation in Canada on a per capita basis by a long shot compared with the U.S. economy.

The U.S. economy has had some economic growth but with no jobs. In Canada we have had two million new jobs while at the same time paying $56 billion against the debt. What does that mean? It means Canadian taxpayers are saving $3 billion a year, each and every year moving forward. This is what we call an annuity. It is $3 billion into the future forever and the more we pay down we will be able to add to that.

What are the $3 billion being used for? They are being used for a variety of things. They are being used to put more money into health care, into post-secondary education and into national defence. I think my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, was very right in clarifying some of the defence expenditures over the last few years. Since December 2003 our government has put $7 billion more into our national defences.

The opposition goes on and on about $15 here or $20 there. We are talking about $7 billion into our national defence. Some of the members opposite say that was money already announced before. Well I am sorry, it is new money since December. They can talk about when it was announced, whether it was in the budget or whether it was announced again, but big deal. I think it is helpful when the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence visits our troops and talk about the realities.

I have been reading some of the press clippings and the troops are really excited about the new supply ships. They are also happy that we will not be taxing them when they go to dangerous areas. Not only will that be in areas like Afghanistan, it will also be areas like Bosnia and Haiti. When our troops go to those regions they will not have pay any income tax, which is a good thing.

I think the members opposite need to get their facts straight when they enter these debates.

We are debating Bill C-30 which would implement certain provisions of the budget. I am absolutely amazed that no one has talked about equalization because it is a big part of Bill C-30.

Equalization is a complicated program. What it achieves largely is to make sure that services and programs are available to Canadians in equal ways and forms no matter where they live in Canada. Therefore some of the have provinces transfer money through equalization to the so-called have nots.

There is a contentious issue. Let us take Newfoundland, for example. In the last few years we know that Newfoundland has come upon new resources in terms of its petroleum and natural gas wealth. The question on the table is that if Newfoundland is suddenly the beneficiary of new provincial revenues as a result of these newly developed resources, should it be penalized in terms of its equalization payment, which is moving money from the have provinces to the have not provinces?

That is a very fundamental question but I think that on balance we have to deal with it. I am perhaps using a poor analogy but if we are helping a family member, because that is what we are, a community, a family, and then suddenly the family member gets a job or has a new form of income, is it not realistic to say that we will reduce the amount that we were paying that family member? I think it is eminently reasonable. I suppose the debate would get into some of the details of that but I think in rough terms that is precisely the issue that some of the premiers have raised. Frankly, I think Canadians would be more inclined to agree with the government's approach on that.

The bill also entertains a number of provisions with respect to the Canada pension plan. This is an area that I find interesting and troubling in a sense. Many in my riding say that because people are getting old and the demographics are changing, the Canada pension plan will not be there for them.

I want to tell Canadians and those members in the House today that because of the actions of our government just a few years ago, where we did a complete review of the Canada pension plan with the objective of putting the plan on a sound actuarial footing, the last report by an independent actuary said that the Canada pension plan was actuarily sound until the year 2050. That was based on all the assumptions in terms of age, demographics, benefits and contributions, which is based on the package that we have implemented today.

Therefore Canadians should not be concerned about the viability of the Canada pension plan, and Bill C-30 would implement measures with respect to that.

The member also talked about high government expenditures. I think what the member for Medicine Hat perhaps forgot to point out was that we are now at a level of the lowest government expenditure in relation to GDP. In other words, if we look at federal government expenditures in relation to the size of the economy, today we are spending back to the levels of the mid-1950s.

I am sure some members in the NDP will argue that we should be spending more but I am of the school that says that we should spend when we can afford to spend. We know we have a lot of debt still to pay down and we know we have a lot of priorities. However for the member of the Conservative Party to argue that expenditure is out of hand, that is not aligned with the facts. Federal government spending, in relation to the size of the economy, is at a low; around the levels of the early 1950s. I think we should clarify that.

I certainly will be supporting Bill C-30 and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech. I know he was a deputy minister and that finance is his portfolio. It is good to see his propaganda for the new Prime Minister and telling Canadians what great managers they are.

I know the member is a very sincere and honest gentleman but let me ask him a question. He said that when we get visitors from outside the country they want to know how we did it. The member should tell them that the Liberals are experts at putting their hands in the wallets of Canadians. They do it on the backs of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars. They have, of course, perfected the art of spending wastefully.

This year did the member ever receive any money on behalf of the federal government that was spent in his riding? I see the Liberal members of Parliament have been doling out taxpayer money in their ridings so they can get re-elected. The guy they want to call a Liberal, the turncoat member, presented a $50,000 cheque to a riding in Nova Scotia on April 5 to buy bookshelves for the local library.

The member just stood and said that the Liberals were great managers of taxpayer money. My question is a simple one. Did you ever dole out any money this year into your riding?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we hear the response, I want to remind members in the House, especially after a two week recess, that all inquiries or interventions must be made through the Chair. I know that is a practice we will want to sustain and maintain in the hours and days ahead.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the first point of the member for Calgary East of people visiting Canada, I certainly would not say what he suggested I should say to them because that would be a lie. It would be untrue.

What I would say to them is that if they were to look at Canada's levels of personal income tax since 1993, the personal income taxes of the average Canadian two parent family with two children have been reduced by the federal government by 27%. In fact, since this government has been in power, we have taken one million poor people off the income tax rolls. This government came up with a Canada child benefit, which has now reached $9 billion a year, to help poor and middle income Canadians.

With respect to the member's second question, I am very proud to say that I have fought for and have been able to secure some federal funding in my riding in a couple of very key areas. In my riding in the last year and a half there have been about 12 murders; gang related, drug related violence. I have been able to secure funding from the national crime prevention program. We are helping young people by giving them an alternative to gangs, drugs and violence. What does that mean? That means that we can set up after school programs. It means we can set up a program called Breaking the Cycle which tries to help young people who want to extricate themselves from gangs and are troubled with peer pressure. This program is helping them get out of gangs and into a more constructive role in life.

I am also very proud that I have fought for money for a very fine institution in my riding, Humber College, to help with co-op programs and a number of training related programs to help people prepare themselves for the new economy. Yes, I am very proud to say that I have fought for and very successfully have been able to bring some federal dollars into my riding to help with some of the priorities of my citizens.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was incredible to hear some of the comments from the hon. member for Etobicoke North with regard to municipalities. He painted the picture that the government is making a lot of investment, that this will solve the problems and that there is a new deal. It really is more like a raw deal because what we are seeing is that another layer of bureaucracy will be added before the municipalities will get the cash and the actual infrastructure improvements they deserve.

I should know because the Windsor-Detroit border is in the area which I represent, formerly as a city councillor and now as a member of Parliament. The first thing I hear Americans say when they come here as tourists or to visit family members is, “Why has your government not invested the proper money to fix the border? Why have we been sitting here in traffic for two hours? We are not coming back. We do not want to go through this again because of the lack of facilities on the Canadian side and the traffic congestion”.

It brings up an important point that is really being missed. I think the member mentioned “earth shattering” practices about the government's plan to roll out money from the GST or the gasoline tax for roads and infrastructure. That has been going on for a decade. Municipalities, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, AMO, and other groups across the country, have been submitting petitions. Councils have been passing resolutions appealing on hands and knees for funds because not just the Conservative government of Ontario but the federal Liberal government of the last 10 years have cut back the grants.

I want to ask a specific question about the GST rebate. The very insulting thing about this is the context in which it is being put. Municipalities derive income from property taxes, so they tax people. They tax people to get their revenue. From that, they were paying another tax on a tax. The municipalities do not have to pay the GST for the first time this year, but they should never have had to pay it in the first place. I want the hon. member to explain why municipalities were paying the GST in the first place, because it was a tax on a tax.

Also, why did the government not give back the 10 years of funding that it stole from the municipalities in the first place and put it into roads and infrastructure to build this country?