House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Before oral question period, the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie had the floor. He has 11 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. Since there is now some order in the House, we will hear the hon. member.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:30 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to continue my presentation on Bill C-30, the budget implementation bill.

Before oral question period, I had said that this bill created three imbalances. First, the obvious fiscal imbalance; second, the social deficit perpetuated by the budget tabled this past March and its implementation through Bill C-30; third, the environmental imbalance created by the federal government with Bill C-30.

I have spoken at length on the shortfall Quebec has experienced and continues to experience, particularly since 1994, as a result of the reduction in transfer payments to the provinces. This prevents Quebec, and of course other provinces, from delivering the health care and services that are essential for the well-being of our taxpayers.

As well, the conclusion that there is a tax imbalance is based on research carried out by Jacques Léonard, former president of the Quebec treasury board. Some days or weeks ago, the third component of this research was released, an analysis on the evolution of the four key federal government transfer programs, namely transfer payments, equalization payments, the employment insurance program, and even the old age pensions.

The main conclusions about this federal reality indicate that federal government revenues have risen 45%, while transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces have increased a mere 1.9%. Taken as a dollar amount per capita, federal revenues have increased $1569, and transfer payments for health, education and social programs have dropped $34.

Some members of this House, Bloc Quebecois MPs, were part of the Léonard Committee. I am thinking of my colleagues from Lotbinière—L'Érable, Joliette and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot specifically. The committee recently revealed one other finding: it reached the conclusion that the financial effort the federal government devotes to transfer payments to Quebec for health services has decreased 40%.

This fiscal imbalance is a natural occurrence, but one not acknowledged by the federal government, since it considers itself to be a new government. There is a shortfall for Quebec, no doubt about it.

There is another aspect to this growing social deficit. While it might have been expected that the government would eliminate the injustice which it created itself by changes in the employment insurance rules, nothing in this budget does anything to repair the gaps pointed out many times by the Bloc Quebecois, not only in this House, but with the workers. These gaps mean that the workers in seasonal industries are penalized. Young people and women are penalized by these changes in the EI system.

Workers pay their premiums to the EI system, but very often they cannot receive benefits. If the employment insurance fund were in a deficit position, that might be understood. But the accumulated surpluses in the EI fund are over $45 billion. That is three times as much as the Chief Actuary of Canada judged normal and sufficient to meet the needs.

She indicated that $15 billion would have been enough. The fund is in a surplus position. We have asked many times—there was a consensus among opposition parties on this—that the employment insurance fund be independent, that it be managed by the employees and employers and not by the government. Experience has shown us that the government manages this fund badly and that makes one think of a kind of theft.

The premiums are being raised. At present, they are $1.98 per $100, while the rate that would lead to equilibrium is $1.81. Clearly, there is overcharging, and that is why there are surpluses in the EI fund. Unfortunately, citizens are not able to enjoy the benefits.

Actually, part 5 of the bill before us today perpetuates the fact that it is the federal government which sets the premium rate. As I indicated earlier, we know that this rate often exceeds the rate of $1.81 that would ensure a balance. So, there is a social injustice created by an employment insurance fund that is far from benefiting the workers who contributed to it.

We could have expected the government to deal with another issue, namely social housing. The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who is here right now, reviewed this issue with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. We would have liked the recent budget to provide for a reinvestment of some $2 billion. We would have liked to see 1% of the federal budget earmarked for social housing.

The reason is that in years past the Liberal government confirmed the withdrawal that had already been announced by the Conservative government in 1993.

One cannot speak from both sides of the mouth. On November 22, 1993, the current Prime Minister replied to the national coalition on housing. Here is what he said about reinvesting in social housing.

—I want to be absolutely clear—

The word “clear” was already part of the present Prime Minister's vocabulary, 11 years ago.

—I want to be absolutely clear that a Liberal government would commit to stable and guaranteed funding for cooperative and not for profit housing.

Things stood clear in 1993. The present Prime Minister, who was to become finance minister, committed to stable funding for the cooperative and not for profit housing sector. What happened after 1993, when the present Prime Minister became finance minister? Well, he literally stopped funding social housing.

There is another important date in 1990. At that time, the present Prime Minister, who became finance minister, shared his intentions and his vision on social housing.

In May 1990, in a report of the national Liberal caucus task force on social housing, the present Prime Minister stated, and I quote:

The Mulroney government has, from the start, cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces.

That is what the present Prime Minister said in 1990.

The Mulroney government has cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces without giving them the corresponding financial means. And it has been insensitive to the dire needs of thousands of Canadian households.

That was what the present Prime Minister was telling us back in May 1990. However, he has been the one mainly responsible for disinvestment in housing.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

May 4th, 2004 / 3:40 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment and ask a question. When the Bloc Quebecois member talks about employment insurance and such, he often forgets to give the real budgetary results to the taxpayers and voters of Canada. In order to know the results, we must have the numbers in front of us.

The newspapers keep saying that the Government of Canada has snatched $45 billion. That is completely wrong. When we look at the real numbers the minister tabled in the House last week, we read this:

With respect to employment insurance and expenditures on benefits, in 1980-81, there was a deficit of $682 million.

For a number of years, there were deficits in the EI fund. There were surpluses, as well. That is why I tabled a question in the House, published in today's Order Paper. I am asking what was done with the surpluses and who paid to offset the deficits.

One thing we know about this issue is that, in 1986, the Auditor General of Canada, Mr. Desautels, said that this was the way to do the accounting. The hon. member knows very well that there is no liquidity in this fund at this time. At present, there is about $43 billion in contributions, surpluses or excesses.

I would like to ask him if he read the minister's response tabled recently in this House to question Q-83, concerning the years of deficit. Even in Quebec, there have been deficits. Who has paid for these deficits? That is what I would like him to tell me: who paid to offset these deficits?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:40 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I thought he would have had a lot more. In fact, as far as the EI fund is concerned, if there is one thing that is clear—and I invite him to tour the regions of Quebec—it is that its purpose, when established, was to provide funds for workers.

The reality is that, in 2002-03, the surplus in the EI fund had reached $3.3 billion. In 2002-03, the federal surplus was $7 billion. The current surplus in the fund is, at $45 billion, three times what the chief actuary feels is necessary.

I have a figure for him, a study from his government. In 2000, an HRDC study—a department in his government—showed that 35% of recipients had exhausted their benefit weeks.

People are fed up being robbed. They are fed up paying into EI when this government has gone and changed the rules at the expense of the workers, who have now become the “sans-chemise”.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to revisit the EI question, because this is one of the points we hear raised the most in our ridings.

This is robbery and we must not be embarrassed to call it such. It is robbery. The workers have been robbed. Those who earn under $39,000 a year have paid 100% into employment insurance, and this is a major money diversion.

This is what I am asking my colleague, who is very familiar with this matter. What percentage of workers were covered by EI before the Liberals came along and laid their hands on the fund? Today, as my colleague has said, only 39% of contributors are entitled to draw benefits.

That number used to be far higher. We are talking of a surplus of $45 billion—the figure we have been talking about for some time now—but we are aware that the total theft is now up to past $50 billion.

The second thing I would like to ask is what percentage of the EI fund comes from the government's contribution, or do only the workers contribute?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the paradox of our system is that the government continues to manage the employment insurance fund, but no longer contributes a dime to it. That is the reality.

This fund is financed by employers and employees. What we have repeatedly asked for is a self-sustaining fund to be managed by these same employers and employees.

Experience shows us that when the federal government manages this fund, it sets contribution thresholds that exceed the natural threshold, creating a surplus that never goes back into the pockets of those who have contributed. That is what we call stealing from the employment insurance fund and it is completely unacceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to try to set a few things straight today. It does not make much sense, some of things we hear in this House from the opposition.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

From you too.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

I am trying to speak, if the member could listen. They are entitled to speak and we listen, but when we speak, they do not listen. Look at how they shout in this House. That is what they do all the time: they do nothing but shout.

What the hon. member said earlier about health is that the federal government's share of funding went from 25% to 16% and is now only 4%. He is saying that the federal government pays only 4% of health costs, which is absolutely false and ridiculous. How are people supposed to understand this and agree with it? It makes no sense. These are unwarranted assertions.

When we form a government, we have to have the means to fulfill our ambitions. It is easy to be in the opposition, to talk through one's hat and say that the government should do this and that. If we did all that, we would once again run deficits of the order of $45 billion. In 1993, when we took office, the annual deficits were around $40 billion. It did not make sense. Yet, these are the kinds of things we hear all the time.

I have a straightforward question for the hon. member. If he has a document proving that the federal government only contributes 4% for health, let him table it here in the House, with the true and verifiable figures that support this claim. Let him do it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is blaming us for everything. He says that we are dishonest. Today, in this House, I will be honest. Indeed, I made a mistake.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Oh, oh.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Is that so?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier you asked hon. members to calm down. I would make the same plea to the hon. member for Portneuf. I know that he is very agitated right now. This is because he will probably no longer be with us in a few weeks. I know that he really likes to put questions.

Indeed, the federal government's contribution now stands at 14%. In the weeks that he still has left in this House, he should read the Romanow report, which recommends that the federal government increase its contribution to 25%. The hon. member should use his remaining days and weeks here to read the Romanow report. If he does not do it, he will still have plenty of time to do so during the summer.

Indeed, the federal government's contribution is 14%. It went up to 16%, but with the budget before us it is going down to 14%.

Will the hon. member be prepared to explain that, in recent years, the federal contribution has gone from 50¢ for each dollar to only 14¢? Let him explain that to Quebeckers who are waiting in emergency wards. Let him explain that to citizens and workers in CLSCs, who were just affected by the cut in federal transfers for health.

We have a federal government that likes to tell those who provide the services in the provinces how to do their job. Even the Liberal minister in Quebec City said that in a business, a shareholder who contributes 16% is in no position to tell people or other shareholders what type of audit they should conduct.

We need not take any lessons from anyone. If the hon. member wants to debate this issue publicly, I invite him to do so, because he will have to bear the burden of the decisions made by his government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to approach the debate on Bill C-30 from a slightly different perspective than what we have had so far this afternoon and this morning. I want to approach it from three points of view. First, setting the tone from the top; second, some useful concepts to look at evaluating the management of government; and finally, the re-use of single use medical devices.

When it comes to setting the tone from the top, one has to pay special tribute to our Auditor-General. She has given a tone to this particular report that is very exemplary. There have been two reports. It is absolutely superb the way in which she has approached the evaluation and the management of certain government programs.

I would like to talk about setting the tone from the top. The top of course is the Prime Minister. There are various management consultants who have talked about leadership and management from the top, and the significance of the top in terms of an organization and its management.

One of these special consultants who works very heavily in this field is a fellow by the name of John C. Maxwell. He did an interview with Don Stephenson, who is the chairman of Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. is called in by companies in the recreation and hotel area that are in financial difficulty to see if there is something that can be salvaged.

Here is what the interview results were. Don Stephenson said whenever there was a take over of an organization, two things were always done. First, all the staff were trained to improve their level of service to the customers; and second, the leader was fired. When he told me that, I was at first surprised. “You always fire the leader?” I asked. He said every time. I asked if he did not talk to the person first to check him out to see if he was a good leader. He answered no, if he had been a good leader, the organization would not be in the mess it was in. That was a very interesting comment.

As Mr. Maxwell says, this is an illustration of the law of the lid. The law of the lid states that leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high; however, if it is not, then the organization is limited. That is why, according to Maxwell, in times of trouble organizations naturally look for new leadership. When a country is experiencing hard times, it elects a new prime minister.

In Canada, the actual administration and operation of the management of the government's affairs is carried out by the Treasury Board. It plays a key role in developing and fixing the government's management, really refining and developing the management agenda and overseeing its government wide implementation.

We are speaking about the implementation of the budget. The budget is probably the single most significant policy document that an organization or government can ever put together and finally adopt.

In managing the government, the Auditor General provided some very useful concepts. In fact, she listed seven of them. I want to read them into the record because they are very significant. They are found in chapter 7 of the March 2004 Auditor General's report and they are:

Probity--The adherence to the highest principles and ideals.

Prudence--Skill and good judgment in the use of resources.

Economy--Getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.

Efficiency--The minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.

Effectiveness--The extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity.

Transparency--Operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.

Accountability--The obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

Let us examine this budget and some of the implementation practices that the government has used in applying these concepts.

Probity is the adherence to the highest principles and ideals. It would appear to me that one of the ways in which one can see evidence of probity being used in the management of government affairs would be to have the highest principles and ideals. One of them clearly would be to follow the rules that are there to be used by the bureaucrats. Guess what the Auditor General had to say? She said that virtually every rule in the book was broken on this ad scam program. Clearly that one did not work.

Prudence is the skill and good judgment in the use of resources. I cannot help but look at this in terms of the subsidies that are given to industry. One really asks the question, what is it that government does when it selects certain kinds of industries for subsidy and not others? In fact, one of the critics of this particular program asked and I quote:

I don't know why governments pick one industry to subsidize over another.

This is from a National Bank financial analyst, Steve Laciak. He further said:

They won't rule against steel imports being dumped into Canada, so you wind up watching Stelco, Ivaco and Slater Steel go bankrupt.

On the other hand, other ones are picked and given billions of dollars. Of course, the most recent one here is the one that came up yesterday, Rolls Royce and $30 million, and very closely allied to that is of course Bombardier, which has been getting this money for years.

John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said, of Bombardier, and I quote:

--we need to lower taxes to compete internationally, we'd be right there behind him.

I agree with that. He rejected outright the idea of creating more programs like Technology Partnerships Canada. He said:

Anyone who thinks TPC should be expanded should have his head examined. That program has been a total disaster and has only gotten a small fraction back--

I think the issue here is very clear. Subsidies given to certain kinds of industries mean that taxpayers' money is taken from other industries who also pay taxes. The government says that it will take our money now and it will give it to this other industry, which means that the burden falls on this group, and the other group actually gets the benefit.

If that is a wise use of resources, if that is prudence, and if that is skill in the management of resources, I think there is a very strong difference of opinion.

Economy is getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.I wonder if there is anyone in the audience who would recognize or remember the firearms registry? How effective was that particular program? It was a billion dollars and now going beyond that. People are asking themselves, is it now going to get more money from this budget? Is that really an economical use of taxpayers' money?

Efficiency means the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.We have the secret unity fund and we ask ourselves, what is it supposed to accomplish? If we do not know what it is supposed to accomplish, how could we ever measure whether in fact it is doing that. The HRDC boondoggle is another example.

Transparency is operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.We found that our Prime Minister who did own CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, actually found that there was $136,000 given to the company, only to discover later that it was actually a hundred million dollars plus. If it was really so transparent, then why was it that it was not known?

Finally, accountability, which is the obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

One then has to draw attention to the fact that we had in the Department of National Defence some $160 million plus that was fraudulently billed because nothing happened. There was $160 million paid and nobody could figure out what it was paid for. That is not accountability.

One has to evaluate these and ask, from these examples alone, were these seven concepts or ways of evaluating things actually observed? Was there direction from the top that clearly said the highest principles and ideals would be observed in the management of our affairs and in the expenditure of taxpayers' money?

One has to conclude that this particular budget does not do that. The government has not done that. We have to ask, how likely is it that the government will manage $187 billion using these seven concepts? I would suggest that probably the answer is, no it will not.

I want to go now to the third point that has to do with the single use of medical devices and the reuse of single use medical devices. I am not an expert in this particular field so I am going to be reading in rather complete detail what has been said.

What kind of devices are we talking about?

Single use devices that come into contact with blood or normally sterile body cavities by penetrating the skin or mucous membrane, such as cardiac catheters or urinary catheters.

The reuse of single use devices is different from the reuse of devices designed for multiple uses because single use devices were not intended to be reused. Thus, their reuse creates a number of potential risks that include poor functioning after multiple uses or reprocessing, as well as concerns about sterilizing and disinfecting medical devices properly. Other concerns include the lack of informed consent by the patient and the liability of the reuser should something go wrong because of reuse.

The main reason that single use devices are reused is to reduce costs. There are two factors here.

Members have probably heard the news that the SARS situation in China, the most recent one, deals precisely with this very issue we are talking about right now. It is not just one disease we are talking about but other diseases as well in relation to single use devices.

The second point has to do with the cost involved. Why is there a preoccupation with the cost of reusing a single use medical device? If we had taken the $250 million that was spent on the ad scam program and put it into specifically this kind of area, that would have helped many people in not subjecting them to reused single use medical devices. We have some critical issues here that are very significant. It is stated that:

Because the reuse of single use devices can put the health and safety of Canadians at risk and because Health Canada is one of the entities responsible for protecting the health and safety of Canadians, we expected that it would take action to deal with this issue.

It is further stated:

While we recognize that this issue is a shared responsibility among various jurisdictions and professions, it is important that Health Canada as the federal regulator take action to manage the health and safety risks related to the reuse of single use medical devices.

That would have been expected. The Auditor General went on to say:

However, we found that Health Canada has not developed a position on managing the risks related to reuse of single use devices, although very recently it began examining its authority to regulate reuse practices. As a result, Canadians are not being protected from the health and safety risks created by the reuse of single use devices. Canada's failure to develop a position on this issue has created a regulatory vacuum.

This is pretty serious stuff. Health Canada has known about this for at least 10 years, and it is still talking about jurisdictional questions. Now it is going to re-examine this. The response to the Auditor General's recommendation was that by the year 2005 there may be something in place. How many people are going to be subject to having these single use medical devices inserted into their bodies, running the risk of contacting serious diseases and complications?

The time to act has passed. We need to act as quickly as possible now. These are very serious implications. I am so happy that we have an Auditor General who is not afraid to talk about these kinds of things and draw them to our attention. There is a person who is accountable, doing her job, doing it with probity and being prudent, accountable and transparent in what she is doing.

People ask where the trouble lies. Does it lie with the ministers who are in charge? Does it lie with the Prime Minister? Does it lie with the professionals? Does it lie with the taxpayers? Does it lie with the House? With the power that has been concentrated in the Prime Minister's office and with the fact that virtually every member on the government's side of the House can be whipped into voting against the wishes of their constituencies, there can be no other conclusion. These kinds of problems can be taken straight back to the very top of this organization, which is in the Prime Minister's office.

The time has come for us and for all Canadians to look very clearly at the way the government has been running for the last 10 years and why the Auditor General has come up with the kinds of conclusions and observations that she has. For these reasons that I have just mentioned, I cannot support Bill C-30.

The time has come for a new prime minister, a Conservative prime minister, a prime minister who will manage the affairs of the country and of the government with probity, with adherence to the highest principles and ideals, with prudence, demonstrating skill and good judgment in the use of the resources of the taxpayer money and the many resources that we as Canadians have, with the economy, with getting the right amount of resources of the right quality and quantity and delivering at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost.

He will be a prime minister who will be efficient so that the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output will be the ones that are used, not a surplus that is unnecessary. He will deal with effectiveness and will manage with effectiveness, that is, the extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity. When we say we want to do something in a program, we will get the results with transparency. The operation will be in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, and we will all know what is being done, how much it costs, who will do it, why they will do it and their competence to do it.

Finally, he will be a prime minister who will be accountable and will recognize the obligation to render an account and accept the responsibility for one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

These are tremendous challenges. One would look at that and ask if there a human being alive who could actually do this in its entirety. The answer is, we can try.

I remember so clearly a philosopher professor who said that we should all look at perfection and that is the way we should go. I have talked about seven concepts that are very useful. I submit that a Conservative prime minister, in particular the leader of the Conservative Party, would do that. We need to strive for that perfection. However, when we have a Prime Minister who is not trying to do that, then we need a change.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate at the start that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre.

I am pleased to once again have an opportunity to speak on this bill and to indicate, without any question, our dissatisfaction over the approach the government has continued to take with its newest budget. There is no question that there has been a major social deficit within Canada under the present government. From the way the Prime Minister was talking, a number of groups hoped that this would be a new and different approach. Quite frankly, from what we have seen, there is no change.

Let us go specifically to the area of housing. There is a shortage of housing in every community pretty much throughout the country. The shortage is extremely greater in aboriginal and first nation communities. There are huge shortages in affordable housing. Some communities are short 1,000 plus houses, and that is not acceptable.

I believe a previous minister of Indian affairs said that what first nations people wanted were opportunities to have their own mortgages. A mortgage does not do them any good when they do not have money to pay them. That is the situation in a number of first nation communities. It was quite a shameful statement on his part. I felt a lot of personal sympathy for first nation communities. It was an absolute slap in the face to those community members who, in a lot of cases, were trying very hard to improve their economic opportunities and to hold their own within Canada. Certainly there is lack of support for a national housing program within this federal budget.

A housing program could have been put into place nationwide at a cost of 1% of our annual expenses. I believe that was the figure used at one point. I remember hearing that it was something like $1.3 billion. It may have gone up a bit in the last couple of years from the time when I was looking at it quite closely. However, if that type of funding had been put in place for 10 years, we could have provided the housing needed throughout the country. A 10 year, strategically placed plan would have ensured that housing would be there nationwide. That was for urban communities, small communities, aboriginal communities, everybody. It did not leave anybody out.

The cost of the plan did not take into consideration the benefits of building those houses, the construction and employment opportunities that would be created. That plan did not take into consideration the improved benefits for health care opportunities and a lifestyle for families living in those communities who might have to keep their stoves open to keep the house warm. Try to survive like that.

I see this in a number of my communities. The cost of hydro ends up being too high. The houses built were substandard, and the costs to heat them are huge. Families do what they can. They will huddle around a stove and keep the heat contained to one area so they can afford to heat their homes and provide for their families at the same time.

In that area alone there would have been tremendous benefits nationwide: health, education, lifestyle, to say nothing of the economic activities it would have put in place in those communities and the tax dollars that would have come back to the federal government from the building of those homes and through wages.

That is an area the government seems to be unable to comprehend. It can comprehend that it wants to put dollars into corporations. In a good number of instances it will give profitable corporations more money to do whatever. It will give them money to set up operations in other countries. It will give them money to set up mining companies and numerous things in other countries, but it does not want to invest in the people of Canada.

Again, an area the government talks a good line on, but the proof is in the pudding, is the dollars that it would give to infrastructure throughout the country. There have been numerous programs on infrastructure, but the reality is there have not been a whole lot of dollars flowing to the provinces and municipalities for infrastructure improvements. A lot of programs have been talked about, but overall it has not addressed the real problems we see out there.

Another area which again is extremely lacking and very disappointing in the throne speech and the budget is student debt. Our future lies with students, our young people in elementary schools, senior years and then in post-secondary education. What has the government done? Nothing. It continues a further life of debt. It actually is promoting a lifelong debt.

Instead of just a limited number of years where a student might be in debt, Liberals will allow them to borrow more money. There is nothing to assist provinces in reducing tuitions or to assist in structure improvements within their areas, which would benefit students. It is not there. What we have seen are more loans available and more debt for students. Again, the government has failed to meet the needs of Canadians.

Along that line, those who have benefited from those student loans are the large banks or the credit corporations that literally hound students to death. When they leave school, they may be unable to get a job, but they are hounded for their payments.

Over the course of the years students have been very good at paying back debt. It has become tougher under this government for them to do that because the debts have increased. As much as people are saying there are lots of jobs, the reality is the increase has been in low paying jobs. We have numerous reports of jobs, even full time jobs, where people are still living at the poverty level. They are expected to get into the workforce and pay for their rent, food, travel to work and whatever else is involved on poverty wages. It is not possible, yet the government somehow thinks it has done a great job.

The reality is we have more and more students living in poverty. I recently received something in my office, as I am sure all MPs did, about the number of food banks on university campuses. If members have not received a copy of this, they should ask for one. There have been huge increases in food banks because our students are starving and the government has made a point of not supporting them. It should be putting in supports to decrease tuition, which would ensure that students would not end up with a lifelong debt.

It was an extremely disappointing budget and throne speech in the area of student debt. It is a letdown for students who want to be active participants. I know a number of students who get out of university and look for jobs. They pick up part time jobs here and there so they can make a few bucks. One thing we are noticing is many of those students still live at home because they cannot afford to go out on their own. They cannot afford to be independent and not rely on their parents or some other family member.

In some cases they end up living with three, four, five or six students. They have to do this during their university or college years. However, they even have to do this after because the jobs that might be out there are so low paying. I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre will have a lot of opportunities to talk about the disappointing statistics.

To summarize, from the perspective of the people in my riding, this is an extremely disappointing budget, even in the area of municipal tax rebates, the GST rebate. If we get a 100% GST rebate, does it make sense that we should pay it? Does it not make sense that if municipalities are to get a 100% rebate, then they should not be paying that GST on those products? Does it not make sense do away with the bureaucracy and quit taking the dollars out of those communities?

I suggest that the government really make a point of treating Canadians fairly.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, National Defence; the hon. member for Cumberland--Colchester, Government Assistance.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, before asking the member for Churchill a couple of questions, I would like to congratulate her on her new assignment as the health critic for the New Democratic Party. She is doing an incredible job holding to account the new Minister of Health. She has exposed a very serious problem that exists in the Liberal ranks in terms of their underlying beliefs around medicare.

What does the member make of the contradiction between the comments of the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister with respect to not for profit public health care, both funding and delivery?

She raised the issue of immigration and the fact that we are dealing by all accounts with the racialization of new Canadians. Clearly there is a direct link between people of a different race receiving earnings at the low end of the wage scale and living more and more in poverty. I would like to ask the member about the systemic and structural roots of such a pattern in our society today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will touch first on the aspect of the racialization of poverty.

Throughout our history aboriginal people within Canada have always been the most impoverished. That continues to be the case. They do not have the economic opportunities that others have. For decades they did not have an opportunity for education as a direct result of government policy. The lack of educational opportunity directly correlates with the problem of not being directly involved in economic opportunities. It is getting better but there is a long way to go.

What we have seen happening in the last five to 10 years is that an increasing number of immigrants who come to Canada are finding themselves at the poverty level. At one time when they came to Canada they would be able to work and move up into the higher wage brackets but those jobs are not available anymore. Part of the reason is there has been a push within our country to not have well paying jobs, to destabilize union workforces and to push immigrants into low paying jobs by saying that if they did not do those jobs, the company would move out and no jobs would be available. That is the kind of attitude out there.

At one time Canada was a great place for immigrants to come and make a good, strong living and to be active partners in our system. What we are seeing now is an impoverished immigrant community. It is going to create hard feelings between people. That is not the way it should be. Canada should be a place where people can come to improve their lifestyle. That is what most of them come here to do.

With regard to the Prime Minister's and the health minister's fooling around with whether or not they support not for profit health care, I think that the health minister let the cat out of the bag before the election. He had his hands slapped, was raked over the coals, and is now trying to backtrack.

The reality is that the Liberal government is doing just as the Conservative Party wants it to do. It is going to support for profit, private health care. That means the government will use taxpayer dollars to pay private companies for health care. That is not economically sound.

I received an e-mail from a fellow in Alberta. Heaven help us, there was someone in Alberta who said that one does not have to be an economist to know that wholesale is cheaper than retail. Why would the government waste taxpayers' dollars to pay for profit companies when we can have a publicly provided service?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the wind-up of our discussion on Bill C-30, the budget implementation act.

Let me say at the outset that it is impossible to talk about budgets or budget implementation acts without addressing the matter of value for money. When it comes to value for money I think Canadians are increasingly disturbed and worried about the lack of regard that the government has for the fundamental principle, that Canadians receive value for their hard-earned tax dollars.

We can imagine how concerned Canadians are when they hear the kind of discussions that took place in the House today around the Auditor General's report. It is impossible to take the budget implementation bill seriously when in fact Liberals in the House tend to dismiss and take out of context the Auditor General's comments.

We all know that when it comes to the sponsorship file the Auditor General clearly said that she did not use the words “stolen” or “missing”. What she said was that Canadians did not get value for money for at least $100 million and maybe more. She said that we are talking about $250 million for which there are enormous questions that have to be answered.

What does the government do, what does it stand up in question period day in and day out and suggest? That the opposition is wrong to take up the call of the Auditor General to try to get to the bottom of this issue. How do we in fact address the budget implementation act when those guys over there will not even take this issue seriously. They get into macho politics saying, “Who is going to come out in the hall and challenge us? We will punch their lights out”. It is stupid, macho politics.

We are talking about upholding a fundamental principle for all Canadians. I get very frustrated with that kind of performance in the House. I find it absolutely reprehensible that the President of the Treasury Board and others--I will not single out the Minister of Public Works--but the President of the Treasury Board would stand up and deride the opposition and make fun of our questions when we are simply trying to find out what services were provided for at least $100 million. If we cannot get answers to that question, how the heck do we get very far in terms of holding the government to account for its budget?

That leads us exactly into what the budget is all about. We would have thought that in the days and weeks following the budget announcement the government would have been out, members of the cabinet would have been out describing, defining, enlightening Canadians as to what the budget does for Canada. Did we get that? No. We got another tremendous example of transparency and accountability on the part of the government.

We saw the Prime Minister go out on taxpayers' money and inform Canadians about what the government will do in the next budget or in the next Parliament and about which candidates are running where and what is happening on the political front. Taxpayers' money was used so the Prime Minister could go on a cross-country tour to build his case for calling and election and for trying to neutralize the horrific mess he has on his plate because of the sponsorship scandal.

Instead of accounting for the budget, the government is trying to pretend it does not exist. The ink was not dry on the paper before the Prime Minister was out selling something new on health care that was not even mentioned in the budget. It was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. The word “Romanow” did not appear.

He quickly realized how silly and irresponsible this was, so he was out suddenly announcing a 10 year health plan. He suddenly announced things that the Liberals would do which were not even mentioned in the budget. What kind of accountability is that? What is the purpose of this budget process when we see those kinds of shenanigans in this place?

All the while Canadians are wondering if anyone in the government is standing up and speaking for them. Canadians are struggling day in and day out and they are falling further and further behind. They see millions of dollars being wasted and the government says nothing whenever anyone asks the question.

We have to get answers and we have to start addressing their concerns. Canadians are concerned about making a living and providing for their families, but they are falling further behind. They have fallen steadily behind over the last 10 years.

It is an embarrassment. This country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, has fallen from first place on the human development index, according to the United Nations, to eighth place, just in a few years, under the Liberals. We are now below even the United States where 40 million Americans have no health care whatsoever.

More and more Canadians are suffering and wondering when they are going to get a raise. More and more Canadians are wondering whether the government has any kind of handle on the economy. There is no job strategy anywhere in sight. We are at 7% unemployment, and it is higher in various regions. There is no mention even of the words job strategy. There is not a plan in place to deal with the fundamental issues of job security and economic security.

All the while, we see more families fall into poverty. Unemployment, as I said, is consistently above 6%. Some 38% of the unemployed are unable to collect benefits. There is a wider gender gap for full time full year work. Women's earnings are only 72% that of men's. Tuition fees are skyrocketing. Child poverty levels are virtually unchanged over the last 30 years. Single mothers and elderly women are more likely to be trapped below poverty. Canada's aboriginal people are still living in third world conditions.

A recent study by the Canadian Association of Social Workers took stock of the last Liberal decade. Women's pre-tax income is still 62% that of men's. Forty-two per cent of unattached women between the ages of 16 to 64 years live in poverty. Women's poverty has actually deepened under the Liberals. Single parent families headed by women remain on the very bottom economic rung.

So much for all that rhetoric from the Liberal benches about equality and being feminists. Women across the country would like to see, finally, the government translate some of its words into action.

Oxfam recently reported that half the women working in Canada earn less than $20,000 a year.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research confirms that wealth means health, that one-third of single parent families headed by women are poor and that without a national child care program, low income children face a lifetime health and learning disadvantage.

We just received the latest report from the National Council of Welfare. Hot off the press, it is called “Income for Living?” and what does it show? Based on 2000 figures, child care in Ontario, as one example, would cost 42% of a minimum wage earner's take home pay or 33% of a low wage B.C. worker's take home pay.

The same report shows that in Ontario, a single parent earning minimum wage, with one child, would have to spend 67% of their take home pay to live in an average rental unit. Can members believe it? A single mother making even an average wage would still have to spend 40% of her take home pay on rent accommodations.

The list goes on. It is disgraceful. It is an embarrassment. Yet the government does nothing.

What did we see in the budget? Not a focus on giving Canadians a raise; not a focus on ensuring that their hard-earned tax dollars go to projects where there is value for money; not a commitment and a target to eliminate child poverty.

Yes, we have targets. We have targets to reduce the debt, which is great, and no one is saying that we should not reduce the debt, but why are we only focusing on debt reduction? Why is the government trying to get us down to 25% debt to GDP ratio in 10 years time when Canadians are falling further and further behind and many more are living in poverty? The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Working people are struggling day in and day out and single parent families are always wondering why there is so much month left at the end of the money.

All we are asking the government to do is to finally listen to what Canadians want, do what is in the best interests of the country and address the human deficit, the issues that have been neglected by Liberals for the last 10 years, and start putting Canada back on the map as a nation with compassionate and humanitarian principles.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy hearing the member speak. She always brings an enormous amount of detail to the floor. I am sorry she did not talk about the bill, but having said that, I want to have a little debate with the member on the issue of poverty.

The member referred to the elimination of poverty. This goes back to a former NDP leader who had a motion passed in the House which sought to achieve the elimination of poverty by the year 2000. There are some facts though that say that lone parent families, not single parent families, as the member continues to say, account for about 15% of all families in Canada. However they also account for 54% of all so-called children living in poverty or families living in poverty.

Members can see that to seek to eliminate that poverty, one would have to address the fundamental problem of the breakdown of the family. Therefore it is inappropriate to talk about single moms and single parent families because they are not single. They have a history and it is that history that is at the root cause of the poverty that we seek to eliminate.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on how we can eliminate a problem where it means that we would have to virtually legislate behaviour.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise to the challenge and embark upon a debate with the member for Mississauga South. I will begin by saying that he is absolutely wrong in his assertions. I would suggest that he read some of the literature dealing with poverty and the roots of poverty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

I wrote a book on it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

He may have written a book on it but I dare say that his book and his hypothesis is not reflective of the literature as a whole and the organizations that are committed to fighting the eradication of poverty.

Reputable organizations, such as Campaign 2000, National Council of Welfare, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and many other organizations that deal with this problem day in and day out, will tell the member and anyone else who cares to listen that the root causes of poverty are not behavioural, they are structural.

The root causes of poverty cannot be traced to some irresponsible family that broke up or by blaming it on the women, or whatever else the member wants to do. The root causes have to do with the fact that people are in low wage jobs. The root causes of poverty have to do with the fact that people are not making what they need to subsist.

I would suggest that he very carefully read what the National Council of Welfare had to say, and that tomorrow he very carefully read the report that will be released by Campaign 2000 on structural strategies to address child poverty. I believe that will be another study showing that Canada's attempts to reduce poverty by blaming it on individuals, on family arrangements and the make-up of family units is misplaced, and has allowed for tremendous poverty rates to continue when something actually could have been done to correct the problem.

I would suggest that the member look at the data that shows the actual systemic and structural roots of poverty. He should not look at family breakdown but at societal breakdown because the Liberal government refuses to address the systemic and structural causes of poverty.

Unless the government does that, unless it gets down to those fundamental issues, we will not see a break in this disgraceful pattern of child poverty in the neighbourhood of 25%, which is an unbelievable statistic in a country as rich as Canada.

I hope the member across the way will take another look at this issue and try to convince his colleagues that it is time to start taking this matter seriously.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Champlain, for a very brief comment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, my comment will be very brief, although I have enough material to speak much longer. I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech.

I too am insulted when I hear all these false claims about the cause of poverty. We know that, during an election campaign, poverty is worth a lot, but when the time comes to do something about the problem and keep one's promises, the poor are left to fend for themselves.

Does my colleague think that the employment insurance fund and the $45 billion that has been taken from the workers, the $3 billion in guaranteed income supplement that has been stolen from seniors, and the billion for Canadian unity, which was wasted and found its way into the pockets of the buddies, mostly—