It is 10¢ or whatever the premium rate is. I will not get into an argument with the parliamentary secretary over there, whoever he is.
I would like to point out once again that it is workers and employers who have been fighting the debt for the Liberals to the tune of around $45 billion. Around $45 billion has been taken out of EI in excess premiums by the Liberals. It has been $45 billion or more. I think $45 billion was the last number I heard and that may have been from last year. It has probably increased by now, and yet those members are saying they have done a great job.
Bill C-67, which is before us today, deals with unanticipated surpluses. I want to talk about the word “unanticipated” before I get down to some of the meat and nitty-gritty of this bill.
“Unanticipated” means that we cannot forecast properly, or if we can, we decide to hide the facts so that we leave ourselves a lot of room for playing with the taxpayers' money at the end for little things, such as an election where it might be nice to have some money in the kitty to roll out to try to buy people's votes.
We know that even in this House the Liberals have tried to do things that are quite unseemly with respect to taxpayers' money in terms of buying votes. That is not acceptable in our society. The rules of Elections Canada forbid it, yet it was done in this House on May 19, when the Liberals made a deal with the NDP, which cost around $250 million per vote on that particular occasion, just in order to stay in power a bit longer.
Let me point out that the cost of an election is approximately $250 million, so every vote on that particular occasion was worth the cost of a federal election. I do not know why the Liberals did not just spend one-twentieth of it or one-nineteenth and go to the people and ask them whether they had confidence in this government instead of buying the NDP. That is an atrocious misuse of taxpayers' money.
“Unanticipated” means very simply that the Liberals have not been properly using statistical measures and statistical forecasting methods in order to get a good estimate what the surplus will be. We know that this Liberal government is absolutely out of it when it comes to accurate forecasting. Year after year, this government has been way out to lunch.
It is obvious that in statistical measures we cannot be dead on over time. I concede that fact, but if we are being fair and honest most of the time we would be out by a small percentage. Occasionally we would be a little low and occasionally a little high. This government has always been very high in its estimate of government expenditures and very low in its estimate of government revenue. As a result, it has consistently posted excessive surpluses.
Those surpluses of course represent money that the government has taken from taxpayers. It has taken an excessive amount. The most recent case of course involved the government's prediction of $1.9 billion. We had a bit of fun with that, calling the finance minister the dyslexic finance minister because $1.9 billion should have been $9.1 billion, which is what it really turned out to be.
We on this side of the House of course applaud the fact that in our economy our people and our businesses are working hard and earning money despite the misuse of their dollars by this government. In spite of that, they are working.
It is also true that these surpluses are largely as a result of policies brought in by a previous government and which the present government opposed. We all remember the GST. In fact, I will never forget it. I believe it was the GST that actually won me the election in 1993 because of the great hatred people had for it.
The Liberals said that they would scrap the GST. I remember pictures on television of the then leader of the official opposition, Mr. Chrétien, saying, “If we are elected we will scrap it”. I will not attempt to mimic his accent or his voice but he did say that he would scrap it and that it would be gone. Did he do it? No, he did not. After his government came into power he thought it was nice money and decided to keep it and use it. Of course, it has been a huge tax.
We probably, at some point in time, will want to continue the debate on the merits of the GST that was brought in by the previous government. The Liberals promised to kill it but instead used it and now crows about how wonderful managers they are because of something they did, which they did not plan and which was brought to them on a silver platter. They were able to use the money to reduce the deficit and start reducing the debt. Good for the government but, on the other hand, they should not be crowing about it and saying that they are such great and wonderful managers. The Liberals never thought of it. The Liberals opposed it and yet it worked for them.
Second, I think of free trade. I remember the Liberals saying that free trade would be an absolute disaster. I heard phrases such as, “What's afta NAFTA? Disasta”. I heard those words from Liberal candidates and others. They did not want that free trade agreement. They were against it and spoke loudly in opposition to it.
We now know that our trade, especially with our American neighbours, despite the fact that the government has tried to do everything to diminish our good relationship with those neighbours, and with other countries around the world has gained us a huge benefit.
Once again the Liberals sort of got the deficit elimination and some debt reduction handed to it on a platter with a policy and with action that they not only did not think of or initiate, but they were against it. Now they are saying that they are great and wonderful. I would point out that if it were not for those things, the Liberals would probably be running deficits right now.
Furthermore, let us think about this. If the Liberals would have managed taxpayer dollars prudently and properly, instead of only using the words, one can only think of the amount of debt reduction that we could have had. I believe it has been the tradition over years in Canada that if there is an unanticipated surplus and if there is a debt, the surplus goes toward reducing the debt.
The present government could never bring itself to put into the budget an actual plan for debt reduction. Instead, it brought in this little thing called a contingency plan. I have no problem with that. I think it is prudent to have a contingency fund. However, in addition to that, it should have done accurate forecasting and built right into the budget a fixed amount that was designated for debt reduction.
Debt reduction is what people want. People want to see the amount of the debt reduced substantially so that we do not give future generations, our young people, our college students and graduates of today, this huge debt and the huge interest.
In several speeches today, including in the speech by the Minister of Finance, I heard Liberals say that some $3 billion a year is now available because of the reduced demand on the treasury to service the debt. I say that is wonderful. However it is too bad the government could not have been serious about debt reduction in the last five or six years with the huge surpluses, instead of going on their spending sprees because the debt could have been reduced even further. It could have been $4 billion or $5 billion that would have been available.
Instead, the government squandered the money and it has very little to show for it. It is the same as what we have to show for some of our teenage kids. They take the money and we wonder what they did with it. It is gone.
I also would like to point to a fallacy in the speech given by the Minister of Finance earlier today. He indicated that the Liberals had inherited a huge debt from the Conservative government that they replaced in 1993. I have said this before and I will repeat it over and over until somebody hears it and gets the point. If we look at the record over the nine years that the Conservatives were in power, they had a balanced budget on program spending. Members can check the record.
I expect the finance minister and the people over there to have accurate numbers when they are talking to Canadians. Members over there are crowing and yelling. They should listen to the facts. I do not have the numbers at my fingertips right now but I think it was in the--