Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood--Port Kells to participate in the debate on the 2005 budget.
This year's budget demonstrates that the tax and spend Liberals are back. The Prime Minister is engaging in false advertising. The numbers do not lie. The Prime Minister is a spendthrift. No other Prime Minister in Canadian history has been so fast and loose with our money.
Last year the finance minister claimed that this budget would demonstrate unequivocally the principles of financial responsibility and integrity. He promised Canadians to better control spending. That is another broken promise by the government, another promise made but again not kept.
Last year the finance minister projected program spending of $148 billion for 2004-05. It now stands at $158 billion with a month to go. That is a $10 billion overrun and an increase of $17 billion over the previous year. So much for controlling spending. At 12%, this is the largest single spending increase in over 20 years and the fourth largest in the last four decades.
Since 2000, program spending soared by 44% and, judging from this year's budget, Canadians should hang on to their seats because they have not seen anything yet. By 2010 program spending is projected to rise to $195 billion.
I could almost forgive this runaway spending if there was some demonstrable evidence that Canadians' lives were improving as a result, but that is not the case. My constituents in Fleetwood--Port Kells are at pains to see how all this spending has made any difference. Despite multi-billion dollar spending, child poverty continues to grow, health care further deteriorates, roads and bridges remain congested, public transit cries for funding , and there continues to be a strong demand for good, well paying jobs.
After this budget, hospital waiting lines will continue to get longer. Students will continue to plunge deeper into debt and our soldiers will be stretched as thinly as ever.
People in my riding depend upon Surrey Memorial Hospital for their health care. Our community is fast outgrowing its hospital. The hospital, built in the 1970s to accommodate about 50,000 patients a year, now handles between 70,000 and 72,000 patients annually and has the busiest emergency ward in western Canada. Surrey Memorial's facilities now cope with the demands placed upon it by our community's soaring population. There have been recurring complaints about waiting times, a lack of beds, insufficient staff, sanitary conditions and questionable procedures at the hospital's overcrowded ER.
The root cause of the problems we now face goes back to the Prime Minister and the cuts he made to the CHST in the mid-1990s as finance minister. These cuts left successive B.C. governments to find extra billions for health care. The new money for health care in this budget will not provide Surrey Memorial Hospital with the money it needs.
The agreement, which the Prime Minister hyped as a fix for a generation, will only allow B.C. to increase health expenditures by 3% annually over the next six years. Not only will this amount not fix health care, it will not even cover rising costs resulting from inflation and population growth, while the dollar figure spread out over such an extended period amounts to little more than a band-aid solution to our critically ill health care system. In fact, it seems as if this budget is for the year 2008 or 2010.
Transportation is another issue of critical importance to my constituents. Just last month I stood in this chamber demanding a commitment for the construction of the South Fraser perimeter road and the twinning of the Portmann Bridge and expanding our ports, among other things. Years of failing to build enough new transit and road capacity are exacting a heavy toll on commuters. Travel times in the lower mainland have increased by 30% in the last decade with the region's population expected to grow by another one million by 2021. Severe traffic congestion will only get worse.
The people of B.C. pay over $1 billion annually to Ottawa in fuel taxes but the Liberal government refunds less than 4% of that amount for reinvestment in our highways and public transit. Rather than direct gas tax revenues to infrastructure, the government has forced provincial and municipal governments to meet federal Liberal priorities.
Two years ago the Prime Minister promised civic leaders that he would not waste any more time ensuring cities receive a share of the gas tax by Christmas. Now it is March and there is still no money. The Prime Minister dithers, just like he has on other important files, including the foreign policy review, appointments to the Senate and the non-existent national child care agreement.
Media reports indicate that when the gas tax deal is finally revealed, B.C. will receive $635 million over five years, mostly at the back end of the program. This money will translate to less than 10% of what British Columbian drivers will contribute to federal coffers over that same period. The government will continue to hoard its money for pie in the sky programs while ignoring the very real needs of my constituents in B.C.
With all the billions the government plans to spend, all it could offer low and middle income taxpayers was a tax break of $16. A tax break indeed.
Canadians pay the highest taxes in the world. A single person in Fleetwood—Port Kells with a taxable income of $35,000 will pay $5,850 in federal taxes, a rate of 16%. If we factor in all taxes at all levels of government, federal and provincial income taxes, gasoline taxes, sales taxes, GST and property taxes, the tax grab is really $17,175 in total taxes, a rate of 49%.
A family of four in Canada has $2,000 less to spend per month than that same size family in the United States. If the government had lived up to its promises of 2000, the federal government would cost $30 billion less than it does today. If, instead of ramping up spending, the Liberals had delivered tax cuts, Canadians would have had their taxes cut by a third.
If we removed the cover page from the finance minister's budget, we could dust it off as a throne speech. It is replete with generalities, vague references, no meat and no potatoes. This budget is packed with billions in new spending for which no blueprints or road maps exist. There are too many unfocused commitments, no plans for how the government intends to deliver a national child care program, meet its Kyoto commitments, provide funding for cities and deal with farm problems. The budget also contains very serious errors and omissions.
Last week's horrible tragedy in Alberta, four RCMP officers murdered, is a terrible reflection on the government's weak-kneed approach to marijuana grow operations and crime. B.C. has an estimated 16,000 grow ops and 4,000 of them are in my riding alone. What more must happen before the government moves to staunch the proliferation of grow ops and gives law enforcement agencies the resources they need to combat growing crime?
The budget fails to deal with affordable housing, proper shelter that fulfills a basic human need. No mention is made of any programs or measures to deal with violence against women and no solution for the softwood lumber crisis.
I have called for more transparency in government spending. I want to see an end to these so-called arm's length foundations in which the government funnels billions of dollars that are spent at the discretion of the Prime Minister and cabinet. How the money is spent is beyond parliamentary scrutiny.
I want to see an end to the slush funds and the hidden government surpluses used for political manoeuvring. Those surpluses should be in the pockets of taxpayers so they can provide for their children's education and retirement years.
I want to see an end to the bulging surplus of close to $40 billion in the employment insurance fund. That surplus belongs to employers and workers who contributed far in excess of what was needed.
As one commentator put it, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
It is with our Prime Minister, Mr. Dithers, who, in his poll obsessed world, has been unable to show the leadership to present a budget this country and the residents of my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells demand.