Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak tonight to Bill C-48, the second budget bill produced by the government, the Liberal-NDP budget.
It probably will come as no surprise to anyone to find out that I am strongly opposing the legislation for various reasons, which I would like to lay out before the House.
It should be noted that what the government has done to the budgetary process in Canada has basically thrown every parliamentary tradition surrounding budgets out the window. The Liberals have taken every fiscal framework in this country and thrown it out the window.
In the last election the finance minister from Regina stood up and said that there was no way we could afford these Conservative promises because we only had a $1.9 billion surplus. Months later, it turned out that the forecast was actually a $9.1 billion surplus. Obviously the government was not revealing the accurate figures.
In that respect it is nice to know that people like the member for Peace River, vice-chair of the finance committee, has actually rectified this by having some independent experts provide some forecasting so we can have some confidence in the numbers the government is producing.
It is so amazing to see a government in which a Prime Minister, without even phoning or consulting his own finance minister, meets with the leader of the NDP and Buzz Hargrove in a hotel room and rewrites his own budget that he presented in the House on February 23. The finance minister found out later on that the Prime Minister had completely rewritten the budget.
Imagine if the former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, had done that to the present Prime Minister when he was finance minister. This is a man who was ready to resign over the fact that his friends at Earnscliffe were not getting enough contracts. Imagine what he would have done if the prime minister at that time had changed his own budget.
It is unprecedented for a government to introduce a budget, saying that it is the budgetary document that has been worked on for a year, and then, a month later, say that it made a big mistake and that $4.5 billion of tax cuts will be taken out and put back in another budget.
As the member for Peace River pointed out, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said that we could not tinker with the budget because it was perfect and it was the ultimate document, but then a month later he stands in the House and says that it was a $4.6 billion budget but, “oops, I missed the $4.6 billion. We will put it into a new piece of legislation”.
That brings me to my second point. This legislation is the worst legislation I have ever seen and that has probably been produced in the history of this country. It contains no fiscal framework whatsoever.
Just for the reference of members, the 431 page budget plan 2005 lays out a lot of specifics as to where money goes. We could debate the specifics all we wanted. Then the government introduced Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill. Again we could debate the pros and cons of the legislation
Let me read some specifics: Increase the amount that Canadians can earn tax free; increase the annual limits on contributions to tax deferred retirement savings plans; extend the scientific research and education tax incentives; amend part 6 of the Excise Tax Act. Another good one is that part 2 amends the air travellers' security charge to reduce the air travellers' security charge for domestic air travel to $5 for one way travel and to $10 for round trip travel, for transport air travel to $8.50 and for other international air travel to $17, applicable to air travel purchased on or after March 1, 2005.
Why am I saying this? It is because this is how we introduce a piece of legislation. We can debate it, but all Canadians know that if they go to the website and pick up Bill C-43 they can see where their money is going. They either like it or they do not and they can debate it.
Bill C-48, with $4.5 billion on two pages, is the most ridiculous piece of legislation ever introduced. This is what it says, “This enactment authorizes the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”. That provides a lot of solace to those taxpayers working till June to fund the government. He will make certain payments. What will he fund? He will fund things for students. What will he fund for students? I do not know. The Liberals do not know. They will just fund things for students. They will go to universities across the country telling students that they will not have to pay as much for education. How will the Liberals do that? They do not know but they will do it because they will ensure there is a contingency fund of a few billion dollars.
They are going to fund foreign aid with $500 million. Where is that going to go? It does not say. This piece of legislation, at the very least, after they threw out the entire budgetary process of the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada, ought to have stated exactly where the $500 million would be going so we could have actually debated something, rather than debating a nothing piece of legislation.
I encourage all Canadians watching the debate to go to the parliamentary website or pick up Bill C-48 and read what an absolute farce it actually is.
Thirdly, the bill is fiscally irresponsible. The Government of Canada has been on a spending spree like no other in our history. From 1999 to this fiscal year, we have seen a 44.3% increase in spending that is unsustainable in the long term. It has completely forgotten about the debt. We have a $500 billion debt in this country. We have debt payment charges on a yearly basis of about $35 billion to $40 billion. I believe it is the largest outlay every year by the Government of Canada from a fiscal sense and the government is not even addressing that.
What that means is that the government is basically mortgaging our children's future to pay for present programs. That is fundamentally wrong and it is unjust to future generations of Canadians. The debt ought to receive the proper attention. We need a true debt retirement program over a 20 year period.
Another point is that this does not respect taxpayer dollars. It is very easy for MPs, especially on the left side of the spectrum, to stand up and say that we should spend more and more and that there are wonderful areas that need to be addressed. In fact, as members of Parliament we could all stand and say that this is a very good initiative so we should spend more on it.
However the counterbalance to that is that we in the House do not produce this money. We do not generate the wealth. We do not generate the jobs that generate the wealth across the country. It is Canadians working hard until June. Canadians work until June to fund the government's activities and yet it seems so little in the House do we hear from the other side any recognition of the fact that very moderate Canadians of modest means work until June to actually fund the activities that we fund.
It is very easy to spend other people's money. This is very sensitive to me. I want to indicate that I was raised in a very middle class home by two parents who were school teachers. They never made more than $65,000 per year, most of the time on one income, whether it was my mother or father working. They raised four kids and were paying 40% of their income in taxes and paying more and more in taxes and user fees each year. That is where the money is coming from.
All the NDP talks about is corporate tax cuts. Fine, let us not debate that right now, let us debate the fact that we are taking money out of the pockets of average Canadians who cannot afford the little things in life that they would like some money to actually afford, whether it is for music lessons or a two week holiday that year. What the government and the NDP is doing is taking money away.
We ought to rephrase the way we actually talk about taxes in the country. We are not taking taxes. We are taking people's life energy because what they are doing each and every day is getting up, going to work for 8 to 12 hours a day, pouring their life energy into something. What the government does, without respect for any of that hard work, is it takes away that life energy and spends it indiscriminately, wastes it on all sorts of programs, whether it is Kyoto, the firearms registry or whatever one wants to say.
That is why the whole paradigm, the whole shift needs to occur. We cannot just say that money grows on trees and that we will spend it in whatever way we please. We actually have to start realizing that taxpayers are working hard to produce this money and we should treat that money as funds in trust. This is not our money to spend. It is money to divert to the priorities of Canadians but at the same time we must have respect for the fact that they work until June for the government to even fund all these activities. It is fundamentally wrong and it needs to change but it will only change as a result of a Conservative government in Canada.