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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Bill C-48 and I would like to remind members that the title of the bill is “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”.

It is a pretty short title and it does not tell us a whole lot. It does not tell people across Canada whether this means that we are going to pay the power bill or that it includes $4.6 billion. It is a deal that was written up on the back of a napkin between the government and the NDP.

The member who just spoke prior to me talked about the unholy alliance between the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois. Let me point out to him and to Canadians watching that there is no such alliance on this side of the House. There is, however, one on the other side of the House and it is the NDP propping up a corrupt government that does not deserve to be propped up.

The goal of a Conservative government would be to provide Canadians with the highest standard of living of anyone in the world. We would do that by reducing taxation. Taxation has brought us to the place where we are today.

The last surplus forecast was $1.9 billion. It turned out that whoever was looking after the books was dyslexic because it happened to be $9.1 billion and what did the government do with that surplus? In the face of an impending election it ran around the country and tried to run the cupboard completely bare. That is the whole idea behind running these large surpluses.

I will get back to the unholy alliance, or the shotgun wedding perhaps, between the two parties over there. I do not know which one of them is the bride and which is the groom. I would suggest that the smaller party be very wary of doing business with the Liberals because they have a practice of not following through with their promises.

I would refer that party to the long gun registry where the Liberals said to trust them because this was a bill that was going to reduce crime. It was going to take the guns out of the hands of the people in Canada who should not have guns and it was going to make us all a lot safer in our homes. It was going to reduce gang violence, it was going to do all these wonderful things, and it was only going to cost Canadians $2 million. Guess what? We are at $2 billion and counting and today we heard the Deputy Prime Minister vow, and brag actually, that the annual payments into the long gun registry are going to be capped at a mere $68 million a year. What wonderful news. I am sure that all Canadians are going to be thankful that they will be safer now because of the $68 million.

A Conservative government would put more decisions into the hands of the people who actually pay taxes. How would we do that? For one thing we would tax fewer dollars away from them. I have a daughter who is teaching school in Edmonton. I have another daughter who is married and has two young children, and they are scraping to get by in order to put a few dollars away for the education of their children. The children are two years and six months of age, but the parents are doing their best to put some money away to ensure that those kids get a college education if that is what they want.

How are they trying to do that? They are both working, so that one of them can pay the bills, the mortgage and put groceries on the table, and the other one works to pay their taxes. While we are talking about taxes, why is it that there was no tax relief in the budget? Why is it that there was no debt reduction in the budget? Why indeed was the budget ever written up?

It is pretty obvious that the reason it was written up was to save the political skin of the Prime Minister and his corrupt party. It was pretty obvious also that if all of these things were such wonderful Liberal ideas, they would have been included in the original budget. They were not.

I again warn my colleagues in the NDP to be very cautious of who they are dealing with here. If people want to do business with someone or invest in a company, they should have a look at the prospectus and the track record. I think the NDP members have been here long enough that they should know the track record of the outfit they are dealing with. I just say to them caveat emptor , let the buyer beware.

We talked about the huge reserves that have been built up over the years. I find it passing strange and difficult to comprehend how this thinking goes. Here is a government that has in the neighbourhood a $10 billion surplus in its last budget. There was no mention of help to agriculture in Bill C-48 at all.

At one time I believe I do remember people such as Stanley Knowles and Tommy Douglas saying that they were the friends of the farmer. As a matter of fact, the birthplace of the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, was Saskatchewan, a province famous for its agriculture. There is no mention whatsoever of agriculture in this napkin budget.

I want to remind people that in 1994 the previous government made a commitment to upgrade the military helicopters. The Conservative government had made a deal to buy some EH 101 helicopters, so that the military would have machines that would fly when required, and the military would not have to go to the archives to obtain parts for these machines.

The helicopter deal was scrubbed, as everyone knows, at a cost of $600 million. Thanks to the Liberal government the taxpayers of Canada were on the hook for $600 million just to get out of the deal. We still do not have those helicopters.

That was a big commitment. Former Prime Minister Chrétien said that the government was working on that. I believe the terms he used were ones that the Deputy Prime Minister likes to use, “without further delay” or “in due course of time” or whatever. It did not happen. We still do not have the helicopters.

It is now 12 years after the promise was made to upgrade the helicopters for our Canadian military. We still do not have those helicopters. Today we have helicopters that require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight. That is the kind of deal that the NDP has entered into. This is the type of party that it has entered into with this deal. It is a party that is notorious for not keeping its word. I do not know if it is parliamentary for me to say so, but I think that the Liberal Party is being duplicitous about this.

I have been here since 1993 and the government has continually racked up surpluses. The government has done very little, although it has made token payments on the debt, about $3 billion a year. In this budget and actually in Bill C-43, I did not see any payment on the debt.

I know that if the government were paying down the debt, it would reduce the $40 billion a year that we pay out in interest. That money, that we pay out for the party that we have had, is money that could be returned to the taxpayer in the form of just leaving more money in their pockets. I am a great believer that a dollar left in the hands of the taxpayer is far better used than a dollar that is sent here for the government to squander.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am amused by this line of argument by the hon. member and his party opposite which says that Bill C-48 is propping up the government and, of course, propping up a corrupt government. Only an hour ago we voted on third reading of Bill C-43. Bill C-43 is a complete budget document in and of itself. I do not know what the hon. member was doing when he was voting for Bill C-43, or what his party was doing voting for Bill C-43. If he truly believes that he is propping up this corrupt government, then he should not have voted for Bill C-43.

Would the hon. member enlighten me? Why would he vote for Bill C-43 which props up a corrupt government, but not vote for Bill C-48 because it will prop up a corrupt government? It does not make any sense.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is really quite simple. Because we voted to support Bill C-43, we did not vote to prolong the life of the government across the way. We voted for Bill C-43 because it contains some measures we supported, some measures of which we were actually the instigators.

Some things in Bill C-43 came right out of the Conservative policy book. For instance, although the gasoline tax rebate is watered down somewhat in Bill C-43, that was a Conservative plan some eight or nine years ago. I know that the hon. member who asked the question will recall that my colleague Mr. Morrison, from Cypress Hills--Grasslands in Saskatchewan, put forth a private member's bill suggesting exactly the same thing.

The other reason that I personally voted for it was that it gave Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia control over their natural resources. This is also a policy that we have long advocated and are glad to see come in.

Why did we vote for the bill? Because we were not in a position to separate out the things we like about Bill C-43 and vote for them, and separate out the things we do not like about Bill C-43 and vote against them. Therefore, we had to vote to support the entire bill, because it did contain at least two measures that we both instigated and support.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Did the Conservatives at any point attempt to get some changes to the budget? Did they go to the Liberals and say they would support it if the Liberals put in this or that or did they just sit back?

Wait a minute, I actually do not have to ask that question, because once again I recall the leader of the Conservatives, right after the budget was announced, with that great big smile on his face going out to the media and saying that he loved it, that it was the best budget the Conservatives could have, that it was a Conservative budget.

They did not bother going for anything else because they had their budget.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the hon. member's hyperbole, but that is exactly what it is, hyperbole.

What my leader said was that this is not a budget with which we are thrilled, this is not a budget that we feel is sufficient to bring down the government, and this is a budget we can live with.

Just for the sake of the people who are watching and for the sake of Hansard , let us not confuse the budget that the hon. member is talking about, Bill C-43, and this back of the napkin or back of the envelope budget, whichever we like, Bill C-48, which was cobbled together at the last minute by the Liberal government, the finance minister, the NDP and of course Buzz Hargrove. I do not know how they could ever have managed to get this just right without Buzz Hargrove. Apparently that is what it takes.

That is what we are discussing here today. They are two separate and completely distinct bills. Bill C-43, on which I have answered the previous questioner, is the one that we did support, and Bill C-48 is the one we do not support.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity for more time to make some comments on the budget bill, Bill C-48. Obviously the New Democrats are very happy with the budget.

I know that my colleagues on the Conservative benches keep insisting this was a budget that was done on a napkin or the back of an envelope. The reality is that this budget resulted from the NDP meeting with a number of groups that wanted to see changes and improvements within the budget.

We knew what Canadians wanted. We knew where there were faults within the first budget and where we wanted to see changes made. A number of days stretched into evenings and late hours of the night while we were negotiating changes and improvements to that budget. It was not done with a quick snappy “this is what we want” attitude. It was done seriously and with a focus on maintaining what our leader has said from day one: a belief in a balanced budget.

I have supported that. As someone who has been involved in municipal politics as part of a school board, I know it is important to stick within budget mandates. I totally support that. Our leader supports it and this is what we have followed through on.

Part of the criteria for this change was that we wanted these changes made but we still wanted to see a balanced budget. That is what we have. This attitude that somehow it is going to put us grossly in debt and is the downfall as a nation is just not accurate. I think the Conservatives do themselves an injustice by suggesting this, because it is not the case.

There is one fact that I cannot seem to understand. I do not know where the Conservatives are coming from on this. It is in regard to how it is somehow awful that NDP is getting $4.6 billion that is going back to Canadians in services.

There will be $4.6 billion going back to the Canadian taxpayers for affordable housing, which is absolutely crucial to the nation, not only in my riding and first nations communities, where it is desperately needed, but throughout the nation. Seniors need affordable housing as well. Even in smaller rural communities housing stock has reached a point where changes are needed.

We need a type of independent living arrangement whereby seniors can move out of their own homes but still have a focus on independent living. They may need additional types of housing to support that situation. Under affordable housing they may be able to get that type of housing. It is a crucial need. Somehow the Conservatives expect that as a New Democrat I should feel shame that we fought for this within the budget, but it is not going to happen. I take great pride in the changes that were made to the budget, affordable housing being number one.

The second area is the additional dollars for education. How many of us stand on numerous occasions saying that it is crucially important for us to have a trained and educated nation? The Conservatives do it as well. Then, when we work within the budget to provide additional dollars to support students and educational facilities, somehow we should feel shame that we obtained that for Canadians? It is not going to happen. I take great pride in the fact that we obtained additional dollars for education support.

There are additional dollars to assist developing nations. Again, this is greatly needed. All opposition parties sent letters to the Prime Minister indicating the need for additional dollars and now somehow that was wrong thing to do? I do not think so.

There are additional dollars for Kyoto and improving on the environment. I have received comments from around my own riding and from the municipalities stating appreciation for those dollars as well as the dollars they are going to receive from the gas taxes. Why would we feel bad about that?

Who should be feeling bad? It is the Conservatives who should be feeling bad. They are saying that it was somehow okay to give $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations.

I want to add something to that. Part of the deal was as well to ensure that small and medium sized businesses would maintain their tax breaks. Those are the businesses in each and every one of our small towns throughout the nation, in every rural and remote community. They are not the large corporations that can take a lot of their assets offshore and skirt around our tax rules, which a number of them do already. They are not the banks, which make billions of dollars. A lot of them are not even paying taxes.

We are not there to ensure that they get corporate tax cuts. Over the years they have had a number of tax cuts. There were already tax cuts in place for those corporations and they are still going to proceed. These were additional tax cuts for corporations. Somehow as New Democrats we should feel bad that we said no, we are not going to accept $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts while the Liberals do not give back services to Canadians? That is not acceptable.

It is beyond me how the Conservatives think Canadians will be fooled by their attitude that somehow by giving back to Canadians in services we in the NDP have brought the country down and we are not going to have businesses investing in anything. We all know already that businesses, in spite of getting numerous tax cuts, were still moving offshore and were still finding loopholes to take their taxes out of this country. That is not acceptable.

Built into the plan was a balanced budget, a balanced approach. If the surplus is not there, then there is no flow. That is acknowledged. My colleague from the Conservatives said there is probably a $10 billion surplus. We are talking about $4.6 billion. We all know and expect that in reality the surplus is even greater because the Liberals have made so many cuts and have not followed through on many programs. We are going to try to make sure this happens. The way to do it is as a group of parliamentarians insisting that it happen, so that all Canadians benefit, not just corporations benefiting from tax cuts.

If the surplus is not there, we acknowledge that the dollars will not flow, but the reality, and we all know it, is that the surplus is there. I will be the first to admit that although this is a better balanced budget than what was there before, it certainly is not everything. The sure way to make it everything for Canadians is to put people in charge of the government and the country who are going to follow through on their word and make sure those things happen.

We know that is not going to happen with the Conservatives. They agreed with the Liberals that $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations was the first route to take. They supported it. They still insist they supported that first budget. We came along and said no, that is not acceptable, and the government is going to give back to Canadians. The sure way of ensuring that Canadians get the dollars flowing for them is to put more New Democrats in the House and put them in charge. Ideally that is when we will see the best results for Canadians.

When my colleagues say there was nothing extra for agriculture, they are absolutely right. Of course we would have loved to see additional supports for agriculture, but again, in negotiations there is give and take. We were following a plan of what we had to work with. We said we would maintain a balanced budget, but absolutely there should be more assistance for agricultural producers throughout the country.

Absolutely there should have been changes with EI and dollars flowing to workers who have lost numerous benefits over time, but again, I did not see the Conservatives getting in there and saying they wanted money for agriculture after the first budget. They did not say they wanted money for workers. They were accepting that budget with nothing in it. We went in with a minority negotiating position, we accept that, using what we had to get something better for Canadians.

There is an ideal way to get even more for Canadians and to ensure that what comes into the tax coffers in Ottawa means fairness in our tax system and fairness and balance in how those dollars go back to support our nation and Canadians overall. That is to put others in charge who are going to follow through, who are not just going to make up stories and promises for 12 years as the Liberals have done.

I admit it. I have to wonder if Liberals are going to follow through. We are putting our trust in them to do so, but that trust is based on the fact that they are in a minority position. They know Canadians are already questioning their integrity. They know that if they do not follow through on this, they are done for with Canadians, because on top of the scandal with Gomery, Canadians will know they were not going to follow through on a budget that Canadians have told us they want.

The municipalities have told us that and individual Canadians have told us that. People in my riding have told me that. Only one person in my riding wanted an election and wanted the government to fall. All the rest of them said they wanted us to make it work and that we were doing a fantastic job. They said they wanted us to make Parliament work and they wanted the budget we have worked out to pass because it is the budget that is going to help them out.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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 Simcoe—Grey, China; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Agriculture.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments but she is a member of the opposition and I would have expected that as a member of the opposition she would be doing her job in this chamber by opposing the government, as opposed to attacking us.

It astounds me that the NDP consistently attacks the Conservatives when in fact we are the opposition in this House and we are not in control of the levers of government. It just astounds me why she would go out of her way to attack us, as opposed to holding this government to account. I would suggest to her that she ought to do that.

However she made a number of statements here that cannot go uncountenanced in this House.

The real issue she needs to understand is that the $4.5 billion side deal that was cooked up in a hotel room is fiscally irresponsible and, more important, the way in which this money is to be spent is even more irresponsible. The spending increase in this budget represents the single largest spending increase over the last two or three decades in this country.

Furthermore, the Liberal government, over the last five years, has increased program spending on a per capita basis by 5%. It therefore is a fiscally irresponsible deal.

Furthermore, the way in which this deal was cooked up is completely ad hoc and does serious damage to the confederation. This deal is on less than two pages in Bill C-48 and it is totally vague on what it will do for the country. These side deals do serious damage to confederation.

When we look at these side deals, such as $1.6 billion for this, $500 million for that, $900 million for that and $1.5 billion for that, these are not part of any ongoing program arrangements or part of the equalization formula. These are simply one-off deals. These one-off deals do serious damage to confederation and the member's party has agreed to this.

In agreeing to this damaging deal, a deal that does serious damage to confederation, is the member also in agreement with her colleague and ally at the Canadian Labour Congress allowing the first non-leader of the NDP, the first separatist leader ever, to appear at this convention? Does the NDP agree in allowing the first leader from a party other than the NDP to address a tri-annual convention at the Canadian Labour Congress? Does she agree with that?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, the Canadian Labour Congress is an independent body. We are in a democratic country. It can choose to have whomever it likes to come and speak at its conventions. It was in the province of Quebec. I would think if it chose to have the leader of the Bloc appear that is certainly its choice. As I said, we are in a democracy. Although there are some who kind of switch between accepting democracy and not, that is not the case with us. It is not our call. It is an independent body that does a fantastic job on behalf of workers in this country.

In regard to speaking today in support of Bill C-48, it is our bill. It would be a bit ridiculous for me to stand up here as a New Democrat and say that I will not support Bill C-48 when it is our deal. Of course I will support it, in the same way that I supported the government's bill on corporate manslaughter. It came out of my private member's bill. The government finally brought it through but I supported it because it was the right thing to do for Canadian workers. I support this budget because it is the right thing to do for Canadians.

Just being in opposition does not mean we have to oppose everything. It means we have to make sensible decisions based on benefits for Canadians, and that is what is happening here today. That did not come from the Conservatives.

With regard to the bill being on a page and a half or two pages, quality is much more important than quantity. We got all those improvements for Canadians on a page and a half, and maybe the member should take that to heart.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak in the House today and address the chamber and all Canadians concerning Bill C-48, the Liberal-NDP budget deal.

I know how the government operates after having dealt with various departments trying to get money that has been promised for a long time.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Do you need help with the big numbers?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I do not need much help with big numbers because it states in clause 1, “the Minister of Finance may, in respect of fiscal year 2005-2006”, and he may not, “the Minister of Finance may, in respect of fiscal year 2006-2007” and he may not “shall not exceed”. It does not say “will” not exceed. It says “shall not exceed”. It means that there is no minimum.

My point is that Bill C-48 has nothing for Canadians. I have dealt with affordable housing issues for the longest time and $360 million have been stuck in the affordable housing market for I do not know how long. The money cannot get out because the government attaches strings to it so it cannot be spent.

When I came to the House, $1 billion was put into infrastructure. Today there is still roughly $1 billion and it has just started to be paid out in this last little while. It sat there for over a year.

Do we feel that this $4.6 billion will ever be paid out. I doubt that very much.

I want to speak to the bill today because it speaks to one of the fundamental reasons for all of us to be here. The most important reason for any member to come to the House should be out of the desire to help make families' lives better. That is my goal and I know it is shared by my colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada.

We need to strive to bring forth legislation that helps Canadians make our country the most prosperous nation in the world. Canadians deserve the highest standard of living in the world. We want an environment in which each and every Canadian may have a job. Economic growth and opportunity should not just exist in certain pockets of the nation but should be a reality in all areas and all regions of Canada.

Canadians should not have to move from their place of birth in order to chase opportunity. Canadians should not have to abandon their traditions and local culture as well as their family ties in a region simply to chase a dollar.

The Conservatives want for Canadians what every mother and father all across Canada want: for children to get a good quality education that eventually leads to a good job in a safe and secure environment, to perhaps start their own business, to own their own home, to put away some extra money to secure their future retirement and be able to go out for the occasional pizza or afford tickets to a ball or hockey game.

If we do a good enough job maybe Canadians can have those things but it will only happen if we as parliamentarians make sure governments spend within their means and do not overspend and do not overtax.

My biggest problem with the bill is that it calls for additional money to be spent without a clear plan. My problem is not with the money for affordable housing, for the environment, for foreign aid, for post-secondary education and for aboriginal housing. Everything that is in the bill is good quality but there is no plan on how it is ever going to be spent. I cannot support the bill because it is just vague.

Mr. Speaker, please forgive me for this, but I have trouble trusting the government. We have seen from the government in the past that it cannot be trusted with blank cheques. Whenever we let the Liberal government spend taxpayer money without a plan, it is an absolute blueprint for waste and mismanagement.

The Deputy Prime Minister said, “This is not just a Liberal budget. It is a Liberal-NDP budget”. If all this increased spending is such a good idea, then why did the Liberals not have it in their initial budget.

Canadians see this budget for what it is: a bad deal by a desperate Liberal government to cling to power no matter the cost and with no consideration for the crushing burden this may place on young Canadians.

What about those who actually believe some of the Liberal government's promises and who actually believe it will follow through with them? We will just see more broken promises, more plans made that are never completed and more undelivered goods.

I have spoken before in the House about the terrible shame of false hope. Bill C-48 is another sad example of the terrible effects of false hope. The Liberal government should stop letting down those in society who most need government assistance and services.

This is very troubling because I and my colleagues in the Conservative Party recognize that the Liberal government is not currently able to offer Canadians the kind of social assistance they require. Often it is because the Liberals, as in Bill C-48, choose to write cheques with taxpayer money without first having a plan in place. This can be envisioned in the various agricultural plans that have fallen on their face in the last two years.

Why would we throw more money at a problem when the current policy is not meeting the objectives? As Conservatives, we have tried to be constructive and to assist in the budget process. At committee, however, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition defeated attempts by my Conservative colleagues to restore principles of prudent fiscal management and real solutions for Canadians in this budget.

This leaves us in somewhat of a difficult position. Canadians see this money being offered and they view votes on the budget as Christmas eve, but once the budget passes, they are surprised the next morning after they wake up and there are no presents waiting for them under the tree.

In my own riding, the council of the municipality of Stratford even passed a motion asking me to vote to pass the budget. I have tried to make everyone in my riding aware that the Conservatives would honour Liberal promised tax revenues being returned to the city. In fact, it was a Conservative idea to begin with.

We on this side understand that there will not be any actual presents for Canadians, just promises, and we will not play that game. The assumption that tax revenues will not be directed to Canadian municipalities with the defeat of the Liberal government is simply not true.

The Conservative Party of Canada has clearly indicated it will honour the deals that have been previously negotiated by the Liberal government, including such initiatives as gas tax transfers, the Atlantic accord and the child care agreements between the federal government and the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, even if those child care agreements do not cover everyone.

As a businessman and as a parliamentarian, I have always believed that the workers are the most important asset of any business. Supporting the workers of this country is one of the reasons that I support the corporate tax cuts that were announced in the original budget. It was estimated that these tax breaks could produce as many as 300,000 new jobs. I find it surprising that the New Democratic Party would oppose such a measure that would generate jobs for hardworking Canadians.

The Conservatives have presented an amendment to clause 1 that would raise the amount of surplus that would be set aside for debt paydown. It is easy to overlook the importance of this but the savings in interest would be massive and allow future governments the flexibility to increase money offered to Canadians in key areas of social spending.

Our amendment to clause 2 would force the government to table a plan by the end of each year outlining how it intends to spend the money in the bill.

My Conservative colleague's amendment to clause 3 would ensure that important accountability and transparency mechanisms were in place for corporations wholly owned by the federal government. All government programs should be accountable and transparent so that Canadians may judge them for themselves.

I take my work at committee very seriously and very much appreciate the good work of Conservatives on the committee. It is a shame that the government routinely ignores the good work done at committee.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the concern that there are no details in Bill C-48, I am curious as to whether or not there were any more details in Bill C-43. My understanding is that both budgets were written with the same sort of process. It is just that in this case, Bill C-48 is an NDP budget and Bill C-43 was the Liberal government's budget.

My colleague seems to have an objection to the fact that there are no details in Bill C-48. Could he tell me whether or not there were more details in Bill C-43 and, if so, what they were?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there were a lot of details in Bill C-43. I have dealt with affordable housing issues. We have heard the minister stand over there and tell us that there is $1.5 billion in Bill C-48.

If I were negotiating a deal, I would have put some teeth into it to ensure that the government spends the money. I sat and listened to stakeholders in my riding. The stakeholders in my riding heard one thing and then when the bill came out it was something different. I would have hoped that Bill C-48 would have had some teeth in it. It is $4.6 billion sitting there for the government to spend at will whenever it feels like it. That is where I stand.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, we now have an admission that there were no more details in Bill C-43 than Bill C-48, yet the Conservatives supported Bill C-43 even though they do not trust what they say is a corrupt government. When one takes Gomery into question, there certainly is that attitude.

If the government is not spending those dollars for Canadians, the teeth that we now have is a minority position. Canadians know that the dollars are there. They are going to go at the government and so are we. If we want the teeth, then let us have all the teeth from across the way, from the Conservatives and the Bloc, on the government as well to ensure that those dollars do go to Canadians.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is about time that maybe we all work together to make the government hold to what it says. One difference between Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 is that there were tax cuts in Bill C-43. They were not all exactly outlined. When would they come into effect? We are not sure, but they were at least there. The member talked earlier about companies going offshore. Why do they go offshore? They go offshore to get a better tax rate. That has been admitted in the House. Why not keep those companies here by cutting taxes?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member seems to have a lot of advice for the NDP on what we should have done in the negotiations and how Bill C-48 could have been so much better than the job that we did. If the opposition believes that it could do such a good job and such a better job than the NDP then why did the opposition fold the hand it held before the budget speech was even presented?

We saw the Leader of the Opposition roll in and advise the Canadian people that the Conservative Party was going to support the budget as is. Why did the opposition members not hold the government to account and have their own negotiations, and come up with the perfect budget the way the member said they could have done?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened for the last two or three weeks to the members in the corner over there slam dunking the Conservatives all the time. The Conservatives have not been in power for the last 12 years. It has been the Liberals. We are slam dunked every time. That is exactly what the Liberals have done any time that we have come forth with any amendments, whether it be in committee or the House. Our amendments are shot down. I guess that is going to be my answer.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I oppose Bill C-48, the NDP-Liberal budget, because it is fiscally irresponsible and creates a danger to the federation. It creates fiscal arrangements that are a tangled web and lays some very dangerous markers down for future years.

For example, Bill C-48 is full of one off deals. There are one-off deals for affordable housing, foreign aid, the environment and post-secondary education. This is not the way to approach financing the federation. This is not a way to provide long term, stable funding for program spending. This is completely irresponsible. This was a deal that was cooked up as an act of desperation and something that is going to do some serious long term damage to this country.

The other problem with this bill is that it represents one of the largest increases in government spending in the last three decades. In the last five years alone, government spending has increased 20% on a per capita basis. This too is fiscally irresponsible because it provides a risk that in future years, when the economy slows down or enters a period of either zero or even negative growth, we will face increasing difficulties in balancing our budgets.

All these problems, with the large increases in spending and the tangled web of fiscal arrangements that the government has managed to find itself in, point to the fact that the government has no focus. It has no plan for the fiscal arrangements of Confederation. Another area this budget fails to address is the needs of small town and rural Ontario. These municipalities face huge infrastructure costs.

I will give two examples in my riding of Wellington--Halton Hills. The township of Centre Wellington has a population of about 22,000. It has over 100 bridges. In that township alone, we are facing a bridge repair cost of about $15 million over the next several years. That is a huge number for a rural township with a population of only about 22,000 and an annual operating budget of about $15 million. In Halton Hills, I have been told that there is a backlog of about $57 million in roadwork and other infrastructure. That is an equally big number for a community with only about 50,000 people and with an annual operating budget of about $20 million.

While these numbers may seem small to those in this House, if one were to extrapolate them to a large city such as the city of Toronto with a population of about 2.5 million, one would get an infrastructure backlog of about $1.7 billion to $2.9 billion.

Rural communities, with their scattered populations and their huge infrastructure, face the same kinds of challenges that are faced by more densely populated areas. We in this House should not forget these rural communities that are the lifeblood of this country. However, that side of the House has forgotten rural and small town Ontario as well as rural and small town Canada.

The government's gas tax plan forgets rural communities in small towns. Under the government's plan, smaller communities will get less of the gas tax than more densely populated areas. Witness its approach to the gas tax for towns and cities. The city of Toronto, with only 20% of the population in Ontario, is getting 50% of the gas tax money. Toronto is getting $1.1 billion of the $2.2 billion in gas tax money, even though it only has one-fifth the population. Rural areas with small towns desperately need this money.

The lack of detail and action means more closed bridges, more deteriorating roads and, ultimately, higher property taxes because the money for rural townships, cities and towns must come from somewhere. It means that seniors in my riding, like Maria Kurath and Margaret Alexander in Rockwood, may have to sell their homes because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes. These are the real life stories of what happens when a government only addresses the needs of half the country.

People in Wellington—Halton Hills and across rural and southern Ontario pay just as many taxes as those in more densely populated areas. In fact, they pay more in gas taxes because of the longer distances involved in travelling these rural ridings. Yet the government is siphoning money away from these areas to more densely populated areas, despite the fact that these rural areas face the same kind of infrastructure challenges that are faced by the more densely populated areas.

The areas of Wellington County, Simcoe County, Halton region, Peel region, Dufferin County, York region, Oxford County, Brant County, Niagara region, Waterloo region and Hamilton-Wentworth, just to name a few, are being shortchanged by the government's budget .

The problem with this budget is its ad hoc asymmetrical approach to the fiscal arrangements of the federation. It has created a Canada of haves and have nots. Witness the government's approach to equalization which is an ad hoc approach with side deals for some provinces, pitting one province against another and one region against another.

Witness its approach to child care which is a two tier system, one for families who can afford to access locally licensed day care and nothing for those for whom there are simply no locally licensed day cares or who choose to stay at home. A child care system that creates only 120,000 fully subsidized spots for six million Canadian children aged 12 and under is not a universal system and is not fair.

Witness its approach to the gas tax for towns and municipalities in this budget. The city of Toronto, with only 20% of the population in Ontario, is getting 50% of the money. Toronto is getting $1.1 billion of the $2.2 billion in gas tax money even though it only has one-fifth the population. This is simply not fair. We need a fair formula for the distribution of the gas tax money based on a per capita basis. If we were to give additional moneys to public transit, and I support public transit, we should do so, but through a separate formula from general government revenues, so that small towns and rural areas in Ontario and across the country are not shortchanged.

I support more money for cities, but I do not support creating an unfair formula that leaves half the country behind. I support a fair formula so that both rural areas and cities in this country can move forward together in the 21st century.

I have ridden the TTC. I have lived and worked in the city of Toronto for many years and I appreciate the challenges the TTC faces. The government has neglected the TTC for over 10 years. Ridership is down, the number of buses on the road are down, and the number of subway trains running are down despite the fact that the city has exploded in population. The government finally reacts with an ad hoc formula that leaves half the country behind and only addresses the needs of the other half.

I reiterate the point that we need a fair formula for both cities and rural areas in this budget. We have problems addressing infrastructure in both cities and rural areas, but the government leaves half the country behind in this budget. For these reasons, I am opposed to the NDP-Liberal side deal as evidenced by Bill C-48.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am curious about the member's definition of fiscally irresponsible. We are dealing with Bill C-48 and talking about $4.5 billion over two years for public transit, access to post-secondary education and affordable housing, with the clear caveat that we are not going into deficit.

However, when the party of the member opposite was last in power, the annual deficit was not $4.4 billion. It was $43 billion. Interest rates were 11%, unemployment was around 10% or 11% and the country was basically bankrupt.

My question for the member opposite is this. What is the basis and rationale for calling this small bill, a bill with this relatively small amount of money, fiscally irresponsible and the results of the last Conservative government, when the annual deficit was $43 billion, as being fiscally responsible? I am having difficulty with coming to a conclusion as to how the member can call one responsible and one irresponsible.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will try to explain it to my hon. colleague opposite.

It is fiscally irresponsible because it represents a spending increase of 20% over the last five years. This is part of this government's runaway spending that will come back to haunt us when the economy slows, whenever that may be. The government has spent 20% per capita extra over the last five years. It is simply not sustainable.

It is also irresponsible because it represents ad hoc side deals that have become the modus operandi of the government. Whether it is a side deal on health care for one province and another deal for the other provinces, or whether it be a side deal with the NDP for this budget or whether it be a side deal on equalization, pitting one region of the country against another, it is completely irresponsible to do these ad hoc side deals.

I do not know if the government has taken a new approach on federalism. Maybe the Liberals really do believe in asymmetrical federalism. These kind of arrangements do serious long term damage to Confederation. That is why this budget is irresponsible.

The hon. member opposite mentioned the previous Conservative government. He should know that the previous Conservative government was operating in a global climate, where members of the G-8 were all facing difficult fiscal and monetary challenges, of high interest rates and a high inflation. What he should also know is, operationally, that government ran a surplus. That is the most important thing he should keep in mind.

I might also add that government faced challenges directly resulting from structural problems given to them by the previous Liberal government.

Let me also add that this government likes to tout loudly about its accomplishments on fiscal prudence. What they need to realize is the two reasons for the balanced budgets of the late 1990s were the GST and free trade. Free trade led to a boom in manufacturing in Ontario, which led to a growth in government revenues.

More important, he should know that the GST accounts for about $40 billion in the government's revenues or 22% of government revenues. It has a $9.1 billion surplus. However, the Liberals, who fought tooth and nail against the GST, would find themselves in a $31 billion deficit today if it had not been for the far-sighted leadership of the Conservative government.

I hope these facts will help clarify the hon. member's confusion about where we are today and how we got here.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise at report stage to address Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments.

This bill is somewhat historic. This is the first federal-NDP budget in three decades. Of course our Conservative Party cannot support this NDP budget. Canadians did not vote for an NDP budget. They did not send the 289 MPs who are not NDP members of Parliament to Ottawa to vote for this. Even the Liberal MPs across the way who are now supporting this bill are not doing so for the right reasons.

If the kind of irresponsible and reckless spending contained in Bill C-48 were a good idea, then that spending would have been included in the budget original, but it is not.

Liberal MPs are now indistinguishable from their NDP coalition partners on matters of financial policy.

Let us all recognize Bill C-48 for what it is. It is a brazen and desperate attempt to hold onto power by a regime that has been exposed as corrupt, arrogant and untrustworthy. NDP MPs have paid a price to gain their budget. Because they have actively maintained this corrupt regime in power, they are now tarred with the same brush.

However, Bill C-48 is also something else. It represents higher taxes, a return to deficit spending and a deepening of the national debt that we had recently begun to get under some control. That kind of fiscal irresponsibility and recklessness has real consequences for working families and taxpayers across Canada. Ultimately, the ability of the government to spend money depends exclusively on taking money away from the average Canadian. For some folks, it means the loss of music lessons or sports camps for their kids. For others, they may have to cancel their vacation, the one that they were looking forward to all year long. Some Canadians are going to have to work that many more hours to pay this tax bill, but those hours are hours not spent with family and friends, enjoying life.

We have a very different vision of Canada. We believe in fair taxation, individual responsibility and limited government. We recognize that government is not always the best institution to address and solve every societal problem.

For example, in my riding of south Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale, we have a private organization called the Peace Arch Community Services, or PACS. PACS helps thousands of people in my community every year, with everything from helping the unemployed find a job or helping the hungry with food to counselling for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

PACS does receive grants from various levels of government to help provide some of these services, but it also raises a significant portion of its funding privately. Indeed, there is great support for PACS in my community, and that is amply demonstrated by the generosity of those who fund it.

Of course PACS is just one of many private organizations, from service clubs to faith-based organizations to community groups, that provide or fund services in the community to help the weak and the vulnerable in society.

My fear is that as the government ratchets up the spending and takes even more money from people's discretionary income, there will be less left in people's pockets to give to groups like PACS that is making a real difference in the lives of Canadians.

Our Conservative vision includes a significant tax reduction that would allow Canadians greater freedom to support such worthy causes. I have no doubt they will. I am excited about the possibilities for our great land if Canadians are given such freedoms.

We had some votes late Tuesday evening of this past week where a couple of facts became apparent.

The first is that our Conservative Party is keeping its commitment to work constructively within this minority Parliament. As an example, we supported Bill C-43 at report stage, despite our misgivings about several elements in the main budget. We want to make this Parliament work and our actions speak louder than mere words.

The second and unmistakable fact is the failure of the Liberals to pay anything more than lip service to making this Parliament work. We continue to see arrogance in action as the Liberals reject reasoned amendments put forward by my party to bring the budget and its spending in line with the commitments the government made in its throne speech.

I want to review some of those commitments. They were proposed by our party and endorsed by the Liberals in a vote in the House. We called upon the government to do the following: to ensure that the employment insurance fund would only be used for the benefit of workers instead of balancing the federal budget; to reduce taxes for low and modest income Canadians; to tell the truth in government budget forecasting; to make the electoral system more fair; and to give Parliament a real voice on key foreign and defence policy issues such as missile defence.

As we examine these points in order, we can see from this budget legislation that the Liberals have repeatedly broken their promises to Parliament and to Canadians.

EI premiums have not been lowered to the level where revenues are commensurate with expenditures. Instead, the government continues to run a huge EI surplus to help it balance the budget. This is doubly strange because in the years that the Prime Minister was finance minister, he explicitly stated that payroll taxes killed jobs. It is true that payroll taxes kill jobs and excessive Liberal payroll taxes under the Prime Minister have certainly killed tens of thousands of jobs. Promise made, promise broken.

The Liberals committed to reduce taxes for low and modest income Canadians. In fact the measly tax reduction offered by the Liberals works out to one cup of coffee a month or just $1.33 starting next year. That rises to $8 a month for an individual by the fourth year of the budget. How generous. By comparison, during the last election, the Conservative Party offered the average taxpayer savings of $1,000 annually by the fourth year.

The Liberals committed to reduce taxes, yet their pennies a day tax reduction is virtually meaningless for most working families struggling with rent or a mortgage or buying school supplies or clothes or food. One might also consider the fact that the government has done nothing to reduce the high cost of gasoline, a large component of which is federal taxes. Again, promise made, promise broken.

As for truth in budget forecasting, we have already seen backtracking on this commitment. We can easily add up the more than $26 billion in additional new spending commitments the government has made since introducing the budget in February. Nearly $5 billion of that total, contained in the legislation we are debating now, was to obtain the common support of the NDP. That works out to about $260 million per vote if we add it up and divide by the number of MPs in the NDP. Yet we have the spectacle of the government standing in the House day after day in question period denying that its spending spree is going to send us back into deficits and debt.

Business groups agree that the government has been less than forthcoming with the truth in budget forecasting. According to Nancy Hughes Anthony, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce:

Without a fiscal update, we are flying blind when it comes to Canada’s finances with only vague assurances from the government that it will be able to balance budgets in the future....Until Canadians are given all the facts and figures, we have every right to fear that we are flirting with future budget deficits given the government’s excessive spending.

Promise made, promise broken.

As for making the electoral system more fair, there are 57 different bills the government has introduced, including the bill we are debating today, yet not one of them addresses electoral reform. Promise made, promise broken.

The government promised to give Parliament a real voice on key foreign and defence policy issues such as missile defence. Yet earlier this year Parliament was totally excluded by the Prime Minister when he unilaterally decided to opt out of the U.S. missile defence system. Once again, promise made, promise broken.

In that same throne speech the government claimed “parents must have real choices” when it came to child care. Where is the choice? The fact is the government continues to discriminate against single income families in the tax code. It simply does not value the work of the parent who stays at home. If parents are to have real choices, it is critical to reduce taxes for all families with young children.

In our amendments to the other budget bill a couple of days ago, we gave the government the opportunity to meet its promise to give parents a greater choice in child care and it chose to vote against its own promise.

As we have seen with other Liberal promises, the throne speech amounted to all talk and no action. In this budget, once again it is promise made, promise broken. The Liberals have proven themselves untrustworthy promise breakers. Soon they will have to provide an accounting to the Canadian people for this.

In the meantime I will conclude my speech where I began, and that is to say that we cannot support this NDP budget implementation bill, Bill C-48.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the House, with the support of the Conservative Party , the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, passed Bill C-43 dealing with approximately $180 billion of program spending. We are now dealing with Bill C-48 which is an additional $2.25 billion per year over the next year with the clear caveat that the government will not go into a deficit.

The bill was referred to a committee. I would have thought that if there were any concerns, problems or difficulties the committee would have worked on the bill, improved it, enhanced it and set it back to the House. However, the Conservative Party in its alliance with the Bloc Québécois voted all the paragraphs down.

Given the relatively small amount of money we are talking about in Bill C-48, why was it not dealt with at the committee level? Was this action at the committee controlled by the Bloc Québécois?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague knows that I am not a member of the finance committee, so he would also know that I was not at the discussions that occurred in that committee when the amendments were put forward.

I do want to draw to the attention of the member and the House that none other than the Canadian Chamber of Commerce suggested that this budget bill is a huge mistake for the country. This is a respected organization that has the admiration of economists and Canadians across the country. It is saying that this is a huge mistake. Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said:

Without a fiscal update, we are flying blind when it comes to Canada's finances with only vague assurances from the government that it will be able to balance budgets in the future. Until Canadians are given all the facts and figures, we have every right to fear that we are flirting with future budget deficits given the government's excessive spending.

That is exactly what is happening here. It is excessive spending. If the Liberals thought this spending was necessary for the country, why did they not include it in the February budget? It is absolutely clear to all Canadians that the only reason we are even debating the bill today is that the Liberals, in a desperate attempt to stay in power, were propped up by the NDP. The NDP and the Liberals are in bed together, propping up their own, call it what we may, form of power. It is ironic that they look to the other side of the House every now and again and suggest that we are in collusion with some other party when that is clearly not the case.

The NDP-Liberal-Buzz Hargrove budget, however we want to describe it, is an atrocity for the country. I hope that the people listening at home will begin to understand as more and more Conservatives stand up and make that point clear.

The Conservatives are here to get things done. We are here to work hard for Canadians. Part of our job as the official opposition is to oppose things that we think are harmful for the country. The bill is a prime example of something that will cause damage to the country. This bill, which is a page and a half long, is making large promises, some $4.5 billion, with no real fiscal spending priorities or plans whatsoever. This is basically another slush fund. The Liberals, and the NDP who are cooperating in propping up the Liberals, get to pull out of the hat whatever they want, whenever they want.

That is not what Canadians sent us here to do. Canadians sent us here to be responsible. Families in my riding work hard. They budget. They count their pennies and spend money according to priorities and plans that they have put together. Those priorities could be violin lessons, buying hockey equipment or taking vacations. There is a host of priorities that Canadians have on which they spend their money. They work hard to raise that money and they take care in how they spend it.

Yet the Liberals and the NDP members think the money comes from nowhere. They always forget the fact that it is hardworking Canadians who gave them the money in the first place, and they spend it as if it was nothing. They spend like there was no tomorrow.

It is time for the NDP members and the Liberals to wake up to the fact that Canadians will not stand for this any longer. Canadians are sick and tired of people wasting their money, as we have seen in the sponsorship scandal. They do not have any confidence in the government any more. They have seen $300 million wasted on programs that went to prop up the Liberal government, money that the Liberals used to re-elect themselves. They have seen $1 billion wasted on the gun registry.

My colleague beside me is the expert on the gun registry. He could tell the House where that money could have gone had it not gone to that wasteful project called the gun registry. Think of all the policemen, the MRIs, the benefits to health care, the people in my riding who are looking for shorter wait lists for hip surgeries and that sort of thing. That money could have saved those people a few days or a few months of waiting to get the treatment they need.

Yet the NDP members and the Liberals think they know what is best for Canadians. They are telling Canadians what their priorities ought to be when that is not the case at all.

I stand and testify to the fact that if there is anything we can do to stop this budget bill from passing, we will do exactly that, because we know that Canadians do not want it to pass.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to add my voice in objection to the NDP budget Bill C-48. I want to begin by saying that we as Conservatives believe that our goal should be to give Canadians the highest standard of living possible. In fact, we should aim to have the highest standard of living in the world and this budget flies in the face of that goal.

We as Conservatives would like everyone in this country who wants to have a job to be able to find one. We would like every region of the country to be treated equally. I will come back to that point. That is an essential point that we need to look at in evaluating this budget: treating every region of the country equally. We as Conservatives want economic growth and opportunities to be available to all people in this country. That is our aim. When we form government, every budget will meet that goal.

Every mom and dad under a Conservative government would know that at the end of the day their children will be able to fulfill their goals, live out their dreams, get an education, get good paying jobs, start a family, buy a home, save for their retirement, enjoy a vacation and start a business if they wish.

Our goal should be to tax families as little as possible. That is the opposite of what is happening with this NDP budget. Our goal should be to tax families as little as possible so that they can afford the day care of their choosing. If one parent wants to stay home and take care of the kids, we want that parent to have the option of doing so because taxes would be low enough for that to be affordable.

On a personal note, I got into politics to try to turn things around in this country. I saw how our country was going into decline because of what was happening here in Ottawa with regard to the policies. I want my children and grandchildren to have better lives. That is where I am coming from in evaluating this budget. I want my children to be able to live in freedom and security.

I look at what is happening in the community of Springside, the larger community of Yorkton in which I live and in Melville. Neighbours of mine see things constantly in decline. Agriculture is in crisis. There is absolutely nothing in this budget that addresses the concerns of rural Canadians.

My friends and neighbours are in waiting lines for health care. The NDP claims to be concerned about health care in this country. There is nothing in this budget that really addresses that issue.

The NDP, in writing a budget, is going to bring this country to its knees. Look at what happened when it was in government in Ontario. Look at what happened when it was in government in B.C. Look at what is happening as it is in government in Saskatchewan. My home province of Saskatchewan should be at least as well off as Alberta. It has every advantage, but it has had a government that has been choking the province to death. Now the same mentality is being displayed in this budget. We do not need this. This is exactly the opposite direction in which we should be heading.

The key point I want to make in my speech today is that this budget is dragging on rural Canada and western Canada. It is giving a disproportionate amount of money to large cities. It is not treating all areas of this country equally.

An example was given, and somebody did that math, that a large city with 20% of the population gets 50% of the money in this budget. Rural cities, towns and municipalities get proportionately less in this budget than large cities because of what has been put forward here, but rural areas face the same challenges as the cities.

They are expected to provide the same services as large cities are providing, but with much less. Very often those services cost more in rural areas. What is going to happen? This is going to create even more of a disparity between our rural and urban areas in Canada. This is unfair. That is why this budget is unacceptable.

I challenge the residents of this country to take a look at this budget and determine whether, if we had taken the money the Conservatives proposed in the last election and put it into infrastructure, we would not be a lot better off right now. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer would be yes. Yes, under a Conservative government we would be much better off.

We do not have the fair treatment for rural areas and families with children that we should have in a budget. One example that just jumps out at me is that the government is creating 120,000 day care spots. The Liberals do not know what the cost is going to be, but they say that this is what they are going to do. We have six million children in Canada. Let us look at the disparity, the unequal treatment, in just that budget item proposal for a big cross-Canada day care system. People in rural areas will get virtually no benefit out of this child care scheme.

I am frustrated when I look at the philosophy behind this. We as Conservatives feel very strongly that we have to start cleaning up government, as one of my colleagues has said, but instead we have the Liberals and the NDP with the opposite mentality.

I remember reading a quotation from former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in about 1984. He said, when he was voted out of office, that it was okay, they had “left the cupboard bare”; they had cleaned everything out and they would let the Conservatives take care of the mess.

This is the Liberal-NDP attitude: bankrupt the government so that when we as Conservatives come in we will have a huge problem in that we will have difficulty making ends meet. I do not appreciate having that problem. I have to strongly oppose a budget that is going to make this happen.

When times are good we should be paying down our debt, not spending money on open-ended programs. I wish I could disseminate this budget, although it is really not a budget. If we take a look at what the government and the NDP are calling a budget, it is the most pathetic thing we could ever imagine. As we read through it, we see that it states:

--make payments out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund up to the amount that is the difference between the amount that would, but for those payments, be the annual surplus...

There is no determined amount. It is like a slush fund. The government will spend “up to” this amount of money.

The Liberals and the NDP have four items in the budget itself. Those items are so brief that they are just a few lines. It says they are going to make “payments” for the environment. They are going to make payments for training programs and post-secondary education for aboriginal Canadians. They are going to provide affordable housing, including housing for aboriginal Canadians. They are going to put in more for foreign aid. That is the budget. That is it. That is the whole deal. I need more time to explain to Canadians how empty and bare this is.

As we go on, we see that it provides for the governor in council to make all of the decisions. The next line states “develop and implement programs”. That is creating more bureaucracy. It states “make a grant or contribution or any other payment”. Those are code words for slush fund. I ask Canadians to just look at this budget. I cannot believe that we are being asked to swallow a budget like this.

It goes on to say that that more crown corporations are going to be created. We should be moving in the opposite direction.

I beg Canadians to take a look at this empty budget. I cannot believe that we are asking people to approve this. The NDP members are always saying that we must make Parliament work. That is their mantra. Do we know what this budget does? It actually provides for bypassing Parliament.