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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Symbol for the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division on the motion stands deferred until Wednesday, June 22 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

June 21st, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, in a previous incarnation the finance minister, the current Prime Minister prided himself on his prudent stewardship of the nation's finances.

In 1994 he stood up in this House and indicated that the days of extravagant promises and reckless spending were over, stating,“For years, governments have been promising more than they can deliver, and delivering more than they can afford. This has to end. We are doing it”. That was once upon a time and a long time ago.

The Prime Minister has abandoned the notion of prudent fiscal spending. In its place, as reflected in Bill C-48, he has adopted a reckless spending approach to the budgetary process. Even worse, the Prime Minister decided to cut a truly bizarre backroom deal with the leader of the smallest party in the House for their support, effectively allowing the NDP to dictate the terms of the budget.

To quote the respected national columnist Don Martin:

What we have now is a prime minister who mocked Layton as the leader of a tax-and- spend party that would ring up huge deficits on the national credit card, now calling the NDP's budget a fiscally prudent document which proves Parliament works.

Consider the ramifications of that. For all we do as parliamentarians, for all the debates and all the votes and for all the legislation, nothing affects Canadian families more directly than the way we spend their hard earned money. The way in which government expenditures are allocated speaks to the priorities and values of Canadians.

The Liberal government this past February presented a budget it took great pride in boasting as “Delivering on Commitments”. The introduction of the budget document praised what it described as “a balanced strategy to build a 21st strategy economy that would improve the well-being of all Canadians”. Moreover, it went on to state that a “productive, growing economy creates jobs, boosts incomes and supports investments in the quality of Canadian life”.

The Conservative Party was ready to work with the February budget. While not ideal, it did recognize the need to offset spending increases with some debt repayment and modest tax relief.

However, as the changing winds of political fortune threatened to cut short the Liberal government's rein, the Prime Minister completely ignored his own budget planning and altered it with an NDP budget that according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, “squanders the budget surplus and flouts responsible budgeting in favour of irresponsible spending”.

On the most important piece of legislation, one which will speak to the values and priorities of Canadians, the federal government decided to make a dramatic shift and embrace the priorities of the NDP, a party which received a mere 15% of the vote in the last election and the lowest of the three major federal political parties.

This was not a one time occurrence. Canadians have consistently rejected the NDP and its tax and spend philosophy throughout the years. Why have Canadians been so unfailing in their rejection of the NDP? I cannot speak for all Canadians, but many have seen the often disastrous behaviour of New Democrats in provincial governments.

Residents in my home province of Saskatchewan know all too well how an NDP government treats the public treasury. Indeed, an editorial just today in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was extremely critical of the current NDP administration in Saskatchewan. It stated:

--as a government with no real strategy for the province, whose intent is to do little more than squander every last nickel that rolls into the coffers, and let the tomorrows fend for themselves.

Indeed, as the editorial concludes, “taxpayers are unlikely to see much direct benefit as the government continues on an irresponsible spending spree”.

The similarities between the federal government and Saskatchewan's provincial government are uncanny in this respect. Both have engaged in irresponsible spending sprees with no framework and with no tax relief for the taxpayer.

Every action has a consequence. Reckless spending by the state has a consequence. The Prime Minister used to know that. He spoke not long ago in the House of the trap of uncontrolled spending and how it contributed to, “the vicious circle in which our chronic deficits contributed to economic lethargy, which in turn contributed to even higher deficits, and then to greater malaise”.

That vicious circle of uncontrolled spending and increasing economic downturns has a real and disturbing cost for hard working families and individuals trying to survive.

In Saskatchewan, the years of the NDP provincial rule have taken an immense toll. The province has one of the lowest per capita family income rates for any province, the lowest number of middle aged, high income earners in Canada, a negative personal savings rate for individuals over the past four years and, most distressing, 14 consecutive quarters of out-migration from the province.

I cannot underline the severity of the out-migration problem on the future of Saskatchewan. It is not only how many are leaving but also who.

According to a recently released report from Statistics Canada, the province's two biggest cities, Regina and Saskatoon, topped the list of Canadian cities to suffer from brain drain. Regina lost 7% and Saskatoon 6% of their 2001 university graduates to other Canadian urban centres. Excessive state interference, especially in the form of reckless spending in the economy, stifles everything from innovation to entrepreneurship. More important, it drains jobs, the very jobs that those new graduates were seeking in Saskatchewan in their fruitless searches.

Unfortunately, because the Prime Minister feels it is necessary to alter the budget to suit the NDP, we will likely have an NDP economy. Maybe the Liberals should have asked what that includes or, more correctly, does not before they so eagerly signed on.

The C.D. Howe Institute recently determined that the NDP modifications to this budget would cost the Canadian economy a whopping 340,000 jobs. The corporate tax cuts that the NDP are so adamantly opposed to would have left money in the hands of companies to produce more and better paying jobs for Canadians.

Likewise, according to Dennis Gartman, a well-known investment analyst, Bill C-48 is “the worst possible signal the Prime Minister could send to the capital markets.... Capital that might have come to Canada shall now, at the very best, think twice about coming”.

Bill C-48 flies in the face of the universally recognized principle that to stimulate job growth we need competitive corporate tax rates. To quote Gartman again, he said it is “bad economic policy, plain and simple. It puts the lie to the Liberal claim that creating a competitive economy is a high priority in assuring our collective standards of living”.

Knowing all this about Bill C-48, how can anyone support it? Indeed, does anyone honestly think the Prime Minister, circa 1994 or 1998 as the finance minister, would support this legislation? Most rational people would not endorse spending a few thousand dollars on a home renovation without a detailed blueprint, let alone nearly $5 billion for major government initiatives without an adequate plan.

Will the Liberals, for instance, address the severe reservations the Auditor General expressed about the capacity of certain departments to deliver programs efficiently, the very same departments to which the Liberals want to give more money in Bill C-48? Is there an adequate plan to deal with these concerns? Was that discussed with Buzz Hargrove at the Royal York Hotel too?

It would be an insult to the millions of hard-working Canadians to endorse legislation that not only will cost billions but most likely will not meet its stated objectives. A rational approach would make certain, first, that existing money is spent efficiently and that programs can be sufficiently improved to merit further expenditures. Amazingly, the Liberal-NDP coalition is steadfastly opposed to this approach, voting against amendments in finance committee to make the spending in Bill C-48 more accountable to Canadians and to reflect a more prudent fiscal approach.

I cannot in good conscience support passage of this legislation and neither can most rational people.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what the member had to say and I sort of got lost on the brain drain in Saskatchewan and the link between that and this budget, in particular, and this government over the last number of years.

I may have been watching the wrong channels on television but I seem to have seen ads promoting Saskatchewan as a place for R and D, as a place to do business now and as a proud have province to which people, entrepreneurs and scientists should come.

I do not have the figures here but at the University of Saskatchewan, Light Source has become a world centre of high tech science, not just high tech in the general sense but of big science, science that requires massive facilities which exist almost nowhere else in the world.

I also understand that the University of Saskatchewan has the best selection of health training programs in the country and probably in North America. If we look at the range from what we might call normal medical school through to the different types of nursing schools and health technology schools, the University of Saskatchewan is in a class by itself on this stuff. In veterinary science and other aspects of agriculture, if veterinary science is agriculture, the University of Saskatchewan is an extraordinary place.

I am less comfortable with talking about the University of Regina and the First Nations University which is in Regina. However I think if we were to look at the two of them we would see that they have both received a substantial number of Canada research chairs and a substantial amount of indirect costs of research. Both universities do wonderful work for aboriginal students in the province.

Would the member tell me what she means by the brain drain in Saskatchewan when it has been built up in this particular way? Could she tell me, for example, how many Canada research chairs the University of Saskatchewan received? How many millennium scholarships did Saskatchewan receive? How many Canada graduate scholarships did Saskatchewan receive? How much in indirect costs of research did the University of Regina receive? How much, between them, did those universities get from the granting councils, the social sciences, the physical sciences, NSERC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research?

Could the member also explain this brain drain that she was discussing and explain why she cannot support a 2% addition to the budget, most of which adds to the sorts of things that I have just listed?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think I have to invite the member to Saskatchewan and he would see what I am talking about.

Our population has declined incredibly. There is a very depressed population out there because the budget does not address agriculture. Those who are following the equalization plan are feeling as if Saskatchewan has been left out. They are feeling very alienated. We are taxed to death.

What I am trying to say is that most people are moving out of the province because of the administration that is running the province right now which is very unfriendly toward any kind of business or industry. I have been told that most companies prefer to stay out of Saskatchewan. For example, oil companies prefer to have their headquarters in Alberta because it is so unfriendly to move into our province.

Yes, there are some good things happening, in spite of the NDP government. That is how good the people of Saskatchewan are and how hard-working they are. We are staying above water in spite of the NDP government and we can do it. However, I would invite the member to drive on our roads.

I am quite confused by those ads, too, because last year in Saskatchewan the parks were going to close down until July because there was not enough money to open them and staff them. Our parks are not being maintained and they are in absolute shambles. That is just one thing.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

The federal government is trying to help with those things.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

I am talking about an NDP government that has priorities. Its priorities are three brand new beautiful liquor board stores. It is closing schools in rural Saskatchewan. It is closing hospitals in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has the longest waiting lists of any province in the country. The member need only check our criminal justice statistics if he really wants to live in Saskatchewan or he really only needs to see what it is like to live under a communist rule.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have to smile when I hear hon. members opposite from the Conservative Party telling us about deficits and fiscal prudence. There is absolutely no way the Conservatives can teach us anything about budgets.

When we came into office in 1993 we were left with a $43 billion deficit by the Conservative government. We were left with an enormous debt that had a huge percentage of foreign debt in it. We did the things that were necessary so that we can now post our ninth balanced budget. We have been paying down the debt every single year.

The Conservatives keep talking about the fact that we have surpluses. I do not know if anyone in the House recalls over the last two years SARS, the fires in British Columbia or the floods in Saguenay. We had to have money to help with all of those unexpected disasters without going back into a deficit. That is called fiscal prudence. Fiscal prudence is having money available to take care of the unexpected things that come up. This government has not been talking about fiscal prudence, it has in fact been doing that.

We are proud to stand here and talk about the fact that this country is one of the best performers in the G-8 under the watch of our government. How could those members talk about fiscal prudence and then have the gall to suggest that we are in bed with the NDP to move some agenda items forward that have always been our priorities.

We hear talk about the great public and how we must listen to the public. We listen to the public. It elected a minority government because in its wisdom it believed hon. members in this House could behave as adults and work together for the common good. That is exactly what the two parties on this side of the House are doing. We have come together and talked about things that will keep the government moving along and doing things in the best interests of the public good. We on this side of the House are behaving like adults. We are trying to do the things that the public elected us to do. Instead. we see game playing going on.

Before the finance minister had even finished speaking about the budget, the hon. Leader of the Opposition stated that there was no way his party would be able to speak against it. He said that his party would never be able to bring the government down on the budget because it was a good budget.

Around the middle of April things changed. All of a sudden, the actual greed, if I may use that word, and the actual grasping nature of that party came forward. It decided to go after the government and bring the government down. The Conservatives decided not to do what the people elected us to do, which was to form a minority government in which we could work together. Instead, the games began.

Here they are now speaking to us about fiscal prudence and being very concerned about a surplus. I am surprised those people on the other side of the House know what a surplus is.

Let us look at the history of Conservative governments. I do not think the Conservatives know what a surplus is because they have never seen it before. When they do see one they do not know what to do with it. They must be upset with it because they keep going on about it.

It is the surplus that allows us to deal with unforeseen circumstances, such as those we have had to deal with over the last few years. A surplus allows us to take care of the things that nature and other circumstances foist on us while still maintaining a balanced budget and not go into deficit.

Let us talk about the Conservatives being against affordable housing. I heard a member speak not too long ago about the fact that people would rather have money in their pocket.

Somebody talked about violin lessons. There are a lot of people in my riding who would love to have violin lessons, but they cannot even afford to pay their rent, never mind violin lessons.

Let us talk about the reality of affordable housing. Housing is a basic necessity. Affordable housing is a fundamental tool by which people can afford to live, not lives of wondrous wealth, but just ordinary lives, keeping their heads above water, shelter, food, clothing. That is what affordable housing is all about.

This is not something that our government suddenly decided to adopt out of the blue. This builds on an affordable housing platform that we have had. We worked with the NDP to move this agenda forward faster. We have talked about affordable housing. We have spent over $2 billion on homelessness. Since we have become government we have spent over $2 billion on various types of housing. We are working on co-op housing, ensuring that it keeps going on and that there is new stock of co-op housing. We are fast forwarding it a little. We can afford to do that. That is what fiscal prudence did. It gave us the money in the kitty so that we can do this kind of thing without going into a deficit. This is not something new. We are doing the right thing for Canadians.

Regarding post-secondary education, if we are going to be competitive we need to understand that it is a skilled workforce that is going to give us the competitive edge that we need to exist in the 21st century. The generators, the engine of economic growth and development are people, human capital. We need to spend money on assisting our young people in getting the skills, the education and the learning they need to become productive members of society, to be able to earn good living wages and to make Canada competitive with the rest of the world.

We depend on trade for so much of our gross domestic product. Therefore, we need to have people who can work and produce. We see that there is a productivity crunch, not just in Canada but in all of the major industrialized nations. We are dealing with that now before it gets too bad. We are trying to move forward and upgrade the skills of the people in Canada, the young people and those whose jobs for various reasons are no longer valid in the new economy.

We are talking about getting a skilled workforce for the 21st century. This is something that we have been doing. We have put money into post-secondary education. We have provided for increased transfers to provinces for post-secondary education. Looking at the Canada social transfer, we have put $5 billion annually into direct support for post-secondary education, among other things. The RESP that this government initiated allows families from the day of a child's birth to put money aside so that when it is time for that child to get post-secondary education, he or she can do it.

This is what we have been doing. We have been investing in people. By putting this budget forward, we are asking for $1.5 billion extra dollars to fast forward this, to do this more quickly. Things are moving rapidly in the world and we need to be competitive and on top of education.

Regarding the environment, I am not surprised that the hon. members across the way do not accept the environment, but I am surprised that the Bloc members do not. They have always been very supportive of Kyoto and other environmental issues. Here are the people who stood up day after day in this House over the 12 years that I have been around here talking about how we need good science, when the rest of the world is moving on and recognizing global warming, recognizing smog and how many people it is killing and how many young people are getting asthma from smog. These people are saying, “Show me the science” as a sort of mantra. They are out of touch with the reality of life.

Proposing $900 million in Bill C-48 to move forward on a clean fund, to help low income families energy retrofit their homes, this is good governing. This is again in keeping with our priorities. As a government we have put in $1 billion over five years for the clean fund to encourage cost effective projects and actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We are talking about having worked with another political party in this House to do exactly what the people felt we should do in a minority government, to work together across party lines for their benefit.

I want to know if hon. members across the way will tell me that affordable housing is not for the public benefit and is not important for all the kinds of people, who obviously they do not have in their ridings because they do not even know that people need this. On the environment, the Canadian Medical Association was just talking about the number of children who are getting asthma as a result of smog in this country. On post-secondary education, we want our young people to have the tools they need to create something new for themselves and to make Canada competitive in the next generation.

We are paying off the debt. We have been doing this. After this, we still have $4 billion left to put toward debt reduction. We have been doing this every year. We have been putting $3 billion every year toward debt reduction. We have been trying successfully to undo the damage of the last Conservative government. We have brought this country out of the depths of despair in which people lived. People were losing their homes because of double digit mortgage rates. There was double digit unemployment. People were living in absolute despair because they did not know what they would do themselves.

Regarding leaving a debt, we are raising young people. The Conservatives would like us to leave the debt to young people to pay in the next generation.

I support this bill and I say shame to the members on the other side of the House if they will not.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member has really blown her cover. Talking about the environment, Kyoto deals with carbon dioxide and water vapour. As a result of the hon. member's speech, we got more of both in this place than we had before.

The member talked about double digit interest rates. I remember doing some mathematical consulting for people who were facing foreclosure on their homes at that time and who thought they were getting a bad deal. This did occur, as I recall, near the early 1980s, before the Conservatives came to power. It was under a Liberal government that it happened.

I am thinking also of the debt that members opposite keep talking about. They keep blaming the Conservatives. We need to remember that if the Conservatives in 1984 would have had no debt from the Liberals, there would have been no debt in 1993, because in those nine intervening years, the Conservative government had a balanced budget on program spending. The amount that was added to the debt is simply the compound interest on the debt that the Conservatives inherited in 1984.

At this point, I ought to say that this is accurate. The member will get up and try to refute it by a whole bunch of more hot air and moisture, but the fact of the matter is that mathematically it is correct. I know it is, because I did that particular mathematical computation at the time of my election in 1993. The Conservative candidate said this and I was going to blow him out of the water, but being an honest guy and being a math type, I checked the math and sure enough, take the debt that the Liberals gave to the Conservatives in 1984, add the compound interest at the rate of the day and we end up with the debt that the Conservatives had at the time. We could perhaps hold them responsible for not correcting the Liberal errors faster, but that is about as far as we can go.

Furthermore, in the intervening years, the years that the Liberals like to brag about, addressing the issue of the deficit and all that, they did it by taking $30 billion out of the employees' pension fund and by robbing and raping the EI fund. That is how they did it.

Furthermore, we add things like the GST, which most Canadians do not like, but the Liberals have been raking it off. The Liberals ran in 1993 on the promise to kill it. Meanwhile they have been using it. They have been overtaxing on EI by huge amounts, $45 billion. If we would have had a responsible government over there, the debt would have come way down instead of just the little bit that they have moved it. I call it just plain spin doctoring on their part. They are really not up to it in terms of financial responsibility.

I will concede that they are Liberals and they could have spent more than they did, so I suppose we need to give them just a little gentle congratulations for following our advice and responding when we pushed for balanced budgets and stopped the borrowing.

I remember we had a plan in 1993 which was the zero in three. The Liberals said they could not do it, that they had all this deficit, so they cut all these programs. We simply accurately read the economic statements. On economic forecasting the Liberals are total wipe outs. If I were their instructor, they would all get zero in that course.

As a matter of fact, we read it accurately. We said it could be done. The fact that they did it proves that it was doable. Meanwhile, they smeared us. I could go on and on, but I know I am on questions and comments and I have to give the hon. member an opportunity to respond, which I really do not want to do. I do not want to hear what she will say because it will be unbelievable.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, if it were not so funny, it would be sad.

The hon. member talked about how it took the Conservative government nine years to get out of the Liberal debt that it left and that it was all compound interest.

It took us three years to get out of the compound interest that the Conservatives talk about. It took us only three years of good management to do it.

There were nine lost years in which the Conservatives brought in the GST to help get rid of the deficit. It increased the debt. I call it something pretty simple: mismanagement. We see it wherever there is a Conservative government: mismanagement.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member from the other side made some colossal errors in his comments. I want to set the record straight on the history.

He said that Conservative Parties of the 1980s were left with a debt and by extension they had no choice but to massively increase the debt load on Canadians, which is what they did. When our party came to power in 1993, we too, by extension, would have had to increase the debt load massively, but it would not have been our fault. It would have been the fault of our predecessors.

In the 1990s we took the job of getting the fiscal house in order. Sacrifices were made. The current Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, had to make tough decisions and he got the fiscal house of our country in order. Today we are left with the most robust economy of any of the OECD countries.

We have very low interest and inflations rates and low unemployment. That is a result of making touch, decisive decisions in the 1990s when we had to. Interesting comments were made by the then Reform Party at that time and I will remind the Conservative Party on the other side what was said.

Herb Grubel, who was then the finance critic for the Reform Party, said very clearly that he complimented the then finance minister for making the tough decisions to get the nation's house in order. This was not an easy task. As a result of that, he got into trouble from his party for stating the truth.

What has been the result of that? One of greatest threats to our social programs, be they our pensions, health care system, education or array of public expenditures, is deficit spending. If a government spends more than it takes in, it accrues a debt and the debt accrues interest payments that have to be paid on a yearly basis. The interest payments erode the very ability of any particular government to pay for the needs of Canadians.

That is why the Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, took the bull by the horns and made those decisions. He did that in order to save our social programs. He also did it to ensure that we would have an environment upon which the private sector could thrive. If private sectors do not thrive, capital flees. Companies leave an environment where inflation and interest rates are high and where governments do not do due diligence to ensure the finances of the country are in good stead.

One of the responsibilities of a government is to ensure that the prime generator of jobs in our country, which is the private sector, particularly small to medium sized businesses, have an environment of low interest rates, an inflation rate that is under control and regulations that do hinder to them. The current Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, created that environment. It is something that we as a government are obligated to do. That is what we have done in this budget. However, we have gone further than that.

One of the exciting interventions is in the area of smart regulations. All of us know that regulations can get out of hand and they can become onerous and unnecessary. The ministers have put their heads together and have worked with industry. They have established a smart regulatory pattern upon which we will work with the business sector and the provinces to ensure that we remove those rules and regulations that are a hindrance to the private sector. The private sector then can be liberated to work and compete not only within our country from coast to coast but and also internationally.

That is one of the things we seize from it. We intend not only to compete with our compatriots and our friends south of the border, but we also must compete internationally. Why? Because we are a trading country. Why? Because we have a population that is small and a country that is large. If we are to maintain our standard of living and improve of that, if we are to create the jobs for our people, if we are to have the tax base to spend on everything from defence to health and education and other priorities, then we must have an environment upon which we allow the private sector to thrive and compete internationally.

More than half of our GDP is due to our ability to trade. We are a trading nation. To continue to be a trading nation, we need to have competitive tax rates. We have to have an educated population. We need to have rules and regulations that are not onerous. We need to have a regulatory system that is not a hindrance to our private sector. We must be aggressive in going out in the world and competing with other countries on a level playing field.

We are engaging in a number of interventions to ensure that happens. For example, we are working with the international community, through the international regulatory bodies and through the WTO, to remove the rules and regulations and to establish a trading system that will be level. Therefore, we remove those obstacles and barriers to trade that have been a hindrance for a long time.

Also, with respect to this bill, we are making investments in the education system to ensure that students have the opportunities to have the education they require. We know that one of the greatest determinants of employability in the future is the ability of students to access post-secondary education. I say that not only for universities and colleges, but also for the trade sector.

We are working with the private sector and provinces to establish greater opportunities in the trades. One of our biggest problems is the ability to ensure future trades deficits will be filled. We are gripped with this problem and it is one that we have to pursue.

I am very excited to say that we are working with the provinces to try to ensure our students have those opportunities. Not everybody can or wants to pursue a post-secondary education in universities and colleges. However, we would like to work toward having opportunities to fill the deficits that exist within our trades. I know those who are involved in the trades in our country recognize the future demographic challenges we face. As we get older so too do the people in all professions. That is not only a problem in my profession as a physician, but it is a problem in the trades and in a number of other skilled areas.

One thing we are doing is working with our provincial counterparts to deal with it. That is why this budget is important. It will put more money in this area.

We certainly hope the moneys will be used to relieve the debt burden for our students. I know the NDP has been very interested in this, as all of us have been. How do we ensure we relieve the debt burden and ensure income and finances are not an obstacle to acquiring a post-secondary education? That has been happening over the last little while. In some professions it has become an obstacle for some people to gain access to a number of these professions.

One of the things we want to ensure is that people gain access to post-secondary institutions and to professions based on merit, not on the amount of money that they have in their pocket. We are very excited about this. We will work with our provincial counterparts to ensure this occurs.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is one particular member on the other side talking incessantly and very loudly. It is very rude. I am not sure if he is on substance abuse. I would ask the Speaker to have some--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend and colleague for his intervention. It has been a little difficult. Members over there have been quite rude, talking over what I am saying.

The public knows very well that through the budget bill we have done our very best to try to address the concerns of Canadians and to put moneys into those areas that Canadians want.

That is why we have the budget. That is why we are making these expenditures. The sacrifices that Canadians have made for a long time have enabled us to have a surplus budget. We are targeting those finances toward for students, affordable housing, tax cuts, health care, defence, veterans and in an array of other areas that not only to do what we want but most important to do what Canadians want.

Those are their priorities and they are our priorities. We will continue to work to ensure we meet those priorities.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer to the comments of my hon. colleague on the Liberal bench about the affordable housing.

How does he feel about promises made in the past? I was frustrated to see that the original budget had no allowance in it for affordable housing. However all of a sudden in this new-found NDP budget, there is funding for affordable housing.

It is worthwhile pointing out that the promise made by the Liberal election red book 2000 was to build up to 120,000 units of affordable housing at a cost of $680 million. An additional $320 million was included in the 2003 budget. As a previous member said, there was also $1.53 billion of homeless funding. One would expect homeless funding would be to help the homeless. How do we help the homeless best? We come up with some homes for the homeless. That is $2.1 billion that has transpired over the last four years.

I have a release from the Minister of Labour and Housing where he claims that to date the government has built 16,000 units. If we do the math on $2.1 billion, we come up with $130,000 per unit of affordable housing that has been provided.

What good does it do to throw good money after bad, throw another $1.5 billion into affordable housing when it has not produced what it was supposed to produce? Why does the government not do the homework on the amount of money, develop some proper plans that will produce housing and will produce the affordable housing that Canadians want?

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6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague has done a lot of work on the issue of affordable housing and his interventions have been welcomed and his solutions have been constructive.

It is too bad his party does not listen to those solutions. I hope at some time he will be able to bring forth some fine documents, as he has done in the past, on affordable housing in a more prominent way to the minister who is responsible for this. They would be very valuable.

As he correctly mentioned, we have put money into affordable housing. With the provinces, we have built more affordable housing.

Homelessness is a very complex issue, as the member knows full well. It is mired and involved in a number of issues not the least of which is health care.

I think one of the biggest problems that occurred was when some individuals who had psychiatric problems were removed from institutions and put into residential settings. However, the care was not there at the provincial level to take care of them. Unfortunately, we see some of these people now on the street. They are untreated psychiatric patients who are off their medication. They are people who fall through the cracks. They are lost souls and they are individuals for whom we must work better with the provinces to ensure they get the care they need.

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6:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to raise a question. I want to commend the parliamentary secretary who has just spoken and the member for Vancouver Centre who spoke previously for addressing the substance of Bill C-48.

I want to commend them for actually talking about affordable housing, access to education, public transit and the down payment on beginning to meet our international obligations for international aid, as opposed to being completely unconnected with both the bill itself and reality in that kind of stream of right wing reactionary verbiage from the other side.

I have a very specific question for the member, who is a medical doctor and has a lot of concern about what has happened to people's lives in the last 15 years. I think he would acknowledge the fact that there have been casualties in our society as a result of the massive unilateral cuts made to health, education and social welfare in particular.

I have a very particular question. Would the parliamentary secretary agree that with the elimination of the Canada assistance plan we have wiped out any notion of entitlement to the basic necessities in life and the concept that no one in our society should go hungry or homeless?

There is a strong, compelling argument to be made for re-establishing a legal framework consistent with our international obligations to the covenant on social, economic and cultural rights, consistent with the previous existence of the Canada assistance plan framework.

Would the parliamentary secretary agree that one of the things we need to do is re-establish the notion that people should not just be at the mercy of charitable responses, but that actually there should be some legal protection which would build a floor to enable people not to fall through and literally--

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6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

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6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Briefly, Mr. Speaker, our mutual commitment is to ensure that nobody falls through the cracks, but as for legal frameworks, it was proven during the dark days of socialism in northern Europe that legal frameworks do not work at all.

We want to make sure that we accomplish the goals the member talked about. I know that the member is very interested in and committed to dealing with some of the most impoverished people in the world, as we are too. That is why we worked with her party on this budget. That is why we are putting more money into housing, education and international aid.

I will close by saying that the reason those cuts had to take place was to save the very social programs that she is talking about. If we had not made those cuts, if we had not put the country's house in order, it would have threatened the very social programs she is talking about and that would have been irresponsible.

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6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on behalf of my constituents of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan to talk about Bill C-48, the Liberal-NDP budget bill.

This is a bill that was cooked up in a Toronto hotel room late at night by a desperate Prime Minister, an unprincipled leader of the NDP, and Buzz Hargrove. We have seen the result, which is a document of approximately two pages and which I have in my hand. It has three sections to it, two of which are legalese, along with one that is about a quarter of a page long and purports to appropriate $4.6 billion of taxpayers' dollars.

That is $4.6 billion in a quarter of a page, with no accountability, no idea as to how this is going to be distributed and no plan. It is $4.6 billion thrown into a slush fund. We have seen examples of this type of Liberal spending prior to this and it has not resulted in a positive outcome, whether that be the gun registry, the sponsorship scandal or the HRDC boondoggle. We could run down the list.

As I have said, it is a four page bill, two pages of which are actually blank. Will these be filled in later? What is the story with this? Is this where the hidden agenda of the Liberals and the NDP is going to be written into this unholy agreement they came up with?

I firmly believe that this sleazy backroom deal is bad for Canada and bad for Saskatchewan. It is bad for Canada in the sense that the corrupt and criminal Liberal Party has managed to cling to power for at least another few months to squander taxpayers' dollars and fleece Canadians from one end of the country to the other.

This is a bad deal for my home province of Saskatchewan. If the members of the NDP were truly serious about caring about Saskatchewan, this would have been different. We know, however, that the federal NDP does not care at all for Saskatchewan and particularly northern Saskatchewan, because there is nothing in this agreement for agriculture.

We are facing a crisis in agriculture right across the country. Producers in my riding and across Saskatchewan have been incredibly hard hit by frost, weather conditions and BSE. The farmers have been hit very hard and this deal does absolutely nothing for agricultural producers.

Why is that? If we go down the list of priorities that the NDP claims to care about, we will not see one dollar for agriculture in this $4.6 billion agreement. That is an indication of where the New Democrats' priorities lie. Their priorities do not lie with agricultural producers in this country.

I will also tell this House about another place where there is no money: in the deal with the equalization formula. We all know that Saskatchewan is treated more unfairly than probably any other province in the country. Non-renewable natural resources are included in the formula for Saskatchewan. They were recently taken out for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, in the Atlantic accord, an agreement which I fully support and fully agree with. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are now entitled to keep their offshore oil and gas revenue to use for the good of the people of those provinces.

Saskatchewan has not received that same deal. Saskatchewan is being treated unfairly. Every elected politician in my home province except one, who happens to be the finance minister of this country, agrees that the province of Saskatchewan is not being treated fairly.

Under the Conservative proposal, which would remove non-renewable natural resources from the formula, my home province would receive approximately a billion dollars more a year in equalization payments. That would make an incredibly huge difference for people in my province.

There has not been a word about that in this backroom deal cooked up by Buzz Hargrove, the member for Toronto—Danforth and the Prime Minister. There is not one word about any of this.

I want to quote a columnist named Andrew Coyne, who put together a piece the day before the May 19 confidence vote. It is very reflective of the point of view of many individuals from Saskatchewan and from my riding. He wrote:

I had thought the feeling of nausea that washed over me at the news was one of disgust. I now realize it was vertigo. The bottom has fallen out of Canadian politics. There are, quite literally, no rules anymore, no boundaries, no limits. We are staring into an abyss where everything is permissible.

Those exquisites in the press gallery who were so scandalized at the suggestion that the Liberals would stoop to scheduling the budget vote around Darrel Stinson's cancer surgery might now have the decency to admit: of course they would. It should be clear to everyone by now that this government--this prime minister--will go to any length to assure their survival in power. And I do mean any. All governments are loath to leave, all think themselves indispensable, but I cannot recall another that clung to office so desperately, so...hysterically.

The loss of a confidence vote is no longer to be taken as a fundamental loss of democratic legitimacy, but rather as a signal to spend more, threaten louder and otherwise trawl for votes on the opposition benches, for as long as proves necessary.

Indeed, it is an open question whether the Liberals would have even held the budget vote if they hadn't made this deal, or whether they would have promised one if it were not already in the works.

Impossible? Outrageous? But outrage depends upon a sense of where the boundary lines are, and a willingness to call people out when they cross them. The Liberals have been crossing these lines, one after another, for years, and their own conspicuous lack of shame has simply educated the rest of us into shrugging complicity. It's only outrageous until it happens--then we forget we have ever felt otherwise.

For example: Last Wednesday, The Globe and Mail published a stinging editorial calling upon the Liberals to seek an “immediate” vote of confidence, to call an election “now” or to put its budget bill to a “quick” vote.

“With each moment they linger,” the Globe wrote, “they will expose themselves as so desperate to hang on to power that they spit in the face of the Commons and call it respect.”

By Friday, the Liberals were still there, the government had been defeated two more times, the budget vote had not been held--and the Globe wondered what all the commotion was about. “To say the government has lost all legitimacy,” it lectured the opposition, “is a wildly disproportionate response”. Poof: all that outrage, down the memory hole. In two days.

Is it a constitutional crisis if no one understands it is?

A government without the support of a majority of Parliament has spent billions it has no legal authority to spend and dangled offices that are not in its power to bestow, in hopes of recovering that majority.

This is the type of government that the NDP is maintaining in office. It is a government corrupt to the absolute core, a government that cares for nothing except exercising power. It is a government that will lie, cheat and steal, and has, to maintain its hold on power. In short, it is a government that has lost the moral authority to govern our country. The NDP members should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is another issue. Today is national aboriginal day, as members know. I attended a service on behalf of aboriginal veterans from one end of the country to the other, a memorial service to commemorate the contributions of aboriginal war veterans who served in the first world war, the second world war, Korea and peacekeeping missions up to the present day.

This issue is incredibly important to me personally and to constituents in my riding. In my first act as an MP, I put forward a private member's motion that called on the government and the House of Commons to recognize the historical inequality of treatment that aboriginal veterans received when they returned from overseas conflicts. Unfortunately, all but two Liberal members voted against recognizing aboriginal war veterans. There was no reason for them to be voting against that.

Nothing in this deal recognizes the contributions of aboriginal war veterans. Nothing in this deal does anything to live up to Motion No. 193. The government and the NDP should be ashamed of themselves.