House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-48.


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

8 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Anne McLellan Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, be read the third time and passed.

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

8 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I suppose that at some point we should ask whether we could get this through immediately.

I do not know whether this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. We have been at this bill for quite a while, quite number of months. We have been debating the bill for hours and hours in the chamber. We have been at the bill for hours and hours at committee. The vote the other night was a close vote, but nevertheless I think Parliament spoke. After that vote there appears to be a sense that the bill in fact should pass. I hope hon. members will see it that way at the end of my speech.

The bill proposes a number of social priorities, which I would submit are consistent with the wishes of Canadians. Canada's social foundations are fundamental to who we are as Canadians. We are recognized internationally as a country that gives everyone an opportunity to participate in our society and to succeed in our economy. We pride ourselves on being a country where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.

Indeed, Canada is a prosperous country. Members will know the statistics well because they have heard them repeated many times in the chamber. They have heard about our current fiscal situation, which is possibly the most advantageous of any country in the G-7 and possibly in the OECD as well.

We certainly are in a situation where Canadians can begin to dream their dreams again. The dark nights of deficits, high interest rates and spiralling unemployment were to some measure diminishing the dreams of Canadians. We are now back to a situation where we are in fact the envy of the world.

Bill C-48 proposes to share somewhat more in that prosperity as reflected by this government's support of Canada's social foundations. I am sure that notwithstanding a lot of the rhetoric from the other side of the House there are very few members who actually oppose the four initiatives proposed in the bill itself.

I would like to remind hon. members of just how this government's investments in social programs have contributed to the improved quality of life for all Canadians. Past budgets have in fact established a solid base on which the government continues to move forward with its commitments.

We made major investments where they are needed, health care being number one on the list. Again, I need not remind the House of the historic meeting between the Prime Minister and the premiers in the fall of last year where an additional $41 billion over the next 10 years was committed to the provinces in order to assist with their health care needs.

Budget 2005 in fact added to that $41 billion commitment in the amount of $805 million over five years in direct federal health investments. As we know, not all Canadians are covered by provincial plans. For instance, people in the military and aboriginal people are covered by the federal government in the delivery of health care. This is money that parallels the investments that were committed to by the Prime Minister to the premiers last fall.

The government recognizes that health care is a major priority for Canadians, but there are also other issues that Canadians wish to address and to which they attach utmost importance. May I suggest that at least four of those are in Bill C-48? I would say that this is not an exhaustive list, but this is the list in Bill C-48, which includes the environment, social housing, foreign aid and post-secondary education.

Indeed, as the finance committee travelled, although this year it did not travel as much as it normally does, certainly representations were made from all over the country to the finance committee with respect to a whole variety of initiatives that the government was asked to undertake on behalf of Canadians.

In fact, quite a number of them found their way into budget 2005 in the form of Bill C-43. That in and of itself was not an exhaustive list of initiatives. Certainly representations were made on a whole variety of other initiatives that Canadians wished us to take, but a budget is, by definition, trying to balance the fiscal capacity of the government with the priorities as identified by Canadians.

Bill C-48 extends those priorities. In these four priorities that I have identified, we have in fact tried to reflect some other initiatives that Canadians wish the government to invest in. The bill will commit, in the event of certain contingencies being made, an additional sum of $4.5 billion, plus another $100 million for another initiative, for a total of $4.6 billion in these important priorities that Canadians have identified to us.

Let me speak briefly about these four initiatives. As the House knows, possibly the biggest concern after health care that was identified to us at the committee, and is identified to us by constituents, is the concern about the environment. It is not merely Kyoto related, where we are talking about C0


emissions, but it is also about smog, particulates in the air. We have had some days even in this part of the year with situations where people are finding it difficult to breathe.

However, it is not only about air; it is also about the quality of our water and the quality of our environment generally. Bill C-48 goes somewhat toward addressing that issue. Canadians do want to ensure that future Canadians not only have the health care they want but also have a safe and healthy environment.

We have before us today $900 million for environmental initiatives, the bulk of which will be aimed at public transit in our cities and communities.

I know, Madam Speaker, that both you and I share a constituency in Toronto. It is a great honour to represent people in Toronto and I know that the mayor and the council are extremely interested in seeing the passage of Bill C-48 so that this particular initiative will find its way into the budget of the city of Toronto. You know the subway system and the transit system as well as I do, Madam Speaker, and you know that it is in serious need of additional funds.

This is in fact the government stepping up to the plate and contributing a significant sum of money, not only to the city of Toronto but also to the city of Montreal, the city of Vancouver and a whole variety of large and small communities in between those major cities. This money can be used to encourage public transit systems and therefore reduce traffic congestion.

Madam Speaker, you and I also know about the 401 highway across Toronto, which has become at times nothing more than a glorified parking lot. It seems that rush hour starts at 4:30 in the morning and ends some time around 12:30 at night. Presumably, if these moneys are deployed in a correct fashion, the difficulties with the 401 and other major arteries will in fact be alleviated by virtue of the creation of public transit systems and the increased desirability on the part of Torontonians and others of using the public transit system. I am sure there are other members in the House who could speak to their own congestion problems that occur in their cities.

Part of the funding for the environment is contained also in supporting new low income housing retrofit programs. Hopefully that will benefit low income families. As members have probably observed in their own heating bills, the costs are going through the ceiling, literally and figuratively. I think that this in and of itself may well be a significant saving for low income Canadians.

Speaking of housing, Madam Speaker, you and I share a keen interest in affordable housing. Currently the government spends something in the order of $1.9 billion on an annual basis toward homelessness and affordable housing. That addresses about 640,000 families who live in existing social family housing units. The bill proposes a further investment of $1.6 billion in affordable housing construction. That will be a welcome initiative not only our my communities but right across the nation.

It is important to emphasize that this new money is unlike other moneys which have required matching initiatives from either provincial or municipal or private sector partners. In this case there will not be a tie to matching funding from provinces. Some of the money will be redirected to first nation reserves where there is a shortage of social housing. That shortage on some reserves is at a critical stage. We are anticipating some of that money will be redirected to aboriginal housing.

These initiatives reflect well upon the government's $1.9 billion commitment that already exists. We predict that as this initiative spreads out over the number of years anticipated, it will have a direct impact on quite a number of families.

As we well know, Bill C-48 is not the only thing that the Government of Canada has been doing. In budget 2001 it started the affordable housing initiative with the funding of $680 million over five years to help increase the supply of affordable rental housing.

People have heard me comment on other occasions that this money plus the fiscal management of the government's finances has contributed directly to an increase in supply of not only rentals but affordable housing that is available for purchase. The interest rates are at virtually an all time low. A lot of people who live in apartments have been renting for years. From time to time they wish to move out--

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

8:10 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, there does not appear to be quorum.

And the count having been taken:

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

8:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

There is quorum in the House. Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

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

8:10 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that half way through my speech I could lose quorum. That is terrible. It may be that my arguments are so persuasive that members are leaving the chamber and are already prepared to vote in favour of Bill C-48. We seem to have a certain enthusiasm on this side of the House for early passage of Bill C-48.

The $680 million for increased supply of affordable housing over five years was started in the budget 2001. In the budget 2003 we added a further sum of $320 million over five years. This is probably the first time in my lifetime where people have been able to anticipate moving out of rental housing and purchasing their own home. That is due to the fact that interest rates are at an historic low. When we have historic low interest rates, we can afford mortgage payments.

A perfectly rational person would say “Do I want to pay x number of dollars toward rent or do I want to pay x number of dollars toward mortgage payments?” They therefore will make the decision to purchase an affordable home and move out. I know in my own riding there is a vacancy rate somewhere in the order of 6% or 7% among low income apartments. That is very unusual. It is more often than not that people, in my riding at least, seek to have housing and the vacancy rates are in the order of 1% or 2%.

Initiatives by the government are twofold. Not only is it to put direct money into affordable housing, but because we are in a situation where interest rates are low and we are paying down debt, the happy consequence for Canadians is they can now afford housing that they previously could not.

As well, in budget 2003, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation housing renovation program had an additional three year, $128 million program. Again, this is an attempt on the part of the Government of Canada to increase and renovate the supply of housing stock to help low income persons who have serious needs to repair their homes.

The Government of Canada has been quite active in easing the affordability challenges of low income Canadians. We are never going to be there 100%, but we are moving in the right direction. Since we have gone back into this field, since the year 2000, we have put something in the order of $3 billion into this program. In the anticipation that Bill C-48 passes, we will have a further $1.6 billion that would be available for this area.

Another area that was mentioned to the committee, and has been mentioned by many Canadians to the government, had to do with post-secondary education. Again, this is a clear priority. Canadians see education as very important for themselves and their children. In that regard, we continue to invest heavily in post-secondary education and training programs.

Bill C-48, proposes initial funding of $1.5 million in new moneys for post-secondary education. This is an integral part of the initiatives the government has already started. I point out that on the social side of the formerly CHST, the Government of Canada puts in about $15.5 billion, some of which goes to education.

As members know, the government supports post-secondary education through transfers to the provinces. It also spends $4.7 billion annually in direct support, in a variety of ways, which include direct financial assistance to students, measures to encourage families to save for post-secondary education and tax breaks that help offset the cost of college and university education.

Budget 2005 committed additional funds to help workers enhance their skills, including $125 million for workplace skills strategy to help employees keep pace with changing job requirements.

As we all know, at one point we would have a job for life. It is very unusual for people to have a job for life any longer. It is more of a series of jobs and for each one we need training. Bill C-48 promotes that concept and builds on previous initiatives of the government.

The final amount was $500 million for foreign aid. I know this is near and dear to your own heart, Madam Speaker, having been a minister in that area. We are very much aware of our G-7 responsibilities and Canada is trying to increase its presence globally. This builds on previous increases in foreign aid by providing an additional $3.4 billion in international assistance over the next five years.

I commend to the members opposite, even those in the Conservative Party, that they support, and I hope they do, affordable housing, post-secondary education, the environment and foreign aid. How they can speak against any of those initiatives remains a mystery to me. I am sure over the course of the evening, we will have this mystery elucidated. I encourage all members to support the bill.

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

8:20 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, there is a lot that is a mystery to my friend across the way. One of the great mysteries I would like him to reveal to the House and to people who are watching today is this. If all the things he has talked about are so important, then why did his own finance minister dismiss them as being outrageous ideas when the NDP members were asked him questions about this just days before he agreed to this deal with the leader of the NDP?

If they are high priorities today, why were they not in the original budget back in February? Why was his own minister saying that we could not afford them just days before the government agreed to the deal with the NDP?

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

8:20 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, there is a great deal that is a mystery to the hon. member opposite. I hope in answering the question that in some manner or another I might help him with his limitations.

The initiatives that Bill C-48 represents build upon previous initiatives of the Government of Canada.

As I said during the course of my speech, there are things that we can do in a budget and Bill C-43 represents those things that can be done in a budget. It represents a fiscally sound plan, and I note members opposite initially sat on the first vote. Then on the second vote, after their polls changed, they voted against the budget. After things changed again, they supported the budget, Bill C-43.

It seems somewhat disingenuous on the part of the hon. member opposite who has caused the reconfiguration and created this difficulty for us all.

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

8:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I will ask my question first and then make my comment.

To invest in these areas of social spending, we need a strong fiscal base. Could the member outline the strong, fiscal fundamentals that allow us to make these new investments, with which I am sure all members agree, in areas of education, foreign aid, transit, et cetera, and clean air?

I want to ensure that everyone watching is aware of how these expenditures fit into the plan. When the Prime Minister first became Prime Minister, he gave a lengthy speech that outlined a plan for Canada. In that plan were four elements: the restructuring of the social foundations; improving Canada's place in the world; lifelong learning; and the new deal with cities.

With great integrity, he carried that plan forward into the throne speech. Continuing to keep his promises to Canadians, he carried it forward into budgets. Each time we can add to those priorities, he adds them on. Now, six months later, we are adding more into the budget. These are not just NDP priorities. These always were our priorities. We are just adding the expenditures into the budget.

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

8:25 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, as the member well knows, and certainly the people on this side of the House well know, we cannot do any kind of social investing unless we have our fiscal fundamentals right.

We are in a very advantageous position in this country. Our fiscal fundamentals are right. Bill C-43 represents the eighth balanced budget in a row. It also anticipates that going forward we will have a further five balanced budgets in a row. That, in turn, leads to some very happy results. It leads to some pretty low interest rates and some good inflation bands. We are within a band of one to three and that is acceptable to the minister and to the government.

With low interest, low inflation, balanced budgets and paying down debt, we then can dream a few dreams. Bill C-48 allows us to think in terms of what we would do in the event that we continue to have these surpluses. In the event that we do have these unplanned surpluses, we will invest in these areas.

Bill C-48 is rather interesting legislation in that I do not ever recollect this government, let alone any other government, actually tabling on the floor of a legislature what is called unplanned surplus legislation. This is an interesting way in which to indicate to the people of Canada and to the markets generally this is what we would do with any surplus beyond what we see coming forward.

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

8:25 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, in response to the question from the hon. member for Medicine Hat to the parliamentary secretary, I think there is only one person in this assembly being disingenuous and that is the hon. parliamentary secretary for suggesting that this new NDP-driven budget was something that the Liberals had planned for in any event, because, clearly, it was not. It was an attempt to buy votes from the NDP.

What concerns me more than that is the process in which this budget was developed. Quite frankly, this two page $4.6 billion budget was developed in a hotel room without the Minister of Finance in attendance. There was the Prime Minister, the leader of the NDP and a union leader but no finance minister.

I can say that Canadians all across Canada have nicknamed the finance minister “Stumpy” because they think his knees were cut out from beneath him by the Prime Minister.

How can the government suggest that this is a responsible budget when in fact the deal was done in a hotel room without the Minister of Finance present, regardless of the fact, as the minister has said before, that the finance minister was on the phone the entire time.

How ridiculous is it to suggest to Canadians that this was a responsible budget when the finance minister, only weeks and days before, was saying “You can't cherry-pick a budget. We can't redo the budget”. The Liberals made a new budget without the finance minister of Canada in attendance. They are trying to suggest to Canadians that this is responsible policy and responsible decision making.

How can the parliamentary secretary explain that? It is inexplicable.

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

8:25 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, let me point out that I am about six foot two and so far I am still standing on both hands, as is the finance minister. I do not think he is six foot two but nevertheless he is walking around quite nicely, thanks very much.

The finance minister said that in the event that this unplanned surplus legislation were to go forward, these would be the basic principles on which it would go forward.

First, there would be a significant paydown on debt. In this particular case there is at least $2 billion each year of the agreement.

Second, we would not go into deficit under any circumstances.

Third, we would continue to balance the budget and move forward on that basis.

In the event that those principles are met, then the finance minister was quite prepared to build upon the initiatives that were in previous budgets.

I put it to the hon. members opposite, which part of these four initiatives is the government not in? Is the government not in foreign aid? Already there. Is the government not in affordable housing? Already there. Is the government not into environmental issues? Already there. Is the government not into post-secondary education? Already there.

Billions and billions of dollars are already being spent. Bill C-48 falls well within the four principles that the finance minister put forward.

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

8:30 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-48.

I want to say at the outset that the Conservative Party of Canada believes that Canada can do so much better than we have done up until now. We are a land that is blessed with tremendous resources. We have access to the richest market in the history of the world and yet our standard of living languishes. Too many people cannot find jobs today or, if they can find a job, they are not the types of jobs that can pay them a wage that allows them to look after their families and ensure that they can send their children off to university. We think we can do a lot better and that is why we are so opposed to Bill C-48.

We think Bill C-48 represents a government that has completely lost its vision, if it ever had any vision. We argue that there is a much better way to proceed, which I will speak to in a few minutes.

I want to say a little about Bill C-48 at the outset. We need to correct the record about some of the things that my hon. friend has said. I think he is completely misleading Canadians about how this came about, about the nature of Bill C-48 and the nature of the spending that is planned in Bill C-48.

I want to remind my friend across the way that when the budget came in back in February there were a number of things in it that our party supported and some things on which we had some concerns but on balance we found it supportable. We did want to change some things and ultimately we got some of those changes.

We received some of the tax relief that we had been seeking but it was very minimal. After we had pushed the government quite hard, Canadians will receive $16 in personal income tax relief, which, I agree, is not very much. In fact it is a lot less than the millions of dollars that Liberal friends received through the sponsorship scandal in paper bags passed across tables at restaurants and suitcases full of money, but nevertheless we felt that the government was moving a little in our direction.

One of the key elements of Bill C-43, the budget legislation that came down, was a commitment to cut the taxation on large employers. We have been pushing for this for some time because that kind of tax reduction is important to ensuring that the productivity of Canada improves. When productivity improves it means that businesses can hire more workers, they attract more investment, more jobs are created and, as a result of that, more revenue starts coming in to the government. We really pushed that and we were happy to see that the government was doing that, although it was too far down the road.

We have this big productivity challenge in front of us today and the government wants to delay bringing in this tax relief for large employers, even though we face huge challenges today from countries like China, soon India, and basically every other country in the world. We are facing some big challenges but we said that it was okay because at least the government was moving roughly in the right direction.

We had some concerns about some of the environmental provisions of the bill. Part 15 of the bill dealt with regulating large final emitters for companies that emit CO


. The government wanted to do that through CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We did not like that and just about every party in the House thought that was a bad idea and argued that should not be done. However the good news is that we were able to get some amendments to Bill C-43. We got rid of the CEPA provisions. We were able to make some other changes to greenhouse gas technology funds that made sure it was a little more flexible so that businesses could use it and make it work for them.

We got some changes when it came to transparency on Bill C-43 and ultimately we did support Bill C-43, as the member knows. It is not perfect and it is a long way from perfect. It is not what a Conservative government would do. It is a tepid approach, in our view, but it is a step in the right direction and we did support it.

However, where we thought the government went way off the rails was on Bill C-48. I want to remind the parliamentary secretary that there were NDP members standing in this place until a day or two before the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP met in a hotel room in Toronto with Buzz Hargrove, the union leader, to cut a deal that was a long way away from this place and from the scrutiny of Canadians. In fact, it was a political deal. It was cut because the government was worried that it would fall with the revelations that were coming out of the Gomery commission, revelations that shook the faith of the country in this government.

Guess what? Despite what the finance minister had been saying in this place about how what the NDP was proposing was outrageous and that “You can’t go on stripping away piece by piece by piece of the budget...You can’t...begin to cherry pick”, two days later his Prime Minister cut a deal with the leader of the NDP to save the hide of the Liberal Party. It was facing these unbelievable charges coming from executives within the Liberal Party talking about millions of dollars being passed to ad executives in suitcases and in paper bags. It was outrageous.

The NDP supported a corrupt government, the most corrupt government in the history of the country, in order to get what it wanted. That is how this all came about, in case people forget. I wanted to set the record straight.

The problems with Bill C-48 go way beyond that. I want to address some of those issues right now.

When the budget came down, the government argued that it needed to have a particular fiscal framework to ensure that we had stability down the road. It wanted to make sure that there was always enough money to ensure that the country did not go into deficit and that there was a minimal amount of money that would go toward debt repayment, which is a good idea. In fact, our party has always supported that, as did the Liberal Party until it struck its deal with the NDP.

In striking that deal, the Liberals took the minimum amount of money that would be used as a buffer to ensure that they did not go into a deficit and if it was not used it would go toward debt repayment. They took it from $4 billion and now it is down to $2 billion under Bill C-48. What does that mean? It means that the amount of money that is used to retire debt is less now, meaning that down the road we will pay more in interest. We will not have the same kind of savings that we would have had if we still had that $4 billion cushion.

I want members in the House to think about what that means. It means that for every $1 billion that we pay toward the debt, and let us assume the interest rate is at 3%, we would save $30 million a year in perpetuity from now until forever. If we were to pay down $2 billion, like the government is now proposing since it struck its deal with the NDP, that would be $60 million in perpetuity that we could be using to fund things like social programs down the road.

I see my friends in the NDP are very agitated about this but I think I am telling the truth about this. I think they are concerned that I am revealing how damaging their deal is to the social safety net of this country, which they should be concerned about because it is damaging.

My point is that the difference between $4 billion and $2 billion means tens of millions of dollars a year cannot now be used to fund social programs down the road, especially when Canadians who are starting to age today, the baby boom generation, hit their retirement years. We expect that when we hit around the year 2030 we will have double the number of seniors than we have today. What will we do then with a much smaller tax base to fund all those seniors? One thing we could do is pay down the debt so that we have more capacity down the road to fund big social programs like health care and seniors pensions.

We are making a grave error. We are making the error of political expediency. The government is selling out the country today to save its own political hide. It is putting the pensions and the health care of seniors at risk down the road. That is what this amounts to and it is reprehensible. That is what the government has done.

There are more problems with Bill C-48. One of the big problems with Bill C-48 can be seen when one picks it up. I do not have a copy of it here, but it is two pages long, a bill that is spending $4.6 billion. One would expect that when talking about amending a budget to include an expenditure of $4.6 billion, one would get a document that not only laid out exactly where the spending would occur, but what the objectives are, what the government intends to accomplish, the mechanisms it would use to accomplish the objectives, and the safeguards in place to guarantee that the money would not be misspent. That is what one would expect when talking about an expenditure of this magnitude, but that is not what we got. We got a 400 word bill. It is one of the most pathetic pieces of legislation I have ever seen in my life.

I see my NDP friend over there wagging his finger at me, criticizing me. Well, let me address one of my concerns when it comes to this issue. In this legislation the government is proposing to spend money on post-secondary education, which is laudable. We all want to do that, but we want to do it in a way we can afford so that down the road we can ensure that we can do it for all Canadians, not just in the short term for the political gain of the Liberals and the NDP.

One of the things that my friend from Portage--Lisgar raised was that in 2000 the Auditor General raised concerns about spending on post-secondary education for aboriginals. This was in the year 2000. In the fall of 2004, the Auditor General said that four years earlier her department had raised those concerns and it still had not had a response from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs about how the money was being spent. Now the government wants to spend $1.5 billion on post-secondary education, some of which would go to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for post-secondary education for aboriginals. The Auditor General still has not received a response, but those members do not care. They do not care that the Auditor General of Canada has grave concerns about the accountability of this money.

The NDP wants to go ahead and spend that money without having that response from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. The Liberals, of course, do not care. They never have cared about these things. That is why we have problems like the sponsorship scandal. That is why we have problems like the firearms registry.

Frankly, it is why we have problems like one of the worst scandals I think I have ever seen in Indian affairs, which was the whole issue of Davis Inlet. I know that Liberal members and certainly the NDP equate how much one spends with how much one cares. The more money one spends, the bigger one's heart. That is the view of those members. It is not about results for them; it is about how much money they spend. There is no better example that I can provide than how the government handled the problem at Davis Inlet.

I want to remind people in the House and people who are watching this today what occurred. We were all horrified as a country when we saw on television young native children staggering around under the influence of gasoline that they had been sniffing. The prime minister of the day, Jean Chrétien, was horrified. We all were. It was unbelievable that in a country that provides opportunities to so many people, those people at Davis Inlet did not have that opportunity. We saw this absolute social pathology at Davis Inlet, where so many young people basically were throwing away their lives because they were doing this. What was the government's response? The government's response was to throw bags of money at the problem.

Anyone who doubts for a second that is true only has to look at what happened to Davis Inlet after the government intervened. What happened was the government spent $360 million on Davis Inlet, a community of 900 people, which amounts to $400,000 a person. The government moved the whole community down the road, and put the people in new housing and provided new facilities for them, water and all the rest of it.

Predictably, all of the problems went with those people, because the government equates how much money it spends with how much it cares. It equates how much money it spends with getting results and the two are not necessarily connected. The Liberals had no plan on how to spend that money to ensure they got results. The result was that those 900 people took all their problems and misery with them 20 miles down the road and they are in the same position today. That is a disgrace.

We will replicate that, I am afraid, with the NDP budget Bill C-48, because the government is moving forward at lightspeed on this with no plan. There is not one detail in the bill as to how the money will be spent. It just says it will go into certain areas. The government did not list the programs. It did not lay out the objectives. We don't know precisely how much the government wants to spend in each particular area. What the Liberals want to do, and the NDP members are prepared to go along with it, is they want to give authority to the governor in council, in other words to give broad authority to cabinet, to decide how the money is spent.

The Conservative Party moved amendments asking that the government provide plans, and I do not understand why it would not agree to it, by December 31 of this year, laying out how the money would be spent. It did not seem to be a very high hurdle to jump over, but the government could not even agree to that. It would not even accept that amendment. I am horrified that the Liberals would not do that when we are talking about such a major expenditure.

I am running out of time and there are a couple of more things I want to say. There is a better approach. The better approach is to figure out what we want to achieve and make sure that we have programs in place that help people realize their dreams. A lot of times it is not the government that does it. A lot of times it is families that do it.

Let us leave that money, where we possibly can, in the pockets of families. Families know better what is right for them and their children than bureaucrats and politicians do. When there is a doubt about what to do with $4.6 billion that the government has lying around, leave it in the pockets of Canadian taxpayers. They will use it wisely.

My time is running out, so I had better get down to business and move this amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Finance for the purpose of reconsidering all of its clauses with the view to incorporate recommendations regarding tighter controls on discretionary spending.

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

8:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment is in order.

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

8:50 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the late great Yogi Berra would say that that speech sounds like déjà vu all over again. I suspect we are going to have a fair bit of déjà vu all over again because there are very few, if any, of the arguments put forward by the hon. member that have not already been heard in this House and outside this House dozens and dozens of times.

He started off by saying that the Conservative Party thinks that it can do better. Unfortunately, he does not seem to acknowledge the fact that the Canadian people do not agree with him. He has given a classic demonstration of why his party has been in opposition for 12 years. It is probably destined to spend at least another 12 years in opposition telling itself that it can do better. Apparently it cannot do better.

I want to make sure that people who might be listening to this debate know that the tax cuts that are proposed in Bill C-43 are being restored by way of a separate legislative initiative and that initiative has been put on the order paper.

What I do not understand is the hon. member's dodging around corruption. If his argument is that this government is corrupt, then his party for some bizarre reason supported a corrupt government by voting for Bill C-43. I do not see how he can say that his party has done anything other than support a corrupt government, or maybe he does not really believe that this is in fact a corrupt government.

I want to put to the hon. member that in his speech he neglected to mention that this is in fact enabling legislation. Will he acknowledge that the government may spend in these areas in the event that at least $2 billion in surplus is realized? Will he at least acknowledge that this money is not committed until those contingencies are met?

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8:50 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, just to assure my friend across the way, I do think the government is corrupt. In fact, I think most Canadians think it is corrupt. In fact, the polling I have seen suggests that people think the Prime Minister is largely responsible for the sponsorship scandal and frankly, I agree.

My friend across the way has asked me to comment on the contingency aspect of the spending. I would be happy to do that.

It is also true that as a member of the finance committee the parliamentary secretary knows there is a very high likelihood that we will be running surpluses next year of a magnitude that will allow the government to meet its commitments to the NDP. This means that this is contingent only on paper. The reality is that this money will be spent. The question is, is this the proper way to spend it?

I want to take a moment to address that. As the parliamentary secretary knows, we went around this country listening to Canadians before the last budget came down. We had a prebudget review so that we could provide the finance minister with guidance on how to spend this money. That was reflected in Bill C-43. What was not reflected was a $4.6 billion deal cut to save the hide of the Liberal Party which was under fire for the worst corruption in Canadian history, aided and abetted by the NDP. That is so wrong.

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8:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the member for Medicine Hat talk about corruption, when we know that when in government, his party under Mulroney had the worst record of corruption seen until this day. If he doubts that, he should read On the Take: Crime, Greed and Corruption in the Mulroney Years by Stevie Cameron.

The member's presentation was irresponsible. It was irresponsible because of the Conservative record. There were record deficits in the 1980s and 1990s. It was irresponsible because the Conservative Party last year had the most bloated political party platform in Canadian history, with $86 billion in spending commitments. That was before it threw in the aircraft carriers as a last minute promise. We never even heard how much that would cost.

It was irresponsible because we know that there is a housing crisis and a poverty crisis in this country. We know there are over 1.1 million poor children in this country. Homelessness has tripled in certain regions, including my own. We know there is a crisis in post-secondary education. We know there is a crisis in the environment. Greenhouses gases have increased, not decreased.

Knowing all of these crises, all his party proposed was to shovel more money at the corporate sector. How could that party be more irresponsible?

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

8:55 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to see that my friend is so bitter over there. He should be a little happier about these things.

The NDP has a terrible record in my friend's own province. It took a province that was the fastest growing province in Canada and turned it into a have not province. That is a remarkable achievement under the NDP and I congratulate my friend for continuing to support a party that has so obviously failed.

I think it is a wonderful thing that he has that kind of loyalty, but I also want to point out that not only did that party cause the economy to fail in a way that is without precedent, it was involved in all kinds of scandals like the bingogate scandal. I remember that. I live in the next province over. I remember the fast ferry disaster which ultimately caused that government to fall, and let us not raise the name of Glen Clark. Suffice it to say that the NDP, of any party in this place, has no lessons to give to the Conservative Party about how to run a government.

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8:55 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, why are we sending the bill back to committee? The member knows that we spent lots of time in committee already. We had opportunities to question witnesses. The Conservatives put forward a list of witnesses. They filibustered and were not interested in hearing what the witnesses had to say. We had to bring them back on three or four different occasions.

We then spent over five hours on a three-clause bill and the members again filibustered on items that had nothing to do with the bill. There were amendments that were proposed in committee, again by the Conservatives. I am not going to say they did not make any sense, but they were not even admissible. There was no consideration put forward.

Why all of a sudden is the hon. member going to take the committee any more seriously than he has in the past?

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8:55 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my friend who is the chair of the committee that I take his committee very seriously. He does a wonderful job chairing it.

When we brought some of our amendments to the committee, these were substantial amendments. They were amendments to do crazy things like ask the government to explain how the money would be spent. Is that so unreasonable? I think it is appropriate to bring the bill back to committee, so that when we are talking about spending almost $5 billion, the government might take a few minutes to lay out a few ideas on how it would spend it.

We also tried to amend it and actually had the amendments accepted, although the government turned it down ultimately, along with the NDP. One of the things that we wanted to do was put a condition on the money that went to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. We wanted to insist that, before the government got the money to spend on post-secondary education for aboriginals, the department respond to the year 2000 Auditor General's report that expressed concerns about how money was being spent on post-secondary education for aboriginals. I think that is pretty responsible.

I want to point out that we had a terrible time getting witnesses before the committee. The chair of the committee will remember that we invited 25 witnesses, 21 of them were from the government. We could not get anyone from the government to appear initially except for the Minister of Finance. None of the ministries that would be affected by the spending, housing, labour, and post-secondary education would appear before the committee, so we had to filibuster until we got a few department officials and ministers to come, but not nearly the number that should have been there to explain the expenditure of $5 billion. I think it is reasonable to send the bill back to committee and make that happen.

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9 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-48.

As some already know, I am a teacher by profession. I was an economics professor—and will be again once we achieve sovereignty in Quebec—at the Maisonneuve college, where I am still employed. I am sure that Bill C-48 will make for an extremely interesting case study when I go back to teaching at the end of my political career.

Bill C-48 is a unique case politically, economically, and financially speaking and the Bloc Québécois is opposed to it on all those levels.

Politically speaking, look at the situation we were in a few weeks ago when the minority government was looking for support just to survive. Bill C-48 did not come out of the goodness of the Liberals' hearts. They were in political hot water and this is what they came up with to survive politically. Bill C-48 is the product of this government's corruption. Let us not forget that.

Without Bill C-48, this government probably would have fallen and an election would already have been held in which the people of Quebec and Canada could have punished this government.

In case anyone thinks this is not a government on probation, some of whose representatives have been accused of dirty deeds, L. Ian MacDonald, who is not a sovereignist, I am sure we agree, wrote an article in Policy Options on the Gomery inquiry. I will read an excerpt. It is a summary of his article that I invite everyone to read:

As explosive as the auditor general’s report on the sponsorship scandal was, it did not, and could not, follow those funds, as Sheila Fraser said, “once they left the government.” It was left to Justice John Gomery to follow the money, not so much through a bureaucratic maze as down a political trail that led to the advertising agencies in Montreal and back to the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec). In 128 days of public hearings, Gomery took some 25,000 pages of testimony, some of it stories of cash payments in envelopes right out the movies. Gomery’s findings will be out in November and his recommendations in December. Has the cost been worth it? The only benchmark is what we know now that we didn't know before Gomery. The answer is plenty.

It is very clear in what political context Bill C-48 was created. They tried to win an artificial majority in order to continue governing.

Unfortunately, I must say that the NDP, a party that I respect a great deal, has fallen right into the trap. On my way here, I thought about what I had learned in college. The NDP had the wool pulled over its eyes, to use one expression to describe this situation. We have others: it took the bait; it was fooled by smoke and mirrors; in short, it grasped at a shadow and lost the substance.

Politically speaking, I am quite concerned when a party of honesty and integrity, such as the NDP, is taken in by the Liberal Party of Canada, which is a corrupt party. As I mentioned, the Gomery commission and a number of observers seem to support that argument. The truth will come out once Justice Gomery's report has been tabled.

Politically speaking, this is an absolute farce. Nothing in Bill C-48 is truly progressive. Its only purpose is to buy peace for several months so the Liberal Party can continue to govern.

Economically and financially, we have the example of the $500 million for foreign aid. Obviously, there will always be support for increasing development aid.

So, this allows the Liberal Government of Canada to say that it has invested $500 million—how extraordinary—but that it will make no commitment whatsoever to 0.7% of GDP for official development assistance.

Again this week, the Minister of International Cooperation said that the government was making a moral commitment to reach this goal, but that there was no timeline, calendar or plan. So, the government is telling us that there is $500 million in Bill C-48, that this is wonderful, and that this absolves us of any commitment to provide official development assistance.

There is $1.5 billion for post-secondary education. Obviously, this is an astronomical sum. However, when we do not know how this $1.5 billion will be spent or what percentage will go to which expenditures, this may be a recipe for disaster.

I myself attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, two weeks ago Monday. University association representatives came to tell us that a balance is essential. If everything is invested in improving access to a university education, then the universities cannot accept additional students, because they do not have the professors, labs or infrastructure they would need.

Adding this $1.5 billion may therefore seem to be a good thing, but it is more likely to cause problems than to bring solutions, particularly since there is no government commitment to renewed funding. Teachers will be hired, laboratories opened perhaps, and then everything will have to be closed down again because there is not enough money to fund it all.

I will remind hon. members that there was a strike in Quebec a few years ago, one the Liberal government of Quebec of the day considered illegal. At that time I was secretary general of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. We were hit with a fine of several million dollars. Of course, in order to look good and seem progressive, the government said that the money from these fines would be made available to community groups and charitable organizations. The Montreal United Way recommended that these groups turn it down. Why so? Because, when money becomes available for one year, permanent staff is hired, additional services provided, and then the next year there is no more money, staff can no longer be paid nor services delivered, but the demand created is still there.

In Bill C-48, as in the entire approach of the federal government and of the Liberal Party of Canada, there is always that philosophy of creating a need, funding it initially, and then pulling out later, leaving Quebec and the provinces holding the bag.

We have seen this with social housing. There again—I am forced to say this—the $1.6 billion for social housing is of course welcome, but if the federal Liberal government pulls out the following year, does not maintain its investments, and announces no continued funding for social housing, Quebec will find itself back in exactly the same position as now. I am sure that is the situation in other provinces as well. There is social housing but not the funds to maintain it properly.

So a need is created and then the ball ends up back in the provinces' court—and in Quebec's especially. I must point out that Quebec has kept its commitments as far as social housing is concerned. Moreover, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain has said so on numerous occasions. Consequently, the problem is still there. This does, of course, seem to be a most acceptable measure, even praiseworthy in principle, but in reality, it creates problems.

In this regard, we would have thought it more likely the Liberal government would commit to investing 1% of its public spending annually on social housing, as the NDP has asked—I imagine—along with the Bloc. However, this is not the case. The government provides one breath of fresh air, which will then suffocate social housing. It is extremely disturbing.

In terms of the environment, $900 million is an extraordinary amount, to be sure. It does not prevent the plan announced by the Minister of the Environment in response to the Kyoto protocol from being not only too weak to be carried out but destined for polluters who pay nothing for their pollution.

Accordingly, it guarantees a policy, which is, in our opinion in Bloc Québécois—and that of our critic for this matter—damaging to Quebec. The government is favouring the petroleum industry and once again making the people who have made an effort, especially the manufacturing sector in Quebec, pay for the reduction in greenhouse gases.

Looking at all that, I think it began with the best of intentions. However, the political, economic and financial results are catastrophic and do not resolve the underlying problems. The fiscal imbalance must not be forgotten. And there is nothing in this bill for EI.

It is not the fault of the NDP. I do not want to throw stones at them for that, but it does enable the federal Liberal government to say that it has a very good bill to resolve a stack of social issues, and that employment insurance will be for later. It will not be for later. We know that very well. Since 2000, government members and ministers have promised EI reforms we have yet to see.

I recall clearly—and I repeat this often, because I want everyone to remember—that, in 2000, the member for Bourassa and other Liberal government ministers of the time promised reforms to construction workers in Jonquière or Chicoutimi. Furthermore, during the televised debate in the last election, the Prime Minister himself promised reforms. However, nothing has happened since then.

Some $46 billion or $47 billion was diverted. Obviously $4.5 billion is nothing to sneeze at. However, $46 billion or $47 billion has been misappropriated. This gives an idea of the scale involved. We cannot settle for this, especially if we consider ourselves progressive.

So we must continue to put pressure on this minority government. Furthermore, EI should be a priority.

We must not forget the gun registry scandal either. Apparently, $1.7 billion was spent. Most of us agree with the principle; the gun registry is essential. However, we were told that it would cost $2 million, not the almost $2 billion it has cost to date. This is mind-boggling. Obviously some people profited from it. This is another scandal.

This reminds us, obviously, of the sponsorship scandal. I will say no more about it. I think that we have made up our minds about that scandal.

Look at the federal job creation program. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was then the human resources minister. A billion dollars was spent on all sorts of projects. Exactly how that money was used was never really determined.

There is still the fiscal imbalance. We are talking about an amount between $12 billion and $14 billion for all provinces. For Quebec alone, the fiscal imbalance represents $3.5 billion. In that sense, Bill C-48 is like putting a band-aid on a cancer. The cancer should have been treated.

The Conservative Party finance critic mentioned that this bill does not contain any details and that is a shame. As I was saying earlier, in terms of post-secondary education, the choices made in budget allocation will be extremely critical in determining how useful this money is. The same is true for housing. We would have expected a little more. Perhaps they ran out of time.

I imagine the Minister of Finance must be quite shocked to see, after tabling his budget in February, that for partisan reasons his credibility is on the line. Indeed, that is what is at stake.

In February, he told us there was no surplus, but that he had a $4 billion contingency fund for emergencies and economic prudence. Now the government is making a $4.5 billion commitment over two years. It is proof—and the Bloc Québécois has denounced this many times—that they deliberately underestimate the surpluses. The finance minister's credibility will be marred for life. He knows it, too; that much is obvious. When he responds to questions on Bill C-48, he is uncomfortable and he winces. I would rather he gave a precise picture of the public finances and that we had a real debate on how to use the surpluses; not the unexpected surpluses, but the real ones.

Where should this money go? To repay the debt, as they have said for years? I want to reiterate that. That is an extremely serious thing. For years, they led us to think that the unexpected surpluses should go to repay the debt. And yet, we can see it with Bill C-48. If the government expects unexpected surpluses ahead of time, they can be allocated to some particular thing. Tens of billions of dollars are involved here. In fact, some $60 billion to $70 billion have been withdrawn from the democratic debate, from the options available to the members here in the House and to the public. It is unacceptable.

With Bill C-48, unfortunately for the Minister of Finance, they made this fact public. In other words, they underestimate the surplus so they can deduct it from the public debt. They also use trusts and foundations for this. In this way, money from the public purse is removed from the control of parliamentarians. This too is a denial of democracy and a democratic deficit, a deficit that the current Prime Minister criticized a few months back. I have to say that the more time passes, the more I realize those words must surely have been intended to convince both the members of the Liberal Party of Canada and the public that renewal was on the way. We are realizing with the Liberals that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The democratic deficit remains. The proof lies in the number of motions passed in this House without producing any effect on government action. I will give only one example, in which I am personally involved. It is the splitting of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The Prime Minister decided the day he was sworn in to split this department. Two bills were introduced and defeated. It would seem that that changed absolutely nothing in the government's trajectory. I could mention other motions that also passed in this House, and that came to nought in terms of government action.

So Bill C-48 may be a fine gesture by the NDP, but it is a harmful one from the political point of view, because it attempts to make people forget that at least a portion of one of the parties involved, that is the Liberal Party of Canada, is corrupt. From the economic point of view, this is far from a guarantee of improved services as far as post-secondary education, provision of social housing, or the environment are concerned.

As I have said, as far as international aid is concerned, this will enable the government to wiggle out of its obligation to have a deadline and a very specific plan for achieving the 0.7% of GDP objective by 2015.

So, overall, this is a way to make people forget what is essential: this government has lost its moral credibility; it is a lame duck government, but Bill C-48 has enabled it to enter into an alliance that will keep it going another few months. We in the Bloc Québécois, like all parties in opposition, have a responsibility to keep reminding people of the essential facts, which demonstrate that this government does not deserve the support of the people of Quebec and Canada. It is regrettable that the NDP fell into the trap.

In this connection, it is my hope that within a few days, or a few hours, some people will see the light and common sense will win out. Bill C-48 is a sham, and we cannot vote in favour of a sham. What we want is some real solutions. All parties in opposition must join forces to put pressure on this corrupt government.

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

June 22nd, 2005 / 9:20 p.m.

Beauce Québec


Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)

Mr. Speaker, the only sham tonight is listening to the Bloc Québécois, which claims to defend the interests of Quebeckers and repeats that it will vote against Bill C-48. The premier of Quebec, like most of the mayors in Quebec, is asking the Bloc members to support this bill in order to obtain the money the Government of Canada has promised, thanks to an agreement with the NDP, a party that wanted to work in the interest of Quebeckers and Canadians, unlike the Bloc members.

My colleague alluded to a number of points. I want to respond to some of them. He spoke a great deal about sponsorships. I want to ask him what he thinks of what happened in Quebec, particularly with regard to Oxygène 9 and the resignation of Mr. Baril as a minister. A few months later, the Quebec government made him a vice-president of Hydro-Québec in Chile, without investigating or assigning blame, by claiming its innocence.

Here, we created the Gomery commission of inquiry. Four people are currently facing criminal charges, one of whom has already pleaded guilty. We have launched legal proceedings against 20 individuals and businesses for a total of $44 million. We amended the Election Act's provisions on the funding of political parties. We re-established auditors for each department, to ensure that departmental expenditures comply with Treasury Board guidelines.

Those are the measures we have taken as a responsible government. We have not tried to hide; we have acted. There was a problem: some people took advantage of a flaw in the system. We are aware of the problem and we want to fix it.

It has been suggested that nothing has been done with regard to EI. In fact, an additional $300 million was announced, but the Bloc does not want to support Bill C-48. However, it has a lot to say about what happened with the gun registry and EI. The $1 billion he mentioned is really $80,000. I invite the member for Joliette to table the documents to support his claims. In reality, the inquiry concluded that $80,000 was missing.

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9:20 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, whom I like very much as a person, has asked a number of questions. I will not unfortunately be able to answer them all.

As far as the sponsorships are concerned, there is no common thread between what went on here in Ottawa with the Liberal Party of Canada, and what went on in Quebec with Oxygène 9 and Mr. Baril. Immediately he felt there was a hint of conflict of interest, he resigned. Here, the government had to be harassed.

Even back in the 2000 election campaign we were speaking out about some practices by this government. We could not imagine that this scandal had roots so deep.

The Gomery inquiry was struck in response to pressure by the opposition parties and public opinion. This government has never done a thing without being pressured to do so.

It is a totally different situation in Quebec, for both the Parti Québecois and the Quebec Liberal Party. For example, at the first hint of problems with Jean Brault's contributions to the Parti Québecois, a trust fund was created. Here the government had to be harassed for a month, or a month and a half, until it admitted it no longer had any choice. And then it took a while before the money got transferred.

These are not in any way similar situations. Observers were not at all taken in. There was a whole mechanism in place here. I am not saying it was all the Liberal Party of Canada, or all the government, but there was a real system set up to funnel money indirectly to the Liberal Party of Canada. I am not in any way saying that this was the intent of the sponsorship program. Its primary objective, in reality, was to buy the souls of Quebeckers, and opinion polls show that it failed to do that.

As far as Bill C-48 is concerned, Quebec Premier Charest is certainly playing a totally legitimate game in trying to help out his Ottawa brethren, and to sing the praises of the Liberal Party of Canada in a lead-up to the election. Nevertheless, according to the polls, declared votes in their favour are at around 20% or 22%. I do not think that this will be a major advantage for the Liberal Party of Canada in the next election.

There is a lot more I could say, but no more time, so I will take my seat.

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9:25 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a new member of Parliament I have not seen a lot of bills, but this bill is really something else, with words like “may”, “up to” “may be”, “up to the amount”, “shall not exceed” and “shall”. There does not appear to be a lot of certainty and accountability in this legislation.

With the Liberal government's history of the gun registry and HRDC boondoggles, the ad scam and such a lack of accountability, does the member see the potential for this to be another scandal or another ad scam? Why does he think the Liberal government likes these bills and programs without accountability?

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

9:25 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. When we read the bill we see that there are a great many “ifs” and “maybes”. First, there needs to be a $2 billion surplus every year. We know there will be one since the Minister of Finance has constantly underestimated the surpluses.

Nonetheless, if the Liberals did not want to give the money because it did not suit them to do so for one reason or another, they could change their mind—we know what they are like. That said, if they just spent money on other programs they could end up with a $2 billion surplus without having to say a word about keeping their promises.

The Comptroller General was asked whether this bill was binding. The answer was no. It is a line of credit the federal government has opened to spend the maximum in every sector. Take international aid for example. The maximum is $500 million. There is no guarantee this money will be spent.

I think we should have had—in fact this was suggested in the Standing Committee on Finance—a much more cohesive bill. The haste of drafting Bill C-48 just to form a political alliance is probably what made it so vague. It leaves the Liberal Party of Canada and current government with a lot of elbow room.

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

9:25 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I have been absolutely shocked from the start by the unbelievable arguments made this evening by the hon. member for Joliette.

I wish I could do justice in French to a debate with that member on the floor of the House of Commons in his first language. I listened carefully to the arguments. It struck me, with almost every word that was uttered by the member, how much the rationalizations that are being offered are not really up to his usual standard, either of intellectual soundness or his usual political integrity.

I heard arguments about how there was a kind of marriage of convenience between the Liberals and the NDP, which makes it politically suspect and he is going to be talking about that in his courses. However, if there was ever a marriage of self-serving convenience in the history of this Parliament, it has to be the marriage that has been consummated here on the floor of the House of Commons between the Bloquistes and the ultra-cons.

Honestly, I do not believe for one moment that the member can hold his head up when he listens to the incredible arguments, the raving, right wing, reactionary arguments that come from that corner directed at this budget. He has decided to be associated with that.

How can the member honestly stand in his place and say that he feels good about an alliance with a party that disagrees with practically everything in social policy terms that is--