Mr. Speaker, what a surprise it is to be in the House tonight and to have more than three government members here at this time and to have them so passionate about the debate on estimates.
As usual, I am going to try not to say the same things everyone else has brought to this debate. I am going to try to add a few different perspectives.
In my past experience, I was a global leader in a multinational business. We had a budgeting process. We had a process to look at estimates. The first thing we needed to be sure of were the desired outcomes we were hoping to accomplish. That was the first question. Second, how much did we estimate the plans we needed to put in place to achieve those outcomes would cost? Third, could we afford to do them all, and if we could not afford to do them all, how would we prioritize them? What were the most important ones? Once we had that plan and the estimates associated with it, how would we track it as we went along to see how our spending was happening. Was it happening as we planned or not?
That ought to be the goal of this estimates discussion tonight. We should be looking at the estimates and we should be able to see what the desired outcomes are, what the plans are, how much each of those costs, and what the priorities are so we can then track them.
I would say that there is not a lot of disagreement about the desired outcomes of the budget. We have heard what they are, because it is the rhetoric we hear all the time. Everyone wants the middle class to do well. Everyone wants to raise people out of poverty. We want to help our seniors. We want to help our veterans. We want to defend our country. We want to help our families. Everyone in the House is on that page for those desired outcomes.
However, when I look at the estimates, it is very convoluted as far as how much we are really spending, when we are spending it, and how we will track it. There is some room for improvement.
Another thing we can look at is the gender part of budget 2017 and the estimates that come from that. As the chair of status of women, we certainly devoted a lot of time to coming up with a very detailed report on gender-based analysis-plus. There were recommendations that were accepted by the government that it was to implement, but so far, none of them have been implemented.
Although these estimates were apparently developed with GBA-plus in mind, there is no transparency from the government on what analysis was done, what exactly came of it, and what changes were actually made. That is not clear to me. If it is not clear to me, then it is not clear to other Canadians.
The other report we did at status of women that was critical was on taking action to eliminate violence against women and girls. One out of three or one out of four women in Canada will experience violence. This is a huge issue. If we look to the estimates, we see that the government is planning to spend $100 million over five years. That is $20 million a year to handle violence against women, which affects one in three or one in four women in Canada.
How does that relate to other priorities? The government is going to spend more than three times that amount to collect statistical data. That is how important eliminating violence against women is. It is more important to collect data than to do that. Again, when it comes to the priorities we see in the estimates, I take some exception to that.
Another subject I would like to talk about is pay equity, because of course, I was also able to serve on the pay equity committee, three times a week for about three hours a night, to make sure that we, in a hurry, came with recommendations for the government. We did come with recommendations, and again, there is nothing in these estimates to address that. There is no progress on those initiatives. While the government claims to be a feminist government that is about gender equality, I really have to question that. I do not see it reflected at all in the estimates.
We are currently studying how to improve the economic status of women in Canada. One of the things we are looking at are the barriers to women improving their economic security. One of them, of course, is child care. We saw earlier this week that the government had an announcement on that. It is talking about maybe 40,000 spots, which is about 100 or 120 per riding. It is totally inadequate for the need. The government is counting on the provinces to do the right thing and implement that in a way that will actually come with spaces.
We see in places like Quebec, which has child care that is subsidized, that there are issues with not only the quality of the care but the flexibility of the hours of the care, and there is also a huge waiting list. It is still inadequate to meet the needs. What is in the estimates certainly does not reflect what needs to happen.
The other thing I would say about the budgeting and estimates process is that in the real world, we come with our estimates and have no more money to spend after that. There seems to be a philosophy here that if we come to the end of the money, we just get a supplement. I sit on the liaison committee, and I watch continually as officials come with the estimate of what they are going to spend. They spend that, and then they come with supplementary estimates for what else they want to spend, and the Liberals approve that, and then they go again. This is not the way Canadian taxpayers want us to manage their funds. We need to be responsible with their funds. We need to put our plans in place and stick to our budget, and that is how it should work.
The government makes it worse by giving Canadians messages that it is not open and transparent. When we have asked for information on the carbon tax, it has been rejected. When people misrepresent facts here in the House of Commons and they are proven later, it erodes the credibility of the government. When there is not clarity in the estimates, people will say that the government has not been credible in some areas, so can they really believe that the money is going where they think it is? That is something that needs to be addressed.
On the subject of deficits, Canadians clearly supported a small $10-billion deficit, but then it got way out of control and was $30 billion, and it is going to be $30 billion again this year. The problem is that eventually, we are going to be paying $10 billion a year in interest payments on the deficit we have racked up, especially with interest rates that may go up. I do not see that reflected, and I am concerned about the ongoing sustainability of that.
I also need to comment on the science budget, because I am the critic for science, so I should have something to say about the estimates and what is happening there. There is an important review, the Naylor report, which looks at science and how we should change things. The report came in December 2016. It has 32 recommendations, but they are not reflected anywhere in the estimates. We know the value of what we are going to do is not zero, so there should not be zero in the estimates. There should be something, some plan, some amount of allotment the government would dedicate to that, because there are some very worthy recommendations in the Naylor report. I would be happy to give a speech another day and give a dissertation on that 300-page report.
The estimates should reflect the legislative priority as well, but I do not see that there really is a legislative priority. The government seems to be spending a lot of time discussing things that have already happened. We spent hours here talking about Bill C-24, which is a bill to address the salaries of the ministers and make the junior ones equivalent to the senior ones and to eliminate six economic ministers. Those actions have already been taken, but we spent all kinds of time in the House talking about it after it was already done. Obviously, we are not reflecting the priorities of the government.
There have only been 19 pieces of legislation passed, compared to 52 by the previous government, and of those 19, 10 were budgetary.
In terms of the estimates, we need to make sure that, once again, we come back to what they do in the real world. We know what the desired outcomes are, but we have to get clarity about the plans and how much they really cost so we can track them. We also have to give consideration to whether we can afford them all. Sometimes we cannot afford to do everything we want to do, and we have to draw the line. I would encourage the government to be more fiscally responsible and to not say yes to everything. It should have priorities and do what is important for Canadians.