Mr. Speaker, let me start by addressing the comments made by the previous speaker from the Reform Party.
Part of his comments were that municipal governments, local governments are closest to the people and they are best able to make choices in how we might run the country. The inference was to let them have more say in how federal government moneys are spent and let us try to do more to co-ordinate.
I have absolutely no problem with having that take place. I think co-ordination of effort by all parts of government is something that would be very cost effective and it would serve the people and all local governments very well, as well as the provinces.
Let me draw a little more on my municipal experience. I spent eight years with the regional municipality of Waterloo and the city of Waterloo. Somehow there was a better focus on debate. There was a better focus on trying to do what was best for the citizens of the community in a lot less partisan fashion that happens in this House.
Being in the House today and listening to some of the debate on Bill C-17, as well as having been through question period, the amount of sanctimony coming from the opposition as well as the non-official parties is bothersome.
I heard references that go back to the 1972 Liberal government. I am part of the class of 1993. In 1972 I was not involved in partisan politics. I know what happened in 1972 but some of the programs that government came out with in 1972 are really not applicable today.
Let me read something for members. I am going to quote very briefly from a presentation made to the Conference Board of Canada by the chief administrative officer of the city of Waterloo, Mr. Bob Byron, with whom I had the pleasure of working. I found him to be a new breed of civil servant, a new breed of manager. I can say that Gerry Thompson, who was the chief administrative officer at the region of Waterloo, is also of the same mould.
He talks about governments and how municipal governments are experiencing severe reductions in sources of revenue. He states: "To compensate Waterloo has significantly reduced its workforce and actively pursued lesser cost activities. However, these are short term measures and further effort is required to achieve long term permanent savings.
Traditionally local government has looked first at its expenditure requirements and then at where the revenue would come from to support the expenditures.
What needs to be done is to look at what revenues are available and then decide how expenditures can be controlled to fit the resources available.
I believe that simply raising taxes is counterproductive and serves only to create additional hardships on businesses and individuals faced with prospects of little or no growth in their revenue potential. Reduction in service or service level which tends to alienate the taxpayer is not a solution. The solution lies in productivity gain and lowering of costs".
Certainly from the municipal perspective in Ontario that is a very good and prudent approach.
One thing that the municipal government does not have to do in our system in the Waterloo region is to offset the cost of high unemployment. The municipal government in our jurisdiction does not pay for social assistance. The regional government does. It has a different approach. Because regional governments have to pay 20 per cent of the welfare costs, when their budgets
get tight they cut back on expenditures on hard services such as sewage, roads and what have you.
I mention this because at those two levels of government you have different mandates. The regional government has no option. It has to provide 20 per cent of the welfare costs. The municipal government does not have to do it so it can plan much better within the terms of its fiscal realities.
Debates at the local level tend to bring together the collective wisdom from different frames of reference in an non-partisan fashion on to the issue. We really try to accomplish what we believe is the best for the ratepayers of our municipalities.
I do not find the same level of co-operation in the House. It seems to me that the job of the governing party, of which I am a member, is to put forward programs and the job of the opposition is to oppose it. Whether it is consistent in its opposition really does not matter very much.
I can talk about some parts of the debate where arguments came from every different angle. We have had the Bloc say that the government should not be looking at social programs, it should not be looking at health care programs, let us keep the status quo because somehow it has served us well.
The Bloc even went further and said that we did not talk about the reform of social programs or the reform of the health care system prior to the election. We did. We talked about reforming health care and there were very good reasons for it. The reasons are the way our health care expenditures have been going. We cannot just keep throwing money at a very necessary service but one that needs to undergo fundamental reform.
If you can practise preventive health care you are going to save billions and billions of dollars in terms of providing the level of service to the Canadian public that they have come to expect.
Another nice thing about it is that by doing preventive health care we also have the opportunity of having a healthier public. One of the problems we have had in the health care system is that it has been sort of a crisis care, when you get sick you go to the doctor. If you look at the mortality rate over the last 100 years, the reality is that it was not the medical profession that cut it back so drastically. It was the civil engineer who was able to provide safe, wholesome water. It has been our ability to handle waste that has made the greatest impact on health care, as well as the medical officers of health. They have been the ones who have been working on health care in the preventive sense.
Now we are looking to see if something better can be done to make better use of the dollars we have. I think that is very important. We know social services have become very expensive and that is the reason we are having the social services review.
One thing I would stress when we examine the whole issue of social services is that the Canadian public wants a safety net to catch people at a time when they might be totally disabled and we expect to support them for the long term. Certainly if they become unemployed they want us to support them in a new emerging economy where training, retraining and education become very strong components and pillars of our whole economic system.
The expectations are in the long term that no longer can people work for one company for 25, 30, 35, 40 or 50 years. The chances are they are going to be moving on to a number of different jobs. As firms get smaller they are getting smarter. They are better at responding to economic conditions. Those are going to be the major employers and the creators of new jobs.
The budget recognizes this and deals with it when it says that 85 per cent of the new jobs are going to be created by small and medium sized businesses.
When I talk about small and medium sized businesses I speak for the federal riding of Waterloo which is really one of the leaders in the new economy that has emerged. It is exciting but it also takes a lot of work trying to keep up with the changes that are taking place and watching the new emerging technologies.
Sunday evening I spoke with a gentleman from Elmira from Brubacher Technologies whose family for generations has been involved in shoe repair and building shoes. Now his company is going to be getting into the high tech production of orthopaedic shoes. Why is it exciting? It is exciting because at the present time it might take his company 40 to 60 hours to make one shoe and now because of high tech he is going to be able to do it in 40 to 60 minutes. His business is a world leader in this area.
Many other companies are leaders in the high tech field. We recently had a software firm which sold for $100 million. It was developed by a number of university professors and it had a number of university students involved with it. That is not a bad sum of money when you think about it. However, the sad part is that the new owners are American.
The challenge for us is to somehow create a climate where those businesses which are on the verge of becoming big businesses will stay in this country.
I mentioned that I found the debate to be not very consistent on different levels. When I was looking through my Quorum today, as I am sure everybody else has, I came up with a story from the Vancouver Sun authored by Barbara Yaffe. She asks: ``Do we need more MPs? Let's look at the cost''. I know that the Reform Party is very strong in its opposition to us looking at the whole question of the boundaries.
I would like to step back a little bit to my municipal mode. It is interesting that about two weeks ago I was at the electoral boundaries commission meeting. Of course, I am the Liberal member of Parliament and my former colleague, Mayor Brian Turnbull, who is a staunch Conservative supporter, was there to support me in my quest. We do not want the wholesale rearrangement of boundaries in the region.
The other interesting thing is that the NDP candidate in the last election, Scott Piatkowsky, was also there making the same pitch. A motion from Waterloo city council was also moved speaking to the point that we do not like how the redistribution was proposed and we wanted to keep the boundaries intact. That motion was moved by the former Reform candidate who is now on the Waterloo city council. Following my presentation, my colleague from Kitchener made a similar presentation. The former member for Cambridge from the Conservative Party also came forward to make a presentation.
The reason I recount this is because it amazed me. I have been on the Hill for a time and we have partisan politics. Somehow we are not able to capture that sense of community where party lines are crossed to preserve the integrity of communities. That is essentially what we did when we were in Hamilton talking about the redistribution.
It would be very useful if we could bring that kind of spirit to the debates in this House. We probably would strengthen the country. Of course there is no question that the Bloc Quebecois is not interested in strengthening Canada, certainly not with Quebec in it. That is what they campaigned on and we all acknowledge it.
What is bothersome though is at a time when there is fiscal instability around the world and a lot of our economic performance depends on the confidence of the fiscal markets, it is unfortunate that debate is being ignited even more so by the leader of the Reform Party. I thought it was just the bailiwick of the Bloc Quebecois but I see the Reform Party is picking it up. That is too bad because at the beginning of this session in January the leader of the Reform Party would stand up and say he did not want the Prime Minister to break his promise not to discuss the Constitution, that he wanted us to get on with other business. It is unfortunate he has forgotten those statements.
I raise that because another area where the Reform Party has been less than helpful is with the fiscal markets. It is forever trying to say the road we are headed on is going to bankrupt this country. It has only been six months since the election. During that time we put our plan forward to the electorate. That plan was the famous red book. When I was at the committee on human rights and the disabled today, I was glad to see one of the Reform Party members quoting from it, which is good.
However we came through with a plan and we are essentially keeping our promise of doing what we said we were going to do if we got elected. I do not believe that Reform Party members would truly expect us to go counter to what we said we were going to do.
Let me touch on another point before closing. There is no question in my mind that government, certainly at the federal and provincial levels, has to get a lot more efficient. I have raised an issue, as most of my colleagues know, on waste and move management by the government. I think we can improve that. I look forward to improving that and I look to the minister of defence to realize some savings in that area. I am sure all members could act in that fashion collectively. Let us see to what extent we can eliminate waste.
This government has recognized the fiscal realities we are in. We said we are going to bring down the deficit to 3 per cent of the GDP within three years. We recognize the deficit problem cannot be solved by cutting out programs, the safety net and the UI benefits which are put in place to assist the people most hurt by the downturn in the economy.
We recognize that job creation has to be part of the solution. There is no question in the mind of my government that the best social program we can have is to make sure there is the economic climate so that all those people who want to work are able to work and contribute to society.
I call upon members of the opposition to support that aim. Ultimately we are talking about developing the Canadian people. We are talking about developing the country and we are talking about keeping our country united.