Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was billion.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code April 21st, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I have some questions for the minister. I have been listening to try to not cover the same ground the hon. member for Crowfoot has covered.

I am concerned about a number of issues. It is from that perspective that I approach this legislation. I am concerned, as the minister is, about the impact of this legislation on law-abiding groups. I am also concerned about the importance of us passing a law recognizing there is an immediate problem in the province of Quebec with this issue. It is a serious issue. The police are asking for more powers to deal with group criminal activity.

I still feel that if it goes too fast, if a bad law is passed, it will be worse than no law. I have heard the minister say this on occasion, especially with reference to the victims bill of rights when answering the hon. member for Fraser Valley West. The minister explained why he would not proceed forward with that issue. There is that point of view.

The minister would like to avoid legislation that would allow for the following situation: Somebody from one of these groups commits a crime, the case goes before the courts and then either the person gets off scot-free on a technicality or the supreme court nullifies the court decision in six months or so. Time spent now is time well spent versus wasting taxpayers' dollars and a horrendous and embarrassing situation before a court somewhere down the road after this law goes through.

Starting with clause 1, the major issue the minister and the justice department want to cover is the definition of a criminal organization. That is a huge starting point. Personally I feel the definition is too restrictive and will avoid capturing those groups that sometimes tend to start criminal activities and then grow to huge numbers.

The minister may be addressing the problem from the wrong point of view. If we argue for larger numbers, by that time the groups have already committed a lot of crimes. It might be better to look at it from the point of view of the smaller number with the knowledge that a group has the intent to commit criminal activities. The group is associated for that purpose. I have no problem with the word association in this first definition.

I have a problem with the term group. I know that group means three or more. The minister said today in testimony to the member for Crowfoot that it is the ordinary meaning. The ordinary meaning of group is three or more, not five or more. If a group of four or more commits a crime this law does not apply. Therefore, the surveillance, the wiretapping and the income tax investigation cannot be done. That is restrictive if the purpose is to nip things in the bud.

I am submitting this argument for consideration for the amendment that may come later from the member for Crowfoot. He talked about lowering the number to three. I would argue and support three.

Parliament Of Canada Act April 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-250 put forward by my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster. The bill proposes to have fixed election dates. For instance, this year the election date would be October 20 and elections thereafter would be held every four years on the third Monday of October.

In his opening remarks the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster said: "Along with the Reform Party's other proposals for democratic reform such as recall, referendums and citizens initiatives, we intend to show how Canada's political system can be made more accountable, representative and fair". Those are three points in favour of fixed election dates: accountability, better representation and fairness.

First, I will consider better representation. I very much believe in this bill. It is part of the Reform platform. When I campaigned in 1993 I felt there was something wrong with our political system because at any given time, on the spur of the moment, behind closed doors the Prime Minister and a few of his selected strategists could secretly determine when an election would be held. That is a great disservice to the Canadian public. It denies the opportunity for a lot of potential candidates who would be willing to run, who would otherwise be willing to seek nomination and become involved in the political process.

Some excuses used for not running are: inappropriate timing; an insufficient amount of time to prepare for entry into public life; insufficient time to raise money; insufficient time to become known in the community. These excuses would be eliminated with a fixed election date. This would affect the number of people who would consider running for election, including women. There is a big cry that there are not enough women in politics, that the ratio is not 50:50, that there is a lack of balance between male and female representatives.

This is the case because they cannot plan. If women knew there would be an election every four years on the third Monday of October, family planning could be a lot easier. Men and women could decide after an election that next time one of them would run. The quality and number of candidates who would step forward would greatly increase. There would be more respect for politicians.

The accountability point was put forward by the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. Politicians who were elected knowing that the duration of their terms would be four years would be more interested in and intent on carrying out the responsibilities of their portfolios, including representing their constituents. They would do the best jobs they could and would let their records speak for themselves. Then they would not have to rely on the prime minister of the day prior to an election to fast track certain bills in order to improve their visibility or their standing in the polls. They would not have to rely on the prime minister to hand out goodies in weak areas where they wanted to reinforce their strength.

This bill and fixed election dates every four years would provide more stability in the political system. This factor of not knowing when an election will be called ends up causing more doubt and more debate about when is it going to be called. That causes more focus on elections than it does on the issues of the day.

I have been here for close to four years and I have not read too much about the debt that faces this country. I have not read too much about the rising interests costs to service that debt. All I have heard is that the interest rates are the lowest they have ever been and the government has done a wonderful job.

The Canadian economy is not on as strong a footing as the finance minister and the Prime Minister would like us to believe. There is an underlying danger in that the real problem facing this country is not being addressed. I believe if we knew when an election would be called, all politicians would be more intent on identifying and solving the problems of the country instead of talking about those issues that make a party and the member as a representative more popular.

I feel Canada is behind the times. We are one of the few nations that does not have a fixed election date. By having a fixed election date we plan for it. A party or a government can be better judged and evaluated on what its real intent and purpose is.

We had an example this past week where the Liberal government closed more deals and did more in the space of 10 days that it had in the first three years. Even Premier Bouchard says the transfer of manpower training to the province of Quebec is nothing more than a pre-election ploy. He is going to sign the agreement today. He goes on further to say that he has to sign it as a provincial premier

because he has a responsibility to the unemployed of his province and he feels that this responsibility at his level will help more people get work. I agree with him on that.

All provinces should be looking after manpower training, not the federal government. Why has it taken three and a half years to happen? Why has it been signed after no less than five days of political pressure?

Another pre-election ploy is the anti-gang legislation for Quebec. I am not making this up. The Bloc members have pointed it out. The premier of Quebec has pointed it out.

It is making a mockery and a joke out of our political system. The government of the day controls the agenda and gains an unfair advantage on an unsuspecting, trusting general public. If nothing else, Canadians generally trust their government. They expect their government to perform according to the platform that they get elected on.

We were hugely disappointed by the two Tory governments. When these Liberal members were in opposition, when they were trying to seek the confidence of Canadians to govern, the Prime Minister on January 20, 1993 talking about Canadians said: "They have had enough of the abuses of Parliament and the arrogance of government".

I would need another 30 minutes to talk about the abuses that this government, when it was in opposition, talked about. Now it is guilty of them as government. There has been the abuse of parliamentary committees, abuse of free votes, abuse of jobs, jobs, jobs, abuse of Pearson, abuse of Airbus, abuse of Somalia, abuse of Krever, abuse of devolution of powers, abuse of the GST, the broken promise of the GST, as well as broken promises of what it would do when it was elected. In a lot of cases it did exactly the opposite.

I hope the Canadian public has had enough of this. I hope they start to reward honesty rather than misrepresentation. I hope that they give a reward to truth in politics rather than the perception of politics.

This same man said that the Canadian public deserves good government. He talked about the abuses of Parliament, of which his government is even more guilty than the Conservatives, and the arrogance of government. Consider the arrogance of the Prime Minister who said: "If you can't get a job, tough, move". That is pretty arrogant.

We should consider the arrogance of the Prime Minister.

Usually we are here for five years and somewhere in the fourth year the government starts to hand out its goodies for an election. It is only 3.5 years. I wonder what it is hiding. It is hiding something with Somalia. It is hiding something with Krever. It is hiding, hiding and hiding. It is hiding something with Pearson airport. It is hiding in everything it is doing. What is it hiding about the economy? What does it know that we do not know that it has to call an election in 3.5 years?

This is the same Prime Minister who said: "In politics perception is everything". The government is trying to create the perception that everything is wonderful and that the Canadian public, when they go to vote, will stay asleep. Certainly the Reform Party candidates are going to say it. I am going to say it. I hope the Canadian public wakes up, demands more of their politicians, demands some honesty and truth in politics, rewards the people who have been telling the truth, rewards the people who have kept their promises and rewards those who vote in favour of fixed election dates every four years, which we will vote on today.

Criminal Code April 18th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I am just guessing, but I assume I have about two minutes left.

I am glad I was able to settle the dispute between the Minister of Industry and my colleague. Now they have each had an intervention of eight minutes.

My colleague makes a very good point. What criteria does the justice minister use to decide what is a priority if addressing section 745 is not a priority? He claims he has. He claims he has fixed it for multiple murderers. If people commit one premeditated murder they will still have a chance to get out after 15 years even after being sentenced for life with no parole for 25 years. The murderer will still receive this early review after 15 years. That is not truth in sentencing. That could have been addressed. It would have been an easy bill to pass very quickly. It would have had clarity and would have passed the test of the Supreme Court.

My colleague is right. We have to be consistent in the application of the criteria. I am embarrassed to admit it but I believe the justice minister is rushing this bill through more for political reasons than for showing that he cares about the violence in Quebec City. He did not care about that a month ago.

Criminal Code April 18th, 1997

Even some lawyers would have a hard time defining criminal organization and making it illegal for a person to be a member of such a group if he or she commits a crime for the benefit of the group. How does it become a criminal organization if it has never committed a crime? If a crime has been committed, why is the person not put away to do the time for that crime? How can an organization be called criminal? If it is not illegal to belong to a criminal organization but it is illegal to commit a crime within

it, the group is already identified as a group intent on committing criminal activity. That should not exist.

Under the definition of criminal organization the crown must prove that five or more members in the group act as an association or a body together and that one member of the group, or each collectively, commits an indictable offence with the maximum penalty of five years or more. That is one of its primary objectives.

How is the primary activity proved unless a conviction has been registered for an indictable offence punishable by a maximum penalty of five years or more? In other words the person should have been caught and put away even before the group existed. Five or more persons is defined as a group. Are four people not a group? If four people intent on criminal activity form a group, will this definition not apply? Does it have to be five or more?

The bill talks about explosive substances and owning offence related property. Officers are allowed to confiscate dynamite, bombs and things like that. However the definition of explosive substance is not in the bill. If it is not defined, should it not be defined? We know the obvious, but what about what is not obvious?

I will turn to another item in the bill. How does the bill coincide with young groups? There is no reference to age. There is no mention of the Young Offenders Act. We are talking about a certain group. We know who they are. We see them. We see pictures of them.

There have to be five or more. It cannot be four or less but it does not talk about young groups. How does the bill relate to the Young Offenders Act? Does it conflict? Does it have an impact on it? That is not covered. Should it not be covered?

The next item in the bill talks about everyone who participates in or substantially contributes to the activities of a criminal organization knowing that any or all of the members of the organization engage in or have, within the preceding five years, engaged in the commission of a series of indictable offences under this or any other act of Parliament for each of which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more. How do we prove "participates in"? What does "substantially contributes" mean? "Aiding and abetting", but to what degree? What does it really mean? What is the level of a substantial contribution? If somebody gives $25 to a political party, if somebody else gives $500 and if somebody else gives the maximum $1,000 for which they receive a tax receipt for $550, which one is substantial? Is a $100 donation substantial or is it closer to $1,000? It is the same thing here. What is a substantial contribution to an organization? If I give $500 I am okay, but if I give $1,000 that is a substantial contribution?

These are some of the problems which deserve a little more attention. If we as politicians were to do our job properly, we would ensure that civil liberty groups would have the chance to understand why there is a need and how these things are to be done. Those questions should be answered.

If we ask these questions when we get to committee of the whole on Monday of next week, the justice minister should have the answers. I do not see how it will be possible for him to have the answers because they are not in the bill. Those answers are left to interpretation.

Another pressure point comes from the media. The politicians are trying to further their party and show they care by passing legislation. I do not want to belong to the party that holds it up. I do not want to be a Bloc Quebecois, a Reformer or a Liberal who holds up the legislation because if somebody gets killed tomorrow or next week it will be our fault. That is crap. It will not be the fault of anyone in this room; it will be the fault of the person who committed the crime.

We must pass good legislation to address this problem. If a crime is committed next week and the individual goes to court, and because of poor wording and a lack of clarity the criminal gets off on a technicality, because a supreme court justice whose job it is to protect individual rights decides that this criminal should get off, but we know he did it, then who is to blame? It will be the fault of the Liberals, the Bloc and Reform. It will be our fault.

That is what is wrong with this bill. That is why it is important for us to have the sensibility and the common sense not to rush things through for partisan purposes.

We have been a party to certain bills which have gone through quickly, but they were done properly because the language was clear. We are talking about amendments to the Criminal Code which will impact the charter of rights and freedoms. The justice minister could have added a chapter to those rights and freedoms over the past three years called responsibility. If someone is a member of a gang they have certain rights and freedoms, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to drive up and down the streets with 100 bikes roaring in their ears. It is the responsibility of the person to keep those freedoms by not committing a crime. If they do they will lose their rights, freedoms and individual liberties.

If we debated this properly, took an extra five days and sent it to committee for a decent period of time, some better suggestions might come forward.

It is more important to get it right than to get it done quickly. We can get it right and done quickly if we all get together and put our heads to it, rather than the leader of the Bloc Quebecois trying to make political brownie points in Quebec, rather than the justice minister trying to show how co-operative he is in times of urgency and emergency. Victims rights are just as important as this. He is setting a bad precedent, proving he is doing it for political reasons and that the Reform Party is afraid to speak its mind because it does not want to be seen as a deterrent to progress of the justice system. We are not.

All three parties should put away their political partisanship on the issue, get their heads together on Monday in committee of the whole and come up with legislation that will be right, with proper explanations and definitions, clarity and a sense of confidence that when it is challenged in the courts it will not make the politicians of this session of Parliament look like fools.

Criminal Code April 18th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I wish we could stay on Bill C-92, after the diatribe by the cabinet minister, especially in pointing out that we would be making tax cuts before the budget is balanced. That is a false representation of our platform. We would not cut taxes until the budget was balanced. We could get there sooner and we would put more money back in the hands of taxpayers than this government will ever dream about doing.

Let us get to the matter at hand, Bill C-95. Bill C-95 is anti-gang legislation that has some serious issues tied and related to it.

This all started as an incident, as we all know, in Quebec City. There is a lot of violent crime being committed by some gangs there, basically threatening innocent bystanders on the streets. It is important to address this situation.

However, the federal government is reacting to a challenge by the Bloc Quebecois that says the government is doing little to protect Quebecers. The Minister of Industry states how wonderfully the government is investing and how great everything is financially in the province of Quebec. I assume he also includes it with the regional development grants and how all the wonderful laws that the government is passing is benefiting Quebecers so that they understand and realize that this is a great country to live in and they should stay in Confederation. Notwithstanding all that, the representatives who were sent here by the majority of Quebecers, the Bloc Quebecois, stand up in this House and say this government is doing little to protect Quebecers. They have said other things in other areas.

Perhaps the federal government should pay more attention to what the demands and needs are of various provinces all across the country.

Perception is everything in politics. The Prime Minister said that. As I said earlier today, it is unfortunate that reality is not everything and is what the government is basing its decisions on and is what it is working toward; the reality, the real truths, not everybody's distorted opinion of the truths.

What is wrong here is now that there is an election being called this justice minister has rushed to the fore where a month ago he was not interested in this issue. When the plea came from the Parti Quebecois to do something about introducing stronger federal legislation to handle these criminal organizations or a criminal gang, he was not interested. He did not want to go too fast.

I do not know when somebody whispered in his ear that there might be a potential election call, so gear for it, get ready for it. Most of the decisions that we have seen in the last couple of weeks and the behaviour of this federal government seem to be that it is preparing for an election and it is trying to make itself look good. There are quick settlements on a lot of issues that have been outstanding and dragging out over the last two or three years. They are getting resolved in the last two or three weeks, in the last two or three days and even the House leaders have been working together to co-operate and get everything done together. This is all because of an election.

If this issue was not important to the justice minister two years ago when it first arose, if this issue was not that important to him a month ago, why is it that important now and that we only have three days to debate this?

I know why it is important but why create the urgency that it must be passed within three days? Why can it not wait? Why can the government not wait for an election and call an election for real reasons? It has no reason to call an election.

There are important and pressing issues in the economy, in society that the government could still be addressing. On the wonderful job and the great honour and privilege that the Minister of Industry claims to have had by serving, why does he not serve for another year and finish it? If he does a good job for another year he will get elected again. What is he worried about?

No, perception is everything so it has to give the perception to the Bloc Quebecois that the government is looking after the interests of Quebecers and the Quebec society, that the federal government is co-operating and the Reform Party is co-operating as well. We are helping this legislation go forward. We do not want to be restrictive. We do not want to expand debate. We want to get to it.

I submit that this is an example of poor governance. If it is politically motivated, it is poor. I accuse the Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party of the same accusation. Our job here is to present proper and good legislation. What is the point in passing bad legislation? It will just get thrown out in the courts

anyway, especially amendments to the Criminal Code. We would be better to have no law at all than to have a bad law.

I certainly support the general intent and the problem the bill is trying to resolve. However the bill has raised so many red flags in my mind that I feel we should take a little more time to discuss it, even if it is a couple of days. There are many important issues here. Over the past two years we debated many criminal amendments for months, and suddenly this one goes through in three days.

We have been pressing and trying to represent victims and victims rights with victim impact statements. A member of our caucus, the member for Fraser Valley West, presented a victims bill of rights. It had a lot of good clauses. It was every bit as good as the legislation in Bill C-95. We asked the finance minister to fast track it. We did not say three days. We asked him many months ago to put it on the agenda so we could get through it. A year ago it was sent to committee. Since then nothing has come back and nothing has been done. Why? It was because the polls did not tell the government to react.

The Liberals are doing poorly in Quebec. An election is coming a week from now. The government has to act, react and show that it cares. In the process it might be passing bad legislation, not might. I have examples of areas of concern where we need constitutional experts and arm's length lawyers to give opinions because they intervene and conflict with the charter of rights and freedoms.

This is a serious issue. Never before has a justice minister or a government tried to pass laws that talk about a group and what criminal organizations are. There is freedom of association in the country. The Quebec provincial government wanted a law to make it a crime to belong to a criminal organization. How do we know it is criminal? We have to define criminal organization.

It is dangerous to give powers to the police if it is done quickly without being thought through. The police needs the tools to do its job, but if they are given with the intent solving one problem are we perhaps creating other problems? What about this extra surveillance with electronic devices to listen in on telephone calls? What about requisitioning and procuring income tax returns of people suspected of associating with criminal organizations? What if these powers are used for other groups? It could entrench on civil liberties and has to be discussed.

It is being done for the wrong reason. It is being fast tracked for the wrong reason. To bring the bill forward, to debate the bill, to solve the problem is honourable, good and should be done. However the Liberals are responding and reacting to one provincial government that has threatened to pull out of the country. They are reacting faster to that government than to anything that any other opposition party, from the NDP to the Reform to the Conservative, raise in the House to satisfy British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the maritime provinces.

We have to be very careful when we talk about giving powers to the police. It is just like the gun control bill, the firearms legislation. I gave a talk on it when the justice minister was in the House. He was trying to force, ram and push that legislation through. It got through the justice department which put it together. It got by the justice minister who was involved.

Guess what was in that clause? If they suspected somebody of hiding firearms, shotguns, rifles or handguns, police forces had the right to search and seize the weapons without a warrant. That was the original clause in bill when it came to the House. It was just like the bill today with clauses of a similar nature. The justice minister said that it should be fixed, that we were right, and that we could not let police forces search ad hoc anybody they feel like searching. He agreed that we should insist upon a warrant on certain grounds.

I am talking about rushing bills through and ending up with bad legislation. That is poor governance. I certainly recommend we should not be a part of that. We should take the time needed to get it right.

In terms of victims rights the justice minister said in the House that we had to take our time and get the bill right. He said it involved many issues such as provincial jurisdiction and the charter of rights. He was in favour of it but said we had to take our time. Now we have anti-gang legislation being rammed through.

I refer to a Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin which read in part:

"We've defined criminal organization and then we said it is not a crime to be a member of it.

"But if you do anything that is a crime and that is for their [the criminal organization's] benefit, under their direction or in association with them, then you've put yourself in a position where you've created a very serious offence, " Mr. Rock told a news conference.

Let us think this through for a second. There is a contradiction.

Income Tax Budget Amendments Act, 1996 April 18th, 1997

Really, I was just getting warmed up.

Income Tax Budget Amendments Act, 1996 April 18th, 1997

Have I had my 40-minute intervention?

Income Tax Budget Amendments Act, 1996 April 18th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I was expecting the Bloc member to make a few more comments and he caught me by surprise.

This budget implementation bill is obviously important. We certainly have to take a look at the financial status of the government and what is happening in Canada today.

There has been a lot of talk that very shortly the finance minister will be announcing a much lower deficit than he projected in February of this year when he said that the budget would come in at about $19 billion.

When we analyse the latest Fiscal Monitor put out by the Department of Finance two months in arrears, we see some interesting financial information. The Department of Finance releases this document which enables everyone to see what is happening on an ongoing basis. It is a very worthwhile and useful document.

Reform researchers have analysed it and have found some interesting information. Last year the government was able to predict a deficit overshoot by extrapolating final fiscal figures from the monthly series. The presentation I make today will show a bit about how the government is able to make its projections and predictions and keep telling Canadians where it stands.

Since the Fiscal Monitor is released with an average of a two-month lag, the most recent figures are from the February issue. It covers 11 months of the previous fiscal year, from April 1, 1996 to February 1997. The deficit at the end of February stood at $7.8 billion or $15.5 billion lower than the same period in the previous year of 1995-96. The improvement comes from increased revenues of $9 billion, reduced transfers to provinces of $4 billion, reduced public debt charges of $1.7 billion and reduced departmental spending of $400 million.

The Liberals will overshoot their deficit target by about $10 billion, mostly as a result of stronger than expected revenue growth, an international trend toward lower interest rates and large reductions in health and education transfers to provinces.

If members will recall, the finance minister projected a $24 billion deficit for year ending March 31, 1997 and then it was revised recently to $19 billion. This $10 billion overshoot is from the $24 billion down to about $14 billion instead of the $19 billion that he had projected.

The finance minister's department seems unable to make accurate forecasts. That generally reduces the level of confidence with which people view any of their forecasts.

During the Mulroney years, which was referred to today in question period, the department was always wrong in that it always overstated revenue growth. Now the department errs in the other direction, constantly understating revenue growth with the implication that taxes remain high as a result of this understatement.

It is just as bad to be wrong one way as it is to be the other. If a deficit is projected at X and it is exceed because certain things happen negatively in the economy, we have an excuse. If a deficit is projected at of X and it is lower, then it depends on what program we are trying to push.

I maintain that the finance minister is trying to preserve and protect the EI fund, which has now reached $7 billion, as a surtax on his deficit. Rather than making the program spending cuts that he projected and said he would, he is using this extra revenue from UI to cover off his and his department's slow progress in making the cuts that they promised to make.

Perhaps the minister would have faced more pressure to cut taxes had the department been more accurate in its forecast. This type of poor forecasting sets a dangerous precedent and calls into question its credibility. The one thing the Department of Finance should be serious about guarding is its credibility in making forecasts.

However, one never knows what happens with the Department of Finance, the cabinet and the finance minister. Perhaps there is some political pressure. Perhaps there are instructions to shape, present the numbers, present the worst case scenario and be overly conservative on revenues so that the pressure can be kept up to make the cuts. In either case, there is a variance that is never accurate.

Nobody says the forecast has to be within a billion dollars. However, if it cannot be within 15 per cent or 20 per cent of the projected number, whether it is a deficit or a surplus-let us say that a 20 per cent variance is acceptable either over or under-if it is exceeded then the fundamentals that are being used to achieve those budgetary projections, especially given that they are revised on a quarterly basis, have to be seriously questioned.

If it actually does go from $24 billion as was forecast a year ago February down to $14 billion, some people would say that was great. This is what the Liberal government says. However, I am submitting that is bad. It is just as bad as the Conservatives when

they projected a $20 billion deficit and it ended up at $38 billion, $18 billion higher. That is more than 20 per cent the other way.

What we need is a Department of Finance that will not get brow beaten by any finance minister regardless of political party, that will present the facts as it knows them to be because it is the one constant from government to government. The officials who work in that department have a handle on the revenue stream. Unless a government decides to spend a bunch of money somewhere else, it is able, given the variance in the economy, to conservatively and within a 20 per cent variance predict the revenues. However, it is off big time.

Never before have I seen a government make so many fundamental changes in the way it does the financial statements and present the government's balance sheet. The government has moved things around. It has redefined certain types of spending. This has allowed the government basically to redefine program spending and claim that it is sticking to the percentage cuts that it predicted of 18 per cent when it is really only 8 per cent or 7 per cent. It has taken some program spending out and put it over into other areas, off balance sheet spending and it ends up claiming that it has met its targets when that was not the intent.

The government was supposed to cut $9 billion and to date it has only cut $4 billion. We are going to go into an election. Is it going to promise to do the rest a year from now? The implication of bad forecasting is just as bad if one is better than expected rather than worse than expected.

If we take a look at the difference and review the components of the deficit reduction, we see from the "Fiscal Monitor" that the revenues of the government increased by $8.964 million. The government reduced the transfers to persons by $349 million. It reduced transfers to provinces by $4 billion. Departmental spending went down by $400 million in the last 11 months and the debt charges were less than projected at $1.7 billion. That is a variable that is out of the control of the government.

When things get really bad the government will say: "Interest rates are not really something that we can control directly. Indirectly, yes, we can, by running a prudent government". Interest rates are a factor of the global economy and how our dollar compares on an exchange rate basis with currencies of other countries. Therefore, to that degree it can have a huge variance and a huge swing and the government cannot be held accountable totally for that.

We notice that this comes to $15 billion. That is the total decline in the deficit. Of that $15 billion, the increased revenue as a percentage of these reductions is a 58 per cent component. The transfer to persons is at 2.3 per cent. The transfer to provinces is at 26 per cent. The departmental spending is only 2.6 per cent.

Wait a second, were the transfers to provinces not to be equal to the reduction in departmental spending? That is what the government said. It was going to lead by example. It was going to cut $9 billion out of program spending to justify the $7.5 billion reduction in transfers to provinces for the Canada health and social transfer. It does not seem to me that the government is on target for that. The debt charges as a percentage of the $15 billion improvement is11 per cent.

To sum up, according to our table, increases in revenue and reductions in transfers to the provinces made up a full 84 per cent of the improvement. Increased revenues through taxation, reduction in the transfers to provinces represent $13 billion out of $15 billion in improvement which is 84 per cent. Yet the government claims that 94 per cent of it is through growth in the economy.

Cuts in the federal government's own back yard make up only a 2.6 per cent paltry reduction. It is important to note that the tiny contribution of cuts to departmental spending correspond with what the Reform Party's earlier findings were, that the government has missed its cuts in departmental spending by as much as 50 per cent. We brought this out two or three weeks ago in question period, when we said that the evidence is that the government has only cut by $4.2 billion and it promised $9.5 billion.

It is important to note that the surplus in the employment insurance account is running at $6.8 billion after 11 months. Let us just round that out to $7 billion for the sake of discussion. This surplus represents a regressive form of deficit reduction tax and in question period today in quizzing the finance minister I referred to this as a deficit surtax.

The government should set EI premiums on an annual basis to match the funds required, within a tolerance level. If the government would set the premiums to match the benefits, the deficit would be $14.6 billion rather than $7.8 billion and it would be right on target.

I will give the finance minister some constructive criticism which will help to improve the economy. It will help to keep Canada competitive. It will help to keep interest rates as low as possible without outside interference. The $7 billion surplus in the EI account should come under general revenues. It should be applied against the deficit to reduce it.

If the government were to lower the premiums from the current $2.95 or $2.90 per hundred of insurable earnings up to $39,000 down to $2.20 and leave that money in the hands of the wage earner, their take home pay would increase. That would also reduce by 28 per cent what the employer has to pay. It leaves more

money for the corporations to hire people, to invest and to expand. It will help to stimulate the economy.

There is the argument that EI and CPP are not payroll taxes, that they are investments. Regardless of what they are, the money is taken away from workers and corporations by the government. The rate at which the money is taken away is set by the government. If it is compulsory it is a tax. If it is voluntary, like an RRSP, if it is an inducement to invest, it is an investment.

Nevertheless, if the taxpayer was able to keep the money, I submit that more jobs would be created. More money would be spent. More money would be invested and more money saved. That would benefit a lot of Canadians.

I am not the only person who thinks that way. I am a businessman and I have thought this way for a long time. Wherever possible, keep taxes as low as possible and set the tax rate at the level required to pay for the programs which Canadians want.

In today's Financial Post is an article written by the business economist Dale Orr. He wrote: ``What is really happening is that Ottawa is using the present annual surpluses of $5 billion or so in the EI fund as a form of deficit reduction surtax''. The only thing wrong with that statement is that it is not $5 billion, it is $7 billion. The finance minister is using $7 billion of funds which come from employed workers and corporations, the intent of which is to pay for people who are unemployed while they are looking for employment for a certain period of time.

There is a huge surplus. The excuse is that some years there is a deficit. That is true. When I ran in 1992-93 the deficit in the EI fund was $3 billion. That gives a clue why in our zero in three budget we felt it imperative to make $12 billion in cuts immediately, faster than the paltry cuts the government has made in its program spending, because we did not count on a huge surplus in the EI fund.

This is a gift to the finance minister which he has misused. He has a golden opportunity to stick to his party's platform, to stick to his party's caring, sharing, forgiving and giving government, doing it slowly, doing it properly, not punishing people unduly, and yet he will not share the $7 billion. He has a golden opportunity.

He might do something during the election campaign. Maybe that is the selective tax cut that he will justify because I agree we cannot have a broad based tax cut.

Today he misrepresented our platform when he said that the Reform Party would implement a broad based tax cut. That was not true. He told half the story. He should be spewing forth the truth when he talks that way.

He should be saying that once the budget is balanced the Reform Party would offer broad based tax cuts that would average $2,000 per family by the year 2000. That is why we say $2,000 in 2000. It takes a year or two to balance the budget. We say no tax breaks until then, no tax cuts until then.

Then we raise the personal exemptions, the spousal exemptions, to $7,900. We will get rid of the federal surtax of 5 per cent, the 3 per cent, and all the extra taxes we will not need. That will leave the money in the hands of the people who need it, in the hands of the people who know how to spend it better to look after themselves. This in turn will reduce the pressure on welfare programs, reduce the pressure on all the other social assistance programs the government has to provide, as it should to those who truly need them.

I will quote further from the Financial Post to support my argument and submission that there is an opportunity here to do something with the $7 billion in the EI fund.

A faster reduction in the premium rate would help lower business costs for employers, whose share of the premiums is proportionally more. It would boost take home pay, especially for lower income workers. The combination would contribute to higher consumer spending, profits, economic growth and jobs. Some studies put the employment potential at up to 200,000 jobs.

A potential for 200,000 jobs just be lowering the unemployment premium rates, EI rates, to $2.25 or $2.30 from the current $2.95.

These are not from the Reform Party. The finance minister takes off his glasses, waves them and says that half-baked numbers do not work. They were from a business economist. He is not the only one. I could quote many different sources and many economists who argue and maintain this point of view.

High taxes kill jobs. Payroll taxes kill jobs. Why does the finance minister not something when he can and while he can? We have a surplus. We do not need the $7 billion in the EI fund. We should keep a base of $3 billion to $4 billion, keep that surplus and reinvest $3 billion of it with the Canadian public.

Maybe I should not tell him that, because if he offers that he might come back here with a majority government again. We really do not want that. We want a fresh government later this year.

I will summarize a few more items from the Fiscal Monitor . Transfer payments in the 11 months since April 1996 to February 1997 have decreased. Transfer payments to individuals, which includes the elderly benefits and the EI benefits, net out at a decrease of $349 million. It increased the elderly benefits by $512 million and decreased EI benefits by $861 million.

Not only is what it is collecting on EI greater than what needs to be put out, but the benefits it is paying out are going down from the previous year by almost $1 billion or $861 million.

Transfers to governments have been reduced by $4 billion. Of that $4 billion, $3.685 billion is the Canada health and social transfer after 11 months. That is where it hits.

The government claims it is the fault of provincial governments because it is their responsibility to look after health care. If they close hospitals, we should not blame the Liberals. If they have to lay off nurses and pay doctors less, we should not blame them. We should blame the provincial governments, provincial health ministers, provincial premiers and provincial treasurers. How foolish is that?

In its first budget it said that we all must sacrifice. I support the government in reducing the Canada health and social transfer by $7.5 billion. That is not my criticism.

The Liberals said that we had to share, sacrifice and make do with the same or less money. They were to show leadership by example. They were to cut federal government program spending outside the Canada health and social transfer, outside the transfer to provinces. They were to reduce the rest of the spending of government by a greater amount than the $7.5 billion. They were to reduce it by $9.5 billion. To date, after 3.5 years and projected to the end of four years, the government will not be there. The Liberals will have only made $4 billion with those cuts. That is from their own information.

This is not being made up by the Reform Party. I respect the Liberal member opposite who said politicians should represent more of the facts rather than distort or give their interpretation of them. That is what I am trying to do. The government has fallen far short.

Other transfers and subsidies add up to $128 million. Total program spending has decreased by $4.778 million. If the government were truly trying to show leadership by example, after four years of governance the government should be closer to 50:50 in program spending even in the past year. In fact the number should be higher than $4.7 million. The $3.6 billion reduction in Canada health and social transfer is fine. That was projected. It was to be phased in over a period of time, two or three years, which is the right way of doing it.

Cuts in program spending should have matched. Rather than $4.7 million, the real embarrassment to the finance minister is that the number should be $7.2 million. He has failed to pressure, to push, to keep the other cabinet ministers in line, and to force cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers to clean house, to shape up. This is what the Canadian public wants.

Those are the direct words and orders from the finance minister and the President of the Treasury Board. They set the target and they are missing it big time. That is the embarrassment in the Fiscal Monitor .

That is what it revealed. That is the failure of the finance minister. He is actually $4 billion behind the cuts he promised to make when he asked all Canadians to sacrifice and all levels of government below this one to figure out ways to provide the same level of service with less money. The federal government cannot do it.

The President of the Treasury Board rose today in question period with a set up answer from the former minister of defence. He talked about infrastructure and whether municipalities would be guaranteed the money would go to the programs they want. Then he lambasted the finance minister from Ontario. He quoted him by name. He took after the premier of the province. Those two gentlemen are in provincial politics. They are not even in the Chamber. They are not here to ask a question or to defend themselves. That is shameless. It is an embarrassment to have a member of the government do that. It was cheap, political partisanship against a level of government that is not even here.

He should hang his head in shame. He should write a letter of apology saying that he is sorry and that he got carried away. He should indicate there is an election coming and the former minister of defence asked him to embarrass the local government in Toronto so that he can boost his chances of getting re-elected.

That is crap. They believe in infrastructure but I do not. I criticize all levels of government for going forward on short term jobs. There is only one taxpayer. It is an admission by all levels of government that they have let infrastructure deteriorate, if that is where it is truly going.

The first responsibility of a municipal government is infrastructure: bigger projects, provincial and bigger than that, federal. Where have these guys been for 10 years if all of a sudden we have to spent $6 billion or $9 billion on infrastructure?

To pick on people in another level of government who are not in the House and cannot defend themselves is a new level of cheap political partisanship I have not seen before. The government has made its deficit reduction mainly by cutting the transfers to provinces. Some 77 per cent of this year's deficit reduction has been through the Canada health and social transfer. It is undeniable. The facts are here. I am quoting the government's own statistics.

We have proof that an overwhelming majority of the improvement in government program spending comes from cuts to the CHST. I have already said what the percentage. When we include other transfers to provinces, reductions in transfers accounted for a

full 84 per cent. Eighty-four per cent of government spending was by way of downloading. The provinces were given less. They were told to handle it, and the government said it cut spending. The government says it has done its part and now it is the provinces' turn. What a way to do it.

It promised to cut program spending by 18.8 per cent and then only reached 9 per cent and changed the definition of program spending. It took from here and there and suddenly $4.5 billion because 18 per cent again. How does $4.5 billion become 18 per cent? Once again it is perception.

I will speak later on Bill C-95, the anti-gang legislation. The Prime Minister in his autobiography said that in politics perception was everything. What a shame. It is too bad that in politics reality and facts cannot be everything. It is too bad those in the traditional parties who were here before us believed in that perception. Why not deal in truth and facts? Why not represent reality and assess what is really happening and then propose legislation to solve the problem?

In a 1995 speech to a symposium on budget deficits sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the Minister of Finance stated:

We were nevertheless determined not to cut back our support to the provinces by any greater percentage than we were hitting programs in our own backyard.

If he wants to refer to our zero in three, which I will touch on that a little later, I will refer to what he said in 1995.

Cuts to provincial transfers made up 84 per cent of the total spending cuts to date this year. Departmental reductions have made up 8.4 per cent of the spending cuts. The reduction in transfers to the provinces represents a 16.2 per cent cut over 11 months. The $400 million in departmental spending represents 1 per cent.

In the second budget he told us what he was to do with the CHST. He made the promise worldwide so it must be something he believed in and something he told cabinet he would do. He was determined-I would assume cabinet and the rest of the Liberal caucus were determined-not to cut back support to the provinces by any greater percentage than they were hitting programs in their own backyard. All they have cut in their own backyard to date is $4.5 billion. What they have cut by downloading to provinces in other areas amounts to $8 billion.

How about that for promises? That party is good at breaking promises made in its election platforms. The Liberals got elected on renegotiating NAFTA but did not do it. They got elected on not having a third runway in Toronto. They got elected on saving taxpayers money on Pearson airport but did not do it. It will cost us close to $600 million. They got elected on getting rid of the GST but did not do it. In fact they entrenched it.

Talking about flip-flops, when the finance minister was on this side of the House he said that if a provincial sales tax is ever combined with a goods and services tax the GST is entrenched forever. What has he done as finance minister? There is a GST and a BST in the three Atlantic provinces that were signed on by three Liberal premiers, one of whom quit because he saw the writing on the wall. I am looking forward to the provincial elections to be held in another year or so when the effect of the harmonized sales tax works through the system. He has entrenched this GST, a terrible thing which is against his own principles. There are two examples right there.

The government is skimming more and more of the economy's weak recovery in the form of higher tax revenues. In April through February 1996, the government collected $3.5 billion more in personal income tax alone. Part of this increase was due to technical factors which affected the timing of income tax payments while the remainder was due to the effects of inflation in an unindexed graduated rate system with frozen basic exemptions.

Today I asked the finance minister, if everything is so good, why is the after tax disposable income per family down by $3,000? If the minister has not raised personal income taxes over the past three years, why has personal income tax revenue in this past year alone been $4 billion more? And why has personal income tax revenue overall been between $10 billion and $12 billion? In response to my questions, the finance minister cited two or three things and then he stopped. The rest of the truth he failed to spew out was that he had tinkered with the personal income tax system, that he had removed some personal exemptions and basic deductions and that he had closed a few tax loopholes. He failed to say the one big thing he did, which represented a lot of revenue and which he would not talk about.

There is a law that unless inflation increases by 3 per cent in the economy the personal exemption will stay frozen. In other words, an individual gets $6,500, the spousal deduction is $5,900 and it will not be touched until inflation hits 3 per cent. It is 2.5 per cent. It has averaged about 2 per cent in the past five years which adds up to 10 per cent. Those people who have seen their incomes go up by 10 per cent because of inflation are in a higher tax bracket. They still get the same low personal deduction of $6,500 and therefore they are paying more in taxes. And he says: "I have not raised personal income taxes". Well, yes he has.

The Reform Party recognizes that. We also recognize the need to ensure there is sufficient revenue so that programs can be paid for, health care and education spending can be increased by $4 billion and we can work toward a balanced and surplus budget. Then the first thing we would do is raise the exemption level, both personal and spousal to $7,900. We recognize that stay at home parents are

being taken advantage of and to help the family decide on its lifestyle and not force both individuals in a marriage to work outside the home. We recognize that what anybody does when they stay at home is just as valuable as when they go out to work. That is why we would make that exemption the same. That is my story and analysis of the "Fiscal Monitor".

Let me get back to the Liberals' favourite tax. The GST and the HST are entrenched forever in our lives. This goes against the very words of the finance minister when he was in opposition. I could not do that and I would not do that. That is not why I would be here. I would consider myself a hypocrite if I did that.

Everybody in the country ranted and raved against the Conservatives on the GST. Eighty-three per cent of Canadians did not want the GST and the fools still put it in because they said they knew what was best for us. "Leadership isn't about popularity", said the former Prime Minister, "it is about doing what is right for the people, and we know what is right". How the heck can 83 per cent of Canadians be wrong?

The Liberals rightly attacked it and attacked it. I am not sure what the NDP did but I know the Liberals attacked it. I have quotations from the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister, everybody attacked it. They said that it was a big issue. They had a big pre-election meeting in Toronto at which they decided to abolish the GST: "We're going to kill it, we're going to scratch it, we're going to get rid of it". They got elected partly on making that promise door to door. That promise was probably a huge factor in their election.

I hope the Canadian taxpayer remembers what this Liberal government did to get itself elected. Liberals promised jobs, jobs, jobs. That was their big slogan. There were 1.6 million people unemployed. Today there are between 1.4 and 1.5 million unemployed and just as many if not more underemployed. Did the Liberals keep their promise? Did they create the jobs? Decide.

Then we have the GST. Their promise went from abolishing it, killing it, scrapping it, to replacing it, harmonizing it. After two years they went from killing to replacing to harmonizing. If we read the promise in the red book, it states that they would harmonize with a system that was revenue neutral. This is not revenue neutral. It cost the Canadian government $961 million to pay the Atlantic provinces for their loss of revenue from lowering their provincial rate. They call that paying Canadians. I call that a cost.

When the Liberals say they have solved the problem and have kept their promise, it is only in three provinces. Surely to goodness a promise to harmonize would include all of Canada, would include at least Ontario where they have 98 out of 99 seats. They even failed to impress Ontario with their big harmonized sales tax scheme. Do members know why? It is because the Ontario government is smart enough to recognize how much it will hurt consumers in the long run.

After all, a goods and services tax, no matter how it is sliced, no matter what the arguments are-that it helps businesses to keep the cost of the product low, that it simplifies the system and that they would have lower overhead-which are all true, but the one thing they stop short of saying is that no matter what the rate is, whether it is 1 per cent, 7 per cent or 15 per cent, guess who pays. The consumer pays. They pay pre-tax. They pay tax on their income. They have after tax dollars and they have to pay tax on that.

What everyone ends up doing in this country, if they work nine to five, is work half a day for the government and receive half their pay.

How much time do I have left, Madam Speaker?

Taxation April 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I find this funny. I said since 1993 this is what has happened. It has nothing to do with the Conservatives. When they were over here they blamed the Conservatives. Now that they are over there, they blame the Conservatives. Liberal-Tory same old story.

I have a concern that the finance minister is basically using the UI fund as a surtax on his deficit cutting promises. He has said that if the cuts to the Canada health and social transfer are $7.5 billion, he would cut program spending by $9 billion. Revenues in the UI fund will hit $7 billion by the end of this fiscal year and revenues from personal income taxes are up by $4 billion after only11 months, and that is from the Fiscal Monitor .

If the finance minister has not raised personal income taxes, if he claims that he has not touched personal income taxes, why are tax revenues from personal income up by $4 billion? We have the time to handle this and answer it properly, so just take your time and answer it.

Taxation April 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the finance minister.

Given that the finance minister has claimed he has not raised personal income taxes in any of his three budgets, why is it that the after tax disposable income per family is down by $3,000 per year?