Madam Speaker, I was not expecting to speak at this time, but I certainly welcome the opportunity to talk about the equalization program.
As I said yesterday, the equalization program as we know it embodies some of the great ideals and great values of Canadians. I cannot think of a much greater ideal under our democracy than sharing one's wealth, sharing one's resources. It is an ideal and a value that all of us cherish. It recognizes that there are those provinces and those people who perhaps have it a little better than others. It may not always be that way.
It had been my experience that the province of Ontario was the fat cat province. We always looked on Ontario as rich, with plenty of people, the home of manufacturing, the leading province, certainly the leading English speaking province. We expected Ontarians to share some of that wealth with the rest of Canadians. It was always very laudatory on the part of Ontarians that they wanted to do that. They wanted to share their resources and their wealth.
In the last three or four years things have not been going so well for Ontario. In relative terms it is still a rich province but it has not been doing as well as in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. At certain periods of our national life some provinces contribute to other provinces that are not doing so well. That is why I am a very strong supporter of equalization and of this equalization program.
It was pointed out by one of the Reform speakers yesterday, and I appreciated his comments, that the proposal put forward in the bill by the finance minister gives the program an element of certainty. We are going to know for the next five years what this program is all about. We may not be totally happy with the floor
or the ceiling that is set but as least we know for the next five years where we are going with respect to equalization payments. Right now it is in the $8 billion range and the projections under the five-year figures put it at about $10 billion.
Let me say one other thing as I talk about equalization and this element of caring and sharing under it. There are others in our society that could learn a lot from the government about equalization.
What comes to mind is the National Hockey League. We know there are a number of NHL cities in the country that are scared to death they will lose their NHL franchises. The city of Winnipeg where I come from is one. Even though Edmonton has won five Stanley Cups and in the last 15 years has been one of the most prosperous and talented teams in the NHL there is even concern about the Edmonton Oilers moving. In fact Mr. Pocklington who owns the team has been trying for more than a year to move it. I do not think Quebec City is in a much different situation.
What I am getting to is that the NHL does not have equalization. I suspect the NHL is run by a bunch of right wingers who believe in dog eat dog, everybody for himself and take whatever you can. That is what they have been doing. But it certainly works against the best interests of smaller cities. There is no doubt that if the NHL does not deal with this problem, if it does not put a cap on players' salaries or if the NHL does not deal with some of the financial problems, smaller cities like Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Quebec City will not be able to keep that financial pace. They will ultimately lose out and those franchises will move to larger markets in the United States.
I bring this up only because there are others in Canada who can learn a lesson from equalization. I cannot imagine this Canada without equalization. I cannot imagine not helping the province of Newfoundland, or the province of New Brunswick, or my home province of Manitoba.
My province geographically speaking is smack dab in the middle of the country but we are in terms of wealth a have less province. I do not say have not. I do not like that term. I say have less. However, thanks to equalization and other transfer payments of one kind or another, Manitobans can expect a certain standard of living, a certain standard of services thanks to a vision that our forefathers had a long time ago. I am very proud of that.
In conclusion, I want to say that I am very glad the government has re-enunciated its commitment to equalization. We know where we are going for the next five years. It is very important. We have heard this from a number of government agencies, not only from provinces. They want to know where we are taking them. They want to know where they stand. I think that is very reasonable.
I support Bill C-3 and I hope we can move forward with it very quickly.