Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to address Bill C-32, the Budget Implementation Act, 2000, at second reading.
The public did not know what to think of a government that has budget surpluses. We heard many things, because budget surpluses give ideas to people.
Some wondered “How will the government strike a balance? Will there be tax reductions? Will the debt be lowered? Will social transfers finally be increased?” Unfortunately people did not realize that the government is secretive and that the Minister of Finance stashes money away like a squirrel. The sharper ones would have expected this budget to contain a number of somewhat misleading elements.
We discovered quite a while ago that the government had much bigger surpluses than anticipated, surpluses estimated at $137 billion. This is not to mention the waste that we keep hearing more and more about when we take a closer look at what is going on in the government's administration.
The Minister of Finance once again mislead the public with truncated budget forecasts. Indeed, most observers agree that the surpluses will be between $115 billion and $150 billion.
The Bloc Quebecois did a conservative estimate of the surpluses and came up with the amount of $137 billion over a five year period. This is a huge amount. It is clear to us that the Minister of Finance could have done a lot more, particularly in terms of tax reductions and transfers to the provinces for health, education and post-secondary education.
I would like to address the matter of transfers for health care and education, because there is nothing or almost nothing for it in this budget. The minister is releasing $2.5 billion for transfers to the provinces. This amount is both inadequate and a one time measure. In other words, the amounts allocated for health care and education are pitiful, when in fact these areas have been shown clearly to be priorities for taxpayers.
And yet the federal government has plenty of money to invest where it feels like. We need only think of recent events, which are ongoing in the House, in connection with the use of the grants made by the Department of Human Resources Development.
For example, it has enough money for various foundations and other organizations parliament has no control over, such as $6.8 billion this year in order to waste money in the Department of Human Resources Development—$1.3 billion annually—and to distribute $1.4 billion in contracts without tender. Despite all, the government still refuses to invest where it cut, namely in health care and education.
To summarize the 2000 budget in terms of transfers to the provinces, $240 million is being made available for health care in Quebec, enough money to run the health care system for two days. And yet the government has the means to do a lot better with the accumulated surpluses. The $2.5 billion announced for the provinces is far from enough. Quebec's share will be $240 million for 2000-01 and $120 million for 2001-02.
Does it know that hospitals cost, for Quebec alone, $3.7 billion a year, or $100 million a day. Clearly, the amounts proposed by the federal government will not enable the provinces to address the problems in their respective health care networks.
We learn as well, in budget 2000, that the $2.5 billion will be charged to 1999-2000. The budget for 2000-01 is charged to 1999-2000. This is a ridiculous level of social transfer, frozen over four years.
As we can see, the minister is continuing his old practices of transparent management. There has been a lot of talk of clarity this spring.
Here again this is a matter of playing with figures in order to convince us that Ottawa cannot afford to give back to the provinces and to Quebec what the Liberals have taken from them in recent years. Quebec comes out a major loser in this entire political masquerade. It has, in fact, borne the brunt of over 50% of total cuts to the Canada social transfer since 1994.
Finally, including the tax points under the CST, the Minister of Finance tells us that, between 1999 and 2004, the total transfer will be $156 billion. This increase is, however, solely the result of the value of the tax points which, for the same period, go from $14.9 billion to $17.2 billion. It must be understood, however, that these tax points are not transfers; they are revenues belonging to the provinces and to Quebec.
Now, moving on the social housing, there is a considerable difference between $54 million and $1.7 billion. The Bloc Quebecois called upon the federal government to inject $3 billion into an infrastructure program, $1.7 billion of which was for social housing.
These demands were the outcome of a broad public consultation, yet once again the demands of Quebecers have been ignored. This government is so arrogant as to totally ignore the unemployed, although they contribute more than $5 billion yearly to the minister's surplus.
Although his colleague, the Minister of Labour, promised a concrete action plan for the homeless, the plan she unveiled with much fanfare in December 1999 contains no tangible measure for improving the situation. Yet the need is there, the public can see it clearly, and social housing can also be improved in various ways according to need.
So the government's inaction was immediately met with a wave of protest. In all this, it appears that the pressures from the Toronto area for short term assistance for the homeless won out over the real needs of the homeless and those with inadequate housing.
Since the early 1990s, those with inadequate housing have lost out to budget cuts and the freeze on budget increases for social housing. Since 1994, the government has been withdrawing from housing completely. In fact, no longer do we hear anything about new social housing. The federal government no longer talks about helping those whose housing is inadequate. All it does is maintain existing commitments.
In the very early 1990s, it was estimated that budget cuts would generate savings on the order of $620 million between 1991 and 1996. Taking the exponential effects of these cuts into account, that is close to $3.5 billion over nine years that has not been spent on this sector. Anyone visiting our ridings or taking a look as they travel through this or other provinces can clearly see that there are urgent needs in the area of social housing.
There is no way $268 million over five years—or $54 million annually—will do the trick. This is ridiculous. For Quebec, this comes to less than $20 million a year. These budgets will not even be allocated to social housing as such but, rather, to renovation projects. I understand that, after years of not investing, the immediate priority is to renovate, because housing units have fallen into disrepair.
One per cent of the budgets, or $1.6 to $1.7 billion more per year, would have been a reasonable investment to provide adequate social housing. While these amounts would not have met all existing needs, they would have allowed us to help the social housing program to adjust to today's realities and to the realities in the ridings and municipalities that have a real need for such housing units.
When he delivered his budget speech, the Minister of Finance referred to “Secure social programs that recognize that real progress is made by reaching for the top, not racing to the bottom”.
Is this to say that, for his government, social housing and those who live in inadequate housing are at the bottom?
During this overview of the 2000 budget, I also want to discuss the indexing of tax tables.
In that regard, we say finally, because the Bloc Quebecois has been asking for that measure since 1993. Since 1994, the federal government has taken $17 billion out of taxpayers' pockets, through non-indexation. It is important to note that non-indexation is not at all the same as tax reductions. It only means that Quebecers will not pay more taxes because of inflation.
We must remind the minister that non-indexation is not a tax reduction. In the 2000 budget, the government follows up on the representations made by the Bloc Quebecois and by groups of citizens to put a stop to hidden tax increases resulting from non-indexation. However, that measure comes a little late. Indeed, between 1993 and 2000, non-indexation will have generated between $12 billion and $17 billion for the Liberal government.
As for tax reductions, they will only come later. We will have to wait. Yet, the federal government has more than enough leeway to redouble its effort to reduce the tax burden, as early as this year.
Let us make no mistake, indexing is not a real tax cut. In fact, with indexing, a taxpayer pays no more or less tax.
The 2000 budget informs us that the annual tax saving in 2004-05 will total $10.9 billion, including $6.2 for indexing. If we subtract the tax savings for business from this amount, indexation represents 60% of the alleged tax cuts. For the year 2000 alone, the estimate is that the real tax cuts will represent only about 20% of the cuts of $3.3 billion the Minister of Finance announced.
Now, I would like to address another matter, which has become a daily matter of interest and that is the management of public finances, a black hole of $10.4 billion.
It is important to address this in the context of a budget, since the savings made could have been applied to such important items as the social transfer, health care and education.
Since 1994, the Liberal government has created no less than 80 agencies that are not accountable to parliament. These agencies spend $6.8 billion annually, without any control. If we add to this figure the contracts given out without tender and the fiasco at the Department of Human Resources Development, we end up with $10.4 billion spent annually with no control.
When the government gives out money and delegates powers to agencies, they have to be accountable. We have to know where the responsibility lies. In order for us to know this, it is natural to insist on control.
The government has come up with this formula of creating agencies. It is no trifling matter. The 80 agencies created since 1994 manage to escape these controls, because they are headed by directors answering to a minister, who answers to another minister, and when we look for ultimate control, we find none. A black hole of $10.4 billion is no trifling matter.
Last November, the auditor general pointed out that over 77 new agencies spending over $5 billion annually were not under the control of parliament and were not accountable. It is almost incredible.
That means $5 billion that are outside the control of the public as a whole. Three new organizations have been added in the latest budget, as well as $1.7 billion. In 2001-02, then, this makes $6.8 billion in public funds outside the control of Parliament and of the public.
On the other hand, there is the black hole of Human Resources Development Canada, which, on its own, represents $1.3 billion. HRDC transfers to businesses and to individuals are absolutely unmonitored. Where has the money gone? Were jobs created? If so, where? Was there political patronage? These are questions without answers, and this budget will not change a thing.
The Minister of Human Resources Development has been asked the same questions over and over again for weeks, always with the same responses; in other words, we have had no response questions like the ones I have just asked, namely: Where has the money gone? Were jobs created? Was there political patronage?
No answers. There were tons of documents, but each time we looked into one in greater detail, we found that what the departmental employees were giving as answers differed from what was in the document we had been given. This is worrisome enough when just one department is involved. Perhaps if we keep on investigating further, more worthwhile discoveries will be made.
In this connection, I would like to bring to hon. members' attention what the auditor general says in the highlights of his report. The auditor general's report is our guide as parliamentarians, whether we are in the opposition or the government, in determining whether public funds have been properly managed.
I will give a few highlights of the auditor general's report, which came out this week. The following comments are from the report:
The federal government must introduce strong control mechanisms in order to eliminate potential fraud in the immigration system.
I will come back to immigration in greater detail.
Education services for aboriginals must be improved in order to clearly define what the federal government's role should be and control spending.
Spending is still a concern. The auditor general has found that there is a complete lack of control over spending. He is sounding an alarm. The report also reads as follows:
The rules for the treatment of scientific research tax credits, estimated at several billions of dollars, should be tightened.
What does tightening the rules mean? It means that somewhere there were abuses, that things were not done according to procedure. The report goes on:
The RCMP's outdated computer system is a cause of concern for authorities, and the turnaround times for crime laboratory analyses are a threat to public safety.
Bills were adopted in this House giving the RCMP increased authority to conduct DNA tests for evidence purposes in rather horrible cases. If the results take forever, there is a problem. It is not a case of spending too much money, but not enough.
The Department of Human Resources Development is getting EI cheques out faster, but the odds of inaccurate payments have increased. Things are just fine: more haste, less care.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors need more information in order to better assess the risks posed by travellers entering the country. If all manner of people can enter the country as they wish, questions are in order. If this is what is going on, it is probably because of a lack of staff and money. Those areas with real, identifiable needs are perhaps where the government should be throwing its money.