Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to participate in debate on the motion brought forward by the Reform Party requesting that the government bring down a plan of action.
I was going through my files today on this very subject and found a headline that caught my eye: "Slashing the Deficit in Just Two Hours". This was the heading of a column in the June 13, 1994 edition of Maclean's magazine by Diane Francis. She has a plan. I might not agree with all the things in her plan, but at least there is a plan and there are topics that can be discussed.
We are here today to find out some ideas and put some thoughts on the table about how we can reduce the deficit and the debt. As we all know politics is the art of possible. Let us try to make things possible by reducing the deficit and the debt. For far too many years the country has been living off its credit. Like other spendthrift debtors there comes a time when they finally have to pay the piper. They either quit spending more than they earn and begin to repay their debts, or the banks foreclose on their homes, seize their cars and they are bankrupt.
The bank is getting ready to foreclose on our mortgage, to repossess our car and to cut up this nation's credit cards. Finally the country and its government have to wake up and face this reality. No longer can it be ignored. The finance minister has finally heard this message and I congratulate him for having the courage to admit it in his statement.
The Reform Party was catapulted here one year ago by common sense Canadians. We have been trying to get this message across to the government from the first day of this Parliament. Decades of spendthrift management and extremely poor decisions have entrenched programs and attitudes that have led the nation to spend its birthright and mortgage its future. We must for our children's sake get this mess under control.
The finance minister has said that each one of us must decide which government services we personally can do without. No longer can Canadians take refuge in the attitude that someone else can pay, that someone else's services can be cut. We must let Canadians prioritize our spending, prioritize our programs, something again that the Reform Party and its members on this side of the House campaigned for rigorously during the last election.
Governments have often sought to supply services through crown corporations because it was felt these were necessary, that these services could not be provided by the private sector. Perhaps at one time this was true. Perhaps there was justification for pouring funds from the public purse into these uneconomic businesses, but it is an expensive proposition and one that has stifled competition.
This philosophy has also cost this country greatly in dollars and lost opportunities. Over the years crown corporations have contributed mightily to our monstrous national debt and high taxes which have stunted growth and discouraged innovation in this country. There comes a point when these crown corporations no longer fill any real need, when inertia is their prime reason for being. We can no longer afford this.
Today we are a nation of some 28 million people. Times have changed. Our needs have changed. Yet still we ladle public money into ventures best left to the private sector and in the process we smother competition and eviscerate the entrepreneurial spirit. The people of this country have been led down a perilous path.
The plain and simple fact is that goods and services are provided more efficiently, more effectively and with better quality by the private sector in a competitive environment. Why then do we still maintain crown corporations and agencies that meddle in the free marketplace on the strength of huge dollops of money from the public purse?
Even at a time when there was justification for government owned broadcasters which gobble up close to $1.2 billion a year, how can it be justified today? For instance the CBC was created so that Canadian culture was sure not to be lost, but things have changed. Technology has changed. An example of that is the private cable companies.
Private cable companies across this nation supply community access channels. In my own riding of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, Shaw Cable provides access to a community channel for cultural programming, for interest groups to make programs. This is something we should look at. How can $1.2 billion a year to the CBC be justified? Would this money not be better spent on educating and training our youth so that they can have productive futures, so that they will have no need for expensive UI programs or welfare?
We must set realistic priorities. We no longer have the luxury of wasting precious tax dollars on foolish spending. Of course the other side will criticize me by saying: "The hon. member is saying he is just going to cut everything". I want to make it very clear that is not what I am saying. I am saying that every single government department, agency, crown corporation and marketing board should be evaluated for its relevance in today's economic climate. If the same function is or could be provided
by the private sector, that government body should be disbanded immediately.
Organizations such as the Canada Council defy common sense. When we are talking about shrinking funds for education and health care, how can we as responsible members of this place support any endeavour which is not necessary for the well-being of the people we represent, all Canadians?
Last summer the Minister of Transport announced a move to place more of our transportation system in the hands of the private sector. This is a positive change which will benefit all Canadians. The minister has recognized the fact that these services can best be provided by the private sector. The people of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt have supported this concept in town hall meetings across my riding. As well the same thoughts were heard at every one of the government's prebudget consultations earlier this year.
In the prairies farmers are demanding that the Canadian Wheat Board be reformed and that producers be given the opportunity to sell their grain to whomever they choose. One producer who operates a small milling operation with its head office in Penticton has detailed years of interference with his business by the wheat board. This interference has severely limited his opportunity.
Let us explore this for a minute. The Canadian Wheat Board is an interesting topic. It is widely known that western Canada produces the world's best durum wheat. It is ideal for pasta products. I am not a farmer. I am a common type of person, but I must scratch my head in wonder. It would seem there is a tremendous opportunity in western Canada for someone to go into the pasta production business. It is also interesting to note that there is not one pasta producer in western Canada. Why is that? Let us look at some examples.
North Dakota, which grows about as much durum wheat as the province of Saskatchewan in a good year, has four prosperous pasta operations. This House should know about a real success story for the North Dakota growers in the village of Carleton. They built a plant without any state or federal government assistance. They have the most modern equipment. It runs 24 hours a day and has 240 employees. It processes 250 tonnes of wheat daily into highly valued privately packaged pasta products that are shipped all over the United States. There is more good news: expansion plans are under way.
Why then does western Canada not have a pasta producer? In western Canada, durum growers owning their own mill would be in the same position as if they were trying to sell their wheat product independently. They would be forced to sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board at the board's prevailing initial price. Then their company would be forced to buy that wheat product back at the board's selling price.
Durum wheat growers could not legally sell directly to their own company in this country, nor could their company buy their own wheat. It is just ridiculous. In other words, any benefit durum growers who are also the investors in the private company would have in the pasta plant would have to be shared among all the wheat producers in Canada.
I am not saying that the Canadian Wheat Board is stifling competition in this country. Just a minute, maybe I am, but then again maybe I am not. What I am saying however is that we should put it on the table, discuss it and evaluate it. It appears this country is missing yet another golden opportunity.
My time is running out so I will close by saying it seems that the national economics elude the test of common sense every family must face when handling their finances. Canada's deficits are not insurmountable. Canada's deficit and debt are merely symptoms of an inept and cowardly leadership.