Mr. Speaker, since this is my first real address since the opening of the new Parliament, I would like to begin by congratulating you and your colleagues on your election and appointments to the speakership. I pledge my entire co-operation with you in the sometimes difficult job that you have in maintaining the order and decorum which is so necessary for parliamentary debate.
I would also like to express my thanks to my constituents in Cape Breton Highlands-Canso for renewing their confidence in me on October 25. Whether or not they supported me, I would like to pledge to my constituents that I will work as hard as I can on their behalf in this House of Commons and also within the party of government over the next four years.
I am always moved and deeply touched by the support, comments and requests for assistance which I receive from my constituents. It has been a source of learning and inspiration for me over the last four years to have been able to be their member in Cape Breton Highlands-Canso. I really want to express that once again.
I want to comment on the new mood of co-operation and constructive debate which has characterized this House. It has been a very pleasant change from the previous Parliament to see from all sides of the House such an expression of earnest willingness to participate in sincere debate. We can give a lot of credit to our friends on the opposite side of the House, particularly the new members who have shown in a very impressive way their determination to address the problems we faced in the past in the House of Commons of not showing the voters that we were serious about the business for which we were elected.
I welcome the motion of the Minister of Finance and his decision to open the budget process to a broad range of consultation across Canada and also to have the process in this House. It is a new endeavour for this government. It also reflects the new mood of consultation and willingness to work with members of Parliament and Canadians which has characterized this administration from the beginning.
I believe it is already bearing fruit in terms of the mood of Canadians and the fact that Canadians can see that the difficult years are behind them. That mood of confidence is starting to reflect itself in the economic indicators and in the spirit of confidence which is occurring throughout the economy. I hope that will make the tough decisions which the Minister of Finance has to make over the next few weeks a little easier.
Obviously the most serious and difficult problem presently facing the Minister of Finance and the Canadian economy is the high deficit of the federal government, as well as the deficits faced by Canada's provinces. It has been a serious handicap for the Canadian economy. Reducing that deficit has to be a priority of the Government of Canada and of the Minister of Finance and it is.
As the minister mentioned earlier today this problem cannot be addressed in isolation. The budget cannot deal with the question of raising taxes or drastically cutting expenditures without regard for the need to produce growth and jobs in the Canadian economy. Nor can the Minister of Finance address the deficit on the backs of the most disadvantaged Canadians. It has to be addressed over the longer term.
We have to begin with this budget. We have to produce measures which will increase growth and increase the revenue generating capacity of Canadians so that the deficit can be brought down as part of the growing Canadian economy. That is the underlying message which should be conveyed to the Minister of Finance as part of his budget preparation process.
With respect to the basic decisions of tax policy which inevitably will form part of the budget, I want to associate myself with those who would stress the need to simplify the tax system and eliminate the many loopholes and overlaps which exist in the federal tax system and to work toward a more simple tax system.
I am very sympathetic to the work which has been done by my colleague, the member for Broadview-Greenwood, in moving toward the single tax. The extra revenue derived from a very steep regressive tax system, one that is so full of loopholes that it pays people with higher incomes to avoid the tax, is not serving Canadians well. Without mentioning any specific areas I urge the Minister of Finance to consider tax simplification as an objective of his tax policy measures.
Important as they may be, there will be more in the budget than simply tax and expenditure measures.
This budget as the first budget for the next term of this government has to lay the foundation for growth in Canada. As part of the way of doing that it will have to deal with the many areas of government policy that have in one way or another restrained growth for example through excessive taxes on small businesses or through the many complicating features of such programs as unemployment insurance.
I understand and am very pleased to be part of the committee that will examine the whole range of social security reform in Canada including the unemployment insurance system. I believe there is work to be done in that area to make those programs more streamlined, more simplified and less inhibiting on growth and job creation.
Young people in many parts of Canada are finding themselves lured into traps through regulations in the Unemployment Insurance Act that encourage and lead them away from seeking higher education and into positions or jobs which are dead end. It even encourages businesses to provide those kinds of jobs because it is advantageous. We have to work toward eliminating these disincentives in that program and in other similar programs in order to encourage the kind of creation of employment and the kinds of jobs Canadians will need in the future.
However that is only part of the equation. Another part of the equation has to be to work toward fostering the industries of the future. The government has a very active role to play in this. In creating those industries of the future the government has to make sure that all parts of Canada are included.
Because central Canada has been the focus of the manufacturing industries in Canada it is very easy to forget the east and the west. I come from the east where the economy has depended on resource industries which everyone knows have been devastated.
The fishery is a primary employer in my own constituency. Over the last four years it has been devastated. Forestry is a resource industry in Canada which has been undergoing very difficult times in my constituency.
The government has to promote measures that will help Atlantic Canada be part of that economy of the future so that it will not always consider itself a have-not region of Canada. On that point there are measures that this budget can do to begin that process.