Mr. Speaker, in light of the budget tabled two weeks ago and the additional information provided by the Minister of Finance since, it would seem that the Liberal government has taken no serious action to prevent duplication between certain federal departments as well as between levels of government or to check squandering in the public administration. We know full well that year after year the Auditor General unearths outrageous cases of waste.
Of course, the Minister of Finance says he is reducing the operating budgets of the federal bureaucracy, but that is not enough if we are to stop living above our means. The government cannot expect, with the kind of expenditure level it is forecasting, to lower the individual tax rate in the medium term, a move which would really contribute to restore the confidence of Quebecers and Canadians in the economy.
Basically, the government is not addressing the chronic government deficit problem when it fails to rationalize its spending. Moreover, it is relying on a very slight economic recovery to reduce the deficit. With the underground economy constantly gaining ground and given, among other things, our level of taxation, there is no way that government revenue can increase faster than the sum total of revenues generated by economic activity, the GDP. In fact, the government is only moving funds around from one budget item to another without reducing expenditures as a whole.
As for the unemployment insurance reform, it reflects the contempt of Liberals for the jobless. Minister Axworthy admits to be pursuing the following objective, namely to force recipients to work longer to continue to qualify for the same number of weeks of benefits. As if people chose to be unemployed and to work only a given number of weeks. This program is intended to provide income support to workers and must not be seen as a way of life in combination with work.
This reform without any job creation incentive results in pushing the unemployed toward welfare, thus passing the buck to the provinces. The young will bear the brunt of this reform as they are the ones having a hard time finding long-term jobs.
The problem with unemployment in Canada and Quebec is the lack of available jobs and increasing numbers of temporary jobs. The government must promote work and make it accessible to all.
The infrastructure program will do nothing to address job insecurity as only temporary employment will be created with the billions sunk into it.
With regard to the implementation of this program, many rural municipalities in Quebec feel left out because they have done infrastructure work in the past two years. Take for example the municipality of Saint-Maurice, with a population of 2,195. In 1991-92, this municipality spent $413,000, or $95 per person, on non-subsidized infrastructure work. The standard for work not covered by the new program is as follows: the cost of work done over the past two years, divided by the total popula-
tion, up to a maximum of $80 per person, $80 being the provincial average for municipalities in this category.
Such a criterion clearly favours municipalities which have not done capital work during the period covered by this administrative requirement. One way to resolve this problem would be to abolish this criterion and thus not penalize anyone.
Although the Quebec Department of Municipal Affairs is responsible for applying the program, I wish to point out to the Liberal government the situation of many small Quebec municipalities, which is cooling their enthusiasm for this program and its economic benefits.
For nearly ten years, I was mayor of a small municipality in my riding, and every budget item was minutely examined by my council so as not to burden our constituents with a deficit. All of a sudden, the federal and provincial governments are urging the municipalities to borrow, which will endanger their future budgets because of the famous calculation based on spending and investment in 1991 and 1992. What I conclude is that both the federal and provincial governments want our small municipalities to go further into debt. I wonder if these governments are not jealous of how these municipalities operate. I think our governments have some lessons to learn from these municipalities, which can restrain themselves and balance their budget.
The municipality of Saint-Maurice which I took as an example has to spend $175,000 in 1994 and $175,000 in 1995 before it receives a cent in subsidies, which will be allocated one third, one third and one third.
In closing, I would like to deal with one last subject: the reduction in the age credit. As we all know, taxpayers aged 65 and over can claim a tax credit of 17 per cent of $3,482 from the federal government and 20 per cent of $2,200 from Quebec. This credit reduces federal income tax by about $610 a year for all seniors who have to pay income tax. In Quebec, this credit also reduces provincial income tax and the combined reduction is about $1,050 in Quebec. The change made in the latest budget is intended to reduce this credit for seniors whose net income exceeds $25,921; the credit will be reduced by 15 per cent of the individual's net income which exceeds this amount.
This government measure will affect 800,000 people, including 600,000 middle-income people in our society. As we can see from several examples, the Liberal government is saving money at the expense of the unemployed, young people and seniors. What is even more striking in this budget is the lack of any long-term planning for lower deficits and job creation incentives.