Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to participate in the debate on the Minister of Finance's budget. A great many things could be said, but I shall restrict myself to analyzing certain parts of the budget which I feel are unacceptable to the population.
First of all: employment insurance and the future consequences of this budget. An announcement has been made of a 10 cent cut in contributions, 10 cents less per $100. This proposed measure will not have much of an effect, since the reduction could have been50 cents per $100, which might have led to job creation.
At the moment, the jobs that are being created are precarious, poorly paid and short-lived. According to the experts, in the past six years there have been so many cuts in unemployment insurance-renamed employment insurance, which is a hoax, since insurance must insure us when we lose work and are unemployed-that there is a $2 billion annual shortfall in the fund.
This means that, had we maintained the 1989 criteria, we would have had a $3 billion surplus in the fund. What did the Liberal government do? Cut benefits to the least well-off. You will agree with me that people who are unemployed are not considered to be our society's most well-off.
What is sad today in Canada is that there are people who worry about what colour their next Mercedes will be, while others worry about whether there will be anything to put on the table tomorrow. There are fathers and mothers who are constantly worrying whether they will have anything to feed their families with, whether there will be anything to put in their children's lunch boxes. That measure is unacceptable.
I would also like to talk about child poverty. When the Liberal Party was in opposition and debating poverty, there were one million children living in poverty in Canada. The Liberals rose in this House to criticize the fact. Four years later, there are 1.5 million young people and children who lack what is needed to grow up in Canada.
And what did the Minister of Finance do? What provision is there in the budget? An increase of some $30 per child to fix the situation. That is shameful. It is shameful to spend an additional $70 million to help poor children.
We will recall that unemployment insurance was cut by some $2 billion a year. The poor lose $2 billion, and the $5 billion surplus goes to deficit reduction-those worst off pay for this too-and $30 a year more goes to filling lunch boxes. It is a scandal.
I would like to talk as well about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This foundation will receive $800 million. By chance, transfers to the provinces were cut by $800 million, and here they are going to create a fund.
But, careful, a fund is not spent. The money in a fund is invested, and the interest is spent. So the government will be spending another $180 million a year-on what? It will spend it on education, research and hospitals, all of which come under provincial jurisdiction. Once again, federal Liberals, who specialize in invading areas of provincial jurisdiction, are going to butt in as they always do. This is unacceptable, it must be said.
Members will recall that the red book contained a proposal to create new day care spaces in Canada. The government promised to invest $720 million in day care. They broke their promise. Now there is a plan to invest $600 million of new money in children. As I said earlier, the budget provides for expenditres of only $70 million. Knowing the way Liberals are, we have be wary of what they promise as well as of the promises they keep.
Another point in this budget I did not like at all is the fact the minister refused to compensate us for harmonizing the GST. Members will recall that Quebec was the first province in Canada to harmonize its sales tax. When it did, it received no compensation. And what is the finance minister telling us now? He is saying that, thanks to harmonization, Quebec is making a profit.
Simply by looking at the tax in one province, and in other provinces, how can you say whether or not that province is making a profit? The minister forgot to say that the tax system in Quebec is different from Ontario's and the maritimes'. If the maritime provinces opted for a 10 or 11 per cent tax, it is their choice, but taxpayers there pay lower income taxes, higher sales taxes, but lower income taxes. In Quebec, we pay lower sales taxes, but a higher income tax than anywhere else in the country.
Therefore I think that when the finance minister is telling us in this House that with his new tax, Quebec is making a profit, he is not being honest. He ought to look at the tax system overall, and see how much Quebec has lost. The Quebec Minister of Finance is demanding $1.9 billion in compensation to be on an equal footing with the maritimes, who will be receiving close to $1 billion. I believe that this is important. It is a question of equity with Quebec, and the minister is continually brushing it off as trivial.
Once again, the Liberals are demonstrating that they are sympathetic, that they are willing, but when the time comes to act, they do not. The means were there this year, however, because the annual debt will be lower this year as a result of the lower interest rates, so the minister had the means of doing it, yet he has decided not to. What he is doing is sprinkling a little largesse here and there, a few goodies, just peanuts. What people would like to see, as the official opposition has proposed, is a complete reorganization of the personal and corporate income tax systems. This government has been asleep at the switch for four years, and has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation.
In closing, I wish to state that this is terrible, because there is talk everywhere of sharing, of equity. In Canada at the present time, it is the poor who are getting it in the neck, the poor who are being cut off, in this peculiar view of what equity toward them should be. The poor are bearing the brunt more and more, and receiving less and less. This is totally unacceptable, and I trust that this minister will think things over again, and return with a far more meaningful budget, for this one is a do-nothing budget, with nothing innovative about it. There is nothing innovative in this budget, and the entire population of Canada and of Quebec are bearing the brunt of this.
When the bishops of Quebec speak of poverty, of the role of a member of Parliament, the role of representing the least advantaged members of society, I think that everyone here in this House
has missed the boat here. We are not doing what we were elected to do, and the main responsibility lies with the Minister of Finance.