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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was billion.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Capilano—Howe Sound (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I deplore the idea that we discuss this important issue on how to save Canada from bankruptcy by hammering away at non-existent facts.

On the matter of our deficit the fact is that 60 per cent of all our spending is going to transfers to persons. We have to do something about it. This is where the money is. We cannot save this country with line by line spending examinations and cutting out the sorts of things the hon. member is talking about. Even if we abandoned all the government we could not get our house in order.

Sooner or later, and I believe as quickly as possible, we will have to get at the core of the cause of our financial problems: overspending through the mechanism of transfers to individuals, so-called social programs. Contrary to what the member has said I have identified that we must not attack benefits for the poor. It is because the Reform and I are concerned about maintaining benefits for the poor that I believe we must look at the shortcomings in our current system that I have identified.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, before I was elected to this House I was a professor of economics. How I wished I could use the threat of failing grades to get the attention of this audience. Unfortunately I have to use other means.

My position here has cost me dearly. Upon learning about my election my former colleague and friend, Milton Friedman, noted that now I had become an unreliable economist. You can imagine my dismay when the hon. member for LaSalle-Émard the other day said to me in front a large audience that I could expect to be at the bottom of the totem pole as a member of the House who is also an economist.

Before I present my comments on the throne speech, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you and the hon. members of this House where I come from in a number of senses.

I arrived in North America in 1956 at the age of 22 with only a light suitcase full of clothing and the heavy baggage of a really thick German accent.

Through hard work, lots of luck and a long odyssey of academic positions in the United States, in 1971 I saw the light and accepted a position as professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, which, as you may know, was identified by Maclean's magazine as the best Canadian university in its class last year.

I love my adopted country of Canada. Its system of democracy, liberty and opportunity has made it possible for me to be in this distinguished Chamber today. Its economic system has produced the highest standard of living for the largest proportion of the population of a country in the history of mankind. I have dedicated myself to the defence of this system against the onslaught of excessive government in the lives of Canadians and against the massive deficits that threaten its very existence.

There is no perfect economic and social system in this world. But I think that the efforts to perfect ours have gone too far. Some of our country's most serious economic and social problems have been caused by well-intentioned but flawed government programs. That is why I believe that the solution to these problems is less, not more, government.

Geographically I come from the riding of Capilano-Howe Sound which is scenically one of the most spectacularly beautiful ridings in all of Canada. It consists of the Vancouver bedroom communities of West Vancouver and North Vancouver which enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes in all of Canada. The riding also includes the industrial town and port of Squamish, the farming community of Pemberton and last but not least the resort community of Whistler which has been for some years identified as the best ski area in North America. In a recent survey it was called the best in the entire world. I am proud and deeply honoured to be able to represent the residents of Capilano-Howe Sound in this House.

The throne speech and many other pronouncements by the government have promised the restructuring of Canada's social programs as one of its major legislated programs for this Parliament. In the few minutes remaining to me here I would like to share with members of the House some insights I have gained from a study of these programs.

Before I do, I want to get out of the way one other fundamental and very important matter. From long experience I know that the discussion of social programs often leaves antagonists questioning each other's motives. Please, in our deliberations in this House let us not do so. Neither the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre nor the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway have a monopoly on compassion. It is because of my strong concerns about the ability of the government to deliver support to those in need in the future that I make the following remarks.

The issue for me and Reform is not whether the unfortunate in our society should be cared for but how best to care for them today and tomorrow. Canada's social programs are beset by three major problems.

First, too much of the spending benefits families with high incomes. For example, families with incomes of over $100,000 a year in 1992 received $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion in UIC and OAS benefits respectively. Such transfers clearly are not consistent with the objective of providing a security net for Canadians beset by financial calamity. They are a subsidy to higher income earners that the country can no longer afford. They are the unwanted consequence of the noble desire to provide benefits universally without a means test.

Second, the current system has created incentives to which rational Canadians are responding in ways that greatly dismay socialists in Canada and the rest of the world.

Most of the hon. members here remember the choice faced by the single mother in Toronto who took her case to the media last summer. The media missed the main point by concentrating on whether or not she lost income by giving up her $42,000 a year job and going on welfare. Even if she had suffered a loss of $6,000, what the system does is that under these conditions she is asked to work for $500 a month. She and many Canadians have been deciding that it is not worth their while to work for that amount of income. I do not blame her or anyone else on welfare or UIC for making such choices and neither does society. That is the reason why, in spite of record outlays for social programs, the problems today are alleged to be worse than they were even 20 years ago.

Third, the framers of our large and universal social insurance programs knew that, except in the case of seriously handicapped people, government support should be temporary. It knew that lengthy assistance would create dependency and ultimately hurt recipients more than it helped them on their life voyage. Experience with Canada's programs has now shown that dependency has become a serious problem for a dismaying large number.

The preceding diagnosis of the ills of Canada's social programs cries out for a prescription for a cure. I must confess to you, Mr. Speaker, and the other members of this House that I do not have such a prescription because basically I believe there are none.

What I do have are some ideas on how to alleviate the ills that I have identified. However, the discussion of these ideas must wait. In the meantime, I wish the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre and the government the best of luck in their own search for possible cures, band-aids and palliatives.