Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me in this debate today. I recognize the necessity for the government to have a borrowing authority bill passed by Parliament.
The government does not receive all of its revenue from taxes on a specific date early in the fiscal year. Therefore, to meet its program needs when there is a shortfall in revenue it needs to be able to borrow. This is done all the time in the business world. What is new and extraordinary about the situation we in the House of Commons are faced with on this bill is the fact that the government knows now that there will be a substantial difference between revenues and expenditures, some $39.7 billion on the expenditure side, and has done nothing substantial to move toward balancing its books.
The only thing it has done is sought borrowing authority through this bill to make up the difference.
We were also told on Thursday, February 24, 1994 by the President of the Treasury Board that spending for the fiscal year 1994-95 only went up by $3 billion. Then he told us if we took out the increased amount to pay the interest on the debt, not the principal, spending only went up $.7 billion. What is most surprising is that he said this as if it were something to be proud of, some great achievement.
Does any of this make sense to the people of Canada, the people who pay all the bills? I repeat, the people who pay all the bills for everything the government does.
The government, in the overall scheme of things, is going to increase its spending, making a bad situation in relation to the deficit even worse. How can this government justify to Canadians any tax increase which puts more financial burden on Canadians when it will not even begin to put its financial house in order?
What does this government think Canadians want? What does this government think Canadians voted for on October 25 last year? They voted for a promise to create jobs and they voted for fiscal responsibility. If they did not want fiscal responsibility we in the Reform Party would not have increased our numbers from 1 to 52. The government's actions two weeks ago with the budget and the tabling of spending estimates and the borrowing bill will do nothing to create long term, permanent jobs, nor are they fiscally sound.
We have a short term, make work project through which we borrow money to create jobs, but nothing permanent. The president of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association has said that the Martin budget measures do not add up to a coherent plan that will help manufacturing grow, modernize and reinvent itself for the 21st century.
On the second issue of being fiscally prudent and attacking the deficit now, what are we told by the government? Just like any loser in an athletic contest: "Just wait until next year, or maybe the year after that".
Canadians thought on October 25 that they had elected a government with a plan, a plan for the economy, a plan for social programs, a plan for reworking unemployment insurance, a plan to deal with the provision of better health services. Really what they elected was a government with a plan to study, not a plan to act; a plan to pass the buck, a plan to spend a lot of bucks but no plan to act.
We have the red book but what does it say? It spends a lot of time discussing programs but little time discussing implementation. If the government had plans to implement change, then at least we could see where we are headed in relation to program change and tax savings.
My friend from Lethbridge two weeks ago asked the Minister of Finance when the results of all these studies came in, after the summer break, after these results had been considered by cabinet if he would bring in a new budget, a budget in the fall. The answer was no.
We believe it is time to act. The government was elected in October last year and we are now in March. We are now going to undertake studies, studies whose results will be reported to us in approximately six months. If the government had acted quickly and decisively when it was first elected, we would have the results of these studies well before the summer break, and a budget could reflect such quick and decisive action.
Does the government not realize that by reducing and subsequently eliminating the deficit we will eventually be able to start paying down the national debt?
By reducing and eliminating the deficit we would have in a very short period taxpayers' money freed up so that taxes could be reduced, thus stimulating the economy or perhaps this money could be used for retraining or to help industry, manufacturing, expand or retool so that permanent long term jobs are created.
Action on the expenditure side, action to reduce expenditure, will return to us as Canadians the economic freedom to choose which we have not enjoyed for many years. Again, what do we hear from the government? In three years the deficit will be 3 per cent of GDP. What does this mean?
It means that any hope of dealing with the country's debt is put off until the next century. We will still be devoting a huge amount of taxpayers' dollars to pay the interest on the debt without any hope of encroaching on the principal for many years.
If the government is not prepared to act on the expenditure side, I am serving notice today that we in the Reform Party are ready to act.
Each line item of each departmental expenditure plan will be scrutinized carefully by members of this party when the estimates are in committee. We will ask each minister and each deputy minister to justify every penny of the departmental expenditure plans. When we find expenditures which we believe are not crucial to the well-being of the people of Canada we will vote against them. The government wants to consult with members of this House. We will give the government consultation.
Second, I will press the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the government House leader to recommend the creation of a permanent standing committee of this House whose sole job would be to review the spending estimates of government departments.
In 1983 the special committee created to study the standing orders and procedures of the House recommended an elaborate series of estimate review committees in its fifth report to this House. My proposal is simply to create one such committee which would in the course of the fiscal year scrutinize very carefully the estimates of perhaps only three government departments. It would then report back to this House and also to the standing committee which deals with a particular department on a regular basis.
This information could then be used by the departmental standing committee when the minister came back for supplementary spending estimates or in the following year when new spending plans are referred to the departmental standing committee.
The fiscal responsibility committee which I recommend be established would during the life of a Parliament scrutinize in detail the spending plans of virtually all government departments. This would not be glamorous work but it is the kind of work that is needed, the kind of tough work the government does not seem prepared to do, at least at this time.
I can assure my friends opposite that this is the kind of work that we in the Reform Party were elected to do and we are quite willing to spend the long and necessary hours to reduce government expenditures.
The time has come for action, not for talk. Canadians are a fiscally responsible people. They do not live beyond their means. If in a family something cannot be afforded then spending priorities change. We do not expect families to run out and borrow every time they see a new item they want to buy. Why should government be any different?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to apologize because at the very beginning I should have told you on behalf of the whip, pursuant to Standing Order 43(2), we will be dividing our time this morning.