Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate in the House, although today's topic does leave a lot to be desired.
Canadians have a debt of over $550 billion. We have continuously overspent our budget, creating annual deficits which we add to our debt. In turn, this increases the amount of interest we must pay, already over $40 billion.
On February 27 the finance minister told us that he, his department and the government had balancing the budget in mind. He said it was a priority of this administration, but the finance minister does not tell us when it will achieve the actual balancing of the budget. Instead, each year we have been told of one more step in the budget balancing stroll that he and this government are leading us on, and that strolling in this manner for three years will achieve 3 per cent of GDP, assuming present conditions affecting this forecast remain constant and that those conditions or situations anticipated actually come to pass.
A plan that takes three years to reduce an annual deficit of more than $35 billion by $10 billion does seem like a stroll down some indeterminate path. It is not suggestive of a plan that would be considered a high priority by the people who implement it when there is no end in sight.
The longer we maintain the need to borrow large sums of money from foreign lenders the longer we will continue to add to our debt, increasing the amount of interest we will pay. The interest money we pay to foreign lenders could be utilized very effectively for services or benefits for Canadians at home.
It reminds me of the situation with credit cards. When a person uses a lot of credit cards to buy certain things and then sit them all in front of them and add up the amount of interest they are paying, it is taking a huge chunk of their salary. The person wonders why they thought buying on credit was a good idea.
By the time the government reaches its target of 3 per cent of GDP in 1996-97 it is estimated the interest payments on our debt will have reached $50 billion. To say it is rather easy for us these days, but it is really hard to identify with the reality of a billion dollars.
I have heard some examples, such as circling the globe at the equator with $2 bills, but it is hard to visualize how big the equator is as well. One example very easy for me to identify with is that if a person made a dollar every second they would be a millionaire in 11 days. To get a billion dollars it would take them 33 years. That puts it into reality for me.
Canadians have expressed concerns about most of the services provided under the social program umbrella, for example, health care, pensions, unemployment insurance, et cetera. We know these programs will be cut in the near future. However, we will not know until the autumn or maybe even later how these cuts will affect our lifestyles.
We also know that federal funding for health, post-secondary education and welfare will be lumped together and cut by $2.5 billion in 1996-97, and a further $4.5 billion in 1997-98. These cuts will have an effect on us, but it will depend on how the provinces allocate the moneys they receive to implement and maintain the services. Again, we do not know at this time the effect the budget will have on our lifestyles.
Even though it is a step toward decentralizing or transferring the management of these programs to the provinces and territories, it is unfavourably implemented when the cash cutbacks are not coupled with compensation in the tax credit area by increasing it.
With this budget plan, it is inevitable that health services will be cut, if not directly this year certainly next or the year following that.
This year health services will probably feel some effect from the cuts as applied to the medical research council, a 10 per cent cut, and the patent medicine prices review board, 15 per cent cut and another 15 per cent cut to the hazardous material information review commission.
Some aspects of the mandates of these departments or services certainly contribute toward the quality of our overall health program. Reduction in the services from some of these sources is bound to influence health care services.
I have identified some areas where cuts are to be implemented. These plus other cuts in the budget are apparently insufficient to prevent the need to continue borrowing possibly large sums of money in order to operate within the budget.
A possible contributing factor is that this government's budget does not apply cuts equitably and fairly across the board, but singles out some services to cut while allowing others to actually increase. Even though the growth rate is restricted there is still an increase taking place. An example of this is the Indian health care service program in which the growth rate will be restricted to 6 per cent for 1995-96 and 3 per cent for 1996-97 and again 3 per cent in 1997-98.
We need to balance our budget as soon as possible. We need to relearn how to live within our means and not continuously borrow horrendous amounts of dollars. Once we have achieved a balanced budget we can implement a plan systematically and consistently to apply funds to our debt and reduce it.
The Canadian people are aware that we have a deficit problem as well as a debt problem. They are aware we must resolve our deficit problem before we can adequately address our debt problem.
Canadians are looking for leadership, for a plan that will not only provide guidance and direction necessary for all Canadians to participate in resolving our deficit problem as soon as possible, but would also identify what it would mean to our lifestyle during the whole process of achieving this.
Two plans have been presented. The government's budget plan reduces our deficit problem by less than half over a three year period, of which one year has already passed, and involves cuts in services to some Canadians and not others.
The Reform Party taxpayer's budget calls upon all Canadians to accept a decrease in services across the board and to participate in a nationwide plan to eliminate the deficit in a three year period.
The Reform Party's taxpayer budget not only achieves the position of living within our means in three years, it also achieves implementing the decentralizing of some services such as health care to their rightful administrative positions, the provinces. It also removes the cash payment whip, increasing the tax credits in such a manner to allow the provinces to acquire the income necessary to meet the standards of the Canadian health care program as dictated by the Canada Health Act.
There is no need to stroll through the years toward the balanced budget target-we do not know when that is-and borrow horrendous sums of money along the way, as we are being directed by the Liberal government. We do have an alternative plan, an action plan complete in three years, not some indeterminate time period.
We have this in the form of the Reform Party's taxpayer budget. We have Reform members in Parliament who, given the opportunity, are willing and committed to provide the leadership necessary to lead the people of Canada to a balanced budget in three years and to eliminate the need to borrow horrendous amounts of money from foreigners in order to live the lifestyles we wish to enjoy.