I cannot afford to do that. I appreciate that this is a two part budget and nothing in the first part will correct the problem. Given the track record on promises for the future on the second stage I have no optimism.
We have been living beyond our means for over 20 years and over that same period each budget would acknowledge how serious the problem was, yet we still overspent and the debt continued to grow.
In spite of this history of year after year of failed budgets we continue to go down the same road. Apparently no one is asking the question: "What are we doing wrong? Why have our plans not worked"? The problem to me is the fact that we place all of our emphasis on those things that we have little control over; interest payments and growth in the economy.
The one area where we do have complete control is spending and yet we ignore it in the hope that we can grow our way out with optimistic growth projections and pray that interest rates will remain low. The government has a spending problem. There is no other variable available that we can control.
If we are serious about eliminating our deficit and then reducing our debt we must attack spending. Make no mistake about it, this is a war of Canada's survival. I am not talking about nibbling around the edges like this budget. I am talking about serious spending cuts, not next year or the year after but now.
From my background in small business I know how important the bottom line is. If you want to stay in business and employ people you must make a profit or at least break even. As a manager of that business if you fail to make a profit you fail the employees who lose their jobs. The bottom line is profit for people. Government is a business, not a business for profit but a break even business and the government is failing our people.
You cannot lose money year after year. You can borrow to a point. However, governments have gone far beyond the point of good business sense. Our lenders do us no favours by allowing us to go deeper and deeper into an abyss of debt. The pain and suffering that will come will not be any easier as we delay the inevitable as the budget does.
During the first few days of the 35th Parliament I heard the phrase "lean but not mean" many times. In some ways those are meaningless words of comfort. You cannot be lean but not mean. You are speaking with a forked tongue. To those who are going to be affected by your decisions to cut or reduce you are mean. To the 16,000 military personnel in the defence cuts plus the thousands of jobs lost in the cancellation of the EH-101 contract without debating the merits of those decisions, you were mean.
Unfortunately due to excessive spending by former governments there is no painless way out of the current mess. The budget has only delayed the day and continues to play a cruel hoax on Canadians by pretending there is an easy way out. There is not. We have 20 years of history to prove it.
It is ironic that on the first day of this Parliament the federal budget reached half a trillion dollars, a national disgrace for a country of 27 million people, a personal debt of $74,000 for each family of four living in the country, $18,000 of debt for every man, woman and child.
As shocking as these numbers are, the government is prepared to add almost $40 billion this year toward an additional $100 billion over the next three years to a total of $600 billion or $22,000 per person by 1996. It is madness. We cannot afford the programs we have and yet we are prepared to add more.
The 35th Parliament set three targets. The first is the largest deficit in our history, the largest number of new members, and the largest debt ever. What a great opportunity with so many new faces with fresh ideas to turn this place around and leave it in four years a better place than we found it, fiscally responsible and economically sound.
In 22 years of Liberal governments the debt soared from about $25 billion to $180 billion with an absolute freefall starting in 1975-1976. After losing to the Conservatives in 1984 the debt plunged to a record $500 billion in 1993, almost triple in nine short years. This in spite of the fact that each and every budget announced the intention of attacking the deficit and the debt.
Where is the credibility? We have had 20 years of failed budgets, 20 years of broken promises, 20 years of tax increases, and 20 years of declining services. Is there any wonder that Canadians have lost faith in their politicians?
There is a frightening similarity between overfishing and overspending. For years we were warned that our fish stocks were in danger and that continued fishing at current rates would deplete them, costing thousands of jobs. We ignored that advice at our peril. We have the same scenario today in out of control government spending. We have been warned it cannot continue yet we ignore the warnings.
With our situation deteriorating by the minute as it has done for the past 20 years no one is asking why. What are we doing wrong? How do we stop this addiction to spending? Like drugs or alcohol in many ways it is an addiction. Like an addiction the first step toward a cure is acknowledgement that we have a problem.
This budget fails that test. Much worse, it says very clearly that our finance minister does not understand.
Unless we face and solve these problems now nothing else matters, not health care, not education and not our ability to compete.
The headline on the cover of this week's Maclean's magazine asks the question: ``Are we cheating our kids?'' While the story deals with education, the same question applies to this generation's overspending and the terrible debt load we are leaving on their young shoulders.
The reason I am here today is my deep concern for my children and my grandchildren. I am ashamed of my part in this spending binge that has mortgaged their future. Sitting back was not good enough. I had to get involved and do what I could to save their future, and in saving their future we would be saving Canada from the terrible prospects of bankruptcy.
Some politicians will say that deficit and debt are a problem but not to worry. Those politicians are burying their heads in the sand. We have been told for 20 years that things are going to get better, yet our situation has never been worse.
In the next three years we will add $100 billion more debt and we will still be overspending by $25 billion.
For 20 years I ran a small business in Barrie providing employment for some 20 people. Each month and each year I worried that we would maintain a profit or at least break even so I could protect their jobs and mine. It is no different from any other business, large or small. It is no different than the taxpayers across this great country making ends meet, living within their means.
Why is it that governments think they can do otherwise? A big part of the answer is the fact that governments have been able to come back to us for more taxes, never cutting spending, just increasing taxes. The day of tax increases being productive is over.
My constituents told me very clearly they have no more to give. Any further attempts at a tax grab would ignite a tax revolt. Many of our citizens have expressed their disgust in past increases and broken promises by joining the underground economy which is costing honest taxpayers billions of dollars.
As part of our zero in three plan we outlined a savings of $500 million in subsidies to special interest groups that have been living off all taxpayers when they should have been getting funding from those they supposedly represent. We are doing a further study on this issue.
Governments do not create jobs. The private sector does. The $6 billion infrastructure program outlined in the budget to kick start our economy was described by Sir Roger Douglas, former finance minister of New Zealand, as taking a feather duster to the Eiffel Tower. Those few jobs will disappear after the funding runs out and we will be a further $6 billion in debt.
The private sector will create the long term jobs our children and grandchildren need. The private sector is not looking for government handouts. It is looking for governments to get off of its back and out of its pockets and out of the pockets of its customers.
The reduction in UI premiums is a step in the right direction and I applaud the government for that.
In closing, let me say that all of the problems we face are pale by comparison. If we fail to attack this overspending, this mortgaging our children's future, we will fail Canada. We are facing a battle that is greater than any our country has faced before. Working together we can make the tough decisions to bring back fiscal responsibility.
This budget is not the answer. We cannot delay. We can pay now or we can pay much more dearly later.