House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was per.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for St. Paul's (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 54% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget February 20th, 1997

The member opposite talks about higher revenues. He is against a growing economy.

In 1998-99, federal program spending will have fallen for six consecutive years in absolute terms. Look at the figures. As a percentage of GDP, government revenues have been outstripped by cuts in spending by government. In fact in 1998-99, federal program spending will have fallen for six consecutive years in absolute terms and it will be almost 14 per cent below its level in 1993-94.

This progress on the deficit front has a vital carryover to our federal debt. It will translate into the first significant decline in the federal debt to GDP ratio since the mid-1970s by over three full percentage points over the next two years.

This is being achieved by cuts that are reasonable, that the Canadian people are able to absorb and that they are supportive of. They are cuts that are not gutting the vital social programs of this country and they are not gutting this country in the process. Our approach has emphasized action inside government. There were no increases in personal income tax rates. In the 1997 budget there are no tax increases whatsoever.

There is another way to underscore this point. Of the cumulative fiscal actions we will have taken in the last three years, almost 90 per cent have been expenditure savings.

The bottom line is that we have reformed the entire structure of program spending. Our approach has been balanced and one that recognizes two critical interrelated goals. It is not good enough just to get our fiscal house in order in a way that is sustainable. We also have to make sure that our approach advances our economic growth and job creation objectives and strengthens social well-being.

As the Minister of Finance said in his budget speech: "The responsibility of government is to do more than just balance the books". That is why, in line with our financial improvement, the 1997 budget announced targeted initiatives to further advance our economic and social priorities.

In economic terms, we are investing in tourism, small business and rural development. Each of these sectors offers significant job creation possibilities.

In a world where economic and technological change moves exponentially, we must build the foundations of tomorrow's jobs and competitive advantages. This is why we are also investing in higher education and innovation-through a foundation with $800 million in funding to support projects in the areas of the science, engineering, health and the environment.

Further, our government remains committed to the fact that a strong economy is built on a strong society and a strong society is one that cares for those in need. Surely this is a fundamental raison d'être for government itself.

Our deficit reduction plan has not been a smoke screen for government withdrawing but for continuing to be able to stand alongside Canadians. We are providing new support to strengthen the health care system. We are moving with the provinces toward a more effective national system of assistance to low income families with children. We want to put an end to the welfare trap where families can end up worse off by returning to work.

These investments have been carefully designed so that our fiscal targets are not in any jeopardy. Nearly 80 per cent of these initiatives take the form of targeted tax relief rather than increased spending.

Even with our new measures, the level of program spending in 1997-98 and 1998-99 will still be lower than what was projected in last year's budget. The members opposite must be sitting there asking: "How do they do it?" We do it with reasoned and prudent action in the interests of Canadians.

I focused most of my remarks on our fiscal success. Let me repeat that financial turnaround is itself an investment in some-

thing bigger: the economic future of our country and its ability to provide Canadians with jobs and growth and preserve valuable social assistance.

Because time is short, I am going to conclude. There has been a repetitive mantra through my remarks, that results are or will be the best ever. That only reflects the magnitude of the fiscal and economic turnaround that hard work by Canadians and tough choices by government has won us.

It is easy to forget how dismal the prospects were when we came to office in the fall of 1993 and how concerned all members of the House were about where we would be three years hence. The economic challenges were formidable, but our resolve has been firm, our plan consistent and concrete. As a result our economic and fiscal fundamentals are strong and are improving. We will not let that progress falter because it has not been a goal in itself but a means to ensure that Canadians have a strong and vibrant economy that provides long term jobs and a society we can be proud of because it does not deliberately leave anyone behind.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity before speaking to the budget to respond to some of the things that have been said by some members opposite.

The Reform Party has been critical of a number of things. First is the child tax benefit which will raise federal spending for children once fully implemented to $6 billion a year. Incredibly, the leader of the Reform Party or, as someone referred to him yesterday, the leader who aspires to be the leader of the fifth party in this House, said yesterday that commitment is totally negated by the cuts in transfers since 1993. That is an incredible statement from the Reform Party, the party that wants to cut faster, including transfers, so that it can give a tax break to its friends. It is really astounding. Its budget plan would decimate education and health.

Reformers cannot have it both ways. They cannot criticize us for not doing enough out of one side of their mouth and out of the other side of their mouth say "but if it were our way, we would cut faster". When it comes to protecting medicare, education and children, Canadians do not look to the members opposite but to this side of the House.

Then incredibly Reformers in their debate over the last days have been critical of deficit reduction, arguing that some of the relief comes from growth in the economy. I will just stop there. What are they saying? Are they against growth in the economy? They are right, the economy is growing because of the steps we have taken in our three prior budgets. Corporate profits are up, tax revenues are up as a result of that and somehow that is a bad thing. It is really quite something to behold and extremely difficult to understand.

Then there is the Bloc, members of the official opposition.

Last night, I read the speech made yesterday by the hon. member for St. Hyacinthe-Bagot regarding the budget. Unfortunately, it was pretty confused and his logic was way off.

On taxes they attack us on a lack of action. They allege we are lazy. I would say that if anyone is lazy in this debate it is the members of the official opposition because they did not read the document entitled "L'équité fiscale", one of the budget documents.

If they had read it, they would have found examples of measures adopted since 1993 to enhance tax fairness.

I could cite from that just three examples of steps we have taken to address the very concern they raise.

For example: eliminating the $100,000 lifetime capital gains exemption, extending the base for the alternative minimum tax, eliminating tax advantages available through trusts, restricting the use of tax shelters.

The opposition is opposed to all those measures. They voted against our budget.

They were opposed to these measures and yet they stand here and say that we have not done anything in the tax fairness area. We have done it but we have done it without their help.

Again on the point of a total lack of logic in the speeches by the members from the official opposition, incredibly they allege that the deficit has come down because tax revenues have gone up. Then a page later, in the speech I read last night, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot said that it was because of cuts. Which is it?

One cannot talk from both sides of one's mouth at the same time.

Let me turn to the budget itself. When we came to office in the fall of 1993 our country faced a number of daunting political policy challenges about the economic and fiscal fronts. We were not

alone. Indeed our problems were shared by most industrialized countries.

Where Canada is unique perhaps is in the straight ahead approach we have taken to implement lasting structural reforms. We went beyond hopeful talk to hard action and tough choices and that is delivering accelerating results and growing benefits to Canadians. The evidence is clear and concrete. The opposition merely has to put aside their partisan glasses and read this year's budget with open eyes. That is what financial markets have done; that is what Canadians have done.

I need not remind this House why we took these vigourous and disciplined measures to put our financial house in order. Large deficits and a huge public sector debt made interest rates soar, undermined confidence, drained domestic savings and caused a considerable increase in the country's foreign debt.

That illustrates our philosophy in financial matters. Dealing with the problem of public finances is not go a goal in itself-we see the reform of public finances as a prerequisite for national growth, job creation, security and economic and social independence. We are starting to see the results.

In the economic arena, forecasters concur. As I said earlier, Canada will be a growth and job creation leader in the G-7 this year. One of the key engines for this growth is interest rates. Currently short term rates are near a 35-year low. In fact, they are lower than comparable U.S. rates for maturities of up to 10 years. That is no accident. Our fiscal plan combined with our commitment to low inflation has created the conditions and the credibility needed to bring down interest rates.

In today's debate I want to continue to focus on our fiscal record. That is not to ignore important investments that the budget announced in job creation and in vital social action for low income children, for health care, for the disabled and to assist charities. This is in the historic tradition of nation building and support for those in need that has been the heart blood of our party and distinguishes us from others in this House.

These investments would not have been possible without jeopardizing jobs and growth, without our sustained progress in deficit reduction. It is jobs and economic growth that are themselves key components in helping eliminate poverty and hardship.

The budget announced this week shows that our consistent cohesive fiscal plan is working. It confirms that our federal deficit this year will be no higher than $19 billion. I want to highlight some points about that.

First, that result is over $5 billion below the target we set out. This is the third year in a row that we have bettered our targets.

Second, when we took office the deficit that year, 1993-94, was $42 billion or 5.9 per cent of GDP. This year as I said the deficit will be under $20 billion, closer to $19 billion or lower, or less than 3 per cent of GDP. We have cut the deficit in half in three years.

Third, our 1996-97 results will also be more than $9.5 billion below our deficit a year ago. That is the largest year over year decline ever in the history of this country.

Fourth, how we are achieving this dramatic progress is just as important as the results themselves. The vast bulk of our fiscal action has been on the expenditure side, cutting spending rather than raising taxes. In fact this is also our third budget in a row with no increase in personal income tax rates.

There are a number of factors contributing to the success of Canada's deficit diet.

First, our budget planning was based on cautious economic assumptions. These included the assumption that the interest rates would be higher than what all of the forecasters in the private sector had predicted. However, interest rates were lower than forecast, because of the credibility we re-established on the financial level. Lower rates meant lower costs of servicing a much smaller public debt.

Then there was the contingency fund, included in our plan in order to prevent our finances from going off course, in the event we ended up with a crisis like that of the Mexican peso and the volatility it caused in the international markets and in interest rates.

However, we also made it very clear, from the outset, that, if this reserve were not needed it would not be spent, it would go directly to reducing the deficit. And this is what happened again this year.

But budgets are about tomorrow, not just today. Here again our fiscal story is a good one and I am afraid it drives the members opposite nuts.

The 1997 budget reaffirms that we are clearly on track to meet our deficit targets of 2 per cent of GDP in 1997-98 and 1 per cent in 1998-99. That 1 per cent mark will represent a historic turning point for our country. It is a point where our financial requirements, that is, the need to borrow net new money on financial markets to pay for our programs and debt charges, will be eliminated.

While there will still be a deficit, it will be managed through the federal government's own internal resources. That means that 1998 will mark the first time in 28 years we will not have to go to the

markets for new money. It will put the Canadian federal government in an enviable position internationally.

Financial requirements of course is the way most other major countries measure their deficits. By eliminating them in 1998, Canada will have the best financial record of any G-7 country based on current national budget plans.

It must be clear that the turnaround of Canada's public finances is not the work of the federal government alone-it is a national accomplishment. The provinces and territories significantly improved their financial situation too and continue to do so. This is why the total deficit in the government sector should improve considerably in Canada, compared to the other countries in the G7.

I want to return to a key point. Our federal deficit improvement has been overwhelmingly achieved through cuts in program spending instead of boosting the tax burden.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, this temporary change will add $195 million in July 1997 to the budget for the working income supplement, which means $70 million more than the increase proposed on the same date in the 1996 budget.

And the other $600 million will come in by July 1998. So that is real, new money.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Is it not a good thing?

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon.

member opposite. Yes, we have talked a great deal about the G-7 in comparisons with Canada but not just on deficit reduction.

She conveniently left out these comparisons. According to the OECD, according to the IMF, Canada in the year that is beginning April 1 will lead the G-7 in growth. Canada will lead the G-7 in job creation. According to an IMF report reported widely in the press yesterday, Canada is well ahead of other nations in the G-7, indeed throughout the OECD, in dealing with the problems of an aging population. Does she want to comment on that?

Second, in her focus on merely $50 million for children, she is leaving out for some reason the budget announcement of over $600 million in new money available for children, une prestation fiscale pour enfants bonifier.

It is going to raise the amount of support that the federal government provides to children under the child tax system as it currently is moving to a new system from $5.1 billion to $6 billion. She leaves that out for some reason and talks only about $50 million. It will be $850 million added to the existing program, $600 million of which is new money.

For some reason she leaves out entirely le Programme visant à améliorer la santé de nos enfants, an extra $100 million for prenatal nutrition and for the vital CAPC program. Is she aware of that or has she just forgotten?

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member for Capilano-Howe Sound over three years now, as both of us are members of the finance committee. We may not agree on everything. However, the member for Capilano-Howe Sound always has been fair and always has been prepared to give credit where credit is due. He has done so consistently through the last three budgets, in which I know he took a great interest and. He spent a great deal of time sharing his views with us about what the government should do and responding to what it had done on each occasion.

His colleagues talk a great deal about doing politics differently. As he prepares to leave the House, on behalf of the Minister of Finance, myself and many of my colleagues, I want to say the member for Capilano-Howe Sound is truly one who has done politics differently in the House. I compliment him for it. He will be missed.

Points Of Order February 19th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the first point I would make is that this is certainly not a matter of privilege.

The second point is that I would not question the behaviour of any member of the House. I recall being in the Chamber just before the minister rose to speak. All members on all sides of the House were receiving documents as the minister arrived. Some were flipping through those documents. All members of the House were treated alike. The documents were here within the safety and security, if you will, of this Chamber with no prospect whatsoever of any kind of opportunity for anyone to profit from it.

Canada Pension Plan February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have explained, and maybe I have to go slower, that it has been fundamental in western societies indeed since the turn of the century to have programs like a public pension plan, social insurance type programs. Working Canadians

of all ages want that. They want to know it will be there for them. It will be there for them.

By contrast, the member opposite and his colleagues have proposed a combination of things which may or may not be there for them at some unknown cost to Canadians. When are they going to come clean and tell us what their costs would be?

Canada Pension Plan February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, what we have done in responding to the wishes of Canadians is to provide a plan that is sustainable in the long term. By moving to the new contribution rates we are ensuring that they will not have to rise to the rates they would have had to rise if we had not taken action, something no earlier government has done. The provinces by and far agree with this. Canadians will benefit from sustainability of the plan, a plan they know will be there for every working Canadian.

Canada Pension Plan February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, their statements to the effect that these are taxes rather than describing them as what they are have left an unfortunate impression among Canadians. These are contributions to a public pension plan available to pay benefits under this plan. They are not revenues of the Government of Canada.