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.