Madam Speaker, the motion before us today reaffirms the desire of Canadians to remain federally united as one people and asks the House to support them in that desire.
Surely nothing could be a higher priority for those of us who have accepted positions of trust and responsibility in the Parliament of Canada than to preserve and protect the unity and character of the country we have been elected to serve.
Unity is more than an abstract concept, more than some ideal detached from practical realities. There are things that unify people in the structure and operations of a federation. Citizens must realize concrete benefits from their association in the confederation.
In Canada our social support systems have for decades been an important element in making us the envy of the world. Unfortunately our current economic situation has eroded those traditional support systems. In light of this our citizens want to be assured that leaders of the new Canada of the 21st century will act and act decisively to ensure they continue to benefit from affordable and sustainable social services.
A fresh approach to the delivery of social programs is imperative for one simple reason. Our country's financial resources are being increasingly drained away by Canada's huge debt. Over one-quarter of our total spending is paid out in interest every year, a whopping $41 billion this year alone on the more than $500 billion which was borrowed by past Conservative and Liberal governments.
Incredibly this present government intends to borrow a further $100 billion which will diminish our cash resources by an additional $4 billion to $6 billion each year in higher interest charges. These are billions of dollars that will be lost when we need to fund health care, pensions and education for Canadian citizens.
For more than two decades those we have elected to manage the affairs of this great nation have seen fit to violate the most basic rule of sound fiscal management, living within one's means.
In order to buy the goodwill of every interest group in society and to fund extravagant and wasteful government, Conservative and Liberal decision makers have placed a mortgage on our country which as of today stands at nearly $518 billion. That is more than $18,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada. We owe almost $1,500 more every single second than we did the second before. In fact, in the time it takes me to complete my remarks in today's debate, our country's debt will have shot up by nearly a million dollars.
This incredible mismanagement and the resulting debt has severely reduced our ability to pay the cost of the social programs that we have enjoyed in the past.
With this evidence before them of instability and unsustainability of current social programs, it is no wonder many Canadians are losing faith in our federal system.
It is no wonder they believe a united Canada offers little long term personal benefit in return for the huge long term liabilities it has amassed.
As services are reduced so is the incentive to stay together as a country. Raising taxes with decreased benefit to the citizens
being taxed has throughout history been a sure fire recipe for social and civil unrest, instability and eventually even revolt.
If Canadians willingly continue to turn over a large amount of their earnings to the federal government, they will expect value for their money. Canadians have in the past been proud and thankful for the fact that they can rely on programs to ensure that their basic needs will be met when they are most vulnerable, when they are young, old, sick or destitute.
It worries many of us when services and benefits are wasted on those who do not truly need them. For too long our political leaders seem to have lacked the will to make the hard choices, the courage to do the right thing, to put social programs on a sound financial footing for the long term.
Reformers believe that Canadians want to preserve federal funding in support of health care, advanced education, the child benefit, the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, veterans' pensions and old age security for households below the national average household income.
They believe their contributions to the Canada pension plan should be managed in such a way as to ensure that benefits will be available to them in their retirement years. This means that there will be less money available for OAS for seniors with a household income above the national average, for federal support for UIC and to some extent for welfare and equalization payments.
Canadians are committed to caring for those who cannot care for themselves, the most vulnerable members of society, but they know we cannot possibly sustain our present social program spending without some intelligent priorization and reorganization.
Unfortunately in spite of the current roles with our shaky social safety net, our federal government continues to refuse to take the bold steps necessary to save it. When others like the Reform Party offer specific and concrete proposals designed to preserve and protect essential services, they are derided and met with fearmongering.
One particular blatant example of this attitude is our present health minister labelling those who want changes designed to preserve health care funding as advocating a two-tier health care system. She knows full well there are at least 10 tiers of health care in this country, her own privileged access to DND medical services being one of them.
The ministers of the government should fear the consequences of not acting to bring about the change. Threatening provinces will accomplish very little. What are Canadians to think when the cost of services goes up? The level of services goes down but they are told that constructive proposals for better management are harsh and unfair.
An explicit element of the Reform Party motion being debated today is recognition of and support for the desire of Canadians to remain federally united as one people, committed to sustaining social services. We believe present and future Canadians could count on receiving the services they most need and want if we took the following steps.
First, reorganize contributory social programs like UIC and the Canada pension plan so that they pay for themselves. Our unfunded CPP is a political and fiscal time bomb. The Reform Party believes that Canadians need the financial security which would be provided if CPP were fully funded. If this does not happen, the CPP premiums of working Canadians will be hiked, something that is already happening. CPP premiums started out at 3.6 per cent of income and today they are 5.2 per cent. By 2016, premiums are expected to be 10 per cent of income.
Second, focus the benefits of non-contributory social programs like old age security on households whose incomes are below the national average Canadian family income. With good management, we can continue to assist seniors who need help from society. We cannot do this if we give away money to citizens who are not in need.
Third, give students and job trainees a greater say in how education dollars are allocated by the use of education vouchers. Let user needs and demand drive the provision of education services rather than automatically awarding institutions scarce funds without reference to provision of effective training.
Fourth, amend the Canada Health Act to allow provinces more flexibility in the funding of health services to better rationalize diminishing resources and ensure that essential services can be maintained.
No one should be denied adequate health care in Canada because of inability to pay. It is clear that if we want to count on this we can no longer afford to pay 100 per cent of the cost of 100 per cent of the services for 100 per cent of the people regardless of need.
It fools no one to pretend that nothing has to change in the provision of health care services. Rather, we ought to honestly face the new realities and work to ensure that Canadians can have confidence that certain core services will be maintained and indeed be sustainable in the long term.
I believe that Canadians want to live in a country whose social spending is organized fairly so that we pay our own way. We expected individuals, groups, governments and our country as a whole to operate under that principle. We know that if we do we have ample wealth to preserve and sustain essential social
program spending and fulfil the obligation of any civilized society to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
I challenge members of the House, the leaders and elected representatives of the people of Canada, to work together to build a new Canada to meet the challenges of the 21st century, including managed essential social programs secured for this and future generations of citizens.