House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was firearms.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Yorkton—Melville (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Excise Act February 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to be the first speaker for the Reform Party on this bill. As members know, I am new to the House and studying this bill has provided me with an important lesson in the legislative process of which all Canadians should be made aware.

When the Prime Minister announced the government's national action plan to combat smuggling and Bill C-11 was introduced by the Minister of National Revenue, we assumed that Bill C-11 would contain all the measures announced in the national action plan to combat smuggling. Unfortunately it did not.

In fact all the tax measures announced by the Prime Minister in the national action plan to combat smuggling have been implemented using ways and means motions.

Ways and means motions require the government to bring a bill or bills before the House some time in the future. Ways and means motions cannot be debated. Therefore the tax reduction on cigarettes, the export tax on cigarettes and the health promotion surtax are not in Bill C-11. In effect they will not be seriously debated or subject to review and amendment by the Standing Committee on Finance until the government decides to bring in the other bills as required by the ways and means motions.

As I said, it was an educational experience for me to see how the government does things. The government is able to put its agenda forward even though there may be very little debate on it from its own MPs.

The measures introduced in Bill C-11 are fairly minor in comparison. The main amendments to the Excise Act and the Customs Act allow the government immediately to destroy certain seized property, even when there is an unresolved claim. It permits the government to give police forces the same seizure power as the RCMP.

Another amendment to the Excise Act requires cigarettes to be individually stamped if they are manufactured or imported into Canada in order to make sure that the duties have been paid. It is a very good control measure.

Finally, the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act has been amended to prohibit sales of tobacco products to any person under the age of 18. It makes it illegal to manufacture, package or sell cigarettes in packages containing less than 20 cigarettes. This is also a good measure.

On February 8 when the Prime Minister announced his national action plan to combat smuggling my constituency office received 52 calls, 43 of which opposed the reduction of taxes on cigarettes. Since the government made clear its intention to reduce the tax on cigarettes I have received letters from many different sources protesting the government's action.

Here are some of them: Saskatchewan Medical Association; Canadian Medical Association; College of Family Physicians, Saskatchewan Chapter; Saskatchewan Provincial Health Council; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Also opposed is the Saskatchewan Interagency Council on Smoking and Health which includes all the following agencies: Allergy Foundation of Canada; City of Regina Health Department; Community Health and Epidemiology Department of the University of Saskatchewan, Continuing Medical Education, Continuing Nursing Education; Manitoba and Saskatchewan Conference of the Seventh Day Adventists; Saskatchewan Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission; Saskatchewan Education; Saskatchewan Health; Saskatchewan Health Care Association; Saskatchewan Institute on the Prevention of Handicaps; Saskatchewan Medical Association; Saskatchewan Pharmaceutical Association; Saskatchewan Public Health Association; Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association; Saskatoon Community Health Clinic; University of Saskatchewan; Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan division; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan Inc.; and Saskatchewan Lung Association.

We also received representations from Saskatchewan Heart-Health which includes the following agencies and organizations: Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Diabetes Association; Consumers Association of Canada; Coronary Artery Rehabilitation Group; Coteau Hills Heart Health Coalition; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan; Interagency Council on Smoking and Health; Regina Health District; Regina Heart Healthy Partners; Saskatchewan Council on Community Development; Saskatchewan Diabetic Association; Saskatchewan Health, Community Services Branch and Health Promotion Branch; Saskatchewan Lung Association; Saskatchewan Public Health Association; Saskatchewan Medical Association; Saskatchewan Physical Education Association; Saskatchewan Recreational Association; Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association; Saskatchewan Restaurant Association; Saskatoon Tri-Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Program;

SIAST-Wascana Institute; and the University of Saskatchewan Heart and Stroke Epidemiology unit.

This huge list represents many people. It shows the great concern and the broad base opposed to the measures the government is taking. All these organizations have expressed their concern.

A letter opposing the tax reduction also came from the National Campaign for Action on Tobacco which includes the following agencies and organizations: Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Chiropractic Association; Canadian Council on Smoking and Health; Canadian Dental Association; Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation; Canadian Hospital Association; Canadian Lung Association; Canadian Medical Association; Canadian Pharmaceutical Association; Canadian Physiotherapy Association; Canadian Public Health Association; Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists; Canadian Teachers Federation; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; Non-Smokers' Rights Association; Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada; Canadian Association of Optometrists; College of Family Physicians of Canada; Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; and the United Church of Canada.

This represents a huge number of people who have objections and concerns regarding this measure. I will not mention any more but it gives an idea of how many people have concerns in this area.

Seventy agencies and organizations have made representations to me, just one member of Parliament. These 70 agencies and organizations are opposed to the tax reduction on cigarettes. In contrast, I have received just nine phone calls and one letter in favour of the measure announced by the government.

At this time I would like to read some of the concerns expressed in these representations. One letter comes from the Saskatchewan Provincial Health Council. It is addressed to the Prime Minister and reads:

We are puzzled and dismayed that your government is considering rolling back tobacco taxes.

Every province in Canada is involved to some degree in health reform and moving the emphasis from curing sick people to wellness initiatives and prevention of ill health. We have assumed that these initiatives were supported by our federal government.

Instead, we hear of your intended action which will reduce constraints and ultimately encourage and facilitate people, particularly our young people, to beginning or continuing an addictive practice that results in disease and death.

Please remember the following facts:

In 1989, tobacco smoking caused Canadians 9.5 billion in health dollars in the workplace.

One-quarter of high school students who smoke had their first cigarette by grade 6.

There are 43 known cancer producing substances in tobacco smoke.

Nicotine has similar drug and behavioural addictive effects as heroin and cocaine.

One hundred and seventy-five thousand teens will take up smoking if you roll taxes back.

Surely your government does not want to be remembered for contributing to the premature deaths of 250,000 people.

Another letter which is addressed to the Minister of Finance states: "We are writing to express our strong opposition to any decrease in tobacco taxes".

Here is another excerpt from that letter: "Tobacco is the only legal product available which when used as intended causes premature death and disability. Tobacco use is the largest single independent risk factor for heart disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada. It accounts for 12 per cent of all hospital admissions, 20 per cent of patient days in hospital, 20 per cent of disability pensions paid by the Canada pension plan and is responsible for 32 per cent of total future earnings lost due to premature death".

Where does this letter come from? It comes from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan. It has a concern in this area.

It goes on to say: "To decrease tobacco taxes now would increase tobacco consumption by youth, decrease government revenue and reward one of the major causes of the tobacco smuggling problem, the actions of Canadian tobacco manufacturers".

I would like to read more excerpts from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. This is a letter addressed to myself: "Dear Mr. Breitkreuz: What you may not be aware of is that, motivated only by profit, the tobacco industry has misrepresented both the nature of the problem and the consequences of its proposal to reduce taxes. Health groups, in contrast, have nothing personal to gain from the position we adopt on this issue. Our only interest is safeguarding the health of Canadians by preserving the tremendous progress realized over the past decade in reducing tobacco consumption. What follows is a point by point rebuttal of the tobacco lobby's main argument in favour of a tax rollback".

I will not read the whole letter, but it addresses the myth that there is a tax rollback that would stop the revenue leakage caused by smuggling. It said that in fact governments would lose substantially more revenue by lowering taxes.

Then it addresses another myth that tobacco tax increases have no impact on reducing smoking. The fact is that tobacco consumption has dropped dramatically in Canada over the past 10 years largely because of tobacco tax increases.

The foundation goes on to say in this letter that tobacco consumption in Canada has dropped 40 per cent over the past decade, even with smuggled tobacco factored in, primarily as a result of tobacco tax increases which rendered cigarettes less affordable. Canada's 40 per reduction in per capita tobacco consumption is significantly greater than that of the United States at 27 per cent over the same period. We must take note of these facts when we have this discussion.

Then it addresses another myth that tobacco is taxed at an unfairly high rate in Canada. In fact Canada tobacco tax levels are on par with most industrialized nations.

I would like also to read a brief excerpt from the Canadian Cancer Society. It says: "Dear Mr. Breitkreuz: We urge you to speak up in caucus meetings against tobacco tax rollbacks which would only benefit the tobacco industry and would be a public health disaster".

I have another letter here from the Saskatchewan Interagency Council on Smoking and Health. I will read an excerpt from it: "Very recently U.S. government researchers reported that while heart disease and cancer may be listed as the nation's leading killers, the biggest underlying cause of death is tobacco use. Let us not forget that tobacco is the greatest cause of preventable death in Canada". Let me repeat that tobacco is the greatest cause of preventable death in Canada.

Let us not forget that cigarettes cause health problems when used exactly as intended. Canada must continue with its combination of fiscal and health policies if we are to continue to reduce tobacco use.

We support very much what the government is doing, what its intended use is, but we must question the things that have not been included in the bill, the tax reduction measures.

Here is another news release from the National Campaign for Action on Tobacco. Again I will not read the whole release. I am just going to take an excerpt. David Sweanor, senior legal counsel with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, stated:

Reducing tobacco taxes would make tobacco products more affordable, which would result in enormous increases in consumption, especially among children and adolescents. The tobacco industry has lobbied itself into a win-win position. The industry profits from supplying tobacco products that end up smuggled back into Canada and, of course, the industry wins if governments bow to pressure to lower tobacco taxes.

That is one of the primary concerns that people expressed in those many phone calls we received. The government is bowing and the industry is bowing to pressure from certain groups to lower taxes.

Here is another letter from Saskatchewan Heart Health:

We are writing to urge you not to reduce taxes on tobacco products.

We believe that reducing taxes would not solve the smuggling problem, would lead to greater consumption of tobacco products by Canadians, particularly by youth, and would send the wrong signal to the United States at a time when they are considering a tobacco tax increase.

We have heard on the news recently that the U.S. was watching what we do in Canada and that it will encourage the U.S. not to increase taxes there. It continued:

Canada has witnessed an unprecedented decrease in tobacco consumption over the past decade, coinciding with significant increases in federal and provincial tobacco taxes. Because youth tend to have limited incomes, price increases have an even greater deterrent effect on them.

At a time when other countries view Canada as progressive in its tobacco taxation policy and the resulting decreased consumption, it would seem to be a very backward step to now decrease taxes.

This message comes from the Saskatchewan Lung Association and it is marked urgent. I will read three main points from its memo:

  1. Reducing tobacco taxes would be an economic calamity.

  2. Reducing tobacco taxes would escalate health problems.

  3. Reducing tobacco taxes would not eliminate smuggling.

I have one more letter from a constituent in MacNutt, Saskatchewan. I will not read the whole letter. It is addressed to myself:

Dear Sir:

We are appalled at the decision that the federal government is planning to remove some of the taxes on tobacco products. Again, just like previous governments, they are trying to please Quebec. Why is there not more effort put into the policing of smugglers? Also, why should Indian Reserves be exempt from the laws and taxes of this country? Are we not all to be treated equally? How would the lost revenue from cigarettes be made up? Who would pay for the extra health costs incurred by the greater use of tobacco products?

That is an opinion expressed by one of my constituents. We should be aware of what they are thinking.

As a Reform MP I am bound by the constitution of the Reform Party of Canada to represent my constituents' wishes.

It is easy to see how I will vote when the government introduces the bill on reducing taxes on cigarettes. While I am also in favour of lowering taxes I do not believe we should lower taxes until the budget is balanced.

Let us first reduce government spending, balance the budget and then look at lowering taxes. Are Reform MPs the only members of this House receiving phone calls and letters opposed to the tax reduction on cigarettes? Am I the only one being inundated with this kind of information?

I wonder how many other MPs will be able to face their constituents if they vote in favour of the tax reduction whenever that bill is brought before the House. We have to listen to the people of Canada. We have to hear their concerns and respond.

On February 8, after the Prime Minister announced the national action plan to combat smuggling, the leader of our party announced in the House that the Reform Party was in favour of some aspects of the action plan and opposed to others.

Our leader said that we were in favour of stronger law enforcement, that the Reform Party supported the government's anti-smoking education campaign, that the Reform Party supported the export tax on cigarettes, and that the Reform Party was opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes.

We supported three of the government's initiatives but we were opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes. Since the government's announcement our Ottawa hotline has received over 60 voice messages and faxes. The vast majority of those have been opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes.

I stand here today to announce to the House that I am generally in favour of the position announced by our leader on February 8, 1994 in the House and that this position is consistent with the wishes of my constituents.

I am going to reserve judgment, however, on each of the specific measures of the action plan on smuggling until my colleagues have spoken and provided the government with their analysis and introduced their constructive alternatives to the government.

While Bill C-11 does not contain all the measures announced in the government's national action plan to combat smuggling, we are convinced we cannot delay the debate of all the measures put forward by the government in its action plan.

We cannot wait another week or another month to debate the tax related issues in the House and fully inform all Canadians of the full impact and consequences of the action plan on smuggling. We should be debating all of those things right now.

The debate should start today on all the issues concerning the public and not just the few measures introduced into Bill C-11. How many people will become addicted to smoking before the real debate on tax reduction can begin?

In their calls and letters, people and the organizations they belong to told me some very startling facts. They told me that 840,000 more Canadians who will take up smoking as a result of the reduction of taxes this government announced.

This includes 175,000 new teenage smokers. They told me that 250,000 of these Canadians would die as a direct result of their addiction to tobacco products. They told me that in Canada there are 40,000 tobacco related deaths every year. This is before the 840,000 new smokers join the line-up at our hospitals and funeral homes. They told me that when the price of cigarettes goes up by 10 per cent, tobacco sales to adults drop by 4 per cent to 9 per cent. Sales to teenagers drop between 10 per cent and 14 per cent. Therefore it comes as no surprise that smoking will increase as dramatically when taxes are reduced.

They told me the extra health care costs associated with treating diseases in 840,000 new smokers could cost about $1.3 billion a year. Has the government taken this into account?

They told me they could not understand why a smuggling problem in Quebec should require the lowering of cigarette taxes across Canada. They told me they could not understand why the government has taken such broad action when the commissioner of the RCMP has confirmed that 70 per cent of smuggled cigarettes pass through the three Mohawk reserves between Cornwall and Montreal.

They told me they were concerned about whether the government's increased enforcement would be applied equally, regardless if the criminals live on or off Indian reserves. These are all questions they are asking. They also told me they could not understand why the Minister of Health could support the tax reduction on cigarettes when so many health organizations and most of the provincial ministers of health are so opposed.

That is from my own province where there is strong opposition. They told me they were concerned about the impact the government's measures would have on federal-provincial relations and relationships between the provinces, particularly Ontario and Quebec.

The Reform Party welcomes this debate so these issues can be brought before the House and before the Canadian public. As everyone can see we need answers to many questions. Will the government agree to answer these questions for us and for all Canadians?

In conclusion I want to pose some questions that Canadians have. First, what are the cost revenue implications in the short and long term? Has the government done a study? Do we know what the cost revenue results of this action will be?

Second, what will be the impact on the provincial health care programs and the federal government's share of these increased costs? Will we be able to afford the increased health care costs?

Third, what will be the impact on our law enforcement, justice and legal systems? We need to investigate all of these things.

Fourth, how many jobs will be affected in the tobacco industry? Has a study been done on this?

Fifth, how many tobacco farmers will be affected by this?

Sixth, if there are truly no "no go" zones in Canada, what impact will the stopping of smuggling on the Mohawk reserves have on self-government negotiations? Has anyone checked this out? Did government ministers and the Liberal caucus consult their own members from Ontario and across Canada before implementing these measures? Were all people asked? Were these MPs not receiving the same information that we as Reform MPs were receiving? Will we have answers to some of these important questions before we vote?

I appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to debate this bill. I commend the government on its openness. I am glad I am able to express some of the views of my constituents and my own personal concerns.

The Reform Party believes that the national action plan to combat smuggling could be improved. Our speakers will be proposing constructive alternatives the government might wish to consider and bring forward as amendments during the committee stage.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to express my views on the government's anti-smoking measures in Bill C-11. I hope we have a good day as we debate these measures.

Unemployment Insurance February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, if increasing UI premiums kills jobs, then it follows that reducing UI premiums would create jobs.

When does the minister expect to announce a reduction in UI premiums?

Unemployment Insurance February 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

On January 1 the government imposed a 7 per cent payroll tax on all workers and employers in Canada in the form of an increase in unemployment insurance premiums, which all economists agree will kill jobs.

How is this tax increase consistent with the government's job creation objectives described in the red book?

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have taken to heart what has been said. I will try to be brief.

I feel it is very important that we sit down together and discuss these things, as my colleague from the Bloc has said. We need to do this in an atmosphere that our standing committees are conducive toward. We have these committees in place. They have a mandate to review the programs. I am on the Standing Committee for Human Resources Development and we are looking at a budget of $68 billion. Right there, if we are going to restructure that, there is a tremendous opportunity to do the things suggested here and those are to review social programs and look at ways in which spending can be reduced.

We have all these standing committees in place already. I do not think we are going to solve our problems in government by bringing in more government. That contributes to the problem we already have. We need to reward people for finding ways to do with less, to downsize government and consequently spend less. That is the aim that we must have. We must never lose sight of that as we work on our individual standing committees.

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak against the first part of the Bloc's motion and in support of the second part.

Surely the Bloc must see the obvious contradiction in its motion. It is calling for a formation of a special committee of Parliament and proposes to examine the public expenses of the federal government. The second part of the motion focuses on the elimination of duplication between federal and provincial programs.

Does it not see the special committee of Parliament as a duplication of administration? Is this not why we already have a House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts?

If the Bloc is sincere about eliminating duplication and wants the review of the public accounts to be open and transparent to the public then I would suggest that it amend its motion and that the House direct the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to undertake the review of the Auditor General's report and the elimination of duplication between federal and provincial programs. As it stands I cannot support the motion.

My constituents in Yorkton-Melville voted for me because I promised to oppose the waste of taxpayers' money. The way I see it, the special committee proposed by the Bloc and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts would be doing the same job.

When a farmer wants to spray his crop in order to kill weeds he does not first of all buy a spray that will kill thistles, spray his crop for thistles and then buy another spray to kill the wild oats and then buy a spray to kill the mustard, and another spray to kill the chickweed and go over his crop half a dozen times. That

would be foolish. That would be inefficient; it would not work. A farmer who would do that would not be in farming very long. It is no different when it comes to government. We cannot have the same thing being done over and over again. It will not work.

I would like to comment on the three themes that are proposed by the Bloc in its motion: first, the need for a review of the Auditor General's report; second, the need for a review of federal-provincial programs with a view to eliminating duplication of effort and saving the taxpayers' money; and, third, the need for an open and transparent process permitting public input and scrutiny of our public accounts.

There is a need to review the Auditor General's report while it is in progress, not to wait until his report is released. When the Auditor General encounters waste, mismanagement or corruption, these matters should be brought before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts immediately. If this were done, we might be able to stop the bleeding before the patient becomes terminally ill.

The Auditor General should have access to any and all public accounts, including cabinet ministers' travel expenses.

The Auditor General should have the authority to make public the decisions and waste that he uncovers in the Board of Internal Economy if he feels it is necessary and in the public's best interest.

I agree with the Bloc Quebecois that there is too much duplication of administration between the federal and provincial governments. For example, there is the duplication between unemployment insurance and social assistance. Both programs provide protection for the unemployed. Many people who exhaust their UI benefits go to welfare. In Saskatchewan almost half of the people on social assistance are considered fully employable. Here we have two programs serving much the same purpose and many of the same clients.

There are two sets of bureaucracies, one in the federal government and one at the provincial level. The duplication continues.

Unemployment insurance collects its own special payroll tax from both workers and employers in the form of the so-called insurance premiums. When the UI account goes into the hole, like it has for the past three years, the taxpayers, mainly workers and employers, are asked to pay again, only this time through income tax and corporate tax.

Social assistance is paid for on a 50:50 basis by the federal and provincial governments. Again there is only one taxpayer footing the bill.

I do not want to belabour the point. I think anybody with any common sense can see that there is duplication and where there is duplication there is waste of taxpayers' hard earned income.

In my former life I was a school teacher. This reminds me of a time when the school board was trying to provide the same level of service but on a fixed budget. It was running buses along the same road, twice in the morning and twice at night; once to pick up the elementary school children and the second time to pick up the high school students. When that fixed budget could be stretched no more, when the crunch came, it had to come up with new ideas. It found a way to make the run once and to pick up both groups of students.

If there has ever been a budget crisis it is now, and we have to come up with a better and cheaper way of doing things. The programs should be delivered by the level of government which can best provide the service for the best and the lowest possible cost. It has been my experience that the closer the government is to the people, the better the program that can be delivered and the lower the costs.

I have the honour of serving on the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. I will make sure that the issue of duplication between federal programs administered by the department of human resources and provincial governments are addressed in our review of the social programs. I believe it is the duty of each member on each standing committee to ensure that they do the same. I would, therefore, not recommend the need for a special committee to look into duplication.

I strongly support the Bloc's recommendation for a more open and transparent process permitting public scrutiny.

The more I work in Ottawa the more I realize that the process is a big part of the problem. We found during the referendum on the Charlottetown accord that people want to get directly involved in the decision making process.

We also found that Canadians could understand complex issues such as the Constitution. There was a desire among the vast majority to know more and more about issues that affect the future of our children. They correctly analysed the situation, ignored the cries of the so-called elites and made the right decision.

We need to put more trust into the common sense of the common people. Nowhere is this common sense needed more than in the review of public accounts.

While the Minister of Finance is proud of the four conferences he organized as a part of his pre-budget process, I do not know

of one person from my constituency who was invited to attend or make a submission. So much for an open process.

Any consultative process should be open to all Canadians. Using today's technologies, it is possible for all Canadians to register their votes on issues of public spending and public borrowing.

Annual tax returns could be used by taxpayers to register where and on what programs they want their money spent. We need to put Canadians back in control of government. Once every four or five years we have democracy but in between we are run by decree of the governing party. Ask the people in Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville if they feel they live in a true democracy.

When families are in a financial crisis and can no longer borrow money to support their standard of living, they sit around the kitchen table and talk about how everyone is going to pull together to make ends meet.

Canada is just like a family. Our government meetings should be held at kitchen tables instead of conference tables. We need to sit around and discuss these things. All three levels of government have their hands in the same taxpayers' pockets and there is less and less room for the taxpayer to get his own money out of his own pocket. There are three levels of government but only one taxpayer. We all have to work together to get out of this financial mess.

In closing, I commend the Bloc for bringing forward this motion and drawing attention to the need for reform. I would like to again register my objection to duplicating the efforts of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts by forming another special committee as proposed in the Bloc's motion.

While I cannot support the first part of its motion, I would be able to support the second part of the motion calling for a review of the Auditor General's report, the elimination of duplication between federal and provincial programs and a call for more public scrutiny of our budgeting and spending processes.

Social Security System February 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the comments that have just been made. I also appreciate the atmosphere that exists in this House at the present time. It is non-confrontational and we are working together. We do not have all the solutions, but I think we can work together toward some of them.

One thing mentioned was the unemployment insurance. If we had taken some of the recommendations of the Forget commission and implemented them, if we had put UI on an actuarially sound basis where the premiums paid for it and employers and employees were responsible for administering it, we would not have the deficit or the debt that we have at the present time. It is good to implement some of these recommendations and not just throw out the baby with the bath water.

I look forward to working together on this. I do not know if there was a question asked, but those would be my comments. We should try to get some of these plans on a more financially sound basis. We cannot continue to go into debt at the rate we are now. It is going to threaten all of our social programs. The interest payments, over $40 billion, are horrendous, and that is going to bring this country to its knees. We have to do something right now to preserve our social programs by being careful about how we spend our money.

Social Security System February 2nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the Minister of Human Resources Development for his commitment to the process of change. I find his remarks both refreshing and encouraging. This commitment to the process of change that the government proposes generates genuine hope for the future.

However, I wish to remind the government of the hope we had in 1985 when a new government launched a royal commission on unemployment insurance. Then in 1986 those hopes were dashed when the Forget commission issued its final report and dozens of good ideas were disregarded because of opposition attacks on a few ideas that needed a bit more work and more input from common sense Canadians. Adversarial politics reached its zenith in the 1980s. Canadians expect that Parliament in the nineties will be both different and better. Canadians expect that the good ideas brought forward in Parliament should be implemented regardless of which member or which party initiates them.

In my reply to the speech from the throne last week I talked about how our safety nets are catching more people than the fish nets in Newfoundland have been catching cod in the past few years. While many people have been saved by our safety nets, there is a growing number who are caught and trapped in them. W5 reported last Thursday night that one in every four people in Toronto is dependent on transfer payments from the government. Even in my home province of Saskatchewan where our unemployment rate is always low because many people move out of province when they become unemployed, the statistics are still alarming. Spending on social programs has increased seven times between 1972 and 1992, and as of September 1993 there were almost 40,000 welfare recipients in Saskatchewan, a 13 per cent increase in the last year.

The tragedy here is that 49 per cent of welfare recipients were considered fully employable.

Our challenge is to give Canadians new hope for the future. Can we give them new hope by going deeper into debt? I think not. For years the cry from special interest groups has been to spend more and more money, and it has not helped. The problem is quickly going from bad to worse.

The Newfoundland Economic Recovery Commission recently published a report called "A Proposal for a New Income Supplementation Program and Other Reforms to the Income Security System". Page 2 of this report outlines some of the weaknesses in our current income security system. First, the system discourages self-employment and small scale enterprise. Second, the system undermines personal and community initiatives. Third, the system undermines the importance of education. Fourth, the system distorts the efforts of local development groups. Fifth, the system creates disincentives to work. Sixth, the system impedes productivity for employers.

Page 6 of the same report states: "On the whole the current system has induced an unconscionable degree of dependency which is unfair to contributors to the unemployment insurance fund and in light of recent fiscal restraints is not sustainable".

In order to address this crisis, Newfoundland has proposed to replace both unemployment insurance and social assistance with an income supplementation plan that would direct over 85 per cent of the money currently spent on these programs to the people in Newfoundland who need them most. I agree with the thrust of the Newfoundland proposal, which would basically eliminate the duplication of federal and provincial programs that have ended up serving much the same purpose and many of the same clients.

Last week my hon. friend from Medicine Hat outlined some key principles that should govern this process of modernization and restructuring of the unemployment insurance program. First, he stated that all stakeholders must have a real voice in the process. Second, decisions must be made in the long term best interests of the country. Third, decisions should take into account the current economic, social, cultural and political environment. Fourth, the programs must have clear, measurable objectives. Fifth, all programs must be user friendly.

Some of the people in my constituency say our UI program is not user friendly but maybe it is a little too friendly to the users.

Sixth, all government programs should treat all Canadians the same, regardless of where they live. Finally, he said all government programs should promote and encourage personal responsibility and initiative.

Some principles of my own that I would like to add to my hon. friend's list are as follows:

(a) Our social programs must be financially sustainable in the long term.

(b) Our social programs must make people less dependent on government. There should be incentives built right into the system that would wean people off the system and not make them more dependent on it.

(c) Our social programs should be designed so that there are incentives for the public service when the program objectives are achieved. For example, public servants should be rewarded for reducing spending. They should be rewarded for lowering taxes, rewarded for increasing the number of new business starts and expansions, and ultimately rewarded for lowering unemployment.

(d) Our social programs should be designed to eliminate all duplication among the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

(e) Our social programs should learn from the lessons of the past and be designed to eliminate the abuse to the system and the outright fraud that hurts every Canadian taxpayer and robs them.

(f) Our social programs should be targeted to those who most need them.

(g) The need for social programs should be based on family or household income and be administered through the income tax system. I believe we should have one income security program that would replace all others.

(h) Our final proposal for reform of our social programs should pass regional fairness tests.

(i) Whatever the final package of social reforms looks like, the majority of Canadians should be in favour of it.

How we manage this process of change will go a long way to determine how successful the end result will be. The process has to be truly open to new ideas, even radical new ideas. The

process should be open to new ideas from all Canadians, not just the so-called elite.

The best design for our social programs will come from an open bottom up process. It is time to start putting our trust in the common sense of common people. As we embark on this process of change, we could learn something from the private sector.

Every year the Fraser Institute holds an economy-in-government competition. This competition is open to all Canadians. Canadians are asked to submit ideas to the Fraser Institute on how to save government money without reducing services. A panel of experts reviews the submissions and selects the finalists, and the finalists submit complete proposals. The panel reviews the proposals and selects the winners, who win substantial cash prizes.

The whole process works much like a suggestion award program. The Fraser Institute publishes the winning proposals and sends them to the federal and provincial governments. I recommend that the government seriously consider this kind of approach to kick off this process of reform.

This suggestion award approach would be exciting. It would permit all Canadians to get directly involved in the modernization and restructuring of our social programs and it would reward those Canadians who come up with the good ideas that government implements.

If the government is interested in the grassroots approach, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development could design and administer the suggestion award program.

In conclusion, fishermen in Saskatchewan have designated many lakes as catch-and-release lakes. This means one can catch as many fish as one wants but one releases them so they can continue to grow and propagate, providing more fun and relaxation for sport fishermen and, I might add, generating more revenue for the government. Maybe we should start a catch-and-release program for those unfortunate people who have got caught in our social safety nets so they can be retrained, find work and, I might add again, generate more revenue for the government.

I look forward to participating in this exciting process of change.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

It would take a bit of time to elaborate on the negative income tax. Basically something like that would work in this way: If a person was below a certain income, instead of paying income tax he would receive a certain percentage. I must say at the outset that the purpose of this is to create an incentive for people to work and earn money, not that the minute they do this they are penalized the amount they earn by not receiving a certain amount in social security payments or Canada assistance or whatever it is.

That is the purpose of a negative income tax. A level would be developed. If someone did not reach that level he would get a certain percentage. If someone went over that level of course he would begin to pay income tax. In that way an incentive to find work is built into the system and people are not penalized for finding work.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure if a question was asked or whether a statement was merely made, but I would like to pick up on something that member said.

It is precisely because we are sympathetic to the disadvantaged and poor, those who are less fortunate in society that we need to redesign these programs. That is because we cannot continue to run deficits and continue to build up our debt to the

point where everything will collapse and we will be left with nothing.

We need to redesign these programs, to streamline them so that they meet the needs of Canadians. This is what I am advocating. It is precisely because we are trying to protect that element in society which will remain unprotected if we do not try to do something.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, on your election and appointment. I also wish to congratulate the Prime Minister and each of the members elected to this House.

I pledge to support the positive reforms the government introduces and condemn any and all policies and legislation which does not have the support of the majority of Canadians or my constituents.

I have lived in a number of countries in the world and I always keep coming home to Yorkton-Melville, the heart of Canada's parkland area.

An issue which has been raised in the House more than any other is which riding is the most beautiful riding in Canada. I suggest, when the more pressing issues are behind us, that this matter could be resolved once and for all in a special day-long debate.

The voters of Yorkton-Melville deserve a special thank you for their participation in the democratic process and for electing me as their servant. I pledge to faithfully represent my constituents' views in Ottawa regardless of the party or candidate they supported. I am their spokesperson. Through me their voices will be heard in this Chamber.

I saved my most important thank you for the last, that being to my wife Lydia, my family and friends. Without their support I would not be here.

The throne speech mentions a lot about the need for reform of the social security system. Unfortunately our so-called safety nets have been catching more people than the fish nets in Newfoundland have been catching cod in the last few years. In fact, in addition to the 1.6 million unemployed there are another 869,000 workers who are so discouraged that they have given up looking for work. If this is not discouraging enough, the Globe and Mail reported last week that almost a third of Canada's work force is locked into insecure jobs. The end result: unemployment insurance now costs employers, workers and taxpayers almost $20 billion a year.

Between 1972 and 1992 the number of welfare recipients has more than doubled to over 2.7 million people. In 1992-93 it cost the federal government $7.3 billion. Taxpayers get hit again and again as the provincial and municipal governments have to pay their share as well. These statistics are clear evidence of a failing economy.

In Newfoundland it seems that the only nets that are full are the safety nets. The system, not the people, is to blame.

The replacement of both unemployment insurance and social assistance with an income supplement plan which would direct over 85 per cent of the money currently spent on these programs to the people in Newfoundland who are most in need was recommended by the Economic Recovery Commission report recently published.

The report is a condemnation of the existing social security system. Page 6 of this report states: "On the whole, the current system has induced an unconscionable degree of dependency which is unfair to contributors to the unemployment insurance fund and, in light of recent fiscal restraints, is not sustainable".

In Saskatchewan our safety nets are also full and overflowing. In the last 20 years the amount of money spent on social assistance programs has increased seven times. In 1991-92 the case-load was over 28,000 people, 47 per cent were considered fully employable. The taxpayers would not feel so bad if they saw that the money we were spending was actually solving the problem. But it is not.

It does not matter whether you live in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland or Yorkton, Saskatchewan, the system is sick and getting sicker.

I would like to commend the government for the commitment to announce an action plan for a major reform of the social security system within the next two years and for its commitment to involve Canadians in the consultative process.

I also wish to commend the provincial governments that are leading the way on income security reform in this country, particularly the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Alberta. The time for protecting each other's turf is long past. The time for true innovation and common sense solutions is at hand. Canadians not only expect this of us, they deserve it.

While we are encouraged by the government's commitment to undertake a consultative process for the next two years, we are surprised by the lack of detail about what direction modernization and restructuring might take. Yes, Canadians want to be directly involved in the process of change, but they expect some leadership when we are embarking on what appears to be a complete overhaul of our income security system.

If the government's action plan is to succeed it will have to pass several tests. First of all, will our social programs be financially sustainable or will we keep mortgaging our children's future?

Second, will unemployment insurance be returned to the principles of a true insurance plan?

The third test is will the government's restructuring address the weaknesses identified by the Newfoundland Economic Recovery Commission?

The fourth test is, considering our forty-five billion dollar deficit this year and our half trillion dollar debt, why is it necessary for this process to take two years when so much data, analysis and public input already exists on the subject?

The Reform Party's blue book provides some leadership, direction and grassroots input. Principle 10 of the Reform Party Constitution states: "We believe that Canadians have a personal and collective responsibility to care and provide the basic needs of people who are unable to care and provide for themselves". Our blue book goes on to state that government should first, develop a family or household oriented, comprehensive social security system administered through the income tax system. Basically, one system would replace all others.

Second, explore all the options including a guaranteed annual income, security investment fund and a negative income tax, to name a few.

Third, design several programs that would encourage families, communities, non-governmental agencies and the private sector to resume their responsibilities in the social service areas.

Fourth, target social service benefits to those who need the help the most.

Last, ensure that our social programs are financially sustainable in the long term.

In closing, I would ask all members and parties to co-operate and collaborate as we reform our social safety nets. A net can have two uses. Nets can stop a person from getting hurt when he or she falls, but a net can also trap its victims so they cannot get out. Let us help release many of the people who are trapped in our safety nets.

In 1989 a report issued by the Economic Council of Canada said: "We need to turn our safety nets into trampolines. People want and need work not welfare. People want and need to be trained and retrained to survive in this global economy".

Judith Maxwell, former head of the Economic Council of Canada, was quoted last week saying: "Measures to encourage skills training and mobility could create ladders to help people climb out of low paying, insecure jobs. Canadian workers need to know how to hitchhike down the new information highway".

I also believe Canadians have a right to live anywhere they want in this great country, but they do not have a right to become permanent wards of the state. We need to create incentives in the new system that make people independent of government, not dependent on it.

Let us help people help themselves. Let us eliminate the duplication of effort by federal and provincial bureaucracies. Let us provide help to the people who need it most. Let us make sure our social spending is an investment in the future. Most of all, let us show the voters of this country that their tax dollars are being well spent.

I appeal to the House to support freer votes so that all members have the freedom to vote as their constituents wish and I appeal to all members to support any and all motions before this House that reduce the tax burden on all Canadians.