Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. We are very confident that you will be an impartial Speaker. It is a great thing to see you there. It is a great thing for your constituents as well.
I would also like at the beginning of my maiden speech in the House of Commons to thank my constituents for this great privilege. It is a humbling experience to stand in this great Chamber of democratic deliberation for the first time and experience what the veterans are familiar with. I only hope that I can, in whatever modest way, meet the aspirations and expectations of my constituents of Calgary Southeast.
I have been asked to speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne is remarkable. It occurred to me that it was simply a more stilted and formal version of the 56 page red book II, the one that we released ahead of the Prime Minister. It was a book filled with congratulations. The government congratulated itself on what it sees somehow as a brilliant record. But let us take a closer look at that fiscal and economic record.
The Liberals talk about job creation and prosperity. What we have today is 1.4 million Canadians out of work. We are now in the 98th straight month of unemployment over 9 percent, the longest string of high unemployment since the great depression. That is the economic record of this government. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent. In some regions it exceeds 25 percent. Young people, people of my generation, are without hope. They have lost economic opportunity because of the policies of this government.
We have seen a 7 percent decline in the after tax family income of the average family since the beginning of this decade because of the tax increases of the Liberal government and its Tory predecessor.
A quarter of Canadians tell us that they go to bed worried about job security, worried about whether the next day they are going to have enough money to put bread on the table and take care of their families. We see anaemic economic growth of under 3 p. cent. While we have 9 percent unemployment, our largest trading partner, the United States, has an unemployment rate of almost half that. Our second largest trading partner, Japan, has an unemployment rate at a third of that level. The government calls this an economic record to be proud of.
The Liberals tell us that they have managed nearly to balance the budget which they helped to create over the last 25 years with their Conservative friends. How did they do that? By acting responsibly as so many of the provincial governments did? By acting in the same way a small business or family would by paring back the non-essentials, by cutting? No, it was done by increasing the tax burden on Canadian families, by killing jobs, by increasing payroll taxes. It has income tax hikes riding on top of the de-indexation of the tax system imposed by the Tories in 1986. That grosses $23 billion in new government revenues through 36 tax increases on top of the 72 tax increases introduced by the Mulroney Tories. That is the shameful fiscal record of this government. And what has it done?
It has added $100 billion of debt and called it responsible fiscal management. That $100 billion brings our total indebtedness to just under $600 billion which, of course, does not include another $600 billion in the Canada pension plan Ponzi scheme for which my generation is going to have to pay. That is the fiscal record of this government which has led to $47 billion a year in annual interest payments, a sum large enough to be the operating budgets of five of the the smaller provincial governments. That is a shameful record and one it ought not to applaud.
So what is the answer? One would think that here in this last Parliament of this century, in this throne speech which sets the agenda for the new millennium that there would be a great vision, a new departure, a new direction for Canada. It might take the advice of the overwhelming majority of the people in the business communities who know how to create wealth because they do it every day.
Instead, the government has gone back to the traditional, old 1970s Liberal policies of bigger government, chequebook politics, trying to buy the votes of its special interest friends by opening up the treasury yet once more for all its pet projects. The throne speech is filled with page after page of new spending programs. There was only one mention of tax decreases and debt reduction while we are sitting in the midst of an economic crisis in the country. There is no imagination, no vision in this throne speech.
Why can the government not think about the kind of real economic distress that real Canadians are feeling? For instance, what about providing Canadian families with tax fairness? The government's throne speech is filled with talk about children who do not seem to have families, children who seem to be the worthy recipients of government programs designed by the Liberal government's social engineers. It does not talk about traditional families who choose to have a parent stay at home to raise their children receiving tax fairness, even though this House with all party support in the last Parliament passed Motion No. 30 sponsored by the member for Mississauga South, calling for tax fairness in the tax code. The government has done nothing to act on that. It seems to be satisfied with penalizing families who make the sacrifice of giving up a second income to get by. They really believe that Liberal politicians and big government bureaucrats know better how to spend a dollar raised from the taxpayers than does a family or small business person or someone who is struggling to get a foot up in the labour market.
I want the government to listen to the message it got from the last election. It came within a whisker of losing power. We know that the Liberal Party exists to take and maintain power. The government ought to listen to the message that was sent by the voters. The message was, let us not go back to the future. Let us try a different approach.
What about tax fairness for families? Heaven forbid, what about cutting capital gains taxes to increase investment and productivity, to reward people for taking risks in our economy? What about cutting payroll taxes so that we are not penalizing people for creating jobs and small businesses? What about cutting income taxes and doing it now so that people can see the light at the end of the tunnel and not just another big government spending program? Why can it not see that there is a different solution.
In closing I invite my colleagues on the opposite side of the House to take a serious look at the kind of economic record that 30 years of Liberal and Tory big government spending has brought us. Governments around the world are doing that.
The government's ideological friend in Washington, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, said last year that the era of big government is over. The Labour Prime Minister in the United Kingdom said that the end of the welfare state has come. Yet this government is the only Liberal government in the developed world which seems to think that the old policies of the welfare state are the ones that can sustain a healthy and prosperous economy.
Their allies overseas and outside this country know differently. Governments like the New Democratic one in Saskatchewan know differently. Provincial governments that have made the hard decisions know differently. It is time that this government finally came down on the side of fiscal responsibility, growth, hope and opportunity for Canadians by providing them with real meaningful tax relief.