Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of Canadians who were disappointed with the budget the government tabled in the House on Tuesday.
This disappointment is well-founded. Let us start by examining the words of the participants at pre-budget conferences, the words of government itself and the subsequent actions of the government in the 1994-95 budget.
One Calgarian participating in the pre-budget consultations stated: "Government cannot, in and of itself, create jobs. Government should get out of the way of private sector investment and employment". Many other Canadians share those views.
On page 7 of Facing Choices Together , one of the government's own booklets, the Minister of Finance acknowledged that the role of government should be:
-establishing a positive economic climate for the private sector, and particularly small business; reducing the burden of regulation and taxation; and strengthening education.
I thank the minister for acknowledging what Reformers have been saying for years.
It is unfortunate, however, that in the budget the actions of the government do not follow its words. Not only did the government back off in terms of action, but on page 8 of the same booklet the finance minister inferred that the people at these consultations are not to be trusted. To demonstrate this I will quote the minister:
-the government does not accept the view that there is no role for some immediate spending action.
The minister continues to ignore the views of the people by justifying a need for increased spending in programs like the infrastructure program. For the people to gain confidence in the integrity of a government there must be consistency between the words of the government and their actions. In this case there is not even consistency between the words of government on one page of their document and the words that follow on the next page.
Canadians used their common sense and said cut spending. In fact the government has increased spending. It is time for the government to start listening to the people.
I will illustrate how the figures in this budget affect the people in the Vegreville constituency and indeed across the country. At the end of next year, Canada's federal government debt will be approximately $550 billion. Approximately $40 billion will be added to this debt in the next fiscal year. Using my own family as
an example I will demonstrate the burden we are placing on the young people in Canada.
My wife, my five children, and myself owe about $140,000 as our share of the national debt. This year's deficit adds approximately another $1,700 to each person as their share of the debt. By the time my younger children reach their early twenties they will each owe a total of about $40,000 as their share of Canada's national debt if it keeps growing at the same rate.
I believe it is morally wrong for government to continue this wild overspending. If it continues Canada will reach a crisis situation, maybe as New Zealand did, within the next couple of years. If this happens, painfully drastic spending measures will have to be implemented. Some of this pain can be avoided if the necessary government cuts are made now.
I plead with the Minister of Finance to make these spending cuts or similar cuts in a mini budget in the early fall. Canadians cannot afford to wait another year for sanity to come.
Reform MPs have consistently presented positive, constructive alternatives to government proposals. In keeping with this I would like to offer some specific advice to the government.
Reform's specific proposals include: unemployment insurance should be made into a self-funding insurance plan where the benefits, the premiums and the funding are determined by employers and employees. If implemented this will save taxpayers about $3.5 billion per year. Eliminate business subsidies to the tune of about $3.4 billion per year. Stop funding special interest groups rather than just reviewing the matter, saving $500 million per year. Reduce foreign government aid by $700 million instead of the $400 million proposed in this budget. Decrease subsidies to crown corporations by 25 per cent saving approximately $1.25 billion per year. Cut non-salary federal government overhead by 15 per cent, saving about $1.8 billion per year. Target the Canada assistance plan to help poor Canadians for savings of about $1.5 billion per year. Reduce old age security for households making over $54,000 per year, saving $3.5 billion per year.
Excluding the unemployment insurance reform, the total savings I have just outlined amount to over $12 billion per year. The government should have made these, or similar, changes in this budget. They are the measures that were presented by Canadians at the pre-budget consultation meetings.
Will the minister and the government listen to Canadians this time? Will they present a new budget in the early fall putting their own words into action?
I will use the rest of my time to discuss agriculture in the budget. My greatest concern is that the government has made and will continue to make cuts in spending to agriculture before they have released farmers from the burden of over-regulation. For example, the government followed through on the 10 per cent cuts to the Crow benefit which were implemented by the former government in the 1993-94 budget. This eliminated funding of over $60 million to farmers. My concern is that while the funding is being reduced, the problems which plague the grain transportation system and further processing of agricultural commodities have not been dealt with.
Furthermore, the Crow benefit is still being paid to the railways. Grain cars are still controlled by at least three separate agencies and the Canadian Wheat Board restricts farmers from seeking out markets on their own and shipping to these markets.
Funding is being cut to farmers, but farmers' hands are tied so they cannot improve the situation for themselves. It is critical that over-regulation is eliminated before cuts are made.
At a conference I attended last weekend farmers made it very clear they do not want farm subsidies to continue indefinitely. They called for a massive reduction in government regulations to be followed by spending cuts. I hope the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, who also attended this conference, was listening carefully.
During the campaign, Reform presented a budget for agriculture for the next three years. This budget outlined our plan to target over $2 billion in support to producers and save taxpayers between $400 million and $500 million per year. Reformers promised to present positive alternatives and we have certainly done this in the area of agriculture.
Once again I must emphasize that before cuts can be made, regulations that prevents farmers from achieving open access to free markets must be eliminated. Federal-provincial government overlap must be reduced, and high administrative costs in delivering the various programs that are in place must be substantially trimmed.
Some of the specific recommendations that Reformers support are: first, consolidate over a dozen unco-ordinated safety net programs into three; a trade distortion adjustment program, an income stabilization program and an improved crop insurance program.
Second, reform the transportation system so that products may be moved by any route, any mode, and in any state of processing.
Third, improve private sector participation in research, education and job training.
Fourth, better target research funds to meet the goals that are set out by farmers and agribusiness.
Fifth, improve regulations relating to safety, fair competition, and dispute settlement so the marketplace can work better.
As well, we propose these changes to the Canadian Wheat Board: first, make the Wheat Board accountable to the people who pay the bills, that is western Canadian grain farmers. Second, allow the board to handle any crop, but permit farmers and grain companies the right to compete with the board. Third, continue Canada's loan guarantees as long as other countries offer them. Fourth, give farmers the right to choose between a pool price and a daily cash price.
I believe these changes to the Canadian Wheat Board will increase the price that farmers get from the marketplace. This increase in market revenue will reduce payments to safety net programs, a reduction that is not included in the Reform budget on agriculture.
In conclusion, the government made few changes in the area of agriculture in this budget, nor should they have without a comprehensive review of agriculture policy. However, studies similar to the one being conducted in the dairy, egg and poultry industries are virtually worthless because the scope of these studies is limited from the start. In this study, supply management is retained as a fundamental principle rather than allowing farmers and others affected to discuss this principle and decide if supply management is needed at all.
While a study of agriculture-