Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of my first speech to the House of Commons in the 35th Parliament of Canada let me first express my sincere gratitude to the residents of my riding of Mississauga South. I am honoured to represent their interests in Ottawa and to serve their needs.
I also wish to thank my wife Linda, and my children Aaron, Reagan and Whitney. All members of Parliament know the great personal sacrifice that our families have made so that we can pursue our goals. In this, the International Year of the Family, we say to you: "We miss you, we love you and we thank you".
We also thank the Prime Minister for his vote of confidence and the historic decision to allow all members to speak freely and openly on important issues such as this pre-budget debate.
Canadians are well aware of the complex and troubling problems we face today such as chronic deficits, high unemployment, poor economic performance and the lack of credibility of government.
In 20 years of corporate life and as a chartered accountant I learned quickly that for every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it is wrong. To focus solely on deficit reduction is too simplistic. We need a balanced approach to fiscal and monetary policy to promote economic growth and job creation. This, coupled with expenditure rationalization, will lead to deficit reduction.
Financial performance can be improved in two ways: increasing revenues or decreasing expenses. On the revenue side, tax increases are not an option in this budget. Canadians are already over-taxed. Alternatively, we need to broaden the tax base by expanding the economy.
On the expense side, cutting and slashing to lower the deficit would be destructive. Moreover it does not take into account the value of an integrated expenditure plan which can create synergies and opportunities in support of economic growth.
Government must redefine its philosophy on expenditures, viewing them not as spending but rather as investing in people, programs and assets. We are investment managers of the taxpayers' funds, and when we invest, not only must we set returns and performance requirements but we must also become accountable to the people of Canada. When these returns and performance requirements are not being achieved government has a duty to take corrective action.
Annually the Auditor General has reported on countless examples of waste and mismanagement. We must respond to these reports and demonstrate that we have learned from our mistakes.
Our social programs were initially designed to provide a social safety net for those in most need. Although the system served Canada well in the past, we must overhaul and renew these programs to fit the realities of the 1990s and into the 21st century.
We must simplify our tax system and restore equity and fairness both in the personal and the corporate sectors. We must streamline government operations at all levels to improve productivity and efficiency. We must provide incentives for new investments, particularly in small and medium sized businesses to create lasting jobs for Canadians.
For every one dollar investment in Canada the multiplier effect is five times in terms of the contribution to our economy. This creates new jobs and a broader tax base which is essential to the meaningful reduction of the deficit.
At this point I would like to make a few specific suggestions for budget consideration. We must aggressively deal with the underground economy to ensure that more are paying their share so that all are paying less. With an estimated 20 per cent of our economy underground the government has a duty to conduct more network audits and to introduce more comprehensive
forensic auditing techniques to address this most serious problem.
In regard to RRSPs, contribution limits should be set at levels that will allow all Canadians who are not members of pension plans to adequately provide for their retirement income. These levels should be comparable to those afforded to members of registered pension plans.
With regard to the $100,000 lifetime capital gains exemption, it has not met its objectives of stimulating investment in Canada. The exemption should be discontinued and the savings be reinvested in job creation initiatives.
Old age security for our seniors should not be affected by this budget. The present tax law already claws back a portion of the benefit where the taxpayer has other income. The Prime Minister told seniors during the election campaign that old age security was a dividend, recognizing their lifetime of contribution as taxpayers and we should honour that position.
The rising level of foreign-owned debt is draining capital out of Canada. As such, consideration should be given to incentives for Canadians to invest in our country, such as tax exempt bonds.
On unemployment insurance, benefits should be paid only to those Canadians who are unemployed and looking for work.
The current practice of paying benefits where there is only a disruption of earnings should be reviewed and a threshold of earnings should be considered as a basis for increasing the rate of clawback on these social benefits.
On immigration, the federal government must enforce its immigration sponsorship agreements where the sponsor is able to meet their obligation. In 1993 the region of Peel alone had some 11,000 welfare claims from immigrants who were already covered by a sponsorship agreement. Thirty-eight per cent of those agreements broke down in the first year, rising to 62 per cent before the end of the second year of the 10-year sponsorship. In addition, 59 per cent of those sponsors were children sponsoring their families. In a large number of cases they did not have the financial ability to do so.
The rise in defaults has been dramatic and the burden is falling squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian taxpayer. Fiscal responsibility requires that we must address this situation.
On health care, the federal government contributes 24 per cent of the cost through transfer payments to the provinces and, as such, should ensure that the funds are being appropriately spent. However, Ontario has over two million unauthorized health cards in circulation, costing that province as much as $900 million per year in fraudulent claims.
Although this is under provincial jurisdiction, there is only one taxpayer and this type of savings opportunity cannot be ignored.
With regard to economic growth, new partnerships must be built with the business sector which will be responsible for the creation of 85 per cent of all new jobs. That means that the government must provide meaningful incentives, such as job creation tax credits, training subsidies, UIC premium exemptions and wage subsidies as its partnership contribution.
We must also provide a supportive environment by streamlining government services and creating one stop shopping for those services, especially as it relates to small and medium sized businesses and to export opportunities.
In conclusion, the pursuit of economic growth coupled with sound financial management and wise investing will allow us to deal effectively with the challenges before us. To quote from the government red book, a strong economy is the essence of a strong society and therefore jobs and economic growth must be our top objectives.
Political credibility requires fiscal responsibility. The people of Canada have given this government the mandate to make the tough decisions necessary to restore our economic strength and to create opportunity, hope and jobs for all.
Canadians also understand that all who are able will be called upon to contribute their fair share. We need a tough but fair budget. We need it now for the long term benefit of all Canadians.