Madam Speaker, the hon. member brings an interesting perspective on the issue of fiscal policy to this House. As he mentioned, he was elected in 1972, I believe.
The process of deficit reduction has taken 15 years. Those are not my words. Those are the words of the Leader of the Opposition in the budget debate, that it has taken 15 years of policies, including the GST, free trade, deregulation of financial services, transportation and, I would add, the elimination of the national energy program.
The Conservative government was able to reduce the deficit as a percentage of GDP from 8% in 1984 to 5% in 1993 and reduce program spending growth per year from 14% to 0% growth when the Conservative government left office in 1993. I think the hon. member should look back with some pride at his contribution at that time and having contributed to deficit reduction and policies that contributed to it and that were continued under this government.
During the 1970s and 1980s, we saw significant debt growth, in fact debt growth from zero in 1970 in Canada and in many industrialized countries, including the U.S. Public opinion was not in favour of reduction in social spending. Public opinion ran contrary to the whole notion of attacking debts and deficits during the late 1960s through to the early 1990s.
My question for the hon. member: As a member of a party that professes to be focused on grassroots populism and on effectively listening to the public and responding to whatever the public wants, representing via a poll or whatever means that it has at that time, as a Reformer, if he or if his party had had access to the levers in the 1970s and 1980s when the public clearly did not want reductions in social spending and when the public clearly was not focused on deficit reduction, would he not, as a corollary of that argument, have focused on and supported public opinion at that time and would he not have perpetuated policies effectively representative of the public at that time?