Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this issue. I had the privilege and pleasure to sit on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. We underwent an extremely extensive consultation process. I believe we met with 429 different groups and organizations over the past number of months and we filed our report a week and a half ago. We listened to what the Canadian people were telling us, and that is contained in the report.
I consider the budget, which we all expect to be tabled in February, to be what I would classify as a threshold budget. It is a budget that I submit will set the stage for Canada and the government for the next 4, 5, 7 and 9 years out. It is up to us to lay out the path that we intend to travel.
However just as it is important to tell people where we will go, it is equally important to look back and see from where we came. I hate to go over this again, because the House has heard it so many times, but I will because we should never forget this. We rode our horses so close to the cliff in 1993 that I believe we came very close to going over that cliff.
The statistics are well known to every person in the House. The annual debt was $43 debt, interest rates were approximately 11%, unemployment was approximately 11% and the debt to GDP ratio was 71%. The last threshold budget was in 1995. Decisions were made, decisions that were very difficult and very necessary. The right policies were adopted, the right programs were put in place and we know the results.
Forty-seven billion dollars has been paid toward the debt in this country. We have had five consecutive years of surplus. Inflation is within the band of 1% to 3%. Interest rates are extremely low. Since January 1 of this year, we created almost 800,000 jobs, which is a tremendous record. GDP growth this year has been 3.4% and it leads the G-7. Projected GDP growth next year is expected to be 3.4%. These are tremendous results. The finance minister has implemented approximately $100 billion in tax cuts.
The correct monetary and fiscal policies, the stabilizers, are all there: low inflation, low interest rates and tax cuts and they are working. However at the same time there are pressures. People in my riding and right across the country have told us that there are issues that they want to see the government address, mainly in social spending.
These issues were with us last year but unfortunately we had the events of September 11. I suggest those issues were put off. Last year we had what I call a security budget. Some of the security and border issues were addressed by this country, but those pressures that were very much with us 15 months ago did not go away. They were merely deferred and they are very much with us at this point in time.
We have to make priorities when the Minister of Finance tables the budget in February of next year. I suggest and submit that the number one issue in the minds of all Canadians is health care. We have had the benefit of the Romanow report that was filed very recently and it is my suggestion to the Minister of Finance that the general guidelines of that report be followed.
Equally and just as important, any additional funding has to be conditional upon accountability and change. The public has told us that. If the accountability is not there and if the required changes are not agreed upon, then the public does not want any part of it.
The second issue is Kyoto and a lot of the environmental issues that face the country. The government in the next budget has to make a statement. It has to proceed boldly, with conviction and courage. It must make a clear statement that it has to seize the momentum and further resources have to be expended on this issue.
Another issue that the government ought to have a look at is post-secondary education. It is a major issue. I do not view it as a cost as much as I do as an investment in the economic growth, economic security and social security of tomorrow.
There are many other issues which have to be looked at. Again, these are the priorities. On child poverty, I agree with the announcement made by our Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne to increase the national child benefit. Also an increase in defence spending should be seriously looked at.
One other issue that may not be as much a monetary issue as a policy issue is the airport traffic security fee. That has to be very seriously restructured. It is having a detrimental effect on short haul rates and small regional airports. I have made that point a number of times previously.
There will be some funding issues. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance had it correct. It is a matter of making choices and setting priorities, but these are the issues which I think the Minister of Finance should look at as he prepares the budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year.
In closing, I look forward to the tabling of the budget and to being further involved in the consultative process in the days and weeks to come.