February 8, 1983

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION


The House resumed from Monday, December 20, 1982, consideration of Bill C-132, an Act to amend the Family Allowances Act, 1973, as reported, (without amendment) from the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs; and the motion of Mr. Hawkes (p. 21697).


LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

Before recognizing the Hon. Member for Winnipeg-St. James (Mr. Keeper) to continue his speech, I should inform him and the House that the Hon. Member had already spoken for two minutes before Christmas and, therefore, under the new rules has eight minutes of his speaking time left.

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Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Cyril Keeper

New Democratic Party

Mr. Cyril Keeper (Winnipeg-St. Janies):

Mr. Speaker, I hope that people understand that the two minutes that you referred to are the two minutes that I spoke on this Bill in a particular debate, as before Christmas I spoke in this House, obviously, for much more than two minutes.

I am glad to be recognized to speak in this debate, but in a way it is sad because it follows the arbitrary action of the Government to impose closure on this debate. I suppose that the Government moved in that direction because the arguments that have been put forward from this side of the House are beginning to hit home and it is feeling the heat. The Government probably feels that if it allowed this debate to continue, it might feel the continuing pressure to withdraw this legislation and to change its policy of six and five as it applies to Family Allowances.

The legislation that is before us today, Bill C-132, the application of six and five to Family Allowances in this country, is fundamentally an attack on human dignity. I want to elaborate on that. It is an attack on human dignity in the sense that, first and foremost, six and five is the Government's economic policy. It is its contention that inflation is the most important problem in this country and it has demonstrated to everyone that fighting inflation is its priority. In other words, by the application of this six and five program, the Government has accepted continued unemployment for at least 1.5 million people. This figure is the official statistic of unemployment in this country. So having 1.5 million people unemployed has not yet moved this Government to make unemployment its

priority. It continues with its misguided efforts at wrestling inflation to the ground, and that is what six and five is all about. Fundamentally and effectively the Government has abandoned any notion of providing employment for everyone who wants and needs employment, and has abandoned the policy objective of full employment.

In these times that is a direct attack on human dignity, because every person has a basic need to engage in productive activity. In this society in which we live, the way we distribute revenue is through the employment that we have. In our society it is necessary to have a good income in order to live a decent life and sustain one's feelings of self-worth and dignity. Six and five, as an economic policy, places the priority on fighting inflation, downgrades the importance of employment and undermines the dignity which the average Canadian enjoys.

Unemployment not only hurts the person who is unemployed, it also hurts the person who has a job. It does that because everyone is insecure in their employment, and they live in fear. To live in fear is a very negative experience and adds in no way whatsoever to the quality of life in this country.

The reason I emphasize the employment aspect of six and five, when we are talking about Family Allowances, is that it is hard to understand what the Government is doing in applying six and five to Family Allowances. In the first instance what it appears to be doing is attacking the notion of universality in social programs. In other words, it has capped the increase of Family Allowances, which is a universal program which goes to every citizen in the country. In order to deflect criticism, the Government has added something to the Child Tax Credit, which is a selective program. It has made a fundamental choice to go with selective programs as opposed to universal programs.

The problem with that approach in the social policy field is that it is an attack on human dignity. I say that because we know that once programs start to move down the road of selectivity, once you have to prove that you are poor before you can get social benefits, these programs have attached to them a negative stigma which says that anybody who applies is less than an equal, less than the person who does not have to apply.

This is a retrograde step in terms of social policy in this country and a direct attack on the respect that each individual receives. This Bill needs to be withdrawn. It should be put in the ashcan. The Government has to come up with better social

February 8, 1983

Family Allowances Act, 1973

policies that go in the right direction, and with an effective economic policy.

One of the problems in moving this Government to withdraw this legislation is that the whole of the Opposition, the Official Opposition and the NDP Opposition in this House, are not united. The Progressive Conservative Party have taken two stands on the six and five program. That has made them ineffective in fighting this inhumane action by the Government.

When the six and five legislation first came out, the Tories voted for it. They moved in one direction. They did not seem to understand the implications of the six and five legislation, the fact that it places a priority on fighting inflation and downgrades the problems of unemployment. They did not seem to understand that this legislation would be applied to Family Allowances, old age pensions and Public Service pensions. When the specific legislation applying to Family Allowances came into the House, they reversed themselves and went in the other direction.

What message is the Government to take from that? It takes the message that the Official Opposition, the Tory Party, does not know what it is doing and cannot mount an effective attack against the Government, even though the legislation is inhumane.

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Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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PC

Douglas Grinslade Lewis (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Progressive Conservative Party Deputy House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lewis:

What about the polls?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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NDP

Cyril Keeper

New Democratic Party

Mr. Keeper:

One of the Tories says, "What about the polls?" 1 am sure that is a reference to the fact that the Tories are riding very high in the public opinion polls right now. It is good to be high in the public opinion polls in politics, but it is also necessary and important to look at the substance and quality of legislation before the House.

One of the reasons that the Tories are in trouble now and are such an ineffective Opposition is that they always have their eye on the public opinion polls. That is why they are into a leadership convention. They are afraid that their present Leader could not take advantage of their high standing in the public opinion polls and could not take them to office.

A single-minded eye on the possibility of winning in the public opinion polls is not good enough. It leads to ineffective opposition. If the Tory Party could get its act together, make up its mind about six and five and join us in fighting this attack on human dignity, this attack on Family Allowances, we could do something about it. When the Tory Party decided it did not want legislation that affected the oil industry to go through this House, the bells rang for two weeks. If the Tories were to adopt the same attitude with regard to this legislation, we could stop it. An effective and united Opposition could stop this inhumane action and restore human dignity as a value in public policy.

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PC

Blaine Allen Thacker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Blaine A. Thacker (Lethbridge-Foothills):

Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Member for Winnipeg-St. James (Mr. Keeper) has again shown the classic socialist approach to his Party's philosophy. They truly believe that if they say something often enough, people will come to believe it as they have come to

believe it. They truly are ideologues who want to remake mankind into a socialistic image, but they always get botched up when they deal with real people so that they find themselves falling behind in the polls.

[DOT] (U15)

They continually refer to this bell ringing episode as if it were an episode to save the oil industry. It had nothing to do with that at all, Mr. Speaker, because all of the Bills went through. The bell ringing incident was because the Government was trying to jam 15 pieces of legislation through in one omnibus Bill. We knew, as the Opposition, that Canadians would never be able to come in and speak properly to that Bill in its omnibus form, that it would set a precedent so that in the future the Government, in theory at least, could bring in three or four omnibus Bills per Session and pass statutes, in effect, as schedules to that omnibus Bill which would affect many, many different areas. So we let the bells ring, with no support from the NDP, until the Government agreed to split that Bill into individual parts. As you know, Mr. Speaker-

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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

Order. I must draw to the attention of the Hon. Member that he is not presently speaking to the motion now before the House. I would suggest that he come to that soon.

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PC

Blaine Allen Thacker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Thacker:

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-132, a Bill to amend the Family Allowances Act, is the third string in the Government's program to attack the poor people of Canada. Over the years the Government has built up these huge deficits which have led to the inflation which is now leading to the economic collapse in which we find ourselves, so people are having to cut back. We agreed with six and five as an over-all program to cut back in the future, but we certainly did not agree to the Government applying it in these specific areas. As you know, we opposed it when the Government tried to break contracts with retired federal civil servants, we opposed it with respect to the senior citizens, and we are opposing it with respect to the Family Allowances, because, Mr. Speaker, it is being applied unfairly.

As I mentioned before, the Minister herself, who receives $100,000 plus, will this year take an additional $6,500 out of the Canadian economy even though she is not working one bit harder than she was last year. We, as Members of Parliament, will be taking an additional $3,900 out of the economy in 1983, even though we are working not one bit harder than last year. Yet we expect the mothers receiving Family Allowances to take only 6 per cent when they had guaranteed to them full indexation. That is not fair, Mr. Speaker. It might seem like very little money, $17 per child per year, but that $17 to the mother who is barely at the poverty line is much more significant than the $3,900 is to you and me, because our actual cost of living has not gone up $3,900.

There is a solution, however. Had the Government been genuinely fair in treating Canadians, it would have brought in a law that said that rather than six and five, there would be a flat across-the-board payment-just to pick a figure, say,

February 8, 1983

$1,000 across the board. You and I would get $1,000 and that probably would cover our cost-of-living increase. Well, why not give that to the senior citizens, because their actual cost of living has gone up by that much?

I put that argument to the Minister a few days ago and she stood up with some response which was totally out of context. It was almost as if she did not understand the point I was making, which was that in times of hard inflation when we as a nation decide there has to be a cutback, the way to achieve that cutback is to give a flat across-the-board settlement of, say, $1,000 or $2,000. The people near the poverty line would then come up and those at the top would come down, and we as a society would get closer and closer together.

As I have argued before, the real effect of inflation where you have across-the-board settlements of 6 per cent or 10 per cent is that the rich become incredibly rich and the poor just barely inch up, so that as a Canadian society we get further and further apart. Surely during times of inflation we should be trying to come closer together, particularly when you are trying to adjust to the situation. That has been my argument, Mr. Speaker, and that is why I can stand with absolutely no hesitation and argue against the position of the New Democratic Party and say we are opposing this specific Bill even though we are in agreement with general restraint across the country. We can all agree on restraint. It is the application of it, where you have to decide whether or not you are being fair, that is important.

The NDP push this nation into huge deficits, Mr. Speaker, to the point where 25 per cent to 30 per cent of every tax dollar which comes into the federal Government now goes to service the debt. Where does that 30 per cent go? It goes to people who already have wealth. So when you build up deficits and top that with inflation, you get a concentration of wealth in the hands of people with money already, rather than the poor. That is the direct fall-out from the policies of deficit financing that we on this side have been arguing against for so many years.

1 will continue to say that again and again and again, Mr. Speaker, because Canadians are beginning to realize that the real problem is deficits. They lead to inflation as night follows day, and inflation, as day follows night, leads to economic collapse. It has happened time and time again throughout history, in Canada and in every other country in the world, and until Canadians come to realize that, take their sovereignty back, and real limits on the power of Governments to interfere in their lives, we will continue this circle through history.

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Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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PC

Douglas Grinslade Lewis (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Progressive Conservative Party Deputy House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Doug Lewis (Simcoe North):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak at report stage on Bill C-132. Before I get into my prepared text I would like to take issue with my colleagues to the left, if I may very briefly, on two items.

Firstly, as to whether or not we have changed our position on restraint, I would tell my colleagues to the left that we have definitely maintained our position on restraint. We have

Family Allowances Act, 1973

supported the Government in the broad principle of six and five. Where we have separated ourselves from the Liberal Party is that we do not believe that the errors of the Liberal Government should be corrected on the backs of retired civil servants, senior citizens and those families who are suffering in Canada today as a result of Liberal Government policies.

As to the offer to unite with the New Democratic Party, I should tell them that we are very, very fussy as to whom we unite with. We do not fall in and out of bed as quickly and as easily as they do. While I am talking about beds, I might point out that there is one very great hindrance to any uniting with the NDP, and that is their stated policy on bordellos and licensed houses of ill repute, which policy we know from the words of the NDP justice critic. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to deal with that very pertinent issue right now.

Now, as to the purpose of the Bill, the Liberal Government is planning full steam ahead, unless common sense prevails, to cap the indexing on Family Allowances to 6 per cent despite the fact that, due to its policies in the past, inflation has skyrocketed into double digits and it has done nothing about it. It is clear, Mr. Speaker, to this side of the House that the Liberal Party has not won the battle against inflation. What it did was create such economic chaos that nobody could buy anything. It won the battle against inflation by creating the chaos and making it so no one could afford to buy. That certainly brings prices down because manufacturers are not manufacturing for inventory, they are clearing out inventory.

There is no question on this side that we feel the indexing of Family Allowances to the level of inflation should be maintained. That is why my colleague, the Hon. Member for Calgary West (Mr. Hawkes), put in an amendment to endeavour to stop this Government from carrying on ad nauseam with its decision to fight inflation, and then take credit for beating inflation on the backs of the poor families of Canada. My colleague moved an amendment to remove capping from the year 1984, as an appeal to the Government and to common sense, to restrict capping to 1983. This was done because we are against the principle espoused by the Liberal Government that old age pensioners, families and retired civil servants should fight inflation. I know that is the position of the Minister and the Government but we feel it is not fair to ask them to bear that burden. As a result of Liberal Government policies, more and more Canadian families are living at the poverty level. I am not sure whether that has ever been stated as firm Government policy, but it is certainly a firm happening in the country.

In my riding of Simcoe North there is 33 per cent unemployment in the Town of Midland as a result of the failure of the Government to react to economic circumstances throughout Canada and the world. Having created that chaos, that hardship and unemployment, the Government feels it will

February 8, 1983

Family Allowances Act, 1973

correct the situation by cutting back on the legitimate indexing of Family Allowances.

Time and time again we have suggested that there are better ways to fight the battle. We have suggested that the Minister not fight the battle of restricted Government spending by setting up the Macdonald Commission and paying $825 per day to Mr. Macdonald and lesser amounts to the other members who are not aspirants. We notice that Mr. Macdonald gets more money when he travels but we are not sure why. We are not sure that he has to travel at all or that he should even have been appointed. 1 would ask the Minister to have her officials calculate how many Family Allowance cheques could be maintained if we did not spend $825 per day for Mr. Macdonald and his confreres. Perhaps the Government could support the motion for capping to 1983 only if it were to dump the Macdonald Commission.

I also suggest to the Minister that the Government should tackle unemployment rather then watching the number of unemployed people increase and doing nothing about it.

It almost seems as if there cannot be a program without an acronym. We get nothing but acronyms from the Government, but no jobs. That is why the Family Allowance is needed at the minimum family income level. It would assist families to receive a cheque once a month, not a tax credit which it seems to me is worked into the income tax return and brings about a refund cheque in May of 1984. A Family Allowance cheque issued once a month is sorely needed by the families of Canada. We suggest that it is unfair, inappropriate and should not be on the cards that the families who need the money have it taken away by the Government.

I do not want to say anything more than that, Mr. Speaker. We will support the amendment proposed by the Hon. Member for Calgary West, which is made in good faith and would give the Government an opportunity to come to its senses on the capping of the indexation of Family Allowances. We will also vote against the Bill.

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PC

Benno Friesen (Progressive Conservative Party Caucus Chair)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Benno Friesen (Surrey-White Rock-North Delta):

Mr. Speaker, there is not a Government Member speaking to this amendment, not a Government Member standing in the last series of speakers to speak on this Bill.

This Bill caps Family Allowances. I do not support this package of legislation. It obviously sets the tone and the direction of the Government. The application of the six and five program has been brought before us in four different pieces of legislation up to this time: Bill C-124 will cap the increases allowed to wage earners, Bill C-131 will cap Old Age Security pensions, Bill C-132 which we are discussing today will cap Family Allowances, and Bill C-133 will cap indexing on pensions of retired public servants.

[DOT] (U30)

1 would point out to Hon. Members that if they look at each piece of legislation in isolation, the Government may be able to give some justification to them. However, if one looks at what the Government is doing with the global package, it is plain that the Government's major thrust is against those who are

vulnerable and defenseless in our society. I suggest that this is the condemnation that is at the door of the Government.

The supreme irony of this program lies in the front page article in The Globe and Mail of today wherein it is revealed that the new Chairman of the Macdonald Commission, Donald Macdonald, will cost the taxpayers of Canada $800 a day. That is only for the Chairman. His salary will be a minimum of $800 a day in addition to the per diem expenses he will receive.

Has it occurred to Hon. Members that that minimum of $800 a day is what an unemployed person receives on his monthly UIC cheque? This incredible irony shows the callousness of the Government. This is a man who receives income from the boards on which he serves of various corporations. No doubt he receives a stipend from the law firm of which he is a partner. He receives consultant fees for the work he does for corporations such as McDonnell Douglas which, incidentally, signed a contract with the Government. As well, he receives a generous pension as a former Member of the Cabinet. While he receives all this income, the poor, impecunious, poverty-stricken Donald Macdonald will be propped up with an extra $800 a day. Meanwhile my constituency office-and I am sure this is true for all Members-is besieged with telephone calls from those who are in the snags of the Unemployment Insurance Commission.

Then we have Tom Shoyama.

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Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

Order. I would ask the Hon. Member to relate his remarks to the motion now before the House.

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PC

Benno Friesen (Progressive Conservative Party Caucus Chair)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Friesen:

Mr. Speaker, you will remember that I introduced this particular segment of my remarks by showing the incredible irony that exists between the legislation we are discussing today, which is to cap Family Allowances for families in Canada, and what the fat cats get who happen to be friends of the Liberal Government. This Government is committing an unconscionable crime.

I want to point out that Mr. Shoyama, the former Deputy Minister of Finance who is now retired on a very generous Public Service pension, will now receive a fee commensurate to that of Donald Macdonald's. This is evidence that the attack is definitely not on the friends of the Government. It is against those Canadians who are vulnerable.

I suggest Hon. Members go back and look at the speeches made by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Miss Begin) when she was debating the Bill which would bring about a tax benefit at the end of the year for families. It was called the Child Tax Credit. Her plea at that time was that those receiving this Child Tax Credit were the same as those who received Family Allowances. At that time she said that they were the vulnerable ones. These people include housewives and mothers, single parents or others, in Canada. The Minister and other Members went on to say that this may be the only cheque that these people can cash if they are not single parents. The Government now says that it wants to cut

February 8, 1983

back on these cheques. When we debated the Child Tax Credit two years ago they were the vulnerable ones. Today they are expendable.

As I said at the outset, this legislation in its global sense is an attack on Canadian families, whether senior citizens, retired public servants or children. They are the ones the Government has chosen to bear the brunt of its attack on inflation.

1 support my colleague's amendment to terminate this six and five program at the end of 1983 because the Government's record has shown that it is a poor planner. It cannot predict what will happen in 1984. When we have three different budget projections in one year, all of them updated and upgraded to show that the Government deficit will be even larger than its previous estimate, I do not think the Government is qualified to make projections on the restriction of family incomes into 1984. Surely if it wants to operate according to its record, it should limit itself to the year we are in. Therefore, I support my colleague's amendment to limit this legislation to one year.

Last week 1 mentioned one illustration of the Government's inability to plan. In November, 1981 the Government floated a Canada Savings Bond at the incredible rate of 19 per cent plus. It raised $12 billion through that bond which could have been invested in the private sector. Since interest rates plummeted soon after that bond was floated, the Government paid out more than $2 billion in interest charges which should not have been paid as a result of the interest rates dropping. The Government borrows money on the New York bond market on a three-month term whereas it borrows on the Canada Savings Bond on a one-year term. The Government is not very competent in planning what its future costs will be.

I am in favour of this amendment because it is the Government that creates inflation by its expensive operations. We now have legislation before us which prohibits the taxpayer from protecting himself from the inflation that the Government itself creates. I consider that to be wrong.

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PC

Joseph Lloyd Reid

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Joe Reid (St. Catharines):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in opposition to Bill C-132 and in support of the amendment moved by my colleague, the Hon. Member for Calgary West (Mr. Hawkes). We on this side of the House have no illusions about the result of this amendment. We know that it cannot make the Bill any more acceptable to the Canadian people, but it can go a long way to offset the damage that will be created by this Bill once it is passed by the Government.

As the Member for St. Catharines, I want to say that I am naturally very much concerned about unemployment and the poor state of the economy that exists in the St. Catharines and Niagara region. St. Catharines-Niagara has the highest rate of urban unemployment in this country. One out of every five workers is unemployed. Jobs have disappeared at the rate of 1,750 a month over the last two years.

We now have Bill C-132. We have heard many irrelevant speeches and comments from those on the Government side of the House. They say that we in the Opposition are making a mountain out of a molehill. Let me offset this argument which Government Members tend to make. We hear them ask what

Family Allowances Act, 1973

difference does it make? We hear them say that any mother should be prepared to contribute this part of her income to the six and five program by having her Family Allowance cheque reduced from $30 per month to $28.52 per month. Is that a hardship?

The response is quite simple. In the City of St. Catharines alone the loss in 1983 will amount to over $50,000 a month, and this amount will be compounded each month during the time the recipient receives the benefit. That represents nothing less than a one-year tax increase of $600,000 applied to over 22,000 families in St. Catharines, almost 25 per cent of which are single parent families.

What is even more reprehensible, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that we are not talking about wealthy families. According to Revenue Canada, the average person living in St. Catharines is earning just over $13,000 a year. The single parent trying to raise a child or children on $13,000 a year is hardly in a position to join the war against this Government's inflation. That parent is already waging a personal war without needing to do double duty on behalf of a Government that keeps spending.

The Government knows this. According to the 1981 edition of taxation statistics, St. Catharines' taxpayers paid annually an average of $3,000 each to the federal Government. In the 1982 edition, that average is down to $2,265, a drop of almost 25 per cent. Indeed, on a total net tax paid basis, and taking inflation into account, the federal Government's revenues from the City of St. Catharines has dropped by $3.4 million in just one year. This reflects the staggering rate of unemployment in our area and the poor state of the region's economy. Yet it tells a good deal more than that. It tells us that the federal Government is losing revenue from the St. Catharines' people; and this Bill, along with the attack on old age pensioners in Bill C-131, is simply a further attempt at a tax grab.

In committee, witness after witness made the point that this Bill will hurt low-income earners the most and wealthy Canadians the least. It was further pointed out that if the Government were serious about being socially and economically responsible, then tax reform was the route to follow.

Several excellent suggestions were made with respect to the Child Tax Credit, the Family Allowance Program and the tax exemption for dependants. The thrust of these suggestions was to the effect that the Government could do far more for women in general, could do more for middle-income families in particular, while not increasing expenditures and indeed would have the opportunity to cut costs.

The Government's response was typical of its attitude, an attitude that has prevailed since the 1980 election. This is our Bill, the Government says. This is the way it is, and that is the way it is going to be, is what we hear. Only one amendment has been adopted since debate began on these last three six and five Bills. That amendment was granted under threat of revolt

February 8, 1983

Family Allowances Act, 1973

from Liberal backbenchers, and under the threat of closure with respect to each.

Efforts on the part of the Opposition to reduce the damage that will be inflicted by those Bills have been rewarded by a series of closure motions to cut off debate and discussion of the responsible approach to pension and taxation reform. In the case of this Bill, the Government did not even wait for the call of closure or for the axe of fall. Mothers had their January cheques reduced despite the fact that the legislation has not yet been passed. If the Government can thumb its nose at the law, then why should Canadians respect the law? Why should Canadians have trust and confidence in this Government? Why bother with the parliamentary process at all if this is the way the Government chooses to operate? Give a Bill first reading, make a few remarks and send everybody home. When will this Government respect the fact that Canadian expect their Parliament to operate in a spirit of co-operation and compromise? What we have today is rule by closure and by order in council.

My colleague, the Hon. Member for Calgary West (Mr. Hawkes), has put forward an amendment that deserves this Government's support. We will be watching in what numbers, if any, Government backbenchers will rise in support of this amendment. It is an amendment that limits the application of this Bill to one year and gives the Government an opportunity to reassess its approach and see what impact the legislation will have in that one year. Over that period of a year the Government may realize that the Bill has no economic merit, no economic impact and that it is socially regressive. Conversely, the Government may even regard the program as pure genius and wish to extend it if that can be justified. But that decision cannot be made now.

A lot can happen during 1983. To legislate for 1984 on the basis of the Government's guesstimates is completely irresponsible. We are not talking about an insignificant decision. We are not talking about an insignificant amount. Should inflation again reach astronomical heights in the last quarter of 1983 as it did in prior years, even in the months just gone by, mothers are condemned to getting by with 5 per cent protection in 1984. Surely to goodness, no Government would want to lay the foundation to such a dreadful scenario at the feet of the people of Canada, or expect that to happen and expect it to be accepted.

There is a second advantage to my colleague's amendment. This amendment takes into account the Government's own estimate or guesses about inflation. Canadians know perfectly well that inflation will not be the number one problem in 1983 or 1984. Unemployment and economic recovery have to get top priority. This amendment allows the Government to get on with that instead of fighting an ongoing battle against a third-ranked contender.

I intend to support this amendment, Mr. Speaker. If Members sitting in Government benches are in the least concerned with unemploment and with social progress, they too will support this amendment.

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Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Les Benjamin (Regina West):

Mr. Speaker, 1 rise to take part in this debate and to say at the outset that we too support the amendment put forward by the Official Opposition, but we are still fundamentally opposed to the whole Bill.

I have been here a number of years and this is the most outrageous effort at what I call nothing more than chiselling by the Government of all the efforts and times that I have seen this Government chisel here and there from those who can least defend themselves and from those who are most in need.

We saw an occurrence on Tuesday of last week in which the Government said it was prepared to provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year to our two national railways. The two national railways would be given hundreds of millions of dollars, and would be allowed a 39.5 per cent profit annually. I do not know of anyone who makes that kind of profit. Usually a reasonable return on investment is somewhere in the 10 per cent or 20 per cent area. Any Government which can find revenues to hand out to our two national railways and allow them to make that kind of unconscionable profit and at the same time chisel a few dollars a month from old age pensioners, Public Service retirees, Armed Forces retirees and children, surely must be some kind of obscenity. Any Government that can do that must have its priorities in reverse.

The Government, starting this year and continuing over the next several years, is prepared to spend $8 billion on a fighter plane which will be of little or no use to us, which will maximize profits for its manufacturers, and which will continue to escalate the arms race, but it cannot find a few dollars a month for the old, for retired public servants, for retired members of the Armed Forces, and for children. Surely that is an additional obscenity. All the Government has proven is that the money is there for these sorts of things, for unconscionable profittaking, not making, and military equipment, but it is not there for those who need it the most.

Many of these social payments in the form of pensions, the Family Allowance and so on, are taxable. Therefore, for those in the upper middle and high income groups, the Government will tax back most, all or even more than the increases provided for Family Allowances, for old age pensioners and retired public servants. It really is not a cost to the Government for those who do not necessarily need these increases. One way or another, the Government gets it back, and then some. It is generally efficiently administered. It is a simple way of maintaining universality and seeing to it that those who need it most get it and get to keep it. Surely it is no way to fight inflation on the backs of those who not only did not cause inflation, but are also its first victims.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Mitchell:

It is child abuse.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

The test of any civilized society is how well it treats its old, its sick and its very young. It seems to me that we are failing part of the test when we put legislation such as this on the law books of Canada. It is the most unfair and-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Victor Fredrich (Vic) Althouse (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Althouse:

Neanderthal.

February 8, 1983

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

-backward way. This is the kind of thing that Governments did decades ago. This is not the kind of thing that a Government should do if it has any real concern for who receives and who should receive the benefit of Government payments. This is the time when those people most in need should get first priority.

Every year the Government can give money in the hundreds of millions-yes, even billions-to corporations and to the wealthy, and there is little complaint about it except from a few. However, the minute one attempts to restrict those kinds of outlays by Government, one is accused of being against private enterprise and against assisting the economy to grow and so forth. We do not object to many of those kinds of payments. We think that some of them are necessary. However, if the money is available for that purpose, then surely it is available to the tune of full indexing for children, something they were promised.

One of the few good moves that the Government made in the last number of years was indexing. Of course, it was part of the New Democratic Party shopping list during the 1972 and 1974 minority Parliament, and it took that kind of leverage from both the Official Opposition and from ourselves in that minority Parliament to persuade the Government to institute indexing so that we would not blame those who were old, sick and very young for inflation-because they were its first victims-but, rather, we would in fact protect them from inflation and call on the rest of society and the rest of our economy to take part in sensible measures to control and to reduce inflation. One just does not do it to old people and to children. That is not the way to go.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES ACT, 1973 MEASURE TO LIMIT INDEXATION
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February 8, 1983