February 22, 1983

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH


The House resumed from Thursday, February 17, 1983 consideration of the motion of Mr. Lalonde that Bill C-143, to provide supplementary borrowing authority, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs; and the amendment of Mr. Skelly (page 22957).


LIB

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

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

There is a certain custom in the House of Commons whereby when the Leader of the Official Opposition indicates that he wishes to rise, Hon. Members agree to permit him to speak at that time. Normally the Chair would recognize an Hon. Member from the Government Party. Is it agreed that the Chair recognize the Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Nielsen)?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Hon. Member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Evans) for his observance of that parliamentary courtesy.

I have seldom given titles to speeches which I deliver in this place, but because of the issue before us, I thought that in this instance I would entitle my speech: "Living in Never-never-land with the Grits"; and it might have the subtitle: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be", the purpose perhaps being to advance a short course on what is involved in this borrowing authority Bill.

All of us in this House have listened with keen attention, not to say bated breath, to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. MacEachen) on the subject of guidelines. There has been nothing like it since "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", or was it the "Three Little Pigs"? If he erred on the side of naivete, or something else in that episode, he was quite sensible and down to earth in committee when in May the Minister said, and I quote:

I would not expect the House to act upon an additional request for borrowing authority without providing it with detailed information on the economic situation-

That is what he said, "detailed information on the economic situation in the form of a budget".

When you are talking in terms of $14 billion for a fiscal year which is not yet upon us and for which a budget has not yet been presented, nothing else surely will do. There must be a detailed financial statement with, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, the implications of that situation on the Government's fiscal situation. That can only mean a budget.

It may come as a surprise to Members on the Government side, some of those on the backbenches, to be reminded, as seems to be an increasing requirement these days, that they are responsible to Parliament. They cannot come in here and get a blank cheque covering the next fiscal period without producing a budget which constitutes an outline of their fiscal and monetary position.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

The borrowing authority demanded in the Bill constitutes an immediate inflationary pressure. It will force interest rates up, the most damaging development in the economy at the present time. We have had no indication from the Government of the purposes to which this enormous borrowing power will be put. It indicates an expectation of a deficit in 1983-84 considerably higher than the proposed $27 billion. Without a budget we have no indication of what policies this Government intends to implement to restore confidence, stimulate the economy and provide jobs.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. This Government is faced with a major, almost disastrous, economic crisis. One cannot help being reminded of the fable by La Fontaine:

La cigale et la fourmi

"La cigale ayant chante tout Pete

Se trouva fort depourvue quand la bise fut venue."

I hope my accent was understandable.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

To the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and the Minister of Finance (Mr. Lalonde), I say "Go to the ant, thou sluggard", a piece of advice they would do well to embrace. Having brought the country to the sharp edge of insolvency, they want money. Without a budget, with no budgetary measures, no setting out of fiscal or monetary policy, they simply came into the House and said: "Fork over, boys", to the tune of $14 billion.

When one contemplates the financial situation of this Government, one is overcome with amazement that in a mere

February 22, 1983

Borrowing Authority

three years so much could have been undone. It is a subject for students of political science and human conduct in years to come to attempt to explain how a Government could come down so fast, so far, in so short a time. What we must all be concerned about is that in its slide into insolvency and economic disarray, the Government has brought the entire economy down with it.

I, sir, am concerned about the size and the amount of this demand imposed on an already staggering economy in this country. It is conclusive proof, I submit, if any were needed at all, that this Government has no intention of mending its ways at all. Like a drunken sailor, it will go on throwing public money away until it leads this country to the edge of bankruptcy. The course of spending followed by this Government has been described as profligate, as wasteful and as reckless. It now, sir, borders on the edge of lunacy.

The first part of the Bill covering borrowing authority for $5 billion, representing part of the Government's cash requirements for the current fiscal year, must be taken in conjunction with the October budget. It is here that the details are set out covering the cash requirements for the current fiscal year. There are no such detailed explanations covering the second and larger amount of $14 billion.

As the Minister framed his demand, he must have been thinking of the lines from "The Ancient Mariner":

We were the first that ever burst

Into that silent sea.

It is a parliamentary first, sir, when you have a Minister who comes before Parliament and asks for authority to go to the public for $14 billion without the supporting and buttressing evidence of a budget. Perhaps he was thinking of the wreckage of the last three budgets now piled up on the beach. He decided to take the cash and let the explanations go until a later date. This House has been given no supporting documents, no financial picture, on the state of the economy, no current outline of fiscal and monetary policy. This mess which we are in is a direct result of mismanagement on the part of this Government. It is due to the two years in which the Prime Minister dragged the Canadian people through the labyrinth of constitutional reform. It is due to the Government's preoccupation with experimentation and centralization, and vast development programs which never got off the drawing board.

Giving this Government power to borrow $14 billion for unspecified purposes to be outlined in a budget which we have never seen is like giving a keg of whiskey to a drunk. This Government has a record of fiscal madness which is second to none. You have to go back, sir, to the Manchu dynasty to find a governing Party so remote from the ordinary citizens of this country.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Talk about the cart before the horse! This borrowing Bill is more evidence of the Government's mismanagement of the finances of the country. Its budgetary performance has been so inept that, in order to get one budget accepted by the House, it has to take three runs at it. We are now

working on a budgetary resolution covering three budgets, approving budgetary measures which should have been through this House months and months ago. Now this lethargic, incompetent aggregation of political misfits find themselves confronted by the necessity of producing another budget to cover current and upcoming demands, and they cannot do so until they get rid of the logjam of previous budgetary resolutions which have remained piled up in the House while they played with Canagrex and other non-essentials.

So what do they do? Do they follow normal procedure and bring in a budget, followed by a request for borrowing authority for the purposes spelled out in such a budget? Not at all. The Liberals have decided to cut the Gordian knot of their own incompetence by dispensing with the need for a budget and simply demanding the right to go into the market for their cash needs. First comes the cash, and then whenever they get around to it they will produce a budget justifying their demands for the cash.

We have had a bellyful of this Government cutting corners, bypassing Parliament, raiding the Treasury and attempting to govern without responsibility. It produced two unworkable budgets and a third which was simply an exercise in plastic surgery. It wandered away in a jungle of hazy schemes like the CIDC, the CDC, the NEP and FIRA, which consumed enormous amounts of money, involving, for example, the purchase of Fina and BP. Now that it is time to do its housekeeping, it is completely at a loss.

The Minister's desire to be orderly and efficient cannot be used as an excuse to deprive Parliament of its right to full explanations and respect for the traditions of this place. If the Minister and the Government are faced with meeting huge debt commitments and refinancing requirements, all we can say, in all bluntness, is: "Don't come crying on our shoulders". For years we have warned about the runaway expenditures of the Government, and for just as many years we have been totally ignored. When the day comes that the Liberals can walk into this House and demand permission to borrow $14 billion without any explanation, without detailed taxation measures and fiscal proposals outlined in a budget, then this House has no further function but to act as a rubber stamp for the demands of Government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

In the cursory explanations of the Minister of Finance which in no way addressed the issue as to why there was no budgetary explanation of the cash which he required, along with the proper tax measures, the Minister used the words "orderly" and "efficient" more often than did Mussolini when he was making the trains run on time.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

February 22, 1983

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

That is right. Where are our trains after the VIA cuts? In his speech, with a mere nod to the practice and traditions of this place, the Minister said:

It is desirable that Parliament have adequate time to study and debate the budget as well as the new borrowing authority Bill.

It is more than desirable; it is absolutely and vitally necessary. The Canadian people are uneasy and very concerned about handing the Government another blank cheque. Canadians are asking themselves: "When will this stop?" Here is a Minister who comes in after three disastrous budgets, with the economy on its beam ends, and says: "Let us not worry about a budget this time. Just give us the money; we will take the cash and let the credit go." It is not that easy. This is Parliament. This is not Household Finance.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Surely no finance company would lend money on those terms. What would be the collateral? A bunch of gas

stations?

Mr. Speaker, you, as the chief officer of Parliament, the guardian of its rights and privileges, the watchdog of its traditions, must be concerned about this abrogation of practice and tradition. You must surely be uneasy about a Government which comes in with all the finesse of Jack the Ripper and says: "give us money". Everyone who knows and respects Parliament and is aware of what this institution stands for must be conscious of the fact that if we sit still at this kind of hijacking of our rights, the institution itself will have entirely lost its validity.

We want the Minister to follow the practice of previous Ministers back to Confederation. We want him to outline his cash requirements for 1983-84 in a budget for that period, clearly outlining the state of the economy, the Government's fiscal and monetary position, the measures it contemplates taking to restore confidence and put Canadians back to work. That is the minimum that the Minister and the Government is obliged to accord Parliament. I warn the Minister and the Government, Parliament surely cannot stand for anything less than a full measure of its rights.

It would be the height of naivete to inquire why the Government tries so hard at every turn to evade parliamentary scrutiny. The Auditor General had something to say about that. He said the expenditures of the Government were entirely out of control. This latest demand by the Minister of Finance proves in spades that the Auditor General was exactly correct.

Parliament is being asked to underwrite expenditures for a fiscal year not yet begun, in reference to a budget which has not yet been presented. It is the Government's way of covering up the mess that it is in. It is a mess entirely of its own making.

For two years the Prime Minister, like a modern Moses, led the country through the desert of constitutional reform. He was not concerned about the economy, he was not concerned

Borrowing Authority

about unemployment, he was not concerned about balancing the budget, he was not concerned about runaway deficits, he was not concerned about high interest rates, he was not concerned about accelerating bankruptcies, and he was not concerned about farm foreclosures.

None of that could penetrate the veil of mystical fanaticism in which he warpped himself. Like a prophet of old, he betook himself into a desert of his own making-with his "moozmaad"-and there he remained in isolation, fed by the ravens of his own party.

The problem which this country faces today, in spite of signs of an economic pickup in the United States, is that their policies have so disrupted the country's capacity to come back, that we may not get the benefit of their economic turn-around.

The Government is now in a position where it is borrowing to pay off its creditors. That is surely always a bad policy in financial circles. The request for authority to borrow $19 billion illustrates the chasm between the Government's perception of the economic parameters and the real needs of Canadians.

No one would object to a deficit, even one of the colossal proportions of the Government's deficit, if it meant that Canadians would get jobs. We know it will not mean that. It means a licence to the Government to continue its orgy of unproductive, ideological empire building. It means a licence to continue its ideological and destructive interventionism in the private sector. It means that this House is putting its seal of approval on policies which have driven this country to distraction, made us a laughing stock internationally, put hundreds of thousands of Canadians on the streets, and brought the economy to a rockbottom low. A deficit of this size creates a logjam in capital markets and reinitiates the battle over scarce capital that will result inevitably in pushing up interest rates.

The simple fact is that the resources the Government is asking for will not go to stimulating the economy. After all, it has had more than two years of the highest deficits and highest spending in the country's history to stimulate the economy. Instead, we have unemployment and foreclosures. So to suggest that this idiot Government is capable of providing jobs is to suggest that blood can be obtained from a stone.

There will be no new jobs, no stimulus. There will just be an added burden on the dead weight of centralist interventionism by the Prime Minister and his associates-both past and present-that will result in blocking our economy from benefiting from the resurgence now under way in the United States. They will use this to build an isolationist and separatist wall around the Canadian economy so that the benefits of the American comeback will not cross the border. That has been the record, and there is no warrant for believing that it will be anything different. There will be no end to the Liberal-induced recession in the country until the Liberal Government is removed from office.

February 22, 1983

Borrowing Authority

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Certainly a deficit would be permissible in normal times for a normal Government to attempt to stimulate the economy. A deficit of this size for a Government which has been spending like drunken sailors for more than two years on non-productive, self-defeating projects is simply not acceptable or permissible. This Government ought to be cutting out unrealistic and counter-productive expenditures, such as the incredible purchase of hundreds of gas stations which have become a drug on the market.

They could open doors and allow constructively-motivated investment to flow back into Canada and provide new jobs. They could back out of energy and allow the energy industry to operate in accordance with the realities of the day rather than the textbook fumbling of the Government. They could do these things, but they will not because the Government is as remote from reality as though it were on hashish. Nowhere in the Government is there any sign of repentance, regret or remorse.

They have run up the largest deficit in history, with the highest expenditures in history, yet they sit over there, proud of their dismal record. Rather than curtailing their own expenditures, they turned to the pensioners, the superannuates and public servants. Now, by demanding a lump sum advance payment of $14 billion, they evade the problem of coming before Parliament with specific budgetary measures in support of their demand for cash.

The other day the Minister rose in the House and went through the motions of explaining the need for $14 billion for the next fiscal year. This is what it amounted to. He said: "We are broke. We need money; $14 billion will do for now. If we need more-and we will-we will be back." He went on to say that the required explanations will be forthcoming in the budget which is forthcoming. As to the precise time when the budget would appear, he was vague. He said, of course, that we could turn to the "Economic Outlook" for further information. That too will be reviewed in the budget, not yet here but forthcoming. This is why the House must not agree to this Bill, without the necessary explanations and taxation measures clearly spelled out in a budget for the 1983-84 fiscal period.

The Minister expressed a desire not to be hindered by borrowing authority constraints. Surely in view of the record of the Government, it is a primary requirement that the Government shall be hindered in every way by constraints. That is precisely what we are here for-we are here to protect the interests of Canadians, not to see the country ripped off by the Government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1982-83 (NO. 3) MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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February 22, 1983