Mr. Jack Masters (Thunder Bay-Nipigon):
Mr. Speaker, again it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to participate in a Budget debate, particularly this one. I say that because the Minister of Finance (Mr. Lalonde) labelled his Budget "Partnership for Growth". It is my conviction that the Budget we are debating now is entirely appropriate to the times for a number of reasons.
It should be noted that the Budget in fact builds on strength in the country. Throughout the land, while we have difficulties and problems to surmount, essentially we are looking toward the immediate, medium-term and long-term future with a greater feeling of confidence than we have been able to feel collectively for many years due to many factors in the Canadian economy, the North American economy and the world economy.
Much will be said about the Budget in the next while both inside and outside this House. Some of it will be positive. Much of it, especially from Members opposite, will be negative. I respect the right and the duty of the Opposition to be critical, but I have a caveat, if I may presume to make a modest suggestion to Members opposite. They might consider legitimate criticism, because it is not a perfect world that we live in. We do not come up with perfect documents and plans. 1 hope that the tone of their opposition and comment will not be so entirely negative that it is counter-productive in the sense that it will take away from this feeling of confidence.
Confidence is not a partisan issue. Partisanship sometimes takes away from the fact that we have a wonderful country, that we believe in it, that because we are the kind of people we are, living in the land that we live in, we can look forward to the future with confidence. Confidence is also a state of mind.
All of us in this House have an obligation to contribute to that state of mind.
One of the first features about this Budget I would like to address, because I believe it is the most significant, is that it was prepared with a great amount of consultation. The word "consultation" is almost a cliche. It is so obvious that one wonders why we do not do it all the time. Each of us in our own sectors finds other priorities that prohibit or inhibit us from being able to speak openly with each other, to take the time to talk with one another and, most important, to listen to one another.
We are still in a very difficult period economically in our country's history. The mood is that we must listen to one another. We must consult with each other in a meaningful fashion. I believe even Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will agree that some very important groups and individuals were consulted regarding this Budget. The common taxpayer was consulted. I see items in the Budget that came about as a result of representations from Members of this House in caucus. I see the changes that have been made. I hope some of this came about as a result of some of the letters and personal interventions that I have made. Opposition Members have expressed some thoughts in this House. They are all there, pointing the way.
It is a leadership direction that the Minister is taking on behalf of the Government of Canada. It says we must take a leadership role. This is something that governments can do. Governments can do some things well and we do some things very badly. One thing we can do, if we work at it properly, with the right attitude and with the right frame of mind, is to promote honest consultations, consultation being in the form of the two-way street that I mentioned earlier where we pass on our ideas, listen in return and come up with something better than either side could come up with individually. Some 30 major groups across this country participated in a most meaningful way in putting this Budget together.
While in political terms one does not want to acknowledge that many sectors of the economy have said that yes, this is a good Budget, that this is the right kind of Budget at this point in time, to my way of thinking one of the right things about the Budget that we are debating at this moment is that it does build confidence. But it did not send shock waves throughout the nation. That happens periodically and it must happen once in a while when we have to find new directions because we have been following one path for too long. All of us know that nothing is forever and that we have to change direction and thoroughly examine issues in the light of prevailing conditions in the world and in Canada.
March 6, 1984
The Budget-Mr. Masters
The Budget indicates that we have put many things in place that are working. We are moving in a forward direction. Perhaps we are not moving forward as fast as some of us would like, and I may address that point a little later. However, we are moving in the proper direction. What we need is a Budget that tells Canadian citizens that they will have an idea as to the direction in which we will be going for the next number of years. They will see refinements and improvements based on their suggestions and on the initiative of the Government, but they will not see anything startling. We will put in place policies and actions that we can trust and that we can move forward.
I think that is one reason the Budget has met with such general approval. I say general approval because sometimes when dealing with any subject in detail there will be many who will argue that we did not go far enough with pension reform or that we are not moving quickly enough. There are those who say that those issues are the important ones now but we need to talk about them a little bit more. The general direction we are going has been set and we think that we are on the right track; but for goodness sake, give us a chance to examine proposals and come back with better ideas so that we have a more refined package to present regarding pension reforms for the average citizen, programs for senior citizens and, above all, programs that will assist the women in our society to have a more equitable future and a more equitable participation in the present. Those are not easy things to accomplish.
The Budget has put on the table some of the results gleaned from the heavy consultations that have been going on across this land and has indicated in general terms where we think we have to make improvements. We have to make sure that there is more portability. We have to make sure that a spouse has more of an opportunity to prepare for his or her future. We have examined these matters but they must still be covered in more detail. The Budget does not indicate exactly what we are going to do but it does indicate the direction we propose, and, after further consultation, we will be in a position to implement these ideas.
Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, some proposals have been made for the assistance of home owners. While there are those who will ask why we do not implement those proposals right now and who will say that we are just postponing them with further consultations, I sense from my colleagues in the House, from members of the Cabinet in particular and from the country as a whole, a sense of urgency about these matters. We are going to implement these policies with the co-operation of the Opposition. The Opposition can certainly slow down the implementation of these policies, but we are going to be in a position quickly to conclude the consultation process, put the finishing touches on what I believe are some very creative ideas that have been born out of much discussion across the land and then implement those ideas.
Another item in the Budget that has not been receiving sufficient attention as far as I can see is the suggestion of employee profit participation. I have always believed in profitsharing plans. I have spent much time working on that kind of thing during my tenure as President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and in my work in general with the Chamber of Commerce. I have worked for firms that have had profit-sharing plans and I know how well those plans can work. However, the beauty of this plan is that it does another thing-it indicates that to implement an employee profit participation plan, there has to be a labour-management committee. Think of the genius of that simplistic idea. Most good ideas end up in very succinct terms.
Another thing that is beginning to happen more and more in this country, and must happen, is that labour and management no longer think of each other as adversaries-that management has all the right ideas or that labour has all the right ideas. They are in the same ball game and must have devices to enable them to meet in mutual trust and understanding.
I believe that if labour and management allow the proposed Employee Profit Participation Plan to bear fruit it will lead to better conditions. Both must have a stronger recognition of their vested interests in the profitability and progress of their endeavours. They must also recognize that the labour-management committee is the means of making the plan work. Not only will they be in the position to deal with the profit sharing aspect, but out of necessity they will begin to move toward improved consultation and the exchange of information. I think the federal Government has given the leadership to encourage movement in this direction. It is only common sense but it is very necessary.
We have heard a lot about Revenue Canada in recent times, Mr. Speaker, and not all has been complimentary. 1 do not mean to digress from the discussion of the Budget but not all the statements made about Revenue Canada have even been fair. Who defends the taxman? Who defends the man who is in charge of accounts receivable, for instance? He is always the bad guy. He is the one who has to bring in the revenue to pay for whatever has to be done, but he is viewed as not a very nice guy. In the case of Revenue Canada the individual is not in a position to defend himself. I do not mean to defend anything that has gone wrong, or bad administration. Those things will happen; they happen in the private sector as well as in government and they must be examined from time to time.
To return to the Budget, Mr. Speaker, I think it is a start toward simplification of the tax system. As one who is not an accountant, I have always been bothered by the fact that even accountants cannot agree on the interpretation of taxation laws. However, something has been done in the Budget to simplify taxes for small businesses. I can assure you that is one of the major thrusts we are giving to that generator of jobs in our economy, the small businessman.
We must all stand back from Revenue Canada and our taxation laws, however, and ask how we can make them better. I do not believe we can do that by castigating a whole Department of what essentially are very capable and able civil servants who are doing their job as directed by the House of
March 6, 1984
Commons. I believe that case has been overstated. If you will excuse the expression, Mr. Speaker, I am just bootlegging a few thoughts on some of the outlandish and unfair statements that have been directed at the Department.
Nonetheless, the Budget is also addressing the goal of more fairness in tax administration. Through the consultation process we are learning how that might come about and I think we will see great improvements through new legislation, through new directions and in new examinations of the system. The consultation process is vital, particularly if it is carried out with the positive view of making the system better. That is what we were elected to do.
I do not even object to the fact that the Opposition has a task force going across Canada to test the views of Canadians on the tax system. My only hope is that this task force will do good and not simply conduct a witch hunt; that it will not just reinforce a bias or just be a vehicle to allow the malcontents in the taxpaying sector of the economy to use that platform to receive all kinds of publicity which really would be used to attack the Department, serving no end and giving a voice to a group of people who have not always played fair with the tax system.
The Budget talks about more fairness in the tax administration system. I believe the Opposition, in what it is doing, has a chance to do either great good or great harm. We are going into an election year and, Mr. Speaker, I believe all of us, while we will fight our partisan political battles, must not do so at the expense of the good of the country by overstatement and by overzealousness in the wrong areas. While the Budget has pointed out that we are experiencing an upturn in the economy, that we have a feeling of confidence, we also know that there is a certain fragility to it. I believe this is a time for yeoman service on the part of all of us in this House to make the system work better.
I would like to speak now about the plan put forth in the Budget to aid home owners. We have all been looking for some way to be of help to something which is near and dear to all of us as Canadians, home ownership. We found as we went through that period of very drastic fluctuation in interest rates that there were a lot of people with great problems and in dire circumstances regarding their most precious possession, their home. While the Budget has made some suggestions as to how one might insure against rising interest rates if they should go beyond a certain point, which will give some stability, I believe, it should be noted that the Budget also takes a look at how the investment sector might be encouraged to go for the longer term mortgage. I feel that is probably one of the more important features of the Budget, although it does not seem so sensational to many of us until the prospect is really examined. When we as home owners had mortgages with terms of 20 years, 25 years and 30 years, it gave us a great feeling of stability. We knew where we were at. I do not believe you can ever turn the clock back, but I do believe there is a way we can
The Budget-Mr. Masters
move toward longer term mortgages, and that would be to everyone's good.
I support the Budget because I feel its theme "partnership of growth", is well named and accurate. I believe the Budget does help encourage the feeling of confidence which I view to be fairly dominant in the country.
Subtopic: THE BUDGET
Sub-subtopic: FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE