Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques) moved
, seconded by Mr. Ouellet:
That this House regrets that, after less than three months in office, the Government is in growing disarray as demonstrated by its harmful, inadequately considered and irresponsible cuts in government services of importance to the economic and social development of the regions and of individual Canadians as well as by Ministers' apparent inability to manage their departments and their relations with the provinces and with the public.
He said: The Opposition motion you just read, Mr. Speaker, and you did so very well I may add, may seem unduly severe, condemning the Government for various measures taken since it came to power, during the three months it has been in office.
I, for one, do not think the motion is too severe, and I shall try to demonstrate that during the few minutes I am allowed.
This morning, I would like to show the House the dire results of the last three months, which have brought us a succession of cutbacks the magic word which, according to the Progressive Conservatives is supposed to be the cure for all our ills, but unfortunately, has brought no positive results and has managed to please no one.
In my comments, I also would like to mention the negative impact of several of these cutbacks on Canada's remote areas which, for the most part, are economically vulnerable and stand to suffer most from the budgetary cutbacks of this Government.
I shall also comment on the inability of some Ministers to manage their departments and finally, about the impression given that some Ministers are resorting to all kinds of tactics instead of dealing with the problems confronting Canadians.
1 shall also comment briefly on this Government's less than satisfactory record in its relations with the provinces of our Canadian federation.
Finally, I intend to prove that to this day, Canadians have not been able to benefit from a single measure introduced by
this Government. Canadians have been told to wait and that better days will come tomorrow. Meanwhile, cutbacks are the order of the day.
Suppose we consider the past three months. First of all, we have a Government that promised Canadians the earth, making about 338 promises during the election campaign, and that has now failed to come up with any concrete measures to keep those promises, a Government that, it must be said, was elected with a tremendous majority and now resembles an elephant that has been incapable of bringing forth so much as a mouse.
None of the promises the Government made are so much as starting to materialize, and the people who gave this Government a blank cheque are wondering how it is going to proceed to keep some of its promises.
Mr. Speaker, this is a Government that has resolutely turned its back on many of the ideas it was championing when its Members were crisscrossing the country during the election campaign, telling Canadians, for instance, that social programs would be protected, that it was a "sacred trust", as they said. Now nothing is certain. Cuts have been made in programs like housing which are certainly social in nature. We are not sure what this Government is going to do to the universality of social programs, and in the final instance, this so-called "sacred trust", which was one of the cornerstones of the Progressive Conservative program, may not be so sacred anymore.
This Government talked constantly about open government. They told Canadians: Get rid of the Liberals who put a veil of secrecy over everything. And where is this open government today? I will get back to that later. We have now reached a point where the Progressive Conservative Government, after promoting open government, is now keeping everything under wraps. Practically no announcements are made, and guidelines have been issued that have made public servants feel less free to communicate with the media and with Canadians in general.
Finally, we have here a political party that during the last election campaign made employment and job creation one of its main themes.
We now find ourselves in a situation where funding for job creation programs has been slashed. As far as the jobs are concerned, we will get them next year, they have been promised for fiscal year 1985-86. I should think that most Canadi-
December 3, 1984
ans, particularly the unemployed, realize by now that the new Conservative government is like a balloon that burst, it did not simply deflate, it burst. The government appears to have a secret agenda, and that ought to worry all Canadians. What we already know is bad enough, but we are more concerned about what we do not know and will never know, since public servants can no longer speak as freely as they did before. In a nutshell, so far the government has given every indication of being totally confused, disoriented and unorganized. Let us hope it will soon get back on the right track.
The one thing we know for sure, Mr. Speaker, is that the government has decided to make drastic cutbacks in public outlays. Unfortunately, such cutbacks are bound to hurt and, for now, the outlook is not very promising for unemployed Canadians, nearly bankrupt farmers and small and medium-size businesses which had expected the new government to help them be more productive and more competitive. Those cutbacks are particularly distressing for young people, for example, because the new Conservative government had raised their hopes by promising to find jobs for them.
What kind of scenario have we had since the Conservative government took office, in the three months since it has taken over?
First, the Summer Canada job creation program for youths will not be funded next summer. That was one of the most constructive measure to create temporary employment needed by students during summer. No, Sir, that program no longer exists, it has been cancelled, as were others which gave young Canadians a fighting chance to retrain and try to land a job. Similar existing programs have also been shelved. That is a rather sad comment on a government whose priority was to create jobs. The way I see it, they are doing the exact opposite of what they had promised. And young people are not alone in this predicament, for cutbacks strike elsewhere. Let us take environment, for example. The Canadian Wildlife Service budget has been reduced considerably and this issue has been raised several times in the House by the Hon. Member for Davenport (Mr. Caccia), who usually sits to my immediate left, in questions to the Minister of Environment (Mrs. Blais-Grenier), but unfortunately they have remained unanswered.
And then, the budget of cultural organizations which have been the prime target of the new Conservative government. As we know, the CBC will have to do with $75 million less. What needs to be emphasized, Mr. Speaker, is that the $75 million cutback is for 1985-86 alone. It is not a $75 million reduction spread over the three-year Conservative mandate. In answer to one of my questions a few days ago, the Minister of Communications (Mr. Masse) did say that the smaller CBC budget for next year will be the starting point for the following budgets. In other words, we are looking at a $75 million cutback in each of the three years of the Conservative mandate-which, hopefully, will not be extended-or $225 million less for the CBC over a three-year period.
Hon. Members are aware as well that other government organizations-The National Film Board, the Canada Council, the CRTC and the National Arts Centre, four organizations which have had their overall budgets reduced by $10 million. Here again, of course, those $10 million are for the coming year, but since the Minister of Communications has confirmed that those cutbacks are likely to be a permanent fixture, we are in fact talking about $30 million less for those four organizations during the mandate of the government.
A word now about programs designed to promote social housing. Is there something more necessary in our society, something more helpful? For instance, residential rehabilitation, low rent housing, the survival and development of cooperative housing projects . . . the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation will have to manage with $47 million less. Needless to say, Hon. Members have been getting phone calls from people in every region of Canada who have a direct interest in social housing and who are deeply concerned about those cutbacks.
Cutbacks have also taken place in the field of health research. I have in my hand a list which comes from a well-known Canadian business newspaper but because it is in fine print and therefore it would take more time than I have available to me. Instead, I shall let my seatmate read it while I make my comments.
There were some very important programs designed to save money to individuals and to conserve Canadian oil supplies. For instance, as of next January 1 there will be a cutback in the Canadian Home Insulation Program as well as in the Oil Substitution Program which offered grants to assist homeowners in their conservation effort switching from an oil heating system to electricity, natural gas or other types of fuel. These were extremely useful programs in which the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson) decided in his wisdom that cuts and reductions should be made. In fact, these cuts will affect everyone especially middle income Canadians.
Moreover, the government will not stop there. It seems that more bad news are in store as a result of the announcement made by the Minister of Finance that further cuts should be expected in his budget, which is to be brought down either next spring or next June: the exact date has not been set yet. However, we already know that there will be more cuts. In other words, the worst is yet to come.
The worst is yet to come. What this Government has done, after promising jobs during the election, has been to start with several cuts in job creation programs and then promise a billion dollars in job creation. We do not know how that will be spent; we have no details so far. After having read the documents and listened to the Minister, we know that this billion dollars will be spent next year. In other words, job creation programs are now being cut. This will put more people out on
December 3, 1984
the street. People are being told to tighten their belts now and that they will get a job in a year from now. That is not being serious, especially for a Government elected on a job creation mandate.
The worst of it is the fact that the impact of these cuts will be felt in the regions, and this will occur in many fields, especially the field of culture which 1 mentioned earlier, the research activities of the Wildlife Service, and so on. Let us look at the CBC cuts, for instance. We already know that these will affect regional and local programming, which has always played second fiddle in any case. We are all aware that the bulk of CBC expenditures goes to major urban centres in Canada, such as Toronto and Montreal. Therefore, any cuts will greatly affect the regions.
The regions will also be affected by cuts being made in the area of transport. We already know that certain ferry services will be reduced or their schedules shortened for the winter months in the Maritimes, and we all know what is the situation in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, which are isolated islands in need of such services. I find this absolutely awful, especially since the government certainly did not brag about taking such action during the election campaign when its representatives, led by the Prime Minister, went to the Atlantic Provinces and made 338 promises to the residents of that region.
Let us now examine the case of Quebec. The critic for the Treasury Board has already stated that those cuts will cost about $700 million to Quebec. The Hon. Member for Laval-des-Rapides (Mr. Garneau) did refer to this during the oral question period and he is reviewing the issue. The people of Quebec will not be able to absorb the costs of these cutbacks. This is why one of the questions that we ask the government is this: Where can we find the money to replace these lost funds? And what I am asking myself is this: What will the 58 new Progressive Conservative Members from Quebec do to ensure that the economic position of Quebec is protected?
Will they let this Government slash to that extent the major grants and expenditures intended for Quebec that are now being cut? They are rather silent, except to applaud when their party's tenors rise in this House. I look forward to hearing what those Members, those new Members from Quebec, will do in defence of the people they represent.
One of the things that strike me most is the difficulty some ministers seem to experience in managing their departments and putting forward certain programs and proposals. It is not for lack of advice because each and every ministers' office has a "super executive assistant", a so-called political advisor who would be better named "political commissar", with a salary reaching up to $80,000 a year. Hence we would have thought that the ministers would be expertly advised, that their depart-
ments would be efficiently managed and that everything would run better than under the previous government, which the Conservatives are constantly criticizing. However, we cannot say this Government is any great shakes. With officials who can no longer communicate with the people, nor the media . . . We have seen the guidelines which require an official, when giving information, to be quoted by name. This is a pretty way of imposing the rule of silence. And they went to the trouble, Mr. Speaker, of having a press conference just for that in the Press Club across the street! Really it takes gall, under the guise of providing a new access to information, to put forward-in a clever way I must admit-guidelines designed to restrict the already restricted freedom of officials to give information to the media and the public.
Interestingly, maybe that was the reason why the Prime Minister last Friday went out of his way to have lunch in the Press Club. I saw him, I was there. It was probably in an attempt to bridge the chasm that the new Conservative Government has opened between itself and the media with those new guidelines. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, if the Government were more open with the people, the Prime Minister would not have to resort to flirting with the media at the Press Club. It is not by having lunch there and being all smiles that he will manage to be in the best of terms with the media people. All they are asking for is clear information on the Government's intentions. If they get that, there will be no need to go and wheedle them. They will be satisfied with the Government. However, that does not seem to be forthcoming.
When information comes to the surface and gets to the public ear, it is because of errors. When, for instance, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson) forgets a file in Winnipeg. Then we learn something of the Government's intentions, but this is by no means with the Finance Minister's agreement. Under a government that is committed to openness, we now have to rely on accidents in order to be informed of the Government's intentions. By accident, such as when the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark) sends out a cassette on which he had dictated in his office that we learn what is going to happen in Central America.
It certainly is not through well-established Government policy that we get information, but by accident. At times we get it at the wrong moment. We have a Solicitor General who gives out details of an investigation that is under way, and then rises in this House to say he never did so. One of my colleagues has already asked questions on that matter, and he will surely do so again. Then they volunteer information at the wrong moment and when people require information, they cannot make up their minds to say what they intend to do. I think I know why, Mr. Speaker; it is because these people have no clear idea of what they are going to do. They wonder how to go about implementing what they promised during the last election. And this is why they hide everything under the veil of secrecy.
I wonder, for instance, what will happen in the area of federal-provincial relations. I wonder whether the episode with the Manitoba Minister of Finance is just a sample. Our minister met his counterpart, the Manitoba Minister of Finance, to review the transfer formula. As I said earlier, by accident we heard that the Province of Manitoba would probably lose its $72 million in transfer payments. And better still, when that meeting was held, it was taped by someone in the Minister's Office. Can you imagine that? I suggest this government's manipulation of information is unacceptable and a source of great concern. I shall leave to some of my colleagues to examine in depth a number of its actions.
For now, I pause and urge my fellow Canadians to think it over and ask themselves whether this government, from the moment it assumed power and started to operate, has been delivering to them what they should rightfully expect. To me, the answer is a clear and resounding no. I urge them also to watch this government closely to make sure that it keeps its election promises and that it is truly addressing the problems we are faced with. In the meantime, I cannot help but be dissatisfied with this government, and that is why I have moved today this motion which at First sight might seem harsh but which will receive the support of many Hon. Members of the House.
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S O. 62-BUDGETARY CUT BACKS