September 25, 1997

?

The Deputy Speaker

I think the hon member will realize that was not a point of order. It was a matter of debate.

Does the hon. member for Kamloops wish to respond to the comment made by the hon. member Prince George—Bulkley Valley. If so, I will give him a moment. The five minute questions and comments period has expired so I would ask him to be brief.

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NDP

Nelson Riis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nelson Riis

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. My hon. friend asked about the MPs' pension. Perhaps the best thing he could do would be to ask his own members of the Reform Party to take their pensions.

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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I begin my first speech in this assembly of democracy feeling a tremendous sense of responsibility given to me by the people in my constituency of Winnipeg North Centre, a constituency which is recognized right across this country as a symbol, as an example of the struggle for dignity, equality and justice in society today.

They have given me a responsibility to fight for things that matter most to people, the things that were missing in the Speech from the Throne, the most important issues that affect people on a day to day basis: the matter of jobs, the matter of quality health care, the matter of good public education, the matter of hope for our young people, the matter of security for working families and the matter of dignity for our seniors.

All of us in the NDP caucus feel the sense of responsibility people have entrusted in us. We will keep our promise. We will not break our commitment to raise those issues day in and day out. We will work as we have never worked before to ensure that their voices are heard in this Chamber.

When I was elected I asked my eight year old son what I should say and do. He said “Tell everyone that we will make Ottawa rock”. That is exactly what we intend to do day in and day out in this Chamber.

We are here on behalf of people everywhere saying the rhetoric that ran as thick as syrup in the Speech from the Throne will not end the despair of people living without work or living with the daily fear of losing the job they may now hold.

It will not relieve the stress on families trying to juggle several jobs, the responsibilities they have for the care of their children and the obligation they feel for their communities and their involvement in community life. It will not end the pain and suffering women feel on a day to day basis because they have to live with the threat of violence.

My sense of responsibility, as I make my first speech in the House of Commons, also comes from those who came before me, those who made a difference in the lives of people in my constituency and indeed everywhere in this country. I am very fortunate to claim both Stanley Knowles and David Orlikow as my predecessors, two longstanding parliamentarians who made a real difference.

Who among us would not be familiar with the dogged persistence of David Orlikow who, for 26 years in this House, fought day in and day out for individuals and for policies that would improve people's lives and ensure some measure of dignity, security and equality among all people of all regions of the country? I am proud to carry on his work. I am grateful for his contribution to Canada and I look forward to his ongoing help and advice.

As my leader said yesterday, I also register a great deal of sadness at not being able to enter this Chamber and see my old friend and colleague, Stanley Knowles, sitting at the table. It was a dream I had. Unfortunately it just was not to be. However we are left with his legacy. The best way we can honour the work of Stanley Knowles is to carry on the work he fought for so long and hard for 38 years in the House of Commons.

All of the issues and policies he fought so hard to achieve are now under attack by the Liberal government today. Canadians can be sure that we will fight to preserve a public pension system to stop the erosion of security for seniors in their old age. We will be there day in and day out.

And we will try to do it as Stanley Knowles would have done it, with honour and dignity and integrity. Mr. Speaker, you can be sure that I will be raising many issues in this House but I will take my critic areas very seriously.

Twenty years ago when I was a parliamentary intern in this place I remember hearing a member of Parliament, a member of the then Liberal government, saying “don't worry about high unemployment among women, after all it is men who are the primary wage earners”.

Having been here for the past few days, having heard the Speech from the Throne, are we any further ahead today under this government, or is this government just more subtle about its practice of continuing inequality and discrimination in our society today?

Is it not the case that the privatization and deregulation and off-loading and cutback policies of this government are contributing to hardship and pain and suffering and greater inequalities facing women in our society today?

If women's equality is important would it not be the case that this government would have long ago honoured its obligations under the human rights act to ensure that women in the federal public service were paid on the basis of equality?

Would it not be the case that instead of offering women half a loaf, this government would have said that before it considers spending $12.2 million on bonuses for senior civil servants, it will ensure it meets its obligations and ensures equal pay for work of equal value?

Mr. Speaker, you can also be sure that I will be raising, as much as possible, issues pertaining to health care. Medicare is our most treasured national program, a matter of pride, a matter of equality and a matter of real meaningful intervention in the lives of people. That program is in serious trouble and let us not forget it is because of the policies of this government. Let us not allow members of this government to suggest that it is another level of government's responsibility entirely.

Let us remember that this government in 1993 introduced the most regressive social policy in the history of this country, the Canada health and social transfer, and took the single biggest bite out of health care in the history of medicare.

For many of us it was absolutely galling to read the Speech from the Throne and the statement “we will legislate to put back, to increase funds for the Canada health care system to the tune of $12.5 billion”. We now are at the base floor of $12.5 billion.

This government owes it to the people of Canada and to the future of medicare to ensure that our cash transfer payments for health care reflect the needs of health care, ensure that we are able to meet our obligations and that every Canadian is able to gain access to the best quality care in this country by virtue of being a member of a civilized country.

Deception, absolutely, because in fact the Speech from the Throne did also not mention that under the present formula of this government dollars from the federal government to provincial governments will actually decline in real terms. It does not look at the growth in the economy. It does not consider growth in population.

We will see in real dollar terms a continual drop in funding from this government to the provinces, thereby jeopardizing even further the future of medicare in this country.

There are so many more issues to raise and so little time. I want to acknowledge the challenges we all face. I and many of my colleagues in this caucus are trying to juggle our work as a members of Parliament and also our responsibility to our children.

Many of us have young children. We are grateful for their support and we recognize that we are not unique. We represent many families, many women in this country trying to juggle so much because of the inaction and the lack of attention of this government to those very important issues.

In the name of Stanley Knowles and others who have fought so hard for these issues, we will be as vigilant as possible to ensure that every person in this country is able to live with security, dignity and hope for the future.

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LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis J. Mills (Broadview—Greenwood, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Winnipeg North Centre for her maiden remarks in the House of Commons. As I listened to her I thought about the fact that many of the things she said today are things that, believe it or not, many of us on this side of the House believe in as well. In my riding 50 p. cent of the people who voted for me are New Democrats. It is not a question of us being ideologically different.

In this Parliament we must not throw ideas out in a general sense. We have to be a little more specific in how we get our ideas into play. For example, the member for Kamloops came up with the idea of cancelling tuition for post-secondary education. It is an interesting idea but I do not think we can table an idea like that on the floor of the House of Commons unless we can link some dollars to it. If our ideas are going to have credibility I share the member's son's view that we should try to make this place rock. We really should. This place is a stiff, dull place at the best of times.

If we are really going to have credibility we need to have numbers attached to some of these ideas. It is only through that approach that we will have a reasonable chance of getting some of these ideas into a debate with some credibility attached.

I would like to ask the member a specific question. Does she think it is a reasonable request for when New Democrats throw a specific idea on the floor? For example, I do not believe Bob Rae or Roy Romanow really wanted to close 100 hospitals over 18 months. I believe they had a fiscal dilemma on their hands. They are both good people. When we come back with ideas on how to correct it, I really think numbers should be attached. If the notion of forgetting about the fiscal framework of this country creeps back in, then we will have higher interest rates which will hurt us when we are trying to get jobs going. Could the member please respond to that?

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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Mr. Speaker, if the member is wondering at all why some provinces are trying to do the best they can in terms of limited health care resources, he should start asking his own Minister of Health how we can revamp the transfer payment system so that provinces are not squeezed. He should consider the fact that if we take $6.8 billion out of the health care system, we will be left with enormous pressures on provincial governments, on other organizations and on families.

It is absolutely critical that we all work together to reverse that trend. I look forward to help from the member in convincing the ministers of health and finance that we need to start increasing transfer payments. It may not be overnight that we get it back up to the $19 billion it was when they took office but certainly we could start today to reverse that so people are not forced into a difficult decision.

The question was how much. We have been very specific on this issue and every other issue. We have said let us work now to increase the transfer payments to provinces at least to $15 billion. That is a small step toward improving the situation. It would make a big difference.

The member asked for specifics. Give me 24 hours and I could fill that time with the specifics we have suggested. Let me make two very quick references.

In the whole area of health care and caring for seniors and children we have said over and over again that if the government would only look at it as something which is an important social investment and a job creation tool, we would be a lot better off in this country. There are thousands of jobs to be created if the government would just realize that it has a responsibility to ensure that there is a measure of quality care for everyone.

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LIB
NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis

If the member would give me another few hours I could certainly list a variety of measures, especially under the taxation system to deal with precisely that question.

One other quick example is that if we did something as simple as environmental conservation in energy efficiency in our own public buildings, retrofit them, with a small investment we could create 4,000 jobs very quickly. That would not be a cost because it would pay for itself in a short time. There are dozens and dozens of ideas. We will keep bringing them forward in the House. I look forward to the member's supporting our proposals.

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LIB

Steve Mahoney

Liberal

Mr. Steve Mahoney (Mississauga West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to offer either my congratulations or my condolences to you. I think your job is going to be interesting over the next four or five years. I wish you well and I look forward to it.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Waterloo—Wellington who will speak after me.

I would like to begin by paying tribute to my predecessors who have represented Mississauga West. Mississauga Centre became the new riding in the redistribution and the member previous for Mississauga West is now the member for Mississauga Centre; prior to her Dr. Bob Horner, a good friend and a wonderful man, unfortunately with the Conservative Party, although not his fault; prior to him of course Doug Fisher, a good long time Liberal, and Tony Abbot before him.

My riding has always sent a representative to the government, no matter what party happened to be elected. Fortunately for me it has done so once again.

Specifically I would like to thank the voters of Mississauga West for their confidence in sending me to Ottawa to represent them in this place. Mississauga West is an interesting riding made up of three very distinct communities, Streetsville, Erin Mills and Meadowvale. The perception of the riding is really different than the reality, as is probably true of many ridings. The perception is that it is a riding with high average incomes. It is mainly family and small business oriented, a riding of baby boomers one might say.

In addition we have our share of concerns and problems. I frankly take exception to a member of the House standing in his place and saying that because we are Liberals in the government we do not care about people. That is absolute nonsense. It is stuff that I have listened to for five years in opposition to the NDP in the parliament of Ontario. It is interesting that is almost déja vu in this place.

We care about social housing problems. We need more in my riding. I was the president of the Peel non-profit housing while a member of Peel regional council. I was on that board for nine years. We have women's shelters and a food bank. We want to end the systemic violence against women and children, and no individual or political party in the House has cornered those concepts and ideas.

We have youth unemployment and under employment. I have three sons in their 20s and I am concerned about their future the same as all parents care about the future of their children. We have new Canadians, refugees who need help to adjust. We have crime. We need to fight crime to take back our streets. We in the Liberal Party believe that we can do all of those things by providing a balance.

That brings me to my point with regard the throne speech. We will not govern on the extremes of the right or the extremes of the left. Rather we will bring a balance to the government of this great country. We hear calls to spend more from the left. I sat and watched an NDP government in Ontario take the total debt of that province from $39 billion in 1990 to over $100 billion in 1995, which literally destroyed the confidence of one of our greatest provinces. What I hear from the party of the left is to spend more.

I watched what the Tories did. It was interesting to hear the sound bite this morning on the news of the leader of what I believe is the fifth party in this beautiful establishment, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, who said that there was a sign over the Prime Minister's door which reads “send it and we will spend it”. There was a sign over Mr. Mulroney's door which read “we will spend it before you send it”. The NDP sign would say “we will spend it. You send it and we will spend it again”. That is the nonsense of getting into extremes.

I find the official opposition to be rather interesting. It is the politics of Ross Perot. It uses analogies like Ross Perot would do when he says on television “If you want to know why the car won't run, you have to open up the hood and look at the engine”. I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that they have fixed one of the flat tires on the car. I heard the speaker from the Reform Party this morning go through some incredible analogy about a ship at sea going down the Niagara River. He lost most Canadians and most people in the House before he got on board the particular ship.

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Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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?

An hon. member

He failed geography.

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LIB

Steve Mahoney

Liberal

Mr. Steve Mahoney

Our plan is a balanced plan. We said clearly and loudly during the election that when we achieve a surplus, 50 percent of that surplus will go to the kind of social spending that the NDP talks about and for tax relief, and 50 p. cent will go toward debt reduction.

It is a balanced plan that we believe the people of Canada believe in. Clearly they have sent us here to administer that plan and to deliver it.

I would ask my hon. friends in the third party to remember that Canada is a unique and wonderful country. From coast to coast, our country embraces many regions, each different in its own way, including the very unique province of Quebec.

Throughout our long history, we have learned to set our differences aside and work together to build a great country. A great and vigorous country where democracy flourishes, without sacrificing minority rights, a country where citizens can move freely, a country where everyone can speak freely without fear of persecution, a country that is the envy of the world.

I believe all Canadians are prepared to reconcile their differences and continue building their country. Recent surveys show that the vast majority of Quebecers want to stay in Canada. Quebecers want to be a part of this great country.

I would urge hon. members of the third party to respect the will of the majority of Quebecers as expressed in two referendums and numerous surveys, and give up their plans to destroy this unparalleled success.

I suggest they join us to continue building this country.

I apologize for the quality of my French, but I think it is important that we send the message to the third party in the House that the people of Quebec are sending to you. We want Quebec to stay in Canada and help build this wonderful country.

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BQ

Pierre De Savoye

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested to hear what the hon. member from the Liberal Party had to say. In particular, in spite of his pronunciation, I appreciated the few words he said in French.

He referred to Canada as unique. This is a word we are hearing constantly nowadays. Unique and wonderful. And he referred to Quebec as a very unique province. This qualifier adds to the uniqueness. He said that Canada and Quebec should work together. He also referred to two referendums.

What I would like—

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REF

Dick Harris

Reform

Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to inquire—and I believe this is a point of order—whether it is customary for an official opposition member who is standing to receive the first question following a debate or whether it is up to the Speaker's discretion. Could you clarify that for me? I was standing in my place.

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?

The Deputy Speaker

I saw the hon. member. There were two members who rose. I noted that the hon. member had been given a question in questions and comments a short time ago and I thought it fair to give one to one of the other members who had risen. I am choosing a round as best I can in exercising discretion.

I do not think it is normal that necessarily the official opposition gets the first question on a government member's question. What is normal is that an opposition member gets it.

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BQ

Pierre De Savoye

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre de Savoye

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge and appreciate your customary wisdom. I also want to thank my other colleagues for their smiles and moral support.

As I was saying, our Liberal Party colleague referred earlier to the two referendums which were held. I may remind him, however, that on both occasions, promises were made to the people of Quebec, and in both cases, these promises were not kept.

Back to the Speech from the Throne. In 1994, the throne speech considered the possibility of being more open, in 1996, it proposed strategies to that effect, but in 1997, we hear the exact opposite from the Governor General.

I would like to ask the hon. member of the Liberal Party two questions, and I would appreciate an answer. He wants Quebec and Canada to work together. Does the hon. member opposite acknowledge the existence of the people of Quebec? To work together, we must first be who we are. If we are, we can work together in a partnership, something we have offered to do since we came to this House.

Does he acknowledge the existence of the people of Quebec? That is my question. I am waiting for his answer. If he is consistent in what he says, his answer will be a resounding yes. I will now listen to what he has to say.

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LIB

Steve Mahoney

Liberal

Mr. Steve Mahoney

Mr. Speaker, it is helpful for the member to ask the question and then tell me what I should answer. I appreciate the fact that the two parties are fighting over an opportunity to respond to some of my comments.

Let me say very directly to the member opposite that I certainly—and I believe my government—recognize the province of Quebec as a partner within Confederation. We recognize it as a unique society. I personally recognize it as quite distinct. When we look at language, when we look at law, when we look at culture, there is every reason for the country to embrace the province of Quebec as a distinct society or a unique society, whatever word we want to put on it.

I was in fact cautioned before I made my somewhat embarrassing attempt at French. The reason I was doing it was that hopefully within a year or so I will be a little more proficient and able to address answers to the member in the French language.

I was also told that I probably should not waste my time trying to convert the Bloc Quebecois. I can see that is obvious. You have one goal and one goal only and that is to destroy this country. Frankly that is not what—

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?

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member but he must address his remarks to the Chair. I invite him to do so and he may continue his answer.

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LIB

Steve Mahoney

Liberal

Mr. Steve Mahoney

Mr. Speaker, the party opposite has a clear-cut goal. Having said that, I think it is important for those of us from English Canada, from communities like Mississauga which by the way is designated as officially bilingual because of the francophone community we have there, to say that we do not want the polarization that party seeks. We want Canada to be strong.

We realize that in order to be strong we have to deal with the issue of separation and national unity. We have to send a message from sea to sea to sea which says we are united, that Quebec is a part of Canada.

A vast majority of the people, at least a clear majority of the people in the province of Quebec, has recently stated they are tired of this issue. They are more concerned about the economy and they want to get on with building this great nation.

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LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment as a Speaker of this great House. It is an honour for you and deserving of both you and this great institution.

I represent the riding of Waterloo—Wellington, one of the four new ridings in Ontario and one of four new ridings in all of Canada. I am exceedingly proud, honoured and humbled to represent this great riding. I am immensely grateful to my constituents for electing me to this 36th Parliament. I will undertake to serve my constituents to the very best of my ability and talent.

Waterloo—Wellington captures the essence of Canada. It contains a large city, the city of Kitchener. It contains small town Ontario: Elora, Fergus, Jacobs, Elmira, Baden, New Hamburg, Harrison and Palmerston. It contains a number of smaller towns and villages including St. Agatha, New Dundee, Wellesley, Drayton, Clifford, Belwood, Conestogo, Maryhill and Breslau. It contains that famous place called Punky Doodle's Corner.

Waterloo—Wellington is a rich and diverse riding of urban, rural and suburban people. It contains people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds. Approximately 30 percent of the wealth of the riding is generated as a result of agriculture and agribusiness. Farming is important to our part of Ontario.

I was born, raised and still live on the family farm. My great great grandparents first settled in the area in 1828, arriving via Pennsylvania with the many Mennonites whose descendants still inhabit the area. In fact the highest number and concentration of old order Mennonites and Amish people in all of Canada reside in my riding.

While the histories of my constituents are rich, varied and diverse, they are united in their love of and loyalty to Canada and all that we as Canadians stand for. We as Canadians are respectful of our institutions. We as Canadians are respectful of our symbols. We as Canadians are respectful of our values.

Each of these helps to define us as Canadians. The Speech from the Throne delivered on Tuesday by the Governor General will also contribute to our definition as Canadians. I want at this time to thank the mover and seconder of that speech.

Canada will march confidently into the 21st century and the new millennium. We have a plan and a vision which will enable Canada to be the very best in every way for its citizens. The foundation of that plan is to balance the books. It is gratifying to hear that the deficit will effectively be eliminated in the next fiscal year.

The trouble with doing something right the first time in over 30 years is that no one really appreciates how difficult it was to get there, but I believe Canadians do appreciate the enormity of the sacrifice to bring the deficit from $42 billion in 1993 down to zero in the next fiscal year. I believe Canadians appreciate that the many years of sacrifice will pay off in the end, and that end is soon.

Once we are in the surplus situation, the formula as has been noted is an easy one to understand. One-half will support the programs Canadians want and deserve and the other half will go toward debt reduction and tax reduction. With this game plan Canada is poised to lead the industrialized world in economic growth this year and next and beyond. Our plan provides us with the fiscal stability necessary to allow change to be accommodated effectively and efficiently.

Jobs are being created at a remarkable pace but we need to do more. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is at an unacceptable level. We need to look at establishing a national apprenticeship style program for our young people, recognizing there are provincial implications, but co-operation would be the key here. It would be an apprenticeship program that would marry the needs of society with the aspirations of our young people. It would assist the private sector to meet its labour requirements and ensure that young people would have the opportunity to acquire that important first job.

Even before we turn our eyes to youth unemployment we need to reach out to the youth of our nation. Some of the very most vulnerable Canadians go to school each day hungry. As a former teacher I can say that a hungry child is much more likely to be a problem learner with poor school performance. A hungry child is much more likely to be a behavioural problem. Children with learning and behavioural problems are much more likely to become drop-outs from school and from society. As the former chairman of the Waterloo regional police I can also say that drop-outs from school and society often fall into the trap of crime and become young offenders.

The social and economic impacts of youth crime are unacceptable to Canadians. They are demanding that we act proactively to attack the roots of crime. In a country as wealthy as Canada with its physical and human resources, I find it unacceptable that even one child would go hungry. I believe that we as a caring society and a caring nation need to put in place a program to eradicate child hunger. Investments in that regard made today will pay enormous dividends tomorrow.

We owe our children regardless of the status of their families the opportunity to learn, to grow and to become valued citizens without the burden of hunger. Attacking child hunger and the roots of youth crime must therefore be a priority of this government in its attack on child poverty. I am pleased to see the progress made and the initiatives outlined in the Speech from the Throne. We owe this investment to our children, to ourselves and to the future of Canada.

I personally look forward to voicing the views of my constituents in this great Parliament, and like all good parliamentarians I will listen more and judge less. I look forward to working together with my colleagues for the betterment of Canada. Finally I look forward to helping to continue to build the strong foundation upon which this great country of ours stands, a foundation which will confer prosperity, safety and a sense of community for all Canadians into the 21st century.

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REF

Dick Harris

Reform

Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member from the Liberal Party talk about how the Liberal Party should be getting a lot of praise and pats on the back for finally doing something right after the last 30 years.

Let us look at what the Liberals have done right. What they have been practising for 30 years along with their friends in the Tory party and their friends in the NDP is more effective ways of wrenching dollars out of the taxpayers' pockets. They not only got it right during the 35th Parliament, but they have perfected it. They have wrenched an extra $25 billion out of the pockets of Canadian businesses and Canadian workers by raising taxes in more than 36 different areas. They got it right all right, but let us not let them take any praise for it because the Canadian taxpayers are the ones who had to bear the brunt of that tax torture.

I am certain that the member has read the throne speech and he has a good handle on the economic numbers, better than the finance minister had yesterday. I would like to ask the member the question the finance minister could not answer. When exactly can we expect the first surplus after the balanced budget, and exactly according to the Liberal numbers, how much is that surplus going to be? When and how much?

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LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers

Mr. Speaker, to the hon. member opposite, I would not presuppose and begin to answer for the finance minister. I would however say that it seems to me that the Reform Party just does not get it.

There is importance in getting our fiscal house in order. We as a government have been able to do that over the past number of years not only effectively but efficiently. That speaks volumes about the ability of the government to take a terrible financial situation and put in place the kinds of safeguards that will ensure prosperity not only for this generation but for generations to come.

It seems to me that that groundwork now having been laid will ensure that prosperity will flow and we can then all share fully in that surplus position.

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September 25, 1997