March 27, 2000

REF

Chuck Strahl

Reform

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, this is a very historic day for the Canadian people, for the House of Commons and for members of parliament. I would like to read into the record a letter addressed to the Hon. Gilbert Parent, effective immediately, from the Leader of the Official Opposition, dated March 27, 2000. It reads as follows:

Dear Sir:

This is to advise that effective immediately all Reform members of parliament should be recognized as members of the Canadian Alliance in accordance with the results of the referendum conducted among Reform Party members and announced on March 25, 2000, whereby the Reform Party of Canada has officially adopted the new Constitution and Policy Declaration of the Alliance.

Please also be advised that Deborah Grey will serve as Leader of the Official Opposition (interim) until such time as the leader of the Canadian Alliance is chosen by its members. This vote is expected to be concluded by June 24, 2000, or by July 8, 2000.

Mr. Chuck Strahl will serve as House leader for the Canadian Alliance members, Mr. Jay Hill as whip, Mr. Dave Chatters as deputy whip and Ms. Val Meredith as Canadian Alliance caucus chair.

Your sincerely,


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The Speaker

Do you wish to table the document?


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REF
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The Speaker

Of course, I congratulate the new Leader of the Opposition on her appointment to this very high post. We will follow the wishes as set forth in this letter. Henceforth, pursuant to the request of the former leader of the Reform Party, we will call the new party the Canadian Alliance. That is how it will be referred to in the House.


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Some hon. members

Hear, hear.


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The House resumed from February 29 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.


LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House to speak to the budget and what it means not only for the provinces and territories but for Canadians wherever they live in this great land of ours.

When we first dealt with the whole issue of the deficit, it was a huge problem in terms of what it meant for Canadians. We knew that over time great sacrifices would have to be made. Finally we are in the position where we have a surplus. As a result of that, we can start to fulfil the very important promises which we made concerning what to do with the surplus money.

I am pleased to be part of a government which recognizes that there needs to be reinvestment in things like education and, especially, health care. Health care is one of those underlying core Canadian values upon which Canadians generally expect us to act, and to do so in a meaningful way.

As chairman of the all-party Standing Committee on Health it is very gratifying to see the kind of reinvestment that is being made in this all important area.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a number of researchers, specifically on Bill C-13, which would establish the Canadian institutes of health research. It is important for them to know that the Government of Canada is there for them in terms of money. Dollars to researchers all across Canada will double over the next number of years. We hope to find cures for cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

In the budget we saw that Génome Canada was given enormous amounts of money to get up and running. It is involved in an important health area as well and is something which all Canadians applaud.

We invested in this budget $2.5 billion in health care, on top of the $11.5 billion that was invested in last year's budget. That underscores the commitment of the Government of Canada in this all important area, which is consistent with the values of Canadians. We know that there is still a way to go. We understand that, which is why the ministers will be meeting. The federal health minister, along with his territorial and provincial counterparts, will meet in May. The deputy ministers are meeting as we speak. Early on, as quickly as possible, they will try to carve out the kind of health care system that will take us into the 21st century.

The areas that will be looked at are primary health care, as well as community and home care, and the whole issue of accountability and making sure that Canadians get what they want in their health care system.

Those three topics will be dealt with, and hopefully dealt with effectively, knowing that it is what Canadians need and want. We certainly want to act in that appropriate way.

I spoke about the promises which we as a government had made. We know full well that in addition to the reinvestment that we are making in a number of areas we also had to cut taxes. That was very important. We were on the leading edge when it came to the reduction of taxes, unlike members of the Reform Party, who talked about balancing books and trying to get the deficit reduced two years from now. We were far ahead of them. More to the point, we were ahead of them with tax cuts as well. I think that speaks volumes about who we are as a government, what we do and how we do it. It underscores the commitment on this side of the House to give Canadians, especially lower and middle income Canadians, the kind of tax relief that is important, not only for themselves, but for their families as well.

My constituents in Waterloo—Wellington, as well as constituents across Ontario and elsewhere in Canada want to see us move on the national debt. I am pleased to note that we have done that and will continue to do that.

The finance minister was very clear. He said that it is important to move on all these fronts and that there be tax relief in a staged fashion. He indicated that it would be a plan over five years. I think that speaks volumes to our commitment as a government, our commitment as Liberals, to act in an appropriate and timely way, knowing that it is the right thing to do. Canadians not only expect it and need it, but actually deserve it because of the sacrifices they have made over the last little while.

The tax cuts, coupled with debt reduction over time, coupled with reinvestment in all important areas, are simply good news for Canada. We can see the economy responding as a result. When was the last time we saw the economy soar to the extent it has over the last little while under our administration?

We have seen over time the great benefits that have taken place as a result of good fiscal and monetary management that we on the government side have been able to do. I am very proud to be part of a government that is in tune with Canadians and sees the kinds of things that need to be done, done well and done effectively. We can and do run an effective administration, and that shows. We do it in a way that is consistent with the values of Canadians. We do it in a way that makes economic, social and political sense. I am proud to be part of a government that is able to do that.

I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time. This is an important topic and other members want the ability to speak to it.

Let us go back to the time of the Conservatives for a minute. We inherited a huge deficit from the Mulroney administration. It really was a terrible thing, a great millstone that hung around the necks of all Canadians. Over time we whittled that away and took care of it in a very good way that really did not create havoc and upheaval. In a consistent, incremental and solid way we were able to take it down to zero and do so with minimal disruption.

It is interesting to note that in that sense we were able to do the right thing. It is important that we do that.

It is interesting to see the Conservatives these days and the kinds of things they are doing. I point only to the clarity bill as an example, Bill C-20, and the inability of the Conservatives and Mr. Clark to stand for Canada. I find it most distressing and I find it very shameful.

Again I want to come back and hook into health care. I find it equally and even more distressing that Mr. Clark, out of step with Canadians, has decided to support Mr. Klein's Bill 11 in Alberta. I find that outrageous and out of touch, but it is part and parcel of the Tories and their ability, it seems, to trip at every misstep. That is most upsetting.

I also note that the NDP is often on interesting ground when it comes to a number of the issues, but when it comes to health care, when it comes to employment and other major issues, the NDP always wants to throw money at them. That is just simply unacceptable. Canadians see through that. They find it unacceptable. The NDP always wants to throw money.

When it comes to the Bloc, after Bill C-20 I really have to wonder who and what it represents. It really is quite outrageous that its members are so out of step with their constituents and Quebecers in that wonderful province.

It is interesting to note that the Reform Party has transformed itself into a new alliance. We witnessed the members not so long ago in the House taking, I suppose, a modicum of pride in what they have done, trying to reinvent themselves and come out in a new metamorphosis.

My position is that a dinosaur that does Tae-Kwondo, a dinosaur that tries to be hip is still nothing but a dinosaur. It is important to note that those people opposite who want to rip Canada apart, who want to pit region against region every time they can and pit people against people, they stand for the flat tax.

Since we are talking about the budget today let us talk about the flat tax. Let us talk about what those Reformers stand for. Even their right wing NRA friends, Charlton Heston, and their televangalist friends in the United States, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye and all the other ones of that ilk, reject the flat tax. They say it is rubbish. Still those dinosaurs caterwaul away about how important it is to have a flat tax.

Canadians do not buy into that nonsense. Canadians reject it because Canadians see through whatever they call themselves. They know that the Reform Party switched into an alliance is still nothing but a Reform Party; the politics of hatred, of extremism, of division, of everything that most Canadians do not want to be a part of. That is what the Reform Party represents.

I was reading today a little about our friend Stockwell Day. Does he ever some interesting baggage that needs to see the light of day. We need to turn over the rock and take a look.

Topic:   Government Orders
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BQ

Jean-Guy Chrétien

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien (Frontenac—Mégantic, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to my colleague, the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington, who was of course boasting about the seventh budget of this government and of the same Minister of Finance.

As is his wont, he took advantage of the opportunity to tear a strip off all parties in this House. Of course his own party was spared, a party in which there is infighting going on at the present time. We no longer know who is governing this government, if it is the Minister of Finance, if it is the clan of the Minister of Finance, if it is the Prime Minister and his backroom boys, but the result has been that the seventh budget of the Minister of Finance has totally forgotten this country's farmers.

It is not surprising that one of them has been forced to travel thousands of kilometres to get to Parliament Hill. He made use of the means available to him to raise this government's awareness and to meet with the Prime Minister in order to establish a relationship of financial assistance, after that same government shamelessly slashed assistance to farmers. Now they are turning on the tap a bit for the health of this country's agriculture.

Another thing that displeased me in this budget is that there is nothing for people who have seasonal work or to lose their jobs. As we are well aware, close to 60% of them pay into the employment insurance fund, but when they are forced to apply for benefits, there is always one way or another to tell them “Unfortunately, you are not eligible”. There is always an hour or two missing, or they are penalized for some past action. The only help there is for these workers is that contributions will drop by 15 cents per $100 in income, for the next four years. This is a trifle.

What we are calling for is for access to employment insurance to be made more humane. When workers are in a black hole, for three weeks, sometimes three months, they find it very difficult.

I think that the member for Waterloo-Wellington does not know what it means for a couple not to have any money coming in for three weeks, for two or three months. This was something he glossed right over.

I happen to know very well that at the same time that workers' benefits were being cut, HRDC was handing out $500,000 to the big company making billions in Cornwall. The CEO told us “We applied. We were sure we would not get it. They handed it to us and we took it of course”.

Placeteco received $1.2 million to create jobs. Three disappeared, none were created, and Placeteco was saved from certain bankruptcy, and we know perfectly well that some friends had a hand in it.

In the riding—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member. Only five minutes are allowed for questions and comments and the hon. member has used almost all of it. The hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington must be allowed to reply. He has one minute to reply.

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LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers

Mr. Speaker, I think it would take a little more than one minute to respond to the hon. member opposite. The fact that he took so long to go on his little diatribe underscores the frustration of the Bloc members in the House. They do not know what to do any more. They do not know what they stand for any more.

The hon. member mentioned that we on this side of the House were in so-called disarray. I do not need to be lectured by the Bloc when it comes to those matters, because we stand as a team. We stand united behind our Prime Minister and behind the team in terms of where we go and what we do. We do it in a consistent manner, which Canadians expect from the governing party, the party that governs our great country. We always do it in a manner that is important and underscores our commitment to Canadian values.

The hon. member talks about disarray. He should get Mr. Parizeau and Mr. Bouchard together. He should make sure that his ideological friends, who seem to be fraying at every side of the issue when it comes to things like sovereignty and other things in Quebec, get their act together. I will repeat that I need no lecture from him when it comes to those kinds of things.

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REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Art Hanger

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I rise in direct reference to the comments made by the member for Waterloo—Wellington.

I take exception, as a member of the Canadian Alliance, to his comments that the Canadian Alliance, our new party, formerly the Reform Party, preaches the politics of hatred. I know that other opposition members here in the House would also find that very unparliamentary. In fact, I say shame on that member and his party.

I believe a retraction is due. I appeal to the Chair for that very course of action.

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LIB

Lynn Myers

Liberal

Mr. Lynn Myers

The hon. member is against everything. He is anti-feminist, anti-immigrant—

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REF

Roy H. Bailey

Reform

Mr. Roy Bailey

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I too rise in objection to the member opposite referring to this party, the Canadian Alliance Party, as being some kind of a religious bunch of nuts and yahoos. I suggest that the hon. member retract those remarks or apologize to the House.

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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Chair heard the comments. I am not sure that anything that was said was unparliamentary, but I certainly feel it is appropriate for hon. members to have due regard for the words they use in the House and use language that is entirely fitting with our practice.

I am not sure that the hon. member completely crossed the line. They are not necessarily words that all members would use. I hope we do not continue in this vein. I hope we can move on and perhaps raise our sights a little.

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LIB

Rick Limoges

Liberal

Mr. Rick Limoges (Windsor—St. Clair, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, after watching the Minister of Finance previously deliver six innovative budgets from outside the Chamber, it is an honour for me to stand here today to speak in favour of his seventh budget and to participate in the budget debate.

When I decided to speak in support of this budget, I thought back to a time when federal budgets focused on deficits and a ballooning national debt while Canadians had to deal with deep spending cuts; a time when the tax burden on Canadians, particularly low and middle income Canadians, was increasing at an alarming rate; a time when the national unemployment rate was over 11%; a time when Canadians were worried about their future and the prospects for their children.

Today we have a federal budget that is able to address very different issues. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, we have a budget today that allows the government to build on the foundation secured by the many sacrifices made by Canadians in Windsor—St. Clair and across Canada.

This budget, the first of the new millennium, takes decisive action to take advantage of Canada's better finances to improve our lives. The balanced approach of this budget works to return hard earned income to Canadians, improve the quality of life for Canadians, prepare the Canadian economy for the new millennium and make our workplaces more productive and competitive.

The balanced approach of this budget addresses several areas of concern and challenges facing this country. Since I only have a few minutes I cannot highlight the entire budget but one area which I would like to discuss today is that of tax relief.

Tax relief is a very important issue in my riding of Windsor—St. Clair. Since my election last April, many of my constituents have told me that tax relief is important in order to improve their quality of life. This budget goes a long way to address this concern by approaching tax relief in a fair and balanced manner.

Budget 2000 introduces a plan that will reduce taxes by at least $58 billion over the next five years. On an annual basis, it will reduce personal income taxes by an average of 15% by 2004-05. This five year tax reduction plan delivers immediate and growing tax relief to my constituents in Windsor—St. Clair and to all Canadians. This is very much the case for middle and low income Canadians, as well as families with children.

Low and middle income Canadians will see their net personal income tax reduced by an average of 18% annually, perhaps even more if our economic circumstances permit. Families raising children will enjoy an average reduction in their net personal income tax of 21% annually because of the added assistance provided through the enrichment of the Canada child tax benefit.

The combination of tax relief measures and the government's last three budgets and the five year plan will reduce the federal portion of personal income tax for all Canadians by an average of 22% annually by 2004, even more for families raising children.

As a key element of the tax reduction plan, the budget immediately restores full inflation indexation of the personal income tax system. This will stop the hidden tax increases known as bracket creep. This means that the real value of federal benefits, such as the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB, and the GST credit, will no longer be eroded by inflation, thus protecting the integrity of these programs which were designed to help low and middle income families, especially those who are struggling to raise children.

In short, the government is providing meaningful and permanent tax relief for Canadians, relief that is sustainable because it is built on a solid foundation of fiscal responsibility and not borrowed from future generations through deficit financing as we have seen with some provincial governments in this country.

In another key measure, the middle income tax rate applied to income between $29,590 and $59,180 will be cut. Effective July 1 this rate will be reduced to 24% from the current 26%. This middle rate will be cut another full point to 23% by 2004 or sooner, if possible. Under this plan Canadians in Windsor—St. Clair and across the country will earn more tax free income and more of their income will be taxed at lower rates. The plan also enriches the CCTB so that by 2004-05 an additional $2.5 billion annually will be provided to low and middle income families in my riding of Windsor—St. Clair and across Canada.

As a result of these and other measures, a typical one income family of four earning $40,000 will have its net federal personal income taxes reduced by $1,623 a year by 2004, a reduction of 48%. A typical two income family of four earning $60,000 will have its net federal portion of personal income taxes reduced by $1,546 a year by 2004, a reduction of 27%.

The government's commitment to tax relief goes beyond tax reductions to individuals and families. The budget 2000 tax plan also helps Canada to become more competitive internationally by encouraging investment and innovation. Measures include reducing corporate tax rates by 7% for businesses in the highest tax sectors to the lasting benefit of our economy in Windsor—St. Clair and all of Canada.

Capital gains taxes which tend to freeze up vast amounts of capital are being reduced as well. Now only two-thirds of these gains are taxable instead of the previous three-quarters.

Opportunity for our young innovators will be found in Canada now that our tax system will promote creative wage and benefit packages, including incentives such as share options.

Today Canada enjoys a new economic reality. The federal deficit is history. The national debt burden is in decline. Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in more than 20 years. The disposable income of Canadians in Windsor—St. Clair and across Canada is on the rise.

The balanced approach of budget 2000 continues to build on Canada's fiscal and economic success. The government has clearly recognized that tax relief is an important part of a balanced approach to dealing with the problems of success that we are thankfully facing today and into the future.

The government is committed to taking these better finances and transforming them into better lives for all Canadians. Budget 2000 delivers just that. Budget 2000 is good for Windsor—St. Clair and it is good for Canada. I ask all hon. members of the House to give their full support because it is the right thing to do.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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REF

Roy H. Bailey

Reform

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the member and put forth a particular situation that was drawn to my attention this morning. There is a number of ongoing sales because of the economy in western Canada. When there is an auction sale the auctioneer comes, takes a list and so on. He publishes that list.

This case is a typical example of another widow who is having an auction sale. Among the goods listed are some firearms. The auctioneer, being a professional and one who used to belong to the provincial organization, did everything right until sales day and he was stopped from selling the widow's guns. Because of this government and the senseless legislation that is supported in only two provinces, we send another widow away with a loss of $8,000. The government is totally to blame for that happening. Would the hon. member like to comment on that?

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LIB

Rick Limoges

Liberal

Mr. Rick Limoges

Mr. Speaker, I would be very pleased to respond to that question. One does not have to look too far into the headlines today in North America, both in Canada and the United States, to know that gun control is a very important issue. It is an important issue of safety for all Canadians. I make absolutely no apologies. No one in the House should take the position that gun ownership is something that we ought to be promoting in the way in which that party promotes it.

Certainly people have a right to own guns for certain purposes, hunters, for example, and so on. However we have more than a right; we have a responsibility. When we are talking about responsible gun ownership, no responsible gun owner can possibly complain about the fact that we want to put controls on these very deadly, dangerous weapons to ensure that they do not get into the wrong hands and to ensure that we know where they are and we can protect not only the children in schools but people on the streets and in their homes. I make no apology.

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NDP

Peter Stoffer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to two backbench Liberals speak about the budget, I was quite amused by the fact that they accuse our party, the NDP, of just throwing money at health care. In actuality, with this recent budget, for every dollar in tax cuts the government gave two cents for health.

The Liberal government has lost the moral authority to even talk about health care in the country when the Prime Minister goes to Alberta and literally kowtows to Mr. Ralph Klein in terms of bill 11 and the privatization of health care, the most valued and cherished program in the country.

We know the Liberals do not understand the concerns about health care. Another thing they do not understand is the shipbuilding policy on the east coast and elsewhere in the country. There was not a single word in the budget on shipbuilding.

This industry employs thousands of people not only in Atlantic Canada but in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. They sit there and completely ignored the industry, the workers and employers such as the CAW and the Irving Company when they came together with a shipbuilding policy. We are one of the few nations in the world without a comprehensive policy.

Tomorrow there will be debate at third reading on a bill proposed by one of the Bloc members. Will this member be supporting that initiative and will the government be supporting a shipbuilding policy in the country?

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LIB

Rick Limoges

Liberal

Mr. Rick Limoges

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that the member from the NDP has brought up health care funding once again. Indeed the figures speak for themselves. This is the fourth consecutive increase in Canada health and social transfers by the government. We are now surpassing the levels of the pre-cutback years.

When the government took office in 1993-94 a total of $37.429 billion were going to the provinces in Canada health and social transfers. This year it will be $39.399 billion or over $2 billion more. The $2.5 billion we have added to this year's budget will help the provinces.

As the Minister of Health said it will take more than money. It will take innovative solutions from every province. It will take health care ministers from across Canada getting together to come up with ways in which we can better fund and deal with the health care crisis we are currently facing and the provinces are trying to manage their way out of.

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REF

Deepak Obhrai

Reform

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak as a member of the Canadian Alliance. As a matter of fact this is the first speech by a member of the Canadian Alliance. It is an historical moment. I am extremely proud to be part of this history. Yes, yes, yes.

What happened on Saturday night in Calgary? Canadians from coast to coast, fed up with Liberal arrogance and disregard for the wishes of the Canadians, spoke with a tremendous roar. They created a new political force that will send these Liberals packing into the Canadian wilderness. A total of 91.5% of Reformers said yes to a broader coalition. What a mandate.

Today I stand proud to be the first member of the Canadian Alliance to speak. Let me say what happened in referendum 2000. For the record, 94.5% of Albertans said yes to this broader coalition; 93.1% said yes—

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March 27, 2000