April 7, 2000


The House resumed from April 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.


REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak to Bill C-25, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 1999.

It is said that the certainties in life are death and taxes, and that certainly is true. I will tell the House a true story about something that happened in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla.

I was elected in 1993. In 1994, while opening my mail in the constituency, I received a letter from a man who was living on the poverty line. I was shocked when I read his description of the desperate situation he was facing. The man was living on a very limited income in a hotel in Princeton, British Columbia. He was paying weekly rent. He had very minimal things in his life, no furniture, no excesses and no extravagances. He went on to explain that Revenue Canada was after him for back taxes. The letter went on to say that this man was going to end his life by committing suicide and that he was writing to his member of parliament in desperation.

I did not know for sure if what the man was saying was true or not, but I did what I felt was my duty and picked up the phone and contacted the RCMP. Several hours later the RCMP called me back and told me that the man was preparing to commit suicide. Thanks to my intervention, the RCMP prevented that from happening.

As I started off today, I said that death and taxes are the two certainties we face in this world, but I think it is reasonable that Canadians would expect that taxes should not be the reason for our demise.

I will open my remarks today by first giving slight congratulations to the Liberal government for eliminating bracket creep in its current budget by tying income tax rates to inflation. That is a very important step. This does protect taxpayers against automatic tax increases caused by inflation, and all Canadians do benefit from that action.

However, the reality is that the Liberals have only ended tax increases through stealth. Tying tax rates to inflation is not a tax break. It does nothing more than cancel scheduled tax increases that the finance minister and the finance department had planned.

Having said that, I have some other concerns as well. My first concern is the way the Liberal government continues to tax Canadians. My second concern is its refusal to tackle the massive national debt facing Canadians. My third concern is the way it mismanages the spending priorities, the priorities that Canadians are saying very clearly they are concerned about, things like health care.

These are the issues I will be dealing with in my remarks today. I will then leave Canadians with an alternative vision to that of the Liberal government, how Canadians should be taxed and that is through solution 17, the Canadian Alliance proposal for a single rate of tax.

The Liberal government claims that the 2000 budget proposes a five year tax reduction plan that includes the most important structural changes to the federal tax system in more than a decade. This was supposed to be a tax relief budget. In fact, the finance minister said “Today, we are setting out a five year plan so that individuals, families, small businesses and others will know for certain that their taxes will fall this year, next year and in years to come”.

The finance minister proclaimed loud and clear that Canadians could expect tax relief equalling $58.4 billion over the next five years. He even admitted that tax dollars were really the property of the Canadian taxpayer, something we do not often hear from Liberal members in the House. “It is your money”, he said, “after all”. Speaking to Canadians, he said that the tax dollars were their money. That is a significant step forward for the Liberal government.

Can Canadians really expect to receive $58.4 billion in tax relief from this same government and that same finance minister who made those comments?

The answer is clearly no, Canadians cannot. After all the hoopla died away, it became pretty clear that new spending initiatives, combined with tax increases from previous budgets, will wipe away the vast majority of this $58.4 billion tax cut.

Over the next five years spending on programs will increase by $7.5 billion. This brings the supposed tax cuts down to just over $50 billion. Then subtract from that $50 billion the whopping $29.5 billion payroll tax hike caused by the massive multi-year increase to the Canada Pension Plan premiums. Every January Canadians have to pay more of their hard earned dollars to bankroll a public pension plan that for all intents and purposes is broke.

Now the tax cut is down to about $20 billion, but $13.5 billion of this amount is nothing more than a cancellation of scheduled tax hikes. Again, I would ask, is cancelling scheduled tax hikes really a tax break? I do not think so, and judging from the response of my constituents they do not either.

That leaves a grand total of $7.9 billion for tax relief. To put it another way, $107.60 per year, or $8.97 per taxpayer per month. Or, a taxpayer can pop down to the local Tim Horton's, or whichever coffee shop, and use that tax break to buy a cup of coffee because it equals about $2.07 per week.

Canadian taxpayers are getting no meaningful tax relief from the Liberal government's latest budget. Each Canadian is still paying over $2,000 more in taxes than they were in 1993 when the Liberals formed government. This is a real blow to an already shrinking disposable income. The disposable income of families who want to put some money away for retirement, a vacation or plan for their children's education, has shrunk under this Liberal government, leaving them unable to do those things.

The policy of high taxation of the Liberal government is also a blow to the economy of Canada on the whole. On Wednesday in Toronto a summit of 200 CEOs brought together by the Business Council on National Issues tried to come up with remedies for the poor economic performance of Canada compared with a number of other new economy jurisdictions. While Canada fell behind during the 1990s, Ireland, a nation that traditionally had a lower standard of living than the United Kingdom and much of the European community, has become an economic hot spot.

Why has Ireland and not Canada been able to draw in so much high tech wealth and talent when high tech companies in Canada continuously lose many of their best and brightest to the United States and other markets? The answer is clearly high taxation.

During the past decade, Ireland has acted decisively to lower taxes, creating a pro-business atmosphere. Ireland now has one of the lowest tax rates and, as a result, one of the most buoyant economies. The standard of living of its citizens has also increased dramatically vis-à-vis its neighbours. At the same time, the standard of living in Canada has dramatically decreased vis-à-vis the United States.

Ireland has achieved financial prosperity for its people partly through the conscious policy decisions of a government that is not afraid to cut taxes.

Canadians are not so fortunate. The modest tax cuts in the current Liberal budget will do nothing to stem the slide of our standard of living or the flow of skilled Canadians to lower tax jurisdictions in the United States. Like Ireland, Canada must act decisively through conscious policy decisions. This is what Canadians expect of their federal government.

The Liberals have gone out of their way to make it difficult for small businesses to conduct business in Canada.

On this year's tax form small businesses found something new. Any contractor who subcontracts work to others is now forced by the government to police them by filing what is called a summary of contract payments form with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. This is in addition to the burden that small businesses already face with serious fines attached to this of up to $2,500 for those who fail to file their summary of payment forms on time.

The Liberal's current budget also fails to make serious inroads into paying down the debt. Canada's current debt load is approximately $580 billion. This has remained steady for the last two years with only a minute reduction of $6.4 billion scheduled over the next five years.

At the rate we are going, it will take 100 years or more to pay off the national debt. Contrast that to the United States which intends to pay off its national debt in just 12 years. Without a feasible game plan to pay off our national debt in a timely manner that is consistent with our trading partners, the standard of living of Canadians will continue to decline. At the same time the lower tax, debt free U.S. market will continue to attract Canada's best and brightest. As we know, that is the brain drain that we all are so desperately concerned about.

To make matters worse, Canadians are deeply concerned about the way the Liberal government spends their hard-earned tax dollars. Just going through the clippings this morning, we read that the federal government handed out more than $85 million to Liberal ridings to fund projects for the millennium. This apparently, according to the press, is double what was received in opposition members' ridings.

An article from the National Post this morning said that the PMO tried last month to force through cabinet the purchase, at an inflated price, of a 10-storey building belonging to a financially troubled Liberal supporter. Imagine, the treasury board committee refused to approve the deal, but it would have seen this 38,000 square metre building with an estimated market value of $50 million being sold to the government for as much as $78 million.

We see in the clippings this morning another RCMP probe into the HRDC scandal. The federal government asked the RCMP yesterday to look into another job grant in the Prime Minister's riding that went to a company whose officers have personal, political and business ties to, guess who, the Liberal Party of Canada. It goes on and on.

Our two critics, one for the prison system and one for national defence, yesterday held a press conference and showed to all of Canada where prisoners serving time in our penitentiaries actually have better living conditions than members of the Canadian Armed Forces living in bases such as CFB Petawawa.

The problem here is that the Liberal government is using taxpayers' money, not as the Liberal Prime Minister said, that it was actually the people of Canada's money, but is using it as if it was its own slush fund to promote its own particular interests. That is what Canadians are saying must not happen.

The scandal surrounding grants and contributions for a variety of ill-defined and unproven job creation schemes clearly shows the Liberal government has no sense whatsoever of financial accountability. The scandal does not stop at the department of human resources. The auditor general has pointed out that numerous other departments mismanage billions and billions of dollars in grants and contributions.

It would appear that Canadians' tax dollars are there to be spent on make-work projects that are designed to re-elect Liberals, not to serve the best interests of each and every Canadian. The fact that real permanent jobs and economic prosperity can only be created through a combination of real tax relief and business friendly policies is of no consideration at all to the current government.

The Liberals are so out of touch with the average Canadian that just recently, not that long ago, the industry minister was talking about actually subsidizing NHL hockey teams. That was in January. Canadians were appalled at how a minister of the crown could be so out of touch with the rest of the country. While the government continues to mismanage portfolios and grants and contributions, it grossly underfunds portfolios such as health. Health care is the number one issue in Canada and the Liberal government continues to ignore the issue. It also continues to ignore the problems that we face with national defence.

The number one concern of Canadians is health care. By the year 2004 the Liberal government will have starved the provinces of $35 billion for health care at a time when the population is rapidly aging and new technologies come with a hefty price tag.

Since 1993, the Liberal government's contributions to health have been slashed by 28%. The Liberals claim they will put $2.5 billion back into the health care system every year for the next four years. That is a reality and yes, that is true, but this does not address the fact that they have cut $35 billion out of that very system. The provinces are upset about this and rightly so.

The only premier who seems to like what the Liberals have done is the premier of my province of B.C., Ujjal Dosanjh, who was in Ottawa last week to curry favour with the Liberal Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers. He looked like a whipped puppy in front of Canadians, his fellow premiers and members of all opposition parties, including the NDP in the House who have railed against the deterioration of health care in Canada and have unanimously called for the restoration of the money that has been cut out of health care.

All the provinces, with the exception of B.C., are rightly demanding that health care funding be completely restored to the tune of another $4.2 billion annually. The Liberals would rather funnel this money into the riding of the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet ministers while waiting lines in hospitals in my riding and right across Canada are growing with people waiting for needed surgery. This is unacceptable.

In my riding the Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society, the Child Development Centre as it is known as, is a registered non-profit society whose mission is to promote the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of children in the South Okanagan and Similkameen regions. This centre is so underfunded that each and every year I hold a charity golf tournament to raise money. Last year we raised about $15,000. This year we hope to raise about $20,000. One hundred percent of that money raised goes to the children at the OSNS Child Development Centre. I will continue to do this.

It is a shame that an institution such as OSNS, which looks after the well-being and psychological and emotional needs of our children in this country is without funding. It has to look for funding from other sources. It has to be creative, and it is. I do my charity work willingly for the constituency and for the CDC and I will continue to do it.

The government should also do something. It should put its priorities in line with the priorities of Canadians who clearly say that health care is the number one issue. Yesterday we heard one of the former cabinet ministers of the Liberal government speak out on the issue of health care, saying that the Prime Minister and his current cabinet are out of whack with the rest of the country.

Let me speak for a minute on defence because this is another portfolio that is severely underfunded. Since 1993, the Liberal government has slashed defence spending by a whopping 23%, drastically reducing our combat capability in the Canadian Armed Forces. The drastic cuts have literally gutted the Canadian forces. Many of my Liberal colleagues on the defence committee would agree with this.

I would like to offer in conclusion that the Canadian Alliance and many Canadians are looking at solution 17, our tax proposals, as one of the solutions that we would like to put forward. In the next election campaign, we look forward to bringing this to the Canadian public. Every single Canadian taxpayer would benefit from a 17% single rate of tax combined with a number of progressive deductions. We would take 1.9 million people off the tax rolls completely, the low income people that I started my remarks off about today.

I am speaking about the man in Princeton, British Columbia, who is living week to week, who is desperate because of the taxation strain that the Liberal government has placed on people like him.

In a country like Canada there is no excuse. Those people should not be taxed at all. Tax freedom day in the United States has come and gone, yet Canadians still have two months to wait before tax freedom day arrives for them.

We want to see changes. The country wants to see changes. Is the Liberal government up to the challenge? I think the answer is no.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to direct a question to my friend from British Columbia.

I understand that he is a good friend of a gentleman by the name of Stockwell Day. I have a newspaper clipping that puzzles me. I thought it was from the National Enquirer , but it turns out to be from the National Post . The headline reads: “Provinces should collect taxes, not Ottawa, Day says”. The article quotes a speech given by Stockwell Day in Montreal. It reads:

The federal government should be stripped of its tax-collecting powers and depend on the provinces for its funding....He said provincial governments should collect all taxes above the local level, and send Ottawa a cheque every year to sustain the federal administration.

I have not heard of an idea like that since 1776, when the American Declaration of Independence was signed, when a proposal came to the people writing the constitution that the states collect all the taxes. It was turned down as an idea that was far out in right field.

Does my friend from British Columbia agree with this fellow named Stockwell Day? We know he has some pretty extreme ideas in terms of social conservatism regarding abortion, gay rights, capital punishment and those sorts of things. His extreme views are very well known. But I think this view that the federal government collect zero taxes is even more extreme. Imagine that, no taxes at all and every year the provinces would send a cheque to Ottawa for the administration of the federal government. Does he agree with Stockwell Day?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the hon. member, who has the respect of the House. He has spent many years as a parliamentarian, but I do not know if he goes back as far as 1776.

If he wants to talk about extreme views, let us look at his party's namesake in the province of British Columbia.

I mentioned in my speech that Premier Ujjal Dosanjh was here. He is a man who has no mandate, by the way, in the province of B.C., because he was recently elected as leader of the NDP by default, by some 1,100 or 1,200 people. He does not have the courage to call an election to put the issue of health care to British Columbians. That is an extreme view when it comes to politicians in this country.

As for Stockwell Day, until recently he was the treasurer of Alberta. Yes, he is a leadership candidate for the Canadian Alliance, but what we are hearing is the frustration being faced by ministers of finance right across the country. The provinces want to have more control over their funding. The situation with health care again comes back to the provinces being at the mercy of a federal government which at one time guaranteed to pay 50%, half of the funding, for such things as health care. Does it do that? No, it does not.

What we are seeing is the honest frustration of a person at the executive level in a province that has lived under this big central government philosophy. The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle would probably agree that he likes that model. He likes to have the big central government in Ottawa. That is what his party stands for. Folks like Stockwell Day want to see a smaller government. They want to see more of the resources going into priorities like health care.

The hon. member is frustrated with the system, and I do not blame him. I am, too.

Stockwell Day as a leadership candidate for the Canadian Alliance will be an interesting element to what is going to be a great race over the next couple of months. The hon. member for Calgary Southwest will also be putting forward some interesting ideas with respect to taxation. Also, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will be entering the debate. They will be able to take those issues, sell them to Canadians and start the debate. That is what will be exciting, as Canadians focus their attention on this great movement across the country called the Canadian Alliance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member gave a very interesting psycho-analysis of Stockwell Day and why he said what he said.

My question is very simple. Does the member agree with Stockwell Day when he says that the federal government should collect no taxes, that the only taxes collected above the local level should be done by the provinces and each year the provinces should write a cheque and send it to Ottawa? In other words, no taxes—income taxes, corporate taxes, the GST and excise taxes—would be collected by Ottawa. That is what Stockwell Day is saying. Does he agree with that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart

Mr. Speaker, I would have to study exactly what Mr. Day said in his analysis. As I explained to the member once already, we are hearing the frustration of a person who is at the executive level of the province of Alberta who is trying to wrestle with the issues of a large federal government which does not spend its money wisely.

Billions of dollars go to grants and contributions each and every year. The auditor general has said that he has severe concerns about that. There are mismanagement issues that have to be dealt with. That creates frustration.

The level of funding to health care should be restored. Priorities should be set by the federal government, but it is clearly not doing that.

Stockwell Day is accurate in his recognition that the federal government does not responsibly operate in the fiscal arena. That should be addressed. If Stockwell Day has a solution, then I am one Canadian who is willing to listen. I am one Canadian who will vote during the leadership race. I will be happy to hear and assess what the other candidates say as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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REF

Eric C. Lowther

Reform

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague. I want him to explore another facet that he did not touch on too much in his speech. I think that Canadians are quite willing to pay taxes. They want to do their part to contribute to the state of the nation. However, one of the things that frustrates them is that when they pay their taxes, where does the money go?

I noticed in the finance minister's budget that he proposed to give another billion dollars to HRDC for grants and contributions, in spite of the condemning audit we recently had. Eighty-seven per cent of the files that were audited showed no evidence of any kind of supervision. There was no estimate of job participants or cash flow forecasts for these grants. Ninety-seven per cent showed no evidence that anyone had even checked to see if the grant participants already owed money to HRDC. One grant in particular stands out. The grant recipient submitted a proposal requesting $60,000 and received $160,000. He only asked for $60,000. When the details were examined by those performing the audit they discovered that he should have been granted only $30,000.

Canadians are frustrated. They do not mind paying taxes, but for goodness sake, if they are going to pay, they want that money to be used wisely.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Permalink
REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. In my remarks I stated that the finance minister said that the government should treat taxpayer dollars as if they belonged to Canadians. However, the example of the HRDC grants which the member gave is clearly an indication that the government uses the money collected for its own purposes.

It is not used for job stimulation or job creation. The way to create jobs is to put more money into the pockets of the average family, the average taxpayer, the average entrepreneur, those people who actually create jobs. The government does not create jobs. People who think that the government actually creates jobs are wrong. I know there are some bright people across the way. They are not stupid, they are just simply wrong when it comes to the concept of the redistribution of wealth. Canadian dollars should be left to Canadians.

Priorities such as health care and education should be addressed. We must ensure that we have an adequate monetary system. Those things should be looked after, but the government cannot get its priorities straight. Until the government does that, the hon. member from the NDP will be fighting hard for an increase in health care dollars, as will I and every other opposition member of the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-25 is largely a technical bill which will implement many of the changes made in past budgets concerning the GST and other tax changes, customs changes and the like. It also gives us an opportunity to talk about the general direction in which we want to go as a country, in terms of what vision we should have about the fiscal and monetary system and about some public policy issues that are very important.

A few minutes ago I had an exchange with my friend in the Reform Party—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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?

An hon. member

The Canadian Alliance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

The Canadian Alliance. I get mixed up. It was the Reform Party, then it was the united alternative, then it was C-R-A-P, then it was the Canadian conservative and reform party of Canada, and now it is the Canadian Alliance.

I was asking a question because a proposal came from one of the leadership candidates for that party which was very intriguing. The headline read: “Provinces should collect taxes, not Ottawa, Day says”. As I said before, I thought I was reading the National Enquirer , not the National Post when I saw the headline. I have not seen such a radical idea for a long time.

Stockwell Day is a leadership candidate for the Alliance. He is aspiring to lead that party. I see that some of the Reform Party members are a bit embarrassed by what he said. The article read:

The federal government should be stripped of its tax-collecting powers and depend on the provinces for its funding....He said provincial governments should collect all taxes above the local level, and send Ottawa a cheque every year to sustain the federal administration.

Here we have someone aspiring to be the leader of a national party who is advocating that the federal government collect no taxes, zero taxes. I have not heard an idea like that for a long time. It is far out in lulu land. I know this guy takes some pretty extreme positions on a lot of social issues, but now he is taking a position that is very extreme in terms of public, fiscal and monetary policies. Imagine, a person aspiring for federal office who is advocating that the federal government collect no taxes at all. I am really curious to know whether members of the Alliance caucus support that position.

If we go back in history to the conference held in Philadelphia on the foundation of the United States and its federation, one of the ideas was that the states should collect the taxes and then submit a check to the federal government every year to pay for the federal administration. That idea was rejected back in 1776.

People talk about the Alliance-Reform party being a throwback to the 1920s and 1930s, but here is an idea that is a throwback to the 1770s, and even then the idea was rejected. It was an idea that was unworkable to govern a country at that time.

I think people should be aware of what this leading contender for the Alliance-Reform party is saying he would like to have as his vision for the country, where the federal government would have its hands totally tied and would collect no taxes whatsoever, but would depend on the provinces for every single penny required to run the federal administration.

Is that the kind of vision we want? Is that the kind of country we want? Is that the kind of holding company vision of the country we want? The federal government and the federal parliament would be subject to the whims of the provinces to collect taxes and send a cheque every year to the federal government. I suggest not. The reason I raise it in this debate is that the debate is about our taxation system and our monetary system.

I see the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has just arrived in the House. I know he is a very sensible man from Saskatchewan and I am sure he is upset with Stockwell Day for suggesting such an idea of lunacy that the federal government would collect no taxes and that all the taxes would be collected by the provinces. I have never heard anybody put forth that kind of idea before.

It is important that Canadians know where this new party is heading in terms of its vision of federalism and its vision of Canada. It does not want the federal government to collect any more taxes. The provinces would do that and send a cheque every year to the federal government. That is a very intriguing and very interesting idea from a person who is aspiring to federal office.

The bill before us talks about a number of changes in the sales tax system, the excise tax system, the GST and other taxes in the country. Concerning the GST we suggested during the prebudget debate that the federal government make it a priority in terms of starting to phase out the GST by cutting it back by 1% in the budget, another per cent next year and so on, until the GST is eventually rolled out and scrapped.

A few years ago, going back to the 1993 campaign, the Liberal Party across the way was in opposition. It was campaigning for the election in the fall of 1993 and saying that if it were elected it would eliminate the GST. That has not happened. It has not eliminated the GST. It has kept the GST. The GST is still here today.

It seems to me the Liberals have broken a pretty fundamental political promise by keeping the GST. The only member across the way who has actually done something about it is the former deputy prime minister, the Minister of Canadian Heritage who resigned her seat because she had made that promise. She put her seat on the line in a byelection. She is the only one who has done something honourable in terms of trying to address the promise made in 1993 to abolish the GST.

They have not kept their word. If we look at the polling of the Canadian population done by the Department of Finance about a year or so ago, it shows that the number one priority of the Canadian public in terms of tax cuts and tax changes was the elimination of the goods and service tax.

Despite public opinion, despite what Canadians are saying to us and to the pollsters every day, the federal government decided not to cut the GST. It decided to address tax changes in terms of general income tax, corporate tax and the like. I suggest it is out of touch in terms of its fiscal policy as it pertains to tax cutting.

When we talk about a bill that implements many changes coming from the budget, we have to look at some of the priorities of the federal government as well. As I look at federal government priorities, the number one issue that should be addressed today is the issue of the funding of health care. For every dollar of tax cuts in the budget only two cents went into increased funding for health care. No wonder health care is in a crisis. No wonder Canadians from every province and territory say that this is the number one issue.

It is in crisis largely because the federal government has cut back transfers to the provinces under the CHST for health care and education by billions and billions of dollars. The health care system is now funded by about $4 billion a year less than it was in 1993 when the Liberal Party took over government. It has cut back on health care and social programs more than any Conservative government has ever done in our history. That is why we see lineups in emergency rooms and a crisis in the funding of health care across the country.

I suggest that the priority should be to bring funding back up to the level it was in 1993, to add an additional $4 billion per year in transfers to the provinces.

The health care system was started back in the 1960s when Lester Pearson was prime minister, after being founded in Saskatchewan in 1961 under the then CCF government of Woodrow Lloyd, the successor of Tommy Douglas. After it became a national policy, a national goal and part of a national dream and vision, the federal government committed to funding health care on a 50:50 basis with the provinces: 50 cents from Ottawa and 50 cents from the provinces. Health care went along relatively smoothly for a number of years.

Then a number of years ago it started to change with new funding arrangements, to the point today where the federal government contributes only about 13 or 14 cents on the dollar depending on the province in terms of cash support for health care. I suggest that is not good enough. Government priorities should change and the number one priority should be health care.

Another matter should be addressed in terms of the government's fiscal policies. It should look more seriously at what is happening to farmers, in particular prairie farmers. Prairie farmers are going through the biggest crisis they have gone through at any time since the 1930s. In the 1930s there was a world-wide crisis in terms of a great depression and in the prairies there was a great drought, so there was the combination of a drought and a depression. Now we are seeing the biggest crisis since that particular time.

One reason for the crisis is that the United States and Europe are subsidizing grain farmers to a large degree compared to what we are doing in this country. In Europe a grain farmer gets about 56 cents on the dollar from the treasury of the European Union in Brussels. American farmers who farm just across the border from my province of Saskatchewan in Montana or North Dakota get about 38 cents on the dollar from the federal treasury in Washington.

Does the House know what it is in our country? Farmers receive about nine cents on the dollar from Ottawa in terms of a support payment under various programs to our grain farmers. Our farmers receive nine cents on the dollar. American farmers get 38 cents on the dollar. European farmers get 56 cents on the dollar. We see right away that we have a very unlevel playing field. That is why we have a crisis in prairie agriculture such as we have not had since the 1930s.

A gentleman by the name of Nick Parsons drove his Massey combine from British Columbia to Ottawa and parked it on the street in front of Parliament Hill about two weeks ago as a way of drawing attention to the crisis. He then had a chance to go over to 24 Sussex Drive and have a whiskey with the Prime Minister and exchange some ideas. He enjoyed the whiskey. He enjoyed the conversation, but what Mr. Parsons and farmers want is to put some beef in the sandwich. They want more money for prairie farmers so that they and their families can survive, pay their bills and seed their crops next spring to feed the people of this country and the people of the world. That is what should be done.

For the first time in many years we now have the fiscal capacity to do that. In the fiscal update last year we had a projected surplus over five years of around $100 billion. Surely to goodness, in addition to health care, farmers could receive a couple of billion dollars extra with about $1.3 billion targeted for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. That would help them survive as farmers, pay their bills, seed their crops, maintain their way of life, maintain the rural fabric which is so important to our country, and maintain the small towns and small villages.

That is what we are asking on this side of the House. That is what Manitoba and Saskatchewan are asking of the government. That is what our people are asking for, but we do not see it coming from the federal government across the way. These are some of the priorities which the federal government should be addressing and they are not being addressed.

We also need a tax system which is fair, a tax system which is progressive, and a tax system which is based on the ability to pay. That is becoming a very important issue today. The Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party of Canada is a long name. It will require a longer ballot in the next election campaign. It is saying that it has a new idea for taxes. It wants a 17% flat tax rate right across the board: regardless of what one makes, one would pay 17%. That is an idea that even right wing Republicans in the United States have rejected with the exception of Steve Forbes. Even the George Bush campaign has said that idea is too reactionary and too conservative for right wing Republicans. Yet it is an idea being pushed by the Canadian Alliance Party.

Why is it an idea that is not acceptable to good progressive thought? If everybody pays the 17% bracket, those who make $50,000 or $60,000 a year in taxable income would pay 17% as they struggle to meet needs in terms of themselves, their spouses and their families, while those who make $1 million or $2 million a year would still only pay 17%. The big tax break would be for the the millionaires and the wealthy.

That is not the way the country should go. We need a good progressive tax system based on the ability to pay. Those who make a lot of money would pay a higher percentage in taxes. Those who make less money would pay less in taxes. That is the Canadian way. Our tax system should be more progressive, not less, and certainly should not go back to a flat tax where everybody pays the same percentage rate regardless of one's income, which is the way the Reform Party wants to go.

I conclude by saying what I said at the beginning. I would like to hear the Canadian Alliance Party respond today in this very important debate on the fiscal future of our country. I would like to hear Canadian Alliance members respond today on whether or not they support their leadership candidate, Stockwell Day, who has made the radical proposal that the federal government withdraw entirely from the field of collecting taxes. I repeat that in case there are hon. members in the House now who were not here a few minutes ago when I mentioned it.

According to a copy of an article from the National Post last weekend headlined “Provinces should collect taxes, not Ottawa”, Stockwell Day is saying that the federal government should be stripped of its powers to collect taxes and that all taxes in the country, except local taxes, should be collected by the provinces. Every year the provinces would then send a cheque to Ottawa for the federal administration of the country.

I have not heard an idea like this for an awful long time. I am very interested to see whether or not the people on my left will rise to say they support Stockwell Day and his radical idea, his vision of Canada that the federal company is a sort of holding company funded by the provinces. I would like to know the response of Canadian Alliance members to that.

The Liberals can respond to that too. If there are any Liberals out there who support Stockwell Day in his vision of fiscal federalism where the federal government collects nothing, I wish they would rise and tell me. If members have any questions or comments, I will take them now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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The Deputy Speaker

I would love to have questions and comments, but unfortunately it is time to move to Statements by Members. When we come back to this debate later this day the hon. member will have three minutes remaining in the time for his remarks and ten minutes for questions and comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999
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REF

Gurmant Grewal

Reform

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, 15 years ago 329 people were killed by the Air India bombing. Since then a dark cloud of injustice has been hanging over the families of the victims. The current Prime Minister while in opposition said:

It is of fundamental importance that people who get involved in these tragic events know that there is no place they can land safely any more.

The current Deputy Prime Minister said in 1985:

We call on the government to do everything possible to assist the families of those who lost their lives in the Air India explosion.

Liberal government members when in opposition were demanding justice, but what have they done as a government in the last seven years? What help have they been to those families?

After a most expensive and lengthy investigation no charges have been laid. Instead of doing everything possible, for over a year they have stonewalled and denied me my right to have access to the RCMP investigation file. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Air India
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LIB

Gurbax Malhi

Liberal

Mr. Gurbax Singh Malhi (Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, April is Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. During the month thousands of volunteers from the Canadian Cancer Society will be knocking on doors across the country trying to raise millions of dollars needed for the fight against cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute of Canada, achieves its mission through research, public education, patient services and advocacy for healthy public policy. These efforts are supported by volunteers and staff and funds raised in communities all across Canada.

I urge all members to lend their support and efforts in helping to fight cancer.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Cancer Awareness Month
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LIB

Rey D. Pagtakhan

Liberal

Mr. Rey D. Pagtakhan (Winnipeg North—St. Paul, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, medicare, the crown jewel of our social programs, faces the challenges of an aging population, costly diagnostic and treatment modalities, long waiting lists, crowded emergency rooms and overburdened doctors and nurses.

We need an integrated health care system where hospital care, community care, home care, pharmacare, primary care, illness prevention and health promotion are seen as a continuum. This is best achieved within the five principles of the Canada Health Act, not by creating a private for profit system.

The Government of Canada has guaranteed more funding to renew medicare. But money alone and a renewed vision without a plan are romantic at best. A modernized plan without a renewed vision is simply rearranging the existing order of things.

May provincial and territorial governments work with the Government of Canada to effect a plan of action and achieve a renewed vision of medicare for the 21st century.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Health Care
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LIB

Stan Dromisky

Liberal

Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, a blood safety day has been declared this year by the World Health Organization, commonly known as WHO, as the focus for World Health Day on April 7, WHO's birthday.

Canada has a highly regulated blood system which meets and often exceeds international standards for blood safety. During the past several years Canada has implemented a number of new safety initiatives, including leukoreduction, nucleic acid testing and deferral of donors based on theoretical varian Creutzfeld-Jacob disease risk. Canada is a world leader in implementing these safety initiatives.

In addition to regulation, Health Canada provides ongoing surveillance for blood borne pathogens and other transfusion related adverse events.

Lastly the National Blood Safety Council has been appointed by the Minister of Health to provide public oversight of all elements of the blood system.

Health Canada avails itself of scientists, physicians, analysts and decision makers with expertise in processing bad blood borne pathogens. The therapeutic products program, Health Canada's regulator, also maintains a standing export advisory committee on blood regulations—

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Blood Supply
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?

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Blood Supply
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LIB

Reg Alcock

Liberal

Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday on the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the flag on the Peace Tower will fly at half-mast to commemorate this historic battle.

We will be reminded of our coming of age as a nation. Let me read the words of General Byng, commander of the Canadian Corps and later one of our governors general:

There they stood on Vimy Ridge...men from Quebec stood shoulder to shoulder with men from British Columbia and Alberta and there was forged a nation, a nation tempered by fires of sacrifice—

Out of Vimy a renewed confidence and sense of patriotism filled our nation. Sadly, more than 10,000 Canadians were killed or wounded in that heroic battle. May we honour their memory as well as they honoured our country.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Battle Of Vimy Ridge
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REF

Lee Morrison

Reform

Mr. Lee Morrison (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, the rules governing registered charities strictly limit the percentage of funds raised that may be used for partisan indoctrination.

A begging letter which I recently received from the David Suzuki Foundation describes its mission to initiate “profound changes in our economic systems, in government structure and priorities, in the organization of our communities and in the way we live”. That sounds pretty political to me.

There are far too many registered charities whose principal activities are raising lots of money and distributing propaganda.

If Dr. Suzuki wants to change the system, he should stop abusing it and run for parliament instead.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   David Suzuki Foundation
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LIB

John O'Reilly

Liberal

Mr. John O'Reilly (Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, March 2000 saw the unemployment rate at 6.8%, the lowest since April 1976. New jobs increased by 30,000. That represents almost two million since this government took office in 1993. Every Canadian benefits from this success.

In Ontario employment grew by 28,000 new jobs for March and unemployment edged down to 5.6%. Nova Scotia employment grew by 4,000 more jobs in March 2000. Its unemployment rate is also falling and shows the lowest rate since February 1989.

This Liberal government is making very positive changes for all Canadians. Budget 2000 reflects that good news for small and medium size business. Congratulations to the Minister of Finance for his excellent budget.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Employment
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April 7, 2000