February 25, 2003

LIB

Paul Bonwick

Liberal

Mr. Paul Bonwick

Mr. Speaker, he has brought up two points but I will address the health care issue first.

I sit here and question how we get a clear message out to Canadians when we have absolute foolishness being espoused by the other side. These are non-truths.

They do not take into consideration such things as tax points. I am here to say that the provinces certainly took them into consideration when they started to accept them. When we transferred those tax points, those were taxes that we were supposed to be collecting. However in order to save bureaucracy we allowed them to collect them on our behalf. We are talking about billions and billions of dollars.

The hon. member stands and says that we made a promise back in the sixties that we would fund 50% of health care. I challenge the hon. member to find a piece of paper that states that. I challenge him to do so because based on the last budget increases that we have just put forward, $35 billion over the last five years, we will be putting more than our share into health care.

We have transferred money to the Province of Ontario. Members know that. We transferred money to them and they have put it away in their treasury. They did not dispose of it in a timely fashion, reinvesting in health care.

I am saying that the government is committed to a national health care program.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

Peter Goldring

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for his comments about accountability in another file that has been very evident to Canadians of recent. I am speaking of the homeless file where $753 million has been spent over the past three years but absolutely nothing for independent living homes; $753 million in funding that has gone into a system and this winter we have people sleeping on the streets. We are opening up LRT stations in Edmonton to put up homeless people. This is the gain after three years of funding into the system.

If $753 million was spent and the homeless count is up 60%, how much higher will those homeless numbers go with the $400 million that is in the budget now?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Paul Bonwick

Liberal

Mr. Paul Bonwick

Mr. Speaker, I could not be more pleased that the hon. member actually raised these particular points. I have to address them in two ways.

First, I want to articulate what the Alliance, Reformers or whatever they were at the time, suggested about these kinds of social safety nets, the soft money they refer to by way of investing in the homeless. The government has continually supported homeless initiatives by way of supporting the communities partnership initiative. We have invested significant amounts of money in that.

The suggestions being made by the people across the hall in many areas like this are to cut it, to lower taxes and to make tax cuts for the wealthy because we do not need to worry about these kinds of social safety nets that the government puts forward.

I am here to say that we will be working with municipalities, such as Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Stayner and Clearview, to address this problem because, I agree, it is a shame that we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we still have a homeless problem. However rather than rhetoric we are going to put words into action on this side.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it was not an hour and a half that I was sitting in my place and found myself immediately behind the member for Toronto—Danforth, who spoke about attack editorials and attack editorial content against the Liberals for failing to invest mightily in metro Toronto. That really surprised me because the coincidence is that I am a former employee of the Toronto Star . I was an editor at the Toronto Star in the late seventies and early eighties. I would have liked to have said to the member for Toronto—Danforth that this parochialism, this idea that MPs exist to get money for their ridings, in this case one of the richest regions in the country, is not typical of the Toronto Star I once knew.

The Toronto Star is a great paper. It is recognized as one of the world's great papers in fact. I think certainly in the early eighties it was seen as one of the top 25 newspapers in the world.

At the time I was at the Toronto Star it had a great reputation. First of all it was an enormous paper in terms of the number of copies that were distributed, so it had an enormous influence, but it also had a strong sense of community. It was a local paper in the sense that it covered the news in metro Toronto. Our job as editors was to make sure that we were never beaten on a story in Toronto by the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Sun .

Despite that, the Toronto Star then had a vision. By focusing on the Canada that was Toronto it enlarged its view that took in the entire country. Consequently, in my view, in those days the Toronto Star had the best national pages and the best foreign pages. It had foreign correspondents prowling the world and writing stories for the Toronto Star . However the important thing is that in those days the Toronto Star had a genuine sense of nationalism.

Now what we see in today's editorials is that the Toronto Star is criticizing the federal budget because it has not given money directly to the cities. As we heard earlier here, the total amount of money set aside for municipalities has been approximately $3 billion over 10 years. That is not a lot of money but there is all kinds of other money in the budget that goes into municipal infrastructure. We do know that Toronto is the economic heartland of the country. Consequently, indirectly all kinds of money flows into Toronto.

The important point that I want to make and why I was disappointed to hear the complaint of the member for Toronto—Danforth was picked up precisely by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam when he rose during questions and comments and said that we as MPs do not represent just our municipalities and just our ridings. He said that every one of us first represents the entire country.

What is good in the budget and what is lacking in the criticism in the Toronto Star and what was the Toronto Star years ago was this idea that each one of us, be we federal politicians or be we journalists of one of the greatest papers in the country, look not just to our parochial interests, not just to whether we can get votes or sell newspapers in our small localities, but look to the benefit of the entire nation. That is what this budget has done, in my view.

We have all heard comments from other members in which, quite apart from the $3 billion for infrastructure, there is a wonderful section on new money for our students and universities. This is tremendous progress. There is a program of scholarship for post-graduate students. I think there are about $1.6 billion for the various science, social and humanities research councils. This is the kind of thing that a progressive government invests in. It invests in the future of all Canadians by investing in our youth.

I was really disappointed to think that anyone should be calling upon us on either side of the House. I know this is not shared by the opposition. The opposition would agree that we should be looking to the entire country, not simply to Calgary, Toronto, Fredericton or wherever else. We should be looking to benefit the entire country.

The other flaw in the argument that we see in the Toronto Star is the suggestion that the 40 MPs from the GTA should be bringing benefits to the GTA. The reality is, if we are going to invest in municipalities let us invest in those municipalities that really desperately need it. Winnipeg for example is desperately in need. My own area of Hamilton is desperately in need of municipal infrastructure renewal. There are other areas across the country. Look at rural Canada, look at Saskatchewan where the road infrastructure has completely deteriorated and the province does not have the money to upgrade it.

This is the kind of a vision that a budget should have. I think that the budget goes very far toward meeting the expectations of Canadians and trying to help out Canadians who are in need. That is our first concern.

The second concern is to invest in our ability to be competitive. I have a direct criticism of the budget. I would have rather that the budget gave more detail on how there would be better mechanisms of accountability and transparency. The budget talks a good story about how the government will try to bring better transparency to the delivery of health care services. It wants better transparency for corporate Canada. However what is lacking in the budget is in the actual detail.

I would like to have seen some commitment to reform the Access to Information Act or to revisit the Canada Corporations Act to bring in new rules that require higher standards of accountability to businesses and especially non-profit organizations and charities. There are enormous savings to be had there.

On balance, it is a budget that in my mind looks to Canadians and reaches one plateau. I would like very much to see it reach a higher plateau, but perhaps next time.

I do think that whatever anyone says about the budget it does not look parochially. It does not look at getting votes for individual MPs because they happen to be in government and come from one of the largest cities in the country and one of the richest regions. That is exactly what it should not do and that is what it does not do.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

Myron Thompson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech on the budget. I agree it could certainly be at a higher plateau. I want to ask the member specifically about some things that are fact. They are not make believe.

Fact one is in 1993, when I came here, a big plea began and it has happened every year for the last 10 years. That is to make some highway improvements to the international highway, Highway No. 1, which is a two laner that goes beyond Banff, through British Columbia. It has been a two laner ever since we got here. We have been fighting and begging for improvements. In the meantime hundreds of people have lost their lives in tragic accidents on that terribly over populated road.

Fact two is we came here asking for help on the reserves regarding poverty. The United Nations declared Canada as the number one country in which to live but if the reserves were factored in, it would be 38th because of the third world conditions. In 2003 in my riding third world conditions still exist on many of these reserves.

I am really concerned that these kinds of serious problems exist and that have been brought to the attention of the Liberal government for over 10 years. Nothing has happened. Why?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden

Mr. Speaker, on the first point I remind my colleague opposite that road construction is 100% a provincial responsibility under the Constitution, including the Trans-Canada Highway. The Trans-Canada Highway was built with federal money given to the provinces to undertake the construction.

My point is this. I would much rather see, if the federal government is going to get involved in spending on roads, that it make that investment in those provinces that cannot afford it.

Alberta is one of the richest provinces. If the road to Banff needs improvement, then Alberta should fix it and let the federal government make its investment in Saskatchewan. The farmers of Saskatchewan are having a terrible difficulty getting their grain to market because of the poor quality of the road infrastructure.

On the member's second point, I agree that we have not made progress that is sufficiently adequate with respect to the problems on the Indian reserves. However that is not a matter of money. That is a matter of the kind of legislation that is now before the House that will bring transparency and accountability to those bands, those reserves and those communities that up to now have received federal money and there has been no transparency or accountability.

The member knows full well that this is probably the central problem to the management of Canada's aboriginal people and the government is finally moving on this. I know the member will support the legislation of the Indian and northern affairs minister that is now before the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer back to an issue that has already been raised in the House and that is the issue of spending. I know my colleague is concerned about good fiscal management.

In 2000-01 spending was 11% of the GDP. In 2003 it will be 12.2%, the lowest since 1950. The reason for the increase is the $34.8 billion for health care, something that people on the other side said we needed to do. We deliver and as soon as we deliver, they are not happy. The budget projects figures will fall under 12% in the next two fiscal years. We are the only G-7 country paying off the national debt. It has gone from 71.5% to 44.5% in 2003. I believe it will go below 40% in 2005.

Could the hon. member comment on what he sees is the government's ability to balance the books, pay for health care and still deliver quality of life to Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden

Mr. Speaker, it is a balance. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and this government did bite the bullet when it undertook the various cuts during the mid-1990s. Now we have reached a position where we have a significant surplus. I tend to be one of the bluer Liberals on this side and I want to see debt reduction always as a major priority.

We cannot turn our backs on the average Canadian across the country who is worried about their private physical health. That was my original point. We should not be looking to parochial local gain. We should be looking to the budget to helping all Canadians, and that is exactly what we have done by our investments in health care.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for Yellowhead.

I rise today to address the budget proposed by the Minister of Finance last week on behalf of the people of Edmonton Southwest and as the official opposition critic for industry.

During my address I would like to first offer a general reaction to the budget. Second, I will comment on some specific initiatives that fall within the industry portfolio. Third, I will present the alternative Canadian Alliance approach.

First, and in general, this is a budget of missed opportunities because so much could have been done that was not done.

I will be the first to admit that there are some positive fiscal and economic signs here in Canada. The economy is relatively strong. We have low interest rates. We have relatively good job growth rates. We have stronger than expected government revenues. This is the time for us as a nation to capitalize on our positive points by focusing on our weaker points: lagging productivity, the lowest in the G-7 over the last 25 years, a low dollar, a high public debt and high and punitive tax levels.

This should have been the budget that propelled Canada to the forefront of the most innovative, the most productive nations on earth by substantially paying down our national debt, providing hard-working Canadians and businesses with some real tax relief and re-prioritizing spending from areas such as corporate welfare to health care.

Instead, the finance minister has not only adopted the track of his predecessor with his massive growth in government spending, he has escalated the process. The budget announces $17.4 billion in new spending initiatives over three years without identifying more than one cut in government spending.

Three things should have been done. First is some real substantive tax relief. It is Canadians, not the government, not the cabinet, who are balancing the yearly budget and they deserve some tax relief from this rapacious Liberal government.

Second, pay down the debt and establish a long term debt repayment plan. We have yearly surpluses but we still have a massive public debt, as well as large unfunded liabilities with the CPP. Passing debt on to future generations is not only fiscally unwise, it is morally wrong.

Third, spending should be re-prioritize. There have been no spending cuts particularly in the area of corporate welfare programs. The government has funded in stop-gap ways for health care and it has funded in absurd ways for climate change for which it has absolutely no plan on how it will meet its Kyoto targets. There is no long term vision on issues such as pensions or EI premiums.

I would like to comment on some specific initiatives that fall within the industry portfolio itself.

First, on the capital tax and following on the Alliance's recommendation both in the last two finance committee reports and in the industry committee report of June 2001, the minister has indicated that he will eliminate this tax. This five year elimination does not make sense. It should be eliminated in one year.

Second, there is the resource income tax change, making it equal to other corporate tax reductions. We agree with this. Also, this could be moved up rather than done over a five year period.

Third, we support funds to research granting agencies. We support addressing the indirect costs of research, as the industry committee has stated in two successive reports. This is simply recognizing that universities need this to sustain a level of service to all students.

We have the Canada graduate program. I know this has been welcomed in most corners. I want to offer a different perspective on this. I know that this may in fact be well intentioned, but in our view this is not the proper way to proceed on education.

Instead of putting in education dollars or transferring the money to the provinces, the federal government is setting up programs for Ph.D. and Master's students. It is setting up the millennium scholarship fund, and last year it set up the Trudeau fellowship. The government is taking money away from students who are in university studying and is putting it into these boutique programs, setting up bureaucracy upon bureaucracy.

If the federal government wants to support education, it should do so through a simple transfer to the provinces and let the provinces and the universities fund it. They are closest to the students and they know how to best do this. If the government wants to also support research and development, then do it through the federal granting agencies. Do it through NRC, NSERC or SSHRC, rather than set up other programs such as the Trudeau fellowship.

This brings me to the Alliance approach. I would like to present our alternative approach to industrial policy and research and development.

First, we need to eliminate corporate welfare. We need to move away from an industrial policy where the government attempts to pick winners and losers and selects certain companies within certain industries in the marketplace. Instead, we should target our public research funds into basic and developmental research and development, preferably through the federal granting councils.

We in this party distinguish between grants and loans to specific companies and funding through the granting councils. Those should always be distinguished. The government, whenever we criticize public spending on R and D through corporate welfare, always says that we would eliminate programs through NRC and NSERC. That is absolutely false. It is not true.

The fact is we do support research, if it is done through these granting agencies and if it is a peer review. We have always supported a peer review process, which is non-political, which ensures that the colleagues will ensure that the research has some merit.

We have always supported prudent investments in innovation and technology. As I said before, we support basic and developmental research. We have called, particularly in the last election, for increased funding to these granting councils.

Second, we would also simplify the funding for research and development.

I mentioned in education how the government is making things more complex and more bureaucratic. In the R and D section, one thing it could do to simplify it is to end the duplication through the regional agencies.

The regional agencies in this country are funding R and D. The reason the government is doing that is to try to justify the regional agencies. It uses it as a corporate welfare program but it also then puts through funding for R and D. Through western economic diversification, it will put in a lot grants to specific companies but then it will fund the synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan.

Whenever people in our party say that we should not have regional developmental agencies of this type to funnel corporate welfare to certain businesses, we get criticized and people say that we want to end funding for the synchrotron. That is absolutely not true. The funding for the synchrotron should occur through the National Research Council, which it currently does. If we fund the synchrotron through both the National Research Council and through western economic diversification, there is duplication, there is double bureaucracy. It is not necessary. Even one or two government members have recognized this and have spoken publicly about it.

We in this party have consistently called for a funding framework for science and technology, as the former Auditor General did in his report in 2000. Unfortunately, numerous secretaries of state for science and technology and ministers of industry have ignored this advice and failed to establish a framework. This was recommended in the committee report of June 2001. The industry department ignored it again. It was recommended in the Auditor General's report of 2000 in which he stated quite explicitly:

For big science projects, the government should ensure that: A single federal authority is established for accountability purposes. The identified authority reports annually to Parliament on the project's status, on behalf of all the federal participants.

The government responded by saying that this was not necessary, that the program was working well as it was. That is absolutely not true. It is not working well.

One example is the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy. It went to the finance committee, the industry committee, the finance minister and the industry minister. It went to two respective departments. It went to the NRC and the CFI. Five years later the coalition actually thinks it has enough funding. It went through all that instead of having one window where it could present the project and have it approved or not approved, depending on the merits. That is what should be set up. That is what the Auditor General and the Canadian Alliance have recommended. That is what the government has so far refused to implement.

We also hope that the government will appoint a chief scientist of Canada. This is something we have called for in the last two elections. This person would coordinate science activities in all government departments, help scientists communicate their findings and help bridge the gap between scientists, bureaucrats and elected officials.

Also, the government failed in this budget to address the problem with the R and D tax credit. The R and D tax credit on paper is one of the most generous tax credits in the world comparatively. However, if we talked to the researchers and the accountants, we would find that it is simply not effective. The government was asked to address this in the innovation agenda. It failed to even mention it in the budget.

The last point I want to make is with regard to infrastructure development. There was some debate earlier about how we fund infrastructure. The fact is the provinces and municipalities need some guarantee of long term funding.

The way the Alliance believes we should do this is by transferring some of the tax room from the gas tax and from the federal excise tax to the provinces and allowing them then to determine best their infrastructure needs. This would be a source of long term stable funding that the provinces and the municipalities could count on.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that this is a budget of missed opportunities. Because of some of the good economic conditions, we could have really taken on our fundamental problems like productivity, high debt and high taxation. We could have addressed them and propelled ourselves to the top of the nation. Unfortunately we did not and that is why the budget is so disappointing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I pick up on the member's last point with regard to infrastructure. We have in fact delivered a 10 year program with a down payment of $1 billion leveraged with the provinces and municipalities.

The reason the member's suggestion is not a good one is that from past experience I can tell him that when provinces like Ontario get transfers, they tend to squander it. Cities complain in Ontario that the province simply offloads and they do not get the dollars. I will give a good example of that. On the housing initiative, we put money on the table for housing in this country and the province of Ontario did not put a quarter down, not a quarter. It simply had municipalities put in their share instead of coming to the table. We believe in partnership over here and we believe in working effectively.

The hon. member has raised some very important issues on skills and innovation. The government certainly has moved forward on the skills and innovation agenda. We did it all by balancing the books, by not going into deficit and by continuing to reduce the national debt, the only G-7 country to do so, down to 44.5% and below 40% by 2005.

The major issue that Canadians raised was health care. We have delivered in partnership with the provinces and the territories. I ask the hon. member, because that was the most expensive part of this budget, what would he have not done, or done in his case, in terms of not delivering on health care? Where would he have put the priorities?

The priorities seemed to be that health care was number one and continuing to balance the books was number two. We think that is extremely important because we are never going back to a deficit situation again.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte

Madam Speaker, first, with regard to infrastructure, I would differ with him in terms of which level of government has been more responsible certainly in funding basic infrastructure needs.

If we look at basic fuel taxes, the provinces spend, as my party's transport critic pointed out, over 90% of the fuel taxes raised on infrastructure. At the federal level it is less than 5%. Less than 5% of the federal fuel tax has been put toward roads and highways. That is the record.

Which level of government do I trust more to deliver on infrastructure needs? I trust that level of government which is closest and understands the infrastructure needs of Edmonton and understands the infrastructure needs of Ottawa and the smaller communities in Canada. The closer governments are to the people, the better they understand their direct infrastructure needs.

In terms of the debt, a lot of members on the opposite side have said they have reduced the debt since 1996-97. The government took office in 1993. It has actually increased the debt since 1993 and I think that needs to be pointed out again and again. The debt to GDP ratio has decreased, but as I said earlier, when times are relatively good, those are the times in which we should be making some substantive payments toward our debt.

In terms of health care, I know our party's health critic will offer a substantive speech to which the member can certainly listen.

In terms of the fiscal situation, what was most disappointing is that the government did not reduce corporate welfare in this budget by one dollar. It did not address the whole fiscal mismanagement of the gun registry, the GST audits or any of those areas in which it could have truly saved money. As I said earlier, cut corporate welfare and put money into priorities like health care. That is what the government should have done in the budget and unfortunately it did not.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Mr. John Harvard (Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the remarks by my friend from Edmonton. I would like to put at least some of the points from his remarks into context.

He mentioned a number of times that we failed to deal with corporate welfare. He did not define corporate welfare. I do not know what he means by corporate welfare.

The gentleman comes from Alberta. I think we all know that there are some pretty favourable tax provisions for the oil industry in Alberta. I am not opposed to that. Is he suggesting that we should pull the rug from under the oil industry in Alberta? I would doubt it but I would love to hear his remarks.

He said that we have no long term vision for employment insurance. Well, we have had 10 annual reductions since 1993. I would say that it implies vision. That is a reduction of several billion. There is one more thing. He talked about there being not one cut in the budget. I recall back in the middle 1990s that we were cutting contributions to the provinces and all we heard were howls from the Alliance.

We Liberals from the west have been fighting proposed environment department cuts to weather stations in Kelowna, in Saskatoon and in Winnipeg. I wonder, would the member from Edmonton be appreciative of cutting out the weather stations in those three cities?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte

Madam Speaker, I am sure members opposite are just waiting in anticipation to hear my answer.

First, in regard to corporate welfare, I thought I had defined it in my speech. It was the government picking certain companies within certain industries to favour with public subsidies. For an example of that, take a look at technology partnerships Canada, a program that invests millions in certain companies picked by the program. Of those so-called loans or investments, as the Minister of Industry states, 1.6% have been repaid

Can we and Canadians in the gallery see how much has been repaid? No, because we are not supposed to see the books of these companies to which the taxpayers in the gallery have lent the money. This is the example of the government giving billions and billions to certain companies in certain industries. That should be stopped, or at the very least it should be transparent and accountable.

In terms of the tax regime for the oil companies. I do not know whether he is referring to the oil sands taxing that was put together by the former natural resources minister, who is now the Minister of Health, or actually the resource tax which is now made equal to the other corporate taxes. We certainly support that. This is not corporate welfare to set up a tax regime which is equal to other corporate taxes here in Canada.

If cutting 2¢ off EI premiums counts as a long term national vision for an employment insurance program, I think the government is sadly mistaken.

It is about prioritization of spending. It is about moving money from programs like technology partnerships Canada which are clear examples of corporate welfare into other high priority areas in terms of cutting the debt, lowering taxes for all Canadians, and into areas such as health care.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

Rob Merrifield

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, Canadian Alliance)

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure to speak today with regard to the federal budget. As the member for Yellowhead and official opposition health critic, I would like to speak to the largest expenditure in the budget, which is the proposed investment dollars for health care and the future of Canadians.

The government has a very dismal track record when it comes to health care, because it really has done nothing except pull money out of it in the mid-nineties and watched it struggle and wrestle and flap in the wind as the provinces dealt with intense problems and intense pressures as they tried to follow their mandate of delivering health care to Canadians.

Health care is number one as far as the priority of Canadians is concerned, yet the government has failed to recognize that over the past number of years. The budget is a failed opportunity by the government to drive accountability and sustainability into the health care system. I will explain that a little further as I go through my deliberations and a review of what has actually happened.

We have to understand where health care is right now. In examining the facts and figures, we see that wait times have increased. Tens of thousands of Canadians lack the ability to access a family physician. Right now in Canada we have an intense problem with the human resources side of health care. Looking at the budget and looking at the accord, and whether it was signed or not does not really matter, whether agreed to or not by the provinces and the federal government does not really matter, we recognize that precious little was done in this area.

It is no wonder that earlier this year the finance minister was forced to actually concede that his last attempt at putting dollars into the health care system, which was the September accord, was a failed attempt in the sense that it did not shorten wait lists at all or improve access to health care in any significant way. I would suggest that we will be sitting in this same Chamber a year or possibly two from now, having the same debate and examining the same problems with the same significant dilemmas when it comes to human resources in health care.

The new money is now on the table and it is time to get on with the job of real health care reform. The Canadian Alliance will hold the federal and provincial governments accountable to ensure that the new health care funding the new health spending buys genuine reform and does not allow more of the same status quo, which is not a sustainable factor. Looking at the demographics that will hit the health care system and the number of people crowding in at the age of 65 and beyond, we will not start to see any relief from that pressure of that aging demographic until the year 2040.

Therefore we have to discern very carefully the intense dilemma that we are going to be in as we move through the next 20, 30 or 40 year period. In doing so, we have to do our very best to sustain the health care system. In light of that, we have to discern whether the dollars placed in health care in this budget were appropriately placed there and whether there is appropriate accountability for those dollars.

The official opposition welcomes the health accord. We have to understand that it was really the budget for health care. The health accord was reflected within the budget; they were just two weeks away from each other. Nonetheless, it promoted and pushed forward a national agenda of health care reforms.

First and foremost, we think that Canadians will benefit when the provincial and federal governments stop their squabbling and stop their jurisdictional disputes around health care and get on with delivery. If we were to look at the numbers the day after the accord, there was some confusion in this country as to how many dollars were actually spent on health care. We should not really worry about that, because if we did not like the numbers we saw in one paper, we just had to pick up another paper to see a different set of numbers. It was that confusing. After we discern the package in the budget for health care and in the accord, there is still some confusion because there is a lot of negotiation and a lot of fuzzy areas that are yet to be determined as we move forward in the next couple of years. Nonetheless, we know that for primary health care reform there is at least $12 billion.

However, the real change in health care, the real significant paradigm shift that we need in the 21st century, is to put the interests of the patient first. We need to get on with that and we need to stop the fighting between the federal and provincial governments as to whose dollars are going into health care. Let us just start focusing on some of the things that have come out of the accord which we really agree with. I would like to talk about five of them and very briefly go through them and explain why they are important and why we agree with them.

First, the new cash infusion is very important. I talked about the $12 billion that is going into primary health care reform. We have to discern whether it is really $12 billion, because $3.9 billion of that was part of the social accord just prior to the last election. We still get this attempt by the federal government to play politics with the money by re-announcing money previously announced. I do not know how it determined that this is an ethical way to deal with taxpayers' dollars, but regardless of that, I would suggest that we quit arguing about that number. Let us just say there is $12 billion more, even if $3.9 billion of it was previously announced money and actually only $8.1 billion is going into primary health care reform.

It is absolutely pathetic when we see the number of dollars that are going in and discern that this new money is the first real, solid cash injection of money since the mid-nineties when $25 billion was pulled out of our system. Now we have provinces in which 40% of every provincial dollar goes to health care, whereas the federal government, according to Mr. Romanow's report, only contributed 12¢ of every provincial dollar that was spent on health care this last year.

We have this large injection. Some of my Liberal colleagues would say that this is not quite true because they put in all of this money in the September accord, but not really, because that was a five year accord and not one nickel of the money for health care reform went in until April of the first year. We are only now just crowding in on the third year of that. We still have two years to go on that past accord and we are re-announcing new moneys.

One thing that is important is the flexibility we see within the dollars that are being implemented into the new programs suggested by the accord and by this budget. Because provinces are the deliverers of front line health care services, it is very important that they be allowed the flexibility to apply those dollars to where they are most suited to their provinces' needs.

An example of that is New Brunswick, which has a very extensive home care program. Regarding the new dollars that are supposed to be applied to home care, at least it has the opportunity to take those dollars and apply them in other areas. That flexibility is there and we applaud the provinces for holding fast to their constitutional right in delivering health care, for not allowing the federal government to remove that from the accord or from the budget.

The third thing I want to talk about is restoring core funding to health care. It is very important that those core funds are allowed to be applied where they are most needed. It is really interesting to me to see that $243 million has been spent by the government for just studying health care over the last 10 years. That is a horrendous amount of studying.

In Mr. Romanow's study, which went on for 18 months, we see virtually a blank stare when it comes to dealing with the most significant problem in health care: the mounting wait lists. Over a million people in Canada are waiting just to try to access the services and the system. There are a number of shortages of physicians and nurses in our health care system. I have just come from a meeting with a group of physicians who were saying that the problem is much more acute than we originally had thought.

It is very important to talk about the alternative delivery system that the provinces need and must have the flexibility to be able to deliver on. Monopolies never work, whether they are private or public monopolies. We need to make sure that the provinces are allowed to be able to drive efficiency, accountability and sustainability into our health care system. Thank goodness that they have retained this under the accord.

We also are very appreciative of the dedicated health transfer that is going to happen by the end of this next year, in regard to which the Auditor General said that we do not even know how much federal money is going in because the CHST has such fuzzy numbers. It is going to be split. To be able to add accountability to the health care system, we should be able to know how many dollars actually are being spent there.

It is very important that we discern and understand that we are on the right track, but we absolutely have to make sure that now that we are on solid footing, we put the interests of the patients first as we move forward in the 21st century to sustain health care.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague and appreciate his comments, particularly those on health care. I point out to him that this accord is very important. It is the second major accord that the government has been able to reach with the provinces, the first one being the $23.5 billion in September 2000, and the recent one earlier this month.

The hon. member is absolutely correct when he says that it is the provinces that deliver health care, except for the federal government doing it in areas such as aboriginals and the armed forces. That is absolutely correct. Also, the accountability aspect of the accord is extremely important to Canadians, not to governments but to Canadians. It is very important that they understand. We could get into the numbers game with the 14% and the 40%, and I have all of those figures and would be happy to talk about them, but the real issue is delivery of health care to Canadians. They want to know that they have a health care system they can rely on.

I would like the hon. member to comment, if he would, with regard to the issue of the accountability aspect. Knowing that these transfers are going to go to the provinces and they are going to have to account for these dollars, how will that better improve services in his community?

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

Rob Merrifield

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rob Merrifield

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate the question, because I did not have time in my 10 minutes to get into this in some depth. Hopefully I can answer this in such a way that the member will understand and discern the missed opportunity by the government with this allotment of money. Not only did it miss the opportunity in the September 2000 accord when two or three months prior to the election it supposedly threw $23 billion at the health care system, none of that money hit that system until the next April. It was just an illusion, no strings attached, nothing following that money.

Supposedly this accord was to attach some strings from the federal government. Let me tell the member something. It will not work when strings are attached from the top down. What we need to do is demand an explanation from the provinces as to where that money is going to be spent in order to drive sustainability, efficiency and accountability into the system. Then we need to make sure that the provinces put the postmarks in a place where we can record them, so we can find out exactly where they should be and then hold them accountable before the people of Canada. That is from the bottom up, and let me say that it will be very difficult for the provinces to back down on an agreement where they take money and apply it to where they say it should go.

They are in a much better position to be able to place that money than to have the federal government demanding where the money should go when the provinces are quite alienated and cannot apply the dollars where they should go. The government has the right idea but it is going in the wrong direction and it is doomed to failure. Mark my words, two years from now we will be in the same position and health care will not be on the sustainable course that we could have placed it on at this moment, and that is unfortunate.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Mr. Bryon Wilfert

Madam Speaker, I hear a lot from time to time about the issue of spending and debt. The fact is that we are the only G-7 state paying off the national debt. I remember a number of years ago when the official opposition talked about the article in The New York Times that said we were the basket case of the G-7. Now we are the envy of the G-7. We have gone from 71.5% of GDP for the national debt down to 44.5% and we are going down to 40%. It is the lowest it has been since 1984.

We have been able to invest strategically in things that the member is very concerned about, such as health care. The other member was concerned about skills development and we were able to invest significantly in that area. We were able to make prudent investments in families and at that same time balance the books. That is something, and six balanced budgets or better, I defy anyone to suggest that any other government has been able to do that. The fact is that we have been watching the books very carefully.

I would like to ask the hon. member a question in terms of the issue of debt. There was a comment made about the amount of money being spent on the debt. For this year we could be looking obviously at another significant $3 billion or $4 billion. In the hon. member's view we are not going fast enough. What would he suggest we do in order to accelerate spending on the debt, which has already dropped by almost 30% in the last five years?

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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CA

Rob Merrifield

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rob Merrifield

Madam Speaker, the hon. member wants me to talk about the debt. There was a change to accrual accounting in the budget. The day before the budget came down the debt was $536 billion, but because of the accrual accounting it moved to $563 billion in one day.

When we factor in that money my hon. colleague says that we are moving down and we are not in deficit. The only reason is because of the surplus that was there which is an overtaxation. It is not a government that has put its priorities on health care, which is the number one priority of Canadians. It is a government that has just dipped into the surpluses which is overtaxation and thrown it at the problem. That is an absolute abomination and will not be sustainable.

If the government does not pay down its debt in good times when it has surpluses, when will it pay it down? It never will be paid down.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

Charles Caccia

Liberal

Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, despite the criticism of the official opposition and the distortions which inevitably come with having to adhere to negativism as it is inherent in the makeup of the role of the official opposition, I would submit that this budget is in the best Liberal tradition. In a way it is an historic budget for children and families. It is a document of social significance, of social cohesion, and of recognition of the needs and aspirations of Canadians.

It puts Canada among the advanced nations in making progress with social, economic and environmental issues coming together. These are the three ingredients of sustainable development. This is also an encouraging and positive aspect of the budget, that the three are mentioned at the same time. The budget is not concerned only with the economy or with other aspects of the economy alone, but brings together social, economic and environmental objectives.

Much has been said about health by other speakers. I would only add that the dimension of provincial accountability in matters of health expenditures represents a real victory for Canadians and for strong federalism. In this respect the Romanow report was a great help in setting out the health care component of the budget. To the former premier of Saskatchewan goes our gratitude and I suspect that of the Canadian people who have benefited from his inquiries, research, and of course, his report.

The Canadian Council on Social Development writes:

The federal government is showing leadership which will benefit parents and children alike.

It notes that 70% of women with preschool age children are working outside the home in Canada, and yet only 12% of children have access to licensed care. It states:

Moreover, research clearly shows that quality early education and care programs make a positive difference in the growth and development of children, especially those from low income families.

Marcel Lauzière, the president of the Canadian Council on Social Development, states:

We are very happy about this announcement but we are concerned that a mere $25 million has been allocated for the first year. Given that Quebec alone spent $1.1 billion on child care in 2001, and that the overall price tag for a quality, national child care system is estimated at $10 billion, we can only hope that all governments will be committed to increasing their support to child care in the years to come.

On the national child benefit the same Canadian Council on Social Development writes:

The NCB has provided financial assistance to low income families in Canada, but for far too long, has not reached many of Canada's poorest children--an estimated 700,000 in 2000--who live in families that rely on social assistance. These children have been losing ground, as the value of welfare benefits to these families have fallen by 23% since 1991, and in most provinces, the NCB has been clawed back.

That is something that is profoundly upsetting. The council comments further:

With the budget announcement, the value of the combined Canada child tax benefit will fully replace child benefits under social assistance. For the first time, children in Canada's poorest families should see an increase to their families' incomes.

Katherine Scott, the senior policy associate for the council, states:

Their work isn't done on the child tax front. The federal government must continue to make new and substantial investments in the Canada Child Tax Benefit, including the NCB. The benefit needs to reach at least $4,200 a child before we will see a significant reduction in the rate and depth of child poverty in Canada.

The same council recognized the fact that something had been done in this budget regarding housing, that one of the greatest needs of many Canadians has been addressed, namely that of affordable housing. It adds that an estimated 200,000 Canadians are homeless and 1.7 million families are in poor housing need. Council President Lauzière states:

The budget commitment of $320 million over five years will be insufficient to build the number of housing units estimated to be necessary, but at least it recognizes there is a problem that cannot be ignored. We also welcome the $270 million allocated to fighting homelessness through an extension of the Supporting Communities Partnerships Initiative.

The 2003 federal budget represents the first truly activist budget of the Prime Minister's era according to the council. The new investments in Canada's families will begin to counter the growing gap between rich and poor.

It seems to me that, coming from an independent body, these comments are relevant and also encouraging. This is certainly an institution that has served Canada well and is known for its independent thinking.

I would like make some comments on the budget and the environment, climate change and Kyoto, which received a considerable amount of attention at this point in time. This is thanks to the plan which was produced last October and the ratification of the Kyoto agreement which was given a massive yes vote in the House on December 10.

The budget is positive in terms of allocation of funds. There is this large figure of $1.7 billion. It is intended to meet Canada's commitments under the Kyoto protocol. It now needs the decisions necessary to determine how the money should be spent in a specific manner. That is something that would probably be carried out or achieved in the near future.

Let me draw the attention of members to the fact that four ministers: the environment minister, the natural resources minister, the agriculture minister and the transport minister, all have access to these funds. It would seem from public statements that they would have to compete to obtain these funds.

The Minister of the Environment has already warned of a danger with this process last week. Kyoto money intended to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be spent by other ministers for what has been termed hobby horses or pet projects which would not necessarily have the full impact and priority that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions require.

It would be desirable against this background perhaps to recommend that a central agency be in charge of the allocation of this very large fund. Possibly the Privy Council Office could perform the task of being in charge of the climate change funds so as to ensure the funds are used to the best possible effect in reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

The budget offers a range of possible programs, and it is quite interesting to go over them, to reach our Kyoto goal. However it does not specify which programs will be implemented.

Incentive programs to encourage for instance homeowners and businesses to make their buildings more energy efficient would go a long way in reaching the Kyoto target. Such type of program aimed at reducing the losses in energy would not be expensive and would pay off in the medium term, and sometimes in the short term, in energy savings for both the homeowner and businesses.

I would like to draw the attention of the House that the city of Toronto for instance has already a prototype program of this kind. It is called the Toronto atmospheric fund. It is a revolving fund which provides or revolves $10 million of public investment which has apparently triggered some $126 million in energy savings and improvements. I am sure that other municipalities are adopting this model or probably thinking of moving in that same direction.

There are many other incentives that could go a long way in moving Canada toward its Kyoto goal. An increase in the wind power production incentive and expansion of that incentive to include all forms of renewable energy would be very helpful. We had a measure already in the last budget of 1.2 ¢ per kilowatt hour. Industry has indicated that the incentive needs to be increased. I would imagine that is an item that requires attention in the next budget as well.

We need to promote energy conservation to educate consumers on energy efficiency and more careful consumption and are items that remain still to be specified in the budget.

I must point out that a large sum of money devoted to the implementation of Kyoto and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would have a limited effect unless it is accompanied by an overhaul of our taxation system. Our current taxation was designed for the pre-Kyoto era. What we need now is to adopt a system that is tailored in a manner that will help to achieve the Kyoto objectives; in other words, a system of taxation that will remove the obstacles that stand in the way in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, at the present time the federal government through the taxation system of course subsidizes the oil sands industry which is an industry that in the production of oil produces a high level of greenhouse gases. Preferential tax treatment is a tax that consists of accelerated write-offs and deferrals. A considerable series of measures need to be dealt with and gradually phased out, because that industry can compete and can do very well without being subsidized in what could be described as a rather socialistic regime, and of all places it is happening in the province of Alberta.In other words these are perverse subsidies that ought to be removed.

Therefore a level playing field needs to be established to deal with the greenhouse gas producing sources. Removing these subsidies would have the effect of letting all prices reach their level at the marketplace, reflecting the cost of production without being favoured by what is obviously becoming rapidly an outdated taxation system.

I know that this may not sound like very good news to members opposite, but I do not think that members from Alberta need to fear. That industry can stand very well on its feet without subsidies, without corporate welfare and without the help of the Alberta government and, in the case of the taxation system, without the help of the Government of Canada.

One of the tenets of the Alliance Party is to promote free enterprise and a capitalistic society. Therefore I cannot understand why some members of the Alliance want to defend the taxation subsidies, which are actually the product of a socialistic ideology.

The government's tax expenditures to the oil sands industry amounted to some $585 million between 1996 and the year 2002. The removal of the subsidies would save Canadian taxpayers a considerable sum of money. This is an item that our friends in the official opposition always preach. They would like to have a reduction in taxes and if they are to be consistent with their desire to reduce taxes, then they would also want to have the removal of perverse subsidies which stand in the way in the achievement of the Kyoto objectives.

One has to also mention the importance of energy innovation in this debate. There is a very brief reference in the budget to innovation in general, but I submit, in the limited time available, that there are two departments and two ministers key to the success in Canada's achieving its Kyoto objectives. One, as I mentioned, is the Minister of Finance. The other one is the Minister of Industry, because the innovation program, if it were to be designed in a manner so as to give energy innovation a key central role, it would help considerably in achieving the Kyoto objectives.

Therefore, I would take the opportunity in this debate to call on the Minister of Industry and to urge him or her, whoever it might be at a certain time, to design an innovation program in the Department of Industry that would take into account the absolutely urgent necessity of adopting and including an energy innovation component for that program.

In doing so, by redesigning the tax system and by adopting a strong policy of energy innovation, we can look forward with a certain degree of confidence to the year 2012, which is our next appointment with destiny in the implementation of Canada's commitment to the Kyoto agreement.

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Subtopic:   The Budget
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LIB

André Harvey

Liberal

Mr. André Harvey (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague for Davenport for his extremely important contribution of many decades to environmental issues. Our hon. colleague did not wait for us to experience the consequences of our abuse of the planet before speaking out. I want to pay tribute to him.

I would also like to take advantage of his expertise to ask him if my perception of the consequences of Kyoto are correct. I think that, ten years from now, we will reach and even greatly surpass Kyoto objectives, in view of what we are seeing now, particularly in the auto industry, where there is a demand to increase use of fuels other than those currently available.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he feels quite optimistic about reaching and, I hope, greatly surpassing Kyoto objectives.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Budget
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February 25, 2003