May 4, 2004

LIB

Clifford Lincoln

Liberal

Mr. Clifford Lincoln

Mr. Speaker, I am voting against this.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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The Speaker

Does the House give its consent to allow the hon. member's vote to be counted against?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 24 minutes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be read the third time and passed; and of the previous question.


?

The Speaker

Before oral question period, the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie had the floor. He has 11 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. Since there is now some order in the House, we will hear the hon. member.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to continue my presentation on Bill C-30, the budget implementation bill.

Before oral question period, I had said that this bill created three imbalances. First, the obvious fiscal imbalance; second, the social deficit perpetuated by the budget tabled this past March and its implementation through Bill C-30; third, the environmental imbalance created by the federal government with Bill C-30.

I have spoken at length on the shortfall Quebec has experienced and continues to experience, particularly since 1994, as a result of the reduction in transfer payments to the provinces. This prevents Quebec, and of course other provinces, from delivering the health care and services that are essential for the well-being of our taxpayers.

As well, the conclusion that there is a tax imbalance is based on research carried out by Jacques Léonard, former president of the Quebec treasury board. Some days or weeks ago, the third component of this research was released, an analysis on the evolution of the four key federal government transfer programs, namely transfer payments, equalization payments, the employment insurance program, and even the old age pensions.

The main conclusions about this federal reality indicate that federal government revenues have risen 45%, while transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces have increased a mere 1.9%. Taken as a dollar amount per capita, federal revenues have increased $1569, and transfer payments for health, education and social programs have dropped $34.

Some members of this House, Bloc Quebecois MPs, were part of the Léonard Committee. I am thinking of my colleagues from Lotbinière—L'Érable, Joliette and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot specifically. The committee recently revealed one other finding: it reached the conclusion that the financial effort the federal government devotes to transfer payments to Quebec for health services has decreased 40%.

This fiscal imbalance is a natural occurrence, but one not acknowledged by the federal government, since it considers itself to be a new government. There is a shortfall for Quebec, no doubt about it.

There is another aspect to this growing social deficit. While it might have been expected that the government would eliminate the injustice which it created itself by changes in the employment insurance rules, nothing in this budget does anything to repair the gaps pointed out many times by the Bloc Quebecois, not only in this House, but with the workers. These gaps mean that the workers in seasonal industries are penalized. Young people and women are penalized by these changes in the EI system.

Workers pay their premiums to the EI system, but very often they cannot receive benefits. If the employment insurance fund were in a deficit position, that might be understood. But the accumulated surpluses in the EI fund are over $45 billion. That is three times as much as the Chief Actuary of Canada judged normal and sufficient to meet the needs.

She indicated that $15 billion would have been enough. The fund is in a surplus position. We have asked many times—there was a consensus among opposition parties on this—that the employment insurance fund be independent, that it be managed by the employees and employers and not by the government. Experience has shown us that the government manages this fund badly and that makes one think of a kind of theft.

The premiums are being raised. At present, they are $1.98 per $100, while the rate that would lead to equilibrium is $1.81. Clearly, there is overcharging, and that is why there are surpluses in the EI fund. Unfortunately, citizens are not able to enjoy the benefits.

Actually, part 5 of the bill before us today perpetuates the fact that it is the federal government which sets the premium rate. As I indicated earlier, we know that this rate often exceeds the rate of $1.81 that would ensure a balance. So, there is a social injustice created by an employment insurance fund that is far from benefiting the workers who contributed to it.

We could have expected the government to deal with another issue, namely social housing. The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who is here right now, reviewed this issue with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. We would have liked the recent budget to provide for a reinvestment of some $2 billion. We would have liked to see 1% of the federal budget earmarked for social housing.

The reason is that in years past the Liberal government confirmed the withdrawal that had already been announced by the Conservative government in 1993.

One cannot speak from both sides of the mouth. On November 22, 1993, the current Prime Minister replied to the national coalition on housing. Here is what he said about reinvesting in social housing.

—I want to be absolutely clear—

The word “clear” was already part of the present Prime Minister's vocabulary, 11 years ago.

—I want to be absolutely clear that a Liberal government would commit to stable and guaranteed funding for cooperative and not for profit housing.

Things stood clear in 1993. The present Prime Minister, who was to become finance minister, committed to stable funding for the cooperative and not for profit housing sector. What happened after 1993, when the present Prime Minister became finance minister? Well, he literally stopped funding social housing.

There is another important date in 1990. At that time, the present Prime Minister, who became finance minister, shared his intentions and his vision on social housing.

In May 1990, in a report of the national Liberal caucus task force on social housing, the present Prime Minister stated, and I quote:

The Mulroney government has, from the start, cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces.

That is what the present Prime Minister said in 1990.

The Mulroney government has cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces without giving them the corresponding financial means. And it has been insensitive to the dire needs of thousands of Canadian households.

That was what the present Prime Minister was telling us back in May 1990. However, he has been the one mainly responsible for disinvestment in housing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment and ask a question. When the Bloc Quebecois member talks about employment insurance and such, he often forgets to give the real budgetary results to the taxpayers and voters of Canada. In order to know the results, we must have the numbers in front of us.

The newspapers keep saying that the Government of Canada has snatched $45 billion. That is completely wrong. When we look at the real numbers the minister tabled in the House last week, we read this:

With respect to employment insurance and expenditures on benefits, in 1980-81, there was a deficit of $682 million.

For a number of years, there were deficits in the EI fund. There were surpluses, as well. That is why I tabled a question in the House, published in today's Order Paper. I am asking what was done with the surpluses and who paid to offset the deficits.

One thing we know about this issue is that, in 1986, the Auditor General of Canada, Mr. Desautels, said that this was the way to do the accounting. The hon. member knows very well that there is no liquidity in this fund at this time. At present, there is about $43 billion in contributions, surpluses or excesses.

I would like to ask him if he read the minister's response tabled recently in this House to question Q-83, concerning the years of deficit. Even in Quebec, there have been deficits. Who has paid for these deficits? That is what I would like him to tell me: who paid to offset these deficits?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I thought he would have had a lot more. In fact, as far as the EI fund is concerned, if there is one thing that is clear—and I invite him to tour the regions of Quebec—it is that its purpose, when established, was to provide funds for workers.

The reality is that, in 2002-03, the surplus in the EI fund had reached $3.3 billion. In 2002-03, the federal surplus was $7 billion. The current surplus in the fund is, at $45 billion, three times what the chief actuary feels is necessary.

I have a figure for him, a study from his government. In 2000, an HRDC study—a department in his government—showed that 35% of recipients had exhausted their benefit weeks.

People are fed up being robbed. They are fed up paying into EI when this government has gone and changed the rules at the expense of the workers, who have now become the “sans-chemise”.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Marcel Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to revisit the EI question, because this is one of the points we hear raised the most in our ridings.

This is robbery and we must not be embarrassed to call it such. It is robbery. The workers have been robbed. Those who earn under $39,000 a year have paid 100% into employment insurance, and this is a major money diversion.

This is what I am asking my colleague, who is very familiar with this matter. What percentage of workers were covered by EI before the Liberals came along and laid their hands on the fund? Today, as my colleague has said, only 39% of contributors are entitled to draw benefits.

That number used to be far higher. We are talking of a surplus of $45 billion—the figure we have been talking about for some time now—but we are aware that the total theft is now up to past $50 billion.

The second thing I would like to ask is what percentage of the EI fund comes from the government's contribution, or do only the workers contribute?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, the paradox of our system is that the government continues to manage the employment insurance fund, but no longer contributes a dime to it. That is the reality.

This fund is financed by employers and employees. What we have repeatedly asked for is a self-sustaining fund to be managed by these same employers and employees.

Experience shows us that when the federal government manages this fund, it sets contribution thresholds that exceed the natural threshold, creating a surplus that never goes back into the pockets of those who have contributed. That is what we call stealing from the employment insurance fund and it is completely unacceptable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Claude Duplain (Portneuf, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to try to set a few things straight today. It does not make much sense, some of things we hear in this House from the opposition.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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An hon. member

From you too.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Claude Duplain

I am trying to speak, if the member could listen. They are entitled to speak and we listen, but when we speak, they do not listen. Look at how they shout in this House. That is what they do all the time: they do nothing but shout.

What the hon. member said earlier about health is that the federal government's share of funding went from 25% to 16% and is now only 4%. He is saying that the federal government pays only 4% of health costs, which is absolutely false and ridiculous. How are people supposed to understand this and agree with it? It makes no sense. These are unwarranted assertions.

When we form a government, we have to have the means to fulfill our ambitions. It is easy to be in the opposition, to talk through one's hat and say that the government should do this and that. If we did all that, we would once again run deficits of the order of $45 billion. In 1993, when we took office, the annual deficits were around $40 billion. It did not make sense. Yet, these are the kinds of things we hear all the time.

I have a straightforward question for the hon. member. If he has a document proving that the federal government only contributes 4% for health, let him table it here in the House, with the true and verifiable figures that support this claim. Let him do it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is blaming us for everything. He says that we are dishonest. Today, in this House, I will be honest. Indeed, I made a mistake.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB
?

An hon. member

Is that so?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, earlier you asked hon. members to calm down. I would make the same plea to the hon. member for Portneuf. I know that he is very agitated right now. This is because he will probably no longer be with us in a few weeks. I know that he really likes to put questions.

Indeed, the federal government's contribution now stands at 14%. In the weeks that he still has left in this House, he should read the Romanow report, which recommends that the federal government increase its contribution to 25%. The hon. member should use his remaining days and weeks here to read the Romanow report. If he does not do it, he will still have plenty of time to do so during the summer.

Indeed, the federal government's contribution is 14%. It went up to 16%, but with the budget before us it is going down to 14%.

Will the hon. member be prepared to explain that, in recent years, the federal contribution has gone from 50¢ for each dollar to only 14¢? Let him explain that to Quebeckers who are waiting in emergency wards. Let him explain that to citizens and workers in CLSCs, who were just affected by the cut in federal transfers for health.

We have a federal government that likes to tell those who provide the services in the provinces how to do their job. Even the Liberal minister in Quebec City said that in a business, a shareholder who contributes 16% is in no position to tell people or other shareholders what type of audit they should conduct.

We need not take any lessons from anyone. If the hon. member wants to debate this issue publicly, I invite him to do so, because he will have to bear the burden of the decisions made by his government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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CA

Werner Schmidt

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to approach the debate on Bill C-30 from a slightly different perspective than what we have had so far this afternoon and this morning. I want to approach it from three points of view. First, setting the tone from the top; second, some useful concepts to look at evaluating the management of government; and finally, the re-use of single use medical devices.

When it comes to setting the tone from the top, one has to pay special tribute to our Auditor-General. She has given a tone to this particular report that is very exemplary. There have been two reports. It is absolutely superb the way in which she has approached the evaluation and the management of certain government programs.

I would like to talk about setting the tone from the top. The top of course is the Prime Minister. There are various management consultants who have talked about leadership and management from the top, and the significance of the top in terms of an organization and its management.

One of these special consultants who works very heavily in this field is a fellow by the name of John C. Maxwell. He did an interview with Don Stephenson, who is the chairman of Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. is called in by companies in the recreation and hotel area that are in financial difficulty to see if there is something that can be salvaged.

Here is what the interview results were. Don Stephenson said whenever there was a take over of an organization, two things were always done. First, all the staff were trained to improve their level of service to the customers; and second, the leader was fired. When he told me that, I was at first surprised. “You always fire the leader?” I asked. He said every time. I asked if he did not talk to the person first to check him out to see if he was a good leader. He answered no, if he had been a good leader, the organization would not be in the mess it was in. That was a very interesting comment.

As Mr. Maxwell says, this is an illustration of the law of the lid. The law of the lid states that leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high; however, if it is not, then the organization is limited. That is why, according to Maxwell, in times of trouble organizations naturally look for new leadership. When a country is experiencing hard times, it elects a new prime minister.

In Canada, the actual administration and operation of the management of the government's affairs is carried out by the Treasury Board. It plays a key role in developing and fixing the government's management, really refining and developing the management agenda and overseeing its government wide implementation.

We are speaking about the implementation of the budget. The budget is probably the single most significant policy document that an organization or government can ever put together and finally adopt.

In managing the government, the Auditor General provided some very useful concepts. In fact, she listed seven of them. I want to read them into the record because they are very significant. They are found in chapter 7 of the March 2004 Auditor General's report and they are:

Probity--The adherence to the highest principles and ideals.

Prudence--Skill and good judgment in the use of resources.

Economy--Getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.

Efficiency--The minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.

Effectiveness--The extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity.

Transparency--Operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.

Accountability--The obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

Let us examine this budget and some of the implementation practices that the government has used in applying these concepts.

Probity is the adherence to the highest principles and ideals. It would appear to me that one of the ways in which one can see evidence of probity being used in the management of government affairs would be to have the highest principles and ideals. One of them clearly would be to follow the rules that are there to be used by the bureaucrats. Guess what the Auditor General had to say? She said that virtually every rule in the book was broken on this ad scam program. Clearly that one did not work.

Prudence is the skill and good judgment in the use of resources. I cannot help but look at this in terms of the subsidies that are given to industry. One really asks the question, what is it that government does when it selects certain kinds of industries for subsidy and not others? In fact, one of the critics of this particular program asked and I quote:

I don't know why governments pick one industry to subsidize over another.

This is from a National Bank financial analyst, Steve Laciak. He further said:

They won't rule against steel imports being dumped into Canada, so you wind up watching Stelco, Ivaco and Slater Steel go bankrupt.

On the other hand, other ones are picked and given billions of dollars. Of course, the most recent one here is the one that came up yesterday, Rolls Royce and $30 million, and very closely allied to that is of course Bombardier, which has been getting this money for years.

John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said, of Bombardier, and I quote:

--we need to lower taxes to compete internationally, we'd be right there behind him.

I agree with that. He rejected outright the idea of creating more programs like Technology Partnerships Canada. He said:

Anyone who thinks TPC should be expanded should have his head examined. That program has been a total disaster and has only gotten a small fraction back--

I think the issue here is very clear. Subsidies given to certain kinds of industries mean that taxpayers' money is taken from other industries who also pay taxes. The government says that it will take our money now and it will give it to this other industry, which means that the burden falls on this group, and the other group actually gets the benefit.

If that is a wise use of resources, if that is prudence, and if that is skill in the management of resources, I think there is a very strong difference of opinion.

Economy is getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.I wonder if there is anyone in the audience who would recognize or remember the firearms registry? How effective was that particular program? It was a billion dollars and now going beyond that. People are asking themselves, is it now going to get more money from this budget? Is that really an economical use of taxpayers' money?

Efficiency means the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.We have the secret unity fund and we ask ourselves, what is it supposed to accomplish? If we do not know what it is supposed to accomplish, how could we ever measure whether in fact it is doing that. The HRDC boondoggle is another example.

Transparency is operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.We found that our Prime Minister who did own CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, actually found that there was $136,000 given to the company, only to discover later that it was actually a hundred million dollars plus. If it was really so transparent, then why was it that it was not known?

Finally, accountability, which is the obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

One then has to draw attention to the fact that we had in the Department of National Defence some $160 million plus that was fraudulently billed because nothing happened. There was $160 million paid and nobody could figure out what it was paid for. That is not accountability.

One has to evaluate these and ask, from these examples alone, were these seven concepts or ways of evaluating things actually observed? Was there direction from the top that clearly said the highest principles and ideals would be observed in the management of our affairs and in the expenditure of taxpayers' money?

One has to conclude that this particular budget does not do that. The government has not done that. We have to ask, how likely is it that the government will manage $187 billion using these seven concepts? I would suggest that probably the answer is, no it will not.

I want to go now to the third point that has to do with the single use of medical devices and the reuse of single use medical devices. I am not an expert in this particular field so I am going to be reading in rather complete detail what has been said.

What kind of devices are we talking about?

Single use devices that come into contact with blood or normally sterile body cavities by penetrating the skin or mucous membrane, such as cardiac catheters or urinary catheters.

The reuse of single use devices is different from the reuse of devices designed for multiple uses because single use devices were not intended to be reused. Thus, their reuse creates a number of potential risks that include poor functioning after multiple uses or reprocessing, as well as concerns about sterilizing and disinfecting medical devices properly. Other concerns include the lack of informed consent by the patient and the liability of the reuser should something go wrong because of reuse.

The main reason that single use devices are reused is to reduce costs. There are two factors here.

Members have probably heard the news that the SARS situation in China, the most recent one, deals precisely with this very issue we are talking about right now. It is not just one disease we are talking about but other diseases as well in relation to single use devices.

The second point has to do with the cost involved. Why is there a preoccupation with the cost of reusing a single use medical device? If we had taken the $250 million that was spent on the ad scam program and put it into specifically this kind of area, that would have helped many people in not subjecting them to reused single use medical devices. We have some critical issues here that are very significant. It is stated that:

Because the reuse of single use devices can put the health and safety of Canadians at risk and because Health Canada is one of the entities responsible for protecting the health and safety of Canadians, we expected that it would take action to deal with this issue.

It is further stated:

While we recognize that this issue is a shared responsibility among various jurisdictions and professions, it is important that Health Canada as the federal regulator take action to manage the health and safety risks related to the reuse of single use medical devices.

That would have been expected. The Auditor General went on to say:

However, we found that Health Canada has not developed a position on managing the risks related to reuse of single use devices, although very recently it began examining its authority to regulate reuse practices. As a result, Canadians are not being protected from the health and safety risks created by the reuse of single use devices. Canada's failure to develop a position on this issue has created a regulatory vacuum.

This is pretty serious stuff. Health Canada has known about this for at least 10 years, and it is still talking about jurisdictional questions. Now it is going to re-examine this. The response to the Auditor General's recommendation was that by the year 2005 there may be something in place. How many people are going to be subject to having these single use medical devices inserted into their bodies, running the risk of contacting serious diseases and complications?

The time to act has passed. We need to act as quickly as possible now. These are very serious implications. I am so happy that we have an Auditor General who is not afraid to talk about these kinds of things and draw them to our attention. There is a person who is accountable, doing her job, doing it with probity and being prudent, accountable and transparent in what she is doing.

People ask where the trouble lies. Does it lie with the ministers who are in charge? Does it lie with the Prime Minister? Does it lie with the professionals? Does it lie with the taxpayers? Does it lie with the House? With the power that has been concentrated in the Prime Minister's office and with the fact that virtually every member on the government's side of the House can be whipped into voting against the wishes of their constituencies, there can be no other conclusion. These kinds of problems can be taken straight back to the very top of this organization, which is in the Prime Minister's office.

The time has come for us and for all Canadians to look very clearly at the way the government has been running for the last 10 years and why the Auditor General has come up with the kinds of conclusions and observations that she has. For these reasons that I have just mentioned, I cannot support Bill C-30.

The time has come for a new prime minister, a Conservative prime minister, a prime minister who will manage the affairs of the country and of the government with probity, with adherence to the highest principles and ideals, with prudence, demonstrating skill and good judgment in the use of the resources of the taxpayer money and the many resources that we as Canadians have, with the economy, with getting the right amount of resources of the right quality and quantity and delivering at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost.

He will be a prime minister who will be efficient so that the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output will be the ones that are used, not a surplus that is unnecessary. He will deal with effectiveness and will manage with effectiveness, that is, the extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity. When we say we want to do something in a program, we will get the results with transparency. The operation will be in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, and we will all know what is being done, how much it costs, who will do it, why they will do it and their competence to do it.

Finally, he will be a prime minister who will be accountable and will recognize the obligation to render an account and accept the responsibility for one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.

These are tremendous challenges. One would look at that and ask if there a human being alive who could actually do this in its entirety. The answer is, we can try.

I remember so clearly a philosopher professor who said that we should all look at perfection and that is the way we should go. I have talked about seven concepts that are very useful. I submit that a Conservative prime minister, in particular the leader of the Conservative Party, would do that. We need to strive for that perfection. However, when we have a Prime Minister who is not trying to do that, then we need a change.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate at the start that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre.

I am pleased to once again have an opportunity to speak on this bill and to indicate, without any question, our dissatisfaction over the approach the government has continued to take with its newest budget. There is no question that there has been a major social deficit within Canada under the present government. From the way the Prime Minister was talking, a number of groups hoped that this would be a new and different approach. Quite frankly, from what we have seen, there is no change.

Let us go specifically to the area of housing. There is a shortage of housing in every community pretty much throughout the country. The shortage is extremely greater in aboriginal and first nation communities. There are huge shortages in affordable housing. Some communities are short 1,000 plus houses, and that is not acceptable.

I believe a previous minister of Indian affairs said that what first nations people wanted were opportunities to have their own mortgages. A mortgage does not do them any good when they do not have money to pay them. That is the situation in a number of first nation communities. It was quite a shameful statement on his part. I felt a lot of personal sympathy for first nation communities. It was an absolute slap in the face to those community members who, in a lot of cases, were trying very hard to improve their economic opportunities and to hold their own within Canada. Certainly there is lack of support for a national housing program within this federal budget.

A housing program could have been put into place nationwide at a cost of 1% of our annual expenses. I believe that was the figure used at one point. I remember hearing that it was something like $1.3 billion. It may have gone up a bit in the last couple of years from the time when I was looking at it quite closely. However, if that type of funding had been put in place for 10 years, we could have provided the housing needed throughout the country. A 10 year, strategically placed plan would have ensured that housing would be there nationwide. That was for urban communities, small communities, aboriginal communities, everybody. It did not leave anybody out.

The cost of the plan did not take into consideration the benefits of building those houses, the construction and employment opportunities that would be created. That plan did not take into consideration the improved benefits for health care opportunities and a lifestyle for families living in those communities who might have to keep their stoves open to keep the house warm. Try to survive like that.

I see this in a number of my communities. The cost of hydro ends up being too high. The houses built were substandard, and the costs to heat them are huge. Families do what they can. They will huddle around a stove and keep the heat contained to one area so they can afford to heat their homes and provide for their families at the same time.

In that area alone there would have been tremendous benefits nationwide: health, education, lifestyle, to say nothing of the economic activities it would have put in place in those communities and the tax dollars that would have come back to the federal government from the building of those homes and through wages.

That is an area the government seems to be unable to comprehend. It can comprehend that it wants to put dollars into corporations. In a good number of instances it will give profitable corporations more money to do whatever. It will give them money to set up operations in other countries. It will give them money to set up mining companies and numerous things in other countries, but it does not want to invest in the people of Canada.

Again, an area the government talks a good line on, but the proof is in the pudding, is the dollars that it would give to infrastructure throughout the country. There have been numerous programs on infrastructure, but the reality is there have not been a whole lot of dollars flowing to the provinces and municipalities for infrastructure improvements. A lot of programs have been talked about, but overall it has not addressed the real problems we see out there.

Another area which again is extremely lacking and very disappointing in the throne speech and the budget is student debt. Our future lies with students, our young people in elementary schools, senior years and then in post-secondary education. What has the government done? Nothing. It continues a further life of debt. It actually is promoting a lifelong debt.

Instead of just a limited number of years where a student might be in debt, Liberals will allow them to borrow more money. There is nothing to assist provinces in reducing tuitions or to assist in structure improvements within their areas, which would benefit students. It is not there. What we have seen are more loans available and more debt for students. Again, the government has failed to meet the needs of Canadians.

Along that line, those who have benefited from those student loans are the large banks or the credit corporations that literally hound students to death. When they leave school, they may be unable to get a job, but they are hounded for their payments.

Over the course of the years students have been very good at paying back debt. It has become tougher under this government for them to do that because the debts have increased. As much as people are saying there are lots of jobs, the reality is the increase has been in low paying jobs. We have numerous reports of jobs, even full time jobs, where people are still living at the poverty level. They are expected to get into the workforce and pay for their rent, food, travel to work and whatever else is involved on poverty wages. It is not possible, yet the government somehow thinks it has done a great job.

The reality is we have more and more students living in poverty. I recently received something in my office, as I am sure all MPs did, about the number of food banks on university campuses. If members have not received a copy of this, they should ask for one. There have been huge increases in food banks because our students are starving and the government has made a point of not supporting them. It should be putting in supports to decrease tuition, which would ensure that students would not end up with a lifelong debt.

It was an extremely disappointing budget and throne speech in the area of student debt. It is a letdown for students who want to be active participants. I know a number of students who get out of university and look for jobs. They pick up part time jobs here and there so they can make a few bucks. One thing we are noticing is many of those students still live at home because they cannot afford to go out on their own. They cannot afford to be independent and not rely on their parents or some other family member.

In some cases they end up living with three, four, five or six students. They have to do this during their university or college years. However, they even have to do this after because the jobs that might be out there are so low paying. I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre will have a lot of opportunities to talk about the disappointing statistics.

To summarize, from the perspective of the people in my riding, this is an extremely disappointing budget, even in the area of municipal tax rebates, the GST rebate. If we get a 100% GST rebate, does it make sense that we should pay it? Does it not make sense that if municipalities are to get a 100% rebate, then they should not be paying that GST on those products? Does it not make sense do away with the bureaucracy and quit taking the dollars out of those communities?

I suggest that the government really make a point of treating Canadians fairly.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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May 4, 2004