Madam Speaker, in my first address to this House I was interrupted by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. We have since supped, and now welcome your presence. I am sure it means something not only to the chamber but to myself to have you preside during my speech.
When I was interrupted by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod I was referring to a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) in the debate on the Address in Reply when his turn came on leaders' day. I referred to the fact that I detected a slip of the tongue when the Prime Minister, referring to things the government proposed to do during the course of this parliament, mentioned the establishment of an interdepartmental agency under the direction of his office. Later, however, in correcting himself he immediately said that he was referring to an interprovincial agency within his own office. I suggest this may have been a Freudian slip on his part.
It is hoped the government will as a high priority in fact set up an office to deal with and review all government departmental spending in order to place some sort of significant restraint on government expenditures generally. On the basis of my own observation, after an absence of some years from Ottawa and parliament, I could not avoid being amazed at some of the considerable changes which have taken place with regard to the proliferation of government in the sense that there is a very high increase, for example, in the number of public servants.
The complexity is most baffling to a novice member of parliament. It is baffling to me even though I had an opportunity to observe parliament for some three years. On my return I found that there were so many new departments, agencies of departments, and Crown corporations that it was rather difficult to sort out the particular facets of government. Members of Parliament now have increased assistance but this, in my estimation, is absolutely necessary simply in order to aid them when looking into the complexities of government as it now
stands, a government which, of course, is the largest business in our country.
I suggest to the government it is absolutely essential that it bring forward some plans to make an exhaustive assessment of government spending and, at the same time, bring forward some sort of legislation to ameliorate the social consequences of inflation. The position has now become more than an economic or fiscal problem. Inflation has risen and continues to increase, and must be dealt with as a political problem on political terms, that is to say, in the form of legislation.
Government action must be taken to deal with the effects of inflation on those people unable to protect themselves against the ravages caused by the increased cost of living. I ask the Prime Minister, what of the plight of the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed? These people on fixed incomes, on pensions, in effect are receiving an economic and social scorching, and it is the responsibility of the government to take immediate steps to put out the fire.
When one considers the incredible increase in government budgets, over the past ten years, and the very considerable increase in tax moneys being received by our federal government, one cannot but be astounded at the failure of the government to place the interests of the disadvantaged at the very top of the list of priorities, especially in view of the inflationary problem. The government has been in receipt of considerably increased income through taxation, including the relatively new source of tax on capital gains. In fact it can be said that the government has, in terms of tax income, benefitted from inflation.
The Prime Minister and the government must set an example for the country. Economic and other observers suggest that there is an inflationary psychology which affects the rate of inflation in a national economy. If the government will undertake immediately a realistic appraisal of government expenditures combined with the equally important assessment of assistance to the disadvantaged in our society, the people of Canada will receive this course of action with approbation and will, in fact, join with the government, voluntarily and co-operatively, to meet our most pressing problem head on.
I would like to deal with other aspects of the Speech from the Throne of interest to my constituents but, if I may be permitted to say, also of interest to people generally in Canada. The constituency of Saskatoon-Biggar is primarily reliant on the agricultural industry. I note the general references made in the Speech from the Throne to incentives to farmers and fishermen, including the stabilization of incomes and markets geared to the increase in food production.
The constituents of Saskatoon-Biggar understand the moral responsibility which we have in Canada to maximize agricultural production and to maintain a strong and vibrant industry. This responsibility will weigh heavily upon us as long as we are surrounded by a starving world.
I look forward to the introduction of specific legislation to be brought in by the government in the area of stabilization of farm incomes and markets.
October 10, 1974
Indeed, Madam Speaker, I remind the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board (Mr. Lang) that he was quoted in the Biggar Independent of June 12, 1974, and the Rosthern Saskatchewan Valley News of June 13, 1974, as pledging that a western grain stabilization plan bill would be introduced in parliament within seven days after the new parliament opened. I quote from the Saskatchewan Valley News of June 13, 1974, as follows:
If the Liberal party is elected to form the next federal government, Wheat Board minister Otto Lang will introduce a Western Grain Stabilization Plan within seven days after the new parliament opens.
Mr. Lang made that pledge at a meeting here June 11. He promised Saskatchewan producers if he and the Liberals are re-elected, he will personally introduce such a bill for first reading within the first week of parliament.
The plan, said Mr. Lang, will protect the incomes of prairie grain farmers from being squeezed between rising production costs and low grain prices, should grain prices drop from their current high levels. The farmer's income will be protected whether the squeeze develops from lower revenues or higher costs. This is the only effective and fair way to protect grain producers against inflation.
Knowing the minister represents the other Saskatoon constituency in this House, and knowing that in Saskatoon and surrounding area a man's word is his bond, I call on him now to bring forward the legislation in question for the scrutiny of the western farmers and members of parliament.
We are all aware of the pressures being experienced today by municipalities in connection with their costs, which are escalating at a phenomenal rate and which are being passed on to the taxpayer. Heretofore, many municipalities were granted exemption from sales tax on materials purchased for their own use in a number of areas, such as materials for storm and sanitary sewers and water pollution control plants, equipment with a unit value in excess of $500 used in fire-fighting and road making,-and the material element in buildings to be used as libraries, hospitals and the like.
The budget of last May indicated that the federal sales tax would be removed from articles and materials purchased by local governments for use in the construction of water distribution systems, and from buses and other public transportation equipment purchased by local governments.
I am aware of representations made by the mayor of the City of Saskatoon to the government that, in the forthcoming budget, the list of items used by the municipalities which would be exempt from sales tax should be extended and that it should include materials used in the construction of all municipal buildings, especially buildings housing or fire fighting and police facilities. I urge the government to endorse this suggestion which, if implemented, would in the final analysis lessen the burden on the municipal taxpayer.
The pressure on municipalities due to economic conditions today has resulted in rising prices and costs preventing the construction of much needed hospitals and related facilities, such as senior citizens' homes. At present the ceiling on allowances set by Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation is $10,000 per bed. Having regard to the escalation in the cost of materials and labour, the allowance ceiling on nursing homes should now be raised to a more realistic level. Municipalities simply are not able to
The Address-Mr. Hnatyshyn
finance the construction of these facilities in view of this limitation on the amount of loans available through the CMHC as the burden falls, with a direct and an immediate thrust, on the municipal taxpayer and he is unable to meet it.
I hope and trust that the government will give immediate attention to increasing the ceiling on loans for such worthwhile projects. In my opinion such an increase would not involve, government expenditures to any significant degree, but would have the effect of softening the burden of expenditures placed on municipalities in the creation of much needed social and medical facilities.
Within and immediately adjacent to the boundaries of my constituency lie the historically important areas of Batoche, Duck Lake, Fort Carlton and Fish Creek. These areas are rich in historic sites, dating back to the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and beyond that time. An initiative has been taken, Madam Speaker, by residents of this area to develop and maintain the sites for posterity, and they are to be commended for their unceasing endeavours in this connection. There is in the area, at the present time, federal, provincial and local involvement, and representations have been made by the residents of the area for increased federal participation in the development of this complex.
In this regard the assistance of the federal government through its national museums program would be of great assistance and value in preserving artifacts to ensure that they are not lost but are retained for the benefit of the general public. I would urge the government to give favourable consideration to the representations being made by the citizens of these areas, and I hope that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Mr. Buchanan) will take a personal interest in the development of national historic parks relating to this area which has been the scene of developments which have significantly affected our history.
The increasing influx of tourists from all parts of our country, notwithstanding the many deficiencies in facilities and access roads to these sites should, I trust, be a significant inducement to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to give his immediate consideration to the representations I have mentioned.
I have another suggestion with respect to our senior citizens, that group of people who, in my estimation at least, have not received the attention and priority that they so richly deserve. It seems to me that there are a number of ways in which governments, aside from the giving of moneys and raising of pensions, can recognize the contribution made by our senior citizens.
Sometimes we can learn an occasional lesson from our neighbour to the south, the U.S.A. I have been impressed with a policy which has been adopted in the United States with respect to senior citizens, and I should like to bring it to the attention of our government, and of the minister responsible for our national parks, with a view to seeing whether something in a similar vein could not be carried out in Canada. I refer to what is termed in the United States "a golden age passport."
Such a passport is issued without charge to any person 62 years of age or over, and entitles the bearer, and any
The Address-Mr. McRae
person accompanying him or her in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle, to enter any designated entrance fee area of the national parks system administered by the responsible department.
The bearer is also entitled to use any designated special recreation facility provided at any federal outdoor recreation area, excluding those provided by a concessionaire, at 50 per cent of the established daily special recreation use fee.
It seems to me that if the government has its priorities in the right order it should be looking at the introduction of some change in the regulations which would be of benefit to this group. It would not involve a very substantial outlay of funds to allow our senior citizens the same right of access as is enjoyed by United States citizens in their country to those parts of our country under federal jurisdiction. I urge this suggestion on the government and hope it will do something about it very soon.
I think I have come close to using all my time or even a little more, Madam Speaker. I appreciate your indulgence, and I look forward to making some contribution in this parliament.
Topic: THE ROYAL ASSENT
Subtopic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE