Mr. Howard McCurdy (Windsor-St. Clair):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on the last supply day in debate on the government's estimates. Quite frankly this is the dying gasp of a tired government. For eight years or nearly nine the government has pursued a neo-conservative agenda which has been expressed in a variety of ways and has caused a great deal of harm to our country. It has created great doubts about the future of the nation, caused a great deal of unemployment and caused a great deal of misery. Increasingly there are indications of civil strife as expressed by the demonstration that took place on the Hill last Saturday.
There is a preoccupation, not an unreasonable preoccupation, with the deficit. However, one thing all of us here and across the nation ought to recognize is that the deficit is a specific result of an over-all thrust, an ideological thrust imposed upon this nation. It has been the borrowing of a neo-conservative perspective best represented by George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and the Prime Minister which says that government is best that does the least, most particularly that government is best that does the least for the vast majority of people in favour of allowing transnational corporations to go
where they want, to invest where they want, to build factories where they want and to move jobs where they choose.
Not since the Depression have the corporations had such power and freedom as what is evolving now under the umbrella not only of the free trade agreement but also under the prospect of NAFTA which will make it worse. As one of my colleagues indicated earlier, the American domination of GATT makes it as much a contributor to the over-all international application of neo-conservatism that is causing so much harm and so much damage.
The deficit is just a part of the result of this over-all agenda. One of the things that is not clear is when this agenda began to be applied. In fact that agenda began to be applied in the 1970s when the Liberals rejected what many would have considered a sincere effort of tax reform advocated by Mr. MacEachen. It instead moved to change tax policy to provide a lesser burden on corporations. The result has been a much smaller proportion of tax revenues paid by corporations and a much larger proportion paid on the basis of personal income tax and other sources.
It also introduced changes in the tax system which benefited not just corporations but those who are wealthy and rich and who have a good deal more influence than ordinary Canadians. The result of this, quite frankly as was found by Statistics Canada, was a considerable budget shortfall. Deficits began to mount as expenditures began to mount in the face of the depression of the early 1980s.
It should be recognized that during the recession of the early 1980s there was another contributing factor. That was a high interest rate policy that began to contribute as significantly as a revenue shortfall.
The combination of this was the accumulation of a debt of approximately $200 billion as a result of Liberal policies favouring corporations and the rich at the expense of ordinary Canadians.
An inflation fighting increase in interest rates, a pattern which has continued to this day, is based on the notion that the appropriate way to fight inflation is to
generate unemployment by means of high interest rates. As we recall interest rates mounted to 22 per cent.
Then came the Conservative government that continued this pattern of favouritism toward the large corporations and the wealthy. Then we also had Mr. Crow, confronted with burgeoning unemployment and inflation as well, choosing once again that characteristic approach of trying to fight inflation on the backs of the unemployed.
There is one thing that has to be recognized and it was demonstrated by Statistics Canada in its study. From 1975 until now, the burgeoning debt and continuing deficits were a result specifically of favouritism toward those corporations and the wealthy. That went to the extent that 44 per cent of the present debt is attributable to the shortfall in revenue resulting from that favourable treatment for those best off in our society.
As well, it should be noted that 50 per cent of the accumulated debt is a result of interest rates on the debt. It was as a direct result of the high interest rate policy of the Liberals as well as that of the Conservatives. It was the high interest rate policy that raised the value of the dollar and cut back on exports. It was the high interest rate that generated, according to a WEFA study, some
400,000 unemployed all by itself.
We talk about the deficit which has become an excuse for this government not to undertake initiatives that would have created jobs and a new knowledge based economy that this country must achieve if it is to compete internationally. However, that is only part of the equation. The other part of the equation is the unemployment it generated. This is unemployment in addition to that generated by high interest rates alone. It has to be emphasized that unemployment was deliberately incurred by the Bank of Canada under Mr. Crow specifically to keep inflation under control at the expense of the most powerless in our society.
We then had the other part of the corporate agenda which is the free trade agreement. As a result of the free trade agreement, according to numerous studies, it generated something in the order of 350,000 unemployed by itself.
It must be clear that if we have unemployment and closed factories that-
June 2, 1993
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order in midstream here. It is somewhat distracting to have a member carrying on a conversation with one of the pages at his feet. Is it okay for me to proceed?
As a result of the free trade agreement, some 350,000 additional unemployed were generated as a direct result of a government that saw the free trade agreement as an appropriate initiative within the context of a neo-conservative agenda. However, the over-all result is obvious. If we have unemployment then we have people who are not paying taxes. If we have closed factories then we have businesses that are not paying taxes. Furthermore, if we have a situation of unemployment then government has to pay out a good deal in terms of social support systems of various sorts to those who have become unemployed and that is a burden.
In fact, for every unemployed individual, $17,000 in costs are incurred. If we look at the level of unemployment right now $27 billion is taken out of the coffers of the government.
What is clear is that we are confronted with a situation in which the government is attacking social programs and we have various Conservative candidates contesting with one another to see who can propose the sharpest cuts in medicare, in unemployment insurance and in our social programs which have benefited Canadians.
This neo-conservative agenda, which did not achieve so much success before the Depression, continues to repeat the mistakes of the Depression.
The last time corporations and international financiers had so much power was just before the Depression. That era was also the last period during which we did not have the kinds of social programs that we have now to support those who have suffered as a result of the excesses of international financiers and corporations who then, as now, have the freedom to go where they choose for the lowest wages, weakest social programs, poorest health and environmental standards are poorest and where the tax burden is the least for those corporations. It wants to complete the story.
The consequences are inevitable. We see it around the world. It is that this approach contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. If this continues-the transna-
tional corporations being able to go where they want for the least cost, least burden and least responsibility-then who will buy their products? Who will protect them against the masses of unemployed, powerless, excluded and alienated?
The deficit on the one hand is a result of a policy of favouritism that ignores the responsibilities of nations. It is supported by trade arrangements that seem to say that governments have no responsibility and that corporations will not address their responsibilities. The deficit fundamentally is a problem of revenues and it is a problem of unemployment. It is a problem of an arrangement that makes it impossible for the government, that ought to serve people, to act in ways which will serve people.
If there is to be an answer to it then it is not to be found in a continuation of the policies of this government and it cannot be found in the policies proposed by the Liberals. The Liberals are part of the problem. It was the Liberals who began the deficit and the neo-conservative agenda continued by this government.
There must be a change and that change is to be found in a renewal of the social democratic approach which recognizes that if we are going to have prosperity then it has to be on the basis in this new global economic world of empowering people. It has to be based on investment in our nation. It has to be based on the kinds of measures that the New Democratic Party has specifically proposed in order to put people back to work.
Here is what we will find if all of our program is implemented. The deficit will cease to be a problem for exactly the reasons that we outlined earlier. People will go back to work. Revenues will be once again generated. The cost to government of unemployment will be eliminated. To speak of that, it has to involve an abrogation of the free trade agreement. It has to involve a setting aside of NAFTA. It must involve changes in monetary policy. It must involve a decrease in interest rates because each decrease in interest rates generates jobs and at the same time it also cuts back on the deficit.
Today, according to the government's own papers, the deficit contributes directly to the level of interest rates. The deficit is the cost of paying the interest rates on the debt.
June 2, 1993
The Liberals would not abrogate the free trade agreement. God knows what they would do with NAFTA. We would abrogate and we would introduce initiatives to create jobs.
The result is that the deficit over the period of a New Democratic government will be all but eliminated. The deficit will be eliminated and then we can begin to work on the cutting back of the debt.
What does this program involve? First of all it involves an infrastructure program that will prepare our nation with the grounds and the means of transportation, the electronic highway, and the scientific and educational infrastructure that we need. It will create 130,000 jobs immediately and prepare the way for subsequent economic development.
We propose a national investment fund which would encourage small and medium sized businesses, new businesses, to get off the ground. We project that would create 200,000 new jobs.
We propose a national child care program. It is part of our initiative from day care to doctorates to provide training and education for Canadian workers. That would create 70,000 jobs.
We would establish a national council on education to make our educational programs throughout the nation more in accord with our economic goals and to ensure equity and real accomplishment by students in the work place. In order to fund training in industry we would have a grant levy system to pay for it.
We would increase research and development, double IRAP funding, increase funding for the granting councils and find better methods than are presently used now to encourage industry to do research and development in house.
We would undertake initiatives to ensure that our natural resources are processed here to produce jobs in Canada rather than elsewhere.
By doing this the problem of the deficit would be addressed in the only way it can be addressed. That is by putting people back to work. We would create a country in which the government once more has the capacity and will to ensure that we have a sense of community in which we understand as Canadians that government is the means by which we express our responsibility to another. We propose to give people not a hand out but a hand up. That is how the deficit would be addressed, not
on the backs of the unemployed but by creating employment.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MAIN ESTIMATES 1993-94-VOTE 1