If we were not on television I would apply a name to it, but the CBC might object.
None of the measures in the budget are really very specific. There is no plan. There is no strategy. As a matter of fact the minister went out of his way in the budget speech to eschew any kind of strategy. He said, "1 am frankly sceptical about a search for a single grand industrial strategy in the competitive market system". What competitive market system? There is some competition in our market, but increasingly the evidence is that it is no longer a free competitive market system.
The minister is thinking about a century which has passed, and trying to solve problems in a modern society with outmoded ideas and an unwillingness to act and behave as a government and a minister should. The message of the budget is that this government does not think it can do anything. It is waiting for the American economy to recover. It is the old story of government after government in Canada. They wait for the Americans to bail us out of our situation. The difficulty is that the Americans are in trouble, as deeply as we are, and perhaps even deeper, and were it not for the fact that many of the things my friends to my right and my friends opposite call socialist measures-things such as unemployment insurance, old age pensions and family allowances-we would be in a worse recession than the one we are in now.
Our economy is suffering greatly. Unemployment is high, and that accounts for a measure of suffering, but at least there is some cushion. There is still some purchasing power left in order that society can move along. The government is waiting for the Americans rather than setting out an independent policy of its own, which is something it could do.
I know it is a common view in both the Liberal and Conservative parties that we really cannot do much on our own and that we must wait and see what other countries are going to do. To some extent that is true, but, having said that, there is a great deal we can do on our own. We should analyse our strengths-and we have many in this country-and act independently of other societies.
Instead of concentrating on exporting to the extent we do- as if we have to export in order to live, and again there is always some truth to the assertion that a certain amount of exporting is necessary-we should be concentrating on import replacement. The province of Ontario has made a tentative move in that direction. Manufacturers in Ontario are being exhorted to look around and see what kinds of things are coming into this country. Most of the things which are coming in are things we could be making ourselves. The purpose of an industrial strategy is to work with the market and with the manufacturers of Canada. We should be saying to them that there are things they can be making in this country rather than importing, and that manufacturing would provide employment, which in turn would provide opportunities to the people of Canada.
The Budget-Mr. Saltsman
We are in a period of high unemployment and, unless government policies change, that will continue for a number of years. However, if we look a little beyond that, five to ten years, there will not be unemployment but a labour shortage. Therefore it seems to me that the government's fear of stimulating the economy is groundless and that in fact we should be stimulating the economy now. We should be building the capital works which are required now.
In statements put forward by my leader on many occasions he has pointed out the things which should be done at this time and the number of jobs those projects would create. For instance, we need a $400 million federal-provincial-municipal capital works program. That has been urgently demanded unanimously by all ten premiers and by most municipalities. That would create 60,000 new jobs. Instead of that we get reports like the one published in this morning's Globe and Mail which says:
Federal move felt endangering renewal plans of municipalities
"Ottawa is trying to curtail their spending at the expense of the municipalities ... It is trying to make us pay for these programs by raising our property
The government is cutting back on its spending, and the consequence of that will simply be that more people will be thrown out of work. The cost of unemployment insurance, welfare, and other social support programs will increase. We should be viewing the present period of high unemployment as a moment of opportunity. Not only should we try to put people back to work, with all that means in terms of the benefits of working and the moral benefits of working rather than being unemployed, but we should put people back to work on projects which will be needed for the future. The need for municipal projects is obvious. The need for urban renewal is obvious.
Another suggestion we have made is that $500 million be spent on railroad upgrading and rebuilding. That has been recommended by the Hall commission. While creating 70,000 new jobs, that would maintain railroad branch lines, and grain elevators would be repaired and modernized. Surely that would be worth while, particularly when we know that the future calls for more and better rail transit services. When is the government going to contemplate this-when we have labour shortages later on, or now when there are so many who are unemployed? All we need is a little direction from the government and a little courageous fiscal management to put people back to work.
Another project we have advocated is a $300 million urban transit program which would provide needed transportation services in urban communities in Canada and create an estimated 40,000 new jobs. A $500 million special housing program is needed to reverse CMHC overspending of its 1977 capital budget by almost that amount. That would provide needed funds for non-profit, co-operative and public housing, and for neighbourhood improvement and residential rehabilitation programs. We think that would create 70,000 new jobs in the high unemployment construction industry. The cost of these capital works projects comes to about $1.7 billion. They
November 17, 1978
The Budget-Mr. Saltsman
would get the private sector involved in important areas of the economy and decrease the level of unemployment. The government should be concerned about moving into these areas, particularly now when the private sector seems so weak and so unwilling to invest.
My friends to the right say that the problem is lack of confidence. The government brings in a regressive budget and says that it is meant to instil confidence in the business community. The official opposition turns that around and says confidence consists of having the hon. member for York-Simcoe in a blue serge suit as minister of finance rather than opposition critic. I think the word "confidence" is grossly misused by both parties. Confidence comes from looking at a government, or an official opposition, which has the courage to advocate programs rather than standing pat all the time, playing it safe and doing nothing beyond the immediate and short-term. There is a reason for this malaise, and again a clear message comes from the budget.
The government is totally preoccupied with the problem of inflation. However, that problem has, for the most part, passed. The government itself acknowledges that the worst of the inflationary spiral is over, that from thereon in-while there will still be inflation and while we still have to be concerned about it-there will not be the rise in inflation we have had for the last number of years.
I am very proud to say that if you look at organized labour in Canada you will find that it has been behaving in a very responsible and concerned way. Its members have, in fact, been taking wage settlements below the increases in the cost of living to demonstrate that. The trade union movement is doing its part in terms of controlling inflation, and I think it deserves a word of commendation.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: THE BUDGET