Anyone who was here last night, Mr. Speaker, knows that the parliamentary secretary had plenty of time to finish. If the government's policies were any good, why did he not remain to expound on them himself, instead of deferring to his ally in the NDP party, who spent all his time attacking the Progressive Conservative party and their policies? Both the Liberal party and the NDP party are in a federal eclipse, and the House has just witnessed one of their last frantic embracing gestures. I say to the Canadian people, "Don't vote Liberal or NDP, both of these parties are in bed together, with nothing but deceit and political trickery to offer as a solution to Canada's problem."
As I join in this debate on Bill C-7 I am reminded that on April 20 I made what I thought at that time would be my last major speech in this House. When I left for England on April 30 as a delegate to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in London, I fully expected to return to the excitement of a federal general election campaign in this country. Instead I found that our country was still gripped in the turmoil caused by this confused and leaderless government. It is common knowledge right across this country that the government is in deep financial trouble, and has been for a long time. There is a five hour time limitation on the debate of this bill, the equivalent of closure, because the government cannot issue any bonds until it is passed.
This bill gives the Prime Minister and what is left of the Liberal party in this House the authority to borrow another $7 billion. The name of the session has changed since I returned from the old country from the third to the fourth session, but apart from that nothing else has changed. We are still mired in the same old political, social, and economic morass. The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) does not seem to have heard the same message that we in this House have heard from people across the country. The message is that the Prime Minister has had his day and reached the end of his rope. It would be charitable and merciful if he should step aside and let the country recover its equilibrium with a new administration in charge.
On the occasion of my last speech I announced my voluntary retirement from active politics, and I did not expect to be here six months later debating still another government bill that turns out to be no more than another effort to borrow money. Just six months and 15 by-elections later I find that the government is setting still another record for spending and borrowing.
What we are getting is economic doubletalk. We hear from the Minister of Finance (Mr. Chretien) that we can still go deeper into the bottomless pit of national indebtedness without increasing per capita indebtedness. What a fallacy that is. There might have been a time two or three years ago when it would have been true, but even then it would have required some juggling on the part of those who were selling that theory. Today, with a greatly devalued dollar, reduced productivity, and even greater deficit spending, there is no way that
the Minister of Finance can sell such a theory; he will just have to think up a new one.
In the same vein, Bill C-7 seeks borrowing authority for the government to go into the market place anywhere in the world to borrow $7 billion, and at the same time amends the Financial Administration Act. While they were at it they should have asked for authority to amend the dictionary, and in particular to change the definition of "debt" and all its derivations. It now takes more than 15 cents of every dollar levied to carry our national debt. A year ago it was between 13 cents and 14 cents, but I am making that safe estimate of 15 cents now because there is at least 15 per cent discount on our money in the New York stock markets, which is the source of our emergency credit.
Unhappily, the government is faced with the same fact that the rest of us must face, that that debt means the same today as it meant yesterday, the same today as it meant 50 years ago, and the same today as it meant even to the Fathers of Confederation, and will mean the same in the years to come when our children and grandchildren are faced with a veritable mountain of lOUs, promissory notes, bond issues, and heaven knows what. The plain fact is that we are up to our eyeballs in debt, and yet this government wants more and more.
We are being asked to approve a further $7 billion of indebtedness, but we do not know for what it is to be used. If my leader had not jumped on the government and forced it to split its bill in committee, it would not have been $7 billion, it would have been $ 17 billion, but the government backed down on the other S10 billion.
What is the explanation we are given for the use of this money? Paragraph 2 of this five-paragraph bill reads:
-the sum of $7 billion, as may be required for public works and general purposes.
Given the record and the attitude of this government, we probably should be thankful for small mercies and for the fact that the writers even volunteered to mention what it would be used for, albeit in general terms. Government bills seeking spending authority keep getting shorter and shorter.
Previous speakers in my party and in other parties in the House have termed this bill a disaster. It would be difficult to improve on that, because a disaster is a disaster. The Trudeau government is the all-time record holder in Canada for profligate spending and for floating bond issues. Over the past two years this government has been floating bond issues to pay interest on interest on the national debt.
I would like to quote from today's Citizen, no handmaiden to Liberal policies of profligate neglect of our nation's business and her economy:
Canadians are desperate to see solutions to the country's economic problems and they're willing to make major sacrifices to achieve that objective-
The more the government spends, the more it prints money. The more money it prints, the less worth that money has. Once it's into the cycle, there's almost no way, short of draconian measures, to get out of it.
Part of the problem is government borrowing to finance over-spending.
November 15, 1978
Yes, that is true. I have stressed government borrowing to finance the payment of interest on interest on maturing obligations in the form of bonds.
The article in the Citizen continues:
In the process it imposes totally contradictory policies on Canadians and tries to explain those policies with unmitigated gibberish, pompous bluster and downright falsehoods.
A majority of Canadians may favor wage and price controls, but that preference should be seen as a willingness to bite the bullet, to make the sacrifices required to preserve this country's economic future.
The last few paragraphs in the Citizen editorial read as follows:
What it failed to do in the first ten years of its existence, the Trudeau administration now hopes to bring together in six months.
Is that the date of the election, six months from now?
Borrowing and deficit financing further debase and undermine our currency, and therefore our dollar falls in relation to the currencies of more responsible governments, the cost of imports goes up, and inflation soars.
In the last three years the government has been remarkably inactive in planning to reduce Canada's demand for imports. It has been equally delinquent in planning for increasing Canada's exports.
To return to the subject of the national debt, a subject which this government shies away from, but nevertheless it will have to face up to, we find that this is the third time in fiscal 1978-79 that the government has come to parliament to request an increase in its borrowing limit. Over the past two years these increases in borrowing authority have amounted to $28 billion, a 66 per cent interest in the national debt accumulation. I should add that "coming to parliament" is a hollow phrase. Those Liberal members vote as a pack, probably without even reading the bills, and so it is a foregone conclusion that Bill C-7 will pass.
Bill C-7 also authorizes the government to borrow in currency other than Canadian currency, and to repay loans in the currency in which it was borrowed. The plain fact is that the loans must be paid back in Canadian currency converted to the foreign currency borrowed, and the discount on the Canadian dollar must be paid. In the case of U.S. funds the exchange rate of 15 per cent to 17 per cent must be added to the average of 10 per cent interest, and to that must be added the two or three points that foreign buyers are discounting for our bond issues. This all adds up to an astronomical cost to our children and grandchildren.
Considering the growth in government spending and borrowing, and considering that we are being plunged headlong into massive public debt, there should be more, rather than less scrutiny of bills such as Bill C-7. There should be dollar by dollar accountability by parliament on the part of any government. It is obvious from this five-paragraph bill before us that accountability has been lost. It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that this government has lost control over our economy.
Accountability for public funds has always, at least until the past ten years, been an honour and a sacred trust. Under the reign of the present government it has now become somthing else. It is now a vital necessity to restore accountability to
Borrowing Authority Act
governments and ministers. The PC administration that will succeed this one will certainly stick to that code. Bill C-7 is a prime example of what I am talking about. Seven billion dollars is a lot of money to approve of spending for general purposes. I have to tell myself what I spend my money for, and so does each member of this House. We do not try to delude ourselves that we can spend vast sums of money and put it under the heading "general purposes", and yet the explanation in Bill C-7 as to what the money will be used for reads "For public works and general purposes" That is exactly six words, not even one word per billion. That is not an explanation, it is a put-off.
When I came to parliament 17 years ago I came from the municipal level of government where 1 learned my lessons on accountability of elected officials. As any hon. member who also came here from municipal politics can tell us, we did not strike mill rates for general purposes. Those rates are struck to cover the cost of specified expenses and services required by the corporate body, the municipality. I shudder to think of where I would be today if I had attempted to cover an item of, say, $20,000, by telling my colleagues to just charge it to general purposes. I know for certain that I would not be sitting here in this House.
Briefly, by way of qualification of this point, municipal government expenditures are controlled in three ways. Municipal governments are far more accountable than we are. First, council committees draw up their budgets. These are combined and brought before the whole council for debate and approval. Second, budgets are scrutinized and approved, in whole or in part, by the official arm of the province. In my case, it was the Ontario Municipal Board. In Ontario, and I suppose in other provinces, municipalities are creatures of the province and each has their municipal board. Third, mandates are often given by the people in the form of local referendums concerning certain types of laws and public improvements. There is naturally a certain amount of deficit financing allowed by the province since the province is responsible to the people. But it is not run-away deficit financing without accountability as we have seen over the past few years with this profligate government.
Day after day this government is stretching its credibility to the breaking point. Day after day the obedient ciphers on the Liberal benches across the way vote yea plunging the Canadian people further into debt. I have objected as strongly as possible to this government's practice of floating bond issues to pay interest on interest, but this has been to no avail. This practice is destroying parliament's confidence and the Canadian people's confidence in this government. They should do the honourable thing, get out and call an election.
This bill should be thrown out for at least two very good reasons-I know it won't be-but in the first place we do not have the faintest notion as to what the government wants the money for. I suspect that it is to pay interest on interest because it has to pay that, among other equally devious purposes. But the fact is that we do not know, and we know that we are not going to be told before this bill passes. Second,
November 15, 1978
Borrowing Authority Act
what we are being asked to do is approve a third mortgage for a client who is not able to pay even the interest on the first and second mortgages. That is certainly not good financial practice, Mr. Speaker. We should not be put into the position of approving this bill by aiding and abetting it here. I resent being put into that position. It is a perversion of the high trust of public office and it is a misuse of the high privilege of being allowed to cast a vote in this chamber. How much of this money will go to buy another oil company? How much of this money will go help shore up the shaky Trudeau buck in New York, London, and other world monetary markets?
In short, there is a misty aura of deception and doubt already created by the dismal record of this government which should make any member voting on this bill conclude that the borrowing authority which they have asked for, of another $7 billion, should be refused. But better still than that, an amendment should be moved to the Financial Administration Act prohibiting and forbidding any government of Canada or any government in Canada at any level to borrow money anywhere from anyone to pay interest on interest, making it illegal to place a third mortgage on Canada, our country, which is now financially embarrassed and in a state of near bankruptcy as a result of being too long governed by the false and phony policies of Trudeau liberalism.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1978-79 MEASURE TO GRANT SUPPLEMENTARY BORROWING POWER