Hon. Marc Lalonde (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to remind my hon. friend that one of the latest pieces of legislation passed by this Parliament, at the urging of this Government, has been a measure to come to the aid of elderly single people, 75 per cent of whom were women, who still lived below the poverty level. Thanks to the measure
June 29, 1984
which this Government has passed, there will be no single senior citizen in the future who will be living below the poverty level in this country. This is something which this Government has done, and this is a policy which we have pursued.
In the last 16 years, under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, we have been able to reduce very significantly the percentage of Canadians living at the poverty level. We have cut that percentage by more than half. That has been brought about because of the steps which have been taken by the Liberal Government during that particular period.
I want to point out to my friend that the social assistance programs are under provincial responsibility, although the federal Government pays 50 per cent of whatever the provinces decide to pay. Surely he knows that the level of social assistance is the responsibility of provincial Governments, under the Constitution. They determine the level of those payments. Once more, we are providing 50 per cent of those payments.
As far as interest rates are concerned, the Hon. Member knows that the policy of the Government is to follow the lowest possible interest rate policy. We are now in a situation where we have the same prime rate as in the United States, and we kept those rates below the U.S. level, thanks to our policies, for as long as we could. We will continue that policy of the lowest possible rates, taking into account the reality of our economic environment internationally.
Topic: ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic: THE ECONOMY