Mr. Bob Corbett (Fundy-Royal):
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to have been given the opportunity to
speak in this House. My compliments to you, Mr. Speaker, for the admirable fashion in which you conduct the business of this House under what certainly has to be described as adverse conditions on occasions. Please convey my best wishes to the representative of the Crown and the personal emissary of Her Majesty the Queen in this country, His Excellency, the Right Hon. Jules Leger, Governor General of Canada, and his lovely wife, Madame Leger.
My congratulations to the other fourteen successful by-election candidates recently elected. Some have had the opportunity of presenting themselves to the House during this debate or in other fashions, ahead of me. They certainly have done so in a most admirable fashion.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, Fundy-Royal which was so respectfully and admirably represented in this House by the former Progressive Conservative member, Gordon Fairweath-er, is a diverse constituency, nestled in Her Majesty's picture province of New Brunswick, extending from, and including, a portion of the eastern section of the city of Saint John, to the borders of the city of Moncton, on the east. It runs from the west, from more or less the boundaries of the beautiful Saint John River valley, which is known among geographers as "The Rhine of North America", up to and including a portion of Sunbury county, which lies in proximity to the capital of New Brunswick, Fredericton.
It then extends along a northern boundary which includes the principal coal mining regions of New Brunswick, the towns of Minto and Chipman. In the heart of Fundy-Royal is Sussex, the dairy centre of Canada.
There are many areas I could speak of in relation to economic development-or perhaps I should say the lack of it-in the constituency of Fundy-Royal, including agriculture, coal mining, the forest industries, potash development in the Sussex region, the Fundy trail which this government and the provincial government of New Brunswick have been talking about for so long without seeming to get any closer to agreement, but, unfortunately, time does not permit me to do so. I will have to deal with these subjects at a later time.
1 should like to discuss, however, the business of unemployment in Fundy-Royal. It is certainly an area that is neglected and one where we feel there is great room for improvement and changes.
The Atlantic region, as perhaps you know, Mr. Speaker, is handled by Statistics Canada on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is extremely misleading. There is a very high seasonal component to unemployment in the Atlantic region, and in Fundy-Royal it renders the figures provided by Statistics Canada meaningless on most occasions.
The proposed changes under consideration by this House to the Unemployment Insurance Act are very critical to New Brunswick. Under present circumstances, if the bill passes the way it was presented, it is estimated there will be an additional 10 per cent load on the social services budget of the province. At a recent meeting of the federal and provincial ministers of social services it was suggested that the government consider a
November 24, 1978
two tier rate structure. I put this to the House and to the government for consideration. Very simply, it is based on a 50 per cent maximum insurable earnings structure without dependants, whereas clients who have families or dependants would remain at the 66% per cent level or possibly be reduced to the suggested level of 60 per cent.
The saving in New Brunswick alone is estimated at something in the vicinity of $26 million for this year, which is worthy of note. Of course the saving across the nation would be much greater.
I was pleased to hear that the Standing Committee on Labour, Manpower and Immigration has apparently agreed to allow provincial ministers to participate. I am sure they will benefit from the experience and knowledge of those ladies and gentlemen who will be contributing to the proceedings.
The lower regions of the riding encompass the bedroom communities of New Brunswick's largest city, Saint John, and includes Kennebecasis Park, Renforth, Riverside, Kinghurst, Rothesay, Fairvale, Gondola Point, Quispamsis and Hampton, on the Kennebecasis River, and Grand Bay and Westfield on the Saint John River.
Mr. Speaker, Fundy-Royal is, as I have outlined, a diversified constituency which depends, to a great extent, economically, on the intuition and ingenuity of the people who make up the population. There is within its borders a goodly number of small business people, including a high portion of the productive farmers of New Brunswick. There are fishermen along the Fundy coast who depend on the seas for a living. There are small manufacturers, not so small manufacturers, service industries, and household managers, commonly known as housewives. All of these people have to try to make it in an economic environment which, thanks to the present government, is totally incompatible with the aspirations, hopes, and ambitions of an ambitious, conscientious and arduous population.
From the standpoint of the household manager, what has been offered in this budget for her? A paltry one dollar per week maybe! As for the rest of the small business community, nothing. There is absolutely nothing except a promise to professions, such as medical doctors and lawyers, that if they previously used a vehicle developed by the government to their advantage, which is what any prudent business person would do, be it someone running a multi-national company, or a small country doctor, then they were labelled as bad scamps, unfair, cheaters of the government, and they must be stopped.
Let us deal with a typical rural doctor. First of all he is regulated in most provinces across this nation by a medicare program, which regulates and dictates his schedule of fees, whether it be for the administration of a common laxative, or the delivery of a baby in a hospital 30 or 60 miles away from his office. He is, in most cases, on call 24 hours a day and tends patients in a hospital most every day miles from his office.
The Budget-Mr. Corbett
He maintains a telephone system, which is sophisticated enough to transmit and respond pertinent information to him when he is away from home. He inserts ads in local newspapers when he will be away from his office for more than a few hours. He maintains an office which is completely equipped with enough medical paraphernalia that would make most small hospitals of a decade ago look antiquated. He maintains a staff of at least two, that is, if he wants to clean up the office himself. He maintains records that are suspiciously similar to most legitimate businesses including accounts receivable and accounts payable. He attends seminars and continuing education programs to ensure that he is kept up to date with the latest technology. He often is a dispensing physician, which means that he must maintain an inventory of drugs and medications accounting for same, just as a druggist would. His salary, after expenses, is probably $30,000 to $40,000 per year, much less than that of many of the bureaucrats gracing this hill.
This is the villain, Mr. Speaker, that this government says is no different managerially speaking than the guy who goes to work at 9 a.m. in the morning and returns at 5 p.m. at night, and who collects his pay cheque every week. This is the villain, Mr. Speaker, that this government probably considers as another enemy. If it is the government's intention to discourage, and scourge society of this particular rascal, the family doctor, it is doing a particularly efficient job of it. Before the present measures that effectively ensure that a legitimate businessman is eliminated from taking his rightful place in the business community, the situation for MDs surgeons and others in their related fields, was unpalatable enough. This government knows they have been leaving the country in droves for greener pastures in the United States. It will be interesting, and I predict tragic, for this country to witness what the present measures brought in by this government will do to aggravate further an already serious situation.
But this is the attitude that this government has toward small business. They are to be used and intimidated. Not destroyed, yet, because they are the largest group of taxpayers, producers, and employers in the country. But they are certainly to be intimidated.
The Department of Justice keeps on staff a "stable of legal beagles" paid for in the most part by the labour of small business, whose sole purpose it is to prosecute, persecute, and short of execute whoever the Department of Justice can get their clutches on, as long as the villain is from the private sector.
Woe befall "chump citizen, small businessman", if he does not have resources equal to the Bank of Canada to take on this battery of would-be deputy ministers. Although admittedly that is not as ridiculous a thought today as it might have been in better times. No, I suspect the facts will bear me out that the majority of Goliath and Tom Thumb legal engagements end up with a hasty capitulation by Tom, not because he knows he is wrong, but because of the sheer financial terror with which he is not so gently faced.
November 24, 1978
The Budget-Mr. Corbett
Fundy-Royal is a constituency steeped in tradition, Mr. Speaker. It is a portion of the country that believes in the basic principle of freedom. Its people recognize the sacrifices that Canadians have in the past made for their country materially, psychologically, and physically. We honour and revere the symbol of the sacrifices our forefathers, sisters, brothers and cousins have made on our behalf to preserve the freedom of our nation.
The Crown is a symbol of these sacrifices. The Crown is the symbol of freedom. The Crown was the source, the blood, the cause that inspired free men to lay down their lives so that we may be free. I am reminded, Mr. Speaker, of that old verse, time worn but as meaningful now as it was then:
"It is only an old piece of bunting.
It is only an old piece of rag,
But millions have fought for its honour,
And thousands have died for the flag."
I know that those of us in Fundy-Royal, as well as by far the majority of Canadians, do not want any lessening of the role of the symbol of democratic freedom that has made this country great. Fundy-Royal will not tolerate any infringement upon the sanctity of the role which the Crown and monarchy have in this country. Canadians will not tolerate any infringement upon the role which the Crown and monarchy have in this country.
I see the present government's move in this direction as being most sinister indeed. In the process of the establishment of a totalitarian, one-party government system, the one measure universal and peculiar to all who seek to establish themselves in this fashion is to seek out and destroy the people's rallying point, their inspiration, the symbol of their freedom, the symbol of their future. They strive to seek out and destroy the institution, the heritage, the spirit, and the truth of the people. This is socialist ideology, Mr. Speaker. My socialist neighbours refer to the private sector as some sort of bogeyman. I would remind them that it is due to the perseverance of this group of ambitious and far-sighted individuals in the private sector that the country has given them the opportunity to espouse their rhetorical nonsense. They should be reminded that the public sector and the private sector in this country are comprised first and foremost, of human beings who all breathe and bleed, and who in most cases are Canadian.
The squacks and bleats so often heard from my immediate left are indicative of the disdain, disregard, and contempt in which most of them hold the House in our system of democracy. That, of course, is not surprising, as democracy is hardly their bag or game unless taken in the context of sport, in which case it is fair game, and they would destroy the animal. Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a damn good carpenter to build one. The only time that these dreamers are quiet or still is when one of their own gaggle is spewing some of their ideological twaddle.
It is distressing that frequently the House has difficulty distinguishing between the party presently in power and these social whiners to my left. Although the direction that the government has taken recently with reference to its budget has
not been inclined away from a more realistic attitude toward a reasonable and sane direction in political philosophy, this is not to be interpreted by the Canadian people as any great permanent change in political direction by the leader of this government whose socialist background-and I am being kind,-is well known to many Canadians, but it is rather a matter of political expediency.
It is obvious that the people of this nation agree that we, as a nation of Canadians, are psychologically and mentally sophisticated enough to cope with and thrive on the free market system and that we do not need, nor indeed want, Big Brother orchestrating and directing our affairs.
I am distressed and concerned, along with my neighbours and constituents in Fundy-Royal, and thousands of my fellow Canadians, when the Prime Minister of this country publicly states, as was reported on the front pages of the Toronto Star on November 18, that the media and the opposition are the enemies of the government. This attitude by the Prime Minister is indeed dangerous, and one to which 1 know the people of the country take great exception. What he has done is attack two foundation stones of our basic freedoms, one being the freedom of the press, and the other being the function, purpose and right of not only Her Majesty's Official Opposition, but indeed the freedom of expression of all citizens of this country.
We know that this is the same Prime Minister who instigated the War Measures Act in 1971. We know that this same Prime Minister has said that the free enterprise system no longer works. We know this same Prime Minister has developed friendly rapport with countries such as Algeria, Red China, and Poland, and we know as well his great love affair with Cuba and its dictator, the notorious communist, Fidel Castro. We know that this same Prime Minister allowed millions of Canadian dollars to be spent in Cuba during 1976-77 when that country was waging a bitter and bloody war in Angola, Africa.
This all points to an extremely ominous direction for this country, and one which 1 urge the people of this nation to recognize. Too often lethargic peoples awake to the fact that it no longer matters that yesterday they were lethargic. We, as Canadians, are not lethargic, and we must take care and pay particular attention to ensure that we do not awake one morning to find that yesterday we were that way.
The Prime Minister of Canada has conveyed the message to me and all other members on this side of the House that he considers me an enemy. The Prime Minister of Canada holds the most powerful position in the land. This is the Prime Minister who leads the government that has thrown this country of ours into the greatest economic calamity since the great depression, that has nurtured and fostered unemployment to an unprecedented one million work-seekers, that has throttled the dollar to a miserable 85 cents of its counterpart, the United States dollar.
And now, the same Prime Minister, leader of the Liberal party, leader of the country, the head of this government, is
November 24, 1978
telling the people of this nation that he has had nothing to do with the plight of Canadians, that unemployment and economic stagnation are none of his doing. No, even the people of Fundy-Royal must have been somewhat taken aback to hear the Prime Minister tell the world that I, as a member of the opposition, in the short period of time that I have been in this House, a matter of days, that 1 am really responsible for the whole mess, that I am the enemy.
In view of the Prime Minister's statement 1 do not think that I could be accused of being paranoid when 1 say that I do not trust the Prime Minister of Canada, I do not trust the party that he leads, and I do not trust the government that he heads. Further, I submit that the people of Canada do not trust this government, that the people of Canada do not trust their leader, and they will convey this message loudly and clearly when given the opportunity.
In summation, the problems that beset the people of this country prior to the budget, still beset and will continue to beset the nation. The budget is about as much use to Canadians as a hairnet is to Yul Brynner.
This party and its members have and will continue to act in an accountable manner as the official opposition in this House. It is our duty to criticize, and with the present government our task is not difficult. We will continue to be constructive, we will continue to be responsible, and I suppose in the eyes of the Prime Minister and his followers, we will continue to be the enemy. But let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, that we will persevere, we will not be deterred, we will not be intimidated, nor will we falter, nor will we fail.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: THE BUDGET