Mr. Jack Ramsay (Crowfoot, Ref.)
Madam Speaker, I have listened to this very interesting debate. It certainly touches on the grassroots of our country and the first level of government.
When we talk about governments we talk about their powers. Governments must have resources to function. We elect governments basically to protect our rights. The three fundamental human rights of the individual are the right to life, the right to own property, and the right to liberties and freedoms. We elect governments to protect those rights and not to deny us those rights or to take those rights from us.
Through the power of taxation, the whole principle of taxation is to take a certain amount of the wealth created by the people to provide services that individuals cannot provide for themselves and which a specific level of government can.
When we look at the powers of taxation at the three levels we find there is no limit on the power of governments to tax away the wealth created by the people. When we look at the municipal level we find the greatest husbanding of resources and the wisest use of those resources at any level of government.
As I pointed out to the House earlier in a question to my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River, for the past six years I have made it a practice to visit with my municipal councils as often as I can. I report to them, hear their feedback and offer any assistance I can so that they might understand the programs of government and what the priorities are at the federal level.
I have found that the most fiscally responsible and accountable politicians elected in our country today are at the municipal level. I asked at one council meeting: “How is it that you folks can resist the temptation to find the loopholes, to go into debt and build your empires as they have done at the two senior levels of government?” We see a huge debt at the federal level and in the case of most provinces they carry very significant debt. One councillor said that when they pass a spending resolution they have to meet their people on the street and in the coffee shop the very next day.
He was talking about accountability. Let us look at the lack of accountability at the federal and provincial levels. Those who are responsible for increasing the taxation are taking more wealth from the people who created it for the purpose of providing funding for a program that is supposed to benefit the people. When we look at their enormous and unlimited powers we realize they could simply tax away any amount of wealth from us as they want.
The greatest threat to the economic viability and stability of the family, of the business and of the individual is the unlimited power of governments to take away their wealth through the force of law, and that is what is happening.
We all support the whole concept of an educational system, a health care system and all other priority systems which provide those things that people cannot provide for themselves such as a transportation system, a highway system and so on. We are prepared to have our wealth taxed in order to provide for those programs.
However, when we see governments through the force of law taking that wealth from families and individuals to the point where they become impoverished, where they cannot make ends meet and their children are denied the necessities of life and have to live in poverty or without adequate housing, there is something wrong with the administration of power of those governments in taking the wealth away from the people.
Let us look at the track record of who has done that to the most exorbitant and extreme degree. If we want to look at extremism, we need go no further than to look at the manner in which our federal, provincial and municipal politicians have handled that power in terms of taking reasonable resources and rates of wealth from the people who create the wealth each year to fund programs the people want them to fund.
Governments have absolutely no right to tax money from people for programs which they think are in the best interest of the people without the judgment and the support of the people. They have no right to simply take money and give it to individuals to hang dead rabbits from trees. Although this is probably a rare example and fortunately does not happen too often, it does happen.
There is something wrong when we get to the point where the government is taxing 50 cents of every dollar or 50% of the wealth of anyone making over $35,000 a year for the purpose of giving it back to people through programs. There is no question why the poverty rate is rising. That money is not being dispensed back to individuals according to the priorities of individual families, their children, the heads of the household and so forth.
Let us look at the three levels of government. If I had a choice as to who should be administering a government program I would pick the government with the best financial track record. That is the challenge.
When I look at Bill C-10 I ask myself if it alters my authority as a citizen of Canada to determine who is best at administering a social program or any other program and who can do it most cost effectively. I look for the track record.
We have a federal government with a $585 billion debt and with the highest levels of taxation in the history of the country. We have provincial governments that have debts as well. What does that mean? It means that for years the politicians in charge, those who form the government, have overspent year after year after year. They have had to borrow on top of the high rates of taxation and on top of all the wealth they have taken from the people each year. They have overspent to the point where they have had to borrow again and again and again. Finally this level of government got to the point where it was getting so great that almost 35 cents of every dollar went to pay the interest on the debt.
This year, according to the figures that I see, almost $42 billion was paid to service the interest on the federal debt; $42 billion was taken from the people of this country, those who created the new wealth each year, in order to pay for the terrible mismanagement of our fiscal and monetary affairs over the past 30 years.
When we look at that, some of us ought to hang our heads in shame. Some of those who have gone before us in this House ought to hang their heads in shame that they have saddled our children and grandchildren with a debt so enormous that it may be a milestone around our neck when it comes to ever getting our taxes to a level where they ought to be, where not only can we afford priority programs such as health care, education, proper housing and so on, but where we could reduce taxes so that families do have the means to provide for their children and where we do not have one child in every five reported to be living in poverty.
When I look at the track record to see who has used the power of taxation in the most reasonable and moderate way, there is no question who comes out first. It is municipal governments. Yes, they have legislation which states that they cannot go into debt and cannot deficit finance to the same extent that the provinces and the federal government can, but they can borrow money.
I asked a councillor how they had resisted the temptation to find the loopholes, to go into debt and to build their empires like the two senior levels of government have done. In municipalities with larger cities that type of accountability is lost. We do not meet people on the street the very next day after moving a spending resolution. We do not find that in the larger cities like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Edmonton. One of the reasons these cities are in debt is that the degree of accountability is not there as it is in the lower levels of government. What we have been seeking to introduce is a greater degree of accountability.
My colleague who spoke before me referred to the election of a majority government as a four or five year dictatorship with no accountability. That is what we have been facing. That is why we have outrageous government programs that are not supported by the people. Rather than praising the interests of the people, we have them holding their heads wondering why the governments are expending money in this way. There is no accountability.
The accountability contained in a federal election every four or five years or a provincial election every four or five years is insufficient to keep governments from going into debt, from raising taxes, from overspending and from spending money in a manner that will not carry the judgment of the majority.
I do not see anything in the bill other than the maintenance of a lack of accountability. In the minister's opinion, a payment can be made in whole or in part if it is his opinion to do so. If we have to rely on and have faith in the opinion of the minister what does that say about accountability? What if he decides against the will of the people? What if he chooses to say no to a municipality because in his opinion the payment is not due or it must be altered in terms of the amount or the size? What do we do? We cannot do anything.
I have found that the most important issue pressing on the minds of the people is that our three levels of governments, through the force of law, have taken away so much wealth on a yearly and daily basis that it is placing our families and individuals in economic jeopardy. We have cries from all parties when we see that happening. We see farmers going bankrupt, families who are destitute, children who are homeless and a lack of housing. Why? It is because they are not left sufficient resources to look after themselves, their children, their housing and the needs of their family.
What we see is the opposite. We see an unrestrained power to tax away the wealth of the people. If we do not stop it and roll it back then we will see the continuation of statistics reflecting child poverty. When we talk about child poverty, we cannot talk about it without talking about family poverty. Children are not isolated. They have their moms and dads, and their homes, whatever they might be.
Why are we talking about child poverty? We should be talking about poverty, period, in the country. When children are in poverty their moms and dads are in poverty as well. We have to strengthen the economic stability of those families. I see nothing in the bill that will do that.
I am always energized after meeting with municipal councillors and municipal governments in my constituency because they are hard-working, conscientious people who are in touch with their people. They know their concerns. They know who they have to get to when it comes to snow clearing and what areas will be blocked when a snow storm arrives. They have hands-on information and they struggle with meagre means in order to provide some of the most essential services that their citizens need on a day to day basis.
When I look at the track record of our three levels of government, I am always enthused and given hope that if they can keep their spending under control at the municipal level and continue to do the good job they are doing, why can we not do it at the two senior levels of government. The answer to that is that we can do it.
We are spending about $106 billion on programs at the federal level. If we could just maintain that level and use the money wisely, we could begin to leave more wealth in the municipalities. The thing that disturbs me the most is that the federal and provincial tax money comes from the municipalities. It comes from the people who live in the towns, cities and rural areas. They are the ones who create the wealth, the new wealth that is taxed each year. That is where I believe the most complex programs of government should be administered.
The most complex services required by an individual, a child, are those that are provided within the home. As one moves beyond the home, the first level of government should be the one that administers the most complex programs. However, what we see in the country today is that it is turned upside down. The most complex programs of government are administered at the provincial and federal levels by people hundreds if not thousands of miles away who really do not know those people and, in lots of cases because of that, really do not care.
If it was my choice to have a social program administered, I would vote to have it administered by those people who have the finest track record in terms of administration and financial accountability and that is our mayors and our councillors at the municipal level and our reeves and their councillors at the district level.
I do not see in the bill any relief from the concerns that I have seen in my riding in the level of government closest to the people.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Municipal Grants Act