Hon. Roger Simmons (Burin-St. George's, Lib.)
Madam Speaker, I too want to rise and voice my support for the measures in the budget brought down just over a month ago. The would-be minister from Calgary Centre draws attention to his presence here.
I say to my good friend from Calgary Centre, I have a lot of choice on this one. It is my choice to support this budget. If he will give me a chance, being the gentle man that he is, I will tell the House in the few minutes I have some reasons why I support the budget.
The first was alluded to by my good friend from Bourassa just a moment ago, the issue of child poverty. As my friend from Hillsborough said, not enough is being done. However, we are making some progress. Some money has been put into this important initiative. I happen to believe, as a Canadian and as a Newfoundlander, that it is an absolute disgrace that so many people are living in poverty in this, the best country in the world.
Obviously, we have done some things very wrong over the past few years so that we should have that situation still applying. We have to address that one. It has to be a priority for Canadians of all political stripes because poverty, which you rather take for granted in third world countries, is right under our noses. People have to ask why we cannot do more to alleviate that situation, to get rid of it sooner rather than later.
I salute the Minister of Finance because he has made some progress in this area through the child tax credit. It is a step in the right direction in addressing the problem of child poverty.
The budget this year, which proposes to increase spending on children, will increase from $5.1 billion to $6 billion by July 1998. That is some progress but dollars do not say it all. The reward will be in the benefit that these dollars achieve over time. Also in the budget there is new emphasis on young people not only in terms of increased funding for summer jobs but in terms of addressing some of the problems they face with funding for university. We have an improved system of student loans and education credits to ensure fuller access to a good education by all young Canadians from coast to coast.
I like the emphasis in the budget on the assistance for disabled people, including broadened tax relief for medical expenses. It is something that I have been fighting for for a long time, I and many others in this House, and I am glad to see that the government is moving in that direction.
I was also pleased with the emphasis on health care in this budget and the new initiatives that the government proposes to take, in particular in the area of nutrition for example.
If we reflect on the time we have been here since November 1993, three and a half years, things in financial terms, in fiscal terms were quite different and a lot bleaker at that time than they are right now. This government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, has restored some sanity to the public finance system. We all know the statistics on how we have brought down the deficit by so much over such a short period of time. I will not bore members with those stats again.
Let us always keep in mind that government finally is not about managing money, as important as that is. That is the means to the end. If we do not manage our money right, we cannot do these things in terms of social programs and job creation that we are dedicated and committed to doing. We have to keep our eye on the ball. While managing money is an important step it is not the end in itself. It is just the means to the end. The end itself has to be, must be at all times, people. We have to see that people are better served.
People who are unemployed are not very well served. It is difficult to appreciate the importance of deficit reduction or many other things that are touted in this budget if one does not have a job. In my own riding, in my own province the unemployment rates is still unacceptably high. I salute the job creation initiatives in this budget. I believe we are generally going about it in the right way because I am a free enterpriser. I believe that government does not create jobs. It is the private enterprise sector that creates the jobs and small business that creates jobs. There are measures in this budget including lowering employment insurance premiums which make it more attractive for small business to create jobs.
We have had to be patient. It is hard to be patient if one does not have a pay cheque to put the groceries on the table. I believe that the effect of the kind of budgetary measures that we have had over the last three or four years, together with the one right now before us, the cumulative effect of that will be to increase more jobs out there.
Already the record of this government is that it has increased 700,000 jobs. The projection is that we will see another 300,000 or so in this year.
We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have great concerns for those people who do not have jobs. We have to see that more is done by government in terms of leadership, in terms of the incentives we provide to bring down the unemploy-
ment rate. In my own situation in Burin-St. Georges and in Newfoundland generally, we have over the past three or four years been devastated by a terrible downturn in the fishery.
There too we are beginning to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I do not want to anticipate my friend, the minister of fisheries, but I am hoping that he will accept the recommendations of his advisory council and reopen the fishery at least in a limited way on the south coast, 3PS, 3PN, 4S and so on, that area that recommendations apply to. I hope we will see a reopened fishery.
Those people who are on TAGS, those people who are on government assistance, are not there because they want to be there. They would rather be working. Speaking of those people, we are still leading the charge on the issue of labour force attachment.
These people through no fault of their own were prevented from working by a government initiated endeavour. They were barred from working. The government mandated that shutdown. Through no fault of their own they now find themselves being treated as new entrants. That is unconscionable. It has to change. These people were not told upfront that might happen to them. Indeed it was not going to happen to them. If we had been able to stick with the original objectives in that program, where all would be trained, that would not have happened. That circumstance of no labour force attachment would not have applied. It applies today because in midstream, because of increased numbers coming into the program, the government had to change the rules and deprive people who would normally have had some training opportunities because of a limited budget.
For those reasons, that they did not know upfront and that the rules were changed in the middle of the game, these people, in all conscience, have to be given labour force attachment.
I have addressed that issue on every forum I have been able to. I have talked to the Prime Minister and the minister. I have raised it in caucus and I have raised it on the floor of the House on several occasions. We have to continue to punch away at it until we beat some sense into the heads of the people who matter on that issue. It is an important issue. It affects about 15,000 people in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the five eastern most provinces. We have to do the fair thing when it comes to that issue.
Government is also about fairness. People out there have difficulty identifying with the positive things that may be in a budget or in a government initiative if they see something like the TAGS issue which has become a symbol of basic unfairness.
There is no good reason for it, certainly not a monetary reason. What we are talking about would cost $30 million to $60 million over time. That is not a lot of money in the greater government context. It is money which would be well spent.
Let me recap my remarks, as my time has expired. I support with a heart and a half this budget. I invite my friend from Calgary Centre to do likewise.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: The Budget