Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster,
CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again. I happen to
be one of the members who has been here for the seven in a row
so-called surplus budgets. What a surplus budget really means is
that the government is taking too many tax dollars from the people
The largest daily
newspaper in the country had an editorial on the budget the other
day. It was an excellent comment and I would like to read it into
the record. It stated:
don't get paid with a promise and a smile. Expressions of
goodwill don't stave off bankruptcy, and half-measures won't rescue
... (anyone) in crisis."
They are tremendous
words and really encapsulate this whole budget. There is really
nothing in the budget that is going to set the standard for the
growth and the potential of this great country we call Canada. It is
just not there, and this is supposedly a pre-election budget.
I think the Prime
Minister and his finance minister are trying to find some traction,
and of course the Prime Minister was the finance minister for a
number of those surplus budget years. They are trying to prove to
people that they can be fiscally responsible because they have been
blown apart by the scandal, the ad scam, and by column after column
that show up in the main estimates and in the supplementary
estimates and so on, with hundreds of millions of dollars that have
been funnelled around strictly for political gain. That is not the
way taxpayers want to see their money spent in this country when
there are so many deserving issues out there that need to be
When we go through the
budget in brief, a lot of the dollars sound significant. Then we can
see the little asterisk beside an item: “over 10 years”. We have
a government that is projecting out 10 years when the electorate
probably would not give them 10 days if they went to the polls right
The government is
struggling for some sort of reassurance from people, and in polling,
a little bump, a little dead cat bounce, as it is called, for the
old fat cats over there. Then it can take that to the polls and say
to the people, “We are prudent managers”. That used to be the
rallying cry of the former finance minister: prudent fiscal
responsibility. That is what he talked about. It so happens that it
was not there. He did not know what was going on.
We have a budget that
seeks to tell Canadians somehow that the government is not going to
go off the wall in spending before an election. It has gone the
other way. It has actually promised the $2 billion for health care
again. When the premiers were asked to comment on that the other
night after the budget, Premier Hamm of Nova Scotia said that this
makes five times that it has been promised. The government has
announced it five times. That does not make it $10 billion. It is
still $2 billion and it still has not been delivered. We have talked
about it for over a year. We still have this money that has not gone
Under health care, the
government talks about improved tax fairness for Canadians with
disabilities and for caregivers, which is a tremendous goal, a
laudable goal. However, this is the same government that threw
everyone off the disability tax credit, made them all go back
through a means test, back through the health care system, to prove
they were still disabled. The government is heartless on the one
hand and has beautiful words on the other. I guess the proof will be
in the pudding as to whether Canadians believe it or not. At the end
of the day, the federal government, on average, is still only
putting 16˘ out of every dollar into health care. That is the
largest social factor in the country.
The member for
Mississauga who spoke before me talked about the high cost of
pharmaceuticals. He is bang on. The government has not kept pace
with that at the federal level. Here is what it has done. It has
created surpluses, balanced its books and has no more deficits, but
it has offloaded those deficits to the provinces. Each province is
now carrying close to a deficit type of spending because the
transfers have not been there. The government cut $25 billion out of
health care and social transfers in the last few years and put $2
billion back in. It is not a great return on investment for the
provinces nor for the citizens they represent. It is the same
taxpayer. The government calls that sound fiscal financial
The government is also
making a pledge now. After the horse is out of the barn, it is going
to close the gate. It is going to reinstate the comptroller. There
has been a lot of discussion about why that was ever done away with.
To set the record
straight, that was actually done in 1995 by this same Liberal
government in what was called a program review. I think the last
thing we would want to turf out would be the comptrollership, unless
we had other things in mind, unless we were starting to set up
little slush funds like the sponsorship program where we did not
want the comptroller to tap us on the shoulder and say, “I'm the
fiscal conscience here and you shouldn't being doing that with
The government turfed
out that whole system and now we see where it led. Just in this last
little while taxpayers are starting to add up the dollars that have
gone missing, which a comptroller never would have allowed to
happen. It just would not have been done.
Let us move on, where we get into
the importance of learning. Nobody has an argument with that. Then
there is aboriginal strategy. Nobody has a problem with that.
But when heads of
student groups and student unions across this country were asked
what they thought about the budget, one student said, “They just
gave me $50 and told me to go and buy a BMW”. That is how
effective this budget is.
Other students are
talking about the Canada learning bond. Beautiful. It sounds great,
but it is another wishy-washy thing. It is up to $2,000 for children
in low income families born after 2003. The government will put in
$500 and then $100 a year. If the family does its bit and puts in
the same amount, after 18 years there will be $10,000 to $11,000
saved up. What is that going to buy at university in 18 years? My
daughter just finished university and we were talking that kind of
money on an annual basis as long as I paid for her housing. In 18
years that $10,000 to $11,000 just might buy books. The desire of
the government and the line in the budget look really good, but in
reality what is this going to do? Very little. Even the students
themselves are panning it.
When Chief Phil
Fontaine was interviewed about the aboriginal component in the
budget, he said it did not go anywhere near the advice that they
gave and sought. With the housing crisis, the health care crisis and
the education crisis from the aboriginal side, this does not get
there. It is not even close. I guess the government missed that one.
The government talks
about the importance of knowledge and commercialization and it did
come up with a few things: good ideas, but too little too late.
Another great heading
in the budget is “The Importance of Communities”. This is where
some big dollars are talked about. There will be $7 billion in GST
relief for municipalities over the next 10 years. That is $700
million a year, which is not a large amount of money. The Canadian
Chamber of Commerce talks about an infrastructure deficit in Canada
that is approaching $60 billion today, and that is what it would
take just to get us back to a maintained and even par. That would
not build anything new. It just would get us back to where we are
limping along again. This is a $60 billion deficit and the
government addresses it with $700 million a year; that is not even
the interest. That will not even patch a few roads. If we build a
couple of bridges and a couple of water and sewage plants, the money
will be gone.
North Battleford has
faced those shortfalls. We had a water crisis a couple of years ago
and approached the federal government under the cost sharing
program. We said, “Look, we have to do something with our water
and sewer system”. North Battleford needed about a $5 million hit
to expedite the program. It had $15 million in bonds and debentures
at the time but needed about $5 million to kickstart it and move the
project a couple of years ahead.
What did North Battleford get from the Liberals? A fancy sign out on the highway
saying they realized North Battleford had problems, that their
hearts and prayers were with it, and they wished the city good luck.
That is what we got. The government really should have come through
for North Battleford. The government talks about a stronger voice
for municipalities, but in that case, who the heck was listening?
Nobody. A stronger voice is wonderful, but only if somebody hears
it. If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody in Ottawa give a
damn? That is the type of thing we are finding here.
There is funding of $4
billion over 10 years to clean up contaminated sites. That is good.
What happened over the last 10 years when the government did
The item I really love
in the budget is the one dealing with the Juno Beach monument. My
office in North Battleford was involved in this one. The Juno Beach
monument will receive $1.5 million. That is fantastic. Wal-Mart is
already in for about four or five times that amount. That monument
is standing there. Wal-Mart did it. The federal government is now
trying to take some credit with $1.5 million.
We can go on and on
and poke holes in the budget. Like I said, spending is on the rise
and a surplus means the government is taking in too much in taxes.
We have not even
gotten into agriculture, but it would not take long to talk about
agriculture in this budget: $25 million, that is it. The third
largest contributor to the GDP of Canada gets $25 million. The
announcement on Monday, the day before the budget presentation,
really was all about BSE, but the $25 million in the budget says
nothing about the grains and oilseeds sector, the pulse crops, the
water problems we have across western Canada with drought after
drought, and the grasshoppers. It says nothing about the PFRA
pastures that are a sink for grasshoppers or the national parks that
need the TB and so on cleaned up.
The government missed
a lot of opportunities with this budget and I really think Canadians
are going to give it a pass over on election day.
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I found it quite astonishing to hear the
member suggest that $750 million was not a lot of money. It really
is astounding. It is important to Canadians that we have a
responsible attitude toward taxpayers' money.
The member started by
talking about seven surplus budgets in a row, balanced budgets, and
said that the existence of surpluses meant that we were taxing too
much. If we follow that to its logical conclusion, what the member
is basically saying is that we should only have balanced budgets and
we should never pay down any debt.
If the member would
like to spend some time with me, I will explain to him that when
there are surpluses for a fiscal year the surpluses are applied 100%
against the debt. Over the past number of years, the government has
paid down $52 billion worth of the national debt. It saves us about
$3 billion a year in interest, which is then available to invest in
The member had better
answer the question. Is he saying that there should not ever be a
surplus in Canada, i.e. that we should not pay down debt in Canada?
Is that his position?
Mr. Gerry Ritz: Mr.
Speaker, I think this gentleman is working on the government's
medicinal marijuana, because that is not what I said at all. He
knows better than that as an accountant. Surpluses mean the
government is taking too much in taxes.
The debt in this
country, after paying down $52 billion, in market debt mostly, which
means the interest rate was not as high as it was before, is still
$43 billion higher than it was when his government took power in
1993. We are still spending close to $40 billion on the interest
rate on that debt every year. That is money coming out of health
care, infrastructure and kids' educations.
We have to target
debt. We cannot start mickey-mousing around with $1 billion a year
that might go somewhere. We have to let Canadians out there decide.
We have to get this albatross off their backs. We have to put in
context $700 million when the government takes in $190 billion. It
is not a lot of money in the government context. It is a lot of
money to Canadians, no doubt about it. We have seen that same amount
of money squandered in advertising contracts that go back to these
guys through the back door. So sure, it is a lot of money, but when
we talk about a $60 billion infrastructure deficit, $700 million a
year to address it is chump change.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Speaker,
again the member is suggesting that somehow $750 million or any
hundreds of millions of dollars is not a lot of money. I want to ask
the question again.
My understanding after
10 years of being in this place is that if there is any surplus at
the end of a fiscal year, it is those moneys which are applied
against the national debt. That is the way the national debt is paid
The member has
suggested that having a surplus means the government has taxed too
much. In other words, he is saying we should just have a balanced
budget, that we should not have surpluses and not tax that
additional money away from people. However, if we do not, we do not
pay down debt.
I will ask him again.
Does he understand that surpluses are applied totally against the
debt and that if there are no surpluses, as he seems to suggest
should be the case, then his party and this member is opposed to
paying down the national debt?
Mr. Gerry Ritz: Mr.
Speaker, he can twist that any way he wants. He is 180° off plumb.
It is not how we pay down the debt; it is when we do it. I think the
member would agree with me that our program of a legislated paydown
on the debt is far better than the harum-scarum way these guys do
it, where they spend the surplus, have $1 billion left, say they
will put that to the debt, and there we go, the surplus is in play.
What a ridiculous attitude. No wonder we are in trouble.