Betty Hinton, MP Masthead
Member of Parliament for Kamloops Thompson Cariboo
Canada Coat of Arms



Response to Federal Budget

Réplique au Budget Fédéral

Notes for Address by Stephen Harper, MP

Leader of the Opposition

House of Commons

Wednesday, March 24, 2003

Notes de discours de Stephen Harper, député

Chef de l'opposition

Chambre des communes

Mercredi le 24 mars 2004



Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to the tenth budget of a tired, old and corrupt Liberal regime.

Monsieur le président, je prends la parole aujourd'hui au sujet du dixième budget d'un régime Libéral fatigué, vieux et corrompu.

It is a Liberal regime mired in scandal. It is a Liberal regime wishing to shake its past. It is a Liberal regime that cannot be trusted to manage our public funds.

This budget tried to make one claim. It tried to say that this government can be trusted to manage public funds. But what is the reality?

We have continued record spending levels. The government has been exposed as ripping off the taxpayer in scandal after scandal. The government has been exposed as wasting dollar in program after program. And this budget will change none of those things.

Ottawa remains knee deep in cash - hidden surpluses will continue. A few short years ago, the Government of Canada had projected program spending of just over $100 billion dollars. This budget projects program spending well over $150 billion dollars. That is an increase of 50 percent.

There is no return of tax dollars to overtaxed Canadians and Canadian families. There is no reduction in onerous tax levels. And the pledge to do better in the future is empty. It is empty because this government, and this prime minister, has had ten years to do better.

He was the one writing the cheques for the sponsorship scandal. He was the one writing the cheques for the HRDC boondoggle. He was the one writing the cheques for the useless gun registry. His promises to clean up the mess are simply not credible.

He had his chance. And he missed his chance.

Paul Martin then vs. Paul Martin now.

Monsieur le président, ce gouvernement a bénéficié de 10 années pour se poser en bon gestionnaire financier.

Ce premier ministre a bénéficié de 8 budgets pour mettre en place des changements afin d'améliorer la gestion des fonds publics. Et il n'en a rien fait.

Dans les discours des précédents budgets, il a répété qu'il contrôlait bien les dépenses publiques. Maintenant, le premier ministre dit qu'il n'avait « aucune idée » de ce qui se passait dans le scandale des commandites.

Mr. Speaker, this is the tenth budget of this tired, old and corrupt Liberal regime. The first eight budgets were delivered, as Canadians know, by the current prime minister. Before turning my attention to today's budget, I want to take a small detour through some of those earlier budgets.

Mr. Speaker, in those early budgets, the Prime Minister, who was finance minister at the time, took full responsibility for the spending program of the government. The message of those budgets was clear: your finance minister is in control of taxpayers' dollars.

In his 1995 budget speech, the current prime minister said the following:

The government has just introduced a new and much tighter system to manage its spending.

For the first time, departments will have to prepare business plans for three years forward. that transparency and that accountability will mark a major departure from the past.

Individual ministers are being asked to alter their funding approach accordingly. They will be held accountable for their decisions and those decisions will be reviewed annually.

Reviewed annually, one can only assume, by the minister of finance, or at least by Treasury Board, on which the minister of finance was the vice chair.

The year 1995 is significant. That is the year in which the Liberal government nearly lost the country. That was also the year in which the Liberal government decided to create a sponsorship program.

Allow me to rephrase that:

The year that the Liberals created the Sponsorship Program was also the year in which the current prime minister put in place "a new and much tighter system to manage its spending."

Of course, most Canadians remember 1995 as the year in which government cut billions of dollars from the health care system.

Allow me to rephrase that:

The year that the Liberals created the Sponsorship Program was also the year in which the current prime minister massively cut spending on health care.

The 1995 budget put forward four priorities.

The very first priority was to:

Reform government programs and procedures to eliminate waste and abuse and ensure value for the taxpayer's dollar.

This promise was repeated in his 1996 budget speech:

If there is one area where we must never let up, it is the effort to root out waste and inefficiency.

And in his 1998 budget speech:

The battle to root out waste and inefficiency can never end.

Now, allow me to rephrase all of that:

The year in which the Liberals created the Sponsorship Program was also the year in which the current Prime Minister first vowed to root out waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

And now this budget, once again, tries to establish the government as "prudent managers." The government has made a number of recommendations to tighten spending. They want to re-establish the office of comptroller general. Canadians are rightly asking, "you mean you don't have one now?"

And the answer is, no. The answer is "no" because the current Prime Minister cut this office in his first budget as finance minister.

They want to appoint professionally accredited comptrollers. And Canadians are rightly asking, "you mean they aren't accredited now?"

And the answer is no - because the Prime Minister never thought it necessary to establish them.

The want to bolster the audit function, they want "real-time information systems" and "public disclosure of contracts." And again, Canadians are rightly asking, "you mean they don't do that now?"

And the answer is no, because the Prime Minister never thought it necessary when he was finance minister.

Why should Canadians believe any of these promises when the Prime Minister had ten years - ten years as finance minister - to make them happen?

The Prime Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim, on the one hand, to have had a tight reign on spending, and at the same time, not created the most elementary spending control mechanisms that this scandal has finally driven the government to recommend.

The Prime Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim, on the one hand, to have "reformed government programs", to have "eliminated waste and abuse", and at the same time claim that he had absolutely no idea that $100 million dollars was being shovelled into the hands of Liberal friends.

Yet, that is exactly what the Prime Minister is saying today.

Allow me to quote from some more recent statements.

On February 10:

I had no idea what was going on here.

On February 11:

I didn't know anything about it.

On February 16:

Did I know that people were kiting cheques, that people were making payments that were inappropriate, did I know all of those things?... The answer is absolutely not. I did not know that.

These claims to ignorance and innocence are no more believable coming from the Prime Minister than they are coming from Alfonso Gagliano.

The current budget

Le Premier ministre veut croire qu'il représente le changement. Il est bien loin de la vérité.

Ce Premier ministre a eu 10 ans pour tenir ses promesses, comme la création d'un poste de commissaire à l'éthique indépendant, plus de votes libres, et un meilleur programme d'infrastructure pour répondre aux besoins de nos municipalités.

Ce Premier ministre a manqué l'occasion de réaliser toutes ces choses et il ne mérite pas une seconde chance.

Yesterday's budget continues the theme put forward by the Prime Minister in a speech last week. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that they represent "change". "Trust me," says the Prime Minister, usually with some reference to "high water" and "hell."

Why should Canadians trust this Liberal government? For ten years, this Liberal government has refused to create a genuinely independent ethics counsellor. For ten years, this Liberal government has failed to give its members free votes. For ten years, this Liberal government has failed to allow Parliament to review appointments. For ten years, this Liberal government has failed to prudently spend Canadians' tax dollars. For ten years, this government has failed to deliver municipal infrastructure programs that adequately meet the needs of our communities. For ten years, this government has failed to clean up contaminated sites like the Sydney Tar Ponds.

And these are just some of the promises made by the Liberals repeated - made in the first Liberal Red Book in 1993; made in a book written by the current Prime Minister himself.

Mr. Speaker, promises of change from this Prime Minister are no more believable today than they were ten years ago. He had his chance. And he missed his chance. And that is why Canadians should not believe the promises in this budget.

Budget promises: don't hold your breath

Allow me to briefly touch on some of the items in this budget.

Ce budget s'efforce de présenter le gouvernement comme un bon gestionnaire financier. Et pourtant, il n'y a toujours pas de changements au registre des armes à feu. Les membres du gouvernement continuent de se déplacer dans des nouveaux avions à réaction, alors que l'armée se contente de vieux hélicoptères.

Ce gouvernement veut parler de faire le ménage dans les dépenses gouvernementales afin de dissimuler le montant des sommes gaspillées au cours des 10 dernières années.

Le budget fait quelques promesses positives pour les soins de santé et l'éducation, mais ce ne sont guère plus que des vieilles promesses des dernières années qui sont réutilisées.

Le budget se prononce en faveur d'une plus grande ingérence du fédéral dans les champs de compétence des provinces - en particulier dans le domaine des villes.

Il n'y a pas d'argent pour l'armée, il n'y a pas de limite à l'arnaque de l'assurance-emploi. Et par dessus tout, il n'y a pas d'allégement fiscal pour les canadiens et leurs familles.

The government has made promises to clean up spending if the Canadian people re-elect it.

This promise is little more than empty rhetoric. There are no plans to scrap the firearm registry. There are no plans to reduce corporate welfare. The government is still flying brand new jets while the military has to make do with dilapidated helicopters.

This government wants Canadians to believe that they are good managers because they balance the budget. It wants Canadians to trust their fiscal management of money, even thought it is padding the budget for future spending without any controls.

This government has a dismal record of fiscal management, and no amount of balanced budgets is going to gloss over the sponsorship scandal, the gun registry or the HRDC boondoggle.

To repeat, it was the current Prime Minister who first weakened the comptroller functions of government in 1994. In 1995, the Prime Minister promised a program review, yet he would have us believe that the sponsorship scandal somehow escaped his attention.

This government is no more likely to clean up spending today than it was likely to eliminate the GST in 1993. This is just empty rhetoric to hide the lack of real action to eliminate waste.

The EI rip-off will continue. The overspending on the gun registry will continue. And this government creates a tremendous amount of room for the spending scandals of the future. Governments spending is still rising at record rates - spending this year will double the growth in our economy and our population.

Spending is rising, but outcomes are not changing. Our waiting lines are not shrinking. Our students are still piling up debt. Our soldiers are dangerously unequipped.

The government continues to hide large surpluses, and then blow them in end-of-year bonanzas - this budget continues this disturbing trend.

There is a better way. That better way is to return these massive surpluses to Canadians and Canadian families in the form of tax reductions. We should be putting more money in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.

What is this government's approach to tax relief? It allows our inadequately equipped soldiers, who are under fire when wearing the wrong-coloured uniforms, to earn their money tax free. What kind of message is this government sending? Only if you are under fire, and lack the adequate protection because of the misplaced priorities of this government, will you get a reduction in your taxes.

The government is setting a debt-to-GDP target for reducing the debt. Interest costs are still a burden on our public finances, and the debt must be reduced so those interest costs can fall.

Can this promise be believed? I would urge the government to copy other governments in Canada by bringing in a legislated debt reduction plan - to put its promise into legislation.

On health care, the government is repeating the promise to provide an additional $2 billion for health care. It is also moving forward on the establishment of a Canadian public health agency. These are developments that we support.

However, I must ask why the public health agency is taking so long. It has been well over a year since SARS hit Canada. Yet the Liberals have yet to appoint a chief public health officer or start to create the new agency.

The same can be said about the Health Accord signed with the provinces. While we continue to support the Health Accord, I am increasingly worried about the inability of this government to follow up on its commitments made in that accord.

On students, the budget promises to expand the student loan program. It also promises to remove barriers to low income Canadians seeking to further their, and their children's, higher education.

These are noble goals.

I would point out, however, that this is not the first time that this government has promised to increase assistance to students - and its track record has been rather abysmal.

This government has not met any of its education targets set out in its 1998 budget - the Prime Minister's so called "education budget." The Millennium Scholarship Program has been a flop according to the government's own review of the program. Most of the other programs announced in 1998 have failed to deliver half of the money promised.

On agriculture, the budget promises an aid package for farmers hit by the BSE. This aid is long overdue, and much needed in this industry. Canada's case of BSE was detected ten months ago, and our beef industry has been suffering since. The announcement of aid for farmers was a staged campaign announcement instead of a genuine act of support and compassion for our ranchers and their families.

In the past, we have seen many programs which look good when announced, but which do not translate into meaningful monetary help for those who need it. I call upon the government to ensure that the money actually makes it to our ranchers and producers immediately - without delays, and without political interference.

On infrastructure, this Prime Minister has spent the better part of the last two years talking about "a new deal for cities". Yet to date, he has delivered precious little. He wants to keep in place boondoggle programs like the federal infrastructure program. He has already waffled on using gas tax revenues for infrastructure spending. And he has failed to talk about issues beyond Canada's big cities.

His failure to deliver on these issues simply confirms that this prime minister cannot be trusted to keep his promises.

On environment, this government is continuing down the path of making grand announcements, without focusing on providing real solutions to real problems.

The Liberals say that they want to restore Canada to a place of pride in the world. Yet for ten years, Canada has seen a dramatic drop in its standard of living, and a widening productivity gap compared to the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands and other countries.

The Prime Minister reserved his deepest cuts for the men and women who so proudly served Canada in the military. And this budget restores absolutely none of that spending. This is a strange way to improve Canada's standing in the world.

And then there are the black holes in the budget. There are programs that are the next Sponsorship, the next HRDC, or the next gun registry.

I refer to $250 million in new money for the Business Development Bank to dole out corporate welfare. I refer to billions in politically directed infrastructure funds. I refer to $90 million in a northern economic development strategy. I speak of $605 million in undetermined spending in the security contingency reserve. This is but a partial list of budget items which the tired, old and corrupt Liberal party put forward to demonstrate change.

The Conservative Party represents real change.

Si les Canadiens souhaitent que les choses changent, et je crois que c'est ce qu'ils souhaitent, cela ne se fera pas grâce à un ensemble de promesses recyclées et vieilles de 10 ans de la part du Premier Ministre.

Ils ne trouveront le changement qu'en changeant de gouvernement. Seul un nouveau gouvernement conservateur changera la façon d'utiliser les impôts.

Seul un nouveau gouvernement conservateur rendra son intégrité au processus politique. Seul un nouveau gouvernement conservateur mettra plus d'argent dans les poches des Canadiens, plutôt que dans celles des compagnies de publicité.

Nous accomplirons toutes ces choses, et même plus, parce que nous ne sommes pas compromis dans des scandales.

Nous accomplirons toutes ces choses, et même plus, parce que nous ne sommes pas impliqués dans 10 ans de mauvaise gestion.

Nous accomplirons toutes ces choses, et même plus, parce que nous n'avons pas à prouver aux Canadiens que nous pouvons gérer leur argent.

Nous accomplirons toutes ces choses, et même plus, parce que nous représentons ce qu'espère et souhaite la majorité silencieuse des Canadiens.

If Canadians are looking for change, and I believe that they are, they are not going to find it in a bunch of recycled, ten year old promises from this Prime Minister. They are only going to find change by changing the government.

Only a new Conservative government will change in the way tax dollars are treated.

Only a new Conservative government will return integrity to the political process.

Only a new Conservative government will put dollars in the pockets of Canadians, rather than in the pockets of ad firms.

Only a new Conservative government will transfer gas taxes to infrastructure projects in all corners of Canada.

Only a new Conservative government will give rural communities and rural livelihoods the respect they deserve.

Only a new Conservative government will protect children and respect families.

Only a new Conservative government will restore funding to our armed forces.

Only a new Conservative government will eliminate, not just cut, the air tax.

Only a new Conservative government will stop the EI rip-off.

We will do these things, and more, because we are not encumbered by scandal. We will do these things, and more, because we are not encumbered by ten years of mismanagement. We can do these things, and more, because we do not have to prove to Canadians that we can manage their money.

We will do these things, and more, because we represent the hopes and desires of the majority of unheard Canadians. We will do these things, and more, because for the first time in ten years, we can present a united conservative choice to Canadians.

We will listen to those in Atlantic Canada who desire greater control over their own destinies and over their own natural resources. We will respect those in Quebec, with their own unique language and culture. We will hear the majority of unheard Ontarians who are demanding accountability and sound fiscal management. We will welcome the West into the corridors of power.

The new Conservative Party represents real change for a better government for all Canadians.


Monsieur le président, ce budget met en évidence les différences qui existent entre les Libéraux fatigués et notre nouveau Parti Conservateur.

Notre nouveau Parti Conservateur ne s'embarrasse pas de scandale. Notre nouveau parti conservateur n'a aucun souci à suivre notre vision qui consiste à offrir un gouvernement bon et propre pour le bénéfice de tous les canadiens.

This budget demonstrates the difference between the tired old Liberals and our new Conservative Party.

The old Liberal party is so focussed trying to restore its image that it has little else to propose.

Our new conservative party is not encumbered by scandal. Our new conservative party has no obstacle to interfere with our vision of providing good, clean government for the benefit of all Canadians.

It is a vision of cleaning up waste. It is a vision of reducing taxes for Canadians and their families. It is a vision of providing sustainable, public health care. It is a vision of continuing to clean our water, clean our air, and clean our land, and to do so with a clean government.

It is a vision about which Canadians will be hearing much more in the coming weeks and months.

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