NOTES FOR REMARKS BY SENATOR JIM MUNSON ON THE USE OF SURPLUSSES TO FUND SOCIAL PROGRAMS
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. You eliminated the Aboriginal smoking cessation program, but you will reduce smoking rates. Her government eliminated funding for palliative care, but they say they will still deliver programs. Her government eliminated literacy funding, but they say that somehow Canadians will become more literate.
What kind of Pollyanna world does the government live in? What kind of magical mystery tour is the government on?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the fact is that we did not eliminate any programs; we found savings. The previous government set up the smoking cessation program, and Health Canada officials and people working in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development determined that it did not reach its goals and objectives. The billions of dollars that they are putting into First Nations and Inuit health will work in conjunction with other programs in dealing with the health of Aboriginal Canadians.
We have not cut any programs in palliative care. Furthermore, we are putting $81 million into literacy. We are simply trying to create a situation whereby the federal, provincial and territorial governments can work with a significant amount of money to deliver programs for literacy and skilled workers. It was very much part of our campaign commitment to work with the trades and to increase the level of skilled workers in Canada because we have a shortage of skilled workers. Literacy is a very important matter for the government.
Senator Munson: We have all read the front pages of newspapers these past few days regarding the billion-dollar surplus, just like the Liberal government used to have. One would think that at this particular time the government could show its compassionate side. The money is there. It seems to be that every time we read the Treasury Board business from Mr. Baird or the finance business from Mr. Flaherty, it is always about value for money. Why is it not ever about value for people?
Senator LeBreton: These comments come from a former journalist who ended up being the director of communications to a prime minister and a government that drastically cut our health care system to the degree that we are still recovering from it.
An Hon. Senator: Shame!
Senator LeBreton: Minister Flaherty presented his first budget earlier this year and is committed to not having huge surpluses. As he pointed out the other day, we are only part way through the fiscal year and will be budgeting much more closely to what is actually required by government.
As Senator Segal and others here have reminded us, we are talking about the taxpayers’ dollars. Perhaps if there are surpluses, we are collecting too much in taxes.