The House resumed from March 8 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan is working and is helping to keep all Canadians working. Our plan is expected to create or maintain 220,000 jobs by the end of 2010 with an estimated 130,000 created or maintained to date already. This does not include the 225,000 jobs that were saved through our expanded work sharing program, a program that has been used by companies and manufacturers in my riding to ensure that they kept their employee base in place.
We are in the middle of the largest federal investment of infrastructure over the past 60 years. We are putting Canadians to work in some 16,000 projects across Canada and are building better roads, bridges, public transit, colleges, universities, recreational infrastructure and much more. We are providing the sector help by training Canadians who are out of work and helping businesses avoid layoffs to keep Canadians working.
Statistics Canada recently announced that Canada's economy for the second straight quarter grew by 5% on an annualized basis in the fourth quarter of 2009. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in almost a decade.
Household spending is increasing thanks to our tax cuts for Canadian families. Spending on homes continued to rebound with help from our temporary home renovation tax credit last year. Infrastructure spending increased, supported by stimulus projects underway right across the country.
Our plan is ensuring that we will lead the global recovery. Not only was Canada at the head of the pack of the G7 countries for quarterly economic growth, we also had the strongest growth in domestic demand. What is more, in the coming year the International Monetary Fund predicts Canada's economic growth will continue to be at the head of the G7 pack.
There is a lot of great stuff that is in budget 2010 and I want to highlight a few of these areas. In the budget we are injecting another $19 billion of new stimulus to create and protect jobs. We are securing our economic recovery and sustaining our economic advantage through a number of measures.
Personal income tax relief will save Canadians $3.2 billion in personal income tax. This is happening through adjustments in the federal tax brackets. We are enhancing the working income tax benefit. There are going to be higher child benefits for parents, and lower taxes for low and middle income seniors.
There is also a lowering of the corporate tax rate to 15% in 2012 that is planned through this budget. That is moving toward our goal of having the lowest tax rate on new investment in the G7 at a 25% combined federal-provincial corporate tax rate making us one of the most competitive countries in the world to have business.
More importantly, that lower corporate tax rate also helps all of our small businesses that are up and down our main streets in our small communities. Those are all family operations, whether they are restaurants, convenience stores or maybe the local hardware stores. All those businesses rely on making sure that they continue to have a lower tax burden. That is going to help them to create more jobs and make them more profitable in the long-term.
We are also improving the taxation on the universal child care benefit by allowing single parents to choose to include it in their own income or a dependent, thereby providing treatment similar to single earner two-parent families. We are going to continue to support families.
We are going to continue support for the housing market through the first time homebuyers tax credit and additional access to registered retirement savings plan savings to purchase a building or a home.
We are also going to enhance the working income tax benefit which will reduce the welfare rolls by making work pay better for many low income Canadians. There is also $340 million in targeted tax relief in this budget for our seniors.
I want to jump into what this actually means in the province of Manitoba. In Manitoba we do have a thriving agriculture industry. I am a farmer myself. I was a cattle producer. One of the main investments we are making through budget 2010-11 is an investment in cattle processing facilities.
One thing that has happened over the last number of years is that we have been dealing with the BSE situation. Because of that we have had to have increased SRM removals that go beyond and above what other competitors do in the international market so that we can have access to more trade opportunities and more beneficial market opportunities for our cattle producers across this country.
Through the AgriFlexibility fund we are going to give $75 million to help our processors look at new technology to deal with things like the enhanced feed ban, like SRM removal, trying to develop some way to generate some income from these buy value credits that right now are just being thrown away as garbage.
Essentially we want to ensure that if they can make a little more money off those buy value credits that will be returned to the producers, especially for those who are selling a lot of cows because the animal is over 30 months of age and dealing with this major fall down in the marketplace.
We have already seen some government dollars being used in facilities like the new Keystone plant in Winnipeg. We are also looking at supporting other regional processors throughout the province.
The funding under this new slaughter program includes a slaughter improvement program that will increase by $10 million to support the introduction of new cost effective technologies. There is an additional $25 million targeted at processing plants that only handle animals over 30 months of age. There is also $40 million to support the development and commercialization of innovative technologies related to the removal and use of SRMs, specified risk materials, to reduce those handling costs and create potential revenue sources for these materials.
With my involvement in the environment committee and, of course, having both Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg in my riding of , I was encouraged to see that we will be investing $190 million to support a cleaner and more sustainable environment to help meet our climate change objectives.
Some other things in the budget include $100 million over four years to support clean energy generation in Canada's forestry sector through the new generation and renewable power initiative. I know that many of our old forestry plants are looking at perhaps moving to a more sustainable energy production. This will help them to become more competitive. This funding will help reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions as well by supporting their development, commercialization and implementation of new emerging clean energy technologies which could include everything from biofuels and renewable electricity and biomass which we seem to need to look at more as being in the area of biomass and using that to replace some of our other dirtier energy sources.
There is also the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment for additional applications involving heat recovery and district energies. The more we can become efficient the better we will be as an overall industry.
There is $60 million over two years to continue to implement the government's action plan to protect the Great Lakes by cleaning up areas identified as being the most degraded. Of course we already have a strategy for Lake Winnipeg and the entire Lake Winnipeg basin to identify those problems as well.
There is $38 million over two years for Canada's invasive alien species strategy to reduce the risk of invasive animal and plant species being introduced to Canada. With the movement of fishing equipment back and forth between our boundaries and the introduction of new species that are coming into our basin, it is even more important today that we protect the ecosystem that we have in our freshwater systems.
There is also up to $11.4 million over two years to deliver meteorological services and navigational services in the north to meet our commitment to the International Maritime Organization.
There is $8 million for two years to support community based environmental monitoring, reporting and baseline data collection in the north. Another $18.4 million over two years to support the government's annual report on clean environmental indicators, such as clean air, clean water and greenhouse gas emissions.
This keeps building upon what we are doing in resources under our Canada economic action plan, like the $1 billion for five years for the clean energy fund and supporting clean energy research, development and demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage.
There is $1 billion over five years for the green infrastructure fund for priorities such as a green energy generation and transmission infrastructure, carbon transmission and storage infrastructure.
There is $380 million in dedicated new resources for the ecoENERGY for homes retrofit program to support Canadians making their homes more energy efficient.
Manitoba wins big time through the new budget because we continue to increase equalization and transfers to the provinces. Manitoba gets another $924 million in this budget compared to where we were in 2004-05 under the previous Liberal government. That is $3.8 billion that Manitoba will receive this year: $1.8 billion through equalization; $953 million through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $50 million from last year; and $405 million through the Canada social transfer. Therefore, Manitoba continues to get more money.
If we look back at the previous government when it was facing its fiscal challenges, it cut equalization, health transfers and social transfers and provinces like Manitoba suffered under that government. Under this government, we are ensuring that we continue to deliver those services to Manitoba. We know that will be great for all Manitobans.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I am very pleased to speak to the budget and to mention a few of the concerns that I have as we move forward in an interesting session.
There is an old saying that to fully understand where we are going, we must first know where we have been. Today I am going to focus on where we have been and a bit on where I hope we are going. Never has a saying been so appropriate. With that, let us take a moment to look back on the time the current government has been in office.
In 2006 the government inherited a national fiscal situation that was unmatched in the entire world. We had a budget surplus of more than $13 billion. We had just completed the fifth year of a five year $100 billion income tax cut. We had just allocated $5 billion to create a new national child care and early learning strategy, the first new national social program in more than a generation. Interest rates were low. Employment numbers were good. Our tourism and manufacturing sectors were growing in leaps and bounds.
In short, as a result of more than a decade of prudent fiscal planning under Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, Canada was the fiscal envy of the world. Then in 2006 this all began to change.
I want to be fair. I fully understand that the current economic slowdown is a global phenomenon, and so do Canadians. I understand that Canada needed to put extra resources into our economy, a move that contributed to increasing expenditures. I understand that putting money into infrastructure helped our communities and our cities, and helped to stimulate the economy. Again, it was a move that contributed to the spiralling deficit. What I do not understand is the total lack of foresight and preparation before the crisis hit.
As children many of us were taught the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The fable concerns a grasshopper who spends the warm months singing away while the ant works to store up food for winter. When the winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and upon asking the ant for food is only rebuked for its idleness. The story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving while times are good so as to prepare for the hard times ahead, something that was not done by the current government.
While I am deeply concerned about the fact that the government has now unveiled the largest deficit in Canadian history, I am even more concerned with the total lack of prudence, preparation and long-term planning exercised by the government in the months prior to the global economic slowdown.
In 2006 Canada boasted the largest fiscal surplus in its history. That standing was achieved after many years of prudent Liberal leadership. Sadly, that surplus was eyed with hungry glee by the incoming Conservatives who thought it was Christmastime.
Despite Paul Martin declaring that Canada had cut up its credit cards, the current immediately called the banks and increased our national limits. Despite professing to be an economist, in just three short years his government has taken Canada from a position of unmatched fiscal strength to a place where the government is already spending the tax dollars that our grandchildren have yet to pay, never mind earn. In all of our newspapers across Canada, most economists, with the exception of one, have recognized this as a recipe for disaster.
Imagine if Canadians adopted these kinds of fiscal practices within their own households, spending wildly beyond their means, promising to pay minimum credit card payments by eliminating only small and insignificant daily expenditures, and eliminating all savings and future planning. Imagine if the plan to fix current problems was simply to make more money. We do not have to imagine it because the government has adopted exactly that kind of a plan.
For the most part the 2010 budget says the economy will grow at such a pace that our deficit will simply melt away without any real work on behalf of parliamentarians or Canadians, or effort on the part of the government.
The government has made a few symbolic steps to trim away expenses, but I am surprised to see that the Conservatives still do not seem to get it. With respect to freezing MPs' and ministers' budgets and salaries, do that; we all have to contribute to bringing down the current deficit, but those are simply optics.
Canada now has a $56 billion deficit, a number that is substantially higher than the $39 billion predicted just a few short months ago. Again, it does not seem that the and the have their numbers right, or they are simply wearing rose-coloured glasses.
It is also worth noting that in October 2008, the and the , just prior to an election day, said that we were not going to have a recession and that of course they would never run a deficit. How can Canadians possibly trust the when he paints that kind of rosy picture and they are given the kind of lines that were given in the budget and throne speech?
Notwithstanding this and despite the ballooning shortcomings of the budget, the document fails to act by delivering nothing on pensions, and we all know the concern about people's pensions. There is nothing on climate change, or very little at most. There is nothing on health care, which is extremely important especially going into some difficult times and given our aging demographics.
What about the veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder that I am hearing about in the veterans committee? There is nothing that identifies that problem. There is nothing for new Canadians or to close the immigrant success gap which we also know is important. The sooner newcomers begin to work, the faster they are able to pay taxes and contribute to the economy.
I say that I am surprised, but I certainly should not be. Prior to being handed a $13 billion annual surplus, the last Conservative government to balance the budget was the government of Sir Robert Borden back in the early days of the 20th century. Past practice has shown us that every time the Conservatives get into power we end up with huge deficits, but Sir Robert Borden clearly knew how to handle both. It is true that despite being the leader of a minority government, as Sir Robert Borden was, and despite the fact that he too was battling a global calamity, he made fiscal prudence a priority. I wish his modern-day successor across the way would adopt that focus.
Unfortunately, despite being awash in this new debt, the government has delivered nothing of substance on many of the issues that Canadians care about. Worse yet, it seems to have turned its back on the very plan that it unveiled just a day earlier in the throne speech.
In the throne speech the government promised to get serious about protecting pensions. Despite that promise, there is $10 million in the budget to encourage volunteerism, which is very important, but there is nothing concrete to fix pensions except commit to do more consultation. In the throne speech the government committed to make job creation a priority but in the budget it did nothing to stop its $13 billion payroll tax hike that is going to kill 220,000 small business jobs.
There is a difference between prudence and recklessness and the word is courage. It takes courage to make the tough decisions and the 's first move was to hop on a private plane. It took courage to make difficult decisions when the Liberals were in power. It takes courage to set a hard course and to stay on it. It takes courage to be honest with the Canadian people and to plan long term.
The Liberals clearly showed that they know how to deal with these issues. I would hope the Conservative government would look at just how it will balance the pressures of dealing with a $56 billion deficit and at the same time recognize the pressure that Canadians are facing throughout this country while they are unemployed and trying to support their families along with the pressure of the issue of pensions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from for sharing her time with me. She spoke eloquently about the budget, and I too would like to add my voice to the debate.
This budget does not look at the challenges of our times and it is not a budget the Liberals can support. Therefore, my colleagues and I will be voting against it. However, we will be responsible in opposing it to ensure that Canadians are not burdened with an unwanted election. We will work very hard to provide an alternative, and my remarks today will speak to that. I will identify some areas of concern and provide some alternatives.
The question is: How did we get here today, this March 9? How did we arrive at this point, where the Conservatives had to resort to a sideshow of proposing changes to O Canada simply to distract from the fact they took three months off to present a budget that is simply the status quo? Back in December 2009, the government was being rocked by the Afghan detainee controversy and was desperate to avoid accountability. When confronted with serious allegations, the decided to do what he does best: he shut things down.
In fact, when asked about the 's strategy behind prorogation, his former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, said:
|| I think...the government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows that Parliament was prorogued in order to shut down the Afghan inquiry, and the trouble is that the government doesn't want to explain why that was necessary. Personally I think it was highly defensible action, but instead of having an adult defence of it, the government comes up with these childish talking points. So then you try and backfill with other stuff that doesn't make much sense either. So it's a self-created problem.
That is a quotation of the Prime Minister's former adviser Tom Flanagan. There were rallies across this country against prorogation. Regardless of political affiliation, people came out and expressed their concerns. Over 220,000 Canadians went onto Facebook to present their concerns with regard to why Parliament was shut down.
On January 25, the Liberals came back to the House of Commons. We were willing to work, and we did work. We organized a series of round tables on a range of issues that matter to Canadians. We wanted to listen to Canadians. We had an open and inclusive process to engage people, as opposed to the , who shut things down, including debate. We had over 30 round table discussions.
Why do we not support this budget? There are a lot of reasons, but there are a few issues I would like to speak to that pertain to my constituency of . The number one priority in my riding is jobs. People are concerned day in and day out about finding jobs. We needed a real plan. Instead, the government in this budget again reaffirmed that it was going to increase payroll taxes by $13 billion.
This is a job killer, as numerous independent sources have said. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, CFIB, did a study and said that this would kill over 220,000 jobs. It is also another broken promise. The government is raising payroll taxes, killing jobs, increasing taxes again and misleading Canadians about it. It is being intellectually dishonest.
The Liberal Party, as opposed to simply opposing the government and being a protest party, put forward three concrete proposals. First, we were going to support manufacturers by providing a cash advance on capital cost allowances to help manufacturers purchase new equipment. This is very important when it comes to our productivity and innovation agenda. Small and medium size businesses and large corporations need to invest in machinery and equipment to become more productive and more innovative. Thus, the cash advance was a necessary tool and would enable them to create more jobs.
The second initiative we put forward was to tackle the worst youth unemployment in a generation by introducing a financial incentive to hire young Canadians, giving companies the ability to use the tax system and providing them with the incentives to hire young people. We have an unprecedented unemployment rate, but it is almost three times as high in my riding of . Close to 20% of the youth in my riding are unemployed. This would have been a key initiative in hiring young Canadians looking for jobs.
We would also encourage investment in startup companies by introducing additional tax measures for Canadians who invest in entrepreneurs and startup companies, especially in emerging sectors such as clean energy and the life sciences. We already have an amazing cluster of life sciences in , so we already have the basic infrastructure. This would provide additional incentives to companies in my riding and across the country to make the investments necessary to have the jobs of tomorrow.
The other issue not addressed in this budget and that is a cause of concern, which the hon. member for has been working so hard day in and day out to advocate for, is pensions. Canada has changing demographics, but the budget offers nothing on pensions except for further consultations. If the government had its way, it would be consulting Canadians for the next 10 to 15 years without making any concrete proposals. Again, the Liberal Party is not simply going to oppose the consultations, but has provided a set of solutions.
The Liberal Party included three specific proposals on pensions in its reform package. First was to create a supplementary Canada pension plan to help Canadians save more. We want to use the CPP as a vehicle to enable Canadians to have the savings and pensions necessary to live with dignity. Second was to give employees with stranded pensions following corporate bankruptcies the option of growing their pensions through the assets of the Canada pension plan. Third was to protect vulnerable Canadians on long-term disability by giving them preferred status as creditors in cases of bankruptcy. Again, these are all initiatives on which the hon. member for has been working hard, and are proposals put forward by the Liberal Party to the government in a letter sent prior to the budget.
The Liberal Party gave the government advance notice before the latter put together the budget. We had round table discussions and engaged Canadians. We said, here are some concrete proposals we would like to see in the budget. Unfortunately, the government again ignored the proposals.
Another area that stands out as a cause of concern to many Canadians is the environment and the government's policy since being elected of really denying the science of climate change and, ultimately, having no action plan. This budget completely ignores climate change initiatives and cuts up to $50 million in funding from Environment Canada.
The Liberal Party has again put forward proposals here, a plan to restore Canada's leadership on climate change, with a target of quadrupling Canada's production of renewable energy by 2017. It is about clean energy, green jobs, the jobs of today and tomorrow, and creating an environment where children can breathe clean air and drink clean water. It makes good economic and environmental sense. The Liberal Party does not treat environmental policy in silos; it thinks that environmental sustainability is very much a part of Canada's economic turnaround.
Again, the Conservatives have failed on that front. It is something that is very important to note as well.
The next area that stood out in the budget as another cause of concern is early learning. Note again that I am speaking mostly from my experiences in my constituency and of the issues raised by people who write to me and call me.
Early learning and child care are not simply about day care spaces; they are about lifelong learning and giving young people the ability and tools to succeed. I have a two and a half year old daughter and am expecting a second baby pretty soon. I am very fortunate and blessed to have young kids. I wish that in my constituency, they and other kids would have a greater opportunity for early learning and child care initiatives, including more spaces. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
When the government came into power, it tore up the agreement signed by Paul Martin, the former Prime Minister. He had worked with all of the provinces and territories to put forward an agenda to create the framework for early learning and child care.
In my constituency in 2008, for every 1,000 children up to the age of 12, there were only 10.5 licensed child care spaces available in the region of Peel. Imagine, there are 1,000 kids and only 10.5 spaces available. What a large disparity, and it is a cause of concern as well.
The other area I would like to mention very briefly is immigration. It is a major issue in my constituency and across the country. Again, it is an economic driver. The government thinks it is simply a matter of a song and dance. Government members will go to cut a few ribbons, give a few speeches and dance around. It is much more than that. It is about making substantial investments in Canada's immigration system so we can provide additional resources for application processing, provide more support for immigrant settlement, and increase the number of permanent residents that Canada accepts.
I want indicate very clearly the resulting savings, because I have put forward a bunch of proposals that I think the government should have included in the budget. There is government waste that could have been eliminated in order to put forward a plan to help create jobs. Approximately $1.2 billion worth of savings could have been included in the budget if the Conservatives had done the following: if the government had restored departmental spending on transport and communications to 2005-06 levels by $820 million, and curtailed the use of management consultants, which would have saved $355 million. If the government had rolled back the expenses of the Privy Council Office, that would have been another $31 million. The list goes on and on.
Thus we have put forward proposals, but we have also identified government waste. This is a fundamental difference between us and the government, and that is why we will be opposing this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to budget 2010. I am also pleased to tell you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
In 2009 Canada's government presented Canadians with a viable long-term economic action plan. This side of the House has been endlessly working to deliver that plan to Canadians. Our budget has and continues to be great for my riding of Oxford and Canadians, young and old alike.
Since 2009, Oxford alone has been the recipient of over $26 million in federal funding for multiple programs and initiatives, varying from social housing projects to the upkeep of our national trail system.
I would like to tell the House what one of the mayors in riding had to say about budget 2010. Tillsonburg mayor Stephen Molnar was glad to see a commitment to continue with infrastructure funding for municipalities. He also welcomed the continuation of the federal gas tax funding, calling the distribution transparent, equitable and sustainable. Molnar noted that the way the program was set up there was no competition between neighbours or prioritization to larger urban centres, which he saw as a positive. Mayor Molnar also saw possibilities for technology funding that could work into economic efforts the town of Tillsonburg was pursuing.
This new budget is the right one for the times for Tillsonburg, for my riding and for Canadians.
One simply needs to fly into the soon newly-expanded and upgraded Tillsonburg airport, take in a game at the Embro arena, which will soon be refurbished and updated, or visit Innerkip's revitalized park or ask one of Otterville's dedicated volunteer firefighters about their new fire hall to see Canada's economic action plan at work.
Oxford residents can also look forward to continued benefits of the federal gas tax funds transfer, which has been extended to 2014. In fact, Oxford has been so blessed the Globe and Mail even took notice on October 21, 2009 and placed Oxford as the third-largest recipient of RInC stimulus projects. My only regret is reporting that Oxford ranked third not first.
Families are a vital component to our society as they provide a nurturing and safe environment in which individuals can grow and succeed. That is why our government is investing in families in order to ensure that families receive the support and encouragement they deserve.
The universal child care benefit gives families the flexibility to decide how to best provide for their children. Budget 2010 proposes to improve the taxation of the universal child care benefit for single parent families by ensuring that they receive comparable treatment as single earner two parent families. This change will provide up to $168 in tax relief for single parents with one child under six in 2010.
In addition, it provides support for families of children with disabilities by allowing a 10-year carry forward of Canadian disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds and entitlements.
In addition, as a former chief of police, I have witnessed first-hand the effects of crime on its victims and their families. I applaud the $6.6 million over two years that have been committed to the federal victims strategy, which enhances support for victims of crime and provides access to employment insurance benefits for eligible workers who have lost a family member due to crime.
We have not forgotten about the senior pillars of our communities. This month we are taking action and launching public consultations on how to improve Canada's retirement income system. We are also delivering an additional $45 million over three years to the enabling accessibility fund. In my riding the town of Tillsonburg has already benefited from this program by installing public accessible washrooms in the town and audible pedestrian signs at three intersections.
Budget 2010 delivers an additional $10 million to the new horizons for seniors program. The Alzheimer Society of Oxford, the Oxford County Elder Abuse Network, the Women's Employment Resource Centre in the township of Norwich, all in my riding, can attest to the positive impact the new horizons for seniors program has had in aiding them in delivering successful inclusive programs for seniors in the community.
It is plain to see that a healthy, productive and vital part of any community thrives around its professional, amateur and recreational activities. Canada's government is a firm believer in promoting healthy living and a sense of community through sport. One can easily look to Vancouver 2010 for the endless sense of unity, pride and inspiration that was provided at Canada's games.
Budget 2010 will continue to build upon the tremendous success of these uniting events by investing $62 million for Canada's high performance athletes. That is $44 million for the own the podium program and $12 million for Paralympic athletes. In addition to these great programs, we are investing $6 million in the participaction program.
In the coming months, the will announce details on this new funding to ensure the existing funding is targeted effectively and encourages private sector investment in elite athlete training. This funding will build upon the success of the current own the podium program.
Canada's government understands the trials and tribulations of Canada's hard-working and dedicated labour force. In these uncertain economic times, we are supporting the Oxford and Canadian workforces, offering a temporary extension of the popular work-sharing program. Work-sharing avoids layoffs by offering employment insurance income benefits to qualifying workers willing to work a reduced work week while their employer recovers.
Budget 2010 extends this measure. Existing or recently terminated work-sharing agreements will be extended by an additional 26 weeks to a maximum of 78 weeks. Greater flexibility in the qualifying criteria for new work-sharing agreements will also continue to be provided, and both of these enhancements will be in place until March 31, 2011. This measure, estimated to cost $106 million over two years, means even more workers will keep their jobs, while employers will also be able to retain skilled employees with years of experience. This extension to work-sharing will continue to reduce the financial impact of the downturn on workers and their communities.
Budget 2010 is freezing the employment insurance premium at $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings to the end of 2010, the lowest rate since 1982, and delivering five extra weeks of regular EI benefits and greater access to EI benefits for long-tenured workers.
Oxford's manufacturing and transportation sectors can also look forward to a tariff-free zone by the elimination of all remaining tariffs on productivity-improving machinery and equipment and goods imported for further manufacturing in Canada. When fully implemented, this will provide $300 million in annual duty savings to Canadians, while increasing productivity for Canadian business and protecting and increasing employment.
Canada's government is protecting and creating jobs now, establishing them for the future. At the same time, we will be reducing the deficit. The proposed red tape commission, a partnership between parliamentarians and the private sector, will prove to be a valuable aid to small business.
Canada is faring far better than our G8 counterparts. Budget 2010 reminds us all that we must proceed with caution and plan accordingly for the long-term financial well-being of Canada. We are delivering targeted funding initiatives and working toward returning to the budgetary balance. Our stimulus packages will end by following the exit strategies set out in the economic action plan. We have targeted spending growth restraint through targeted measures and we are delivering a comprehensive review of this government's administrative functions to ensure maximum productivity and cost-effectiveness.
Not only have we set a clear, concise and fiscally responsible path to reducing the national deficit nearly in half in two years, we have implemented previously unheard of support programs for our athletes, who have demonstrated time and time again that they do indeed own the podium, and stood up for families and seniors in the communities they are proud to serve. We extended meaningful support and programs to Canada's dedicated labour force and to industry.
The opposition can play games, while we on this side of the House stay focused on the economy and getting things done for hard-working Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise, representing the people of where, by the way, the daffodils are blooming and the cherry trees are in flower. On their behalf, I want to congratulate the on a good budget.
I remember being in a meeting about 18 months ago where we were all expressing concern about the global economic situation. The recession had really not hit us yet but we could see it coming. Like a tsunami, we knew we could not avoid the effects of it. It did not start here, but we knew we needed to take strong action to mitigate those negative effects that were coming and that is what we did.
Since July 2009, 135,000 jobs have been created and that is not including the 225,000 jobs that were maintained through our work sharing program, a very good program. Some 16,000 infrastructure projects have been completed or started and we delivered $3 billion in general personal income tax relief as a way to address this economic downturn.
Statistics Canada recently announced that Canada's economy for the second straight quarter grew and in the fourth quarter of 2009 by 5%. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in almost a decade partly due to an increase in infrastructure funding supported by stimulus projects across Canada. So our government is taking action to ensure that Canada leads the global economic recovery and budget 2010 will help us lead the way.
Jobs and growth, which is what this budget is all about, come in a variety of forms. I am here today to speak briefly on this budget and what actions our government has taken to ensure that Canada's fisheries sector is a key player in our goal to lead the way on jobs and growth.
The fishing industry in Canada employs over 80,000 people and is worth approximately $14 billion. The commitments our government has made in budget 2010 prove once again that we recognize the importance of fisheries to a robust Canadian economy. Specifically, budget 2010 contains funding for seafood certification and traceability, small craft harbours, and a new hovercraft for our Coast Guard, among other things.
Let me talk a little bit more about each of these. First of all, there is catch certification. Many people do not realize the contribution that our seafood industry makes to our economy and our coastal community. Canada is the world's sixth largest seafood exporter with fish and seafood being Canada's largest single food export commodity. It is not grain, or beef, or pork, it is fisheries products. So access to international markets is essential to Canada's fish and seafood industry which exports 85% of its production. In 2010, the European Union will implement a new regulation where fisheries exporting countries need to provide catch certificates attesting that the marine fish and seafood products are legally and sustainably harvested.
Our government recognized the need to protect the livelihood of our fishing communities and is committed to ensuring that the Canadian fish and seafood industry maintains access to key markets around the world.
Budget 2010 provides $7.2 million over two years to support a new catch certification office. Through this office Fisheries and Oceans will issue certificates to exporters ensuring that the Canadian fish and seafood industry remains competitive and maintains employment in both the harvesting and fish processing sectors.
More specifically, the funding provided in this budget enhances DFO's ability to: first, provide traceability systems and support to the fish and seafood industry; second, to support IT upgrades to facilitate DFO audits of industry record keeping systems to ensure the validity of legal harvest; and third, to issue Government of Canada validated catch certificates within prescribed service standards to these exporters based on checks of licence status, catch reports, and existence of a fisheries management plan.
Our catch certificate will provide assurance that the seafood products come from a properly licensed, regulated and reported fishery that is regularly monitored and audited to ensure that catches are obtained legally.
Currently, only the European Union has the legal requirement to demonstrate this for imports coming into its countries, but we expect that this might well happen in other countries. This funding will allow our government to support the industry in meeting these new market requirements.
Given that the European market is worth approximately $500 million annually to the Canadian fish and seafood industry, I believe that this is a very sound investment. I know that Canada's fish and seafood industry, as well as its hard-working employees, will feel the same.
Along our coast the small craft harbours program provides a network of safe and accessible harbours. These harbours support the commercial fishing industry and the broader interests of the coastal communities. In many communities small craft harbours represent the only federal presence.
In fact, I have a colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador who reminds me from time to time that harbours in his province are as important as Highway 401 is to Torontonians and the only refuge for vessels during rough weather.
Nearly 90% of all fishing landings in Canada, valued at approximately $2 billion, occur at small craft harbours. This alone illustrates how important these harbours are, not only to our coastal communities but to Canada as a whole and to our economy.
Our government recognizes the important roles that small craft harbours have in our communities. Funding initiated under the 2009 economic action plan for small craft harbours, $200 million additional over two years, will continue in 2010. To date 242 repair, maintenance and dredging projects are in the engineering or tendering process or are under construction and some have been completed and $88 million of this allotment will be spent in 2010-11.
This funding will improve fish harvesters access to better harbours and will facilitate their ongoing operations. It will also provide a stimulus to small communities by maintaining and creating construction jobs, and by supporting employment in other industries such as the service and tourism industry.
This I feel perfectly embodies the title of budget 2010, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”. With our government's funding for small craft harbours we are continuing to lead the way.
More than just numbers, these investments illustrate our government's ongoing commitment to the people who live in smaller coastal communities and rely on small craft harbours so they can do their jobs and provide for their families in a safe and secure way.
In budget 2010 our government continues to invest in the safety and security of Canadians by committing $27.25 million for a new Canadian Coast Guard air cushion vehicle, otherwise known as a hovercraft.
On the west coast at the Sea Island base, the Coast Guard operates two hovercraft, one of which needs to be replaced. These vessels are used to conduct searches, transport ill and injured people, tow disabled vessels and provide logistical support during on-water incidents.
We hope we never have anything like the landing on the Hudson River to deal with, but if we ever do, we will be very glad to have this investment in British Columbia.
Another issue which affects all Canadians in waters from coast to coast to coast is the issue of invasive species. Aquatic invasive species pose a major threat to Canada's biodiversity, our ecosystems, and ultimately to our economy. That is why we have put in place Canada's invasive alien species strategy. Budget 2010 renews the funding for that program to the tune of $38 million.
DFO will receive $8 million over two years to allow Fisheries and Oceans Canada to continue to invest in research, prevention and control of these invasive species, including the management of the sea lamprey in the Great Lakes and the minimization of the risk of new introductions such as the Asian carp.
I am pleased to support the budget. I think British Columbians are supportive of the budget. I know the premier is.
Under the previous Liberal government the federal government starved the provinces. That is not the approach we are going to take. There is $3.6 billion under the Canada health transfer, $1.5 billion in the social transfer. All of those are increases over the previous years and over the previous Liberal government.
That is why the budget has been welcomed by so many across the country. I encourage all members of the House to support the budget.
Mr. Speaker, this morning I will provide a few thoughts on the budget. I am pleased to be sharing my time with the wonderful member for . He is a real champion in the House on many fronts, but none more important than the battle he is fighting on the international trade front and the free trade agreement which the government wants to impose on us and the people of Colombia.
I stand here today hopeful that we have an opportunity finally to make some choices that did not seem to be there for us until the last year or so. The inevitability of the economy becoming global and unregulated and that somehow that was going to be good for all of us was something we just could not seem to make any headway with.
I believe very profoundly that what happened last year in that economy, the collapse of the financial world and the impact on people everywhere on the planet brings us to a place recognized by Jim Wallis in the wonderful book he recently wrote entitled Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street.
We have the potential for a transformational moment in our history. We can make choices as a government. Government can become important again in providing leadership. We can do things that will be in the best interest of the people we serve and the planet that serves all of us.
We have a chance at this point to look at what went wrong in a very clear way, to name it and then to put forward a different vision for ourselves and those we care about, our country and indeed for the world. We have a chance to make different choices, as we in the New Democratic Party are saying these days, in this budget. We can make different choices.
Until last year, we believed almost religiously that government should be smaller, that government should play less of a role in the life of the jurisdiction in which it is elected to give leadership and that somehow if we deregulated industry and finance, it would serve us better, that it would be more efficient. We also believed that if we created a lower tax regime for industry and investment, the country would be better off. If all of us were honest with ourselves, we would see that that recipe is what got us to the dysfunction in the economy we experienced last year and the very difficult challenge that we continue to face today.
This does not have to be the way it is. We in this country do not have to continue to be driven by an ethos of greed and fear. We can choose to focus on the common good and making sure that everybody has enough.
I think back to my days as a young boy growing up in the small town of Wawa in northern Ontario. Some members may know where that is. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, 1,200 people mined ore, burned the sulphur out of it and turned it into sinter. We sent that to Sault Ste. Marie where 12,000 people turned it into steel.
That steel was sent across the country to communities in the Maritimes such as Saint John, where it was used in building ships. It was sent to Vancouver, Thunder Bay and Windsor, where it was used in making buses and cars. All of those industries had good jobs that paid decent wages. There were benefit packages that looked after families. There were pensions for people when they retired, so they could live in the dignity their work made them deserving of.
We went even further back in those days because we believed in government. We believed in the ability of government to use the very generous tax base to provide supports and services for all Canadians and to create a competitive advantage for locally owned and controlled industry. We brought in health care, employment insurance, the Canada pension plan.
When the government brought in all of those very important and helpful institutions, we found that they became part of the Canadian identity. People around the world admired us for what we were able to accomplish together. We found that also created for us a very competitive advantage in the world as trade began to evolve and become global.
We found that having a healthy and well-educated populace was something in which investors were very interested. We found that providing health care through a government run system provided cost advantages to industry. The cost of health care can be very expensive, as we know when we look south of the border where our American friends are debating that today. That was a very great competitive advantage.
We found that when together we built the infrastructure, the buildings, roads, libraries, recreational centres in communities across this country, not only did it make those communities centres of excellence, but it was also very attractive to people looking for a place to set up shop, do business and create work. Back in those days communities, individuals, organizations and government worked together to make sure that was happening.
Some may say that was then and this is now. Yes, and government made choices back then. We have the opportunity to make choices here right now that could get us to a place where we hold dear those values once more.
Our country is so large, so vast and so remote, and so much of it is in the north. We really need to invest in transportation infrastructure. For example, in my riding people are looking for investments from the federal and provincial governments to make sure the railway does not go the path of so many of the country's corporate headquarters which have disappeared altogether or gone someplace else. We should make the necessary investments to maintain the vital links between communities and manufacturing centres and the markets in which they sell their goods. It should be done in a generous way that not only makes up for the lack of investment in those pieces of infrastructure over the last few years, but also in a way that indicates there is a future for towns like Wawa, White River, Marathon, Nipigon, Red Rock, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins. These communities are important. The resource base that has served the country so well continues to be an important element in Canada's economy going forward.
In one very specific instance, I ask the government to make a choice today to stop the unwarranted and unneeded rollout of further corporate tax breaks to entities that are doing quite well, thanks very much, and to invest those billions of dollars in things that will serve all Canadians better, such as health care and education. In this instance we need investment in the railroad to have a railroad to move freight, and also to once again look at the possibility of having a railroad to move people throughout the country. Canada's demographic is changing. The population is getting older. We are centralizing health care, for example, and people need to travel and our highways are not always the safest way to do it.
We need a huge investment in rail, for example, the same as we need it in health care and education. Investment is needed in all kinds of other important things to protect the environment and make this country the green economy that we all know it has the potential to become.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague for Sault Ste. Marie who is one of the foremost advocates in this House of Commons for the middle class and poor Canadians. He is a very eloquent speaker and it is an honour to follow him, particularly in light of what this budget means.
There is no doubt that this budget is clearly an attack on middle class and poor Canadians. I will explain why in just a moment. Many of my other NDP colleagues have expressed the same concerns over the budget. The important thing is to start with what the context is in this country right now.
The government does not deny that unemployment will grow throughout the course of this year. We also have record levels of seniors living in poverty despite the prosperity and the resources that we have in this country. We are seeing record levels of student debt.
Because this is probably the fundamental difference between the NDP as compared to the old parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives who love to shovel money at the wealthiest of Canadians and love to bring forward these great ideological concepts like free trade, the most important division in this House is that the NDP is the only party that recognizes what has happened to the middle class over the last 20 years.
Under the former Liberal government and under the current Conservative government, we have seen the most sustained decline in incomes for Canadian families that we have ever seen in our history right across income categories. Once we put aside the very rich, who are wealthier than ever and now take most of the income pie, middle class, lower middle class and the poorest of Canadians have all seen a sustained decline in their family income. As a result of that, the average Canadian family, not the wealthy, the lobbyists who the Conservatives and Liberals love to sit down with, but the average Canadian family has actually seen its debtload double over the past 20 years.
That quiet crisis was present even before this very clear full blown economic crisis that we have seen over the past year or two. That is the context in which this budget was developed. One needs to ask what kind of measures the government is taking to actually help middle class Canadians.
What it is doing is actually cutting back on public services, services that provide supports to middle income Canadians. It is middle class Canadians who benefit the most from the services the federal government produces. It is the public services, those who help the middle class, who are under attack by the government.
What did the government choose to do? It chose to go into one of the largest deficits in Canadian history; a $54 billion deficit that is largely due to massive corporate tax cuts.
In this corner of the House, we read through the budget, as we do diligently. The NDP members in this House of Commons have been likened to army ants because we are the ones who are diligently doing the work and, in the great Canadian tradition, doing our homework.
I would ask the Conservative members opposite to take the plastic off their budget, take it out of their desks and look through it. On page 281 we see that the finance ministry itself is undermining the premise of what the Conservatives have done with this budget. On page 281 there is a very interesting graph that expresses what the NDP has been saying all along. This comes from the finance ministry and it is written into the budget. It talks about the dollar impact on the level of GDP of a permanent $1 increase in fiscal measures.
Mr. Speaker, I know it is no surprise to you and no surprise to the NDP caucus that when one invests in infrastructure there is a 100% return. If $1 is invested, that multiplier effect is 100%. There is no secret there. It is very clearly written in the budget document.
Housing investment, which the NDP has been pushing for some time, is contained within the amendment that we have brought forward. It would be a 100% benefit as well. When the government makes that decision, there is a 100% benefit to Canadians as a whole.
We can look at other spending measures and it is an 80% benefit, a very important benefit, the full range of other benefits that are provided by the federal government, by the public services that we are talking about. For measures for low income households and the unemployed, it is again an 80% return on investment, which is still pretty good.
Then we get to the measures that the government loves to bring in. For fiscal measures, personal income tax measures are not the best investment of federal government funds. We have said that all along. It is reflected here in the budget document itself. It is a 40% return.
The federal government loves to invest in personal income tax measures for the wealthiest and most privileged Canadians but for middle class and low income Canadians it is a 40% return. Personal income tax measures are the worst possible use of funds.
According to the Conservative government's own budget documents on page 281 are corporate income tax measures, 90% of which is simply blown away. It is like going to the casino and wasting Canadian taxpayer money by throwing it at the corporate sector. That is written into the budget document itself.
One has to wonder if any of the Conservatives in the House have even bothered to read the budget documents to see that they are making the worse possible use of Canadian taxpayer money, of fiscal policy, by blowing away 90% of it on corporate income tax measures. There is simply no return to the federal government and no return to Canadians by cutting back public services and throwing all of that money at profitable corporations.
We must remember that this is borrowed money. The government has a $54 billion deficit largely due to corporate income tax measures, the money it is shovelling at very profitable Canadian banks, at very profitable energy companies and shovelling out the door without any due respect, due diligence and any sense of responsibility, while cutting back on the services that help Canadians the most. According to the government's own documents, that money is not being effectively used.
I know there are well-meaning Canadians who vote Conservative in Conservative ridings but those Canadians, those who are listening in today, need to know that the Conservatives are knowingly making the worse possible use of Canadian taxpayer money in fiscal policy. I know well-meaning Conservatives right across this country would say that does not make sense.
When the budget documents state that this is the worst possible use of money, why would we use all of that resource that Canadians have in common and push it at a very profitable corporate sector when Canadians need help?
We have referenced some of the other needs, such as the fact that right now up to 800,000 Canadians are running to the end of EI.
Just to reference and close the debate around these huge income gifts the Conservatives love to shovel out the door to the wealthiest and most privileged Canadians, it now turns out that the lowest marginal tax rate in the country is paid by the wealthiest of Canadians. Lower middle class Canadians are now paying the taxes. According to figures from 1990 to 2005, the poorest of Canadians are now paying a higher marginal tax rate than the wealthiest of Canadians. Yes, this did start under the Liberals. That is absolutely irresponsible.
I would like to briefly reference for British Columbians why we are voting against this budget. There is not a single reference to salmon, to the pine beetle or to leaky condos. The only reference to softwood lumber is the softwood lumber sellout that, in my riding of Burnaby--New Westminster, cost us 2,000 direct jobs and the closure of three softwood mills.
What we have seen under the Conservative government is a completely irresponsible approach to fiscal policy and to balanced budgets with a self-inflicted $54 billion deficit.
All the Conservatives had to do was be responsible and read their own budget documents to realize that was an appallingly irresponsible use of taxpayers' fiscal capacity and the resources that we have. They then would have pulled back on the corporate income taxes, the further ones that they are implementing, on the recommendation of the NDP, and it would be putting forward policies that would help people, such as investing in infrastructure, in housing and in social policy, all of which provide a multiple of additional benefits to Canadians as opposed to corporate taxes.
There is one reference in the budget that British Columbians find offensive and that is the reference to the HST. There are pages and pages on the HST but nothing on the salmon, leaky condos or on the pine beetle. That is why we are voting against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to speak on behalf of the people of Lévis, Bellechasse and Etchemins in order to show my support for the government's budget 2010. This is an excellent budget because it will help solidify a recovery in the Canadian economy and manage expenditures in order to return to a balanced budget.
We are at the halfway point of our economic action plan and already, in less than a year, 135,000 net jobs have been created in Canada. Thanks to our work sharing program, 225,000 jobs have been saved and businesses have been able to keep their labour force. Now those businesses have new contracts and can be optimistic about the economic recovery thanks to a skilled, qualified labour force that has been able to stay employed by the business.
This year in Quebec and across Canada, the Canadian government has invested more in infrastructure than any government over the last 60 years.
Consider the example of the water treatment plant in Lévis or the sports centre that will be built north of Montreal. Consider the projects in Laval or Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, both of which had no sewage system. We are investing, along with the Quebec government, to ensure that the citizens there have a waste water treatment system that meets modern standards.
Our economy is doing well and Canada is emerging from this economic crisis in better shape than before. Why? I think several factors are at play. First of all, our businesses are productive and boast a skilled, qualified labour force. One of this country's greatest resources is its people, who are innovative, creative and resourceful. Our businesses are supported by a sound banking system that is recognized as one of the safest and most reliable in this world. Not only do we have a good banking system, but we also have our economic action plan, which has provided the boost our economy needed to recover from the difficult economic times we have just been through.
We are entering the second year of the economic action plan, even though the debt represents 31% of the gross domestic product. In fact, our debt to GDP ratio is the lowest of all G7 countries. In Canada, the unemployment rate is 1.4% lower than that of our American neighbours. We hope to continue to bring these numbers even lower across the continent.
Canada has made the most significant recovery in the G7. One thing that leads us to believe we can continue on that path is that with our tax measures, not just the economic action plan, but also Advantage Canada, our tax system will be the lowest for companies. By the end of 2012, we will have the most advantageous competitive tax system for companies, which will encourage them to create jobs.
Today, our ministers are pointing out that there are no longer any tariffs for manufacturers. They can buy equipment, inputs and goods under existing legislation. As such, there is more room for investing, creating jobs and moving forward.
Our government continues to move forward with measures to stimulate the economy. In total, we are injecting more than $19 billion into the economy. The best way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of taxpayers. They know how to meet the needs of their families. Seniors have significant needs. We are cutting taxes by $3.2 billion. That money will circulate in our economy and create wealth. Since our tax policies came into effect, one million Canadians with the lowest incomes no longer pay income tax.
We have a tax system that benefits low-income earners. We continue to ensure that taxes are low for all taxpayers.
We are also investing in our workers, with $4 billion in additional employment insurance benefits and training as well. For sectors that are losing ground, we want to make the transition to value-added sectors in order to meet the challenges and ensure prosperity in the long term.
I spoke about infrastructure projects. We continue to move forward. In Lévis—Bellechasse et les Etchemins, as elsewhere in Canada, the needs are great and we will continue to invest in our infrastructure to support development.
This budget has the smallest increase in the overall envelope since 1997. We can clearly see our government's desire to cut expenses. However, one area where it has not cut back is research and development, especially scientific development. We want to develop and attract talent and brain power, enhance research capacity, improve commercialization, accelerate private sector investment and expand access to the market and competitiveness in order to maintain our leading-edge economy. Naturally, for the hardest hit sectors, we have measures in place such as the community adjustment fund, among others.
I was shocked by the response to the throne speech from the new Bloc finance critic. Two things he said surprised me, and I would like to use my time today to mention those two things to my colleague opposite, the member for . He said that there was nothing in the budget for social housing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I invite my colleague to look at page 236 of the budget, which states that our government is investing $1 billion this year, in addition to the $1 billion it invested last year, which he did not have the chance to vote for. This time, I am sure that he will be able to convince his colleagues that this measure and the entire budget are worthwhile, so that they will support this unprecedented $1 billion investment in social housing in Canada. This is part of the second phase of our economic action plan.
As a Quebecker, another thing that shocked me was when the Bloc finance critic said that there was nothing in the budget for Quebec. Once again, I invite the member for to check the figures for equalization and social transfers. Quebec has never received as much from the federal government as in budget 2010, the second year of the economic action plan.
Quebec will receive increased federal support under budget 2010. Transfers will total $19.3 billion in 2010-11, $281 million more than last year. That is $6.8 billion more than when the Liberals were in power. What does that mean? It means that budget 2010 maintains investments in health and education and maintains quality services across the country. For Quebec, it means $8.6 billion in equalization. So Quebec will get more than ever before, and the government will invest in all sectors.
This budget was drafted to be balanced and fair. It includes special measures. There is one measure I take a particular interest in. The budget corrects a historical error to enable Mouvement Desjardins to incorporate as a federal entity. It also contains money to help farm producers modernize slaughterhouse capacity. Of course, a symposium on biomass will be held in Les Etchemins on May 14. The theme of this symposium is “I heat with biomass”. The budget already includes $100 million for developing clean technologies in the forestry industry.
I urge my colleagues to support this budget, which will strengthen Canada's economic performance.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, who is no doubt one of the hardest working members of Parliament and an advocate for his constituents.
A number of important points about this budget have been brought forward already. I would like to highlight two of the mains reasons why I support the budget.
First, it is a transition budget. It recognizes that last year we were in the midst of one of the worst global financial crises the world has ever seen. Across the border in the United States, banks were failing and the markets crashed. When Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers went under, it ignited a financial panic that we had not seen since Black Monday.
It is important to remember how bad it actually was. Even though our banks were strong, the Canadian economy was hit. Retirement savings plummeted, exports fell and Canadians lost their jobs. The first year of our economic action plan focused on holding the line, ensuring our banks did not collapse, holding back job losses and stabilizing the economy. I am proud that it worked.
Our infrastructure spending was rolled out in record time, creating jobs at a time when they were needed the most. Our tax cuts, such as the home renovation tax credit, encouraged ordinary Canadians to help stimulate the economy, while improving their homes. Now it is time to get Canadians back on their feet, to create new jobs and to get the economy growing again. This budget shifts the focus from crisis management to economic growth.
Economists across the country have made it clear that although the worst is over, the economy is still fragile. One of our priorities is to help the unemployed. The work-sharing program was a massive success, saving thousands of jobs across the country. In my riding, companies like Horton CBI and Advanced Engineering Products Ltd. have used this program. This program saved 166 jobs in my riding alone. It was an important part of our economic action plan, and my constituents very strongly support the extra 26 weeks as proposed in this budget.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe the focus on job creation in the budget is a key reason for supporting it. Infrastructure is one of the best ways to help the economy. Not only creates jobs, but it leaves a legacy for decades to come. I am sure many of my colleagues know of projects in their own ridings that are improving roads, improving universities and building community buildings.
In the city of Fort Saskatchewan in my riding, Highway 15 is a major route and is receiving a major upgrade. This is creating local jobs and boosting the regional economy. It will also make transportation more efficient and help my constituents by making their commute faster and safer.
However, it is not just building roads. In Sherwood Park, Millennium Place, a multi-use recreational facility, is an important part of our community that brings us together as families, friends and neighbours. It is being upgraded through Canada's economic action plan. Millennium Place received much needed funding to add an additional leisure ice centre and a new refrigeration room. This funding will go a long way to improving opportunities for minor ice hockey organizations in my riding as well as providing additional wellness and recreational skating opportunities for our residents.
The infrastructure programs have been a major success, creating over 135,000 jobs in the first year alone. Now we need to finish the job and the funding in this budget will do that. By the time the second year of the economic action plan is finished, the economy will be fully recovered and the infrastructure stimulus will be winding down.
That brings me to my second reason to support this budget. As a Conservative, I believe in small government, lower taxes and living within our means. Governments sometimes have to go into deficit, but only in times of crisis or serious recessions. This is why it is important that our spending is temporary.
When we started the economic action plan, we said it would cover over two years and we meant it. Unlike the opposition, we are not going to raise taxes. Once upon a time when governments needed money for their projects of the day, they would just hike taxes on Canadians yet again. The era of tax and spend government is over. We will not take more money out of the pockets of Canadians. As Conservatives, we believe Canadians should keep more of the money that they earn and they should decide how and where to spend it.
This government will not slash health care funding like the Liberals did. Passing the burden on to Canadians just is not responsible. Instead, we have a plan to balance the budget that is responsible. I have already mentioned that the stimulus spending was temporary, so the first step is to start at home.
We are freezing the salaries of members of Parliament and ministers because it is not right to give raises to politicians when we are making cuts elsewhere.
Then we are going to cut the extra boards of directors, commissioners and other appointed positions that crop up around governments. There are hundreds of them and many are not delivering any value to taxpayers. The budget will start with 245 positions, and I hope we will find more. We will take a long hard look for the loopholes and pointless spending. This means actually taking time and effort to go through the books.
As Conservatives, we are very aware that even when governments are well meaning, a lot of the time they end up wasting money. One example of this is the medical tax credit. It is an important program, but for some reason it also gives tax breaks for Botox and teeth whitening. Now maybe some people feel that facelifts are a human right, but I am pretty sure Canadians do not want to spend millions of dollars subsidizing Botox treatments. We are going to stop it. There are more of these frivolous money wasters and loopholes and we are going to find them and eliminate them.
Finally, we are putting a cap on spending. Department operational budgets, salaries, programs and overhead, is going to be held steady. This is much more important than it seems at first glance. After all, we have a tendency to think that our own projects are the most important, that they should be bigger and deserve more funding. It is just human nature. However, the end result is that it is very hard to stop government spending from rising. My colleagues on the Liberal side, who have been in government, understand this very well.
Our solution is that if government departments want to spend more on programs, they have to find savings elsewhere in cutting their overhead, in becoming more efficient. To spend more in one area, departments will have to save somewhere else. We have a very dedicated and talented civil service and I am confident it will find ways to deliver programs for less now that we are setting up a system that encourages saving money rather than spending more. This is a responsible approach to cutting the deficit without slashing transfers to provinces, which would affect health care, seniors and education.
During my extensive consultations over the past few months, I have met with chambers in both of my communities, small businesses and constituents to hear their thoughts. Throughout my conversations, the same themes emerged. Creating jobs and proposing a responsible plan to deal with the deficit were most important to my constituents. This is why Canadians support the budget. I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the House to also support this budget.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I would like to take this time to share with the House my comments on the budget brought down by the Conservative government.
During the prorogation imposed by the government at the end of 2009, I had the chance to take part in the Bloc Québécois' prebudget consultation tour of the various regions of Quebec with my colleague from , who is also the Bloc finance critic.
Quebeckers were very happy to see us and share their needs and expectations with regard to a budget they dreaded. They often told us that other political parties did not visit their region. The Bloc's closeness to Quebeckers is a key reason why the Bloc has always enjoyed the support of the majority of voters in Quebec.
Whether we are talking about forestry, aerospace, the environment or culture, Quebeckers' priorities, as expressed during our tour, are completely ignored in this budget.
By bringing down such an empty budget, the Conservative government is showing us once again that federalism simply does not benefit Quebec.
Once again, the Conservatives are missing an opportunity to properly address Quebec's economic, social, environmental and financial needs.
They have shown once again that, as far as Canada is concerned, it is as though Quebec does not exist. The Conservative government is continuing to follow the course set by its 2006 economic statement, which established policies geared to the needs of Ontario and Alberta to the detriment of the very pressing needs of Quebec.
Despite all the wonderful Conservative promises in 2006 of a new openness towards Quebec, there is nothing in the new Conservative budget to address the needs of Quebec's economy.
Like the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the Bloc Québécois is calling for loans and loan guarantees, such as those made available by Investissement Québec, an agency of the Quebec government.
Furthermore, a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry is needed. For example—as shown so clearly in the budget where the figures are set out side-by-side—the automotive sector, which is concentrated in Ontario, has received $9.7 billion over the past two years whereas the forestry industry, which is so important to Quebec, received only $170 million for the whole country.
Investment in Ontario was 57 times greater. After the government invested so much money to save jobs in Ontario, which was legitimate, forestry workers would have expected that protecting the forestry industry and its jobs would be given consideration in this budget.
In another area, in response to the budget, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, the FRAPRU, a well-known community organization in Quebec, accused the government of creating a deficit at the expense of the poor. In fact, fighting the deficit will affect the most disadvantaged in society: those living without proper housing, the homeless and individuals and families living in poverty. During our consultation tour, people inevitably talked about the lack of social housing.
In Montreal alone, more than 23,000 households are waiting for affordable housing. In the province of Quebec, there are 35,000 households on the waiting list.
Although construction of social housing for seniors and the disabled is required because it was already in the government's action plan, the current budget does not propose to construct social housing for the poorest families. That would be housing with more than two or three bedrooms, which it makes sense to build for our society.
People from across Quebec also pointed out many flaws in the EI system. My colleague from will surely expand on this later.
In any case, the budget does not propose any measures for unemployed workers, except for an extension of the work sharing program. This is not a new measure, since it was announced in the last budget.
There is no mention of the reforms needed in order to improve accessibility. It must be repeated over and over that less than 50% of workers have access to employment insurance. That is why a major overhaul is so important, although it has yet to be included in a budget.
Although the budget will lift the freeze that had been placed on premium rates, this will not improve the system.
What is most appalling about all of this is the fact that the government plans to pilfer a total of $19 billion from the EI fund between 2011 and 2015. Those figures are written in black and white in the budget. That money will be taken directly from the workers. Instead of helping workers improve their situation, the Conservatives are going to take more money from them.
Now what about our seniors who are living in poverty? The guaranteed income supplement paid to the most disadvantaged is keeping them below the poverty line. In addition, over 40,000 people in Quebec are still not receiving it, because they do not know it exists or because they cannot understand and complete the application form.
On June 4, 2008, Bill , which I had the honour to introduce, passed second reading in the House after being supported by a majority of members, with the exception of the Conservatives. I find that shameful.
The government put an end to the bill when it called an election in September 2008, thereby preventing the bill's passage.
The bill proposed automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement—since the government has access to people's income, and an additional $110 a month just to help them reach the low-income cutoff, which used to be called the poverty line, as well as full retroactivity for seniors who have been shortchanged and realized it when they finally applied. At present, retroactivity is limited to 11 months. The bill proposed full retroactivity, since that money was owed to them.
Now that the worst of this crisis is behind us, we could have expected the government to use this budget to correct the situation by helping people who are relatively poor and allowing our seniors to live in dignity.
I say dignity because that is the word seniors used when they spoke to us during the guaranteed income supplement consultation tour we went on when we introduced the bill. These people are not looking for charity. They just want to live in a dignified way.
Unfortunately, despite all the steps often taken by the Bloc Québécois, our seniors will again have to settle for their government's lack of consideration because there is nothing for them in this budget.
I would now like to reiterate that Quebec is the only province to have harmonized its sales tax and not receive compensation for it. The Atlantic provinces are receiving a $1 billion compensation over four years, Ontario will receive $4.3 billion and British Columbia will receive $1.6 billion.
It is very complicated for Quebec. The government has been saying for a year that it is in talks with Quebec to finalize compensation for harmonizing the tax, which has been applied in that province for 18 years now.
Quebec assessed the cost at $2.2 billion and it said officially that it needed that money in order to prepare its budget in the coming weeks. It is inconceivable that the current budget is not correcting this injustice, which has been dragging on for so many years.
Unless there are major changes, it is clear that the Bloc Québécois will vote against this budget.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from on his speech. I also want to say how pleased we are to see him in good health. We certainly need a member of his calibre to keep standing up for Quebec's interests and for people who have taken hit after hit, as we have discussed repeatedly. Society needs people like him. I would also like to acknowledge my colleague from , the finance critic. I believe that he is doing an extraordinary job.
The Bloc Québécois is against this budget. There can be no doubt that it is an unacceptable budget. We will only be able to support this budget if the House passes the Bloc Québécois' proposed amendment. Our amendment would remove all of the elements that constitute an attack on Quebec's sovereign rights with respect to a number of tools, including its securities commission.
After hearing the budget, I was asked to sum it up in one word. I immediately replied, “conservative”. If I had to answer that question today, I would say “reformist”.
This budget is conservative or reformist because it is based on a government strategy to take away social tools such as the social safety net. That would later enable the government to justify the measures it wants to put in place. But they have shown virtually no restraint when it comes to helping the military and oil industries.
I remind members that the government first gave away one of its tools when it lowered the GST by 2%. For more than a year now, it has frozen EI premiums at $1.73, when we know very well that that is not enough to fulfill the obligations of that system. Members will also remember that nearly $60 billion was removed from this fund and spent elsewhere. Even worse, this government, just like the Liberal government before it, is prepared to divert another $19 billion from employment insurance by 2014.
It has also abolished measures that supported women's groups, in particular, one of the essential measures to achieve pay equity in the public service or in any federally-regulated workplace: the ability to take legal action to achieve pay equity. It is unbelievable. With the support of the Liberals, the Conservatives managed to do it. Worse yet, they forbid unions from going to court to represent these working women, threatening them with fines of up to $50,000 a day. That is unbelievable. This country defends these rights when we send our young soldiers to fight in other countries. Here, these rights, rights that were the result of a long struggle, are being taken away from female workers.
I am saying this because I think the government's offensive against women is shameful. Once again, women are standing up and asking us to walk with them and for them. This past Sunday, March 7, I attended an event, the beginning of a worldwide march, in my riding. This march will culminate in the Republic of Congo on October 18. A number of marches are planned in Quebec and Canada between now and then.
The women presented me and my colleague from the National Assembly, Mr. Curzi, with beautiful decorative bouquets of shoes, as a symbol of the march and a reminder of the situation facing women, regardless of their social situation. From sandals, which are often worn by the poorest women, to work boots, running shoes and moccasins, all kinds of shoes were represented in order to symbolize women's various situations.
The rules of the House prohibit me from showing the bouquet here today, but I nevertheless kept a moccasin with me, since the rights of aboriginal women are among the most often ignored. Yet aboriginal communities are under federal jurisdiction. It is the only segment of the population to which the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility. However, the federal government has been failing miserably in that regard.
We must once again allow these women the recourse to go before the courts and exercise their right to equality. We must also ensure that funding for literacy programs is restored. All these measures, like social housing, affect women most of all. When there is not enough housing, women and children are most likely to be affected. Of course it affects the entire family, but it affects women more directly.
As my colleague was saying earlier, the unemployed have been neglected in this budget. It is unbelievable. In Canada, even when we get a new government it is more of the same. They are so similar that, when it comes to attacking women's rights, the Liberals vote with the Conservatives. When it comes time to vote against the rights of the unemployed, the Liberals vote with the Conservatives. In earlier times, it was the Conservatives who voted with the Liberals when they were slashing the employment insurance programs.
On the department's site, the government acknowledges that only 46% of people who are not working can hope to receive employment insurance benefits. Of that group, only 33% are women. Discrimination exists even there. In the meantime, injustice exists for everyone. In normal circumstances, almost 88% of the unemployed should expect to benefit from employment insurance.
In closing, I will quickly address the issue of seniors. It is outrageous. As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, the government has shown no restraint in granting funding to the war industry and the nuclear industry. There is no holding back. We see astronomical funds allocated to those sectors. We see to what extent this government is attacking the rights of the unemployed, women and seniors.
This government still owes seniors $3.2 billion in guaranteed income supplement payments. The most appalling thing is that the government is hoping that as many as possible of those seniors—because it knows who it owes that money to—will die, so that it can shirk this responsibility.
Measures and bills have been introduced to overhaul the employment insurance system with respect to the number of hours, weeks of benefits and level of benefits. The same should be true for seniors. Their pensions need to be improved and the flagrant injustice surrounding the guaranteed income supplement needs to be corrected.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
I will take this opportunity to thank the House for this chance to speak in support of budget 2010 and year two of Canada's economic action plan.
I also want to thank the chair of finance committee, as well as the other government members with whom I have the privilege to serve, who worked so diligently in preparation for budget 2010.
As a new member of the finance committee, I appreciate the many hours spent in prebudget consultations. In just two and a half short months, our committee logged over 70 meetings and met with over 400 organizations, universities, professional associations, industry and business leaders, and financial institutions in preparation for budget 2010.
We did not stop there. Once our report was tabled, we returned home to our ridings where we have been busy listening to Canadians across the country to help shape this budget.
While in my riding and travelling across the country over the past months, I have heard from many residents. I have also received a huge amount of feedback as a result of a survey I sent to the residents of Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar regarding what they would like to see in this budget. The response was overwhelming. I am proud to report that many issues raised by the residents of my riding are addressed in this budget.
After hearing stories from Canadians all across the riding of Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, there was a common theme that became glaringly obvious: people want the economy to be this government's number one focus.
While this means different things to different people, common among all concerns was the need for Parliament to prioritize the protection and creation of jobs in the short term and to focus on building a competitive framework for long term economic success.
We need to ensure Canada will attract investment from abroad and inspire the confidence and entrepreneurialism from within to ensure Canada continues to be the best place in the world to work, live and raise a family. That is exactly what budget 2010 will do.
The success of the first year of Canada's economic action plan has been felt throughout the country. Through no fault of our own, Canada entered the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Canada's economic action plan has helped to stimulate our economy through these difficult times and, at the same time, prepared us for the economy of tomorrow by ensuring we have the economic and fiscal advantage.
Some in the opposition imply that Canada's workers are lazy, or others that the economic action plan this government put in place is not working. I refer them to the recent Statistics Canada report that announced our economy grew 5% in the fourth quarter of 2009, the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in approximately a decade.
This growth is also right on the heels of global economic uncertainty, proof positive that this government's quick actions and response were effective, well-measured and appropriate. That is something all Canadians can share and be proud of.
Budget 2010 continues to build on almost four years of continued tax relief for Canadians. We are providing personal income tax relief of $3.2 billion through adjustments to federal tax brackets, enhancing the working income tax benefit, higher child benefits for parents and lower taxes for low and middle income seniors.
This is on top of our Conservative government's initiatives, such as the tax free savings account, the public transit tax credit; the children's fitness tax credit, the disability savings program, the universal child care benefit, pension income splitting, the first time homebuyers tax credit, apprenticeship job creation tax credit, the tradesperson deduction for tools, working income tax benefit, the Canada employment amount meal exemptions for long haul truckers and the textbook tax credit for students. All of these helped Canadians pay less tax.
In budget 2010, we are taking steps to support a strong and competitive Canadian livestock industry. We are opening new markets for agricultural products so that we can sell what we grow. In last year's budget, Canada's economic action plan committed $550 million to help the agricultural sector deal with global economic pressures. We strengthened Canada's slaughterhouse capacity and have been working on improving our competitiveness.
In this year's budget, we are building on those successes by investing $75 million in the agri-flexibility fund, ensuring cattle producers continue to have access to competitive processing operations in Canada.
This is good news for my riding. We will be investing $10 million in the slaughter improvement program which will introduce new, cost effective technologies. We will be investing $25 million in processing plants that handle cattle over 30 months of age and another $40 million to support the development and commercialization of innovative technology that will help with the removal and use of specified risk materials, reducing handling costs and creating potential revenue resources from these materials.
Just yesterday, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities had this to say about budget 2010:
|| SARM has always taken the position that Canadian cattle producers must have a level playing field compared to their American counterparts. We are pleased that the government has recognized this problem and is addressing it.
Over the next two years, we will also be investing $51.7 million in the Canadian Grain Commission. We remain committed to bringing the Canadian Grain Act up to date and ensuring the Canadian Grain Commission evolves to the needs of the sector.
Canada is, without a doubt, the best country in the world to live but it did not become this way overnight. We owe a debt of gratitude to the generations who built this country to be the great place that it is. Our government knows that seniors deserve respect and dignity. Since 2006, our Conservative government has been working hard to improve financial security for seniors. We brought in income splitting for seniors. We increased the age limit for converting RRSPs to RRIFs to 71. We have increased the age credit amount twice. We have doubled the pension income credit to $2,000. We have provided seniors with a tax-free way to save with a tax-free savings account. Withdrawals from the tax-free savings account will not affect government benefits, such as old age security or the guaranteed income supplement.
We have started strong and, in budget 2010, we are building on our accomplishments for seniors. This year, Canada's economic action plan will be investing $10 million in New Horizons. This program has been a fantastic help in my own riding of and will continue to be so as it provides spaces for seniors to gather, promote volunteering in communities and help to combat the financial abuse of seniors.
Over the past year, we have been consulting with Canadians about larger reforms to Canada's pension and retirement systems. This month we will launch public consultations on how to improve Canada's retirement income system and we will continue to work with our provincial partners that regulate roughly 90% of pensions in Canada to ensure that Canadians can retire with peace of mind.
Since the launch of Canada's economic action plan, our objectives have been absolutely clear: help families, save jobs and stabilize our economy. Let me be clear that we are on track. Canada has weathered the storm better than all other major industrialized countries.
Our government listened and now, in this budget, we are delivering. We know that Canadians, the hard-working men and women of this country, are the people who make this country great. The people who put their trust in Parliament deserve to be honoured by having their tax dollars spent on programs and initiatives that are run effectively and efficiently.
I call on all members of the House to pass this budget for all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to congratulate the for the fine job he has done in balancing the needs of Canadians during this time of global economic recovery with the long-term financial security of Canada.
The second phase of our government's economic action plan sets out a real and achievable plan to solidify Canada's economic recovery. By investing in key stimulus projects, which deliver the necessary infrastructure to our communities, our budget is enabling economic growth and creating jobs for today and tomorrow.
Canada is on track to recover faster than the rest of the world and in better financial condition, with its manageable debt levels and a workforce that is better prepared. Our Conservative government is leading the way in the global economic recovery and our government's insight and understanding of what makes our economy work will be recognized in the future as we move ahead of all other countries.
Canadians have a record of which they can be proud. We have the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G8. Canada's decline in the real GDP was virtually the smallest of all G8 countries. Our Canadian labour markets have fared much better than that of the U.S., where job losses are proportionally three times larger than Canada's. Canada's banks and other financial institutions were better capitalized and less leveraged than their international peers and we are widely acknowledged as having the soundest banking system in the world. Canada's housing market has not seen the excesses that have caused instability and housing bubbles in other jurisdictions.
Our government has navigated Canadians through the worst global recession since the depression. Now, looking to the future, Canadians are depending on our government to put forward a plan to address the challenges that communities are now facing as our economy begins to recover. That is exactly what the second phase of our economic action plan sets out to do.
Phase two will help solidify Canada's economic recovery by implementing $19 billion in new stimulus funding to create jobs now. It includes personal income tax relief of $3.2 billion, retraining and worker support of over $4 billion, infrastructure funding of $7.7 billion, research and development funding of over $1.9 billion and targeted support to industries and communities of $2.2 billion. Canadians will respond. We will lead the world in our recovery because our government has targeted resources to jobs now and for the future.
The budget creates and protects jobs. It sustains Canada's economic advantage and lays a strong foundation for the future by supporting workers. We are investing $100 million to extend the maximum length for work-sharing agreements. We are helping younger workers by offering over $100 million in support to young workers through internship and skills development to help them find jobs.
We are investing in research and development. We are delivering over $600 million to help develop and attract high-quality jobs, to strengthen our capacity for world leading research and development and to improve the commercialization of research.
We are working with the manufacturing sector, making Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturing inputs to boost new investment in job creation. We are supporting businesses by establishing a red tape reduction panel to reduce the paperwork for businesses.
The budget did not leave any part of the country out. Our Conservative government's ongoing commitment to strengthen all regions of the country is apparent in our economic action plan.
While the Liberals starved the provinces and municipalities of the much needed support during their time in office, our Conservative government has increased transfers to provinces. In New Brunswick alone, we are seeing $1.6 billion through equalization, an increase of $233 million since 2005-06, $580 million through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $23 million from last year alone, and $246 million in social transfers, an increase of $34 million over 2005-06.
On behalf of all New Brunswickers, we are pleased. We will continue to receive increased federal support through budget 2010. Total transfers will hit $2.7 billion, an increase of $591 million under the old Liberal government. This long-term support will help ensure that New Brunswick has the resources to provide essential public services, such as health care, post-secondary education and many other social services.
New Brunswick has been well served by this budget and will receive many other benefits from it. Local communities and businesses in New Brunswick will benefit from the $28 million provided to support the operations of ferry services in Atlantic Canada, including the route between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia.
Communities and businesses in New Brunswick will benefit from the $19 million per year in ongoing funding for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to support regional growth and innovation through the Atlantic innovation fund and the innovative communities fund, allowing people to earn more income before paying federal income taxes and before being subjected to higher income tax rates. We are working on enhancing the working income tax benefit, which reduces the welfare wall, by making work pay better for many low income Canadians and higher child care benefits for parents and lower taxes for low and middle-income seniors.
There are $32 million per year for federal research granting councils to support advanced research and improve commercialization, $8 million per year to support the indirect costs of federally sponsored research at post-secondary institutions, $15 million a year to double the budget of the college and community innovation program, which fosters research collaborations between businesses and college researchers and the creation of the new Canada post-doctoral fellowship program to help attract the best researchers to Canada.
Forestry companies in New Brunswick could be eligible for the next generation renewable power initiative, which will invest $100 million over the next four years to support the development, commercialization and implementation of advanced clean energy technologies for the forestry sector.
New Brunswick will also receive $12 million as its share of the community development trust and the police officers recruitment fund and $11 million for labour market training as part of the commitment of $500 million a year in new funding to provinces and territories, beginning in 2008-09.
Our government has held true to its commitment of stimulating economic growth and creating and protecting jobs and this is continued in the second phase of our economic action plan.
The budget also sets out to meet another commitment, reducing the deficit. Our government is planning for the future by initiating the three point plan to reduce the deficit once the economy recovers.
The government will undertake a comprehensive review of government administrative functions and overhead costs by winding down extraordinary stimulus spending in Canada's economic action plan on time and as scheduled, restraining government spending through targeted measures and launching a comprehensive review of government spending on administration and overhead.
Canada cannot afford a tax and spend approach to managing government. I am proud to be a member of a governing party that keeps its commitment to fund key projects required by all regions of our country, while planning for the future with job creation and sound financial controls. This budget shows Canadians that we can be the best, that we can manage without mortgaging the future.
The extensive consultations of the and the across Canada have proven to be beneficial, with a focused advantageous budget that will help our provinces, municipalities, businesses and, more important, our people. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister chose to come to my riding to gain insight into what Canadians were thinking in preparing the budget and we see a lot of that message reflected in this document.
I am thankful for this opportunity to speak on a budget that will see our country so well positioned for the future.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
It is indeed an honour for me to be standing here to talk on this particular issue. I want to talk about and put into perspective, certainly for my riding and also for the nation itself, the fact that over the past two years it has been a time of tumult, restraint and worry. Certainly, it has been a time of worry for people in an aging community like my riding.
The average age in my riding is above average. Thus seniors issues have come to the fore in many respects over the past while, not only the OAS and the guaranteed income supplement, but also pension security. Some of the issues I will touch upon in my speech will speak to the general nervousness, to use the best word I can come up with, over the past while.
My riding comprises 170 communities. That is a lot, and the largest is only 13,000 people. Thus here is a string of communities, where not only do people have to worry about their personal positions, but also about the position of their communities. In many cases, when larger industries shut down branches or smaller plants, a lot of these communities face extinction. It has been a struggle to diversify and reclaim a spot in the provincial economy and, certainly, in the national economy.
One example among many is Lewisporte Wholesalers. One of the problems we faced was skills training. There seems to be a lot of red tape around the idea of skills training. I am not particularly blaming any individual or any past party or government, whatever these may be, but I think this entire House and all politicians, provincial, federal and municipal, could make a concerted effort to adapt these particular situations so these communities and companies can contribute in the future.
It is about empowerment. In times like this we need to empower the people, no matter where they live. So when we talk about plans, budgets, the economic action plan part one or part two, we need to allow people to be empowered so that they can be trained and productive parts of society and masters of their own destiny.
Over the past while, we have seen circumstances change. Unbeknownst to many, the world economy took a large tumble that started in the United States with the housing market crisis and spread its way through places like Europe and around the world. Canada, being dependent on the United States for most of its trade, and now increasingly the European Union, finds itself in a position where it has to adapt to that international regime more than it ever has.
Let me just return to my riding. This is a particular situation where we are well above average in many respects. Our quality of life is well above average; but, of course, I am biased here, as one of 308 members.
However, in this House we also talk about unemployment. The national unemployment rate hovers around the 8% mark, but in my riding the official number is now 24.9%. I say that again for emphasis: 24.9%. It is well above average.
In this particular situation, many people enjoy seasonal work, which is why we focused on the back end of the EI system when discussing changes to that system. By that, we meant the extension of weeks of eligibility for current recipients of EI. What this discussion did not address was the ability to claim EI benefits in the first place. Therefore, we have an issue that could have benefited my riding if it was addressed. Unfortunately, it did not, because we did not look at that.
I appreciate some of the smaller steps that have been taken when it comes self-employment, which I am sure my colleagues across the way will point out to me, and others as well. However, the missing element in EI reform was the front end of the system and the question of people being able to qualify for, particularly in my riding. With the unemployment rate at around 25%, one can get an idea of just how important that is.
There was one company that disappeared from my riding, and that was in the town of Grand Falls-Windsor. We had a situation where a 100-year-old mill closed. It closed its doors, was padlocked and was no more. Seven hundred direct jobs were involved, and if we include other tertiary activity, we were looking at well over 1,100 or 1,200 people involved in this particular cut.
What do we do? We need to diversify the economy. There were some smaller elements of diversification brought forward by the provincial government, as well as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. This particular budget did extend one of the programs, that is, the investment in the communities fund, but what I do not like about it is that there is no long-term commitment to how a community can adapt itself to that international regime; and therein lies what we should be looking at. That is why I put to the House that this budget lacks the vision it requires. It is a year over year, smaller investment that does not allow these people to plan.
For example, one of the industries that is about to take off in the Exploits Valley region where the mill went down is the cranberry industry. Apparently, unbeknownst to many people, Newfoundland is a good place for growing cranberries. With the higher demand for cranberry juice around the world, we have a way to diversify. However, here is the issue. For someone to put a solid investment into that, the problem is that the agencies such as ACOA that help them do not have the long-term commitment to funding, and that is what they need.
When we were in power, we believed in a five-year commitment to innovation money as well as communities money, because that was essential. In order for a community to survive, it must have that long-term agreement. Therefore, I would ask the government to reconsider and to look at ways of allowing a program that would give people in my riding the chance to diversify in that longer range. One of the programs they had was the community assistance funding, which is a national program.
The other problem is that they did not allow ACOA to have its own program so that it could be the master of its own destiny. I say this because ACOA has the people on the ground who know the most about the players involved.
Let me move on from that particular policy announcement in the budget with regard to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. I cannot speak on behalf of other regional development agencies, but I am sure they fall similarly within the same boat.
Youth unemployment is the highest it has been for years. Here is something that occurred to me, which I hear a lot of it in the riding, and that is the connection between the skills of youth and the labour market that awaits these youth.
There is an emphasis on getting individuals skilled to the point where they do what they want to do. They want to be geologists, or they want to be technologists. There are colleges in my home town that deal with mining and a lot of the technical trades that are in high demand, and also from a university standpoint, especially doctors and nurses. However, when it comes to a lot of the jobs and to allowing a community to retain these young people, what is missing here is the ability of a company or industry to reach out to those who are able to work for them in that particular area. Mining has picked up dramatically in central Newfoundland, and with the new-found resources in gold, copper and zinc, there are people around this country right now who would love to move to my riding to work there, but we do not make an effort to bridge that gap.
Companies and industries such as Teck Resources, which owns Duck Pond Mine, need the federal government, along with the provincial government, to help them to find people to work for them.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. One of the things that we can propose is a skills inventory directory, which does not get talked about much. It would allow the local government offices to compile a list of people who are willing and certainly able to work. That is the vision thing. That is just not happening in this particular budget.
Finally, I want to touch upon pension security. Some people will say that the individual who has a secured pension is a secure person, and that is great; but there is another element of pension security that I put forward to this House. Pension security is a vanguard, the beginning of economic development. In a community of only 1,000 people but with 40% to 50% of its inhabitants on pensions, if pension security is not sustained, these people will either have to move to where they can get more work or move in with other family.
The pensioners of AbitibiBowater face a 25% decrease in the value of their pensions. The problem is that we have to make pensions secure so that people can stay in their smaller communities. Who is going to move a company into a small community if there are no people there to work in the industry? That is the vision thing.
I hope the House gives careful consideration to the vision thing in dealing with this budget.
Madam Speaker, I want to speak to the elements of the budget that struck me the most.
This was the shortest budget in the last 50 years. If one had gone to the fridge for a snack and come back, one would have missed it. More noteworthy in this budget were its omissions rather than its promises.
It is a cynical budget. It is a budget that cut things that are popular and would be under the radar screen rather than what is really needed to move the economy forward and to build a strong social and economic infrastructure. It is a budget that pretended to cut taxes while surreptitiously increasing taxes in areas that are more likely to cancel out employment than to increase it.
It is a budget that stated that it had a massive stimulus package. Members know that this massive stimulus package only lasts for this one more year. That stimulus package is $19 billion to do more of what was done last year. Indeed, that stimulus package did create some jobs, but members know those jobs were short-term, temporary, did not pay a lot, and tended to be mostly in sectors that were not going to be sustainable in the 21st century.
Members also talked about this budget being a budget of austerity. That is a good thing, yes, but this budget is cutting program spending and decreasing the role of the federal government in the process. The federal government will have absolutely no relevance in the lives of Canadians, no ability to help Canadians create opportunities for themselves or to help them as things get worse. It is a government that says, “I am washing my hands of my ability to do anything for Canadians. You are going to have to fend for yourselves in the future”.
It is a budget that will leave many of Canada's vulnerable with absolutely nothing to fall back on. Here we see a government that is going to be cutting student subsidies, at a time when we need students to get the education, skills, and training they need to function in today's world of work.
The budget will cut farm subsidies when we are looking at a food shortage around the world and at Canada's ability to be self-sufficient in terms of creating its own safe food for its own people. Yet, the budget is doing that.
The minister said it is a budget that will cut taxes, but it is a budget without daring and innovation, and indeed takes no risks. In fact, the only risk that this budget took was to suggest that the government will eliminate the deficit in six years, and that is a big if. Under that position, it is indeed a very risk-taking budget in that it predicts something that many people are saying will not happen.
I want to speak about this budget being one that I would like to call a sleight of hand budget. In other words, the finance minister says he is going to do something, and then on the other hand he takes it away again, so that he neutralizes any good that might have come for the things he says he was going to do.
Here is a budget that says that it will not increase any new taxes. Yet, the increase in EI premiums, which is going to be 15¢ per $100 for employees and 21% per $100 for employers, is going to really harm the ability to create long-term jobs. Small-sized and medium-sized businesses are going to be hurt. Members know that those create 80% of the jobs in this country. Here is a budget that says it is cutting taxes, but it does not tell us that it is increasing the most significant taxes, which are the taxes that affect employment insurance premiums.
Members should remember that while Canada now has 550,000 people on our EI rolls, that is going to sunset very soon. They are going to be off EI. Of course, why should the federal government care? The provinces will take care of them with welfare, will they not? This is a really cynical budget from that perspective.
This budget says it is going to help business, but it took another hit at business. On the one hand its cut to tariffs will help some businesses and that is going to give businesses about $300 million of investment. The government did not extend the accelerated capital cost allowance, which we heard from businesses was probably the single most important thing that helped enable them to buy new equipment and invest in capital expenditure to expand their businesses. That is no longer going to be there.
On the one hand, this budget is saying that it is going to give business about $300 million to help with tariffs, thereby saving the government the tax hit it took of about $535 million by cancelling the accelerated capital gains tax. So members will see the sleight of hand again. The government is saying one thing and doing another.
Here is another example of some of that sleight of hand. What we need to look at in this budget is not what it says on the surface because it says all kinds of nice, innocuous things on the surface. The devil is in the details. We need to sit down and read about what is going to happen when thing A is done with the right hand and thing B with the left hand, cancelling each other out. Everyone thinks they are getting a deal, but when they look around, their pockets are being picked with the other hand.
Here is a budget that says it is going to increase research and development. It is important to increase research and development because if we are going to be productive and competitive in the 21st century world of work, we have to look at how we develop new technologies. We have to look at how we develop niche markets that will place Canada as a leader in certain sectors in terms of communications technology and biomedical technology. We were world leaders in genomics and nuclear medicine. None of these things are being invested in.
Instead, we are giving NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, $13 million. We are also giving the Canadian Institutes of Health Research $16 million. The budget is also giving the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council $3 million. However, given inflation and the fact that these groups are going to be frozen from now on, it is not giving them anything. It is just leaving them exactly where they were. So much for research and development investments.
There is nothing in this budget in terms of R and D for climate change. When we think about the fact that Canada is a leader in environmental technologies and can be the world leader in new energy, nothing has been done to look at the jobs for tomorrow. Nothing has been done to look at some kind of sustainable infrastructure for this country in terms of economic development.
When that stimulus money goes at the end of the year, all of those part-time jobs are going to be gone. Indeed, the government has extended job sharing, but no one is saying that job sharing got people full-time jobs to work half-time so that they are barely able to keep their head above water. Working part-time in very temporary jobs is not the way for people to continue to build and take care of their families.
This budget says a lot but does not do anything. It is going to give $25 million to the forestry industry. That is another interesting thing and it sounds good on the surface. However, the Liberals had given $100 million to British Columbia for research and development on the pine beetle and new ways of dealing with climate change with regard to the forestry sector. The government takes $100 million away and gives $25 million. That is money math, is it not? One does not have to be a mathematical wizard to know that one is getting $75 million less than one used to get in the past.
Listen to groups like the Canadian Association of Social Workers. I just spoke about the economic part of the budget. Let us look at the social part of the budget. We cannot build economic infrastructure and ignore our social infrastructure. As the Canadian Association of Social Workers has said that Canada's most vulnerable populations have been handed an empty envelope in this budget, and so they have.
There is nothing really in this budget to deal with the issue of poverty. With people working in part-time temporary jobs, we are going to have a whole lot of middle-income working class people shifting into dependency on welfare when the stimulus package ends at the end of the year. We are going to see small businesses closing down and people are going to be out of work. That is going to leave people trying to depend on EI when we do not have enough money in the coffers to properly support people who are out of work.
We have to look at the investments in human potential. Human potential is going to be the most important resource for Canada to succeed in this century. We have to build the best and brightest workforce. We have to invest in innovation and people. None of that is in this budget. There is nothing that is going to invest in human potential. Instead, we are giving students the boot by not giving them the subsidies.
There is no mention of arts and culture in this budget. There is no mention of health care and we all know that the higher the unemployment, the less number of people at work, the unhealthier they are, and the need for health care increases. None of these things are even mentioned. It is as if they do not exist in this budget.
This budget is passing the buck on to the provinces, who will then pass it on to the municipalities, all of the need for social infrastructure and services. What is going to happen to the municipalities? There is not a word about them in this budget. We see this budget as just handing off everything to others and not doing anything to help us in the long-term. It sounds nice, but it does not actually deliver.
There was actually one good thing in this budget. It talked about child safety and preventing children from injury. I am going to keep the government's feet to the fire on that because it has refused to do anything about—