The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Speaker, you know how much we members of Parliament like to talk. We just want to make sure that we can say everything we have to say in our allotted time.
In this case, I have 10 minutes to talk about the budget. This budget is quite a brick, despite the fact that it has no substance, especially for my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. For two and a half years, I have been the proud representative of the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, whose electoral boundaries will change in 2015. Of course, if you are from that region, whether you are from Saguenay or Lac-Saint-Jean, you are very proud of the region. We are a close-knit community. What affects the people at the far end of Lac-Saint-Jean also affects the people in the Lower Saguenay.
As I said, the people in my region—ordinary citizens, journalists who analyzed the budget, interest groups, community groups and some workers' groups—all had their eyes on the Conservatives' 2014 federal budget. Unfortunately, the consensus is that this budget is just treading water. In fact, it is practically an optional budget since it has nothing new.
The reality is that my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, is a resource-rich region. In some sectors, seasonal work is very important. I am referring to forestry, for example. My region is also a major aluminum producer. Economic activity is floundering right now because of the market price for aluminum. Projects to develop, renovate and upgrade aluminum-related infrastructure are all being delayed. Investments in construction, labour and maintenance are being pushed back. These investments would allow business to go further, expand and take a share of the market.
I am not here to explain what economic growth is. My colleagues already know what it is. Unfortunately, we are facing this problem. We talked about it in my region in January. Analysts in my region said that economic growth in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean would not be very strong in 2014. When growth is weak there is less chance that new jobs will be created for those looking for work in their field, because the economy is flat.
I talked about the aluminum sector, but it is not the only sector floundering right now. Forestry is an economic sector that employs a huge number of people, or at least it used to. My region still has not recovered from the forestry crisis it went through. I know that the government entered into the softwood lumber agreement with the United States. That agreement allows a certain volume of our Canadian wood, our wood from my region, to be sold. However, ultimately it is not enough.
People in forestry were expecting a lot from the federal budget. I am not talking about little announcements here and there that end up not changing much of anything. They might protect some of what we have, which is good, but a government has to be visionary. It has to think of everyone.
I have stood up a number of times in the House to decry the Conservative government's tactics, which I consider to be partisan. I think that some Conservative ridings are favoured at the expense of others. I have often said that I believe that my region is being abandoned by the government.
The 2014 federal budget would have been a great opportunity to prove me wrong. Unfortunately, it actually confirmed my fears that the Conservative government has abandoned our region. Part of my region is even represented by a Conservative minister, and the people I represent are seriously disappointed. When they talk to me about that minister, who is supposed to represent our region within his government, they say that the reverse is true. He represents the government, the Conservative Party, and does not listen to the people.
Consider the example of the employment insurance reform. It is not working and instead is having a terrible impact on the economy of my region, which is a resource-rich region.
Canada's rural areas, whose industries may not be in demand right now, are suffering. All of my colleagues who represent such ridings can confirm this.
The unemployment rate is rising. Over the past few months, employment insurance has been getting harder and harder to access. People want to leave their seasonal jobs, even though they really love those jobs. For some people, it has been more like a career, since they have been working in those industries for 30 years. However, this does not necessarily concern sectors like forestry. I am talking more about areas that are suffering indirect consequences.
For instance, I spoke to a man from Chicoutimi who has operated a business in the construction industry for 35 years. He repairs roofs. He employs a large team, but unfortunately, he is afraid of losing his employees who have 10, 15 or 20 years of experience in his business. In the past, he had no problem guaranteeing his employees enough hours, and his employees were never harassed by Service Canada.
I am not blaming Service Canada officials. My office is located right above theirs, and I have an excellent relationship with them. I am aware, however, that in the public service, people receive orders from their superiors, who in turn are simply obeying the deputy ministers and ministers, who are doing the Prime Minister's bidding. Basically, I am not blaming public servants; the situation reflects this government's lack of openness.
Our economy in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean needs certain things. There are certain things the government could do or could continue to do in the forestry sector. For example, funding the Lac-Saint-Jean Model Forest in Mashteuiatsh, which is in the riding of the member for , was a good initiative by the federal government, and I do not often say that. Unfortunately, the government is going to completely cut federal funding. The model forest helped us find innovative ways to revitalize forest products. Unfortunately it is being abandoned.
Earlier I mentioned that we needed to be visionaries in how we see things. We cannot be micromanaging things, especially at the federal level. We need to adopt some macro-economic approaches. In the forestry sector, we know that we cut wood that is sent elsewhere for secondary and tertiary processing. Then we buy the products back. We get all the finished products. We have the necessary expertise here in Canada to have a great secondary and tertiary processing production chain and to stimulate our domestic economy. For that to happen, the government needs to help the small players.
The government needs to provide financial assistance. That means not cutting the budget for the model forest in Mashteuiatsh as of April 1. The model forest has financial partners all over the region. Financial assistance for a project has repercussions on businesses all over the region and in the forest sector. These are changes that will have a huge impact.
Mayors in my riding also told me that they were disappointed with the lack of assistance through the building Canada fund. There is a lot of recycled money. We know that small municipalities are being strangled. I am not talking about big municipalities that have a significant budget because of the gas tax, but small municipalities. I am thinking about municipalities with 500 residents. We are not talking about a lot of money, when they have a hard time providing basic services to residents. I am talking about water services, sewage treatment and decent roads for drivers. Small municipalities obviously cannot do it all. We cannot tell them to choose one priority for the next four years and wait for the rest. That is not how it works, because in the meantime the basic services are falling into disrepair.
I would have liked to have some help for our small municipalities that need to update their waste water treatment plants. In my beautiful region, there are a number of these municipalities that currently do not have financial resources and are discharging their waste water into the Saguenay Fjord—therefore into the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. The park is co-managed by the provincial and federal governments and so the federal government does have a role to play.
I have a lot to say. Unfortunately, my time is up and so I await your questions.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to get up and speak on the budget.
I am very pleased to split my time with my hon. friend from , a hard-working MP who does tremendous work on ending human trafficking.
I would like to address my comments specifically to three major imperatives that this budget helps to address, not only from the standpoint of the Canadian economy but also New Brunswick and eastern Canada as well.
The first imperative is the opportunity in the resource sector, which is especially important for New Brunswick. However, I also want to stress the importance of dealing with some pending issues in the resource sector, specifically in the forestry industry. This is a major issue now impacting Quebec and southern Ontario, and fairly soon New Brunswick and the rest of eastern Canada as well.
The second imperative concerns the infrastructure for supporting our businesses, especially our small businesses and communities. I would like to talk a little about the imperatives from an infrastructure standpoint of assets, as well as the most important asset, which is developing our people to fill the jobs that we are going to need in the future.
The third imperative is reducing the challenges and costs to small business with respect to our regulatory burden.
First, on some of the major investments in the forestry sector, I was very pleased to see us continue with our investment in the forestry industry's transformation, which is very important. It leverages what we have done in the past with respect to the pulp and paper green transformation fund, a fund that has helped a lot of our pulp mills not only improve their processes but also decrease their environmental footprint.
It is great that the forestry industry has such innovation, especially in some cases in new Brunswick with the innovation there in some of our hardwood products. However, it is important to stress that we need this industry and we need the trees to help it, which is why I was so pleased to see an investment of $18 million to proactively combat the spruce budworm.
If we look back to the 1970s, about 30 years ago in Atlantic Canada and northern Maine, somewhere in the order of 50 million hectares was impacted by the spruce budworm, which has a cyclical pattern and is now coming back. It has come down through Quebec. It is near the New Brunswick border, and in some cases in northern New Brunswick at this point in time.
There is almost 7.2 million hectares of forest land in the province of New Brunswick and almost half of that, 3.1 million hectares, is susceptible to the spruce budworm. The challenge is that the spruce budworm could devastate the industry because the trees it infects become unusable. Therefore, we are looking at getting in at the front end and investing in a program to help disrupt the mating patterns of the spruce budworm, which will allow us to target specific spraying in the areas that will need it when the pest arrives.
It is interesting to look back at what it cost to have the last spraying program, not to ignore the fact that they used fenitrothion back then, a chemical not approved by Health Canada today. In the absence of a proactive strategy, it is estimated that we would probably go through eight to ten years of spraying, costing somewhere in the order of $400 million to $600 million. A spraying program that large is not something that provinces and governments could undertake, not to mention that a lot of the planes we used for the spraying program a number of years ago are no longer available. Therefore, this is an important aspect to make sure that we continue not only to help our businesses innovate but also to have the forest products there for them.
The third aspect is the opportunity in the resource sector. Given new Brunswick's financial situation, it will be pursuing some resource-based industries, and, as everyone is quite aware, the energy east pipeline.
This is a significant investment that is potentially coming to New Brunswick. When the announcement was made for the pipeline, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day, not only was the oil important but also the initial investment that Irving was talking about, an extra $400 million to $500 million for a terminal, as well as the employment it would create. Those are great spinoffs for us. The $28 million the budget proposes for the NEB to review these projects is very important.
As far as creating the infrastructure is concerned, I am very pleased with the budget. We see tremendous opportunities in Canada. Here I would just give the example of persons with disabilities. There are about 800,000 people out there with disabilities who would love to work but probably have no place to work at this point in time. This is a huge untapped potential for the Canadian economy. Therefore, the $200 million in the budget for the labour market development agreements to develop that resource is tremendous for us.
In addition, the $1.5 billion Canada first research excellence fund and the accelerator and incubator funds are going to be important for small businesses to innovate and generate new ideas so that we can create employment. As many members from Atlantic Canada would know, especially in New Brunswick, about 90% of our businesses have less than 10 employees. There is a very entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, that type of investment continues to be very important for us.
The other items I would like to talk about are broadband, and the long-term infrastructure plan, specifically the gas tax, which would be made more flexible to allow communities to invest for the long-term, allowing them to plan and count on those dollars.
The last piece I would like to talk about is reducing the burden for small and medium-size business. As I indicated, a number of these small businesses are very much alive and well in New Brunswick. Reducing red tape in the CRA and the 800,000 remittances that small businesses have to submit, and having an impact on almost 50,000 of these businesses via the budget, will be of real help. I say this because at the end of the day, many of them do not have people devoted to paperwork. They do not have the resources to devote to those types of things. It is very important that this save them money to actually invest in other parts of their business.
I would also like to talk about internal trade. Recently in a state of the province address, the Premier of New Brunswick commented on internal trade. He thought that our signing the CETA deal was actually easier than our dealing with internal trade within Canada. I think he is absolutely right, and so we need to continue to work co-operatively with the provinces on that.
My third point is about tax simplification. I was very pleased to see the minister talk in the budget about introducing legislation that would simplify the tax system from the standpoint of all of the unlegislated tax measures out there that governments have not implemented. It would be shameless self-promotion for me to say that some of that was based on Bill , my private member's bill. I am very pleased that the minister put that in the budget for us to address.
Before I close, I would point out that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our volunteer community. There are a couple of things I would like to point out here that I think are very important. There is the tax credit for search and rescue people. Here I would note the tremendous group at the York Sunbury Ground Search and Rescue, which I know the member for is very knowledgeable about. There is also Tobique Ground Search and Rescue in my riding. They have done a tremendous amount of work and a lot of volunteering to keep our communities going.
I would be remiss not to point out our recreational fisheries conservation partnership, which has allowed a lot of our conservation groups, including the Miramichi Salmon Association and other organizations, to undertake very important work on the river system in order to preserve and improve fish habitat.
The budget has created and dealt with three imperatives: the opportunities in New Brunswick, how to set out infrastructure in terms of people and assets to make those opportunities happen, and how to get out of the way so that small businesses can actually get their work done.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House today to speak about this budget.
I want to speak about my wonderful riding of because a lot of these things in the budget really impact, in a very positive way, upon my riding.
I know in this House we have heard a lot of talk about all of Canada, because we know that Canada is in the best possible position of any country in the world. People are working. Jobs are being created. There is money to improve infrastructure, health care transfers, and the social transfers. We are in a place where people can live, grow, prosper, and feel secure that, in this country, their families will be able to live a very good life. I know that all depends, too, upon the people themselves, whether or not they have taken the time to hone their skills and do their due diligence for their families. That is the other variable.
However, this government has produced a budget over the last eight years that has really impacted in a very positive way upon the economy in our country.
At one point, over the last decade, we have gone through a recession and our country stood firm and tall in terms of maintaining a stable economy.
Looking at the global picture, in my province of Manitoba, there has just been a growth in the transfers to the province of Manitoba. It is almost $3.4 billion in 2014-15. That is a whopping 24% increase from the previous Liberal government.
I know the member on the other side of the House has said, several times, that there is a shortage of this and a shortage of that. He needs to look at the world situation. Canada, now, is best-positioned under this government to grow and prosper, and it has done very well.
The building Canada plan, a $53-billion investment in predictable infrastructure funding for the next 10 years, is the largest and longest federal investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history.
Now, as members know, the job of opposition members is to criticize everything that goes on in the country, especially criticizing those who are in government. That is their job. I appreciate that.
However, those same members enjoy, in this country, a very stable life in which they, their families, and their children have job opportunities and opportunities for improvements in their communities.
Even though I appreciate that it is their job to criticize, when we look at the whole picture, not only globally but here in Canada, as I said, we are positioned very well.
I know the member for is a member from Manitoba and I know that, of course, it is the member's job to criticize, as I said.
However, Manitoba is in a very good position, now, because of the transfers that are going forward. For Manitoba, the total major transfers will total almost $3 billion or $4 billion in the years 2014 and 2015.
I want to expand on that a bit because the major transfers impact on a lot of things. There is almost $1.8 billion through equalization. That is an increase of $149 million, almost 9%, since 2005-06 under the former Liberal government; so today, Manitoba has a lot more benefits and a lot more opportunities than it did under the former government.
Let us talk about the Canada health transfer. Almost $1.2 billion through the Canada health transfer is an increase of $371 million, or 47%—almost 50%—since 2005-06 under the former Liberal government. I am speaking about this because I have heard today, over and over again from members opposite, about how things are going badly; but in actual fact, we have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to work with.
I also want to talk about the Canada social transfer. There is $453 million through that transfer, which is an increase of $120 million, or almost 36%, since 2005-06 under the former Liberal government. Things have improved a lot since that time.
Having said that, as we look at other things that impact on my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul, in Manitoba, and on Manitobans, there are many other things that have put people back to work and that have helped families put money directly into their pockets from tax savings. For instance, the launch of the Canada job grant was no small thing. Canadians need education and skills training to get in-demand jobs, so launching the Canada job grant was extremely helpful for people in all of our communities, not only in Manitoba but all across the country.
What about the Canada apprentice loan? I was a teacher for 23 years. I know there are a lot of students who wanted to go into the trades, but there was nothing for them. Now, under our government, they would have the Canada apprentice loan, which would provide apprentices in Red Seal trades access to over $100 million in interest free loans every year. The fact that these would be interest free loans means so much to these students and apprentices.
What about small business? The previous member talked in his speech about the red tape and all the things that have to happen for small business. Our government has cut 800,000 payroll remittances for approximately 50,000 businesses. Small business is the search engine of our country. It is the mom and pop shops that are creative. They grow and create business, and it is very exciting to see them make a living with their own creativity. Our government wanted to help them, and that was a great help for them.
We talk about research and innovation. I have to say that, going through nine years of university, the research that was involved in that was very important. Research and innovation are what start new businesses and initiatives. We would commit over $1.5 billion over the next decade for research in universities through the Canada first research excellence fund.
It is not only dealing with the very practical things. It is also dealing with the research and innovative things that Canadians are so famous for, such as supporting families. We have given many tax breaks for families. There is over $3,000 in the pockets of every family right now because of the tax relief for families. In addition to that, many families adopt children, and we have expanded the tax relief for families adopting a child.
We have also expanded the tax relief for health related services and done very practical things, like capping wholesale wireless rates to make service more affordable. All of these are the kinds of things that people do not talk about a great deal, but they impact on their families at home every single day.
I am very proud to be able to speak in favour of this budget, not because I am on this side of the House but because it works. It would make lives better for everyday Canadians like us. Standing up for the victims of crime has also been a part of that.
I could go through many examples. I will try to do that as I answer the questions.
I have to congratulate the people on this side of the House and the for the great work on this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Conservatives' 2014 budget for the remaining five minutes.
We now have 300,000 more unemployed workers than we had before the recession, and the Conservative government is just marking time with the budget it tabled. While thousands of families struggle to make ends meet, the Conservatives are playing petty politics and postponing the major announcements until next year, an election year, as everyone knows.
Let us start with the environment. Wetlands are very important to many aspects of our environment. They serve as a natural filtration system for water, provide exceptional wildlife habitat and offer a better quality of life for Canadians. The federal government has a responsibility to protect our wetlands. Unfortunately, the 2014 federal budget does not contain a single measure to protect wetlands. Ducks Unlimited Canada had the following to say about this unreasonable situation:
|| The policies and actions of the federal government, implemented through a variety of federal agencies, have significant impacts on Canada’s landscapes and the environment.
|| In recent federal budgets...no significant new money has been earmarked for conservation activities.
It is disturbing how unimportant the Conservatives seem to think our environment is. There is no mention of it in budget 2014, let alone of climate change. Everyone knows that the government's record on this issue is poor. It dropped the Kyoto protocol and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. It cut funding for Canada's Experimental Lakes Area and gave tax breaks to big oil companies. These are just a few examples of the government's lack of leadership on climate change adaptation.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been sounding the alarm about this for some time now:
|| Canada's infrastructure deficit is significant, and the ongoing impact of climate change is expected to increase this deficit by shortening asset-replacement cycles.
|| Climate-change adaptation could save Canadians billions of dollars, and position our economy to provide solutions for a challenge that will soon face communities around the world.
Unfortunately, there was no mention of climate change in the Conservatives' budget.
Next I would like to talk about infrastructure. On February 13, the Conservatives finally revealed the details of the 10-year building Canada fund, which was one of the biggest promises in the 2013 budget. However, the spending laid out for the first five years of the program adds up to $5.8 billion less than infrastructure spending for 2013-14.
The Conservatives have made several announcements about the new building Canada fund since tabling budget 2013, but they have been unable to release the promised funds. Municipalities are now worried that they will have to just forget about this summer's construction season. Moreover, the delays are costing our communities thousands of jobs.
Laval was promised over $31 million for a multi-use sports and culture complex in 2009. The Conservatives made a very big deal about that announcement. Later, the government quietly withdrew from the project, sticking Quebec and the municipalities with the bill. Laval is not the only city this happened to.
The federal government is now refusing to fund sports infrastructure projects through the building Canada fund even though the municipalities are in desperate need of that money. Why were the municipalities not consulted about this?
The drastic cuts affect a great many areas. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to speak to each of them. However, there will be an impact on seniors, the Canada job grant—which is extremely serious—and youth unemployment. There are 1.3 million unemployed Canadians, yet the budget contains no meaningful measures to address the issue. In January 2014, the unemployment rate was 5.7% in Laval. It was 7.5% in Quebec. These cuts will also have an impact on arts, culture and railway safety. In Laval, the trains travel through Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Duvernay and Saint-François, right through our communities. That concerns people.
Since I do not have much time left and I need to cut my speech short, I would simply like to say that I am extremely disappointed to see that the Conservatives have shifted the focus of the HPS and did not increase its envelope. International co-operation is at a standstill.
To conclude, the NDP is proposing simple, practical, meaningful solutions that would provide some relief to families, such as capping ATM fees, cracking down on payday lenders, reining in credit card interest rates and bringing back the eco-energy home retrofit tax credit.
Canadians deserve better. They do not deserve a government that is just marking time, as the Conservatives are doing. In 2015, voters will have the opportunity to choose the NDP, who will fight for a fairer, greener, more prosperous country.