The House resumed from March 26 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand and talk on the budget today. I will focus my comments on the budget, specifically with reference to British Columbia and, obviously, how it affects my Department of Natural Resources.
I want to begin by saying at the outset that this is one of the best budgets that we have seen in this place for a long time. The budget is balanced, it cuts taxes for working families and it protects priorities like health care and the environment. We have seen long term committed investment in infrastructure. It restores the fiscal balance to provinces and gives them the resources they need to deliver frontline services to Canadians right across the country.
In my home province, the economy is very strong. Last month, British Columbia led the nation in job creation with over 32,000 jobs. We are seeing the lowest unemployment in British Columbia that we have had in 30 years. We have an unprecedented level of construction, over $110 billion of activity planned between now and 2015. The Port of Vancouver alone saw a 56% growth in traffic with China last year and British Columbia is the gateway between our two continents. With one of the strongest economies that we have seen in a long time, our budget will continue to build on this to ensure we have continued strong economic growth.
One of the greatest strengths in the budget is that this government is one of the first governments to ever deal with equalization. The days of political gerrymandering of equalization formulas days before a budget to ensure one province gets more than another are gone. Again, this is something that was long overdue.
British Columbia is not one that is used to being a recipient of equalization. The equalization program started 50 years ago, the year I was born, and it was only once in 50 years that British Columbia has ever had to rely on equalization. I cannot help but note that it was only after 10 years of disastrous mismanagement under the provincial NDP government. British Columbians commonly refer to that time as “B.C.'s dismal decade”. It is something British Columbians never want to go back to.
The budget contains a number of very positive initiatives. One of the greatest strengths in the budget is the long term commitment to infrastructure. More than $33 billion has been committed to infrastructure in the next seven years and, of that, $4.8 billion will flow to B.C. The money will go directly to things like roads, highways and bridges to ensure our province's economic growth.
The budget contains an extra $1 billion specifically committed to the Asia-Pacific Gateway where that money is already flowing. We have made a strong commitment to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Our government will accelerate the investments in own the podium program to support athletes who will compete against the world in Vancouver-Whistler. This is over and above the $55 million that our government committed this year to cover cost overruns, adding to the almost $400 million we have committed.
Some other very important criteria in the budget is the 50% straight line write-off provisions for manufacturing equipment. This will result in $57 million in income tax relief for B.C. manufacturers. Again, this will be a welcome addition to the forest industry where it will be able to invest at a greater rate in modernizing some of the mills in British Columbia, which I think would be a very positive step forward.
Obviously, one of the cornerstones is families. British Columbia families alone will receive over $300 million through the new $2,000 child tax credit, the working income tax benefit and increases in the basic spousal support.
Another strong focus by our government is on the environment. The budget contains a number of initiatives. The announced in a number of provinces the $1.5 billion ecotrust part of this budget. Coming back to British Columbia, $200 million will allow British Columbia to pursue its priorities where it believes it can make the greatest reductions in greenhouse gases and other emissions.
We have invested $30 million in the Great Bear Rainforest. In R and D, we are committing $15 million to the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. We have another $30 million in the budget for the Rick Hansen Foundation. We all know the great work that Rick Hansen is doing with people with spinal cord injuries and the practical applications that will help to improve their quality of life. The budget also contains $40 million to implement the immunization program to combat cervical cancer.
All of those are very real, practical applications that will help every Canadian in every corner of the country.
I will now come back to the environment. The budget contains an incentive to buy fuel efficient cars and it imposes a levy on those that are inefficient. Those are very strong commitments to take real action. I know that my department has invested $2 billion in our ecoenergy initiatives. Again, all of those are initiatives that will have a significant benefit to the environment.
I will quickly touch upon those initiatives. First, we looked at where we could make the greatest gains on reducing greenhouse gases and emissions and we decided to really focus our priorities. We have invested $230 million in targeted research on things like clean coal technology and CO2 capture and storage where we can remove almost all the emissions out of coal-fired generation plants. That is where this technology is going. We want to put 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy on the grid; absolutely clean energy that is emission free, things like wind, solar, biomass and small scale hydro. Those are important initiatives to which our government is committed.
We also want consumers to do their share. We announced our ecoenergy efficiency initiative where consumers will be able to have an audit done and get a grant of up to $5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient.
All of those initiatives are real, practical applications on which we will see real results.
On a larger scale, we have launched our CO2 capture storage task force where we are working with the Alberta government to find out what we need to do to start sequestering CO2 gases, capturing them, putting them into a pipeline and putting them back down into the ground in the geological formations where they are best stored.
Those initiatives show great growth and great promise. The technology is there but it has never been done on a commercial scale of this magnitude. This is a priority for our government. We think there is an enormous promise and opportunity there, as well.
I want to mention some other really specific areas to natural resources. The one that is long overdue is our $60 million commitment to streamline the regulatory approval process. In the budget, our government has committed $60 million in resources over the next two years and $150 million over the next five years to create a major projects approval office for all Natural Resources' major projects. Under previous governments, it was quite a painful process. The applicants quite often would need to go through a number of federal agencies. We want to streamline that process so they come through a single window approach, which would provide certainty. We will also get a much stronger result for the environmental process as it will be focused again.
Those are a number of initiatives that our government has undertaken. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the budget will continue to ensure strong economic growth, that we will see great initiatives to protect the environment and that there will be even more coming forward. Those are the types of things that Canadians, in every corner of the country, have been asking for.
We are very proud to deliver this budget on behalf of all Canadians. I look forward to receiving support from all corners of the House as this budget will have a very strong impact on the lives of everyday Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am pleased to have the opportunity today to comment on the recent Conservative budget. Like most Canadians, I was hopeful that the budget would provide substantial measures to address issues such as social justice, the environment, and economic development and prosperity. Like most Canadians, I was extremely disappointed when the budget failed to deliver on any of these priorities.
As the member of Parliament for Nipissing--Timiskaming, I was also looking for some kind of indication that northern Ontario and rural Canada would no longer be overlooked by the Conservative government, but once again, the budget proved that the Conservatives have all but abandoned the people of northern Ontario.
The budget made no mention whatsoever of regional development programs such as FedNor. Rural issues were simply ignored and precious little was done to address the needs of farmers.
What I find truly astonishing is that the Conservative government has increased federal spending by more than $24 billion over the past 14 months and yet the average Canadian has very little to show for it.
While the Conservatives are willing to invest millions of dollars to encourage youth participation in Canadian heritage sports like three down football and lacrosse, they seem unwilling to put money toward high profile areas such as municipalities, post-secondary education, and the fight against climate change.
Like most Conservative initiatives, the budget is big on rhetoric and small on substance. It serves as further proof that the Conservative government is more concerned about electioneering for the short term than helping the average Canadian succeed now and in the long term.
Take for instance the Conservative government's proposal to encourage Canadians to use fuel efficient vehicles. The would like us all to believe that this is a formidable way of addressing environmental concerns and promoting greener initiatives. Upon closer examination, however, we quickly discover that only eight vehicles will be subject to the full green levy of $4,000, seven of which have an initial price tag of $100,000.
Furthermore, for Canadians who are interested in buying more fuel efficient vehicles in the hope of qualifying for the highly touted rebate, most will be very surprised to learn that only 21 vehicles in all qualify for a rebate, and of those only four qualify for the full $2,000 rebate.
In truth, the Conservative budget that promised something for everyone neglects those who are most in need.
There is little relief for single taxpayers or childless couples. New cash for aboriginals and affordable housing is conspicuously scarce or missing altogether. The $250 million a year being spread among the provinces that agree to create child care spaces falls well short of the $1.2 billion promised by the former Liberal government in each of the next three years.
One only has to scratch the surface of the Conservative budget to recognize that the is aiming tax cuts and fiscal perks at politically popular targets rather than those who need it most.
For instance, new spending committed this fiscal year for aboriginal causes totals a paltry $21 million. The budget contains no new cash to repair, let alone replace, housing on more than 600 reserves that the Auditor General has warned is increasingly decrepit.
It is also worth noting that a Conservative government, that seems convinced that tax cuts are the only solution to the world's problems, has refused to provide any broad based reduction in Canadian personal income tax.
Lower personal income taxes are far superior to cutting the GST in terms of Canada's longer term prosperity and productivity. Lower income taxes induce people to save more and to invest more in improving their skills and education, whereas lower consumption taxes simply encourage spending.
Furthermore, the did not see fit to permit full income splitting whereby couples could file joint tax returns and split their combined incomes evenly between them, thereby reducing their total tax bite by thousands of dollars.
The promised tax exemption for reinvested capital gains is also nowhere to be seen, with the left saying he will do something at some time. That is not very specific.
In short, the Conservatives have implemented tax policies that look helpful on the surface, but their benefits are cancelled out by the tax hikes on low and middle income Canadians hidden in last year's budget which have still not been reversed.
During the last campaign, the Conservatives ran on a platform of fiscal discipline and economic prudence. The budget further emphasizes what Canadians have already come to expect from the and that is that he simply cannot be trusted to deliver on his commitments.
The Harper government wasted a year slashing funding and breaking promises instead of making--
Mr. Speaker, in 2006 the Conservatives promised 125,000 new child care spaces over five years. Fourteen months into this mandate Canadian families are realizing that this promise was not worth the paper it was printed on. There have been zero spaces created in this past year.
What is worse, the so-called universal child care credit, which is neither universal nor child care, is fully taxable and the government will rake in an average of $400 per family.
The reversal by the Conservatives on income trusts caused Canadians $25 billion from their savings. The softwood lumber deal left $1 billion, money of Canadian businesses, in the hands of their U.S. competitors. The Conservatives decided to cut $1 billion from crucial social programs despite a $13 billion surplus.
Now the Conservatives are on a spending spree, repackaging many of the programs that were originally cut. They are misleading Canadians by re-announcing the programs as new, in a cynical strategy aimed at calling an early election.
The restraint that the Conservatives preached while in opposition is nowhere to be found in this budget. The $4.4 billion in new spending announced in this budget for 2007-08 comes on top of a normal rise in the cost of government and items announced in previous budgets. In all, it means that spending will rise by 5.6%, from $189 billion to $199.6 billion. It is interesting that the government kept the spending under the $200 billion. This may be something that it wants to brag about. The spending will go up again in 2008-2009 to $206.8 billion. It will lose its bragging rights then.
In other words, the Conservative government which pledged to keep a cap on expenses will have overseen close to an 8% growth in spending on new federal initiatives during its first year in office. Although the Conservatives tried to rationalize the numbers by including projections in future years, the fact is that 8% growth this year and 6% next year far exceeds the economy's projected growth.
It almost goes without saying that this kind of big spending approach is both irresponsible and unsustainable. In the words of one analyst, the budget demonstrated “a massive unconservative and fiscally irresponsible expansion of government”.
When the Liberals took office in 1993 they inherited a debt and deficit ridden economy from the Conservatives and turned it into the best economy in the G-7. Thanks to 13 years of Liberal government fewer Canadians now live in poverty, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 30 years, and a strong economic base allowed us to build a better Canada.
What we are witnessing is a regression of epic proportions; an inflationary budget that could have devastating consequences on the Canadian economy for years and possibly generations to come.
In short, Canadians were expecting the Conservative government to put the long term economic growth and prosperity of the country ahead of whatever plans they may have for an early election. This budget clearly falls short.
On behalf of the people of Nipissing—Timiskaming I will be voting no on this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did a very good job of giving a synopsis of what the government has done, which is precious little.
We talk about the tax cuts. The tax rate base for lower income Canadians was 15%. The Conservatives came into government bragging about how they were going to lower taxes. What did they do? They raised the rate by half a per cent on the most vulnerable people in Canada. That is unacceptable. That is just not Canadian, for lack of a better thought.
What I look at what the Conservatives did cut, it was the GST. The GST cut of 1% is where we see where the Conservative government is going.
Someone who orders a lobster dinner will save 1% on the bill for that lobster dinner. That is pretty luxurious and it might be a fair amount, but someone who can only afford a hamburger will not have the same amount of saving. The real difference can be seen there. We can look at the price of cars. Someone buying an expensive car saves a substantial amount. Someone who buys a cheaper car does not save that same amount.
When we look at it we can see the real difference in where the Conservatives are concentrating. If people have money, then the Conservatives are really there to help them out, but if people are struggling and trying to get ahead, I am sorry but the Conservatives are just not there.
In talking about cars, my hon. colleague mentioned the environment. We heard about the Conservatives' great tax credit. There is going to be a levy of $4,000 on a vehicle if it produces too much carbon or burns too much fuel. There are very few cars that qualify. What I find very interesting is the way in which the levy will be implemented. CTV reported that it will be implemented by the manufacturer. It will be buried in the price and it will not be seen. On a $100,000 vehicle, $4,000 probably will not make a difference to the buyer.
Let us look at the other extreme. On a cheaper, low end vehicle, if people qualify for the $2,000, it is graduated. Most who do qualify will only qualify for perhaps $500 or $1,000 and not the full $2,000. In that situation it will not be buried in the price. People will apply and they will get a cheque from the Government of Canada, which is the Conservative government. We can see the optics of this and how the Conservatives have engineered it so that they look like the ones that are handing out the cheques.
The Conservatives talk about accountability and honesty in government. I am sorry but I really have to question what kind of accountability and honesty there is in that program.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak against this divisive minority Conservative budget. I say divisive knowing that the Tories themselves are divided on its merits, especially when it comes to their successful efforts to create a fiscal imbalance in Canada.
This weekend a Conservative candidate in a Newfoundland riding, Ms. Cynthia Downey, washed her hands of the Conservative , her own leader, in no uncertain terms. Not only will she not run again, she says that she feels “very betrayed because...I spent...weeks saying that”--the current Prime Minister--”was the person who would work best for Newfoundland and Labrador....this gentleman has not done what he said he was going to do”. She said that the Conservative , whom she campaigned for last time, has got feet of clay.
There are so many things that could be said about the shameful flip-flop by the Conservative government. The only thing is most of them have been said before.
For instance, “It is so nice not to have to drag a prime minister kicking and screaming to fulfill a promise to our province”. That was Premier Danny Williams speaking not so long ago about the current and, by implication, insulting the former Liberal prime minister. I wonder whether Danny Williams would say the same thing now.
In a speech to the Empire Club of Canada in February 2005 Premier Williams said that the prime minister, the , “lived up to his commitment. I applaud the Prime Minister for keeping his promise”. It was a Liberal promise made and a Liberal promise kept. Contrast that with what Premier Williams now says about the current and his duplicity and broken promises.
Here is another line said by another Conservative: “What we need is fairness. We certainly do not need another snow job”. That was said by the current . A snow job is just what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador got. It is also what the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Saskatchewan got. It was a blizzard of deceit. What about this statement:
This deal must be outside the equalization process. This deal must confirm that 100% of the revenues go to Newfoundland and Labrador. This deal must not be subject to clawback. This is what was promised and this is what must be delivered.
That is a statement by the same minister again in a press release dated October 18, 2004. I wonder, does the today feel the same way?
I will mention this statement:
The two MPs reiterated that the Prime Minister's promise of 100% of offshore revenues, with no Equalization clawback, is a promise to which they intend to hold the...government, today, next week and in the weeks to come--until the promise is honoured in deed, as well as in word.
The two MPs who iterated that are, once again, the current and the member for .
Our regional minister had another line for the press after his motion was voted on back on November 16, 2004: “This vote was either you're for us, or you're against us”. Perhaps it is time for him to decide who he was for, who he was against.
How about this statement: “I'm really surprised that”--he--“would sell out our province on billions of dollars”. He said that they have gone back on their word and that it is okay to share in poverty but not in prosperity.
That was said by the minister's colleague, former provincial finance minister Loyola Sullivan, who now is in patronage heaven in DFO. He was talking about our former regional minister, Mr. Efford, in the Transcontinental newspapers in November 2004.
There is this one: “We cannot be assured of obtaining 100% of the net revenues from offshore...unless the Conservative Party has made these solid written commitments, wins this election and becomes the Government of Canada”. That was said by former Conservative cabinet minister John Crosbie writing in The Western Star in June 2004. How naive. We had a written commitment. Look at what it was worth. It was not worth the paper it was written on.
The Conservatives opposite vilified and demonized hon. members on this side of the House throughout 2004 and 2005 and now they find themselves defending their own broken promises. We kept our promise on the Atlantic accord.
Premier Williams recognizes that the former prime minister, the right hon. member for , kept his word and he also recognizes that the Conservatives have not kept theirs. It was a Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise broken.
All three Conservative members from our province have disappointed us on this issue. They have turned their backs on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The member for , for example, wrote, “no province will be adversely affected”, to which the premier responded:
It basically doesn't give the clear and unequivocal support that I asked for....That letter could have been a lot stronger.
I have in front of me the 's letter of January 4, 2006. It contains his promise concerning equalization. It is one of six occasions where he made the same promise in writing, the same broken promise. It would be one thing if this were the only Conservative broken promise to our province and to my riding of Labrador, but it is just one of many.
The also said:
A Conservative government would support extending custodial management...to the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap--
Now the is NAFO's best friend and NAFO is his best friend. He says everything is fine beyond the 200 mile limit. It was a Tory promise made and a Tory promise broken.
The wrote, “We support...in principle” a loan guarantee for the development of the Lower Churchill. I noticed that the recently announced financial aid for hydro development in Manitoba, for which I am pleased for the people of Manitoba, but anyone who was counting on federal money for hydro projects in Labrador is sorely disappointed. It is a Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise broken.
--an effort must be made to ensure that there is a fair distribution of the federal government presence across the country.
According to the most recent Statistics Canada data, there were fewer federal employees in our province after the Tories took power than there were the year before. Again, it is another Conservative promise made and another Conservative promise broken.
The promised a Conservative government would support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway. What was in the Tory budget? There was no money for the Trans-Labrador Highway, not a cent. There are infrastructures, like the building Canada fund, but the Trans-Labrador Highway is not eligible. Thanks for nothing, I say to the Conservatives, literally. It is a Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise broken.
The wrote that a Conservative government will:
Station a new Rapid Reaction Army Battalion...at CFB Goose Bay.
Station a new long range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Squadron at CFB Goose Bay....maintain a foreign military training program at 5 Wing Goose Bay and actively encourage increased allied flying training operations at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
Four Tory promises made and four Tory promises broken; goose eggs for Goose Bay.
This one is a gem: “A Conservative government would live up to and respect its constitutional responsibilities” for Marine Atlantic. The constitutional responsibility is to maintain a service to Port aux Basques in accordance with the traffic offering. What did the Conservatives announce last month? They announced Marine Atlantic fare hikes, fuel surcharges, and hints that they will reduce services, and there is nothing in this budget. It is a Tory promise made and a Tory promise broken.
A Conservative government would develop infrastructure programs which will allow provinces to address their unique needs and requirements.
What is in the budget? There are infrastructure programs that go nowhere near far enough and which certainly do not allow us to address our needs or requirements, especially in Labrador. It was a Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise broken.
And of course, there is the granddaddy of them all, where the wrote:
We will remove non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula--
It was a Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise broken. My Liberal colleagues from Nova Scotia have made that very point forcefully in the last number of days.
No one on this side believes that the Conservatives kept their promise. No one in the provincial government believes it. No one in our media believes it. The only ones are the Conservatives over there, the and the , the money bunny, the and the , who are hiding behind their buddies on the front benches, deflecting questions on how they have betrayed their own people, the very people who elected them. The members for , , and are the only ones who believe they have kept their word. They might be fooling themselves but they are not fooling anyone else and they do not deserve a second chance to entice the people again with promises they have no intention of keeping.
On behalf of the people of Labrador, I will vote against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my speaking time with the hon. member for .
First off, I want to emphasize how proud I am to see that the Bloc Québécois' hard work to eliminate the fiscal imbalance is finally paying off. This long standing effort undertaken by the people of Quebec, which the Bloc Québécois then took to Ottawa, is now producing initial results. It translates into actual monetary gains for Quebec.
I want to remind the House that we are the ones who initiated the fight against the fiscal imbalance by chanting that the money is in Ottawa while the needs are in Quebec City. Let us not forget that the Séguin commission was struck by the sovereignists. In Ottawa, it was the Bloc Québécois that kept the pressure on the federal government and maintained standards high enough to make sure they would be taken seriously. The people of and myself are convinced that we owe the new federal transfers we are seeing today to this relentless fight. The people of Quebec stand to benefit from the fiscal imbalance eventually being resolved. For these reasons, my colleagues and I will be voting for this budget. This money rightfully belongs to Quebeckers, and we have to make sure that they benefit from it as they should. However, the elimination of the fiscal imbalance remains only a possibility, since it is clear from reading the budget for 2007-08 that the federal transfers it contains do not quite eliminate the financial pressures Quebec is currently facing.
Clearly the did not keep his promise of fully eliminating the fiscal imbalance. It is deplorable that the Conservative government is still not planning to put an end to the federal government's power to spend in Quebec's jurisdictions, as the Séguin report recommends. I would remind the Prime Minister that there is a general consensus on that report in Quebec.
At most, the Conservative budget talks about limiting federal spending power by offering the right to withdraw from cost sharing programs with compensation and with conditions imposed by the federal government, which is unacceptable. Not only do the current intrusions in Quebec's jurisdictions have to stop, but Quebec has to be able to withdraw without condition and with full compensation every time it sees fit in the future.
Clearly the government has disregarded the basic solution long proposed by the Bloc Québécois and confirmed in the Séguin report, which is to transfer income tax points or GST points to Quebec and the provinces. This is not over yet.
In a number of matters, the proposed budgetary measures do not respond in any way to the requests of the Bloc Québécois or the expectations of Quebeckers. I am referring to the forestry industry, and especially to the older workers who are victims of one of the worst crises in the history of that industry. The lack of true measures to help these workers and this industry concerns me very much since the people and families in my riding are severely affected by this crisis. In , this crisis translates into 500 lost jobs and the loss of over 1,000 jobs in the Mauricie region alone.
Clearly the Conservative government passed up another chance to help workers of the forestry industry. The Federation of Paper and Forest Workers was critical of the government about this in a March 23 press release. A suitable income support program for older workers is noticeably absent in this budget. Ever since POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, was cut by the Liberals in 1997, the Bloc Québécois and a number of groups have been calling for a new income support program for workers 55 and older who can no longer be retrained and who are victims of mass layoffs. The Conservative government has to respect the amendment to the 2006 throne speech, which was passed unanimously.
The Bloc Québécois wanted to find a concrete and immediate solution to the problem of older workers who are the victims of mass layoffs, or at least wanted the Conservative government to allocate funds to the income support program for older workers in response to the conclusions of the expert panel set up in January 2007.
To demonstrate this need, I will give the example of the workers at the Groleau plant in Sainte-Thècle, in my riding. This wood processing plant, which closed in February 2005, employed over 90 people. At the end of January 2007, 11 of these workers aged 55 to 64 stopped receiving employment insurance benefits. These workers must now turn to social assistance.
It is shocking to think that people who gave 30 to 40 years of their life to a company and then suffered the effects of the softwood lumber crisis are now in such a dire situation. These employees from the Groleau plant were not able to benefit from the TIOW because they did not meet one of the eligibility requirements— losing their job after May 1, 2006.
It is unconscionable to leave these people with nothing, and that is what the Conservative government did when it tabled this budget. These are honest citizens who have worked their whole life and now find themselves having to apply for social assistance. This is unacceptable.
As this example proves, again, it is those who are less fortunate who are the victims of the social policies of the Conservative government. So, it is not surprising that once again, the unemployed are the big losers in this federal budget. There is no separate employment insurance fund in the budget speech or plan. As a member of parliament for a region where the unemployment rate is relatively high, I am greatly distressed to see that this government is ignoring a whole category of the population.
On the subject of an independent fund, the previously said, on May 1, 2006, “—we share the Bloc leader's philosophy on this”. He even said that he was “on the verge of proposing to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development that she formulate alternate measures for this government”. However, the budget that has been presented does not respond to any of the demands of the Bloc Québécois.
I want to emphasize that it should have been the duty of the federal government to create an independent employment insurance fund and an independent commission. Likewise, the day after tabling the budget, the government should have immediately taken steps to return the $48 billion that was taken from the fund.
It is deplorable to see that, in addition to making no improvement to the plan, the Conservative government will continue to use part of the employment insurance fund as it pleases.
It is obvious that even if the Conservatives claim to share the Bloc Québécois' philosophy, in fact, they follow the same practices as the Liberals. That party abandoned the population by transforming the employment insurance plan into a disguised and discriminatory tax on employment. By refusing to move on this question, the Conservatives are doing no better, as the tabling of this budget proves. The is far from repairing the damage done by his predecessors. On the contrary, he is once again showing his contempt for all workers.
The Bloc Québécois will continue to pursue the government on this vital issue. We will do everything we can to restore the plan to its original purpose as an instrument for ensuring reasonable support for workers who lose their jobs.
All the signs provide evidence that the most unfortunate have been cast aside by this government. You must know that for us, as members who represent all sectors of the population, it is very painful to have to explain to our voters that some of them do not appear to be considered as valuable as the rest of the population by the current government.
I recently heard from Jean Marcel who lives in Grand-Mère in my riding. This 52-year-old man has worked hard since he was eight years old and he is now unable to work. He receives $852 in social assistance per month, giving him an annual income of $9,760. He pays $5,000 in rent. This sick and very poor man does not have a family doctor. He feels abandoned by society, the same society to which he actively contributed all these years. This man asked me if he is entitled to live. What do I say to him when governments, such as the one in power, have clearly abandoned people like him?
The Bloc Québécois will continue to lead the charge on key issues such as the fiscal imbalance and to stand up for the interests of Quebeckers. As the vice-president of the Desjardins Group has said, the fiscal imbalance has only been resolved in part; a definitive solution remains to be found.
In addition, it seems that Ottawa still meddles too much in provincial areas of jurisdiction, namely health, education and labour force training. You can rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will continue to fight, with the support of all Quebeckers, for the complete resolution of the fiscal imbalance.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for sharing his time with me.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate all of the people who were elected yesterday evening in our great country of Quebec, as well as those who had the courage to run in what promised to be a difficult election and who nevertheless conducted an outstanding campaign.
I would like to offer my sincere sympathy to the members of the Parti Québécois—which I support—who were not re-elected. I am sure that we will still succeed in doing what we must do for Quebec.
I have risen today to discuss the budget not because we do not support it—everyone already knows that we will support it. However, over the past few weeks, my colleague from and I have toured the regions in Quebec to find out what women think of the cuts to Status of Women Canada, and to better understand how women view this budget overall, how they view these cuts and how concerned they are about the rise of the right in Quebec and in Canada.
We have met with 47 groups but we have not finished. We are going to continue meeting with women's groups over the coming weeks. Those 47 groups represent more than 100,000 people in Quebec. In all of those groups, the women we met told us the same thing.
In this budget, we are solving part of the fiscal imbalance, but we are not solving all of it. There will still be a lot of things to do before that happens. We know that the government has promised us that it will continue to put a major effort into this. We hope that it will keep its word. However, we see that it is still continuing to invest in areas that are under provincial jurisdiction, and we are not all happy about this.
When the decided to cut her budget, she told us that she wanted to reinvest that money to meet the needs of more women. However, women have seen that the way these cuts and these reinvestments were made means that women now have to look for charity.
There is no longer a desire to give women the tools to liberate themselves and get out of the rut we have been in for many years, with families, single parent heads of household—mostly women, older women, and a large number of people in Quebec and Canada, all getting poorer. That means that we are increasingly needing federal transfers to be able to meet the needs of our people. The federal government is not meeting those needs, and it is not the job of the federal government to do that.
When it comes to the needs of women in general, in Quebec and in Canada, I would in fact say that, in this budget, the federal government is neglecting certain women for whom it is actually responsible. Obviously, I am talking about first nations women, aboriginal women, women in the north, the Inuit, and so on.
Those women fall within the direct jurisdiction of the federal government, and there is absolutely nothing for them in the budget that has been presented to us. I am very disappointed to see this, and extremely concerned. We know that it is even harder for women in aboriginal communities to have a decent life. Housing is virtually nonexistent. There is no waste water treatment. There are problems with education. Some Status of Women Canada programs were designed specifically to enable women to pass on the aboriginal communities' values and way of life to the children, so that they could have a better life and feel better about themselves. We are familiar with the many problems faced by young people in those communities.
But the and the government were not concerned about solving those problems.
They spread the money around various programs— not the kind of programs that communities had asked for—but the kind of programs that give the government visibility. When governing you must respond to the needs of the people and not do what will keep you visible or popular, as the current government has done.
Unfortunately, since having become an MP, this is the first government that I have seen act in this way. I am troubled because people are not aware of the dangers that await when they elect such a government, even though it is a minority. Several issues are still on the table and the government will go to any length to pass bills that we, as a democratic society and a social democratic society, hope will not see the light of day.
I have been reading quite a bit about the budget and also the views of several groups about it. I would like to share some of what I read regarding the budget in a FAFIA summary:
Women in Canada are affected differently than men by tax and spending policies of governments as a result of their varying labour market opportunities, family and community responsibilities, and levels of economic security. This budget demonstrates how little these facts are acknowledged. Some of the measures in this budget continue a trend that was documented in FAFIA's ten year retrospective budget analysis...authored by Armine Yalnizyan.
They also speak about aboriginal women, as I mentioned, as well as immigrant women. FAFIA states:
While this year’s federal budget invests an additional $342 million per year for language instruction and employment-related support, the federal government has backed away from its commitment to establish a federal agency to assess and to recognize credentials at the federal level. It has instead directed resources to providing immigrants with path-finding and referral services to identify and connect with the appropriate assessment bodies. However, the difficult question of how foreign credentials will be assessed has yet to be resolved.
In addition, many groups have called for the elimination of the live-in requirement of the Live-In Care-Giver and Domestic Program, which attracts skilled and almost exclusively female professionals to work as full time care-givers while residing in their employer’s home. Groups have also demanded that these workers be granted landed status upon arrival.
This has not yet happened. I find that unfortunate because we know of situations where these women, these people, have been abused and used as slaves in the homes of people who have the means to pay for slaves in modern times. These are modern-day slaves.
The Standing Committee on the Status of Women has often discussed human trafficking in terms of sexual abuse, but it has not discussed these women even though this is a major issue because there are so many of them. There are thousands of them living in people's homes. They are hidden. They are forced to keep quiet because often, they do not even have an opportunity to learn a language that would enable them to communicate with the outside world. This is a very dangerous situation.
Earlier, we talked about social housing. The budget does not mention social housing even though we know that the CMHC is making astronomical profits—over $11 billion. I think they might even be making $15 or $16 billion.
When drafting a budget, the government must consider the people it represents. Even though it was elected by 36% of the population, it should meet the needs of more than 36% of the population. When a government is elected, it is elected for everyone and it must meet everyone's needs.
That is why the Bloc Québécois will continue to demand that the government do better, that the government do more and that the government do a better job of meeting the needs of Quebeckers and Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. .
I am pleased to rise to speak to budget 2007. In particular, I want to focus on what this budget means and what our Conservative government has meant for my constituents and all British Columbians.
On January 23, 2006, Canadians elected a new Conservative government and we have delivered real results for British Columbians.
We are a minority government in this Parliament, with 10 fewer seats than the recent Liberal minority government, and we have fewer than one in four seats in the Senate.
Historically, minority governments have had limited success in achieving their goals.
Our government, on the other hand, is getting things done for hard-working Canadians. Actually we have done more in 14 months to create a more rewarding future for British Columbians and their families than our predecessors did in 13 years. Let us just look at the facts.
We have signed a seven year softwood lumber agreement that will provide market stability in B.C.'s largest industry. The agreement will return $5 billion in illegal duties to Canada. The agreement was supported by the B.C. industry, supported by all the softwood producing provinces of Canada, including the government of British Columbia, and supported by all Conservative MPs, but it was opposed by the Liberals and the NDP.
We have supported the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. When the government of B.C. and the 2010 Olympic organizing committee asked for an additional $55 million on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government is already proudly providing the 2010 games, we delivered.
Our Conservative government has delivered record tax relief for British Columbians in our two budgets. We have cut the GST to 6%; cut small business taxes; provided an annual $1,200 per child universal child care allowance; created a $2,000 per child tax credit; made the largest debt paydown in Canadian history, $22 billion over two years; allowed pension splitting for seniors; and created a $500 per child amateur sport tax credit, which is an idea, I am proud to say, that originated with Sharon Mack, a constituent of mine and a resident of Port Moody.
In the last election campaign, Conservatives promised $1 billion over 10 years to address the mountain pine beetle infestation in B.C. We are delivering on this commitment and we are doing so ahead of schedule, with $200 million committed in our first budget alone.
It should be noted that neither the Liberal Party of Canada nor the NDP have ever presented a plan or made any commitments on the mountain pine beetle issue, while Conservatives have honoured the promise we made.
Our government has also supported B.C.'s environment. When asked to contribute to the cleanup of Stanley Park after the devastating windstorms, we immediately responded with $2 million in assistance.
We have also contributed $199.3 million toward the B.C. government's environmental agenda through our own ecotrust initiative.
We have reversed the federal Liberal cuts and hired more fish habitat and conservation officers for B.C. than ever before.
We have also invested $30 million toward B.C.'s Spirit Bear rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth.
We have also supported B.C.'s infrastructure needs.
In the campaign, we promised to support the Asia-Pacific gateway, and we have kept our promise in government, with a commitment of $1 billion toward this key initiative.
We are increasing the GST rebate for municipalities from 57.1% to 100%, which will mean millions more for local infrastructure across British Columbia.
For commuters in B.C. using public transit, whether it is our bus systems, SkyTrain or West Coast Express, monthly transit passes are tax deductible.
We have invested millions in the Prince George and Cranbrook airports.
We have followed through on $450 million for the Canada Line rapid transit extension that links downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport in Richmond.
Our Conservative government has also ended the Liberal cuts to the Fraser River. For years Liberals refused to do proper dredging in the Fraser River. We have invested $4 million over two years for dredging in the Fraser River.
British Columbians value our cultural diversity. Our Conservative government has taken action to bring our diverse province together by addressing past wrongs. We have offered a historic apology and redress for the racist Chinese head tax.
While in power, the Liberals refused to launch an inquiry into one of the worst terrorist attacks in our history, the bombing of Air-India flight 182, which saw the murder of 329 Canadians. We have taken action and launched the Air-India inquiry.
For B.C.'s first nations, after 13 years of no progress and hundreds of millions wasted on lawyers and failed negotiations under the Liberals, our Conservative government has reached historic treaty agreements with three B.C. first nations: the Lheidli T'enneh in the north, the Maa-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island, and the Tsawwassen band in the lower mainland.
We also signed a new education agreement for B.C. first nations, and we addressed a tragedy of our past by putting in place the Indian residential schools settlement agreement.
Our Conservative government is also working to improve public safety and enact justice reform.
In budget 2007, we committed $324 million for six new Coast Guard vessels, three of which will be based on the west coast. We have passed tough new laws against street racing, made investments to hire more police officers and more border guards. We have allocated $9.9 million to TransLink to improve security on public transit, particularly on SkyTrain which has seen some appalling violence that must be stopped.
We also have legislation to end house arrest for dangerous offenders, enact mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and protect children from sexual abuse but the Liberals and the NDP are preventing those bills from becoming law.
Criminal justice reforms are crucial to the future health of B.C. residents and only the Conservative Party of Canada is taking the need to get tough on crime seriously in this Parliament.
In just over a year in office, our and our Conservative government have brought real dollars, real results and positive change for British Columbians. We have kept our promises and British Columbia is stronger for it.
In my riding of Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, I have fought hard for important investments and real results for my community. Our government delivered $1 million for the new Port Moody arena, $1 million for the redevelopment of the Rocky Point Park in Port Moody and tens of thousands of dollars to support local art programs.
On the transportation front, we have delivered the largest federal infrastructure investment in my community in my lifetime: $90 million toward the new $198 million Pitt River bridge.
We have also delivered $120,000 to the village of Anmore for Anmore's innovative renewable energy project which will assess the feasibility of producing green hydrogen and clean electricity by integrating three sources of renewable energy: micro-hydro, solar power and micro-wind.
My riding is surrounded by water, the Fraser River to the south, the Pitt River to the east and Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm to the west. We value our environment and keeping our coastal waters clean is something all my constituents support. That is why our government is enacting new regulations that will protect my riding's and all of Canada's coastal waters from sewage, garbage, oil and other pollutants. Among the regulations is a complete ban on the dumping of untreated sewage from all boats and ships along Canada's coastal waters.
Our Conservative government has delivered for Canadians, delivered for British Columbians and delivered real results for my constituents.
Every day that I serve as the member of Parliament for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam is an honour. I will continue doing all that I can to ensure that my community, the community that I love, has the best possible results from this Parliament, which is why I will be voting in favour of this Conservative budget.
I encourage all members of this House, from all parties and from all corners of this country, to vote for this budget because it will make Canada stronger. It gives real tax relief to all Canadian families. It pays down our debts, makes the important social investments and it does exactly what Canadians voted for in the last election campaign, which was to have a change from the past, to cut back on corporate welfare, to make important social investments, to give tax cuts that Canadian families voted for in the last election campaign and to continue building this country to be as strong as it can be as we go forward.
I am proud to be voting for this budget on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of all British Columbians and on behalf of Canadians because it will continue to make this country stronger.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the hon. member's attention to some of the commentary that ensued after the budget speech was delivered.
Nancy Hughes Anthony, who is the President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said:
We don't see any broad-based tax relief either for taxpayers or businesses.
The government promised in November that they were going to make Canada more competitive and control spending and I think they broke that promise today.
As well, when we examine the issue of the environment, John Bennett from the Sierra Club said that the government was basically ignoring the climate crisis.
John Williamson, who I am sure the hon. member knows, the President of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said, “The fellow working in the line or anyone with a salary income and no children will receive no tax relief. That's disappointing. Ottawa is running huge surpluses. This is a good time to cut the rates for all taxpayers up and down the economic ladder. The government decided to broadly target, for example, seniors, not tax relief in this document for all taxpayers”.
Andrew Coyne, the National Post columnist, said, “With this budget [the Minister of Finance] becomes officially the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada”. He went on to say, “The budget in fact has no sense of health priorities”.
I need not remind the hon. member what Danny Williams said about federal-provincial relations. He said, “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are feeling an intense sense of betrayal by this government”. That was said after the actually stated that the era of federal-provincial bickering was in fact over.
I would like the member to explain to me what in fact is going on. The government has a certain view of the budget but it seems to me that many other Canadians view this budget as a very disappointing one.
Mr. Speaker, as I counted, I think my colleague raised four points.
First, with regard to Premier Williams and Newfoundland and Labrador, I know the will be speaking in a moment in more detail and more broadly on that, but we did keep our campaign commitments. I think Danny Williams will be very delighted to hear the speech from my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, from St. John's, addressing that issue and how good this budget will in fact be for Newfoundland and Labrador.
On the issue of the environment, with respect to my good friend, the member for , we will not be taking lectures from Liberals on how to get results on the environment. We have put forward the clean air act, Bill , which is now before its own independent parliamentary committee. We are approaching this with open minds and open hearts on how to achieve the best possible results for our environment.
However, while we recognize that climate change is the most important issue on the environment front right now that Canadians and the global community want us to address, it is not the only front on which we need to take action on the environment, which is why I mentioned the important steps that our government took in protecting our coastal waters from the dumping of raw sewage, pollution, garbage, paint, effluent and bilge water from ships. We are banning all that to ensure that our coastal waters will be clean.
We are taking a multifaceted approach to the environment, dealing with protecting our waters, protecting our land, protecting our soil, protecting our air and also dealing with the issue of climate change internationally.
With regard to tax cuts, my colleague dealt with the issue two ways. I do not think my colleague will ever accuse Andrew Coyne and John Williamson of being good Liberals with regard to the budget, so I am surprised that he is quoting Andrew Coyne and John Williamson who are both good friends of mine, but, frankly, we have a disagreement with John Williamson and Andrew Coyne, I take it, on this budget. However, for every $3 in surplus, we put $2 toward tax relief.
The vast majority of our tax relief will go toward families, especially in suburban communities like my own, because we think the people who are facing the biggest financial crunch in our society are new and young families. I think about my sister and my brother-in-law Dave, my little niece Abby, my other sister and her husband Tony, and my other niece--
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in the House today to our budget 2007. It is good news for both my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which I have the honour of overseeing.
Media coverage in my province has focused almost exclusively on the issue of equalization but that is just one part of the overall budget. Even with so much attention in the media, unfortunately there has been significant misinformation put forward in some quarters concerning the Atlantic accord.
I will not dwell on that issue today since it has already received so much coverage, and perhaps too much coverage, but I will make a few basic points.
Despite inaccurate comments reported shortly after the budget was introduced, the Atlantic accord is still completely in effect. There is no cap. The Atlantic accord was a hard fought deal that I and others in the caucus fought for during our time in opposition. We would not have stood for there to be any changes that would have weakened that accord.
I am confident that the province, through introduction of its promised energy plan, can maximize the development opportunities that exist in the offshore oil and gas industry. In fact, these benefits continue to increase, not decrease as some have argued over the past week.
In 2005-06, we received $180 million in offset payments. This year we received a total of $329 million, with projections for the next two years of $494 million and $757 million respectively. With no cap on how much money we as a province can bring in through these royalties, it is completely within our own control to become a have province before the accord expires. As a proud people, that is what we should be striving for.
A budget should be judged by its entire content, however, and whether it will help families of ordinary people, these are the things we must assess. In this case, the budget certainly does.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are tired of hearing governments bicker. They want governments to work cooperatively and get things done for them, and this budget is an important step in that direction.
The budget invests heavily in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have invested in infrastructure that really matters for the province; $52 million has been earmarked for infrastructure projects which will help improve the quality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In addition, special attention was given to the needs of small provinces, provinces with smaller populations. There is a base of $25 million approved for infrastructure. Instead of giving money based upon the number of people where smaller provinces always get hurt, we have a $25 million base and then we will build upon that on a per capita basis.
We will also receive $151 million for Canada's social transfer, including additional funding for post-secondary education and child care, along with $347 million under the Canada health transfer. This is money that will go toward providing important frontline services for people in my home province.
Finally, there are two other items of note. We will receive $23 million for the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change and $17.7 million earmarked for the province should it decide to participate in the health care wait times guarantee program. That is a total of more than $1.5 billion being invested in Newfoundland and Labrador.
However, the budget does more than invest in Newfoundland and Labrador. It reduces taxes in our province. Families are the big winners. We have created a tax benefit of $2,000 for each child. We have increased the spousal exemption amount, made it easier to save for children's education and have protected loved ones from financial hardship in the case of disability. Those measures are all aimed at putting money back into the pockets of people where it belongs, not into government coffers.
In our province alone, those measures will keep over $24 million in the local economy, instead of sending that money to Ottawa. The working income tax benefit will provide an additional $7.1 million in tax relief.
An increased RRSP and registered pension plan maturation age will save Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers $200,000. Then there is pension splitting. People on pension income who quite often are having a rough time, particularly when there is only one working person, now have the ability to split the pension income for income tax purposes. This is a major boost for a lot of people.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes is the increase from $500,000 to $750,000 in the capital gains exemption for our fishermen. This was extremely well received. When we announced the $500,000 tax exemption in relation to capital gains, it was praised heavily around the province. This increase has certainly added to that. The capital gains exemption is a key element of tax fairness and will help many people retire from the fishery with dignity and on a solid financial footing.
In regard to my own department, we added $15 million a year last year on a permanent basis for science. We have now followed up with $105 million over the next five years. Investing in fishery science is absolutely critical. It is not uncommon for there to be healthy tension between fishermen and scientists when it comes to assessing the health of fish stocks. In the past, quite often fishermen would say, “What do you know, you have not invested in science”. Now we have, and collectively we can make the right decisions. The new government has been glad to help reverse that trend.
We have announced approximately $70 million for capital improvements to our science facilities across the country, on top of the money I already mentioned. This helps keep our top notch staff working at home instead of going abroad for different opportunities. We increased DFO's permanent science budget last year, as I mentioned. Then we allocated additional funding this year to help deal with pressures created by the Laroque decision and to ensure we continue to move in the right direction.
We directed more than $300 million to purchase six new large Coast Guard vessels to ensure that proper patrol, science and search and rescue can be conducted. Last year we had added $45 million per year on a permanent basis to the Coast Guard budget to ensure that the brave men and women had fuel and could make the necessary repairs. We do not have boats tied up to the wharf any more as we did when the previous government was in power. We have them on the ocean doing the job for which they are designed.
There was also new money for species at risk, the health of our oceans, the Atlantic integrated commercial fisheries. This budget is about aspiring to be a stronger, safer and better Canada, and this includes Newfoundland and Labrador. I would encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to look at the entire document to see where it affects them in their own pockets, and not to get caught up in the hype that some people like to perpetrate. They should have a good look for themselves to see how the plan will improve their situation. Through this budget our province and more important our people will be better off.
We in Newfoundland and Labrador can be very passionate about our province. We have to be. We were the last province to join Confederation in 1949. We brought with us tremendous riches. Over the years we have seen a lot of those riches dissipate. We have seen our resources develop and we have not always been the beneficiaries. That is changing.
Despite the spin that some people might put on how they are being treated by the present government, I ask people to get the facts, to think about what they see, to read, to understand, to talk. I urge them not to listen to just one side of any conversation. They should make up their own minds as to how this government is treating the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
This is a good budget for people. There may be some who think we could have done better. There is nobody in this country who does not want to do better. We have had a number of provinces express concern, as has my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but when we look at Saskatchewan, which has probably been the most outspoken, its main wish is to have a deal like the one Newfoundland and Labrador has. Generally I think we have done very well.
Does that mean we stop here? No, not at all. This is just another step toward working for a very bright future in resources for Newfoundland and Labrador. We can be the main beneficiary of the great resources we have, but at the same time make sure that we are part of the great Canadian Confederation, because when times are tough, we always look to others to help.
I always tell the story to my friends from Alberta about when times were tough during the Depression, people from Atlantic Canada, from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, sent out fish to help feed those who were going through a really tough time. Then things turned around for Alberta and we have all benefited, the whole country has benefited from Alberta's great resources.
However, we are moving. Our province is one of the fastest growing provinces in the country, economically speaking. Very soon we will be a have province. That will be something to be very proud of, when the day comes when we can say, “Thank you very much for the help you have given. Now it is our turn to help you”.
That is what makes this a great country. That is what makes Confederation as strong as it is.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It was interesting listening to the . It is amazing how people can change their views. He has said in the House and in the media that Premier Danny Williams is wrong, that he is not stating the facts. In a sense he is saying that he is lying, or that he does not understand, that he is not intelligent. I know him to be a very intelligent guy.
The Premier of Nova Scotia is saying exactly what that member said a couple of years ago; that the Atlantic accord has to be above and beyond any other change in programs, any new programs. He said that a decision did not have to be made. He said that premiers do not have to swallow a poisoned pill. The minister now has a different understanding. His mathematics are different.
A change happens in a member when he spends too much time in a Challenger jet. He sees numbers and the facts differently. As a minister, he now understands things in a completely different way than he did when he was a member. He somehow believes that he has a clear insight into the finances of Newfoundland and Labrador from his office in Ottawa, finances that are impossible to see from St. John's, that Premier Williams absolutely cannot understand. He cannot see that less is more.
I will speak about other matters also.
We cannot say that the budget is all bad. Not all the initiatives in the budget are bad. It is theoretically impossible to have the largest spending budget in the history of Canada to not have a few good initiatives in it. I welcome the capital tax exemption for Canadians. The Conservative government had a lot of money with which to work. It had large surpluses that were built up by the Liberal government. It had a lot of potential.
I cannot support the budget because it is a huge lost opportunity, and I regret that. The has not tried to hide the intent of the budget. It is intended to target a group of people in the most populace regions of the most populace provinces who are most likely to change their vote for the Conservatives and force a majority government. That is it. The budget is all about majority building, not nation building.
When we have the ability and the surpluses to build a nation, in my mind and in the minds of all Canadians, we should try to assist those who are most in need. We should try to develop potential when there are problems.
The government had an opportunity to assist Canadians in problem situations. With the proper investments, the government could have helped them out. It could have given them a hand up so they could have full participation in the economy. The government could have helped other regions. What do we see? We see targeted money going to the most populace areas, to the richest provinces. The government is ignoring single seniors and families and children in poverty who are in great need. The government needs to make real investment in innovation and post-secondary education. We do not see that. Money is not targeted for those who need it. It is very simple to send a lot of money to Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta in an attempt to influence those urbanites to vote for the Conservatives. That is all I see.
With respect to the Atlantic accord, Nova Scotia signed an agreement that its natural resources, such as offshore gas, would be used for its benefit and the money would be above and beyond any other funding program in equalization, health, education or infrastructure.
The Premier of Nova Scotia now has to swallow a poisoned pill. If he wants new money in equalization under the new formula, he has to forgo the potential benefits of the Atlantic accord, benefits that would have been there for the next 15 years. He has to sign away the future of Nova Scotia for much needed cash in the short term. This is unfair and it is certainly contrary to the intent of the accord and contrary to the stated intentions of the when he was in opposition. That is unacceptable.
There is no new money for ACOA. We see diminished funding. We see less spending and investments by ACOA. There is a huge opportunity to maintain the principle, but we know the does not like the agency and that it will suffer the death of a thousand cuts over time.
There were some good initiatives for our farmers a couple of weeks ago. There was an opportunity in the budget to assist the regions, to help farmers in Atlantic Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia where we produce less than we consume. We are not part of the problem in overproduction, but our farmers are being starved out of the industry. There is nothing in the budget to help them. The opportunity was there to work with the provincial government, but we do not see that potential.
When we see the attack on the Wheat Board, we know supply management is at risk. Some time ago he called it a glorified communist plot against the free market. I do not remember the exact terms he used, but it is the same type of thinking with which he has been attacking the Wheat Board. When the applies that to supply management, rest assured our supply management sector will be in trouble.
In my part of the country the poultry farmers and producers, egg producers and dairy farmers are the basic building blocks of the community. They are stable and doing quite well, not leaping great riches, but they are supplying jobs and participating in the economy. They need domestic protection to be maintained. A government sponsored price fixing cartel I guess is what he called supply management. We have to be very vigilant and seriously call the government to task on these matters.
I am pleased that the was in the House to speak. He was on the committee of fisheries and oceans when a report called for more funding for small craft harbours, which I agreed with as a minister. I was minister of ACOA at the time. I was able to get a $100 million investment over five years into small craft harbours. That expired this year.
In our election platform last year we promised to put in even more money, and that is what is needed. What do we see? We see the government letting it expire. The hypocritically called for more funding when he was in opposition. Now that he is Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he is calling for less funding. Not only did he let that $20 million a year lapse by not reintroducing the funding next year, but there is less funding for Small Craft Harbours.
I was amazed and amused, but irritated, yesterday when on a question from the Bloc Québécois, he indicated in the House that he would find some money here and there for the wharf in the Bloc member's riding to get his support for Bill . There are good elements to Bill C-45, but there are some very difficult, scary elements for the fishing industry that he does not seem to want to clarify.
I remember the opposition talking about how it was important to invest in the Digby wharf. We do not see that any more. There have been five years of legal wrangling brought about because the member for made some very serious allegations, allegations and questions that I shared, and they had to be answered. The legal process ended up 14 months ago.
We were told that the fault was the contract written by the Department of Transport. Has the stepped up to the plate? Do we see anything in the budget to get that facility back in the hands of the community? I believe it should be owned by Small Craft Harbours, like the other fishing harbours, and administered by a local harbour authority with the proper funding assistance. We see none of that.
There is the Digby/St. John ferry service. Last year I was pleased that the federal government, with the provincial governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, found a short term two year solution for that ferry service. However, I did not see anything about it in the budget, but I will keep some hope. I understand the bureaucrats within the Department of Transport are working seriously at finding a long term solution. I encourage the minister to take quick action to ensure that we know a good year or year and a half in advance of the termination of the agreement that there will be a long term service there so businesses can make the necessary plans.
The government had a real opportunity to assist working families. What did it give them? In some cases $20 a week. It did nothing for the working poor. We know the federal government does not want to put anything in the second budget or third budget next year. It wants to force an election. It gave away every opportunity it had to help the poor.
If promised next year, there will be another cut in the GST. That is $6 billion. The $6 billion invested in the child tax benefit would bring a million children above the poverty line, and he has given away that potential. We know that next year it will be a very difficult budget. I am afraid we may go back toward deficit financing in the medium to short term with the type of budget introduced this year. We are not helping to build our country or our nation. Nor are we helping those most in need.
I am afraid I cannot support this budget. While I like some initiatives within it, it would be impossible for me to stand in support of a budget that throws away so much opportunity to build a nation.
Mr. Speaker, I wish I had two hours to speak about the budget because I would really love to talk about it. However, what I am going to do is focus on two components of the budget which I think are important.
First and foremost is what I like to call the smoke and mirrors component of the budget which is what is said in the budget that is meant to be helping Canadians and what it really means.
Lots of buzz words were used in the budget, things like families and children were a huge priority supposedly in the budget. However, let us examine exactly what is happening to families and children.
We see that there was a tax credit given. We know the poorest families, those who make under $30,000 a year, will not see a penny of that because 99% of that socio-economic group, who make under $30,000 a year, do not pay taxes. One cannot get a tax credit if one does not pay taxes. Therefore, they are not going to see a penny of the money promised.
The money to get people out of poverty and off the welfare lists will help people who make about $14,000 and less. These people are going to be getting $500 a year. That is $500 a year for a family on welfare to help them to live, to feed their children, and to be able to do certain things to help that family. That is not going to go anywhere. That is going to buy two winter coats for two kids and that is it. The amount of $1.37 a day does not take people off welfare. People think they are getting money and they are really not getting any money.
We also heard about the fact that seniors are getting money and there will be income splitting for seniors. In my riding I have a large number of seniors. The fact is women tend to live longer as seniors. The senior women cannot split income, so single seniors in this country will not get a single penny out of this. In fact, they are going to, as usual, be left to continue to live in very low income circumstances. Therefore, nothing is really done for seniors even though they were used in the budget as a group who was being helped.
Let us talk about health care and wait times. Money was put in for wait times and this is a very clever trick that the government did in the budget. The Conservatives took money that the Liberal government had put in that was in the base budget, they added the small amount that they put into that base budget that was put there by the Liberal government, and then they gave us the grand total so that if we were not paying attention we would think that suddenly they put tons of money into something.
Let us look at wait times. The government only put $600 million on top of the money promised in 2004 for wait times which was given by the federal Liberal government. The Canadian Medical Association has said very clearly that $600 million will do absolutely nothing to deal with wait times.
The second part of wait times is health human resources. Anyone who understands the problem knows that people are waiting longer because we do not have health care professionals to deliver the care. There are lab technicians needed, doctors needed and nurses needed. There is not a word in the budget about health human resource development. There is not a single word. I would love to see how wait time guarantees will in fact be met without that component.
We heard again, laid on top of Prime Minister Chrétien's budget for grants for students in the millennium budget scholarship, how the Conservatives added a small amount to that and renamed the whole thing. They said that they had put in all this money, which was mostly Liberal money. They have done absolutely nothing to help students.
The biggest challenge the country is facing is productivity and competitiveness. When we look at a small country like Ireland with 4 million people, it took money given to it by the European Union. What did it invest the money in? It invested it in education, skills and training, innovation, and research and development. It is now among the top five competitive nations in the world. That is 4 million people.
Nothing happened here. There was a bit of money given on top of old money given by the Liberals, a small amount of money, so we think that students were helped.
Let us look at other issues like the environment. The Conservatives said for years in the House that global warming was a myth. Suddenly, they have found science. However, now they still believe that if we put a border around the country that they will be able to fix it. I guess the wind, the sea and the air never heard about that border because I think they can come across Canada's borders very easily. Therefore, the Conservatives are doing nothing globally to deal with environmental issues. They call it the ecotrust, but they have cut the money that the Liberals were going to be transferring to the environment and to the provinces. The money is cut.
On the one hand we hear that the provinces are getting a ton more money on equalization payments and the boast is that this will create peace among the provinces forever. What we have seen is what the provinces were given with one hand was taken away with the other, so that their wait times money has been cut. There is no money for health human resources.
We have watched $250 million a year replace a billion a year for child care spaces with the provinces. We have watched the environmental transfers to the provinces cut. We have watched the skills and training agreement with the provinces cut. The government is cutting the provinces on the one hand and saying it is giving them the money on the other.
What for me is the saddest thing about this budget is that the government was handed a huge surplus due to good, strong fiscal management by the previous Liberal governments over the last 13 years. The Conservatives took that money, $35 billion, and they blew it on little boutique programs that are not, as I said earlier on, really going to help people. The government has wasted this money. What a squandering of an opportunity.
Here is an opportunity on health care. Let us do something about health human resources. The government could think about the aging population and take the opportunity to deal with long term care and bring about a long term health care act to help seniors who are looking for health care.
The government had an opportunity to help with the huge catastrophic drug costs that people are facing for health care. Nothing was done about that.
The government had the opportunity to do something about helping the epidemic of obesity in this country among our youth and with diabetes, and with heart disease and stroke that will occur as a result of that. There was nothing to deal with issues of obesity which should have been a number one issue for the government in terms of health promotion and disease prevention.
With regard to education, it was an opportunity missed. Here was an opportunity to create an education act that would work with all the provinces, in partnership, to ensure that there is not a single child or a single youth in this country who does not have access to post-secondary education, training, skills or the ability to get a licence or trade. Not a penny was given to that. That is what the Irish did in terms of productivity and competitiveness. The Irish trained their people. We had an opportunity to get the best and the brightest in our workforce and nothing was done. Instead, the government cut programs in adult literacy.
We know that science again tells us that early learning is important for children to be able to be the best they can be. That has been cut. Opportunities have been lost.
With social transfers we had an opportunity to talk about the problems that are facing people, the homeless in the cities. Nothing has been done about this.
The number one priority for 80% of people who live in the urban areas in most provinces, including my province of British Columbia, is housing. Why? It is because our property values are increasing. Last year property values increased 24%, but people's incomes did not increase 24%. People cannot find rental housing in Vancouver. People do not have the money to buy a house.
We have poor families that will be getting $1.37 a day, but they still cannot afford to pay rent. There was nothing at all on housing. What an opportunity that was squandered and missed. In our entire country housing is the single most important thing for families.
We have talked about the cities agenda. There was nothing in the budget to help the cities. The government says it will be tough on crime. Here is what the previous Liberal government promised on how it would deal with crime. We promised that we would give $20 million to increase the number of RCMP officers to create a SWAT team that would deal with issues such as gun crime in the urban areas.
The Liberals promised that they would create 2,500 new municipal police positions to help the province to police property crime and gun crimes. The government promised Vancouver's mayor that it would give him 69 police officers. Nothing was done. Then I listened to the minister in the House saying, “oh, let them go and ask the province”. He might as well have said, “let them go and eat cake”.
This is the attitude. What saddens me most is that there was nothing for aboriginal people. Canadians have to go to the four western provinces and actually see the plight of urban aboriginal people. There is homelessness and drug addiction. We see people living on the streets who have nothing. They have the lowest health care status in Canada. There was nothing for aboriginal people and nothing for urban aboriginals.
The budget is ideological. If the government approved of certain individuals, it gave them something in the budget. If it did not approve of other individuals, then they got absolutely diddly-squat. This is so sad. Here we are at a point where we should be dealing with the challenges that face this country.
How do we help people get out of poverty? There must be real strategies to help people get out poverty. The government has to help them with housing, learning, education and training, so they can find better jobs. Nothing was done.
I cannot support this budget because it was an opportunity wasted, $35 billion squandered.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Before discussing the federal budget, I want to congratulate all the men and women who took part in yesterday's election in Quebec. In particular, I want to congratulate Premier Jean Charest on his reelection, and Mario Dumont on his fine campaign.
I am pleased today to be able to address this House to discuss the merits of the excellent budget tabled a week ago by my colleague, the hon. . This budget reflects the Government of Canada's unwaivering support for our agriculture and agri-food sector. Our government has confirmed its intention to ensure a prosperous future for our farmers. Quebec's agriculture sector is a major contributor to the Canadian economy. We know that Quebec's producers, just like the producers in the rest of the country, are not asking for a handout. We want them to be able to benefit from solid, predictable programs in order to face the growing challenges they encounter. The new Government of Canada is keeping its promises to improve farm support programs and encourage the production of renewable fuels. We are supporting our producers and protecting the environment at the same time.
The 2007 budget contains an additional $1 billion for producers. Once the cost-shared agreement for the new savings account program is signed with Quebec and the provinces, the government will give $600 million to producers for them to put in their new savings accounts. To help compensate for the increased cost of production over the past four years, the budget also includes an immediate $400 million payment.
The launch of a program focussed on savings accounts for producers is a major step in replacing the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program, commonly referred to as CAIS, with programs that are more predictable and better suited to our producers' needs. As I was just saying, we have entered into negotiations with the provinces in order to implement a savings account program. Together, this new program, the disaster relief framework, improved production insurance, and an improved margin-based program will replace CAIS.
That was an election promise and we have kept it. Investments in renewable fuels production will allow Quebec and Canadian producers to help the bioeconomy grow. Budget 2007 will provide $2 billion over seven years for the production of renewable fuels, including $1.5 billion for incentives to produce renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. In addition, $500 million will be made available to Sustainable Development Technology Canada to invest with the private sector in setting up large facilities producing renewable fuels. These actions show that the Conservative government listened to producers. We keep our promises and we deliver.
I would like to take a moment to explain how the investments this government is making will help producers in Quebec. Budget 2007 builds on the proven ability of the new Government of Canada to provide Canadians and their families with tax relief, including a new working income tax benefit of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families, to reward work and strengthen incentives to work. Workers in Quebec will receive $106.7 million under this new initiative. We also have a new child tax credit that will provide more than 3 million Canadian families with up to $310 in tax relief for each child, resulting in savings of approximately $297.2 million for Quebec parents, and an increase in the basic spousal amount that will provide tax relief of up to $209 to a supporting spouse or a single taxpayer supporting a child or relative. This initiative will translate into savings of approximately $55.7 million for Quebeckers. Also, raising the age limit for registered pension plans, or RPPs, and registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs, to 71 years of age will save Quebec taxpayers $28.4 million.
The correction of the fiscal imbalance brings unprecedented levels of federal support to Quebec and the provinces. For Quebec, transfers total more than $15.2 billion for 2007-08. Once again, we are keeping our word and delivering the goods. Under a new and improved equalization system, payments will total $12.8 billion in 2007-08, including nearly $7.2 billion for Quebec.
In 2007-08, the Canada health transfer will give Quebec and the provinces cash payments of $21.3 billion in 2007-08, including $5.2 billion for Quebec. The Canadian government will pay $9.5 billion in 2007-08 through the Canada social transfer, including $2.2 billion for Quebec.
In 2008-09, all provinces and territories will benefit from an additional $250 million in the form of permanent CST funding for the creation of child care spaces, as well as an additional $800 million for post-secondary education.
The combination of those two transfers means that Quebec will receive $410.4 million, with an annual increase of 3%.
Furthermore, in 2007 and 2008, all provinces and territories will benefit from an additional $250 million for the creation of new child care spaces. This funding is meant to round out the CST, and includes $97.5 million for Quebec.
Budget 2007 provides $500 million a year for labour market training beginning in 2008-09, including $117 million for Quebec. We have accomplished a great deal, for Canada as well as Quebec.
Overall, Quebec farmers should receive $896 million through various programs begun in 2006. The payments made to Quebec producers during the first three years of the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program should total $598 million. Additionally, Quebec will receive over $51 million of the total budget of $1.5 billion announced for agriculture in budget 2006.
Quebec producers will also benefit as follows: $50 million to cover the additional costs related to changes in the criteria respecting coverage of the negative margin under CAIS; $90 million under the cover crop protection program; and $550 million under the Canadian farm families options program. Quebec’s producers will also benefit from the payment of $46 million under the grains and oilseeds payment program. In addition, the federal government contributed some $22 million to production insurance premiums in 2006 to help Quebec producers manage their production costs.
For Canada’s new government, the long-term prosperity of farm producers also depends on a firm defence of their interests internationally. In fact we think it is crucial to fight the trade distortions caused by domestic aid policies, to work for improved market access and to oppose all export subsidies.
Canada’s new government has demonstrated over and over again that it is prepared to stand up for farmers in Quebec and Canada where our supply management system is concerned. These past years, American corn subsidies have risen to $9 billion a year. That worries us. That is why, last February, Canada held formal consultations at the WTO with the United States about the financial assistance paid to American corn producers with respect to the total level of support for agriculture, which gives rise to a trade distortion, and about some of its export credit programs.
More recently, the once again demonstrated our commitment to defend our supply management system by announcing that Canada’s new government will announce negotiations under GATT Article XXVIII to restrict imports of milk protein concentrates.
I wish to conclude by expressing my pride in this government’s achievements in the agricultural sector in both Quebec and the country as a whole. Thanks to our ongoing action in this sector, we can look forward to a prosperous future for agriculture in our country.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise today on behalf of the people of Palliser to support budget 2007.
Throughout the great constituency of Palliser, in Moose Jaw, Regina, Avonlea, Wilcox, Rouleau, Caronport, Caron, Pense and other communities throughout Palliser, our constituency is blessed with families who work hard and seniors who have spent their lives building their communities.
Palliser is made stronger through the work of our farm families, whose dedication to the land is an inspiration, and through the small businesses that create the jobs we need to sustain a strong economy.
The people of Palliser want a government that delivers results, a government that cuts taxes for working families and invests in priorities like health care, the environment and infrastructure. That is what our Conservative government has done in budget 2007.
This budget delivers real results for Saskatchewan families. It invests in the important social and health priorities of Saskatchewan people while cutting taxes for families and addressing the fiscal imbalance by delivering the best equalization deal to Saskatchewan of any federal government in our history. This latter point is significant.
Our government campaigned in the last election on the promise to fix the fiscal imbalance that had been allowed to continue under the previous Liberal government. This budget delivers on that commitment by offering the province of Saskatchewan the option of excluding natural resources, as we promised, and delivering $226 million in equalization payments to Saskatchewan this year, the best equalization deal in our province's history.
In fact, under the fiscal balance package in this budget, Saskatchewan will enjoy the largest per capita increase of any province.
A renewed equalization deal is part of the $1.4 billion this budget delivers to Saskatchewan in transfers for health care, infrastructure, post-secondary education, child care and other measures under the Canada health and social transfer.
I want to remind Saskatchewan residents of what happened the last time a Liberal finance minister brought down a budget in this House, a budget that was supported by the NDP. That budget contained no measures to exclude Saskatchewan's natural resources and nothing to provide additional resources to Saskatchewan as part of a long term equalization deal.
Where both the Liberals and the NDP failed Saskatchewan, our government has delivered.
Even Janice McKinnon, the former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, agrees with us. She says that Premier Calvert's desire to negotiate a side deal for Saskatchewan is “particularly disturbing” and that “he wants to take us back down the road that got us into this mess”.
It is not just through a new equalization deal that Saskatchewan people are benefiting from this budget. I want to take a moment to list the benefits that the people of Saskatchewan will see because of our government's budget.
The benefits include: $250 million for Saskatchewan farmers as part of our plan to provide producers with a new farm income stabilization program; $75 million for infrastructure; $24.8 million through the patient wait times guarantee trust over the next three fiscal years; $8.9 million to implement an immunization program to combat cervical cancer over the next three fiscal years; $44.4 million from the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change; and $10 million to support the Canadian Police Research Centre to establish its permanent base in Regina.
Budget 2007 will provide the residents of Saskatchewan with over $878 million in new money. That funding will be used to directly improve the lives of Saskatchewan residents and deliver real results on the priorities of Saskatchewan people.
Not only does the government's budget provide increased transfer payments to Saskatchewan to address the fiscal imbalance and invest in the priorities of Saskatchewan people, it provides concrete benefits to families and seniors.
Budget 2007 contains a new $2,000 child tax credit for families. This measure will save Saskatchewan parents $45.2 million this year.
The budget increases the basic spousal amount to provide up to $209 of tax relief to a supporting spouse or single taxpayer supporting a child or relative, saving Saskatchewan residents an estimated $7 million.
As well, it contains a working income tax benefit that will provide $19.4 million in tax relief to low income workers in Saskatchewan.
Our government has delivered for seniors.
Budget 2007 delivers on our commitment to allow senior couples to split pension income. It also increases the age credit amount by $1,000 to $5,066, while increasing the RRSP and registered pension plan maturation age, saving Saskatchewan taxpayers $3.9 million this year.
These are the benefits budget 2007 delivers to seniors and families.
Budget 2007 also delivers results for businesses in Saskatchewan.
Our budget will help manufacturing and processing businesses make major investments by allowing them to write off their capital investments in machinery and equipment acquired on or after March 19, 2007, and before 2009, through a special two year 50% straight line rate. This will provide $13 million to assist Saskatchewan businesses this year.
The budget supports Canada's job creators by increasing the capital cost allowance rate from 4% to 10% for buildings used in manufacturing and processing and from 45% to 55% for computers.
The budget rebalances the tax system to encourage investments in oil sands and other sectors in clean and renewable energy while phasing out the accelerated capital cost allowance for oil sands development.
Budget 2007 will provide $3 million in tax savings for farmers and small business owners by increasing the lifetime capital gains tax exemption to $750,000.
Through these measures, plus $75 million for infrastructure in Saskatchewan and $23.6 million in gas tax funding for municipalities in Saskatchewan, our government is delivering real tax relief and enhanced support for my province.
Our government believes in balance. While we have continued to provide real tax relief to Canadian families and businesses and have addressed the fiscal imbalance, we have also strengthened investment in health care and the environmental security of our country.
I have already outlined some of the new funding our government will provide for health care in Saskatchewan, but I want to talk about the commitment that our budget makes to the environment.
Battling climate change and creating a sustainable environment for Saskatchewan people is a priority for this government. Through our budget, Saskatchewan will receive over $44 million from the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change initiatives.
Our government is also taking action to preserve and protect the environment by assisting Canadians to make green choices. We will do this through rebates of up to $2,000 to assist Canadians in buying fuel efficient vehicles, through a green levy that will apply to the most fuel-inefficient vehicles and through an incentive plan to retire older, polluting vehicles.
In addition, we will provide $500 million to Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support private sector production of next generation renewable fuels. Iogen, one of Canada's leading biotechnology firms, is seeking $180 million to build a new plant in Saskatchewan and would be a candidate for funding.
We will also be allocating $1.5 billion toward operating incentives for producers of renewable fuels. This funding will help Saskatchewan farmers by creating new market opportunities and creating value added jobs here in Canada.
The measures contained in the budget are good news for Palliser residents, good news for Saskatchewan and good news for Canadians.
Through budget 2007, our government has taken action to build a stronger, better and safer Canada. Our government has delivered a balanced budget that cuts taxes for working families, invests in priorities such as health care, the environment and infrastructure, and moves to restore fiscal balance by giving provinces the resources they need to deliver the front line services that matter to Canadians.
In addition to investing in spending priorities, we are cutting debt by $9.2 billion, bringing our government's total debt reduction since taking office to over $22 billion, or $700 for every man, woman and child in Canada. As well, we are delivering on the tax back guarantee by dedicating over $1 billion in debt interest savings to ongoing personal income tax reductions.
I am proud to support this budget on behalf of the people of Palliser and I am proud to be a part of a government that continues to take action to build a better future for the people of Palliser and for Canadians across our great country.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
It is a tremendous pleasure for me to rise today on the 2007 federal budget. Much has been said about it since it was introduced by the . The analysts have had a lot to say and we have seen many strong reactions. Although the budget is basically far from perfect or ideal, it does address one issue of primordial concern for the development of Quebec for which we have been fighting incessantly for the last five years, that is to say, resolving the fiscal imbalance.
I want to remind the House that it was the sovereignists who waged this long battle, continually showing that the money is in Ottawa while the needs are in Quebec. We sovereignists were the ones who established the Séguin commission. We were the ones who kept up the pressure on the federal government here in Ottawa and kept the bar high. Without the Bloc Québécois, the fiscal imbalance would not even be an issue.
This is a first here in the House of Commons. By starting to resolve the fiscal imbalance, the federal government has acknowledged that it exists. The display of some desire on the part of the federal government to deal with this nagging problem shows what my colleagues and I in the Bloc have always believed: a strong Bloc presence in Ottawa pays off for Quebec. I am sure that the people of Quebec will recognize how much of all this is due to the efforts of the extended sovereignist family.
Although this news is a good start, all the effects of the budget have to be well understood in order to appreciate its real gist and what it will mean for Quebeckers as a whole. Thanks to the first steps toward resolving the fiscal imbalance, we will be able to support the budget. Quebeckers in general will benefit from the gains that the Bloc has obtained here—a party known for its responsible, pragmatic approach. In a direct continuation of this approach, I firmly believe that the struggle is not over. Quite to the contrary, the budget makes it abundantly clear that this government and its leader have not kept their promises.
First, this budget gives Quebec revenues based on Ottawa's goodwill. My colleagues at the Bloc will agree when I say that the past is full of negative examples of this. For instance, how can we forget the child care agreement that was torn up by this government? No new independent revenue was given to Quebec.
That is why it is so important to control the federal government's spending power, which truly leaves the door open for all sorts of intrusions into provincial prerogatives and Quebec's interests. I am not surprised to see that this budget still does not include a plan for putting an end to the federal government's spending power, as recommended in the Séguin report, except perhaps the “limit” the has suggested, offering the right to withdraw with compensation from shared cost programs and with conditions imposed by the federal government.
This is unacceptable. The current intrusions have to stop and Quebec has to be able to withdraw without conditions and with full compensation whenever it sees fit in the future.
This budget has some obvious holes in it that this minority government is trying to cover up. The has announced with great fanfare that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected and that the era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over. I, however, can see that we have a long way to go. For Quebec alone, there is a $950 million shortfall in achieving the levels that were indexed to inflation in 1994-95.
That is why the Bloc will continue to fight for a fiscal transfer. In this budget, no concrete progress has been made since the only real, lasting solution to the fiscal imbalance is a fiscal transfer of the GST and tax points. What Quebec is looking for is independent revenue.
There are other issues I am very concerned about. Why did this government fail to include post-secondary education transfers? Given repeated demands from the education sector and other partners, not to mention the pressing needs in this sector, we would have expected Quebec to begin receiving its share in 2007-08.
I would like to remind the House that the education network has calculated that post-secondary education institutions across Canada need at least $5 billion. That means $1.2 billion for Quebec. Obviously, there is work to be done, especially since the has recognized these needs and has committed to increasing post-secondary education transfers. The Bloc will never give up on this issue. We will keep working to increase transfers for post-secondary studies.
Earlier, I was saying how hard it is to believe that the government can hide such obvious social priorities.
I would therefore add to this long list the complete absence of initiatives and financial means to support social housing. Social housing is a major problem in my riding, . I am not at all surprised to see that this government cares nothing for the poorest members of our society.
In Quebec, there is a social housing crisis. Of course, not everybody needs social housing, but this is an undeniable necessity in any healthy society. People with low incomes need social housing. Having visited social welfare agencies in , I know that women alone, both young and old, are often the ones who need this kind of housing.
Speaking of the status of women, I also wonder why this government once again turned its back on advancing this cause. Not only has it neglected this issue since coming to power, but the government is sending a clear signal in this budget by giving nothing to outspoken women's groups.
Admittedly, there is $20 million for Status of Women Canada, which includes $5 million previously announced on March 7. However, this government is neglecting the serious problems that directly concern women, such as pay equity, women’s access to the employment insurance plan, and the issue of new funding for those groups that work to defend the rights of women.
In addition, how can we ignore the failure to create an independent employment insurance fund for Canadian workers? The fund has fantastic surpluses that could be used to improve conditions for the plan’s contributors. We could reinvest in jobs. But that is not what is happening. In fact, the surpluses in the employment insurance fund are not being returned to the unemployed. They are not benefiting from it as they should. This situation has been widely criticized but it was not corrected in the present budget.
Still on the subject of the great failures of the budget, I find it regrettable that assistance to aboriginals has been put off for a year. I am well aware of their social concerns because the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve is in my riding. It is heartbreaking, knowing that aboriginal communities are in extraordinary difficulties and that they need special support.
Because of these great oversights, I conclude once again that the government is doing little to reduce poverty or to help the most needy in our society. They will have to answer for it to the voters in the next federal election. I could speak at even greater length about the missed targets in this budget, however, I will conclude by repeating that the Bloc will, nevertheless, support this budget, in particular because of this first step toward a full adjustment of the fiscal imbalance respecting Quebec. The government has a great deal to do. It must fulfill its promise to fully correct the fiscal imbalance and propose a tax transfer to Quebec, as well as increasing transfers for post-secondary education.
I call on this government to provide workers with an accessible employment insurance plan and to create an independent employment insurance fund. It must transfer money to Quebec and the provinces for social housing. It must help older workers with an income support program that will pave the way to a decent retirement. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done by this government, but also by us, members of the Bloc. For our part, we will continue to propose solutions and we will speak up for the interest of Quebec every time, on every issue, in a responsible way, dedicating our hearts and our minds solely to the interests of Quebec.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House to this budget.
My colleague from explained the reality of this budget quite well. This is a step toward correcting the fiscal imbalance, but things are not really resolved. We are still at the mercy of the federal government's goodwill. All we need is an election, another budget or another government and all this can change.
In fact, the first thing this government did when it came into power was tear up the agreement on child care reached with Quebec. It could very well do the same in a few months or another government could do so in a few years. Such is the cost of dependency: being at the mercy of another government for making our strategic choices in Quebec. The only solution to this is independence.
The hon. member for pointed out that the government needed to have the fiscal imbalance explained to it. It was the Bloc Québécois that proposed this debate in the House. Even though some progress has been made, the Conservatives still do not understand what the fiscal imbalance is. The minister claims that it has been resolved, that it is over and that nothing more will be said about it. To resolve it, he would have had to offer a real and complete solution to the fiscal imbalance, but he does not understand what that means.
The concept of the imbalance was first introduced by the Séguin commission in Quebec. It received a broad consensus, regardless of political stripes and allegiances to national unity.
When the term “fiscal imbalance” was adopted, people at the Séguin commission did not just randomly pick two words out of the dictionary. They did not draw them out of a hat. These words did not come out of nowhere. These people came up with the term “fiscal imbalance” because it was an imbalance and because it was fiscal. This seems logical enough to me.
The imbalance means that the central, federal government collects more taxes than it needs to discharge its constitutionally-assigned responsibilities, while the governments of Quebec and the provinces do not have sufficient tax revenues to provide all the services designated or required by the Constitution and the related fields of jurisdiction shared by the provincial governments.
This situation will only get worse, because expenditures related to federal jurisdictions tend to increase relatively moderately, while expenditures related to provincial jurisdictions, especially health and education, for instance, increase quite quickly.
That is the imbalance aspect and there is also the fiscal aspect. It is a taxation issue, a question of predictable, own-source revenues the provinces can collect in order to provide their citizens with the appropriate services.
One cannot consider the fiscal imbalance resolved as long as there are no fiscal solutions. It is not called the budget imbalance, the financial imbalance or the monetary imbalance. It is called the fiscal imbalance. I repeat this, because we have been repeating this for four years and, as of just last week, the government still did not understand what it was.
Thus, the government has taken a first step. It has decided to transfer more money to Quebec and the provinces. That is a step forward. However, it is not enough. This can only be a short-term solution. What Quebeckers want—and all party leaders in Quebec have said so, partisan politics aside—is to take this even further. Independent transfers are needed. The GST, for instance, must be handed over to the Quebec government to collect directly, increasing the Quebec sales tax by six points, for example and, in exchange, the federal government would agree to stop collecting that tax in Quebec.
That was the Séguin commission's preferred solution. It would be the simplest solution to implement and would give the Government of Quebec its own revenues that would grow at the same pace as its economy and would be controlled by Quebec voters when they choose their government. That is what we want. We do not want to have to start everything over in a few months, which is what happened in the past. This could be a solution to the problem.
We could also solve the problem through tax transfers, which has been done in the past. We could increase the federal income tax allowance for Quebeckers. The Government of Quebec could then increase its income tax rates by an equivalent amount. This would be completely transparent for taxpayers. This would make a difference for citizens and the government because Quebec could take advantage of its own revenues. That is what should have been done.
With respect to the budget, there is still a lot to do. In terms of equalization, the point is to ensure fiscal fairness—as I said, this is about taxation—which means that all of the provinces would have similar fiscal capacities. This regime is for provinces that fall below the Canadian average for fiscal capacity. The money they receive will enable them to offer services similar to those offered in other provinces based on the Canadian norm without having to raise their own taxes unreasonably. How is the tax base calculated? In any reasonable federation anywhere in the world, people would say that it is not complicated, that the tax base is simply all of the revenue sources available to governments.
In Canada, the government has decided to exclude, on a totally arbitrary basis, a source of revenue equivalent to half the country's non-renewable natural resources. That is completely arbitrary. It just so happens that the province that will suffer the most because of this exclusion is Quebec. In the current budget, there are two levels of inclusion that can be used to calculate equalization: 0% and 50%. Why is there no 100% level, which would benefit Quebec? The Conservative members from Quebec have failed to ensure that Quebec's voice is being heard.
I would like to address my colleagues from the rest of Canada who might say that we are complaining for nothing. How would they have reacted if the government had decided to exclude aerospace from the equalization formula. Why not? Would the Bloc support that? That would be good. It would mean additional revenues for Quebec. The aerospace industry is concentrated in Quebec and is part of our fiscal capacity. So it would be to our advantage to remove it from the calculation. But that would not make sense. Everyone would say, “why aerospace?” Why would we not exclude hydroelectricity? Why not? Non-renewable resources are excluded, so why not renewable ones?
What I am trying to show is that this measure is completely arbitrary and that it goes against the very spirit of the Canadian federation. The amount Quebec receives might of course seem large. We heard some of our colleagues speak about this. Of all the provinces that receive equalization payments, Quebec receives the least per capita. Quebec obviously receives more in equalization than Prince Edward Island. It is not just about volume, number of residents and the principle of fiscal capacity. Fiscal capacity is calculated per capita. Is each province able to offer similar services to every resident?
In conclusion, the government has taken a step forward. It is a start. The government could have done better by eliminating the arbitrary nature of equalization.
It could also have done better by offering a tax transfer.
Mr. Speaker, I will start by making clear that I am splitting my time with the member for .
It is a real pleasure to rise to address the budget. In budget 2007 Canada's new government has done a number of things to actually deal with issues that are important to Canadians, whether it is solving the issue of the fiscal imbalance and bringing balance to our relations with the provinces, ensuring they have the resources to provide all the services in their domain, as we were just discussing in the House, or in terms of providing tax relief for Canadians who have been hard pressed for a long time.
We believe that Canadians pay too much in tax, so we have done some things to lessen the burden, including introducing a new child tax benefit. It goes beyond that of course. We have also beefed up the spousal amount so that there is no longer discrimination against married couples in the tax system. There are a number of other tax changes I could go into but I will not as my time is very limited.
As is the custom during a budget speech, I want to acknowledge the people of my riding of Medicine Hat, who have been very generous and good to me and elected me a number of times. It is a great honour to serve the people of Medicine Hat, Brooks, Taber, Bow Island, Foremost, Bassano, all these great communities. They are good folks who do not mind extending a hand over a fence to help their neighbours. It is an honour and a privilege for me to have the chance to represent them day to day in this place, but also today as we debate this budget.
There are a few things I know I can say on behalf of the people of my riding, including that they like this budget. They are very much supportive of the measures that we brought forward. I want to talk a little about those measures right now. I am also going to talk about them from the perspective of being the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.
I could talk about a lot of issues. We were very busy in the budget. We introduced a lot of good measures, including the new disability savings plan. My friend from the Liberals asked what was in it for the disabled. The new disability savings plans is extraordinarily important. There is another initiative in the budget that will provide for capital projects for businesses and not for profit organizations that need wheelchair ramps and that kind of thing.
There is a lot more in the budget and I cannot get into everything, so I want to talk about a few very specific issues. I want to preface that by saying we are working together with the public and the provinces on these very important issues.
For the first time in 13 years, we have a government in Ottawa that is doing what my constituents have been saying for a long time: we must work together, across the country, and recognize the ability of each of the provinces to deal with the unique challenges they face.
We are working with the provinces and with individuals to make this country better.
I will begin with an issue that is important to Canadians, which is the issue of child care. In the last little while child care has become an important issue to many Canadians. This government responded immediately upon coming to power to address this issue. We argued for choice in child care. We were elected on that platform. Upon coming to government, we brought in the universal child care benefit that now goes to 1.4 million families on behalf of 1.9 million children.
We also said that we had to do something more to create spaces. In the budget, we immediately brought in a new $250 million transfer to the provinces for the purpose of creating child care spaces, along with the new investment tax credit that will urge businesses to create spaces for child care. No sooner had we brought those measures in, than budgets came down in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario. What did they announce in those budgets? The provinces announced that they would take that money and create 17,000 new child care spaces across the country. That was tremendous news. We are providing choice in child care for Canadians today.
I remind my friends across the way that when they were in power they promised a national child care plan going back to 1988 actually. John Turner promised a national child care plan if he was elected then. The truth is that a lot of the people who were children when the Liberals were making those promises now have children of their own. The Liberals never came through on their promises. They promised child care in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004. By the time they put some money into the program, the former deputy prime minister, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Sheila Copps, pointed out in an article in the Calgary Sun that the money did not create a single child care space.
The Liberals threw a tonne of money at it but it did not create a single child care space. No sooner have we put a very modest amount of money in, a targeted amount of money, we are able to lever that working with the provinces to create 17,000 child care spaces.
We have been busy on other fronts as well. We moved very aggressively on post-secondary education. We have done this with the provinces and we have done it in a way that ensures that this is not just another direct transfer to them to do with it what they will.
In fact, we received affirmation from people like Claire Morris of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and with the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations. Both of them have lauded the government for putting $800 million in the budget toward post-secondary education, a 40% increase every year for students for post-secondary education. They lauded us because they noted that it was a step toward a dedicated transfer, which means that the provinces will be more accountable for how they spend that money. That should give everyone some comfort.
The money will provide the provinces with more latitude to ensure they can fund universities and also more latitude to ensure that tuition stays down, something that is in their purview, of course, but now they have the resources to react to the public which is asking for tuition to be kept done so young people can go to university.
We have acted aggressively and we are being lauded for it by the people who are the real experts in this, not the Liberals and not the NDP, but students and universities, who know better than most people and, of course, parents themselves who know better than most people the costs associated with a university education.
We have moved in other areas as well. Something that has not been remarked upon but which is very important, and I think some members in this place will appreciate this more than others, is our announcement in the budget of a new plan to ensure that we work with the provinces on labour market agreements.
In the past, the federal government has devolved some responsibility to the provinces for what is called employment insurance, part II money, which means money that was used for training through the employment insurance program for people who had been in the workforce and would have qualified for employment insurance.
The program has been successful and agreements have been in place with the provinces in different ways over different periods of time, depending on the provinces, but it has been successful and those people are getting training they need.
However, we want it to go the rest of the way. Today we have the hottest labour markets in a generation, thanks to the leadership of our and the , but we wanted to ensure that people who have not been in the labour market for a long time also get training. We announced in the budget new bilateral arrangements with the provinces that will provide $500 million on a per capita basis to help people who have been out of the workforce for a long time. Sometimes it is older workers and sometimes it is off reserve aboriginals who have struggled to get the training they need.
We are getting the job done where the previous government failed and failed for 13 years in a row. It was not just one year. The Liberals failed over many years. We are getting the job done and, because of that, we really are building a stronger, safer and better Canada. I am thrilled to be part of the new government that is doing exactly that.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on budget 2007. The document we have before us is further evidence that Canada's new government is listening and responding to the real concerns of British Columbians.
For more than a decade my constituents have had to endure the empty rhetoric and broken promises of Liberal prime ministers. Those days are now behind us.
Budget 2007 is a budget for all Canadians regardless of where they come from. Budget 2007 is a balanced budget that cuts taxes for working families, invests in important priorities like health care, the environment, infrastructure, and moves to restore the fiscal balance. In short, this is a great budget for B.C. and a great budget for Canada.
This year's federal budget is good news for people concerned about infrastructure in B.C. For years Lower Mainland residents have sought federal aid for their transportation problems. Liberal neglect has exacted a heavy toll on commuters. Travel times in the Lower Mainland have increased by 30% in the last decade. Traffic delays are costing the trucking industry over $500 million a year.
With the region's population expected to grow by another one million by 2021, severe traffic congestion will only get worse.
Last fall, at my invitation, the transport minister visited Surrey and met with people in my riding to listen to their concerns. Those concerns are now being addressed.
Budget 2007 makes the largest investment in infrastructure in Canadian history, with more than $16 billion over seven years to fix our roads, highways, bridges and ports. This brings total federal support under a new long term plan for infrastructure to $33 billion.
British Columbia is the single biggest winner on the infrastructure front. There is an additional $400 million for the Pacific Gateway initiative, bringing total federal funding to $1 billion; over $275 million for other Gateway and border crossing projects; more than $2 billion for B.C. municipalities in the form of gas tax funding and GST rebates; and an additional $25 million per year for the province to support investments in national priorities. As told, budget 2007 will invest nearly $5 billion in B.C. infrastructure over the next seven years.
Previous Liberal governments knew of our glaring needs, but did nothing. It has taken a Conservative government to produce results.
In Fleetwood—Port Kells parents struggle daily with the challenge of raising a family. While the economy is booming and unemployment is at a 30 year low, the cost of living is dramatically higher than in other regions.
As a government we need to make it more affordable for people to have children and to raise them. That is why in budget 2007 we are creating a working families tax plan. This plan has three components.
First, for families with children it includes a brand new $2,000 per child tax credit for children under 18 that will help families to get ahead.
Second, we are ending the marriage penalty through an increase of the spousal and dependent amounts to the same level as the basic personal amount.
Third, we are helping parents save for their children's education by strengthening the RESP program. For B.C. families this plan will result in significant tax savings totalling more than $300 million annually.
We are also taking action to ensure that our seniors can live in dignity. In budget 2007 we are helping seniors by raising the age limit for RRSPs to 71 from 69 years, increasing the age credit by $1,000 and permitting pension income splitting. These measures are great news for hard-working families and seniors in Fleetwood--Port Kells.
Budget 2007 helps to ensure that we continue to live in a country where hard work and sacrifice lead to economic success and security.
Our government has provided British Columbians with a budget that recognizes their struggles and delivers fairness.
British Columbia is blessed with one of the most remarkable natural environments found anywhere in Canada. It should therefore come as no surprise to members that people in my province consider preserving the environment to be a top government priority. That is one reason why Canada's new government is moving forward with a positive environment agenda that will curb our production of greenhouse gases and reduce water, land and air pollutants.
We are replacing empty Liberal talk with an approach that is responsible and realistic. Budget 2007 invests $4.5 billion in measures to protect our natural environment. This includes, among other things, $1.5 billion for cleaner energy and energy efficiency. Through the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change, B.C.'s share of this funding is almost $200 million.
There is also $2.2 billion for measures to support cleaner transportation, including a new rebate for fuel efficient vehicles, a new green levy to discourage fuel inefficient vehicles, and programs to get older, high pollution vehicles off our roads.
We are introducing a $93 million national water strategy and there is $30 million to protect B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest.
Combined with a $4.6 billion investment in 2006, Canada's new government has invested more than $9 billion in preserving and protecting the environment with programs that deliver results.
British Columbians are fed up with the empty rhetoric and broken promises of previous Liberal governments. That is why we are delivering real action to protect our natural environment for all Canadians.
In conclusion, with this budget, we are restoring fiscal balance by bringing federal support for B.C. to $4.7 billion this fiscal year, making $76.4 million available to the B.C. government through the patient wait times guarantee trust, and making another $39.9 million available to B.C. to implement an HPV immunization program to combat cervical cancer.
There is $9 million in corporate income tax relief for changes in capital cost allowances for buildings; $57 million in additional corporate income tax relief for the temporary two-year write-off for manufacturing equipment over the next two years; approximately $10.2 million in tax savings for farmers, fishers and small business owners through an increased lifetime capital gains tax exemption to $750,000; approximately $60 million in other assistance for B.C. farmers; and $15 million for the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. All of this funding is specifically for British Columbia.
Managing Canada's $1.5 trillion economy means making choices and striking the right balance. In budget 2007 we have achieved this by balancing the budget, cutting taxes for working families, investing in priorities, and giving provinces the resources they need to deliver the front line services that matter to all Canadians.
Our actions today will create a Canada that we will be proud to pass on to our children and grandchildren, a Canada with a standard of living and quality of life that is second to none. Canada's new government is working for all Canadians, building a stronger, safer and better Canada.