The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Mr. Speaker, I will address some comments with respect to the budget bill.
The budget would restore fiscal balance in Canada, cuts taxes for working families, invest in priorities like agriculture, health care, education, infrastructure, the environment and reduce our national debt. It is fair, it is principled and it is good for the long term.
The budget would invest in agriculture, including a $400 million immediate one time payment to address the rising costs of production, a $600 million one time payment to enact a simpler, more responsive income stabilization program for farmers, with a new savings account type program being cost shared on a 60:40 basis with the province, and a $2 billion announcement in new incentives for renewable fuels. All in all, it is a pretty decent budget for all of Canada, and Saskatchewan as well.
The budget is also a historic one in that it acknowledges and addresses the fiscal imbalance by giving $39 billion over seven years to the provinces in additional funding. The provinces now have the additional resources they need to meet their many pressing needs. Each province, including Saskatchewan, would benefit with this transfer.
Federal support for Saskatchewan would be $1.4 billion in 2007-08, including $226 million under the new equalization formula, $756 million under the health care transfer and $342 million for the Canada social transfer that includes additional funding for post-secondary education and child care and $75 million for infrastructure. In total, budget 2007 would provide the residents of Saskatchewan with over $800 million in new money.
It is in this context that the equalization formula and the amount payable to Saskatchewan under it should be viewed. The purpose of equalization is a not a permanent entitlement, nor should it be. As a province's economic fortunes improve, its equalization payments will decline. Conversely, as a province's economic fortunes decline, its equalization payments will increase.
The current formula, as requested by many provinces, includes a higher equalization standard of 10 provinces. A province like Saskatchewan would get the greater of the amount it would receive by fully excluding natural resources under one option or by including 50% of natural resource revenues under another option. Should Saskatchewan's economy, economic fortunes, resource revenues or production levels decline, equalization payments would continue where 100% of natural resources would be excluded.
The fiscal capacity cap would ensure a receiving province would not end up with a fiscal capacity higher than a non-receiving province. That is how equalization should work. Obviously, one would always like an even better and more substantial deal under equalization, but one has to take into account the context of the need for a principle based approach and the overall amount a province like Saskatchewan receives as well as the benefits flowing to Saskatchewan by virtue of the many provisions in the budget. Saskatchewan has received the largest per capita gains of any province under the fiscal balance package in 2007-08.
The budget contains many more provisions. For example, farmers and small businesses would benefit from an increase in the lifetime capital gains exemption, from $500,000 to $750,000. Manufacturing and processing firms would benefit from a two year 50% straight line write-off for investment in machinery and equipment. All of us would benefit from the tax back guarantee, where money saved from paying less interest on the debt results in personal tax reductions.
Our government has allocated $22.4 billion to our national debt in just two years. With these payments alone, the government will save $1.1 billion in interest payments in 2007-08 and nearly $1.3 billion in 2008-09, all of which will go toward tax reduction.
There are more things I want to say about equalization, but I want to highlight what I call the height of hypocrisy. All things must be taken in their proper context. I know there is great temptation to dumb down complicated issues to single issues and to focus exclusively on those issues.
The equalization issue falls within the context of the budget and is not a stand-alone document. Its purpose is to ensure that the provinces that have not are helped by those that have, so Canadians across our great country can generally expect comparable or the same types of programs and services regardless of where they live. There is, by nature, a give and take in that process, with the best interests of all Canadians at stake, which by its nature requires some movement and some give and take for the benefit of all.
First and foremost, the promise was to fix the fiscal imbalance and to get things in proper alignment to ensure the provinces could meet their provincial obligations, and equalization was part of that. Many, myself included, have argued for, and quite vociferously I might add, for the exclusion of all non-renewable resources from the equalization formula. Why? Simply put, it would mean more money. Everyone wants more money.
I have always said that one should try to substantially achieve the goal of exclusion and do everything possible to that end, but in the end a fair and equitable solution must be found to balance that interest with the good of all of Canada.
As hard as that may seem, the approach is broader, it is bigger than any one province or any one premier or any one reporter or news media for that matter. For the Randy Burtons and Murray Mandryks of this world, who see the issue in isolation of all the facts and out of the context of decision-making, perhaps they should look beyond their very narrow focus. Where were they, the Premier of Saskatchewan and the member for when the previous equalization formula was in play?
Saskatchewan lost billions of dollars while the member for was finance minister, including a time when the current Premier of Saskatchewan was watching from the sidelines. The member for Wascana will say that he delivered $700 million, but what he forgets to say is that Saskatchewan lost billions right under his nose and he did nothing about it. In fact, as one expert indicated, $1.08 for every $1 of oil that left Saskatchewan was lost, and in some cases more.
Where was the member for when the Atlantic accord was being signed by the previous Liberal government? Why was he not making a similar deal for Saskatchewan? It is the height of hypocrisy for him now to say that he would do it differently. Thirteen years of evidence shows differently. In fact, the member for Wascana put together the expert panel, resulting in the O'Brien report. For him to suggest he would have done anything other than accept the report, is utter nonsense, totally unbelievable and the height of hypocrisy. Saskatchewan will not be fooled. It would be far worse under the previous Liberal government and the unamended O'Brien report, which the member for Wascana would surely have accepted.
For the moment, Saskatchewan's economy is hot. We are doing well, despite any financial mismanagement. I know the premier would like to get his fingers on more money, not to develop Saskatchewan but to try and win an election he cannot win. It is interesting to note that the premier, along with the member for , sat on their backsides while the Atlantic accord was signed and made no noise until after the fact. Let us be frank.
The formula is taking place within the context of a budget vote. One has to take it in that context. Would one be prepared to vote against the government and have an election call? The hypocritical member for , including the , along with all of their members would run, with their tails between their legs, rather than vote down the budget and call an election.
Only when they knew there were sufficient numbers for the budget to pass, did they decide to vote against the budget, with all the rhetoric that goes with it. They know that and so does everybody in the House. That includes their NDP cousins, who blow hot and cold, both blowing and sucking at the same time, on the equalization issue. Yes, they with their Manitoba cousins are saying that oil and gas should be included. Yes, they with their Saskatchewan cousins are saying that oil and gas should be excluded. All things to all people, but hypocritical as well.
Where is the spirit of nation-building? Where is the spirit of nationhood, where one goes against his or her better interests to ensure that nationhood works? It is called something simple. It is called greed. Give me, give me, but not if it costs me something.
We should be developing Saskatchewan and its resources. We should be growing our province so we can help others, so we can produce income and wealth. We should not be standing on a street corner with cap in hand looking for a handout. The current premier is trying to weasel a win for himself and he will go to long lengths to do it.
We are moving in a new direction in Saskatchewan. We have a new vision. We will not only become self-sufficient, but we will be leaders in our country and, in some instances, in the world.
This week the , the and the chair of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will visit my constituency. Weyburn, Saskatchewan has the world's largest CO2 storage project. Estevan is the proposed site of the world's first zero emission coal-fired power plant. Midale, Saskatchewan, in the oil patch, has some of the most enhanced oil recovery technology that exists in the world.
It is time for the Premier of Saskatchewan to get on with the program and quit whining. Even Janice MacKinnon of the previous NDP government indicated that we needed a principled approach in equalization and that any side deals, in the kinds that were accorded, were done with an end in mind that was not helpful to the good of nationhood.
Our premier asked for an equivalent formula where oil and gas was included under the five province average. From what has happened in Atlantic, a 10 province average may it even make that better. That is what the equalization formula has. Yes, it has a cap, but it is for the purpose to ensure that those that contribute to equalization do not have a lower fiscal capacity than those that receive.
This is the way it should work. It is a matter of ensuring that all Canadians receive the benefits of similar programming.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus a bit on the process. Some of the members may know that on June 5 the government issued a press release on its website entitled, “Liberal obstruction could hurt families, taxpayers”. The first sentence read that with just a few weeks left before Parliament rises “for the summer, obstructionist tactics being employed by [the Liberals]...could result in the loss of billions of dollars...”.
Mysteriously, that press release was taken off the website after it was pointed out by our side that it was the government that had obstructed and delayed the passage of Bill in a matter of weeks.
I wanted to put that on the record and go through a quick timetable to demonstrate the point that it was far from the Liberals obstructing the passage of this bill. It was the government side, which, presumably, is why it took down the press release from its website after it had been up there for a very short time.
First, on March 19 the budget was finally tabled in the House, much later than most budgets but, coincidentally, only seven days before the Quebec election. The first delay was to produce a budget that was so terribly late by the standards of most years.
March 20 to March 23, the usual four days of debate occurred on the budget document, which is perfectly normal. On March 29, the budget implementation bill was tabled in the House of Commons. March 30 to April 23, the budget was debated at second reading on four out of six sitting days. The time span here includes a two week parliamentary break, which is also normal.
We now come to a real abnormality. Between April 24 and May 11, the Conservatives took the unprecedented step of removing Bill from the legislative agenda for 15 consecutive sitting days, three weeks in total. That was the only significant delay the budget experienced and it was 100% the fault of the , his government House leader and his government.
We have asked on a number of occasions, and I believe the House leader asked the finance minister earlier today, for an explanation of the three weeks in a row, the 15 consecutive days, during which the government simply yanked the budget bill out of the legislative process. We have not had any answer at all.
Therefore, if there is one reason for a significant delay in this budget bill and a significant delay in getting all that money out to Canadians, it is not on this side of the House. It is a combination of a super late budget in the first place and those 15 consecutive sitting days.
I will continue on with the chronology. On May 14 and May 15, the budget was finally brought back for second reading and was passed in short order. May 16 to May 30, the members of the finance committee sat extra hours outside their usual meeting time in order to pass the budget through committee stage as quickly as possible. They met on five of the next possible sitting days and got the budget through. June 4 and June 5, the government's own report stage amendments were debated and voted on. From June 7 to today, June 12, we are currently on the fourth day of the third reading debate.
I have gone through the full chronology and I would simply say that it is incontestable that the two delays of this budget were from that side of the House and that in other respects this budget bill has moved expeditiously through the various stages of committee hearings.
In terms of the substance of the budget, I would like to quickly summarize the points I have made in previous remarks on this budget. For me it is really summed up with the two words “incompetence” and “dishonesty”. I think those two forces interplay with each other in a number of aspects of this budget.
On the first of those, one has to cast one's mind back a number of years when the was a senior member of the Ontario government and at that time the Ontario government ran on a platform of a balanced budget.
Lo and behold, after that government lost and the auditors came in, they found there was a deficit of $5.6 billion. For a government to run on what turned out to be a $5.6 billion deficit is not only fiscally incompetent, but it is also dishonest to pretend to be running on a balanced budget when it is not.
I would give a second example. it was clear to every Canadian who paid income tax that budget 2006 contained an increase in income tax. Again, that is incompetent because there is not an economist on the planet and I think very few Canadian taxpayers who would prefer an income tax hike to get a penny off the price of a cup of coffee. It is also dishonest when the government continues to repeat that this is an income tax cut when everybody knows, all the journalists and all taxpayers, that it is absolutely incorrect. The government makes that statement not once, not twice but interminably.
The third example is the equalization. Here we have the spectacle of that famous statement by the to the effect that the long, tiresome era of bickering between federal and provincial governments is over. It lasted about 30 minutes until he was red in the face in a debate with the Newfoundland premier on television, and it continues to this day, which is perhaps day 80 or something thereabouts of the budget debate, whereas it is well-known that a good budget and a successful budget is out of the news cycle in three days, and here we are on something in the order of day 80 and it is not even clear whether another member from Nova Scotia may vote against the budget today.
Here are blatantly broken promises to the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the Government of Saskatchewan. For all the words of the member from Saskatchewan who preceded me, he essentially ignored the only relevant point, which is that the government blatantly broke a promise to the people of Saskatchewan. One wonders why there is not even one Conservative member from Saskatchewan who would stand and vote against the budget on behalf of his or her constituents, as did at least one and possibly more members from Nova Scotia.
On interest deductibility, we have gross incompetence of a entirely out of his depth. The incompetence became clear and he withdrew, but he withdrew in an incompetent manner because he focused on double dipping when all the experts are in agreement that the real issue is something called debt dumping. Not only that, but the manner in which he withdrew he alleged that only he had read the budget properly and all of those tax experts out there, whose job is to read and to analyze budgets, had in fact got it wrong. Again, here is a case of incompetence but not even a willingness to admit that any error was made.
Finally, the mother of all broken promises is income trusts. Again, we have seen a comedy of errors, a comedy of unintended consequences in terms of not just a broken promise, but a grossly incompetent execution of that broken promise.
In conclusion, I would simply reiterate that we on the Liberal side will be very proud and happy to vote against the budget. We certainly have not given up on the income trust issue. It will be an election issue in the next election, whenever that may be, and we are confident of victory. We will bring a sensible income trust policy to Canada and significant relief to those hundreds of thousands of Canadians who took the at his word and, as a consequence, lost some $25 billion of their hard-earned savings.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this budget that is so important to Canada and so important to my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul and indeed to Manitobans.
Our budget will reduce the tax burdens on working families, and this budget will protect our environment and modernize our health care system. This is a very important budget that has to be passed by the end of this month. I must say that this government will provide equal treatment to Canadians and this is what this budget delivers.
Through budget 2007 we are providing the provinces and territories with well over $39 billion in additional funding to restore fiscal balance in Canada. We are returning equalization to our principled, formula-based program. I would like to take a moment to talk about how this does apply to my province of Manitoba.
Restoring the fiscal balance will provide Manitobans with $3.1 billion in 2007-08 and this includes $1.8 billion under the new equalization system. It will provide Manitobans with $807 million under the Canada health transfer. It will also provide Manitobans with $350 million for Canada social transfers including additional funding for post-secondary education and child care, and $83 million for infrastructure.
I would like to ask my fellow members of Parliament and the opposition to support Manitoba. I would encourage them to listen to Manitobans. Even the premier of Manitoba said this federal budget contains good news for our province and I would encourage the NDP members from Manitoba to do what is right for the people of Manitoba and support this important budget.
The NDP premier of Manitoba said, “So, I actually think the compromise is supportable by Manitoba. I think that it is difficult to get 13 separate leaders of provinces to agree on a perfect solution. And I think the consensus in the report that was produced by the former Liberal government, acted upon by [the] Prime Minister, is the appropriate way to go. And it treats hydro at least equally to oil and gas. And from that perspective I disagree with the member from Nova Scotia and his position, and I agree with [the] Prime Minister in his position”.
Here in the House we have NDP members of Parliament who are opposing this budget and complaining about it. The fact of the matter is the NDP premier of our province fully supports it. It is obvious that we have to look at what this does for our province.
We believe that paying down the national debt is important for Canadians and our government is lowering our national mortgage by $9.2 billion on top of the $13.2 billion we have put against the debt since elected. This is equivalent to $700 in debt relief for every individual Canadian. Through our tax back guarantee, lower debt will mean lower interest payments which will mean lower taxes. This is a good start because we believe as a government that Canadians pay too much tax.
In my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul parents struggle daily with the challenge of raising a family. With higher costs of living, housing and energy, it is not easy. We need to make it more affordable for people to have children and to raise them. As a result we have created a working families tax plan and that is important to families all across our nation.
It has four components. First, for families with children it includes a brand new $2,000 per child tax credit for children under age 18. That will help families get ahead. This will save families in Manitoba $54.1 million.
Second, we are ending the marriage penalty through an increase of the spousal and dependant amounts to the same level as the basic personal amount to provide up to $209 of tax relief to a supporting spouse or single taxpayer supporting a child or relative, saving Manitoba residents an estimated $8.4 million. This is a lot of money.
Third, we are helping parents save for their children's education by strengthening the RESP program. As the mother of six children all of whom have gone through university, I know what this means to Canadian families and to Manitobans.
Fourth, we are helping seniors by raising the age limit for RPPs and RRSPs to 71 from 69 years to save Manitoban taxpayers $1 million. This is getting direct results for hard-working Canadians.
Welfare is a difficult situation many Canadians face. Too many people feel trapped on welfare. A single mother with one child who takes a low income job can lose almost 80 cents of each dollar she earns because of higher taxes and reduced benefits for drug and dental coverage.
To help people get over this welfare wall, we are investing more than $550 million a year to establish a working income tax benefit. This measure will help remove barriers that discourage people from enjoying the dignity and independence that comes with a job. This new working income tax benefit of up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families will reward work. It will strengthen incentives to work and will benefit Manitoba workers to the tune of $18.9 million.
I would like to remind the member for what she said about the working income tax benefit. She said:
|| It's an important program that goes in the right direction.
I would hope that this means she will be supporting this initiative and supporting the budget. This budget is very important. It has to be passed by the end of the month or a lot of people will miss out.
The budget includes a new long term plan for infrastructure that delivers $33 billion over the next seven years. There is an estimated $17.6 billion in base funding which consists of the gas tax fund and the increase from 57.1% to 100% in the rebate that municipalities receive for the goods and services tax they paid in 2007-08.
Base funding for Manitoba is forecast to be $46 million. The Government of Canada is providing $26.8 million of gas tax funding for municipalities in Manitoba in 2007-08. This is very important to Manitobans. There have been so many plans in terms of the infrastructure advantage from this government that really benefit Manitoba.
Manitoba will benefit from the enriched $1 billion Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative. The Red River floodway is very important to the province of Manitoba and in preventing the flooding of the city of Winnipeg. There is a recent federal commitment of $170.5 million to complete the expansion of the Red River floodway. This will enhance the level of protection enjoyed by the residents of the city of Winnipeg. Members will remember that there was a very big flood a few years back which threatened the whole city.
Preserving and protecting our environment is a priority for our government. We have made tremendous strides in this budget.
In order to protect Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and other Manitoba rivers we are establishing a new national water strategy. It is all centred on the budget that needs to be passed by the end of June. This national water strategy will improve municipal sewer and water facilities.
The new Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change will provide support to those provinces and territories that identify major projects, as we have done in Manitoba, that will result in real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Canada's new government intends to provide Manitoba with almost $54 million through this initiative. Water quality in Lake Winnipeg has deteriorated. This budget will provide $7 million over the next two years to Environment Canada in our province.
Unless Bill the budget implementation act, is passed in the House of Commons and Senate by June 30, the critical funding for Manitoba and for my constituency will be lost.
When elementary schools, such as Bird's Hill School or Maple Leaf School in my riding, write letters about their concern for the environment, how would I explain to students, our country's future leaders, that $54 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution was lost because opposition parties in the House of Commons voted against the bill? At my next seniors round table discussion at Donwood South or Carriage House North when one of my constituents asks why parliamentarians gave up $27.9 million to help reduce patient wait times in Manitoba, how would I explain that?
Without that funding, how do I explain that we are working toward ensuring that all Canadians receive essential medical treatment within clinically acceptable wait times? And what about the over $21 million for labour market training? All this money will be lost. It is critical that the games in this House of Commons stop and that the opposition parties get on board.
The population in my province of Manitoba is waiting for this budget to pass. They look forward to the passage of this budget. The future of this budget is in the hands of parliamentarians here today on Parliament Hill. It behooves us to be responsible and pass this budget and see that Manitobans get that money.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in this shortened debate. I guess I am privileged to speak to the budget, no thanks to the Bloc members. Over the years when it has been in their interests, they have always spoken against closure and here they are supporting closure. I find that to be rather self-centred.
Yesterday I was amused to listen to the hon. member for castigate me for supporting political games on the budget. We should consider that against what the Conservatives have been pulling in the House, particularly their little stunt last Friday.
If the member is looking for examples of bad news, I suggest he should talk about the Conservatives' treatment of Atlantic Canada. He might also talk about his support for the Conservative climate change plan which exempts the tar sands in his own riding from meeting the air emission standards that are so desperately needed in that part of the country. That to me is a real example of how a member is not supporting his constituency. The hon. member's statement yesterday was like much of what we hear from the government, not the complete story.
I am opposed to this budget as a whole, both as a Canadian and a northerner. My opposition is based on the fact that average Canadians do not get much help in the budget. My opposition is based on the fact that aboriginal people do not get much help in the budget. My opposition is based on the fact that it is an incomplete deal for northerners in the budget. My opposition is based on the fact that only large corporations really get help in the budget.
By taxing average Canadians to death while allowing their corporate friends to pay less and less tax, the Conservatives, like the Liberals before them, have ended up sucking an extra $14 billion from the pockets of Canadians. They have dedicated $9 billion of that to debt repayment even though Canada has the lowest national debt of any of the G-7 countries.
Our economy continues to produce good numbers resulting in huge government revenues largely by increasing the tax burden on ordinary Canadians. Working Canadians have paid over the last decade to put the government's fiscal house in order. That job is done and the benefits should flow back to average Canadians.
The numbers are staggering. We have the opportunity now not to increase the prosperity gap as has been going on for the last 15 years, but to bring it back to the way it was in the past where the middle class, the average Canadian, had a much better chance of success in this country.
The Conservatives say that the budget returns benefits across the country. They point to the revamped funding formula provided to the three territories this year, the so-called fiscal rebalancing. To be honest, the new formula funding arrangement is better than the formula imposed by the Liberals. I am glad to see the base amount has been increased so we are no longer using 1985 numbers. I am glad to see a more fair system for calculation of the formulas being used, unlike the perverse system imposed by past governments, but I am concerned that the new formula still uses population in its calculation. Multiplying the average southern cost of a program or service by the territories' population does not reflect the real cost for the provision of that service in the north.
The government as well has agreed to raise the NWT borrowing limit from $300 million to $500 million, a move that was long overdue and was really essential in providing just the basic tools for our territorial government to operate. Our present borrowing limit is strained with utility and mortgage debt. In reality the capitalization costs in western Canada have almost doubled in the last five years. This amount still remains inadequate for what the north has ahead of it with the scale of development potential.
Yesterday the member for went on and on about how I was delaying a one time payment of $54 million to our territorial government. This amount is simply an accounting correction, what in business is referred to as a credit note. The amount that the new formula increased the actual transfer of funds is listed in the budget, $10 million over what would have happened. We can see that the amounts are not that generous or that significant.
To northerners, there are many things missing in the budget. For starters, where is relief for northerners from the high cost of living? For some time we have been calling for an increase in the northern residents tax deduction. When I asked over a month ago whether the government would bring some tax fairness to the people of the north, this was the response by the :
|| At this point we are focused on economic development in the north. That is the key to create jobs and employment opportunities. There is the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in particular and the $500 million socio-economic fund.
Creating jobs that cannot be filled by northerners does not help the working families of the north one little bit. It does nothing to build the north. From his response it is clear that the minister is more interested in helping the oil companies of Calgary and the Petroleum Club than the working families in Old Crow or Tuktoyaktuk or Pond Inlet.
In the budget speech, the stated that the capital gains exemption was in need of an immediate increase because it had not been changed in 20 years. The same thing applies to the northern residents tax deduction. It has not been changed in 20 years. It is not keeping up with inflation. It is not fair to northerners, but of course it was only average northerners who wanted this change and not necessarily the business elite.
The northern residents tax deduction did change a bit. The change is a cynical pork-barrelling addition of the southern part of the government whip's riding. The government members knew what was going on but chose to do one small shameful thing.
The NWT got no action on resource revenue sharing. The resources of the NWT rival those of nations such as South Africa or the United Arab Emirates, but not one cent of those royalties has helped the people of the north directly.
For more than a generation Canada has been saying that it is willing to hand over control and ownership of these riches. However, the government is just like those of the past and it continues to delay. The current excuse is that we need to restart negotiations. Every day Canada delays fulfilment of this promise is another day that millions of dollars, whether from the diamond fields or the oil and gas fields, are lost to the people of the north.
I hear the minister offering up royalties to the oil companies for the pipeline. To promote this pipeline, he is offering up the royalties that the people of the NWT have a share in. I would say to the minister that he should offer up something that is his to offer. He could offer something in the way of subsidies to a multinational oil company, and that is his to offer, but not the royalties that northerners will need to develop their territory and their region of this country, just as every other region has used its own royalties in the same fashion. The people of the Northwest Territories do not mind hearing “mañana” when on vacation in Mexico, but they are tired of hearing it from Ottawa when it comes to ownership of resources.
Another budget item that is quite worrisome to northerners is on page 186. On that page the Conservative government lays out its plan for negating its commitments under the land claim agreements and for silencing the voice of northerners when it comes to environmental assessments.
According to the budget, a law written to implement the portion of land claim agreements whereby aboriginal people are granted a say in how their land is used must be changed, because the pro-industry minister feels it is too restrictive to large corporations. It is clear that the minister's purpose is to gut the very little protection that aboriginal people and other northerners have under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and make it open season for rampant development. It is clear from this statement in the budget that the Conservatives will not let anything get in the way of exploitation, even if it means going back on the word of the Crown.
The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board has recently turned down an application by Ur-Energy to prospect for uranium in the Thelon Basin, an area of the north for which there is unanimity among northerners about the need for its protection. This decision has been roundly attacked by the mining industry, which is spreading the falsehood that the board overstepped its bounds.
However, subsection 64(1) of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which created the board, is an act of this Parliament and the responsibility of this Parliament, and it states:
|| A board shall seek and consider the advice of any affected first nation...respecting the presence of heritage resources that might be affected by a use of land or waters or a deposit of waste proposed in an application for a license or permit.
The board did what it was constituted to do. The minister should do his job and support the interests of the people whose land is under threat. He should forget about the arrogant statement in the budget on the government streamlining the regulations, going against the word of the Crown and not playing fair with the constitutional rights of aboriginal people across the north.
This is all in the budget. How can I as a northerner support these kinds of things in any document that comes before this House?
I have to admit that I am not hopeful this government will keep its word to the working people of the north, because it did not keep its word of the Crown on the Atlantic accord. This is a budget that is not for everyone, and it is not for me.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to discuss the federal budget again and to raise a few other points.
It is unfortunate that so few members have the opportunity that I have today. The time allocated to a debate on a very important aspect of government has been limited. How will programs be implemented? How will services be provided to Canadians? I believe these questions deserve a good debate and some good discussion.
I have the honour to be a member of the House Standing Committee on Finance, where the Conservatives wanted to eliminate the opportunity for Canadians to appear before the committee to share their opinions on budget 2007. I found that most unfortunate.
We had to negotiate to bring even a few people before the committee, and even then, their testimony was restricted. For example, Premier Calvert was given only a few minutes despite having been promised a whole hour.
What has been interesting to me in this debate today is not the question of whether or not this budget represents a betrayal to Canadians. The only discussion has been on what is the biggest betrayal. Is it the income trusts or is it the Atlantic accord? What is it? The fact that there are so many betrayals is very worrying and the fact that nobody can argue that Canadians have not been betrayed.
The government has flip-flopped on the issue of summer jobs. What bothers me is not the fact that the government has flip-flopped. It is the fact that there are some issues that it refuses to flip-flop on because it comes out instinctively with an incompetent position, which causes us to fight all the time within committees and within this House to get the government to understand and to get the item out in public so the government will be forced to retract its position or improve it.
We have mentioned many examples in the House of government flip-flops but I will name one that might not get much attention. There is a small area of the scallop fishery in my province called area 29. There has always been a huge debate as to who would fish there. Is it the inshore? Is it the Full Bay? Where does the Full Bay begin? Where are the offshore scallop taken? It has taken a long time to come to some accommodation.
When I was minister of fisheries, we came to an agreement on sharing within area 29 between the Full Bay fleet and the inshore fishermen. Having been asked by the Full Bay Scallop Association to maintain the current position, a letter was sent saying that the current sharing formula would be maintained in area 29. A few days later we found out that the minister was appointing a panel to revisit the allocations in that area, again causing consternation within the fleets. This is another example of the government's flip-flops. It is perhaps not one that gets national attention, but it is one that is very important and symptomatic of what we have seen.
We have seen cuts to summer jobs which has hurt little community organizations that need summer students to operate. Thank goodness for the work of the member for who brought this to the floor. All Liberals MPs worked very hard with him and we were able to get the Conservatives to retract on that . However, we are still not sure of how we will do in future years. This year the cut was only $11 million, and we saw the impact of that. Next year the government is forecasting a cut of $59 million. What will that mean?
Foreign investment is another issue on which the government has flip-flopped. The government came out with a knee-jerk reaction in the budget saying that an individual could not deduct for tax purposes any interest expense for investments outside of Canada. The government knee-capped Canadian industries that must compete internationally with other companies. It is a global market out there. We had to embarrass the Conservatives at committee to force them to retract on that decision.
Now the government is talking about stacking and about double-dipping. Nobody wants any corporation, Canadian or otherwise, to evade taxes but it is important that our corporate sector become competitive internationally. We worked very hard on that.
The issue of income trusts has been discussed many times. There is no doubt in my mind that we had to take action in that sector because there were problems. The Governor of the Bank of Canada pointed that out very well at committee, as did many others. He also said that it was an excellent vehicle for certain sectors of the economy and that there was a demand for that type of investment in the capital markets.
Rather than solving the problem, the came out with a nuclear bomb, when a surgical strike would have been appropriate, and completely crushed the whole sector, eliminating $25 million of capital savings of mostly seniors across this country. He killed a very important sector and caused these companies and corporate assets to be sold abroad. The minister had an opportunity to retract and make changes. The member for made an excellent proposal that was adopted by the committee that would have solved that problem.
I have also mentioned the issue of the Digby wharf in the House many times. For over a year and a half now the government has had the arbitrator's report. It knows that the error was an error by the Department of Transport. It is not a huge amount of money on a national basis to solve the problem and give this port back to the people where it belongs.
I want to spend a bit of time on the question of the Atlantic accord, which is a huge betrayal because, like income trusts, the promised not to touch it. Further, when the Conservatives were in opposition they were so in favour of the Atlantic accord that they wanted it split from the full budget so they could vote in support of that element but not in support the entire budget.
In last year's budget, the government sent out a message that it did not like the Atlantic accord and that it was not very well received in certain parts of the country. We could debate that. We could debate as to the value of that type of an agreement between the provincial and the federal government or special agreements with any province, but that is not a matter to debate. That debate happened in the House a year and a half ago and the Conservatives agreed to it. An agreement was signed between the federal government and two provinces and that agreement should be honoured.
A promise was made by the to the people of Saskatchewan and that promise should be honoured. A promise was made in the campaign by the Prime Minister to the people of Atlantic Canada that the accord would be maintained, and that promise should be honoured.
It is those flip-flops and betrayals that we object to and the way that people are treated.
We had the member for stand in the House, when I questioned him before the first vote on the budget, saying that if Nova Scotians did not like the budget that he would see them in court. We thought that was some buffoonery until yesterday when we heard the make the same challenge, so we now know that it is the position of the Government of Canada.
While the said that we would have peace in our time and that the bickering between the federal and provincial governments is over, the Conservatives have now gone fully 100% to the American way and the judiciary can resolve all these discussions. We will sue one another rather than discuss and negotiate.
We then had the same highly placed minister of the government stand in this House and say that there would be no whipping, no flipping, no hiring, or firing and that no member of caucus would be expelled for voting his or her conscience and voting against the accord. The member for did not have a chance to make it to the curtains after he showed courage by voting in favour of the people of his province before he was expelled from his caucus.
What does the member for , the , say in the media after that? He said that he did not think anyone would vote against the budget. He did not mind misleading the House because he thought no one would take him up on it, no one would make him show his cards. Well, one member had the courage and we now know what I believe is an egregious misleading of the House by a member saying that there would be a free vote when there was not.
We then heard from members within the Conservative caucus that they had to stay within caucus because they were negotiating and trying to find accommodation between the federal government and the accord provinces and that the discussions were ongoing.
On Saturday, in the Chronicle-Herald in Nova Scotia, we see a letter signed by the of this country saying that no such discussions were happening, that it was impossible and that there could not be some discussions. What is more, we learned that the 's Office had written a letter and tried get the member for to sign it, which would have been a complete suicide note.
However, I want to help the member for , the member for and the member from Newfoundland to find a resolution to this problem. I want to give one last opportunity to the Conservative government to honour its accord. Therefore, I seek unanimous consent of the House for the following motion: That the previous question on Bill , the budget implementation act, 2007, be deemed withdrawn and that the bill be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Finance for the purpose of reconsidering those clauses dealing with the Atlantic accord and equalization.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to address Bill , the budget implementation act . It seems the Liberals and the NDP have been unable to imagine a better, safer and stronger Canada, which budget 2007 has asked us to aspire to be.
The constituents of get it. They can envision that Canada and they have embraced the budget. In fact, the budget is well received throughout Saskatchewan, where it largely is seen as a blueprint for better and more prosperous times. It has not hurt that Saskatchewan is a big winner in budget 2007. It is receiving the largest per capita gains of any province with the new fiscal balance package.
I do not believe there has ever been a better budget in Canadian history that has been subjected to such a barrage of misinformation, blatant partisan criticism and wholesale misrepresentation.
For instance, almost three months after the release of the budget, members of the opposition in the House of Commons as well as members of the Saskatchewan NDP government continue to claim that the government has failed to keep its promise to Saskatchewan to exclude non-renewable resources from the equalization formula.
That erroneous information has been repeated so often by so many politicians and written in so many political commentaries that it has been endowed with a sense of truth, but nothing could be further from the truth. The government has kept its promise. The has kept his promise.
Saskatchewan Conservative MPs are voting for the budget because the budget delivers for Saskatchewan. I have made my support of the budget very clear in the House, in letters to the editor and in columns published.
The budget gives us none of us any cause to worry. For those of us in Saskatchewan, the budget is about the tale of two leaders.
The first is of the , a visionary who had the courage to solve the fiscal imbalance and determine an equalization formula that is fair to all provinces, based on a 10 province standard.
The other is of the Premier of Saskatchewan, a standard politician who has spent $300,000 on a provincial advertising campaign called “Imagine”, but lacks the vision to see his province move beyond a have not status. He is a critic for criticism's sake. He will not embrace the future because he is too attached to the past. Partisan to the end, he will not acknowledge a promise kept by his political opponent, so he insists a different promise was made.
First, the government has kept its promise. Saskatchewan can exclude natural resources in the calculation of equalization revenues. The further clarified the equalization formula when he first reminded people that our government did not negotiate side deals with any individual province or territory and that we could not run the country on side deals.
Second, the federal government is currently consulting, not negotiating, with Nova Scotia about the implementation process and the benefits of budget 2007 to determine the process of maintaining our guarantee that no province will be worse off under the new system.
Our government is not in the midst of making any side deals for political expediency. Equalization has been restored to a principles based program for the first time in many years. Equalization has been restored to a truly national program. That is what all premiers asked us to do and that is what all Canadians expect us to do.
Restoring fiscal balance brings federal support for Saskatchewan to $1.4 billion in 2007-08, including over $800 million in new funding. That is more new funding on a new per capita basis than any other province.
Under the old Liberal equalization program, Saskatchewan would have received zero dollars this year. Under budget 2007's new, strengthened equalization, it will receive $226 million per year. That is more now than it had before to fund health care, education and other important public services.
It was that self-proclaimed defender of Saskatchewan, the member for and former finance minister, who began this ad hoc process of doing side deals with some provinces and not others in 2005.
To set my position straight, I always believed in a fair, principled transfer to all province. Saskatchewan never sought special treatment; just a fair deal. I believe the worked out a fair deal for all provinces, including Saskatchewan.
It is a sad day for Saskatchewan when the NDP premier suggests the government has not kept its word to Saskatchewan. Not only did he choose to misrepresent the situation, but he chose to wage his war in the media with sound bites, clips and one-liners that were less representative of the truth. When dealing with an issue as complex as equalization, a little more substance, time and debate is required.
At first the premier insisted that Saskatchewan had been forced to include non-renewable resources into the calculation of its equalization. Then when that was revealed to be false, he insisted that a cap on equalization dollars was never envisioned. A fiscal cap was always envisioned because the very concept of equalization implied a cap.
We cannot have equalization without a cap because the level of equalization would constantly rise and equalization receiving provinces would then develop a level of prosperity beyond that of provinces not receiving equalization. Some provinces would be more equal than others and the levels of have not provinces would exceed that of have provinces and have provinces would then expect equalization funding.
The no cap argument is absurd. Only because it remains a dominant news story and the opposition's favourite criticism of the budget, it is worth examining the history of equalization in Canada.
Canada's equalization program has been in place since the mid-1950s. It has always been and continues to be a complicated formula. While many changes have been made throughout the program's history, the basic approach involves assessing the fiscal capacity of provinces to deliver public services.
Equalization provides unconditional transfers to less well off provinces to assist them in providing services to local citizens. Checks and balances have always been built into the formula. Measuring the fiscal capacity of the provinces and ensuring the formula is figured out fairly and equally between the provinces is where the term cap originates.
Why Premier Calvert claims he is surprised about the cap is unclear. In the pre-2004 equalization formula, before the member for 's government went to its ad hoc ideal approach, there always were internal checks and balances to ensure that equalization payments did not lift have not provinces to a higher total fiscal capacity than contributing have provinces. This would not be fair.
The pre-2004 budget was based on the fiscal capacity of only four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia. Due to its volatile economy, Alberta was taken out of the old formula to make calculations more viable. Since 2004, the federal approach to equalization was ad hoc, involving side deals for certain provinces. The provinces, collectively, with the Council of the Federation's provincial body, called for equalization review and reform.
The provinces wanted a new formula based approach, a 10 province standard and a predictability of funding. Therefore, the finance minister was not exaggerating when he described this budget as historic. Our government has taken equalization payments in a historic new direction, which includes a new formula with a principled 10 province standard. It is stable, it allows for long term planning and a seven year framework and it is exactly for what the provinces, including Saskatchewan, were calling.
However, the Saskatchewan premier seems not so much protective of equalization dollars as he is addicted to them. He is utterly afraid of his province ever achieving a have status and not requiring equalization dollars to meet priorities. He seems unable to perceive Saskatchewan growing beyond his limitations. In fact, the former Saskatchewan finance minister recently revealed his government needed equalization dollars to higher provincial civil service salaries.
No wonder the StarPhoenix in Saskatoon today reports that the highest paid Saskatchewan crown corporation executive actually lives in Vancouver. He receives an annual salary of $313,000.
What is going on in the front pages of our news in Saskatchewan has been analyzed by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. It has examined the provincial public services across Canada and has found that many use equalization to inflate the size and wages of their public services. AIMS has found that in Saskatchewan, for every 1,000 of population, 109 are public servants. In fact, it is the highest ratio per capita in Canada. Statistics Canada says that Ontario gets by with 67 per 1,000 and Alberta with 73.
That is where the extra money is going and that is why Saskatchewan is closing schools. Rural taxes for schools are very high, and the provincial government is closing schools every week. Schools there are the heart and soul of our communities in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile its population continues to decline drastically. The leader of the Saskatchewan Party was recently quoted as saying that since 2001, Saskatchewan's population declined by 10,000 residents, the size of Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
In 2004 the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce pointed out that the labour laws did not help us either. The chamber reported in its publications that Saskatchewan's labour standards act had not been amended since 1995 and pointed to labour laws as a provincial barrier to growth.
The budget is all about fixing fundamental problems and meeting fundamental needs. Budget 2007 invests in families, seniors, small business and farmers and it puts Saskatchewan at the forefront of a revitalized stronger Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I could rephrase that by saying that the and his party members are electoral opportunists who are more concerned with holding the reins of power than they are interested in the health and welfare of our nation.
In a word, budget 2007 is so divisive because it has pitted province against province, the rich against the poor. It is full of broken promises. It has slashed and burned effective programs only to later re-brand them and replace them with sad imitations.
The Conservative budget has taken gross advantage of British Columbians to pay for political gains in Quebec and central Canada. Keith Baldrey from my local newspaper, the Richmond News, stated:
|| --the new budget provides each British Columbian with $163 over the next two years--compared to a whopping $446 per Quebec resident over the same period.
My constituents are crying foul, and they are not the only ones. B.C. Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe said this about budget 2007: “The budget was more about politics in Quebec and Central Canada than it is about strategic importance for British Columbia and Canada”.
According to the government's own official budget tables, B.C. is the only province that will receive less funding two years in a row in major federal transfer payments. B.C. is losing in the 's divisive funding game, down $1 million this year and $339 million last year.
At the same time Quebec is getting a $3 billion increase in this budget for this year alone.
But do not just listen to me. Jeffrey Simpson from the Globe and Mail stated, “[Quebec] will be getting more than $7-billion in additional payments in coming years, meaning that, by definition, about $5.5-billion will be transferred from elsewhere”. Don Cayo from the Vancouver Sun said, “Quebec is the big winner. Indeed, when it comes to equalization, it's the only significant winner”.
Budget 2007 is so unfair and unjust that it does nothing for students, for the poor and for the most vulnerable. The budget does not put a penny in the pockets of Canada's undergraduate students and the vast majority of students get nothing at all.
This budget does nothing to address the shortages of affordable housing in our communities. Laurel Rothman, the National Coordinator for Campaign 2000, said:
|| There's not a word on affordable housing, which is important not just for low- and modest-income families but for the health of our neighbourhoods across this country
Budget 2007 is so unfair that it actually increases the gap between the rich and the poor. It does nothing for single working mothers because people making less than $30,000 per year cannot benefit from the Conservative's so-called child care plan.
In 2006 the Conservatives promised 125,000 new child care spaces over five years. Sixteen months into its mandate, Canadian families are realizing this promise was not worth the paper it was printed on. There have been zero spaces created in the past year.
The budget contains no broad-based tax relief for low and average income Canadians and ignores the problem of poverty in our communities. It does increase the tax rates on Canada's lowest income earners for the second year in a row, from 15% to 15.25%, to 15.5%.
Taxes began to go up literally the day the Conservative government took power. The Conservatives have also decreased the amount that can be earned tax-free in 2006.
The budget's tax hike on the first $35,000 of income will cost Canadians $1.4 billion, which actually cancels out the benefit of the Conservative's so-called child care benefit.
With such a large surplus inherited from the former Liberal government, why should the working poor be forced to pay off the 's big spending and political promises?
The Conservative government has spent more in this budget than in any other budget in Canadian history. Andrew Coyne, from the National Post, said on CBC Newsworld:
|| With this budget, [the Minister of Finance] becomes officially the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada. That's after inflation and population growth is taken into account. They've now increased under this Conservative government; we've now raised spending by $25 billion in two years.
With such a large budget, it is shocking and shameful that the budget is so irresponsible. It is irresponsible because it has no strategy to deal with three of the most important challenges that our nation is facing today: the global competitiveness of our economy, the huge social deficit, and climate change.
This budget is a long sad story about irresponsibility and missed opportunities, all for the benefit of the 's short term political interests and all at a great cost to Canadians.
John Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada has repeated the fact that:
|| This government has abandoned its obligations to the Kyoto protocol and abandoned its moral responsibility to keep our international commitments. This government has no intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has every intention of trying to sound like it does, but has no intention to actually do it.
The government and its budget has failed to help Canadians safeguard our environment and to effectively address climate change. It has cut back our commitment to renewable energy from 5,500 megawatts to 4,000 when we should be increasing our support for clean and sustainable energy production.
The Conservatives have kept tax breaks for new oil sands expansion in place until 2015, but has slowed our plan to clean up Canada's lakes and waterways. The Conservative plan reduces funding to our provincial partners by half. It has cut effective energy saving plans only to relabel, repackage and then resell them to Canadians with smaller budgets and less impact.
The simple fact is that in this budget there is no effective Conservative plan to address Canada's environmental responsibilities or to make sure that polluters pay for using our atmosphere as a free garbage dump.
On global competitiveness this budget has failed. Journalists from The Vancouver Sun have stated, “--rather than focusing on creating the right conditions under which all Canadians can prosper, [the] budget resorted to picking winners and losers”. This budget contains no broad-based relief for average and low income Canadians and it also fails to position Canada for the 21st century global marketplace.
In 2005 the former Liberal government initiated the CAN-Trade strategy that provided a $485 million investment over five years to help Canadian businesses succeed in emerging markets. It should be no surprise that the Conservatives scrapped this program and have now replaced it with a mere $60 million--
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud today to rise in the House of Commons and have the honour of speaking on Bill . Unlike the previous speaker, I will focus on some really positive initiatives that I think Canadians are very proud of when they look at our government.
Once again, I am proud of the excellent work that the has done in constructing a budget that meets the needs of ordinary Canadians. Our budget package provides a plan that will aspire to create a stronger, safer and better Canada. This will be achieved through restoring fiscal balance, reducing the tax burden on working families, investing substantially to protect the environment, and promoting our health care system.
In communicating with my constituents from the riding of Edmonton—Strathcona, I have received tremendous support for this new budget. Edmontonians feel confident that Canada's new government is continuing to speak to their needs by providing a focused fiscal agenda, something the previous Liberal government failed to do for 13 years.
Specifically, budget 2007 speaks directly to the students at the University of Alberta, to business owners and entrepreneurs on Whyte Avenue, and to ordinary parents and grandparents who put a premium on family. It is these individuals who get up every morning and go to school and to work in order to better their lives and those around them. Canada's new government wants to help them be successful.
In the past, the previous government sought to impose one size fits all solutions for very real problems. Our vision is different.
Canada's new government does not claim to have the answer to every problem or to be better prepared to address all the problems ordinary Canadians have.
Canada's new government is willing to listen to Canadians, get an understanding of their issues and provide them with the resources necessary to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. That is what Canada's new government has done and what Canada's new government will continue to do.
Students at the University of Alberta will benefit exponentially from the money allocated in this year's budget. Building upon the targeted tax relief outlined last year, budget 2007 will invest substantially to improve Canada's post-secondary education system. Our government will allocate $1.3 billion to science and technology research, coupled with a 40% increase in funding for Canada's post-secondary institutions.
In addition, budget 2007 outlines 14 supplementary monetary investments that will specifically target areas of R and D, employment training and post-secondary scholarships. All of these investments will ensure students at the University of Alberta are receiving a world class education and the necessary skills to compete in a globalized economy.
I am proud to say that Canada's new Conservative government has once again delivered for students.
Students graduating from university, technical schools and other institutions of higher learning want to know that employment will be attainable immediately upon graduation. That is why budget 2007 proposes a number of measures that will enhance infrastructure and the necessary resources for business to succeed.
For example, a small business owner on Whyte Avenue in my constituency can expect to benefit from the government initiative to reduce the paper burden by 20%. Less time will be spent on excessive government red tape and bureaucracy, and more time can be spent on driving the economy, thus creating jobs.
Furthermore, the capital gains tax exemption for small business owners will be increased to $750,000 from $500,000. Undoubtedly, this will help business people in Edmonton--Strathcona reap additional benefits from their investments.
Additionally, budget 2007 speaks to the needs of ordinary families across Canada and in my riding of Edmonton--Strathcona. Since taking office, our government has always made working families a number one priority and I am proud that we have proven that once again in this budget.
Working families in my riding can expect to receive a new $2,000 per child tax credit for children under the age of 18, along with the elimination of the marriage penalty on single earning families.
Additionally, Canada's new government also wants to help parents save for their children's post-secondary education. That is why the has transformed the RESP program to allow parents to contribute more on a yearly basis and has increased the lifetime contribution limit. Education is important to Canada's new government and we want to help parents help their children to succeed.
Finally, budget 2007 sets out comprehensive funding to reduce greenhouse gases and improve air quality. Undoubtedly this is something that will benefit all Edmontonians by making a cleaner, healthier environment.
Some examples of these environmental initiatives include: rebates of up to $2,000 on new fuel efficient vehicles; investments in biofuels; the $1.5 billion ecotrust to help clean up our land and water; $22 million to enforce environmental protection laws; and, of course, a new national water strategy.
In closing, I would like to say that the government cannot spend Canadians' money better than they can spend it themselves. This budget recognizes that Ottawa can do more with less and Canadians can do more with more.
I am delighted that my constituents finally have a government that recognizes the need to support them in their choices by giving them more resources with which to shape their own future.
In short, by offering a broad based fiscal plan that targets their specific needs, budget 2007 will make a difference in the lives of Canadians and particularly the lives of people in Edmonton—Strathcona.
I cannot emphasize enough the fact that I have heard from so many people who are pleased to see a focused fiscal plan. I have had a number of phone calls and emails over the last number of weeks and months since the budget was tabled in the House, with particular examples of how families feel that the government understands their concerns and needs. In particular, there is a breadth of knowledge and there is the diversity of my riding, with Canadians who range from seniors to students to business owners. They all feel that this budget was very focused in its delivery and that it aims to help a number of them.
In particular, I will emphasize the University of Alberta. It is clear from the work done in the previous budget and then in this budget that we can see the support this government is giving to the future, particularly when we see what is happening in Edmonton and in Alberta with their current economic growth and the challenges we are facing in managing that growth. This government has implemented a number of measures to support that growth and to build on it to enhance what is happening with all the growth in Alberta.
I think back to the last budget when we made simple changes that were never made by previous governments, one being to allow foreign students the chance to work off campus. So many of them come to this country looking for new opportunities.
My family still operates a small business, as members know. I had very humble beginnings before I came to this place. I ran a small business on Whyte Avenue for a number of years. A number of our family members and others benefited from this change last year, especially in a really hot labour market where we have had a challenge in finding and retaining people.
Now we are able to have that opportunity for students who are looking for new or better opportunities in coming to Canada. Not only is it an opportunity for them to make the most of their education, but it is also an opportunity for them to then afterwards get value from that education by being in the Canadian workforce. Hopefully many of them will decide to remain here in Canada and we will benefit from those skills.
Our government even has opened up the opportunity for them to be able to look at staying here. Unfortunately, the previous government talked a lot of talk when it came to immigration opportunities and supporting students, but it really delivered very little. That seems to be the legacy of the previous government. That is something we wanted to change when we took office.
We have had a and a with clear leadership. When they put certain directions or changes on the table it is to deliver real results. Not only have we seen that in the budget, but we have seen environmental changes put in place. The previous government's record is unacceptable. As I mentioned earlier to the member for , a 33% increase in emissions under the Kyoto protocol is not real results. We are looking to improve air quality and the health of Canadians in working with them to implement those changes.
That is why many of the changes we have implemented in budget 2007 will help to actually integrate Canadians in working with their governments and helping shift behaviour. Those changes will benefit Canadians in the long term with real results, something that has been missing in this country for a number of years. That is the type of feedback I am getting from my constituents, who are proud to see a government and a with the vision to lead, for a change, and not follow.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak in the debate on the budget bill.
A little while ago in my riding of Newton--North Delta I had the opportunity to attend the Surrey Children's Festival Breakfast, an annual event organized by Sheila McKinnon, who does such great work in our community. This event gives the people in Surrey and Delta an opportunity to celebrate the most important citizens we have, the future of our families, the future of our communities.
That event was the perfect opportunity to reflect upon all this budget represents and all it denies for those children in the coming years. Many of them are first generation Canadians. Their parents were newcomers to Canada, many of whom qualified to come here as professionals. They had high-paying jobs before they arrived here and were told they met the standards to be qualified professionals here in Canada. Now they are working far below their earning potential and have no hope in finding positions they were educated for before they came to this wonderful country.
The budget scrapped all plans to provide for a one stop agency to deal with the foreign credentials recognition problem that we face day in and day out. That was probably because the government discovered it did not work. If the government members were honest, perhaps they would admit that they knew it would not work all along. Any real consultation with licensing bodies, trade organizations and educational institutions would have told them that a lot earlier, but like most things with this budget, the Conservatives clearly chose not to listen. If they had consulted at all, this would not be the situation.
We see the same thing happening in the Atlantic provinces. The government simply chooses not to listen.
Two budgets later, the parents of these children are no further ahead in getting the jobs they came to Canada for. Even if all those children became doctors, health care professionals and skilled tradespeople, we still would not have enough here in Canada to fill the gap.
By 2020 we will not be able to produce enough tradespeople and professionals here. We will be relying on immigration. Members might think I am talking about immigrants, but this is not an immigration problem. When I talk to the businesses in my riding about the labour shortage in British Columbia, I listen to them. This government is not listening to their concerns about getting recognition of the credentials of those technicians and tradespeople so that they can be productive members of our society. Members might think that this budget would have addressed that problem and would have made it a priority. Once again they would be disappointed to learn that they are wrong.
In fact this is a budget that cares very little about what we are really facing in the future, even though time and time again all the research tells us that the future of our country and of our economy lies in more and better immigration and immigration services than we provide.
People like Mumtaz Khan and Monica Verma in my riding, who run the Self Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Society, SEEDS, not only for new Canadians but for men and women who want to start new small businesses, can tell us that in four short years we are going to run out of professionals and skilled workers. This budget does nothing to address the fact that the answer is in new Canadians. The answer is to deal with the backlog of immigration applications. What does the budget offer? Nothing.
The answer is to deal with family reunification. Extended families can offer some of the child care services that the government is so unwilling to provide. What does the budget offer? Again, the budget offers nothing.
The answer lies in speeding up citizenship processing times and also the refugee applications. Again, the budget offers nothing.
New Canadians now realize they have to work around the government, a government that fails them time and time again. The government fails not only new Canadians. We can see resentment coming from all provinces, starting with Atlantic Canada and going to Saskatchewan and British Columbia. That is why the government is trying to push the budget forward. The government wants the resentment that is coming from different regions to be taken out of the public eye.
We know what it takes to ensure a real future for Canadians. The government's budget is a denial of the realities that hard-working Canadians face every day.
Let me return to the children at that breakfast. We are now two budgets into the government's mandate that denied child care, a mandate that said parents should have the right to choose whether to have child care or not. The first budget gave them a $100 cheque each month and what was supposed to be funding for new spaces. This budget does nothing more.
In my province, a little research will show what this has meant. Not a single new child care space has been created. None of that money has ever been accessed. In fact, many spaces have been closed down in the last year.
After two budgets, parents who have nothing but an extra $100, which is also taxed, could not afford to put their children in these child care places, even if they existed. These same parents, perhaps like myself, would like to bring their parents over to look after their children, and this budget fails on that front too.
We see the vicious circle the budget has put in place with its failures: children without child care; parents who cannot find the jobs in their chosen fields, and who cannot even look to their own families to provide the care the government denies because their family members cannot get into this country sooner and faster.
The government is failing to meet the future, to honour its potential with a budget like this. What is worse, this is only one example of how the impact of this failure is being felt by hard-working Canadian families in my constituency right now.
I have not even gone into the failure of a viable so-called green plan the government is talking about so our children and their children could have a livable environment.
I have not even gone into the budget's failure to address the rising population of young native Canadians and what it will mean for their future.
The point is that with this budget, we are a long way away from the 11% increase in after tax income that working families received under the previous Liberal government. Under the previous Liberal government there was real child care, money for child care spaces and more money for real solutions to foreign credentials recognition, and not the fake solutions of the two Conservative budgets, and not the kind of budget that would look to the one area of funding for our young people to get them into the workforce, the summer jobs program.
With all these cuts, this is a budget that imagines that hard-working Canadian families do not want real vision and leadership. The government is thinking that way in planning for our future. We can only go on with the vision, but not the cheque writing strategy.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak in this chamber today to Bill , the government's budget implementation bill.
I am particularly pleased to speak because I want to ensure I have the opportunity to dispel some of the half-truths and outright fallacies being propagated in debate, particularly today, by members of the opposition.
The first thing I want to talk about is the complete untruth that somehow we have been stifling debate on this important bill. We have heard it from the member for and the member for . They have consistently stated that the motion we brought in for time allocation today was an attempt to further curb debate on this very important bill. I assure members that is the furthest thing from the truth.
In fact, I point out, particularly for the members opposite, we have so far debated Bill , this year's budget implementation bill, for 15 days. On the last two budget implementation bills presented by the previous government, now the official opposition, in the two years combined, the government had only allocated 14 days debate between the two years. In other words, to put things in context, we have spoken more days on this one bill than the last two budget implementation bills by the previous government combined.
For them to say that we have been curtailing debate is an absolute fallacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now that we have that settled and put it to rest, let us talk about the bill itself and some of the benefits that apply to Canadians.
In particular, we know now that the fiscal imbalance situation, a concept that the previous government, and the leader of the official opposition in particular, failed to recognize, has been put to rest. More money has been paid to provinces in the form of transfers, whether they be health transfers or post-secondary education transfers, than has ever been done before, and we are very proud of that.
In addition, we have brought in initiatives to help families with child tax credits. We put money toward infrastructure. We put money toward a biofuels industry. We put money toward agriculture to help our farmers who have been suffering a decade long of income crises, from one crisis to another. We have provided Canadians from coast to coast to coast with a type of budget, presented by the type of government, that they deserve, for the first time in 13 years.
What I really want to talk about in the few moments I have before we get into question period is the question that has been predominating the airwaves today, and that is, the entire topic of equalization, whether it be the Atlantic accord or equalization as it sort of plays itself out with all the provinces besides Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. I will give a particular perspective and insight into what it has been doing to Saskatchewan because Saskatchewan has been unfairly portrayed as a province that has been hurt by the new equalization formula changes.
Again that is, at best, a half-truth, and I would suggest a complete fallacy if members really want to know the truth. Saskatchewan has not only resulted in receiving $878 million in new money, which is a $230 per capita payment, the highest of any province in Canada, but the changes we have made to the equalization formula itself are actually there to protect Saskatchewan in an essence of fairness across the board.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
The changes we have made in budget 2007 to the equalization formulation are, as promised, 100% removal of non-renewable natural resources after extensive consultations with the provinces. Both of those elements we talked about in the election platform. We promised to make those changes, and we did.
Now the question seems to be, particularly for members opposite, is that somehow we treated the province of Saskatchewan unfairly because we put a fiscal capacity cap on the formula.
Let me just say what a fiscal capacity cap is all about. This is nothing more than something that maintains a convention that has been in effect with the equalization program for the last 50 years.
Since equalization was first announced in Canada in 1957, and later enshrined into the Constitution in 1982, there has never been an instance in those 50 years where a province that receives equalization payments ends up with a higher fiscal capacity than a province that has paid into the program. Why is that? It is a matter of absolute fairness. Because the name “equalization” means simply that all provinces should have equal abilities to deliver services at relatively the same level of taxation.
This program is not intended to make a have not province richer than a have province. In fact, I point out that had the program, which introduced in budget 2007, been in effect in the 1990s, when Saskatchewan was considered a have not province, Saskatchewan would have received an additional $4 billion in revenue.
These figures are not my own making. These figures come from the department of finance in the province of Saskatchewan. Why is that? Because with a have not province, at least in the particular case of Saskatchewan, the $400 million a year that it would have received over that decade would not have put its fiscal capacity higher than that of Ontario. In other words, Saskatchewan would have received 100% of all the benefits flowing from their non-renewable national resource revenue.
What happened? Why did Saskatchewan not receive it? Because the previous Liberal government did not address the equalization program, even though there were repeated calls from the province of Saskatchewan to consider at least removing non-renewable natural resources from the formula. The previous Liberal government did absolutely nothing.
The member for is proud to stand in the House and say that when he was the minister of finance, he gave close to $800 million in his last budget to the province of Saskatchewan, and he did. Why? To try to redress all the inequities hoisted upon Saskatchewan for the previous decade.
Even with that $800 million, he was woefully short of treating Saskatchewan fairly. As I mentioned just a few moment ago, had the provisions we have placed in budget 2007 been in place during the 1990s, Saskatchewan would have received $4 billion in additional revenues.
Unless the member for commits to coming up with another $3.2 billion to give to Saskatchewan, what he did over 13 years amounts to absolutely nothing in terms of fairness. What we have done is redress that. We have made the equalization formula not only principled, but fair to each and every province.
I hear a lot of chirping on the other side and them saying “not true”. It absolutely is true. The member for knows it. I know it. I hope the people from Saskatchewan know it as well.
That is not the only thing these changes have done in terms of equalizing and ensuring that the equalization formula is more professional and a principle based program.
I understand that we have to go to question period. I will have a few moments left after question period and I look forward to continuing this discussion then.