The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, now we see that it took a budget document for the Conservatives to finally acknowledge the legacy that they inherited from the Liberal government. If members do not believe me they should listen to the quote from the budget speech on page 15. It states:
--Canadians have reached a level of accomplishment few other countries can rival.... Canadian workers and business people have shown the world what talent and hard work can do.
Unemployment is at a 30 year low. We have low inflation, strong consumer confidence and corporate profits are at record levels.
It says exactly the same thing in French:
Les réalisations des Canadiens font l'envie de nombreux pays.
— les travailleurs et les gens d'affaires du Canada ont montré au monde ce que peuvent apporter le talent et le travail acharné.
— les Canadiens ont plusieurs raisons d'avoir confiance. Le chômage est à son plus bas niveau en 30 ans, notre inflation est faible, les consommateurs sont très confiants et les bénéfices des entreprises battent des records.
Clearly this happy outcome is a result of focused, strategic investment in our economy and in our people by the past Liberal government. On examining the budget, Canadians of course are right to ask, “What does the Conservative plan for the future do to enhance those strategies or improve on the conditions they so heartily applaud in their budget document?”
Not much. The Conservatives' focus on five simplistic priorities is designed to beguile and to deceive, but not for the purpose of national interest. Hence, for them, an increase in the personal tax rate for low and middle income Canadians, from 15% to 15.5%, becomes, are we ready for it, a reduction. So much for accountability.
Let me quote again from page 16 of that same budget document:
--accountability means...the numbers must be presented clearly. It means we have to be frank about where we stand financially.
And the French says:
[Cela] signifie que les chiffres doivent être présentés clairement. [L'imputabilité] signifie que notre situation financière doit être présentée avec franchise.
However, they are not frank in this document.
Yet, awash with cash as a result of Liberal economic management, they choose not to invest but, as my colleague said, to dismantle. They begin with distortion. That is the first step to dishonesty.
So a reduction in investment in post-secondary education from $2.5 billion, under the Liberal plan, to $200 million in this budget plan is touted as something progressive. For those out there who are looking for investment in the future, $200 million is touted as progressive.
How can we build for the future without investing in the creation of a skills and intelligence infrastructure? In an era when 70% of all net new jobs being created will require more than a high school diploma, the Conservatives are oblivious, first, to the need to invest in new, innovative and hence productivity-enhancing technologies, second, to the need to expand on the commercialization of those innovations, and third, to the fact that the early school leaving rate will create a class of permanently underemployed and vulnerably employed Canadians.
If we want to become productive and competitive in the world economy, we must invest in skills development and graduate research and become a nation that can export its talent, innovation and technology, a nation that can attract foreign investment because we have the labour force and the talent to guarantee a good return on that investment.
Instead, the Conservative plan tinkers with tactics and abandons overall strategic investment. Deception, that is the order of the day, whether it is with older workers, immigration, the environment or infrastructure.
With older workers, for example, the government plans to use them to make, and I quote the budget document once again,“Canada more competitive in the global market”. But how? It promises to “undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining”. Can members believe this?
The government will undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining.
It is absolutely laughable, as is the claim that the Conservatives will increase immigration settlement funding by $307 million. In fact, the Liberals had already negotiated with provinces and started to roll out a $1.3 billion amount to invest in the settlement, integration and retention of new Canadians to meet the labour market and demographic needs of the country.
However, with classic bait and switch tactics, with which the Conservatives are familiar, the budget talks about a country “built by people seeking a better life for themselves and their families”. It offers the velvet glove of a reduction in the right of landing fee, to $490, for those who actually get to make it here, but delivers the iron fist of deportation and removal through the Canada Border Services Agency, going so far as to have officers forcibly remove children from classrooms in front of their friends.
It is a classic Conservative approach to demographic challenge and immigration: send them back and keep them out. This ”to heck with you” approach permeates the entire budget document. Gone is the $5 billion investment in environmental strategies and climate change. Hello, $400 million for local programs, still, according to the budget document, “being developed by the Minister...”.
What have the Conservatives been doing for four months? No, I am sorry, what have they been doing for 12 years? They have been aping or copying our strategies. Envious that Liberals could think big, could plan macro, they focus on acting small. They attack us for our infrastructure program, but note that their plans will:
--maintain the...current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives...the existing gas tax funding commitment under the New Deal for Cities and Communities, and the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities.
As well, I might add, they will pass off the highway border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the cities strategic fund, the transit capital trust fund, and the Pacific gateway initiative as new--note that word “new”, although we had already put them in place and funded them--and as theirs. Can hon. members imagine this? After spending two years vilifying Liberals, with all Canadians watching, the Conservatives have now decided to offer Liberals the highest form of flattery. It is called imitation. That is what the budget document, through these programs, tries to do: imitate Liberal initiatives.
Regrettably, now that they have discovered that our government was replete with action, performance and achievement--let us see if we can get this right in German--the Conservatives' approach is now tentative and is identified by, “Let us hurry up and wait”. Except for the increase in personal income tax rates, disguised as a cut, which will come into effect with the passage of the budget, Canadians will have to wait until 2008, no, 2009, no, further, to 2010, to taste tax reductions in small business taxes or corporate taxes.
We might ask why. Surely if we believe in a competitive Canadian business sector, the time to make it so would be to cut taxes when the economy's performance, thanks to Liberal management, is producing unimagined surpluses. Liberals cut $100 billion in taxes when times were tougher, so why the timidity of these tax cut proponents in boom times? The answer is--
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.
I rise today in support of the budget. This Conservative budget aims initially at moving us out of an era of spending and into an era of fiscal responsibility.
With costly programs, the previous government was spending taxpayers' money, but without really enriching or benefiting them. For years, Canadians have been overtaxed. The people in my riding, in Lévis, in Bellechasse and in Etchemins have been obliged to contribute to the welfare of the Liberal Party through the sponsorship scandal.
That has got to stop. We need to correct the situation and we need a government that will re-establish confidence. One of the three reasons I support the budget this morning is that it aims to re-establish the bond of trust between taxpayers and the government.
The sponsorship scandal remains fresh in our memories, encouraging us to take action and change things. The government proposes to lighten taxes in this budget. This shows that before, during and after the election we say and do the same thing, and that pleases me. We were not accustomed to such a practice with the previous government. It accustomed us to promises, which came without fulfillment or commitment. We are here to make commitments and to honour them.
Let us have a look at the promises in the election campaign. The reduction in the GST is included in the budget, as are the tax cuts we had not promised. We are giving more than our election promises indicated. We are giving parents a universal allowance. It is Canadians who know best how to manage their money. So we put it in the pockets of taxpayers so they can look after our greatest national treasure—our children.
We also are equipping ourselves to establish legislation on responsibility, accountability, ways that taxpayers can find out how Ottawa manages their money.
More concretely, some 655,000 low-income Canadians will no longer pay federal taxes with this Conservative budget. Families earning between $15,000 and $30,000 will save $300. Of course, those with slightly higher incomes will save a little more and so forth. This budget offers concrete tax cuts to all taxpayers and to all Canadians.
My primary reason for supporting this budget is that it respects our commitments and rebuilds trust, but I also support it because it addresses the federal government's priorities in matters under its jurisdiction. I am talking about national defence. The whittling down of the federal government's commitment to defence has forced us to turn to our allies to transport our troops and move our equipment. This is unacceptable for a large country like ours. It is important to reinvest in defence in order to ensure our sovereignty and the safety of Canadians and to pursue the humanitarian and military missions for which we are known. We must also improve security at our borders. It is the responsibility of the federal government to do so. These are the areas we must invest in first.
The Canadian Coast Guard has not purchased any large ships since 1987. It therefore performs its activities and carries out its mandate with an aging civilian fleet. As you can see, it is time to re-inject funding into our priorities.
Priorities such as immigration, justice and law enforcement, international aid and aboriginal peoples, who need assistance and who have inadequate water treatment systems. I know what I am talking about since I spent the last four years of career working on this.
They also need tools for improved accountability. That is what we promise to do in this budget. With this federal budget we will invest in federal priorities and allow our partners to have authority over their own jurisdictions, especially in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
You know the old adage: stick to what you know. That describes the proposed Conservative budget: a budget that focuses on the services the federal government is mandated to provide for Canadians. Among the government's responsibilities are infrastructure and the environment. We will therefore move ahead.
To those who object to this budget, I would say that it is a budget that addresses environmental issues and does not simply make promises. I would like to quickly list some of the measures in the budget.
First, the government is making a commitment to reduce the deficit. This will also have an impact on intergenerational balance and sustainable development. The government will spend $3 billion a year to pay down Canada's debt, which is a burden on future generations. As well, the government is making a commitment to establish a climate change plan, with investments of more than $2 billion over five years. And that does not include the transit pass credit and measures to encourage Canadians to invest in environmentally sensitive areas. In addition, this budget gives Canadians responsibility for dealing with climate change by encouraging them to adopt behaviours that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All these are environmental measures.
With regard to infrastructure, as you know, it contributes to the economic vitality of communities by providing them with safe, reliable water systems. It also allows efficient transportation of goods to market, which helps improve our productivity.
My colleagues opposite like to talk about Kyoto as if it were the last stage of the fight against climate change. It is just the beginning. We still have a lot of things to do, and the Conservative government has made a commitment to do them.
This government has a clear plan for Canadians, a clear plan for Quebeckers, a clear plan for my constituents.
The third reason I approve this budget is the new open and working federalism that is within.
This is something that Quebeckers have not seen for some time, a federal government that intends to work within and respect provincial areas of jurisdiction. It is nice to hear provincial premiers say that they appreciated receiving a phone call from Ottawa and that they were able to add their two cents' worth to the agreement concerning the softwood lumber dispute. Yes, everyone is a winner--every province and Canada as a whole.
I was in the red room last Friday to witness the successful and effective fulfillment of another election promise, namely, the UNESCO agreement that will allow Quebec's voice to be heard at that assembly. This is another example of the open federalism extolled by the budget.
Spouting rhetoric is all well and good, but money to back it up is also needed. The other aspect of this budget consists of restoring fiscal balance. This is why we have the support of our duly elected colleagues from Quebec. We are confident that the other members of this House will also support us. The 2002 report by the Séguin commission and many other studies here recognize that a fiscal imbalance exists and that balance must be restored between services provided by the levels of government and the sums of money that they receive.
It is simple: promises made, promises kept. Through the accountability act, we hope to restore confidence. We also hope to restore a sense of accountability to the citizens of Canada, as well as to the various levels of government. We promise to fight against climate change, we are moving towards open federalism and we hope to do something about the country's fiscal imbalance. For these three reasons, I support the budget and encourage all members of this House to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to rise in the House, I want to thank the constituents of the riding of Niagara West--Glanbrook for sending me back to the House.
This budget is not about beer and popcorn, parents raising future criminals, destroying the environment or even tearing up agreements, as the Liberals would have Canadians believe. The budget is about putting Canadians first. It is about giving everyone the opportunity to keep more of their hard earned dollars in their pockets, not just Liberal pockets. It is about real accountability.
Last Tuesday our government tabled its first budget, which has thrown open the doors in a new era in Canadian finance. The budget is a powerful example of Conservative promises kept.
During the election we promised to bring tax relief to hard-working Canadians. With this budget, we have kept this promise with $20 billion of tax cuts that will benefit all Canadians. With the budget, the Conservative government has liberated Canadians from the shackles of the oppressive Liberal taxation and has swept the Liberal culture of entitlement into the dust bin of history.
The Conservative government will use these tax dollars thoughtfully and meaningfully and will do it with clearly defined priorities. We will be prudent stewards of Canadian taxpayers' money. The budget is precisely what Canadians voted for when they went to the polls in January. Finally, after 13 years of being ignored by a non-responsive Liberal government, hard-working Canadians of every income tax bracket and every age group will begin to enjoy the long-awaited benefits they so richly deserve.
Our government recognizes that for far too long the tax burdens of Canadians were simply too great. Accordingly we have taken concrete measures in the budget to deliver tax relief to all Canadians, which is long overdue.
While there are many areas in the budget, which I will mention, let me begin by mentioning one example of particular importance to many of my constituents. It is the relief provided to small and medium size wineries. The budget has announced a reduction in wine excise tax that will assist small and medium size wineries to be more competitive, both domestically and internationally. It will help to grow their businesses, strengthen the economy and ultimately help to put Canadian wines on the world stage.
Our support for small vendors is one example of the attention and consideration the budget has given to all small businesses. The budget proposes to increase the amount of small business income eligible for the 12% tax rate. This will help Canadian businesses become more viable, encourage growth and bring jobs into communities across the country.
In addition, the Conservative budget also reminds Canadians of the importance of our skilled trades people by offering tax based incentives such as a new tax credit up to $2,000 to employers that hire and train apprentices, $1,000 grant for apprentices and a new tax deduction of $500 toward tools acquired in connection with their employment.
Budget 2006 will also put its support behind education and students. Almost 2 million full time students will benefit from a textbook tax credit of $80 per year as well as benefit from the elimination of tax on scholarships and bursaries.
Our support for Canadian families is also made unequivocal in the budget. The budget has captured the importance of Canadian families by including a universal child care benefit. Living in a riding with both rural and urban communities, it is clearly visible that a one-size-fits-all child care system could never meet the needs of all Canadian families raising young children. Unlike some hon. members of the opposition who seem to think that stay at home parents are raising future criminals, our Conservative government realizes that parents can be and should be trusted to raise their children. That is why we are providing all families with $100 per month for each child in the family under the age of six. In doing so, we offer a child care system that gives families the choice and flexibility they need to provide the best care possible for their children.
Canadian parents want healthy and active children. We are helping them to achieve this by introducing a tax credit to promote up to $500 in registration for children's physical activity programs. The government is clearly saying to Canadian parents that we recognize the cost of raising a child and we are on their side. This is saying to all those moms and dads, who take their children to early morning sports practices, that we understand and support their efforts.
Parents of children with a disability often face additional demands and pressures. To help alleviate these, our budget proposes to increase not only the maximum annual child disability benefit but also the amount of refundable medical expense supplement.
Just as Canada's children and youth are important to the government, so too are our senior citizens. That is why they can look forward to tax relief through an increased maximum amount of eligible pension income that can be claimed to $2,000. Moreover, 85,000 low income seniors can also look forward to being removed from the tax roll.
Finally, every Canadian will benefit from a reduction in the GST, beginning this summer. Whether purchasing a home or a pack of gum, every dollar one spends will now be saving money, assuming goods are not purchased on expense accounts.
Directly and indirectly, every Canadian will benefit from all these cuts, personal, income tax measures, sales and excise tax and business income tax measures. These cuts and reductions will put tax dollars into the pockets of consumers. This is a cornerstone of the 2006 Conservative budget.
As the government moves forward to fulfill election promises in support of the trades, small businesses, agriculture, family, senior citizens and every Canadian, the budget will also help to heal the Canadian health care system, which fell so ill at the hands of our Liberal predecessors. Canadians value universal health care, but they want a system that works. They deserve a system that works and we will deliver a system that works.
To that end, we will increase the number of doctors and other professionals through a foreign credential recognition program. The budget also proposes to make $52 million per year available to our health care partners to implement a national cancer strategy. Through these combined measures, Canadians will soon enjoy shorter wait times and better care.
I urge my fellow hon. members to listen to what Canadians have said and to support the budget, which responds to the Canadian health care concerns. Budget 2006 is proactive and addresses pivotal issues that will affect our country for years to come. By proposing new apprenticeship programs of $500 million that will benefit 100,000 apprentices and by investing in colleges and universities, the budget is a testament to our support of skilled trades and post-secondary education. Budget 2006 is evident of the commitment that the government is making to Canada's future.
A commitment to Canada's future also means a commitment to help ensure we have a dynamic and viable agricultural sector. Our finance minister has shown, through the budget, that the Conservative government is squarely in the corner of Canadian farmers. Under the Liberal government, farm income stabilization and disaster relief was woefully mishandled and wholly unresponsive to the needs of farmers. Budget 2006 aims to correct these long-standing problems.
Farmers and the goods they provide are imperative to Canada's future. There are farmers who have been extremely successful in efforts to improve efficiency. Their efforts are constantly challenged by falling prices, trade disputes and natural disasters. By providing $1.5 billion in new funding for Canadian farmers through the grain and oilseed payment program, farm support and assistance and the transition to overhaul the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program, our government is standing up for Canadian farmers.
The budget recognizes that we need Canadian farmers and that we will all reap the benefits of a vibrant agricultural industry. Through the budget, the Conservative government also acknowledges that in spite of positive measures this document contains and all the long overdue benefits it will return to Canadians, we can enjoy these benefits if our country is secure and our world is safe.
September 11, 2001, jarred us all. No longer could we take for granted that our extraordinary border relations with the United States would not be exploited by those wanting to do harm to law-abiding Canadians. In a departure from the previous government's blatant neglect of border security, last Tuesday's budget announcement places a much needed focus on Canadian security. By committing over $300 million in funding to implement a border strategy and another $101 million to enhance the ability of our border guards to effectively do their jobs, the Conservative government is committed to strengthening security at our border.
Unfortunately, threats to Canadian values and our long history of national safety also dwell within our borders. The budget directly addresses the rise in crime that has rocked so many communities across Canada. It provides investment funding to strengthen the RCMP. This will also work to ensure that safety will be restored to our streets, towns and cities. Budget 2006 can also begin to restore Canada's role in the international community.
Each of the measures represent a positive step, whether it is the support of families, an investment in agriculture, in supporting the enhancement of border security or any other measure in between. Our government supports measures that are fiscally sound, economically wise and socially conscious.
Contrary to what the Liberals would have everyone believe, the budget will let Canadians keep more of their hard earned money.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite on his first speech in the House. I wanted to clarify a few things and ask him a question.
Something I believe the member has forgotten in his speech is the fact that we have enjoyed 10 years of incredible prosperity in Canada. Canadians have to ask themselves, what has brought about the prosperity we enjoy in Canada? We had 10 years of a Liberal government that delivered eight balanced budgets and cut taxes to all Canadians, not only to the wealthy friends of the Conservatives, which this budget has put forward. The Liberals also took a balanced approach. We invested money in education and in the social safety net. Those are some of things about which the Conservative government has completely forgot and completely neglected in its budget.
The one thing the Conservatives have delivered, and I must give them credit for this, is tax cuts to their wealthy friends. The government has done that very well. What the government has completely forgotten, and this leads to my question, is the future. What is the government doing about the future? The government has set aside no money for investments for the future, be that paying down our debt, or investing money in health care, education and, specifically, post-secondary education.
The only answer the government comes back with is an investment of $80 for students. I went to university on student loans and $80 right now would probably buy me one textbook, if I am lucky. The Liberal fifty-fifty plan would have given $6,000 to students, $3,000 in their first year and $3,000 in their second year.
Where in the budget is there any money for education? Where in the budget is there any money for the future of Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I will share my speaking time with the member from Richmond—Arthabaska.
During the last election campaign, the Conservative Party made a commitment to Quebeckers to practise a new federalism, an “open federalism”, it said. A promise was made to respect the areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Unfortunately, with this budget, one cannot but conclude that the commitment has not been kept. Unlike what our colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse said a little earlier today, this promise to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces is for the time being only a promise. In fact, we have not seen it written down.
For the benefit of this House, I have identified the numerous intrusions into Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. Already I am sorry to have shared my speaking time, because I am not convinced that the 10 minutes allotted to me will be enough.
First of all, let us discuss the much talked about allowance of $1,200 for child care. This is a social policy falling clearly within Quebec jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois, made a proposal in good faith, for a refundable tax credit, which respected Quebec jurisdictions, since the federal government is entitled to levy income tax as it wishes. Unfortunately, for a reason that has not been explained and for which we still have not had an answer, the government did not take this approach, did not follow our recommendation and preferred an inequitable method—some of my colleagues will talk about this later on—a method furthermore which amounts to interference in Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction.
The Conservative government also proposed a pan-Canadian securities commission. Once again, this falls right into Quebec’s area of jurisdiction. All the previous Quebec governments have always refused to allow the federal government to interfere in this area of jurisdiction. Again today, in this budget, they come back with this proposal which they already know Quebeckers do not want. When I raised the question in the House, the minister encouraged me convince the Government of Quebec that it should give up this area of jurisdiction. It is always that old attitude , “Ottawa knows best; we will show you how to do things”.
Let us talk about the fiscal imbalance. The government made a commitment to fix it. We are giving it the benefit of the doubt, and this is why the Bloc will support this budget. Some things, however, remain worrisome The document presented with the budget often refers to the obligation to be accountable and to pan-Canadian standards. The social union project is even openly mentioned, which Quebec rejected in the past. The Bloc Québécois will remain vigilant in this area. The fiscal imbalance should be fixed simply by making unconditional transfers of tax fields to Quebec, which it may use as it chooses.
In education, certain measures which fall within Ottawa’s fields of jurisdiction have been taken. We salute them. For example, the elimination of income tax on income from scholarships and bursaries. The Bloc has long been asking for this, and it is happy to see the Conservative government concurring with its arguments. What is not so good, however, is the increased interference in Quebec affairs. For instance, funding is being increased for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and so forth. Once again, instead of transferring the money to the governments of Quebec and the provinces, which are in great need of it to rectify the underfunding of the universities, the Conservative government has kept the same old Liberal practice of opting for visibility by directly subsidizing the research agencies, instead of doing its work and giving the money to the Government of Quebec, which greatly needs it.
If there is one area of jurisdiction in the Constitution which is exclusively that of Quebec and the provinces, it is surely health. We recognize that, on certain issues and in emergencies, the federal government has a role to play, for example, in ordering quarantines and in the inspection of food and the conditions of animals. Despite Quebec’s repeated demands for the transfer of responsibilities and the money that goes to the health research institutes, the Conservative government is still not responding, despite its promise to respect Quebec’s fields of jurisdiction.
That is so much the case that this budget provides for money for a Canadian cancer strategy. I must remind hon. members that this is blatant duplication, for a Quebec strategy already exists. If the Prime Minister had wanted to honour his commitment, he should have transferred that money so that this could be done in Quebec City, in compliance with provincial jurisdiction.
Immigration is another fine example where the federal government should have been tending to its own jurisdiction instead of once again interfering with that of Quebec. This government is planning to invest $18 million over two years in an agency for the recognition of foreign credentials. Yet professional credentials are the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. They have nothing to do with the federal government. Even if we agree with the idea of recognizing credentials, that has to be done in Quebec City, not in Ottawa. That fact has to be respected.
On the other hand, something that is under federal jurisdiction is the question of the refugee appeal division. We are talking about the paltry sum of $10 million to establish a refugee appeal division. That was passed by the House in 2002, but it has still not been created. The Conservative government has made no provision for it. In other words, when it is time for the Conservative government to do something that is under its jurisdiction, it does not do it, while it jumps in with both feet when there is a chance to meddle in Quebec’s affairs.
There is the same kind of problem with job training. For years, the Government of Quebec has been asking and calling for the job training agreement that was signed to be honoured. Nonetheless, that has still not been done in the budget. The federal government has decided to reserve certain client groups for itself and it is infringing on Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. It is perpetuating duplications. And yet on December 11, 2002, in the National Assembly, all members unanimously called on the federal government to withdraw from that area of jurisdiction. That promise is still not being kept by the Conservatives.
This is particularly surprising because it is hard to believe that the federal government knows what it is talking about when it talks about job training. Among other things, apprenticeship grants are being proposed. We are told that the trades in question are of strategic importance for the economy. However, the federal government does not have the knowledge to make those choices. That must be determined in Quebec and the provinces.
The budget also contains a section dealing with sport and healthy lifestyles. Once again, the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over health and social services. The provinces are being told how to manage their money when that job should be done in the provinces and Quebec.
If the head of government, the Prime Minister, really wanted to practise open federalism, he should give the Government of Quebec the complete right to withdraw, with full compensation, in all these areas—including amateur sport—so that it can work in its areas of jurisdiction.
In conclusion, we have to say that for the moment, the new open federalism is a very theoretical thing. In practice, the same old habits of the previous government, which told us what to think, “Ottawa knows best”, are still being followed.
Either the government has no intention at all of honouring its commitments to Quebeckers—and it will thus be deceiving those Quebeckers who believed its promise—or this government has got off to a false start, this government has made a youthful mistake; that is what I would hope. In that case, it will correct the situation very quickly and will respect Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. In any event, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that it does. If it respects our areas of jurisdiction, we will support it; if it does not, it will find us standing in its way.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber for allowing me to share his allotted time. I would also like to congratulate him on his work during the budget--given his role as deputy finance critic--in cooperation with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who for years has been working very hard to improve Quebec's position in terms of finances, and will continue to do so until sovereignty is achieved.
This budget marks the first time that we have seen the notion of a fiscal imbalance included. This is one of its positive points.
At home, the local media asked me about the budget. I replied that, like any budget, it has some positive aspects and some negative. I will focus on some of these points here today, particularly concerning agriculture, since I am the critic for the Bloc Québécois.
On the plus side, this budget sets out seven commitments including eliminating the fiscal imbalance by 2007. The Bloc Québécois is no stranger to this issue. On the contrary, the work that our party leader and my colleagues have done on this has paid off. This government understands that it is a minority and that it cannot be authoritarian like the last government was. Fortunately, this government has listened to some of our requests.
I had the opportunity to meet with several people over the weekend, namely mayors. They were satisfied with the supplementary $1.5 billion for infrastructure. We were talking earlier about municipalities. In matters of infrastructure, money is always an issue. It is always very appreciated when the federal government, through our tax money, can contribute together with the provincial and municipal governments to improving community infrastructure.
However, this budget also has a negative side. Anything to do with the environment is quite worrisome. Some money is being allocated, but it is not clear. We do not know what it will be used for. We know that this government wants to destroy the Kyoto protocol and that worries us.
Earlier I heard an hon. member talk about employment insurance. There is nothing in this budget on that either except for a vague allusion to an older worker assistance program. For the rest, we are still looking for measures on employment insurance in this budget. Unfortunately, it is true to the Conservatives' line of thinking not to be really concerned about the less fortunate.
We must also talk about industrial sectors that are deteriorating under globalization. Let us take for instance the clothing, textile and furniture sectors in my riding. My constituency went through job losses because of the inaction and inefficiency of the previous Liberal government. The current government did not think to add anything in the budget to help these deteriorating sectors.
As far as the $1,200 per child allowance is concerned, unfortunately, despite backlash from the Bloc Québécois and all the good advice coming from Quebec, this allowance is still taxable. My advice to families is to put money aside. When they file their income tax return they will have to pay tax on this allowance.
As I was saying, I want to spend the next few minutes on agriculture. We know that there is a very serious problem with farm incomes. There was a demonstration right here at Parliament on April 5. There were very good reasons for it. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is forecasting a 50% drop in farm income in 2006 in comparison with 2005 and an 81% drop in comparison with 2004. In addition, farm debt has risen 90% since 1995. Producers are in it now over their heads. We must help them get their heads above water.
The budget plan is to spend $1.5 billion on agriculture, of which $1 billion would be in 2006. We still have some concerns, though, about how this envelope will be allocated. We need to specify how this money will be paid out. Unfortunately, neither the budget nor the minister have dropped a single word about this since the bill was introduced here in the House of Commons.
Our farmers cannot compete currently with American and European producers. We know the situation well. The latter benefit from huge subsidies. I have some figures here. In Canada, for example, the subsidies amount to about $192 per capita in American dollars. In the United States, it is $317 per capita, and in European Union countries, it is $304.
In certain other countries, agricultural subsidies are even higher. In Japan, they are more than $400 per capita.
We are unable, therefore, to get a level playing field with countries that are also members of the World Trade Organization.
In Quebec and Canada, the farm sector has lost more than $6 billion in four years. That is a lot of money. The average annual net income per farm has been barely $5,600. It is a historic low, and that is what we heard from farmers when they came to Parliament Hill. My colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I marched with the 3,000 producers from Quebec who came to Ottawa to demand their share from this government just before the budget was brought down.
The Bloc Québécois demanded and obtained a take-note debate the day after this farmers’ demonstration. That evening, the government got several messages. The current programs are not filling the gaping hole in farm incomes. We need an aid program that will enable farmers to survive until a new strategic framework is adopted for agriculture, something this government promised.
The marketing structures, such as supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board, have to be supported and maintained by the government. We are very concerned about this. One need only consider what is happening at the moment to the dairy producers, with the whole debate on milk proteins. Imports are going to lead to the loss of more and more money for our dairy producers. Those losses could reach $500 million per year. Yet this government, like the previous one, does not want to acknowledge the problem.
We are beginning to see demonstrations in Quebec on this subject, and I want to warn the government right away to be on its guard. Quebec farmers too are very concerned about what is happening. Import restriction is one of the pillars of supply management. We are in the process of weakening that pillar. We even risk the collapse of the entire supply management system if we do not formally acknowledge the situation and use the means at our disposal: we can utilize article 28 of the GATT, or we can change the regulations governing the way that milk proteins are imported into Quebec and Canada.
I now close my parenthesis and continue.
With regard to the farmers’ demands, they have made it clear, both here and prior to the budget speech, that the funding granted should be flexible enough that Quebec and the provinces can set up and finance the appropriate mechanisms.
As I was saying, these key points were demanded before the budget. Now that we know that $1 billion will be paid out to help farmers make the transition to more effective farm income stabilization and disaster relief programming, we need to know under what criteria that money will be made available.
The minister has decided to invest the billion dollars in the Canadian farm income stabilization program. That means the money will be distributed through that program, after an evaluation of or retroactive adjustments to inventories. However this method raises certain concerns. I met recently with members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, of which Laurent Pellerin, the president of the UPA, is the vice-president. Under this method, the aid will cover only the steep annual decline in prices.
So we wonder what will happen, for example, to the grain growers who are most affected by the farm crisis. This method may well be of no use to them, because the grains and oilseeds sector is subject to slower, long-term price reductions. Neither will the horticulture sector benefit from the use of inventory evaluations, since market gardeners do not carry their inventory forward from year to year.
Also according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the differences between accounting systems could deprive Quebec farmers of the allocated funds. Quebec farmers have not forgotten that they received only $42 million of the $755 million distributed under the last federal assistance program.
The minister and his parliamentary secretaries, one of whom is an hon. member from Quebec, have crowed about that $755 million. Yet it had been announced by the previous government and simply carried forward by the Conservative government. The government should be careful, for Quebec is quite aware that it has not received its fair share of that money.
I close by saying that the Bloc Québécois joins its voice to that of the agricultural producers in calling for the government to distribute the announced aid fairly between the provinces, and to really direct it to those who need it most.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.
I am pleased to make a few remarks on the first Conservative federal budget in 13 years. I know when members have been given the opportunity to study the budget document and debate its merits, they all will come to the conclusion that it is indeed a very good budget and one that should be supported by all members of the House of Commons.
I consider it to be a good budget from the point of view of tax relief. It is also a good budget from the point of view of investments in key areas, especially infrastructure. The budget will see roughly $17 billion spent on infrastructure and about $20 billion in general tax relief.
It is very important to me as a member representing the city of St. John's that a great deal of money is set aside for infrastructure replacement and infrastructure relief. Why? Because I happen to represent the oldest city in North America. When one represents an old city, infrastructure replacement and having the government set aside infrastructure money are very important. I am very pleased to see $17 billion set aside in the budget for infrastructure projects. My province will certainly be taking advantage of this money and will be applying for infrastructure replacement.
It is a budget that embraces a different vision of the country. The new Conservative government believes that Canadians really pay too much in taxes. All members have known for quite a number of years that Canadians pay too much money in taxes.
Any money that is in excess of what is needed to run the country and to make sure that the federal programs and responsibilities are met should be passed back to the taxpayers in the form of tax relief if at all possible. In the budget we are making sure that Canadians get some tax relief. Twenty billion dollars in tax relief is quite a step for a new government to take in its first budget.
Holding people's money to fund pet projects had long been the way our money was handled in this country. That is not the way it should be handled. I believe firmly that the government will make sure that the taxpayers' money is spent in a very wise and responsible way, and will not fund pet projects of politicians.
The budget takes some very significant steps. It honours our commitment to lower the GST by 1%. We are going to eventually lower the GST by 2%, but to begin with in our first budget it is being lowered by 1%. The GST has been a sore point for Canadians generally ever since it was implemented. It was brought on stream by the Progressive Conservative government a number of years ago. It has been a sore point for Canadians but it has helped tremendously in the effort to balance our budget over the years and to have the healthy surpluses that we have had.
The former government balanced the budget and had surpluses, but we cannot forget that the GST helped tremendously in that. Free trade helped tremendously as well. But the GST has been a sore point and we made a commitment in the election campaign to start the process of lowering the GST and lowering taxes generally for Canadians. This is what we are doing.
The budget has a number of initiatives. It creates a new $1,000 Canada employment tax credit effective July 1. The GST reduction will start on July 1 as well. It is going to be a great Canada Day present for Canadians.
The employment tax credit will give Canadians a break on what it costs to work. That is visionary. We concentrate more on trying to find employment for people and create new jobs, but we never really concentrate on what it costs for people to go to work. It is going to give Canadians a break on what it costs to work, recognizing expenses for things such as home computers, uniforms and supplies which can be quite a significant cost. That is a bit of a visionary thing.
The budget will also increase the basic personal exemption not only this year but for the next three years. Ultimately the basic personal exemption will be $10,000, which is something Canadians have been asking for as well.
The budget also keeps our election commitment on child care. Starting July 1, and it is no coincidence that we are starting on Canada Day, families with young children under six will receive $100 a month per child to assist with the cost of child care, $1,200 per child per year. This money is not going to be clawed back through reductions in any other income tested family support programs currently being offered by the federal government.
People were worried that it would be clawed back because of our federal income support programs. It is not going to be clawed back. We are encouraging the provinces not to claw back any of these benefits through reductions in their family support programs. That is very important because our child care plan is truly universal. The former government had a child care plan which was one size fits all. It did not meet the needs of many families in rural areas, families where parents are shift workers or families with a stay at home parent. Our plan delivers $1,200 per child per year to all families who have children under six years of age.
Also for families there is going to be a new physical fitness tax credit of up to $500. We have to help families wherever we can because the family unit is the basic building block in our society. The family needs help in a lot of areas. When looking at our budget, people will see that families are receiving help, that it is a family oriented budget so to speak.
The budget will create a $2,000 apprenticeship job creation tax credit for employers, a $1,000 apprenticeship grant to new apprentices, and a $500 deduction for the cost of tools needed to practise a trade.
This is the Conservatives' first budget, and it is indeed a good budget.
Mr. Speaker, on May 2, Canada's new government presented its first budget.
We have provided Canadians with a budget that will benefit all Canadians. This budget turns over a new leaf for Canadians. It puts more money into the pockets of ordinary Canadians. It is a budget so unlike the ones we have seen in the past 13 years.
Our budget is much more modest. It is a budget that delivers on its promise. It is a budget that works on a two year timeframe. Therefore, when we promise, we must deliver. It is a budget that delivers. It delivers on tax relief, on focused spending, and it delivers on the priorities of Canadians and Manitobans.
Budget 2006 delivers $20 billion in tax relief over two years. That is more tax relief than the last four federal budgets combined. For every dollar spent in new spending, Canada's new government delivers $2 in tax relief. As a result of these measures, people in Manitoba will pay almost $300 million less in taxes in the year 2007.
The budget delivers on spending. As a government, we also have a responsibility to provide programs that are important to hard-working Canadians and, unlike the previous government which spent erratically on ever changing priorities, our new government has focused its spending on key federal priorities with programs that will get results and provide value for taxpayers' money.
The budget delivers for Manitoba. Budget 2006 confirms that Manitoba will receive $1.7 billion in equalization in 2006-07. Manitoba will also receive $19.2 million more in equalization than in November 2005.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the budget is that it rolls back years of overtaxation by the past government. Simply put, government has been overtaxing Canadians for far too long. Under the previous government, billions of dollars were taken from Canadians through overtaxation, to fund large and often hidden federal surpluses. Meanwhile, Canadians are working longer, paying more in taxes and saving less than they were 13 years ago.
Under the former government, Ottawa had been wasting those tax dollars on scandals and boondoggles, such as the sponsorship program, a costly and ineffective gun registry, and debt repayment programs that simply did not work.
Enough is enough. Canadians work hard and Canadians pay too much in taxes. It is time to give back money to Canadians. The budget delivers $20 billion in tax relief over two years. That is more, as I said before, than the last four federal budgets combined. It delivers tax relief for families, seniors, students, and for those who use our valuable infrastructure. We will reduce the GST from 7% to 6% effective July 1 of this year, and what a great Canada Day gift.
The budget, which delivers tax relief for families, will create a $1,000 Canada employment credit, effective, again, July 1. This new tax credit gives Canadians a break on what it costs to work, recognizing the expenses for home computers, uniforms and supplies as mentioned earlier.
We will reduce the lowest personal income tax rate from 16% to 15.5% effective July 1. We will increase the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. We will provide also a fiscal fitness tax credit of up to $500 to cover registration fees for children's sports.
We also think of the seniors and we will deliver on real tax relief for seniors. We will double the amount of eligible pension income that seniors can claim under the pension income credit, the first such increase in more than 30 years. Effective July 1, we will provide a 15.5% tax credit for the cost of transit passes. That means that a senior buying monthly passes in the city of Winnipeg can save up to $132 per year.
We will also deliver on tax relief for our students. We will create an apprenticeship job creation tax credit for up to $2,000, and completely eliminate the federal income tax on all income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships. We will also create a new text book tax credit for post-secondary students.
This budget is turning over a new leaf for families. Families earning between $15,000 and $30,000 per year will be better off by almost $300 in 2007, and those earning $45,000 to $60,000 will save almost $650. Focused spending means helping families. Raising children has never been easy and it is costly. Strong families mean a brighter future for Canada.
The most important investment we can make as a country is the next generation of Canadians. This new Conservative government is committed to supporting all Canadian parents in their choices. That is why we are investing $3.7 billion over two years for the universal child care benefit. As of July 1, another Canada Day gift, families will receive $1,200 per year for each child under six.
We will also invest in new child care spaces with $250 million beginning in 2007 to create those child care spaces. We will work with governments, business and community organizations to come up with a plan that works, a plan that actually does create spaces. The universal child care benefit, which provides families with $1,200 a year for each child under six, will put an estimated $101.2 million in the hands of Manitoba parents over the next year.
Focused spending also means ensuring a commitment of our dollars for law and order, so we can do our job and protect Canadians. Our government is committed to ensuring Canadians are safe in their homes, safe in their communities, and safe on their streets. Safe streets are a defining characteristic of the Canadian way of life and must be preserved, but times are changing.
Our cities are changing. The safe streets and neighbourhoods we expect as Canadians are threatened by gun, gang and drug crime, With this budget, our government focuses spending to protect Canadians on their streets, in their communities, at their national border and throughout the world. We are cracking down on crime.
We will provide $161 million to put more RCMP officers on the streets. We will invest $37 million for the RCMP to expand its national training academy. We will set aside funds to expand Canada's correctional facilities. We will provide $20 million for communities to use to develop programs designed to prevent youth crime. We will provide $26 million to give victims a more effective voice. We will provide the money required to arm our border agents.
As well, the infrastructure in our communities, our bridges, our roads and our transit, is very important. Over the next four years, we will invest a total of $16.5 billion in new infrastructure initiatives, including $3.5 billion this year and $3.9 billion next year. We will provide more than $5.5 billion in new federal funding for highways and border infrastructure, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, the public transit capital trust, and the Pacific Gateway initiative.
We will maintain the estimated $3.9 billion in current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives. We will maintain the existing gas tax funding commitment under the new deal for cities and communities, as well as the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities. These tax measures amount to $7.1 billion in infrastructure support for our cities and municipalities over the next four years.
To improve transit system infrastructure, Manitoba will be getting $14.7 million right away. Further, any surplus funds in excess of $2 billion in fiscal year 2005-06 will be used to provide the province with up to $32.6 million through the public transit capital trust. Municipalities across Canada will receive an estimated $4.4 billion over the next four years as a share of federal gas tax revenues, money they can invest in roads, clean water and other priorities.
The affordable housing trust will support investments to increase the supply of affordable housing, including transitional and supportive housing; up to $29 million in Manitoba.
In conclusion, on January 23 Canadians voted for change and our new Prime Minister promised to honour their trust and deliver on our commitments. With its first budget, Canada's new government is delivering: it is delivering tax relief, delivering focused spending and delivering debt repayment. We are doing it in a way that will benefit Canadians now and will enable us all to continue reaching higher to build an even greater country. This budget delivers for business, for families, for Canada, and for all of us.
Mr. Speaker, one cannot have observed the government over the last three months without noting its flexible use of the English language.
The flexible use of language and the flexible marrying of words and actions remind me very much of the Lewis Carroll childhood favourite Through the Looking Glass. In this book, members may remember the quote:
“When I use a word, “Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all.”
It now appears that we have Humpty Dumpty in league with the government: words are being redefined, actions reinvented and the master will prevail.
The litany of reinventions prebudget are becoming folklore of contemporary politics.
The call for Senate reform in an elected Senate resulted in the appointment of a close crony. Is that true blue of democratic reform?
When the member for Newmarket—Aurora crossed the House we heard that it was scandalous. Now the crossing of the member for Vancouver Kingsway a few days after being re-elected is also cited as the true blue of democratic reform.
Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Davenport.
Calls for democratic reform and the openness of government, now followed by the appointment of the caucus chair and committee chairs.
No lobbying for five years after a role in government and yet we see a lobbyist made a privy councillor, a defence industry lobbyist made defence minister and an exodus of dozens of Conservative workers to the lobbying world.
We heard a defence minister tell media to stay off the property in Trenton out of respect for the families. We learned that the families had not been consulted and yet we have the spectacle of seeing the ceremony through a chain-link fence.
Transparency is given yet another meaning here. A civil servant and a novelist, a true renaissance person, in the Department of the Environment, the day of his book launch for a science fiction novel on global warming, is told by the minister's office not to attend the lunch honouring his book launch or to discuss his book with the media.
I repeat Lewis Carroll's question, “The question is...which is to be master -- that's all.”
The doublespeak and reinvention of language by Humpty Dumpty across the floor continues in the budget process as well.
From the outset, among the first words in the budget, we heard that our personal income tax rate will be reduced from 16% to 15.5% so that taxes will go down for every single income class. Not acknowledged was that the lowest tax bracket was indeed be raised from 15% , in effect from January 2005, to the 15.5%, which is estimated will reduce the average worker's weekly take home pay by $4.
Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- nothing more nor less”.
We have heard much about the so-called day care program. We have heard that spaces will be created across the country. What we have not heard from our province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, is that 68 day care spaces in northern Manitoba, 700 day care spaces in rural Manitoba and 1,600 child care spaces in the city of Winnipeg, a plan that is currently in place, a plan that was based on reality, a plan that was based on training for child care workers, a plan that was based on capital construction and development and a plan that was based on reality, has been thrown out for a plan in development, modeled on a plan that failed dramatically when introduced in provinces.
Is the government really forthright, or is it really a question of making, as Alice said, “words mean so many different things”?
We have heard endlessly in the House of the child care plan of $1,200 per child until age six. Let us call it for what it is. It is a family allowance and not a child care plan. To call it otherwise is insulting to parents and to their children.
When this so-called plan was introduced, did the government tell us that it would cancel the child benefit that goes to the most needy families? Did it tell us of the inequities of the plan? Did it tell us that working poor and modest income families will end up with low net benefits and that one-earner couples would get more than single parents and two income couples?
We have heard much about choice but there is no choice. There is no choice for thousands of parents who want to go to school or enter the workplace. There is no choice if there is no quality child care available. In my own riding, waiting lists at child care facilities are so long that one young woman told me that they were not even returning her phone calls. Is this choice, or as Humpty Dumpty says, “--it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less”?
Now let us turn to the plight of our aboriginal population. Canadians know that the economic and social conditions of aboriginal citizens is desperate. Canadians, along with the leadership everywhere in the country, but for the government in the House, know that the Kelowna accord was the greatest opportunity and held the most hope for peace and prosperity for aboriginal Canadians across the country.
We have the spectacle of a once well motivated minister telling members of the House that aboriginal Canadians are, “real winners under this budget”. It is Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a word...it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less” . Winners. What is a winner?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when a $5.1 billion integrated strategy is substituted for $450 million over two years for water supply, on reserve housing, education and general improvement of social conditions? We contrast that with a $5.1 billion commitment where aboriginal peoples would receive $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and water, $1.3 billion for health, $200 million for economic development and $170 million for governance. What does it mean?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when the money booked for them by the previous government is reallocated to allow Canadians to pay a penny less for a cup of coffee, or to allow well off Canadians a break for their cars, their boats and their holidays?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when an agreement in principle, negotiated by the previous government, where funds are booked by a previous government, are told that they are getting a settlement that was concluded by a previous government and the Conservatives were then on record of supporting it?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when it is heard in the halls of this great building that, “Why should they get anything. They don't vote for us”. What cynicism and what lack of respect.
Are aboriginal peoples winners when the Prime Minister, Humpty Dumpty the master, appoints a chair of the aboriginal affairs committee who is known to have a stereotypical negative attitude toward aboriginal peoples?
Are aboriginal peoples winners when they are told during the election campaign that Kelowna was written on the back of a napkin and the current minister then says that he speaks for this matter and that he supports Kelowna and, as their supposed champion, he now jettisons it in the name of political expediency? One expects when a government stands up for Canada it stands up for all its citizens.
Are they winners when a holistic long term plan, developed in consultation and collaboration across the country, focused on regional and local priorities, is replaced with a few isolated initiatives, cherry-picked without consultation, all in the name of knowing what is best?
I will repeat, “The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all”.
The budget was called “Building a Stronger Canada” but it is not a stronger Canada for aboriginal citizens. There is doublespeak through so much of the government's proposals; words chosen to mean what the government chooses it to mean, the spin.
With regard to the environment, we hear the government saying that it is advocating its made in Canada plan and that it will invest in a Canadian solution and Canadian technology. The one tonne challenge and the energy guide rebate for seniors, were these not made in Canada?
We need to hear about what is important for western Canada. The government is made up of westerners and yet we have heard nothing about the Wheat Board, western economic diversification, the clean up of Lake Winnipeg nor the Museum of Human Rights. We also have heard nothing about honouring labour market agreements, which, unfortunately, may be going down the tube.
It is important that the government stands up for all Canadians. I submit that Canadians want clarity and forthrightness. They do not want spin or a reinvention of words and concepts. They want to know that what is said is what the words mean. They want to know that the government will serve all Canadians fairly.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House to comment on the budget introduced by the Minister of Finance last Tuesday.
There is a tradition that is familiar to all of us in the House with respect to the passage of budgets. Governments must maintain the confidence the House. for if they cannot pass their budget bills, then they have lost the needed consent to govern. This is because budgetary matters are so essential to the business of the government and so fundamentally significant for the lives of those for whom we have been sent here to serve.
Budgets establish the government's priorities and should therefore reflect the priorities of all Canadians. As a parliamentarian and a Canadian, I find some aspects of the budget to be positive, although I am concerned about several flaws.
The environment is one area that should sound the alarm for many Canadians. I was extremely proud when, as a member of the previous Liberal government, we moved to implement our commitment under the Kyoto accord. This agreement represented a seismic step forward in terms of international cooperation in addressing significant climate change that threatened to impact so substantially the lives of all people across the world and of generations yet to come.
It was with pride that I watched Canada join with many of the world's most progressive nations in supporting the Kyoto accord. The previous Liberal government demonstrated its commitment to the principles of the Kyoto accord by committing the funds necessary to facilitate its implementation: $5 billion was assigned to ensure that the environment we passed on to future generations of Canadians would be livable and sustainable.
This past Tuesday the government demonstrated that it did not share this significant commitment to the environment. Instead, Conservatives put forward what they described as a “made in Canada solution”. If it were truly a made in Canada solution, it would reflect the very real and deeply felt commitments of Canadians to protection of the environment. I am afraid the budget does not demonstrate any such commitment.
There is also the issue of child care. The previous Liberal government had begun an enormous, important move forward in terms of providing the kind of affordability and quality that Canadian families deserved. My colleague, the previous minister of social development, the hon. member for York Centre, had already worked with provincial counterparts in several provinces to begin to put in place a national day care system of which we could all be proud.
There are clearly very different visions at work here. My colleagues on the government benches believe that their program offers choice to Canadians. Then again, does it really? The previous Liberal government plan would have committed $5 billion to establish a child care system that would have ensured the availability of day care service to Canadians who most needed them. In fact, in my home town of Toronto, it is now evident that the thousands of day care spaces, which would have been created under the Liberal plan, are now to be lost as a result of the direction that has been adopted by the government. This is very unfortunate for the many families across the country who had anticipated the availability of affordable day care in their communities. It is something they now see slipping away.
There has been much talk of the tax cuts that the budget extends to Canadians. Indeed, there are tax measures in the budget that will reduce the amount payable in tax. However, I was quite disappointed that the government would choose to reverse a Liberal tax cut aimed at those at the lowest end of the income scale. At a time of unparalleled prosperity in our country's history, it is really quite sad that the government's budget would choose to add to the burden faced by many of our country's most economically disadvantaged citizens. Canada is not about that. I know many Canadians feel distressed when hearing that those unable to pay taxes will actually see the Liberal tax cut aimed at helping them up in life eliminated by this budget plan.
Last year's Kelowna accord played an important role in the progress of first nations peoples. It showed first nations peoples dignity and respect, which was a priority for the previous federal government under the Liberal Party. That government also provided progressive funding in several areas to meet the needs of aboriginal peoples.
In this budget we see the commitment brushed aside, only to be replaced by a portion of the funds necessary to meet the needs of our first nations peoples. Indeed, I was saddened to see that the Assembly of First Nations has to state that “first nations will remain in last place as a result of...(the) federal budget”.
The Kelowna accord was a major step forward in the relationship between the federal government and the first nations people of our country. My vision of Canada is one where aboriginal peoples are treated with respect and dignity and are welcomed to the table as equal partners. The accord signed last year went such a long way down the road to recognizing this need, yet we see the new government abandoning what so many well-intentioned and committed people worked so hard to achieve.
What about students? In the financial statement released last November, my colleague, the former finance minister and member for the riding of Wascana, outlined significant steps forward for those who would shape the future of our country. Significant funding was announced then to assist students, financially, by way of Canada access grants, workplace training innovation funds and the list went on. We did not see this kind of commitment being made in budget 2006.
Those in our post-secondary schools deserve the kind of support announced last winter by the Liberal government in the form of initiatives that came even before the announcement was made in the fiscal update in November. These young people are the future of our country. They are the next generation of doctors, teachers and our country's future leadership. They deserve the kind of support promised last November but missing in the spring.
What about the most vulnerable seniors who do not reap any benefit from the budget? These are older Canadians who may not have the benefit of significant private pension plans. Where are the initiatives to assist them? Indeed, where is the help for our cities that the previous Liberal government had demonstrated on a continual basis? Whether it is the environment, child care, seniors, students or our first nations peoples, budget 2006 leaves much to be desired.
While none of the provisions of this budget are negative in nature, there is so much to be concerned about that we need to bring attention to them in the House. So many times colleagues within the House have spoken of their vision of Canada, and this is an important concept.
Budgets are more than just figures and spreadsheets. They are also created for our citizens. We must be sure to help those in need and to encourage those who have the necessary means, so that everyone can have the fulfilling, satisfying lifestyle that they deserve.
We cannot build a future on shaky ground. To have a solid foundation, we must have the kind of investment that supports our families, child care centres, first nations peoples, cities, seniors, and the list goes on. Budget 2006 reflects a vision that will be alien to many Canadians. It really does not reflect our values of compassion, caring and inclusiveness. It does not match with our sense of fair play and our commitment to helping those among us most in need.
Like many Canadians, I had hoped for so much more for the sake of the future of our world, our country and our people.
Mr. Speaker, I am more than happy to participate in the debate this afternoon.
I would suggest to my hon. colleague across the way, who said, I think, that there are different visions at work here, that I would certainly agree. I think what we are seeing is the reality that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are responding to this particular budget because, for a change, they do see a government with some vision. I know, because I have been sitting here since 1993 through successive budgets by Liberal finance ministers, budgets that lacked any vision for this country. It was a status quo government that stumbled from one issue to another.
Yet in this particular budget, we are seeing the reality that the promises made in the recent election campaign are being acted upon. Canadians are responding positively to that. The reason they are responding is that they want some leadership, and this Prime Minister is providing it.
Specifically, the member mentioned the child care program. Quite honestly, I am getting more than a little fed up with this--
An hon. member: Myth.
Hon. Jay Hill: Yes, this myth is being perpetuated by the Liberals that somehow we had a national child care program last November. What we had was something that was cobbled together at the last minute to try to stave off defeat in this House and was presented to Canadians as some sort of a national child care program. It is absolute nonsense.
Our plan is to deliver assistance to every parent in this country with a child under the age of six. Would the member stand and state that he supports delivering that assistance to all parents universally in this country? Or does he not support that? Does he believe, like some in his party, that if we support parents it only leads to future problems and producing criminals in this country?
Mr. Speaker, last week this government presented its first budget. The budget delivers. It delivers on tax relief. It delivers on focused spending. It delivers on paying down the debt.
The previous Liberal government had been overtaxing Canadians for far too long. Canadians were working longer, paying more in taxes and saving less than they were 13 years ago. It is time to give money back to Canadians. That is the bottom line of budget 2006.
This budget delivers $20 billion in tax relief over two years, more than the last four Liberal budgets combined. This Conservative government is going to be lowering everyone's taxes.
We will reduce the GST from 7% to 6%, effective July 1.
We will create a new $1,000 Canada employment credit, effective July 1. This new tax credit gives Canadians a break on what it costs to work, recognizing expenses for such things as home computers, uniforms and supplies.
We will increase the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax.
We will create a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit for up to $2,000 per apprentice.
Effective July 1, we will provide a tax credit for the cost of transit passes.
We will completely eliminate the federal income tax for all income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships.
We will create a new textbook tax credit for post-secondary students.
We will provide a physical fitness tax credit for up to $500 to cover registration fees for children's sports.
We will double the amount of eligible pension income for seniors that they can claim under the pension income credit. This is the first increase in more than 30 years.
This government is putting money back into the pockets of Canadians.
There is more.
The most important investment we can make as a country is in the next generation of Canadians. This government is committed to supporting all Canadian parents and their choices. That is why we have invested $3.7 billion over two years for the universal child care benefit. As of July 1, families will receive $1,200 for each child under six.
The Conservative government will also invest in new child care spaces, spending $250 million, beginning in 2007, to create 125,000 new child care spaces. We will work with governments, businesses and community organizations to create these new spaces.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Human Resources.
Two women on my staff are working to raise young children under six at home. Both have opted for some form of private child care. Their choices in child care differ. However, they will join all other families who will benefit by receiving the child care benefit to allow them to spend their child care allowances as they choose.
I talked to a Langley woman yesterday who is a professional child care provider and has a two year old son of her own. She has worked in both child care and preschool. She confirmed that early years are incredibly important learning years for children. Over and over again, she said that no matter how good the child care facility is, nothing can replace a parent. That is why we will give parents choices in deciding what is best for their children.
Our government is committed to ensuring Canadians are safe in their homes and communities. Safe streets are the defining characteristic of the Canadian way of life and that must be preserved. Times are changing. Our cities are changing. The safe streets and neighbourhoods we expect as Canadians are threatened by gun, gang and drug crime.
Since I was elected almost two years ago, I have personally witnessed a Langley pedophile who sexually assaulted his neighbour's children and was sentenced to house arrest, with a view of his victims in their backyard. I have attended a dangerous sexual offender hearing for a man who kidnapped an 11 year old Langley girl right off the street in front of her best friend and sexually assaulted her before allowing her to escape.
In my riding, I have seen huge numbers of marijuana grow operations taken down by RCMP officers, who are overwhelmed with the number of grow ops reported. In Langley, my staff are currently attending the trials of two men who have been charged with murdering three Langley residents in separate incidents. Talk about being bold, the clubhouse of the Hells Angels is located within feet of my constituency office.
The previous Liberal government allowed a soft on crime attitude to lead to ineffective sentences and underfunded police forces, and it allowed organized crime to take a foothold across this great country. Canadians want serious time for serious crime.
With this budget, the government focuses on spending to protect Canadians on our streets, in our communities and at our national borders. We are cracking down on crime.
We will provide $161 million to put more RCMP officers on the streets. We will invest $37 million for the RCMP to expand its national training academy. We will set aside funds to expand Canada's correctional facilities. We will provide $20 million for communities to use to develop programs designed to prevent youth crime. We will provide $26 million to give victims a more effective voice. We will arm our border agents. We will make Canada safer.
We are going to be investing in infrastructure, in bridges, roads and transit, and that is important. A great trading country like Canada needs to have the very best highway and border infrastructure.
My riding of Langley sits on the Canada-U.S. border. As part of the greater Vancouver regional district, Langley is victim to many years of Liberal mismanagement in the infrastructure department. Transportation is the number one political issue affecting my constituents. In Langley, a rail line runs right through the centre of town, closing off all five rail crossings at the same time when a train comes through, many times a day.
Traffic backlogs caused by the previous Liberal government's failure to provide adequate railroad separation have created a very dangerous situation. Delays in moving goods to market cost money. Delays make business less competitive. With the welcome expansion of Deltaport, funding for railroad separation must be provided.
Our government is listening. Our government will increase its investment in new highways and border infrastructure. It is a long term commitment of unprecedented new investment. Over the next four years, we will invest a total of $16.5 billion in new infrastructure initiatives, including $3.5 billion this year and $3.9 billion next year. We will provide more than $5.5 billion in new federal funding for the highways and border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, the public transit capital trust fund, and the Pacific gateway initiative.
We will maintain the estimated $3.9 billion in current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives. We will maintain the existing gas tax funding commitment under the new deal for cities and communities and the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities. These taxes measure up at about $7.1 billion in infrastructure support for cities and municipalities over the next four years.
Canadians who live in cities are justifiably concerned about traffic congestion and the harmful emissions associated with it. Our government knows that investing in public transit infrastructure will help preserve our environment. That is why we are providing up to $1.3 billion to support public transit capital investments. Effective July 1, we will also help Canadians with the cost of riding the bus, commuter train or subway by providing a tax credit for the cost of transit passes.
We know that we all need to do a lot more to help the environment, and our government will spend $2 billion over the next five years to develop a made in Canada climate change program that will actually make a difference. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment, I am very proud of the opportunity to work to improve our global environmental health.
We finally have a government that is working hard to make Canada cleaner, safer and prosperous, and with a commitment to be open and accountable.
This is a great budget that Canadians are happy with. I ask all members of the House to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Langley, for sharing his time with me today.
Canada's new government campaigned on the items in this budget. Happily, Canadians gave us a mandate to implement our platform and we are now delivering on our commitments.
The budget provides some $11.7 billion in total direct federal support to families in 2006-07 alone. The vast majority of benefits will go to low and middle income families.
I want to emphasize that the budget addresses a broad range of issues. Our support for child care has received most of the attention, but the budget invests in Canadians of all ages and stages of life and in many different circumstances. I will talk about some of those in a few minutes.
The hallmark of the budget is the five priorities in the Speech from the Throne. One of those five is to give parents a choice in child care. Our budget provides for a new universal child care plan that provides benefits directly to families and supports the creation of new child care spaces.
The new universal child care benefit will go directly to the parents of Canada's 2.1 million preschoolers. It will provide $1,200 a year for each child under six to help parents choose the options for child care that best suit their family's unique circumstances.
We hope for swift passage of the budget and urge all parties to vote for what Canadians want and expect. Parents across the country want our universal child care benefit and are looking forward to receiving their first monthly cheque of $100 for each preschool age child this July.
The universal child care benefit is only one of two components of our universal child care plan. We know that many parents want formal day care and that the demand for these spaces exceeds the current supply. The budget sets aside $250 million per year beginning in 2007-08. We will create with that money 25,000 new spaces each year.
We want community associations, not for profit organizations, parents, and businesses both large and small to come up with ideas for child care spaces that make sense for them. In the coming months we will consult on the child care spaces initiative with the provinces and territories, employers and other stakeholders on ways to implement our spaces initiative.
In addition to helping all parents with their preschool age children, our government is following through on our commitment to help address the skills and labour shortage. To do this we have introduced several new measures.
First, we will introduce a new apprenticeship incentive grant. It will provide a cash grant of $1,000 per year to apprentices in the first two years of an apprenticeship program in one of the red seal trades. This grant will promote the entry of new labourers into the trades.
Our budget also encourages employers to hire new apprentices through an apprenticeship job creation tax credit. Eligible employers will receive a tax credit of 10% of the apprentice's wages to a maximum of $2,000 per apprentice per year for each of the apprentice's first two years.
The budget also delivers on our campaign commitment for a new tools tax deduction worth up to $500 per year that will help apprentices and trades people pay for the cost of their tools.
These are the first steps in our longer term broad based agenda to respond to the concerns of employers, unions and workers who recognize the great need for more skilled trades people right across Canada.
We will also be consulting with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders on the creation of the Canadian agency for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials. The agency will offer preassessment of international credentials and experience. On the basis of the advice that we receive, we will move quickly so that new Canadians can quickly put their skills to work for their benefit and for ours.
Because students are our future leaders, this budget introduces several new measures to help young Canadians get the education that they need. We want to make post-secondary studies more affordable for Canadians. The budget invests up to $20 million annually to increase direct support to students and their families through the Canada student loans program. We will expand eligibility for student loans through a reduction in the expected parental contribution starting in August 2007. We have also introduced a textbook tax credit of $65 per month for full time students and $20 per month for part time students. While these tax reductions are modest, we know and understand that every little bit helps.
Our government also believes that hard work deserves to be rewarded. Our brightest young minds deserve to keep their hard-earned bursaries and scholarships. That is why our government is eliminating federal taxes on scholarship and bursary income.
While direct assistance to students is important, our government also recognizes that improving access to post-secondary education requires more than loans, grants and bursaries. The institutions themselves must have the capacity to support the growing number of students. That is why we are establishing a one time post-secondary education infrastructure trust fund. The budget provides $1 billion for the provinces and territories to support urgent investments in infrastructure and equipment such as better classrooms and libraries, laboratories and research facilities, and to purchase new technologies and training equipment.
The demand for new skills and technologies sometimes displaces older workers. We made it clear that we will stand up for older workers. We recognize the important contribution that they make to the labour market. We are committed to finding ways to help them and will evaluate several options for assistance. Personally, I look forward to working with members of the opposition in addressing the needs of older workers.
While assistance to human capital is important, our government also recognizes the need for investment in housing infrastructure. We are determined to help make quality housing more affordable and available for Canadian families, particularly aboriginal Canadians and people living in Canada's north. To this effect, our government is investing $800 million in affordable housing to help provinces and territories increase the number of safe and affordable housing units. In addition, the budget provides up to $300 million to provinces to address immediate pressures in off reserve aboriginal housing and up to $300 million to territories for affordable housing in the north.
Canada's seniors could also use their government's support. That is why our government is following through on our commitments to double the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000 in 2006. This will benefit nearly 2.7 million seniors with pension income and will remove approximately 85,000 pensioners from the tax roll.
Our government is also addressing the needs of some 3.6 million Canadians living with a disability. Effective this July, we will increase the maximum annual child disability benefit to $2,300, up sharply from $2,044. We are also extending eligibility for this benefit to virtually all families caring for a child who is eligible for the disability tax credit. This is good news for families struggling with the challenges of providing for the needs of their family members with disabilities.
Our government is following through on our campaign commitments. We offered Canadians a platform of hope and of change. Canadians voted for this change and we are now proud to follow through on our commitments. I urge all hon. members to support the choices of Canadians and to join me in supporting this budget.