Mr. Speaker, this morning I am pleased to speak on the subject of Bill C-13, the bill to implement certain provisions—those concerning taxes—in the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance nearly two weeks ago.
In light of this bill, part of this budget is positive, but the Bloc Québécois considers part of it to be very negative. As we have said, eliminating the fiscal imbalance is, of course, not part of the bill to implement fiscal measures. Rather, it is a commitment on the part of the government—a commitment that seemed firm two weeks ago—to settle this issue by the next budget in spring 2007 at the latest.
When a friend or an acquaintance promises you something and puts it in writing, it is difficult for you to say you do not believe him. Spoken words may fade away, but written words remain. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The fiscal imbalance is Quebec's top priority. Reaching comprehensive, definitive, short-term solutions to this issue was one of the things we demanded from the new government. That is why we supported the budget. Otherwise, we would have been inclined to vote against it because the other measures it puts forward do not coincide with Quebeckers' top priorities and issues.
As for the fiscal imbalance, the Prime Minister's disappointing statements this weekend cast some doubt. We hope that this is only temporary and that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party will pull themselves together and speak more firmly about eliminating the fiscal imbalance.
On the weekend, the Prime Minister said that the provinces had not agreed among themselves, thus complicating the debate and making it harder to reach a solution. This is the first thing he said on the weekend. I remind him, simply, that there was no consensus because of one province, Ontario. That day, the representatives of Ontario left the meeting of the Council of the Federation whining that Ontario was not getting any benefit from its membership in the Canadian federation and that there had been a considerable shortfall every year. As Ontario does not receive equalization payments, it was shortchanged by the group statement, which concentrated on the reform of equalization payments.
I remind Premier McGuinty—I think everyone knows it—that, if there is one province that benefits from federal economics, it is Ontario. Year after year, it generates incredible trade surpluses, because Quebec, the Maritimes, the West and British Columbia buy goods and services from Ontario much more often than Ontario buys them elsewhere in Canada. Federal economics is very profitable for Ontario. It is not a poor province. It is rich thanks to its trade relations with Quebec and the provinces of Canada. So Mr. McGuinty can stop whining that Ontario is losing while the other provinces get special treatment. It is totally wrong. I hope the Prime Minister will put Ontario in its place when the day comes to propose a definitive solution to the fiscal imbalance.
In addition, the Ottawa area and the involvement of Ontarians in the public service and contracts awarded by Public Works and Government Services warrant an examination. There are more research centres on the Ontario side than on the Quebec side. Mr. McGuinty is bellyaching without cause. He has no reason to complain about Ontario being given poor treatment. Ontario wins on all counts through its membership in this system.
If Ontario continues to whine like this, the Prime Minister will have to be firm and come up with a solution that will be accepted by all Canadian provinces, including Quebec, to correct the fiscal imbalance.
The surprising thing about the Prime Minister's speech this weekend was that he was setting the scene by suggesting that the federal government has much less of a surplus than in previous years.
In that context, Quebec and the provinces would not want appear too greedy in their demands.
I would simply like to remind the Prime Minister that we are following him closely and we will stay hot on his heels until he finds a comprehensive solution to the fiscal imbalance. Such a solution will involve reform of federal transfer payments in the areas of post-secondary education, health, welfare and so on. They will be transformed into transfers of tax fields that are much more predictable and stable, and much more likely to deliver stable tax resources to Quebec and the provinces so that they may meet their core mandates.
Second, correcting the fiscal imbalance must be based on equalization reform. In calculating the per capita equalization payment for Quebec, the reform should ensure that the base is the average of the 10 provinces; that is, the tax capacity of the 10 provinces to collect income tax from their citizens and not the average of only 5 of the 10 provinces. If this is to be representative of our entire country's wealth, in order to determine whether equalization payments should go to any province, we need a true average, not an average that has been miscalculated for the past 25 years, based on only 5 provinces.
Parameters such as property tax must also be changed. Something is wrong here. For 15 years, Quebec has been fighting against Statistics Canada's calculation method, which makes for muddled, incredibly complicated assessments worthy of the cleverest economists I have ever known. Yet it is easy to determine the actual property value of a province or Quebec using the real figures. This approach shortchanges Quebec in particular and gives an unrealistic picture of each province's land wealth. Reform is needed.
We must be guided by these two parameters as we reform the tax system involving the federal government, Quebec and the provinces, in order to correct the fiscal imbalance.
Once again, if the Prime Minister tries to backtrack, he will hear from us. He has claimed since he was elected that he always honours his commitments, but this is the most important commitment of all.
I am also referring to a major disappointment directly connected to the budget: the payment of $1,200 for every child under six.
My colleague from Trois-Rivières worked very hard to try to persuade the government, and I did the same with the Minister of Finance. We would have liked the $1,200 to be converted into a refundable tax credit, simply because the government would not be interfering in the jurisdictions of the Government of Quebec and the provinces with a direct transfer that impinges on the prerogative of Quebec, in particular, with regard to family policy, and because families would not have to pay tax on the $1,200.
The government opted for the suggestion to pay $1,200 in cash, $100 a month, for every child under six. It exempted the national child benefit from the cuts in family benefits. But the national child care supplement, which helps the most disadvantaged families, will be abolished starting next year.
I was rather struck by the speeches of my Conservative colleagues, the Prime Minister, even the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who stated that their principal clientele consists of families with a stay at home parent. When we examine the specifics of the budget, it is precisely these families who will suffer because of the elimination of the national child care supplement. The family without day care expenses and by implication the one with a stay at home parent—the family focussed on by the Conservatives--will be losing out on $486 per year, plus income tax, because of the disappearance of this program next year.
With one hand they are giving and with the other they are taking away. They claim to be helping this type of family, but really it is the main victim of this budget. If this $1,200 transfer had been a tax credit, three things would have happened.
First, the $9.6 billion budget for this measure would have been respected, without going outside the fiscal framework. Second, low, middle, and moderately-high income families would have paid practically no tax on the $1,200 per child. Third, the families targeted by this measure would have benefited from it. Now we are in the situation where richer households are the main beneficiaries. This is not acceptable. They cannot say one thing and do another. This is a major disappointment.
The Bloc Québécois has a message for families with regard to the $1,200: put aside a few hundred dollars because, next spring, there will be a nasty surprise when they fill out their income tax forms. At that point, after having spent the $1,200 per child, they will realize that they have to pay tax on that amount.
With regard to social housing, the Bloc would have preferred the government to be more generous. Clearly, the $800 million taken from the 2005 and 2006 surplus is a good start. Not a penny had been invested in social housing by the government since 1993. So $800 million is better than nothing. However there are billions of dollars—nearly $4 billion, I believe—going to waste at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That money could be used to develop social housing. In any case, the Bloc has not waited for the government. My colleague from Quebec City, who has to compensate for the inertia and incompetence of the new members for the Quebec City region—in particular, Conservative members—will be tabling a bill which would put the CMHC surplus to use to build social housing.
Let us now speak of employment insurance. We were expecting at least some awareness of this issue on the part of the Conservative government. We know that it is not part of its core philosophy, but it seems to me that we have been fighting for employment insurance reform for quite a long time. When the Conservatives were in opposition, we even fought certain battles together. Sixty percent of the clientele, a figure which is rising where women and young people are concerned, has been excluded from the EI program since the previous government decided in 1996 to put the axe to it, tighten the eligibility criteria and set up a totally brutal program which strips the dignity from people already suffering from the scourge of unemployment. There is nothing on employment insurance.
The Bloc and the government have been discussing the POWA for three weeks. I myself have been in conversation with the Minister of Finance in particular. The aim was to persuade this government to reintroduce the program for older worker adjustment as it existed in 1997. This is urgent. In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance made a commitment to consider this program. It must not just land on his plate and stay ignored for years. He made a commitment to doing a feasibility study. As we see it, the purpose of a feasibility study is to estimate the annual costs of this program, to ascertain whether those costs could explode in more and more spending, year after year. This cost study must be done quickly.
In 1997, when the POWA was abolished, it was costing Canada $17 million per year. That money was used to rescue households composed of persons aged 55 and over who were victims of mass layoffs. Had this program been in place this year, its projected costs have been estimated at around $100 million for Canada as a whole. That is a generous estimate. In fact, the amount could be some $75 million or $80 million more than $100 million. That is not expensive, and it could help to prevent tragedies, especially in single-industry regions or regions that rely on virtually one industry, where there is only one principal employer.
Because of emerging countries and globalization, there are massive layoffs. It is obvious that companies have to re-organize, become more competitive, and prepare to face these new emerging countries and international competition. The victims of this, though, are often older workers.
Last week, a citizen from Acton Vale wrote to me about this. An Airbus employee, she had worked for 28 years for the same company. However, because of the need to upgrade and become more competitive, the company had to reduce its workforce, quicken the pace, and ensure that employees produced more than before, one and a half times more.
These people have given 28, 35 or 40 years of their lives to a company where the work is tough, like companies that manufacture textiles, clothing and footwear—military footwear in particular. They have devoted all those years to a company. They are tired out and on the verge of retirement at 55 years of age or more. They cannot find another job very easily because they have always done the same work—and their spouses have always done the same for the same company. So they find themselves in difficult situations. These people, who worked all those years, exhaust their meagre employment insurance benefits and are then forced to liquidate all their assets to survive the period between 55 and 65 years of age, when they can retire.
As a result, they lose all their dignity. After having contributed to corporate profits and to the development and growth of their regions, they find themselves terribly squeezed at 55 years of age. They are told they are on their own and no one shows any appreciation for them.
In my view, we should show more gratitude and compassion for them than we do now. I cannot believe that there is no way to find $100 million in a budget of $198 billion to help these older workers victimized by mass layoffs.
In the manufacturing sector, we expected to see an assistance plan to improve competitiveness and help these companies along. The sectors that are considered weakened, like furniture, clothing, textiles and softwood lumber, need a little help in view of all that has happened over the last few years. But there is nothing for them in the budget. That is a big disappointment for us.
The same is true for the Kyoto protocol. Canada is currently losing all credibility when it comes to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. In economic terms we have always referred to the Kyoto protocol as a minimum minimorum accord. Minimorum is the smallest minimum on a curve. The budget needed to go much further in order to ensure that future generations are not penalized for the way we have destroyed the environment in the past.
This is an urgent problem around the globe. Mr. Suzuki, among others, keeps saying so. We have to implement measures that go further than the Kyoto protocol. We currently have a government that thinks that the challenge of achieving this minimum minimorum is too great.
There is another irritant. I will not have enough time to go over it all. Let us talk about the Canadian Securities Commission. For 15 years now they have been harping on about the Canadian Securities Commission, which, as hon. members know, comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government needs to keep its nose out of it. The Canadian Securities Commission would only promote Toronto and Bay Street. In fact, it is the only province that has been completely stuck on this idea for about 13 years now.
I could have mentioned culture, which is also a great disappointment. My colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, said enough about it. We expected $150 million, but got $50 million for two years.
If it were not for the firm commitment on the fiscal imbalance, we would have gladly voted against this budget. For the rest, we hope the government will understand and not go back on its plan for the fiscal imbalance, that it will implement measures on employment insurance, and set up POWA quickly, including the special EI pilot project, which will end on June 30.
Mr. Speaker, I take the floor today as the member for Beauce and as Minister of Industry to discuss the importance of the budget for my constituents and for all Canadians. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Wetaskiwin. My great thanks to him for expressing his point of view.
Last February 6, the Prime Minister formed a new government, a government that has a clear mandate to meet the important challenges facing all Canadians. The budget has given shape to many of our commitments, and we will continue to keep our word.
The first decision of this government has been to move quickly to enhance accountability to Canadians and ensure that government operations are more transparent. The federal accountability action plan, released last April 11, presents a wide range of reforms which were necessary after 13 long years of Liberal regime.
We promised to cut back the GST. The budget provides for a one-percent reduction of the GST as of July 1. We also promised to introduce the universal child care plan in Canada. As of July 1, Canadian families will receive $100 per month, or $1,200 per year, for each child under age six, to pay for child care expenses. In addition, there are concrete measures to improve health care and combat crime in Canada.
The hon. finance minister has tabled a budget which fulfils the commitments made in the last election campaign. Like the great majority of Canadians, I am very pleased to support this budget today. I would like the opposition to give the budget its support as well. In addition to respecting our priorities, this budget contains more tax reductions than the last four federal Liberal budgets combined.
Allow me now to speak of the budget measures which more particularly concern the department I head, the Department of Industry. First of all, the budget establishes a much more transparent planning framework, as it has a realistic two-year planning horizon, instead of the five years used by the former government.
Furthermore, it puts the government’s finances in order by providing for control over increases in the rate of spending. Our expenditures will target concrete, tangible results. Taxpayers’ money will be spent under strict guidelines, thereby helping us find ways to save.
For years, the previous government generated surpluses at the expense of taxpayers. It then looked for ways to use those surpluses and its tax revenues by interfering in provincial fields of jurisdiction.
This government, however, recognizes that this money belongs to Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, including the people of Beauce, and that it should be given back to taxpayers. Sound financial management also means that we must pay for costs from the past. Thus, the government intends to reduce the federal debt by $3 billion a year. Yes, you heard correctly, $3 billion each year. Our goal is to reduce Canada's debt-GDP ratio to 25% by 2013, which is one year earlier than planned.
The federal government's communication of financial information will also be improved, in order to give Canadians the transparency they expect from us, their elected members.
Let us take a moment now to talk about productivity and competitiveness, two terms that are very important to me as Minister of Industry. Tax rates have a considerable impact on the productivity and competitiveness of businesses in Canada, Quebec and the Beauce region. My background is in business and I know that every entrepreneur will have their own suggestions for dealing with the economic factors that affect their business. However, I can assure you that all entrepreneurs in my riding and throughout Canada agree on one thing: the importance of reducing the tax burden and the importance of reducing taxes. The 2006 budget does just that.
The new Conservative government's budget facilitates the competitiveness and productivity of Canadian businesses by leaving more money in the hands of entrepreneurs so that they can properly manage their business.
They know better what is good for their businesses than we do here in Ottawa. That is why we are cutting taxes so that they can reinvest this money and create jobs.
Canadian businesses are applauding our decision to cut back the corporate tax rate, which will fall from 21% to 19% by 2010. These businesses are also applauding our decision to eliminate the corporate surtax by January 1, 2008.
Some of these tax changes particularly affect small and medium-size businesses, which drive the economy in the regions and create jobs everywhere in Canada.
After years of half-measures and programs developed by the previous government that never kept its promises, and after listening to concerns of small and medium-size businesses about tax rates, our new Conservative government took action. It took action in this budget. First, we are going to raise the maximum revenue threshold for eligibility for the small and medium-size business tax rate from $300,000 to $400,000 by next January. Better yet, we are going to cut the tax rate for small and medium-size businesses to 11.5% by January 2008 and then cut it again to 11% by 2009. These tax cuts will enable businesses to create jobs and be more competitive on the international scene.
Our new government knows as well that the innovative companies which help our economy grow must sometimes work for years—sometimes many long years—before they are able to penetrate international markets. These companies will benefit from our decision to allow non-capital losses and investment tax credits to be carried over for up to 20 years. This includes the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, which is one of our government’s most important measures to support innovation.
Another important aspect of the budget is the support our government provides for research and development in Canada. This budget provides $100 million a year in additional funding for this area, which is crucial for the Canadian economy.
This new funding includes an additional $400 million a year for the three large granting agencies that support much of the research done in Canada. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council will each receive an additional $17 million a year, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will receive an additional $6 million.
Beyond these commitments, our government has selected two other approaches to meet the needs of our research institutions. First of all, we are increasing the funding paid to universities to defray indirect research costs. The budget dedicated to indirect research costs will rise from $260 million to $300 million a year. Second, the government is undertaking to build a dynamic research community by contributing $20 million to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s Leaders Opportunity Fund for 2006-07 and 2007-08.
I am very happy to talk today and let the House know about an important commitment in our budget, namely fiscal balance. There is another reason why I am pleased to support this budget: our new government understands the importance of restoring the fiscal balance in Canada. Unlike the former government, our government’s budget contains a clear and precise road map for getting there.
Our government has been working hard since the first day and is fulfilling its commitments. We have already accomplished much for Canada in a short time. The 2006 budget shows that we are determined to get even more results for Canadians. This is why I am asking all the members in the House to support the budget.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be speaking on the government's budget implementation bill. I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-13, which will implement the provisions of the new government's budget that was passed in the House last week.
I want to begin by congratulating the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. I want to thank them for keeping their promises made to Canadians during the election campaign. This is one of the first steps in restoring accountability to our system.
Canadians are tired of being courted by politicians trolling for votes, only to be left in the lurch once the ballots have been counted. It is time to rebuild the relationship between voters and the government, and that rebuilding process began on January 23.
The Prime Minister has set out five achievable priorities and he has taken action on them. This budget puts the mechanisms in place to achieve those goals and one of the key elements of this budget is tax relief.
There are 29 different tax cuts that will deliver $20 billion in tax relief over the next two years. There is more tax relief in this first Conservative budget than in the last four federal Liberal budgets combined. To top it off, there is $2 in tax relief for every $1 in new program spending. That is a ratio that puts people over programs and it is a ratio that Canadians can feel good about.
For 13 years, Liberal budgets let Canadians down. Year after year, Liberal budgets featured little more than empty promises and wasteful spending. Canadians have been working harder and longer, and saving less, just to pay for Liberal scandals and boondoggles. Who could forget the sponsorship program, or the extravagant and ineffective long gun registry, or where the HRDC money went?
What did Canadians get for all their long hours of hard work from successive Liberal governments? They got to pay too much in taxes for too little in return and watch their tax dollars go to programs deemed wasteful and unnecessary. Finally, families are going to get a tax break, and this is near and dear to my heart. Families were promised help and the Conservative government has delivered.
This new government will increase the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. This budget reduces the lowest personal income tax rate from 16% to 15.5% effective July 1. On average, families will pay less personal income tax in 2006 than proposed by the Liberals in 2005.
This government believes that it is time to give back the hard-earned money that Canadians sent to the government and it is time to give that money back to Canadians. How are we going to do that?
First, there is the universal child care strategy, a key campaign promise and a throne speech priority. When it comes into effect on July 1, it will provide families with children under the age of six with $100 per month per child.
We are introducing a tax cut to promote physical fitness among children, effective January 1, 2007. This credit will provide up to $500 in fees for physical activity programs for each eligible child under the age of 16.
Aboriginal women, children and families will benefit from the $450 million aimed at improving education and socio-economic conditions, as well as water supplies and housing issues on reserves.
Low income Canadians, those whose incomes are too low to pay any income tax, deserve tax relief too, something our predecessors clearly did not believe in. All Canadians will benefit from the reduction in the GST, whether they are purchasing big ticket items like a new car or a new home, or if they are just purchasing everyday essentials.
Workers will benefit from the new $1,000 Canada employment credit starting July 1. This new tax credit gives Canadians a break on what it costs to go to work, recognizing that people incur expenses while they are going to work for such things as home computers, uniforms and supplies. This government has focused its spending on key federal priorities with programs that will get results and provide value to taxpayers for their money.
However, more than any other group in Canada, farmers have long borne the brunt of the Liberal lack of foresight on developing effective programs. Farming is part of our heritage. It is certainly part of my heritage and that of the majority of constituents in Wetaskiwin. For far too long, agriculture has been overlooked by Liberal governments. We promised help for farmers. We have delivered help for farmers, farm families and farming communities.
This government recognizes not only the importance of agriculture but the difficulties facing farmers today. To support Canadian farming communities, the government is providing $1.5 billion this year alone. This includes $500 million for farmer support, plus a one time investment of $1 billion to assist farmers in the transition to more effective programming for farm income stabilization and disaster relief.
Agriculture has received more money in this budget than any government has ever given to the sector in one budget before. Falling prices and trade disputes are causing farmers and producers real financial hardship. Current insurance and income support programs are not coming close to meeting the needs.
Canadian farmers need our support now more than ever. That is why one of the government's first actions was to accelerate disbursement of $755 million in payments under the grains and oilseeds payment program. That is why the government is taking action to restore and sustain a strong, vibrant farm sector that will provide farmers with the income they need to stay in business.
Our government commits $2 billion in funding over two years, $1.5 billion of which will be allocated in the budget. We are delivering on the promises we made in the election campaign for farmers, families and all Canadians.
This year Canada Day will be better than ever, thanks to the tax breaks the government is implementing, effective July 1, 2006. We can look forward to a cut in the GST from 7% to 6%; implementation of the universal child care benefit, which gives $1,200 per year to families for each child under six; an increase in the child disability benefit from $2,044 to $2,300; the creation of the Canada employment credit, $1,000 tax credit for computers, uniforms and supplies; reduction of the lowest tax rate by 0.5%, from 16% to 15.5%; and implementation of the tax credit for the purchase of monthly transit passes. That is not bad for just 100 days.
It will be a happy birthday for all Canadians and I urge all members in the House to support Bill C-13.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier.
To begin with, I must provide some context so members of the House can begin to understand how the Conservative government's budget is failing the people of Saskatchewan.
First, the population of Saskatchewan is approximately one million. Second, approximately 200,000 of the total population are aboriginal people, first nations on and off reserve and Métis. That is approximately 20% of the total population. Dr. Eric Howe, a University of Saskatchewan professor, and others have stated that by 2040 approximately 50% of Saskatchewan's population will be aboriginal. The aboriginal population is booming.
What is more, in the short and medium term the percentage of aboriginal people poised to enter the labour force will increase much more dramatically. Labour force planning in the next five to ten years will be absolutely critical, with aboriginal youth being a key ingredient in the planning.
The future of Saskatchewan's economy is dependent on all levels of government working together to invest in the booming aboriginal population to ensure the successful transition into the labour force in Saskatchewan. All of Saskatchewan is watching and wanting to work together to ensure the future viability of that great province.
The Saskatchewan legislature, aboriginal leaders and people, and Saskatchewan businesses are upset at the federal government's lack of vision and depth of understanding regarding Saskatchewan's needs.
Let us look a little deeper into how Saskatchewan has been left out. I will begin with child care.
Last week over 100 protesters showed up at the office of the Minister of National Revenue in Saskatoon calling upon the government to respect and build child care spaces. There are 168,000 children under the age of 12 in Saskatchewan, 110,000 working moms and only 8,000 spaces. The lowest income earners have the least amount of choice when it comes to working. They often have no choice but to work and are the most in need for child care spaces.
Saskatchewan's average income is about $35,000 per year. The $1,200 per child under age six payment is taxable. The income tax hike affects the lowest income earners the most. The lowest income earners will lose their child tax benefit. When we put all of this together, the net impact is that the most vulnerable low income and hard-working families will only get 55¢ a day.
Let us look a little deeper yet. The government is proposing to utilize a tax credit system to build child care spaces. Questions immediately arise about this proposal. Which big businesses will build these spaces in Saskatchewan? With most businesses in Saskatchewan employing less than 10 people, how can they build spaces? How will spaces be built in inner city neighbourhoods? How will spaces be built in rural Saskatchewan? How will the tax credit system work on reserve? The answer is it will not.
Switching gears to the tax situation, the disappointment with the Conservative plan is also felt in the business community. At an annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce in North Battleford, the chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Russel Marcoux, CEO of Saskatoon's Yanke Group of Companies, said that income tax cuts are one of the best ways to improve the standard of living for Canadians. However, the Conservatives have taken the exact opposite approach. They threw more of Canada's poorest on to the tax rolls by lowering the basic personal exemption and hiked up taxes for workers earning up to $36,000 from 15% to 15.5%. Remember that the average full time income in Saskatchewan is $35,000. These tax hikes directly hit the Saskatchewan people like they had a big target on their backs.
Moreover, most of the government's tax measures require money to be spent on certain things and not others. For example, it offers a tax credit for sports, but what about parents who cannot afford equipment or fees to participate? What about kids interested in the arts and music, kids who want to paint, play a guitar or a piano? What about kids who want to celebrate their culture by participating in powwows or Ukrainian dancing? Are those parents and children less deserving? Why can we not build community, recreational and cultural facilities?
Moreover, why do all these tax measures require money to be spent? Why can people not just have more of their own money in their pockets?
Switching gears to forestry, it is also no secret that Saskatchewan will be hurt by the softwood agreement. The province has stated that Saskatchewan could lose up to 50% of our export market and is disappointed that the government gave up $15 million owed to the Saskatchewan forestry industry by the Americans. Not only that but the government will tax heavily the Saskatchewan forestry companies that get their refunds on the money that was illegally held by the Americans in the first place.
What is worse is that the government is not offering any help to this struggling industry. It has allotted $400 million for pine beetles, which is a serious concern, but has left Saskatchewan out in the cold, even while mills in Big River and Prince Albert are shutting down and the mill in Meadow Lake is struggling. Even worse is that the government may have cut $300,000 from research grants for the Saskatchewan Forest Centre in Prince Albert resulting in research and innovation being lost at an incredibly vulnerable time for this industry.
The lack of concern that this budget and the government show for Saskatchewan's forestry industry, communities and workers is the worst thing to happen at the worst possible time.
Switching to agriculture, it is now apparent that the government will not offer any direct immediate assistance for farmers. We have seen the massive protests but still farmers are being offered nothing this spring. This happens at a terrible time. Severe flooding in Saskatchewan's northeast grain belt is keeping farmers off the fields, or they are getting stuck in them. Farmers across Saskatchewan need help to pay creditors and high input costs, costs like high fuel prices, to which the Prime Minister has only said, “Get used to it”.
What is even more mystifying is that the government has really no details on a strategy going forward for agriculture. I hear the environment minister talking about how her hands are tied in moving forward in accomplishing anything and about needing to take planes, trains and automobiles off the road and a made in Canada solution. I will give her a hint. If 35% of gasoline in Canada contained 10% ethanol, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 1.8 million tonnes, which is the equivalent of removing more than 400,000 vehicles from the road.
Building a real biofuel strategy would be a great move forward. It would provide a real solution that would be made in Canada, right in Saskatchewan's towns, giving value added opportunities for a high quality product from our producers in Saskatchewan.
Switching gears again to aboriginal issues, rooted within the aboriginal communities is great disappointment with the government. Aboriginal leaders and premiers have slammed the government for killing the Kelowna accord, an accord which provided $5.3 billion for various initiatives on and off reserve.
The late Harold Cardinal, who wrote the book The Unjust Society, talked about how hard aboriginal Canadians worked to get the attention of the government over the years. He stated:
|| “Well, boys, what you have to say is good and you must be commended for the intelligence you have shown through your extremely good presentation”...“but we know your problems and what should be done, and we're certain that you will be pleased with our carefully considered decisions”.
Kelowna was the joint intelligence that all parties came up with. The government has thrown that away with its “we know what is good for you” attitude. This is very problematic to the aboriginal people. A real credibility gap has emerged where aboriginal people are very wary of the government's intentions.
By killing the accord, all of Saskatchewan is hurt by the loss of opportunity. A targeted investment in first nations Métis on and off reserve education and post-secondary skills training would have created new opportunities for an emerging youthful Saskatchewan labour force, keeping in mind the context I opened with.
Economic development funding would have leveraged millions in business activities. Aboriginal businesses are one of the fastest growing tax bases in Saskatchewan, with exceptionally high rates of returns on strategic business investments. Housing would have pumped millions into the industry and provided more training opportunities.
The budget also completely excludes the Métis people and leaves out survivors of the Ile-à-la-Crosse boarding school despite campaign commitments from the Prime Minister and the previous member of Parliament in my riding.
As I stated earlier, Saskatchewan people have worked hard to re-establish the province as a place full of promise, optimism and pride. All residents of Saskatchewan realize that by betraying the Kelowna accord and ignoring forestry, agriculture, child care and higher education and by raising taxes, our work as proud Saskatchewan people is made even tougher. The government cannot ignore us in Saskatchewan. The budget falls far short of what Saskatchewan people need.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-13, the budget implementation act.
I am going to tell my colleagues about a number of flaws in this bill. We have been talking about this for several days now. We talked about it during the debate on the budget itself and we will debate it today and for the rest of the time the budget implementation act is debated. It concerns various subjects, for example agriculture, the environment, post-secondary education for aboriginal people, which we have just heard about in this House, housing for homeless people and the arts. I have talked about these quite often. There is huge disappointment, when it comes to the arts, as compared to what was proposed. We were expecting that this government would honour its own commitments and the commitments made by the previous government.
There is also the child care issue. As members will recall I have spoken in the past of the problems that the government’s decision to cancel all the agreements that the previous government made with all the provinces will cause for the official language communities. The scheme proposed in the budget is not going to ensure that quality child care centres are created for the minority communities of Canada.
I mention all that before taking another direction. That is, a more philosophical approach that a country should take in a budget. I will try to move to a more macro level, a more national level, with regard to the direction a budget takes. I will begin by looking at the early 1970s.
Members will recall that in the early 1970s, Canada started to run up deficits and accumulate debt, both during that period and up to the early 1980s. In 1983, before the change in government, it had accumulated a debt of about $198 billion.
The new government of Mr. Mulroney was in power from 1984 to 1993. I will talk about the debt. I will not talk about the annual deficit. During all those years, annual deficits continued to be accumulated, year after year. By late 1993, we had reached an accumulated debt of nearly $500 billion: $498 billion. Then we started to get worried, quite rightly. The government led by Mr. Chrétien, with the member for LaSalle—Émard who was the Minister of Finance at that time, tackled that question.
For 30 years, Canada essentially had a fiscal imbalance, running up a debt year after year. After three years of major effort—it was a very difficult time, and everyone had to tighten their belts—we managed to eliminate the annual deficit in 1997-98.
After 30 years, we had finally achieved a balanced budget, although it was a fragile one. At that point, as a nation, we had an opportunity to try to redirect public funds and balance revenues and expenses. Any country naturally has to encourage some spending on social programs, the environment, defence and other programs.
The government balanced revenues and expenses, in order to manage the debt. This is always difficult. We were able to start paying down the debt, something many of us had long dreamed of doing. Canadians who have a mortgage dream of reducing it and eventually paying it off. Alberta succeeded in paying off its debt under Premier Ralph Klein. And we have to say that getting rid of its debt has been good for that province. It eliminated not only its deficits, but also its debt.
After 1997-98, the government struck a balance between paying down the debt using the surplus and reducing taxes using government revenues. The government knew that Canadians wanted a gradual reduction in tax rates and increased spending in certain essential areas such as health, post-secondary education and research. That is the direction it took.
The current government seems to be deviating from this course, and may even have abandoned it entirely. I find this a bit worrisome.
According to the government's proposal, they will reduce the debt by a maximum of $3 billion per year, except for this year, because the budget surplus is about $8 billion. Starting next year, they will reduce the debt by only $3 billion per year.
If I may, I would like to tell a little story. I am honoured and pleased to be a grandfather. My granddaughter was born the year Canada stopped accumulating debt, that is, the year we balanced the budget and stopped running a deficit.
Since then, the Government of Canada has paid back $60 billion of its debt. If I understand correctly, we will pay back another $8 billion this year. All told, we will have paid back $68 billion of our debt since she was born.
However, at $3 billion per year, she will have to live to be more than 150 before her country becomes debt-free.
I believe it is not right that we who have benefited from this enormous debt all our lives should bequeath it to our children and grandchildren. We must deal with our debt more aggressively.
All in all, I find that the government's decision to reduce the debt by only $3 billion per year could one day place us in a very unstable situation. That is why I am urging the government to reconsider.
The situation Canada is enjoying now, vis-à-vis our neighbours to the south, is quite telling in terms of the way we have managed to successfully reduce our debt burden. According to the graph provided to us by the government in the budget, between 1995 and 2005 only two countries in the G-7 have actually decreased the debt burden as a percentage of their GDP, Canada and the U.S. They are the two best performing countries right now.
However, over the last two years, in particular, Canada reduced its debt, not by a lot, but last year by $1.6 billion and the year before substantially more. This year we reduced it by $8 billion. Whereas in the United States, which are the numbers presented to us in the budget, the debt last year increased in the neighbourhood of $500 billion or 4% of GDP. If we do not account for the social security numbers, this year it is in the neighbourhood of $600 billion or 4.6% of GDP.
In comparison to Canada's situation, the United States' fiscal situation is deteriorating and at some point that will come home to roost in the United States. What the Americans do then may seriously affect us and our standard of living. In anticipation of the day that the United States of America cannot carry on accumulating debt at the rate it is doing, we had better prepare ourselves by continuing to reduce our own debt at a faster clip than what is proposed in the current budget.
That is in essence the approach that I would encourage the government to seriously consider. To let the debt remain as it is and only pay off $3 billion would lead to a very interesting situation, which the Minister of Finance confirmed in his projections that, for the first time in a long time, our debt service and costs will increase. They were $34.1 billion last year. They are projected to be $33.7 billion this year but they will go back up next year to $34.8 billion.
This is the impact that the non-reduction of our debt at a faster clip engenders. This is where we are making a collective mistake in that while we can afford to reduce our debt at a faster clip we should. Instead of taking the $4 billion buffer that we have and reducing it to $3 billion, we should go back to a $4 billion or even a $5 billion annual increment so we can reduce the debt and be more responsible toward our future generations.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak about our new government's first budget. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Brandon—Souris.
Public life is about reflecting the essence of the objective, economic and daily realities in the lives of our fellow citizens, the way we work, the way we live, the way we care for those we love and the way we strive for better lives and a better Canada.
Our government’s first budget is guided by these realities and by important principles. Those principles are clear and specific.
First, government has no absolute right to more and more of the hard-earned money of working Canadians. When government is too large, taxes are too high and surpluses are endemic.
Second, there is only one taxpayer who carries the provincial, federal and municipal load, not three separate taxpayers unrelated to each other.
Third, government must be respectful of the dollars it spends. Taxpayers expect and demand that spending be focused, transparent and accountable. We must ensure Canadians receive good value for the money they send and the money we spend. Our budget honours these principles.
Our budget reduces the tax burden on individual Canadians by $20 billion, more than the last four federal budgets put together.
The budget delivers more than twice as much tax relief as new spending. For every new tax dollar we spend, our government is returning $2 to hard-working Canadians through initiatives such as the 1% GST tax reduction, the new Canada employment credit, a permanent reduction in the lowest income tax rate as of July 1 and increases in the basic tax exemption for all Canadians.
These tax cuts are broad, are evenly directed and help millions of Canadians from coast to coast. The budget delivers tax relief people can see, tax relief that makes a difference, tax relief on which Canadians can count.
Our tax relief plan will exempt 655,000 low-income Canadians from federal income tax.
All of this is within our government's ironclad commitment to balance the federal budget. We are doing all of this while investing more in health care, child care, defence and national security, policing, safe communities and protected borders and more for farmers across Canada who deserve and merit transitional support during these challenging and unbalanced global commodity pricing periods. We can do all this because we will reduce waste, redundancy, overlap and unchecked growth in the federal government's spending.
I will speak about spending for a moment. Over the past five years, total program spending has grown by an average of 8.2% annually. In one year, 2004-05, growth in spending increased by 14.4% under the previous government. These are simply not sustainable or desirable levels of growth in spending. Our budget brings that down to 5.4% for this year and 4.1% for next year.
Our government is taking a targeted approach, and is determined.
We are reining in spending and looking inward to ensure that we as a government have our own house in order. We will review all programs and departments to ensure compliance with a few basic principles: first, that government programs are focused on results and value for money; second, that programs are consistent with federal responsibilities; and third, that when programs no longer serve the purpose for which they were created, they are ended. We will identify $1 billion in savings over this year and next and report by the fall.
Our government will be transparent and open with Canadians concerning the country’s public finances.
The days of surprise surpluses are over. The tax system does not exist to fund large federal surpluses that give licence to spend the people's hard-earned money as if it belonged to the Government of Canada. Government works for the people, not the other way around.
The budget our government delivered on May 2 embraces that kind of relationship between a government and the taxpayers to whom the government is accountable. This is a budget that demonstrates strong support for Canadians and their families. The budget provides Canadian families with children under six a $1,200 a year universal child care benefit so they can make their own choices on child care. It helps apprentices in the trades. It encourages young Canadians to participate in physical fitness and sports programs. It helps students with university education deductions. It reduces the tax burden on small business.
It is on the farm, in the classroom, on the factory floor, in research labs, small businesses on construction sites, community centres and church basements of all denominations where Canadians move the country forward every day. That is where we should be removing the burdens of excess taxation and encouraging independence, initiative and hard work because they are at the very core of what drives and enriches Canadian lives.
Government should help in areas that cannot be faced alone by hard-working Canadians in those areas where a framework of equality and opportunity surely reflects our values as caring citizens, neighbours and human beings, very much in the Canadian tradition, in education and health care, in securing safe communities and public health and supporting persons with disabilities, in defence and in removing the capital gains tax from donations to cultural, social and health charities. The government has a role to play and we have embraced that role in the new budget.
As the finance minister and minister responsible for the Greater Toronto Area, I am honoured to be part of a new government that embraces the kind of shift from the old paradigm of Ottawa overspending and Ottawa knowing best. Instead, we are focussing now on priorities that produce results for people in their daily lives. Infrastructure is for example.
Our budget provides more than $16 billion over the next four years for infrastructure.
This is a long term investment that will mean better roads, more efficient borders and modern public transit through increased capital funding and tax incentives for transit riders. The ultimate goal of these investments is to get people and goods moving in order to keep Canada competitive. An essential part of our first budget is about making Canada more competitive and more productive. In fact, there are 23 specific initiatives in the budget designed to move us forward on this front.
Productivity and competitiveness are about innovation, fair and reasonable tax rates, education, research and development and enhanced workplace productivity. We are embracing a new beginning, a beginning where the taxpayer is respected as opposed to being overburdened, a beginning where the federal, provincial and territorial governments can work together, like we did on softwood lumber, to restore a fiscal balance to the federation and a beginning where we support families, reward initiative and foster productivity in all regions of Canada.
With the budget, we have turned a new leaf. We have turned a new leaf away from excessive taxation and wasteful federal spending. We have turned a new leaf away from condescension to the provinces and feigned and unnecessary hostility toward our greatest ally and trading partner to the south. We have turned a new leaf away from government that puts being big ahead of every other value or attribute.
Our government is focussed, deliberate and fiscally responsible. Our government is managing a few priorities at a time. We will not over-promise and we will not overspend. Our government knows its place and respects its core accountability to the taxpayers of Canada. We are keeping our promises to Canada. They entrusted us to focus on priorities and deliver results.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to address the budget.
While the Minister of Finance is here, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work he has done. He has done great work on the budget over the last few months. What is truly amazing about the budget is that the Minister of Finance did it on short notice. Last year, when the former finance minister across the way was doing the preparation for the budget, it seemed like it took months and months, and he was running all over the country. After all that time, he still was not capable of coming up with a budget that was acceptable to Canadians.
In the election we saw the consequences of the previous government actually coming forward with three separate budgets during the last year. Those members did not think one was good enough. Last summer they had to make a separate deal with the party to their right physically in the House, but obviously to their left, and they came up with another budget. In the fall, they had to take another run at it to try to bring forward more proposals acceptable to Canadians. Of course, as we moved into the election campaign, we found out how interested Canadians were in their budget proposals. Because of that, they had to turn the government over to what we think is a much more confident and capable group of people.
I would like to talk a little about the budget today. Obviously there are some highlights of the budget. One that I am being told about at home and that is very important to people is the reduction in the GST. That has caught the imagination of people across my riding. They know it is going to have an impact on every one of them. Every single person in the country will be able to benefit from that. People are excited about it.
My area is an agricultural one. The people there are very excited to see the commitment the government has made toward agriculture. A lot of them have waited for many years for a government that would begin to pay attention to them and listen to them when they talk about the problems they find in their sector.
This government has stepped forward. During the election campaign we came forward with what we thought was a good election platform on agricultural issues. That was not good enough for the finance minister. Instead of giving just $500 million, as we had promised, in additional aid to the agricultural sector, he tripled it. He brought it up to $1.5 billion. That brings farm aid this year to levels that have rarely been seen before.
It is an interesting budget, a good budget and an exciting budget. There are a lot of different things about it that Canadians really like.
The budget is definitely a budget of opportunity. It offers comprehensive tax relief for virtually everyone in this country. For individuals there are tax breaks that will be valued at over $20 billion over the next two years. That is actually more than was contained in the last four budgets combined. Canadians are beginning to become aware of the fact that this government is not like the previous government, which promised and promised and talked ad nauseam about what it would do but never got around to doing it.
One of the most obvious places that happened was in agriculture, where often we would hear the same money being announced up to five different times. The Liberal government would come forward with an announcement that would sound like a big deal. It would re-announce the money a little bit later, some of it going into the same thing and some being redistributed. It would come back time and again, re-announcing that same money. We are not prepared to do that. We are going to move ahead. We are a government that keeps our promises and moves ahead. We are doing what we said we would do.
As a result of the $20 billion in tax relief that the Minister of Finance has so graciously brought forward for Canadians, there will be 655,000 low income Canadians removed from the tax rolls altogether.
As I said, the budget delivers twice as much tax relief as it does new spending. It delivers more tax relief than the last four budgets combined. It has 29 separate tax incentives and deductions for Canadians. Whenever I talk to people in my riding about the budget, they tell me they are excited to hear about the fact that virtually all of our deductions have to do with their lives, the things they deal with and their daily issues.
Obviously the goods and services tax is one with which they are familiar. We are committed to reducing that by 1% by July 1, 2006, and then by another percentage point later in the mandate. I have heard some questions about why we did not just cut the GST immediately when the budget was presented.
The main reason is that the business community asked that we wait to allow its members to have the time to adjust their cash registers, accounting systems and those kinds of things to make the change. It has been interesting. The people I have heard from most on this issue have been the car dealers. They think people are actually holding off until after July 1 to buy cars. We might not think this cut is a big deal on a $30,000 car, but people will save $300 and they are excited about that. The car dealers are having to figure out whether they will absorb that loss themselves or if they are going to have people put off their purchases until after the change. It has been fun to see people excited about that.
There are many other things that we are doing. The Canada employment credit we are coming forth with is a tax credit of up $500 on employment income. People who are forced to spend money on uniforms and those kinds of things are going to be able to get a tax credit for what they are spending.
We are reducing the lowest tax rate to 15.5%. Of course, the Liberal government will claim it was doing that, but it came up with all kinds of promises that it never came through on. This budget confirms that the lowest tax rate will be 15.5% from January--
An hon. member: It was 15%.
Mr. David Anderson: I notice that the members across way do not seem to like to hear the truth. They are a little concerned by it. As usual, when they do not have content, they make up for it with a lot of noise. I guess we are becoming used to that in the House.
It is actually a great treat to be on this side of the House and realize that we are going to be able to implement what we bring forward. We know that the Liberal government had its opportunity. We hear many of the Liberals still making a lot of noise and wanting to continually be after us, but they had their chance. Now Canadians are apparently more than willing to give us the opportunity to come forward with our legislation and our plan.
We are going to increase the basic personal exemption amount. That is something that low income Canadians really appreciate as well.
There are a few other things that I think are really great. During the campaign, one of the things we talked about was apprenticeship programs and what we wanted to do to try to encourage young Canadians to become part of that. I think this is a really good initiative, as I thought it was during the campaign, and we are moving ahead with it. It has a couple of components.
One is a new tax credit of up to $2,000 for employers who want to hire apprentices. I think that is a great initiative. We are going to set a $1,000 grant in place for first year and second year apprenticeships. Young people who want to get into apprenticeship programs will have the opportunity to access some of these grants.
We are putting in a $500 deduction for tradespeople for costs in excess of $1,000 for the tools they need to acquire as a condition of employment. If I were a young person, this would be exciting for me. I think young people are excited about the fact that they will be able to go into an apprenticeship program and acquire tools and get a tax deduction for doing that. I think this is long overdue as well.
To wrap up, there are many other good things in the budget that help out families, farmers and people who want to get a job. The universal commitment to parents who have children under six is another big issue and a good initiative that we think is necessary. We look forward to moving forward with the budget and enjoying the support of Canadians as we do.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's budget delivers the least to those who need it the most and the most to those who need it the least, with next to nothing for the rest of us.
This budget delivers little for what Canadians need. It delivers little for working families. It delivers next to nothing for seniors, students, aboriginals, immigrants, children and parents. Even worse, it delivers less than nothing to future generations. It delivers less than nothing to Canada, to our land, sea, air and water. It delivers nothing for our climate and the environment and less than nothing to all of us.
However, where it does deliver, it delivers the most to those who need it the least, to the small percentage of parents who do not need child care, to the wealthy and the higher income levels who do not need a windfall, to corporations that are awash in profits, and to the oil and gas industries that continue to feed pollution.
It is funny. The Conservative Party has always attacked the NDP for our efforts to redistribute health fairly and equitably, to eliminate poverty, to shrink the gap between the rich and the poor, to open up opportunity to create a better and healthier future for all, and to build a better Canada and a better world.
This Conservative government is proving that it wants to redistribute wealth as well. It wants to redistribute wealth but in the wrong direction. It is redistributing the wealth of this nation, created by generations of people from all over the world, to the wealthy. How do members like that?
After taking the word “progressive” out of the Progressive Conservative Party name, this government is now seeking to take “progressive” out of Canada's progressive tax system.
This callous, shallow and gimmicky budget delivers the most to those who need it the least, to the wealthy and highly paid, to big spenders who squander the money on unnecessary luxuries, to the stay-at-home spouses of wealthy Canadians, to rich corporations, and to the profit-laden, constantly-polluting oil and gas industries.
This budget redistributes Canada's health to the wealthy and with it, the wealth and the environmental health of future generations. This government has a very Bush-league mentality with this budget.
What is left for those most in need, who need a bit of our nation's wealth the most? What is left for working families struggling to get by? What is left for students and seniors? What about aboriginals or immigrants?
What is left for all the children in this country who live in poverty? I ask that question today, more than a decade after every member of every party in this House took Ed Broadbent's pledge to make child poverty history. Today, one in six Canadian children live in poverty. Close to half the children of aboriginals and new immigrants live in poverty; the newest Canadians and those who were here before anyone else.
Child poverty exists in this country and yet, this government sees fit to ignore it. This Bush-league budget does nothing to break the cycle of poverty. Instead, this Bush-league budget rips apart programs, such as child care and affordable housing, that could break the cycle of poverty. It helps entrench that cycle by widening the gap between the rich and low income Canadians, by widening the gap between the have and the have nots, making it harder to break those cycles in order to pursue opportunity and create wealth.
This budget raises hopes by promising choice and promising benefits, and then delivers gimmicks and bribes while gutting and ripping apart the social programs and public spending that people need in this country.
Consider working families struggling to make ends meet. This government has ripped away the funding for the new child care programs that we finally got under way after years of Liberal delays.
Those are real programs for real children like the new child care and early learning centre called Kensington Kids in Trinity—Spadina. Kensington Kids is a wonderful centre created by parents who are on the board of directors and the educators at the community school where it is located.
We need more centres like Kensington Kids across Canada to deliver on the quality child care that parents and children need. Instead, by ripping away the funding for next year, the government and the Bush-league budget has slammed the door in the face of Kensington Kids just as it is getting started. Kids will be out in the cold and that is happening all across Canada.
What does this budget offer instead? What would those parents get and what would these kids get? Well, here is the answer. They will get a couple of bucks a day, barely enough for diapers let alone child care. A couple of bucks a day is all that is left from the new allowance that the government used to call choice in child care until New Democrats proved loud and clear it provided no choice in child care.
The allowance was reinvented in the budget as a universal child care plan, but it still has nothing to do with child care and it still does not deliver a full $1,200 to anyone. It is Bush-league. Working families and single parents who need child care the most and need financial assistance the most, will actually see the least from this bogus program.
Even with the modest improvements the government made after the NDP pressed it relentlessly, and even after the elimination of some of the federal clawbacks, those who need the most will still see the least. The allowance is still taxable even though it could have been delivered through the child tax benefit program. The government still intends to eliminate the $250 young child supplement that so many working couples and single parents, low and middle income families depended upon. Canadians will only see a net gain of $950 and that is taxable.
Hardest hit are single parents, so often women, who have been abandoned and are struggling to make ends meet, feed their kids, juggle part time jobs and find reliable child care. They see the least and working couples see very little more. But who sees the most of this so-called universal program? Well, the wealthy, that is who. We are redistributing child care dollars to those who need it the least.
The Caledon Institute did a post-budget assessment and the stay-at-home spouses of the highest income earners stand to see the highest benefits of $1,071. That is higher than the families on welfare, families which may actually lose other benefits and end up with nothing extra to help them get child care and get off welfare.
The spouses of wealthy Canadians are the new welfare queens and kings, the wealthy Canadians who do not need child care at all, and do not need the extra assistance to ensure the kids have warm boots in the winter and do not go to bed hungry. They are receiving the highest benefits of all out of this Bush-league budget. That is wealth redistribution of the worst possible kind. It is universal all right. A universal con game. We can do better than that.
The Government of Canada should not be punishing parents who need to work for a living. It not should show bias against working women and it should not deliver more to the rich than it does to the poor and the middle class. This is not made in Canada; this is made in U.S.A. That is why it is Bush-league.
Let us consider our seniors. They are the elders of our community, who worked hard, educated their kids, paid their dues, paid their taxes and deserve to live in dignity and respect. They are people like my mother, people like the seniors who drop into the Cecil Street community centre in Trinity—Spadina. They are people who are struggling to stay in their family home and trying to get home care so families are not ripped apart. They are people who have paid for our health system, saw it become the best in the world, and now see it failing them just when they need it the most.
What is in this budget for seniors? Nothing. Those who need it the most are seeing nothing. There is no new assistance or extra income for seniors, nothing for health care, nothing for pharmacare, nothing for home care, nothing for property tax reduction, nothing but pennies a day from the GST reduction. It means pennies a day for most seniors. Very few will save even as much as $100 a year. It would take $10,000 of spending over and above rent or property taxes and food to save as much as $100 a year on the GST reduction. Most seniors will see maybe $30 or $40 a year, pennies a day.
In downtown Toronto that will not stretch very far. Seniors see rising heating bills, cost of living and property taxes. With this budget, they will see declining social services, which they need the most and yet they get the least.
Who will get the most from the GST reduction? Let us face it, it is a gimmick. It is a costly gimmick and a government bribe. Once again, it is wealthy Canadians. Those who can afford to spend the most will see the most from this budget. They will have big savings from the GST. A wealthy person can guy a Porsche for $100,000 and will save $1,000. This is a good chunk of change. Yet most seniors will see maybe $50, pennies a day, not enough for a one way subway ride in Toronto.
Think of the aboriginals. The first nations in this country have also been left out in the cold. Once again, they are an afterthought. The NDP managed to negotiate funding in last year's budget, which was a start, but with this Bush-league budget aboriginals are being ignored. There is nothing new and promised child care funding of $25 million was ripped away. Aboriginals deserve better and we can do better than that.
Immigrants in this country contribute so much to our economy, culture and quality of life. Yet this budget fidgets with settlement fees but does nothing to reform a system that is cheating our country of the contributions made by immigrants. There is nothing to reform the system, nothing to reunite families faster, nothing to stop families and communities from being ripped apart, and nothing to address the callous and shortsighted deportations of much needed workers. This is a country built by immigrants, a country that needs immigrants, and yet those who need the most get the least in this budget.
The largest university in Canada is in my riding, the University of Toronto. There are also community colleges and students from many other post-secondary institutions in my riding. The government seems bent on squeezing students out of the picture, at least the students who are most in need. They may save pennies a day on the GST reduction, but that will not help pay tuition or find affordable housing.
Think about it. The little bit that the government has put toward post-secondary education, in Bill C-48 by the way, is for capital spending for universities. That may build some new labs or libraries, but it will probably be for only some of the fortunate few students who will actually afford to go and be able to have a huge debt after graduating.
While the government gives GST windfalls to the wealthiest, it does nothing to address tuition fees. Tuition fees are a tax on students, a huge burden. The tax cuts the government is making are on the backs of students who are footing the bill. This is insane and again is widening the income gap and making it harder to break the cycle of poverty.
The government has talked tough about youth and gang crime, enforcement, policing and putting hard, cold dollars into this budget. That is all fine and good, but what about vulnerable communities? What about youth at risk? There is money to address a small number of criminals. They get lots of money devoted to them. What about the vast majority of youth who need programs, training and opportunities, money for positive programs and education, and public funding to help them get started and not leave them to fail? Those who need the most get the least. In this case criminals will get the most. We can do better than that.
Let us think about the millions of Canadians who need affordable housing, seniors, students, working families, immigrants, artists and aboriginals. We desperately need affordable housing in Trinity—Spadina, since the federal Liberals abandoned the national housing program over a decade ago. In the budget we see the bare minimum, based on what the NDP achieved in the last minority government. It may translate into a couple of homes in Trinity—Spadina, if we are lucky.
Think about it. Someone who is really wealthy could buy a million dollar condo in my riding and save $10,000 in GST. This is good for that person and for the developer, but what about the seniors, the students, the single mothers who need affordable housing? What about them? Why are we making million dollar condos more affordable, while failing to deliver affordable housing to those who need it? Why are we doing that? Why?
Something in this country is universal. It affects the rich and the poor, new Canadians, aboriginals, artists, business people, everyone, and that is the environment. It is the air we breathe, the weather we endure, the environment we live in. It is what we all need the most and it is getting the least. There is nothing in the budget for the environment. The government covers up by diverting a minuscule tax saving to transit pass buyers and that is it. That is the environmental program.
There is not enough to expand public transit by even a tiny bit. It is not enough to meet even the most modest Kyoto commitment. There is nothing for enforcement, nothing for regulations for industry, no teeth for existing enforcement . The budget fails on the environmental front.
In downtown Toronto there were 63 smog days last year. Kids with asthma are gasping for air. Seniors can barely breathe. Our health care system is being crushed by all of this. Yet the government buries its head in the sand, very bush league. We can do better than that, or at least we had better try.
In the budget there is nothing for the environment. Yet the money losing port authority is still allowed to operate squandering millions in taxpayers' money on ferry upgrades, for an airport expansion that no one wants. All that money that is being squandered could be put to good use on Toronto's waterfront, while stopping pollution and planes.
There is a gap between the rich and the poor in this country and it is growing. We have been through a decade of great growth and prosperity, but too many people have been left behind. Now is the time to invest some of that surplus and recycle some of that prosperity. Instead we are squandering the prosperity and the surplus to give more to those who need it the least, and to give the least where it is most needed. That is wrong.
The Conservative government is using the ridiculous excuse that the Liberals did not deliver on all their promises either. We know that and it is no excuse. The Canadian people voted the Liberals out of office. Canadians expect better from the government. Some are seeing more: the wealthy, the corporations; those that need it the least are seeing the most. It is bush league, and the government should be ashamed of the budget.
We can do better and all Canadians deserve better. It is up to all of us in Parliament to ensure that the government delivers more to those who need it. Let us work for a progressive government for all Canadians and for future generations.
I consider myself well and truly chastized, Mr. Speaker. I will try not to repeat the name.
The quote continues, “--expert advice, including from within government departments. There seems to be a rift between ministers and their own departments. The rift is probably widest in the Department of Finance and probably exists in others, such as the Department of Justice. There is almost a chasm in terms of what the minister wants done and what the people who have spent their entire careers studying these issues think should be done. There is a consensus among experts with respect to those issues.
Spector goes on to raise one of the most difficult and problematic issues facing this government, or any government, and that is the Conservatives' approach to the so-called fiscal imbalance. His argument is that this approach is quite worrisome, that the government could be putting Canada's future at risk for no other reason than electoral politics. The problem here is the raising of enormous expectations which makes the solution to this vexing problem quite difficult to achieve.
I suggest that we will look in vain through the documents submitted with the budget to find a solution to the so-called problem of fiscal imbalance. The only phrasing in the entire document is the issue of fiscal balance. As Simpson said, the pattern set by the government of ignoring the advice of experts in order to achieve its political expediencies is quite difficult. Not a soul in the Department of Finance believes that the fiscal imbalance exists, and they are right.
Provinces have access to all of the same taxing authorities as does the federal government. They have access to personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and consumption taxes. In fact, the provinces have access to some sources of revenue, such as gambling revenue and resource royalties, which the federal government does not have.
In addition, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP is higher on average than the provinces. Some provinces have no debt whatsoever, such as the province of Alberta. If we really want to talk about fiscal imbalance, we should look horizontally at Alberta which is in a league by itself in terms of its ability to raise revenue. Some provinces, quite candidly, have difficulty raising revenue because they simply do not have the wealth base on which to raise it. That is a horizontal fiscal imbalance and that is a legitimate concern because the inequities of revenue among those provinces leads to other difficulties that are politically quite problematic.
Let me give the House an example of a perverse consequence of poorly thought out public policy. The illustration is in the GST. I appreciate that the GST reduction from 7% to 6% and ultimately to 5% is politically popular. I concede that point.
However, the chief beneficiary of this reduction will be the wealthiest province, Alberta, because it has no provincial consumption taxes. The province of Ontario has a total of 15% in terms of consumption taxes, both retail, federal and provincial. Alberta, on the other hand, only has the GST and therefore a one point reduction effectively means about a 14% reduction in consumption taxes. However, in the province of Ontario and similarly in other provinces it is only about a 7% reduction in consumption taxes.
There is a perverse consequence of reducing a tax which appears to be politically popular but in fact allocates a tax relief measure to a province that needs it the least, which creates its own level of difficulties.
It is not only the Department of Finance. It is also the Department of Justice. No one in the Department of Justice thinks minimum mandatories are the appropriate way to go. The argument is quite clear that minimum mandatories just simply do not work.
I sat on the justice committee occasionally with you, Mr. Speaker, and there was not an expert who came before the panel of parliamentarians who thought that minimum mandatories work but, nevertheless, the government seems bound and determined to plough ahead with those kinds of issues. These are people who have spent their entire careers thinking about and listening to the evidence and yet the government seems bound and determined to ignore what people who think about these issues have said.
Every serious study of Canada's economic future believes that focusing on education, research, innovation and productivity is the only way forward and yet nary a word in this budget about those kinds of issues.
In fact, we shove in the window things like the GST reduction and these fairy tales about 16 is actually lower than 15. We shove in the window that these are actually tax reductions when in fact they are tax increases. We create tax credits where, again, people who think about these things know that giving a sports tax credit will just lead to other people requesting other credits for other activities. The government is creating an administrative nightmare. That has been the position of the Department of Finance for years.
Similarly with transit passes, it gives credit to people already using the system. It will not increase the use of the system except marginally. However I understand how, for political purposes, these so-called ideas are attractive to people.
The budget has a huge gap between what the people, who have thought about the issues, actually think is the proper way to go and this panoply and basket of issues which have political popularity but are poor public policy.