The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, that is why we have abolished the federal capital tax and provided a financial incentive to encourage the provinces to eliminate their capital taxes as quickly as possible. That is also the reason we set out a long term plan last fall to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% by 2012. And that is why we are calling on the provinces to reduce their corporate income taxes. Our goal is to achieve a combined federal-provincial tax rate of 25% by 2012.
We believe in the free market, in competition, and in limited government intervention. But that does not mean we will ignore specific challenges that some individuals or economic sectors may encounter through no fault of their own.
For example, a year ago, it became clear that Canadian manufacturing and processing companies were having a hard time, due in part to the strength of the Canadian dollar. That is why the 2007 budget set out a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance, to enable manufacturing businesses to fully amortize their investments in machinery and equipment over two years.
Between now and 2009-10, this measure alone represents a benefit of some $1.3 billion for the manufacturing and processing sector. Last Wednesday, we extended accelerated capital cost allowance treatment by three years, which means an additional billion dollars for those sectors.
Of course, that is not enough for the Bloc Québécois. Nothing is ever enough for the Bloc Québécois. Not enough. That is easy to say when they will never have to account for anything to anyone, never have a budget to balance and never have to guarantee any growth. The Bloc members are very imaginative when it comes to finding ways to spend taxpayers' money. But, in this budget period, one might ask the following: in 18 years, that is, since its inception, how many jobs has the Bloc Québécois created? How many projects has it completed? How many investments has it attracted?
We know the answer to all those questions. The answer is zero. And zero, as a record, is far from brilliant.
I would also very much like to summarize the position of the Liberal Party of Canada on the budget, but that is not easy. It is roughly as follows: the Liberals do not like our budget at all, but they are desperately trying to find a way to support it.
In closing, I hope my hon. colleagues will support our budget.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the budget today on behalf of my constituents of .
A famous politician in his day said that the budget should be balanced; public debt should be reduced. It is hard to disagree with that. In fact, the individual who made this statement lived about 2,000 years ago. His name was Marcus Tullius Cicero who died in 43 B.C. Of course, we agree with these things, the budget should be balanced and public debt should be reduced.
At the outset let me say that this is a good budget. A good budget must be more than balanced. Frankly, anyone can balance a budget if one has complete control over the revenue side of the equation.
A government budget is different in this way than a household budget where the income side is relatively fixed. One could go and get a different job, send one's kids out to work and that kind of thing, but it is relatively fixed or even in a non-profit agency. Many of us have worked in those and struggled with trying to balance those budgets when the income side is more fixed or even in a corporation.
That is why I am always somewhat amused by the NDP members protestations that they are all for balanced budgets. In fact, I think that is what should scare us as Canadians because anyone can balance a budget if one can control the income side by taxation.
To be a good budget I think it needs to be different in other ways. For example, we must understand the external realities. We need to know what the pressures are and the changes that are coming. I think the government has done a very good job of anticipating those.
We need to be able to assess the social realities as well and we have done that. To be a good budget it needs to accurately and fairly calculate the available resources. A good budget must prudently invest or allocate those resources in a principled way and it needs to have an overall plan.
In fact, on the economic side our government is following our plan which we announced a while ago in “Advantage Canada” and we are following that. Those are the principles that we follow in this budget. Finally, those investments need to be based on priorities and that is what we have done here.
I know that goodness, when it comes to a budget, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the question that is always before me is: is this good for my constituents? Is budget 2008 good for my constituents of . I contend of course that it is. That is why I am supporting it.
It does a number of things that I think that my constituents want. For one thing it pays down the debt. On Fridays I have office hours in Mission. I am not always there because I am often here, but when I am in the riding I am there and I was there this past week.
I recall a constituent, an older gentleman, coming in during my office hours. He wanted to talk to me about finances. I asked, “Do you mean your own finances or government finances?” “No, the government finances”, he said.
He talked to me about this very issue of paying down the debt. He did not have the numbers exactly right but he had the principle right, that if we are not paying down the debt and we are investing a large amount of money, over $30 billion a year as it turns out in interest payments on that debt that we hold as Canadians and as the Canadian government, then what could we do with that money? In fact, this government believes in that. We support paying down the debt. That is why we have invested $37 billion in paying down our national mortgage.
I know some of the parties in the House, primarily the NDP, do not think we should be paying down the debt, but this government does. That saving of about $2 billion a year, as we pay down on the national mortgage, is passed on to Canadians through the tax back guarantee. In fact, my constituent was very pleased to hear about that.
We believe in reducing taxes. My constituents support that. The budget builds on our proactive fall economic update to lower taxes for people and business. It provides for this year alone $21 billion of economic stimulus for the Canadian economy and that is a good thing.
In fact, what we have done in reducing taxes is significantly greater than the stimulus package offered by the Americans. Theirs came later. As a share of the economy, ours is larger and it came sooner, and that is a good thing. We are pleased about reducing taxes and my constituents are happy with that as well.
They are also happy about the tax-free savings account. I had a couple of dinners, one on Friday night and one on Saturday. At both events, people came to me and said that they wanted to thank me the tax-free savings account. They had just heard about it during the week and they were pleased about it. It is important to them. In fact, it is important for Canada. It is the most important personal finance initiative for decades in Canada.
It will provide Canadians with an initiative to save up to $5,000 each year for Canadians over 18, and in my opinion that is always a good thing. I know I heard an NDP member ask, “Who has $5,000?” If a person has $50, why not invest it in one of these, or $100 or $150?
This will provide that kind of incentive for Canadians at all income levels to start to think about the value of saving on a regular basis. I encourage all Canadians to participate in this. As we do, we will see our investments grow and grow tax-free. We will have the ability to withdraw and take that money out without it affecting our tax situations and without it affecting, for example, our ability to collect the guaranteed income supplements in our later years, and that is a good thing.
Another thing that is very important to my constituents is the whole notion of infrastructure, particularly a public transit infrastructure. I am in a suburban community of Vancouver. I often have meetings in Vancouver, so I make that commute there. Sometimes I take the train if it is available in the hours that I need. When I have to go by vehicle, it gives me a new appreciation for thousands of my constituents who day after day have to make that trip into greater Vancouver to work. They are concerned about what the government id doing about public transit.
Members will recall that in budget 2006 we put in place $1.3 billion in support for public transit, and the public transit tax credit. In budget 2008, we have allocated $500 million for a public transit capital trust. That will support projects such as the Evergreen line, which was mentioned in the budget document and in the budget speech from the minister. This is an important project. The line does not run right into my riding, but it will be the closest to my riding than we have ever had before. It will allow people to get from my riding to there and get through the northeast sector and into Vancouver, all with public transit.
I and the member for have been advocating for this for a number of years, and we believe this is very important.
When I speak to my municipalities, they are interested and concerned about their ability to make investments in infrastructure. I know they are very pleased about the announcement in the budget of the permanent gas tax fund. This would be long term funding for infrastructure. They would be able to plan and know it would be coming. There will be $2 billion in 2009-10 and more in later years. It is a permanent measure that comes year after year, allowing mayors and councils and their administrators to plan for this, and that is important to them as well.
There are many other good announcements in the budget such as the national crime prevention initiatives, support for Canadian students, funding for policing. All of these are important to my constituents.
One item not announced in the speech, but it is in that document, which I know my constituents will be happy about, is the fact that eventually we will go to a 10 year passport. We do thousands of passports in a year in my office. I know they have been talking to me about the possibility of having a 10 year passport, so I am very pleased about that.
I am very pleased to support the budget on behalf of my constituents. I encourage all members of the House to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hull—Aylmer.
I am very happy to rise again to reply to the budget. I thought a year ago it would be my last time to talk about the budget as the government was gearing up for an election campaign. It appears to still be gearing up for one, but just cannot seem to bring itself to get in the position where it actually will go to the people for a mandate.
For the past two decades, I have had the honour of representing the people of Egmont from the western quarter of Prince Edward Island. I have really enjoyed representing them and their views. It is a rural riding for the most part. Summerside takes in about half of the voting population of my riding. The rest is rural. I live in the rural part of Egmont in the little village of Tyne Valley.
I am proud to have represented this rural riding and to champion rural issues over the time I have spent in the House.
Our party has a tradition of investing in the economy of Atlantic Canada, something which I really do not see in the budget. When I was in the Atlantic caucus, we spearheaded a caucus initiative called, “Catching Tomorrow's Wave”, which resulted in the prime minister at the time, Mr. Chrétien, announcing the Atlantic investments partnership. That partnership was not only strengthened by the minister of finance at the time, the right hon. member for , but when he became prime minister, he budgeted for that initiative for a further five years to the tune of $706 million.
We do not really seem to be seeing the results of the initiative, which began under the previous Liberal government. In fact, when we take out the R and D funds, the community funds, which were to offset the R and D, are non-existent. We have been unable to identify any project approvals in the innovative communities initiatives fund.
The money is there, but why is ACOA not approving projects throughout Atlantic Canada and helping to develop the economy? Its role is to help community and regional development. Because the majority of the ridings are represented by Liberal MPs, the government does not feel that the region should benefit with these investments. This is the great failing when Atlantic MPs do not champion the region, when they, for crass political purposes, neglect to invest dollars in industry and the economy of the region that needs it the most.
When we look through the budget we do not see the words Atlantic Canada. We see the Pacific region, the automotive industry, forestry, money and investments for almost every region such as the north, which is all great stuff. However, when it comes to the Atlantic, the Conservatives cannot seem to not only utter the name, they cannot seem to print the name Atlantic Canada.
We have an Atlantic gateway that people mumble about, but they never put any resources toward it. They talk about the Pacific gateway. We had a chance for the Commonwealth Games and we failed to get enough federal dollars invested. They do not seem to have any problem investing in the Olympics in Vancouver, but when it comes to the Commonwealth Games in Halifax, we do not seem to be in the ball game at all.
Another item I touched on in statements by members today was the network of centres of excellence. This program is jointly funded by a number of research councils and Industry Canada. The goal of the program is to develop Canada's economy in areas of health, energy and natural resources. It has developed a number of world-class centres that specialize in commercializing technologies in the 21st century. These technologies produce cutting edge solutions to some of the challenges faced by our society.
However, it becomes clear that the government is investing in these centres of excellence in all the regions of the country except Atlantic Canada. Of the past 18 centres of excellence that were approved and created by the government, only one was established in Atlantic Canada. How can a government that claims to care about the region defend a record such as that? It cannot. And it certainly cannot claim a lack of qualified proposals from the region.
In my home province is an organization that is a national leader in wind energy. We have seen federal governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, invest heavily in the energy sector in the oil sands in Alberta, but when it comes to investing in the wind energy sector, which is the only energy source in Prince Edward Island, we find the government very reticent toward putting a penny into developing that energy source.
The Wind Energy Institute of Canada, in North Cape, P.E.I., was the Atlantic wind test site for the past 30 years, a federal government initiative built on provincial property. This centre is a key component of the province of P.E.I.'s green energy strategy. Although we are not blessed with many energy resources and do not have the luxury of massive gas and oil reserves, we do have abundant wind energy and a great desire by the province--and by the federal government, when we were in power--to develop that particular industry. Developing and investing in this industry will allow our province to take a large step closer to self-sustainability.
This institute is a priority of the provincial government, as I said. The province realizes that investing in this institute will help P.E.I. increase its position as a global leader in wind energy and technology, with a focus on clean, renewable energy sources in both the industrialized and the developing worlds. The Wind Energy Institute of Canada represents a golden opportunity for P.E.I. to shine on the global stage.
However, does the Tory government want to be partner in this initiative? No, it does not. Does the Tory government share the enthusiasm of the P.E.I. government for the centre? No, it does not.
Does the Tory government want to help P.E.I. develop its globally recognized centre of wind energy and research? Apparently not. Does the Tory government want to help develop a centre of excellence for Atlantic Canada in wind energy? It has not to this point. Time is rapidly running out.
The numbers speak for themselves. Eleven new centres were announced last month, but not a single one for Atlantic Canada. This lack of faith in the potential of Atlantic Canada is not unique to Industry Canada. One only needs to examine the activity, or the lack thereof, of the to see that the government does not care about the region.
The government has cut funding to P.E.I. each year it has been in power. As I say, on the innovative community projects we see very little investment. The money is basically going back to general revenue.
We have heard from the , during the past election campaign and as recently as a few days ago, that ACOA funding was as solid as a rock in the north Atlantic, but that rock is eroding pretty fast. I do not think it is made of granite. The particular rock we are talking about is probably made of shale, like the ground of Prince Edward Island.
However, the government continues to cut investment in the region and it continues to ignore ACOA. There is not one mention of ACOA in this budget. That is not a very strong statement of support at all.
I could go on, but in the few minutes I have left I am going to touch on the idea of a Crown corporation for the EI program and for setting the rates.
As for setting the rates, I really do not think that we need a Crown corporation set up with 12 members running it to set rates. I think the government could set the rates with a stroke of a pen. The rates have been high, I agree. They should be lower. They have been lowered. I think when we took power in 1993 we were running a $5 billion deficit in the EI account over the previous three years. The year after, 1994, we were running a surplus, and we have been ever since, and those rates have been going down.
It does not take a rocket scientist to know what is coming in from the EI account and what is going out. If there is a great desire to lower the rates dramatically, it could be done easily. This seems to me to be the thin edge of the wedge. Eventually the members of Parliament are going to be cut out of the running of this program and cut out of making any changes to this program to benefit areas of high unemployment.
I hope that enough people can get together to beat this budget.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have tabled a watered-down budget that lacks originality and fails to meet the needs of Canadians, namely the growing needs of seniors.
One of Canada's biggest successes is its retirement income system for seniors. Who are the architects of this success? The Liberal governments of course. The old age security program, the Canada pension plan, and the guaranteed income supplement are all Liberal accomplishments. And it was Liberals who established the new horizons program.
The Liberal government implemented a number of initiatives for seniors: the creation of a national seniors secretariat; the expansion of the residential rehabilitation assistance program; the creation of a compassionate care benefit; the creation of a home care fund and a tax credit allowing family caregivers to claim medical and disability related expenses. And let us not forget the health agreement to transfer $41.3 billion to the provinces for all Canadians, but especially seniors.
The Conservatives claim to have the interests of seniors at heart, but they have abolished the secretary of state for seniors position. Is that what it means to pay attention to seniors? No.
Under the Liberal government, there were fewer seniors living in poverty. The number of people 65 and older with low incomes went from 11% in 1993 to 5.6% in 2004. Those are positive results.
Canada's population aged 65 and older is growing. According to Statistics Canada's 2007 yearbook, this segment of the population reached 4.3 million in 2006. It is now 2008 and this population is not shrinking. It represents 13% of the Canadian population and it is predicted to reach 27% by 2056. Furthermore, the fastest growth will be in the segment of the population 80 and over.
In 2006, the Quebec polling firm Ipsos Descarie conducted a poll in collaboration with the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Quebec seniors council. The poll used different selection criteria, in particular age, with respondents having to be 55 or older. Nonetheless, the results were quite interesting and the findings can apply to Canada's population.
This poll paints a portrait of Quebec seniors. Who are they? They are mostly urban dwellers and a high percentage own their own homes. Only 8% live in a seniors residence. According to Statistics Canada, 93% of seniors lived in private households in 2001, but this percentage tends to decrease after the age of 85.
Although a high proportion of seniors live with a spouse, many women seniors live alone. Seniors in rental accommodation tend to live alone.
A Quebec humorist, Yvon Deschamps, said that it was better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick. How wise he was. The Quebec poll indicated that those with the lowest incomes tended to worry more about their health or their financial situation or the fact that they were aging alone. Health and one's financial situation are the main concerns but low-income individuals tend to worry more about those two issues.
Today, most Canadian seniors are in better shape financially than their parents. The creation of the Canada pension plan—by the Liberals—has made it possible for many workers to contribute and to draw pension benefits. According to Statistics Canada:
Seniors are now getting a smaller proportion of their total income from government transfers such as Old Age Security benefits, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Spouse's Allowance than in the early 1980s. Still 97% of seniors received income from one or more of these sources in 2005, and these sources accounted for 32% of senior women's income.
There are fewer poor seniors today than there were 25 years ago, but there are still too many. Not everyone has contributed to public and private pension plans, and not everyone has access to such plans. I am thinking of self-employed workers, seasonal workers and especially women, who are often forgotten.
The Confédération des syndicats nationaux or CSN states that 60% of workers work for a company that does not have a pension plan. Government of Quebec data indicate that in 2004, the average total income of women aged 65 or over was $19,600, while for men it was $31,500.
Too many seniors, especially women, are living in poverty. They have to make do with low fixed incomes and deal with steady increases in the cost of rent, energy, drug insurance premiums, communications and transportation.
Finding affordable housing is often a major problem for seniors. Affordable social housing is often allocated to poor families, and seniors tend to be forgotten.
The National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation has called on the government to continue implementing heating subsidies for seniors and low-income families. It is also asking the federal government and housing associations to provide appropriate, affordable housing for seniors in need. In addition, the CSN has asked Quebec to pressure the federal government to shoulder its responsibilities for social housing.
Government of Quebec data reveal that nearly half of all seniors receive the guaranteed income supplement, which is a serious indicator of poverty among seniors. In addition, one owner in seven spends 30% or more of his or her income on housing, while nearly half of all renters do.
The Ipsos-Décarie poll reveals that 4% of respondents aged 65 or over say that they are not retired but work part time. If we add the respondents who say that they are retired but work full time or part time, that represents 9% of individuals aged 65 or over, or nearly one person in 10. This is a large group of potential workers.
Not everyone works because of financial considerations. “Pensioners holding jobs say they do so primarily to fill their spare time or because they enjoy their job too much to leave it.” How can we retain these potential workers? What other accommodations can we make in terms of taxes and our labour laws to allow young retirees who can work and older retirees who wish to work part-time to do so?
Seniors are generally happy and devote a large part of their time to leisure activities. The more active you are the more likely you will be happy and healthy. We have to promote the creation and adaptation of sports equipment and facilities. We should also think about extending the child fitness tax credit to seniors.
Many seniors do volunteer work. According to Statistics Canada, women between the ages of 65 and 74 spend more time on unpaid work than men. According to Ipsos-Décarie, the highest proportion of volunteers is found in the 60 to 69 age category.
Ipsos-Décarie also found that one respondent out of five was an informal caregiver, of whom 22% were between the ages of 60 and 69. On average, respondents spent 7.1 hours of their time each week as informal caregivers and one in four caregivers spent even more than 15 hours per week in that role.
As I am being told that my time is running out, I will end with a few proposals for future discussion with respect to helping seniors.
We should fund the development of a national strategy for informal caregivers; establish a department for seniors; develop a national strategy for older workers; expand the new horizons program; invest more in social housing and affordable housing for seniors; increase amounts paid to widows by the government; increase the period of compassionate leave; provide subsidies to help recipients of the guaranteed income supplement to cover rising heating costs; increase the guaranteed income supplement; invest in public transportation by offering free travel to seniors who use it in off-peak hours and on week-ends, as well as making accommodations required for reduced mobility.
I thank my colleagues for their patience.
The Liberals will have more empathy and compassion for Canada's seniors, the—
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments made by my hon. Conservative Party colleague. I would point out that most of the programs he talked about are for seniors who have money, not for seniors who are struggling. This is about giving more tax credits, but one must have income to benefit from tax credits. Those are the people my colleague was talking about.
I ran out of time earlier, so I will take advantage of my colleague's very interesting question to continue.
There are many changes the government could make, such as creating a financial recognition program for volunteer organizations that help seniors prepare their annual tax returns.
The government could support the development and adaptation of sports facilities and equipment.
The government could apply the child fitness tax credit to seniors.
The government could break down the isolation many seniors experience by offering courses at reduced cost and by implementing measures to help seniors who belong to ethnic communities.
The government could help seniors stay in their homes longer by paying for respite care and by using the Canada summer jobs program to promote the creation of groups that help seniors.
The government could set up a tax deduction program—my friend would like that—such as a tax credit to encourage and recognize volunteer work.
The government could foster a better relationship with seniors by simplifying its interactions with them.
FInally, perhaps the time has come to reconsider the retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have the opportunity to say a few words on budget 2008. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Last week another balanced budget was presented by the , the third in three years. Three out of three is not a bad batting average.
The budget was, again, full of tax savings for all Canadians: an initiative to pay down the debt with a $10.2 billion payment; assistance for our youth; incentive for our seniors; and a continuation of putting more hard-earned cash back into the pockets of hard-working, ordinary Canadians.
People from coast to coast have applauded our budget. I will quote the minister of finance in Newfoundland and Labrador, the hon. Tom Marshall, who said, “I am pleased to see the initiatives with respect to police officers. The fact that the gas tax is made permanent, that was good”.
That and many other comments across the country have given us hope that we are on the right track on this side of the House.
There are some positive highlights for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. As I just touched on by the minister of finance, the gas tax for municipalities was made permanent. Cities and towns can now make long term plans. Many communities in my own riding of Avalon can take advantage of this situation now.
There will be 2,500 new police officers for Canada. Again, in Newfoundland and Labrador there are $6 million earmarked for this initiative that will put more RCMP officers on the streets of our province.
Very important for Newfoundland and Labrador there will be an additional ferry for Marine Atlantic for the important connection between the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. This is the Trans-Canada that connects our two provinces. It is an area that we need to work on and we have been doing so with the help of the hon. and the member for .
This will also benefit people in my riding in the area of Argentia, another gateway in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the summer run between Argentia and Nova Scotia, because of problems at times on the Argentia-North Sydney run and problems between Port aux Basques and North Sydney, we end up sometimes having to take the ferry from the Argentia run. Hopefully with this new additional ferry, that will not happen.
There is a new Coast Guard ship to be stationed in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the budget there is a commitment of $720 million to build a new one for Canada's north.
There is major funding in the aquaculture industry. Our government is stepping up to the plate to review it. Some people involved in this industry have been very positive since last week's budget. In Newfoundland and Labrador, $22 million will be spent over the next two years.
We were in my province with the , the and the on the weekend to make the tremendous announcement with Cooke Aquaculture on the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador as it continues to develop the aquaculture industry in my province.
The tax-free savings account is a very positive feature in the budget. I was home on the weekend travelling throughout my riding and many constituents mentioned the tax-free savings account, which is financial assistance for everyday living. It is tax-free, whether people withdraw it in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years. Whatever gains they make, interest they receive in capitals gains, it is tax-free. It is in their pockets, another opportunity to build financial security for hard-working Canadians.
Reducing the tax burden of many individuals and families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada has been a hallmark of this government.
We see new incentives for seniors. On the issue of seniors over the past couple of years, the new secretary who has been put in place is taking the concerns and working on them.
There are $350 million for the new consolidated Canada student grant program. An extra 100,000 students in Canada will be able to avail themselves of this opportunity.
Another important aspect of the budget is $122 million over the next two years to ensure the federal correctional system achieves better public safety results. Within Newfoundland and Labrador there is much discussion about a new federal-provincial prison. No federal prisoners can be housed in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are sent to the mainland. This creates some problems for family and neighbours who want to visit inmates and it is a cost prohibitive situation in my province.
Back in 1988, the creation of a prison was announced for the community of Harbour Grace in Newfoundland and Labrador. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are still looking for that to be fulfilled.
Seeing this $122 million in the budget being earmarked over the next two years gives us hope. I am sure the minister of justice for Newfoundland and Labrador and the people who are involved in the justice system are looking forward to the continuing discussions on that and to see if we can come to some conclusion on addressing that situation.
There is $10 million for small craft harbours for the divestiture of delinquent wharfs and pieces of infrastructure relating to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans throughout the province. By addressing the divestiture concerns, we are freeing up money for the construction and certainly repairs to be made to existing structures that are being used by the people involved in the fishing industry in the province. That is a good news announcement for the people of the province.
As the chair for the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the committee has been advocating for more money in the small craft harbours budget. We realize that this is a step in the right direction. We look forward to advocating again and, down the road, to having more money put into the small craft harbours budget. Addressing the divestiture concerns is something that I am sure many people within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador found as welcome news.
Also, over the past couple of years we have seen some major funds put into municipal infrastructure and the building Canada fund is addressing many of those concerns. Over the next couple of years, we look forward to being able to avail ourselves of that throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and, indeed, throughout the riding of .
Throughout the riding of , which I have the privilege to represent in the House of Commons, there are 227 different communities ranging in size from thousands of people down to 100 people. Many of their concerns encompass municipal infrastructure, so we look forward to being able to avail ourselves of that fund. We have been doing so. As a matter of fact, when we were in the Avalon riding this week, we partnered with the municipality of Harbour Grace, the provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as a contribution from the federal government, we announced a $1 million project for the town of Harbour Grace to address some its water and sewer concerns.
Small craft harbours is definitely a major concern within the riding of Avalon. Last year we were very successful in obtaining over $7 million to address the concerns. Just to give members an idea, in my riding of I have 68 harbour authorities, so there is a necessity and certainly a need.
I say to people that the wharfs in my riding are like Highway 401 in Ontario. It is the place where commerce happens in the communities. It is a very important piece of infrastructure that provides not only the opportunity for fishers to have safe landing facilities but, more important, for people to be able to earn a living.
We look forward to working with the and continuing to locate and certainly allocate money for this very important piece of infrastructure in the riding of Avalon.
I continually meet with harbour authorities throughout the riding and tell them that this is a priority for me as their member but also for the Government of Canada to address these concerns.
Another situation that we find many times throughout the riding of is that we depend on the ACOA funding, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. We have had tremendous support from the over the past couple of years. Many projects within my riding have been assisted through funding from ACOA and other agencies, and we certainly look forward to continuing with that. We had the Minister of ACOA in Newfoundland and Labrador this past weekend for some announcements. He also travelled around and looked at some projects that are in the works. We certainly look forward to availing ourselves of the money in the budget to address some of these concerns.
As always, through Services Canada we receive excellent cooperation from the minister and his staff in addressing some of the concerns in the Avalon riding.
When I look at budget 2008, I look at a very positive budget for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in many ways. I look at a budget that addresses many of the concerns that we have raised in the past year with the minister.
The minister met with the Atlantic caucus and we put forward some of the highlights and some of the concerns of Atlantic Canada that we wanted addressed. The budget certainly looked at many of those.
We are off to another good start. This is our third budget and it certainly is a very positive budget for Newfoundland and Labrador and for Canada as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to stand this afternoon in support of a budget introduced a week ago. I am particularly pleased with this budget for a number of reasons because, amid a budget that talks about responsible spending and sustainable spending, my riding of Leeds—Grenville fares very well.
I am particularly pleased that many of the issues people have spoken to me about over the past year have been addressed in this budget, some directly and some indirectly. The important news in the budget is the new tax-free savings account that will allow anyone over the age of 18 to save up to $5,000 a year and have any gains that they make be treated tax free.
People can use the money for upcoming large purchases such as buying a car or purchasing or repairing a home. The money can be withdrawn at any time tax free and replaced if the cash later becomes available. This is a terrific and innovative way to encourage and help people to save. We are all aware that Canadians' debt has been growing and with this one unique idea the will help us become a nation of savers instead of a nation of debtors.
For Leeds—Grenville, there is even more good news in this budget. One of the items with which I am most pleased is the commitment of $2 million over two years to support the Canadian Biosphere Reserve Association. I have a major biosphere reserve in my riding, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere reserve is located roughly between Brockville, Gananoque and Westport. It encompasses many protected natural areas, including the St. Lawrence Islands National Park and Charleston Lake Provincial Park. There are also recreation areas and historic sites: the St. Lawrence Parks Commission lands, the Rideau Canal National Historic site, land trust holdings, lands of the Cataraqui and Rideau Valley Conservation Authorities, provincially designated areas of natural and scientific interest and the Queen's University biological station.
The biosphere reserve recently expanded to include all of south Frontenac township, including spectacular Frontenac Provincial Park. As well, urban and rural zones are important cultural areas of biosphere reserves. With over 500 biosphere reserves worldwide, ours is one of four in Ontario of the thirteen that are in Canada.
The Frontenac Arch is an area where the junction of five ecoregions creates the highest biodiversity in Canada, acre for acre, and features the beautiful Thousand Islands. Combined with human development, the result is a very high number of species at risk as well. It is located on a narrow natural corridor running along the Frontenac Arch between two of the largest natural areas in eastern North America: the Adirondack and Algonquin Park areas. As I said, it features the Thousand Islands. This is the narrowest part as it crosses the St. Lawrence River.
The biosphere reserve operates with members of the community who have been volunteering their services for a number of years. This money will help them achieve their goals on a national scale. It is a shot in the arm that they need and I am pleased that the , during a visit to Leeds—Grenville last fall, heard their voices and encouraged the to include this money in the budget.
I have continued to be a champion and advocate of the Canadian Biosphere Reserve network with both the environment minister and the finance minister, and I do applaud them for their insight.
Agriculture is also a major industry in Leeds—Grenville and I was also pleased to see in the budget funds to assist our beleaguered hog and beef industries. Farmers will see additional support through better access to $3.3 billion to cope with extraordinary pressures in the livestock sector and $50 million to help the hog sector adjust to a new market reality.
Geri Kamenz, who is the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and who happens to live in my riding, said that he was very happy that the government took action. He was very happy saying that the federal government loan guarantees were “exactly what the farmers have asked for”.
These are important issues in my riding. Over the past few months I have met with many farm organizations and individual farmers who asked us to help them out. I and others passed that request along to the and the and, once again I am pleased to note that those farmers' voices were heard.
The budget also earmarks $12 million over two years to enhance environmental law enforcement in Canada's national parks. I am fortunate to have a number of Parks Canada assets in my riding, including the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Fort Wellington, the site of the Battle of the Windmill and a major portion of the Rideau Canal. Just down the road from my riding in Kingston is Fort Henry and Bellevue House, the home of our first prime minister.
These are all important assets for Canada and Canadians. They provide a link to our past, as well as employment and recreation for my constituents. Some of these assets will be in the spotlight in four more years when Canada and the United States celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 as they figured prominently in one way or another in that period of our history. These assets deserve to be protected to the best of our ability and the funding commitment in this year's budget will help that cause.
In addition, I have two border crossings in my riding: one near Ivy Lea in the Thousand Islands and the other at Johnstown. There are issues that have arisen at these two crossings, especially since the terrible incident of 9/11 that affected recreational travellers and commercial enterprises.
I am pleased to see that solutions are being provided in this budget with a number of initiatives including $75 million over the next two years to address operational issues at Canadian border crossings and $14 million to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk travellers. The Thousand Islands bridge has been identified as the location for the expansion of the NEXUS program and hopefully some of this money will be put to good use there.
Canada will soon introduce a new electronic passport, and the government announced plans to extend its validity to 10 years. This is something that I have heard time and time again from my constituents and something that I am sure they are applauding. This is great news for those who are using our border crossings. As I said, it really addresses a concern of my constituents.
The budget provides further assistance for Canada's manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance, treatment for investment in machinery and equipment for three more years.
It removes disincentives for seniors to work by raising the current guaranteed income supplement earned income exemption to $3,500 from $500.
Students were not left out in this budget. They are going to see the Canada student grant program with a $350 million investment in 2009-2010, rising to $430 million in 2012-2013. As well, the registered education savings plan can remain open for 35 years instead of just 25 years, and the maximum contribution period will be extended by 10 more years.
There is also encouraging news for the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes corridor. First, the government is providing $15 million over 2 years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway area.
Highway H2O, as it is called, is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2009, as it faces new challenges and opportunities including more containerization of goods, and we all know that is the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway system is a deep-draft waterway extending 3,700 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes in the heart of North America. Ranked as one of the outstanding engineering feats of the 20th century, the St. Lawrence Seaway includes 13 Canadian and 2 U.S. locks.
Recently, our government and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec signed a memorandum of understanding on the continental gateway and trade corridor which will see billions of dollars invested in transportation infrastructure.
As well, our government also recently released the binational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway study which discusses financial and infrastructure issues on this important trade route. In this budget, the government recognizes the importance of this trade corridor which runs right through my riding of Leeds—Grenville.
As well, the budget sets aside $24 million over 2 years to establish infrastructure for cruise ships on the St. Lawrence.
Other budget highlights for residents in Leeds—Grenville include: making the gas tax refund a federal government infrastructure grant to municipalities a permanent measure, providing $90 million to extend to 2012 the targeted initiative for older workers, dedicating $282 million over this and the next 2 years to expand the veterans independence program to support the survivors of veterans, reducing the availability of contraband tobacco products through new tax compliance and enforcement measures, setting aside $400 million for police officer recruitment, and facilitating compliance by waiving fees for firearms licence renewal until May 2009.
Along with this good news for Leeds—Grenville, the budget addresses the auto industry, the vulnerable, the north, the environment and our international commitments. It is important to note that with previous budget announcements combined with this new budget, the government is injecting $21 billion of stimulus into the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today as we continue the debate on the second budget presented by this Conservative minority government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The author of this budget expended an awful lot of energy last week suggesting that investors look outside of Ontario when considering their options in Canada. Frankly, I was shocked to hear the slam my home province in this way. We can be certain that investors around the world furrowed their brows to hear Canada's suggest that Ontario's economy is tenuous or unstable.
Those of us in Ontario are well aware of the 's limited credibility. After all, he is the guy who left Ontario with a $5 billion deficit. So, we have little confidence in his ability to manage the nation's coffers.
Ontario, through no efforts from this government, is a vibrant and diverse economy. It cannot be ignored and should not be dismissed. In fact, my constituency of , which is in the heart of Waterloo region, is one of those bright lights within the province.
BMO, the Conference Board of Canada and the Royal Bank have all predicted that Waterloo region will sport one of Canada's 10 fastest growing economies beginning in 2009. In spite of deep losses that we have had due to the manufacturing crisis, Waterloo region has low unemployment rates and a strong, healthy housing industry.
The unemployment rate in the Kitchener metropolitan area was 5.3% in January. That is half a percentage lower than it was a year ago. There were 256,100 people working in the area in January, which is 3,200 more than were employed the year earlier. Statistics Canada says that 14,300 people were unemployed. That is down from the previous year when that number was 15,400. The percentage of workers who are employed in the region has remained stable at 67% for the last two years. That number is four percentage points higher than the national average, which itself is at an all-time high.
Instead of dismissing Waterloo region, Canada's should be heralding our success.
That being said, we cannot ignore the devastating impact that the crisis in manufacturing has had in . The loss of good, well-paying jobs has had a significant impact, even on a diversified economy such as ours.
However, this Conservative government has turned a blind eye to the manufacturing industry. In fact, on a visit last spring, the himself suggested to the Canadian Auto Workers that those out of work should seek employment in Alberta. That is unbelievable.
I think it would be generous to describe the lastest Conservative budget as bland at best. It does very little, good or bad. In fact, its greatest failing lies in what is missing from this budget.
Homelessness persists as a problem coast to coast to coast in this country. Some estimates suggest that there are upward of 200,000 people experiencing homelessness in Canada. Further, about 700,000 households are believed to be spending more than half of their income on shelter, leaving them exposed to the possibility of being homeless.
Waterloo region has displayed considerable leadership on addressing the needs of the homeless population in the community that I represent. At this time, in Waterloo region, there are more than 4,800 people who use emergency shelters each and every year.
The regional municipality of Waterloo recently completed a housing strategy that provides direction in allocating federal, provincial and local resources to address homelessness locally. It is thorough and it is comprehensive. The strategy looks forward to long term solutions. It looks to this federal government for a long term financial commitment to this important issue.
The current homelessness partnering strategy has not had funding allocated beyond the year 2009.
When I was reading through Waterloo region's report, one of the remarks from a service provider really struck a chord with me. It read, “We as a society somehow think vulnerable populations don't deserve the same quality of life. We need to be careful about keeping our humanity”.
Everyone has a role to play in ending homelessness. I implore the government to accept its role.
While the Conservative government thinks short term on homelessness, its environmental policies are so long term that they are rendered irrelevant and ineffective. Climate change, the biggest ecological threat facing humanity, has become an issue of health, security, prosperity and survival for our planet. At this critical time, Canada cannot be a laggard. Canada must dedicate attention, resources and commitment to the climate change crisis. Canada must commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, compared to the 1990 levels, by the year 2020.
There is nothing particularly offensive in the document that was presented by the . The only things that are remarkable about the budget are how it misses the mark on so many issues that are of great importance to Canadians. The budget would have been more effective if the Conservatives had not already spent the cupboard bare with their previous budgets and fall economic and fiscal update, leaving a razor thin surplus to protect Canada's economy should it continue to falter.
It is a significant concern that the Conservative's projected surpluses of $2.3 billion for 2008-09 and $1.3 billion for the next year are well below the minimum $3 billion contingency fund that the Liberals consider a bare minimum to cushion against unanticipated economic shocks.
Do I need to remind the other side of the House that the government inherited the largest surplus in Canadian history a short two years ago. Two years of reckless spending and haphazard economic planning have left a minimal economic cushion. We are quite simply one SARS crisis away from deficit. That is bad enough. Worse still is the fact that we as a nation have nothing to show for this spending binge.
The government needs to demonstrate that it takes our nation's finances and our national issues seriously. Certainly we are entering a time where fiscal restraint is encouraged, however, we never should let a slowing economy become an excuse to abandon those in greatest need. Let us not let politics get in the way of fundamental humanity.