The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today for the first time to participate in the budget 2009 debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I will begin by thanking the good constituents in Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me on October 14 and allowing me to represent them in Ottawa. I would like to thank my family for their hard work and support and I would like to thank all of the dedicated, hard-working volunteers. Without their generosity I would not be here today.
A synchronized, global recession is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. On January 27, the hon. delivered Canada's economic action plan. This plan will stimulate the Canadian economy to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long term growth. Our government built this plan after one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We heard Canadians' concerns about their jobs, savings, families, businesses and communities. We listened to their concerns and we took their advice.
This government is taking action. Budget 2009 will benefit Huron—Bruce dramatically. Over the past few years, we have continued to see the economy in southern Ontario deteriorate. For example, the unemployment rate in Ontario has risen in recent months and has been above the national average for unemployment rates for two years. In spite of these realities, southern Ontario benefits from a number of economic advantages, including high education levels, large and prosperous urban centres and a close proximity to the United States marketplace.
However, the weakening U.S. and global economies have resulted in plant closures and slower economic growth that are creating hardships for workers and families in southern Ontario.
On Tuesday, in response to Ontario's economic challenges, the announced $1 billion for a southern Ontario development agency. This is good news for Huron—Bruce and all the ridings in southern Ontario. This agency will provide programs that support economic and community development, innovation and economic diversification with contributions to communities, businesses and non-profit organizations. It will help workers, communities and businesses in southern Ontario position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as economic growth recovers in Canada and around the world.
In addition to the regional programs, the Canadian skills and transition strategy will help to strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhancing the availability of training and freezing EI rates at the lowest payroll tax in the world. This government has taken action to provide a broad range of financial support to help individuals and their families in difficult times, not only in Huron—Bruce, but across Canada.
These initiatives will support Canadians in the short term as well as help them find long term job prospects with investments in training. Budget 2009 has extended the work-sharing agreement by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. In addition, for two years we will increase EI entitlement benefits by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks from the previous 45 weeks. To help workers who participate in longer term training, this government is investing $500 million over the next two years to extend EI benefits. This will help an additional 10,000 workers.
We are doing more. This government is also investing $1 billion to enhance the availability of training delivered through EI programs over the next two years. We are also helping individuals who do not qualify for EI training, such as the self-employed or those who have been out of work for an extended period. Over the next two years, this government will invest $500 million in a strategic training and transition fund to support these individuals.
Since being elected in October, Huron—Bruce has experienced plant closures, layoffs and numerous people out of work. These programs will go a long way in Huron—Bruce to help our hard-working constituents retrain and get back into the workforce.
Budget 2009 also announced new measures for the agriculture industry. Farmers in Huron—Bruce continue to strive to develop innovative, high-quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In turn, farmers provide a strong economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work.
The Canadian farm sector has not been isolated from the current economic downturn. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agriculture flexibility program, AgriFlex, that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives both federally and in partnership with the provinces, territories and industry. This program will help the agriculture sector improve its competitiveness and respond to market challenges. In addition, the government will invest $50 million over three years to strengthen slaughterhouse capacity in various regions of the country to support the livestock sector.
Budget 2009 also announced proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loan Act to help make credit available to new farmers, support intergenerational farm transfers and modify eligibility criteria for agriculture co-operatives. Without a doubt, this government has taken action. This budget ensures that many of the key concerns that Canadians had are addressed.
In addition to the building Canada plan, this government announced an additional $7 billion in infrastructure spending. This investment will create jobs and revitalize our transportation network with repairs to our roads, bridges, highways and rail links across the country. Huron—Bruce is a good example of this investment, with $750,000 allocated for pier rehabilitation to the South Hampton Harbour. We are doing more.
Budget 2009 also includes tax cuts for low and middle income families. The basic personal amount of taxable income will be raised from $9,600 to $10,320 per year. This will allow Canadians to earn more before they have to start paying taxes. This government has also increased the first and second personal income tax brackets to allow earnings to be taxed at a lower rate. This will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.
We have effectively doubled the tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the welfare wall and into gainful employment. We have also created a home renovation tax credit that will provide incentives of up to $1,350 for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.
This budget also provides numerous investments in social and affordable housing to provide Canadians with quality housing at affordable rates. These investments will help lower income families and individuals access safe, affordable and quality housing, build a stronger future and help to create sustainable communities. We will invest $1 billion to upgrade up to 200,000 social housing units across this country.
Budget 2009 will also invest $400 million for the construction of social housing units for low income seniors and $75 million over two years for the construction of social housing units for persons with disabilities. These investments will provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our society while providing short term stimulus relief to the Canadian economy.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that we are taking action to address the economic crisis for all Canadians. It is only through a strong economy that Canadians can create the quality of life and standard of living to which we all aspire within the context of today's economy.
Budget 2009 demonstrates the government's continued commitment to the economy and this country. This is the responsible federal leadership that Canadians rightfully demand and deserve. This is real action and real results for the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise today to address the economic action plan for Canada that was introduced by the on Tuesday of this week.
I think all members of this House can agree that these are extraordinary times in terms of the global recession in which we find ourselves. We all know that the first signs probably started with the housing crisis in the United States, but it then went on to the financial markets crisis. Around the world, financial institutions that had been in existence for decades found themselves completely insolvent.
The reality is that we are in unprecedented times, and unprecedented actions are required on the part of governments around the world. We have seen the United States Congress acting today in terms of their stimulus package.
We have to recognize that actions taken by past governments, actions by our government and by governments of other political stripes as well, have placed Canada's financial system and fiscal situation in much better positions than is the case in other countries.
In terms of our financial system, the IMF has recognized that our system of governing banks, the Bank Act, is certainly much better than that of our colleagues to the south.
As well, although our fiscal situation in the 1980s and the 1990s--our debt-to-GDP ratio--was probably the worst in the G7, it is now the best in the G7. That improvement is a credit to successive governments, and certainly to our government for paying down $37 billion of debt in the last two and a half years. I think that is one of the Conservative government's proudest achievements.
However, we have to recognize that times are extraordinary, and rapid changes are going on. If members think back to the late summer and early fall, the main issue was the rise in gasoline prices, partly caused by the rise in crude oil prices. At that time of rising crude oil prices, the investment bankers in New York, some of the smartest people in the financial sector, were saying oil prices would never go below $60 a barrel. Now we have oil prices between $30 and $40 a barrel.
Therefore we have a very fluid situation, as the minister mentioned in his budget speech. We have to act now, but we have to realize that projections are going to be fairly fluid, and we will have to react very quickly.
We have put forward an economic action plan in terms of investing in infrastructure. People like Dale Orr have recommended that accelerating infrastructure projects, especially smaller infrastructure projects, can act as a stimulus and can act as a counterbalance in terms of the decreased spending.
As well as accelerating infrastructure projects, we are building on the gas tax transfer that was made permanent by our government. We are investing in roads, bridges, water, and waste water facilities. We are also expanding the definition of infrastructure to look at broadband and telecommunications, rather than looking at infrastructure only in the traditional sense. There is investment in people through retraining, ensuring that those who suffer unexpected jobs losses have the assistance to see them through these tough times. Unfortunately the last two months of 2008 showed a decline in the number of jobs in Canada, a trend that had not been present in the first half of 2008.
In the time remaining I would like to address some of the tax policy issues, some of the changes for small businesses, and some of the things we have done for manufacturing. Then I will talk about some of the finance and credit issues.
In terms of tax policy changes, the previous speaker mentioned some changes we have made to the basic personal exemption. We have raised that exemption, which obviously creates tax savings for all Canadians, especially those at lower income levels. The marginal rates of taxation certainly help people in the lower and middle income ranges.
We are raising the level for the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, as well as the Canada child tax benefit. Those programs, which were introduced by the former government, are certainly valuable in terms of providing benefits for lower-income families with children.
There is also the working income tax benefit and the increase to the age credit amount for seniors to ensure that they have the funds necessary to survive these times.
In terms of small businesses, we have moved the rate of taxation for small businesses from 12% to 11%. We had moved the income eligible from $300,000 to $400,000; in this economic action plan we move it up to $500,000. There is increasing access to credit for small business through proposed amendments to the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada. We are providing $30 million over two years for the Canada business network, and allocating $200 million over two years to a program that I think works very well, the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program.
Small businesses across the country tell me it is a very effective program, not only at providing needed funds but also at providing mentorship and advice to smaller companies to ensure they can grow into that mid-sized level.
In terms of the manufacturing sector, our industry committee did a report in February 2007. In the March 2007 budget the minister introduced a two-year manufacturing writeoff. Our committee had recommended five years. In 2007 the minister put it in place for a two-year period. In the 2008 budget he extended it for three years. It was initially at a declining rate, but in this budget he has put it so that we have the full five years. We will have it for 2010-11.
We will have the full five years in terms of the two-year writeoff for manufacturers. This means they can upgrade their machinery and equipment much more quickly. They can write it off much more quickly, so not only can they become more productive, but by accessing new machinery and equipment, they can also obviously become more environmentally sustainable.
This is why organizations like the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association have responded very positively to this budget and to this economic action plan.
Financing and credit is the other issue they raise, and they raise it very strongly, as did other small business organizations. I want to thank these organizations, industries and businesses across Canada for raising this issue, because if companies do not have access to credit, they will simply not be able to survive or exist.
In response we have established the extraordinary financing framework, which provides up to $200 billion to improve access to financing for Canadian households and businesses. It commits an additional $50 billion to the insured mortgage purchase program, increasing the overall size of this program to $125 billion. Lenders will be provided with stable, long-term financing, allowing them to continue lending to Canadian consumers and businesses.
The extraordinary financing framework delivers $13 billion in additional financing by increasing the flexibility and capacities of the financial crown corporations, CMHC, Export Development Canada and BDC. This includes at least $5 billion in new financing that will be delivered through enhanced cooperation between these financial crown corporations and private sector financial institutions under the new business credit availability program.
We have created the Canadian secured credit facility, with up to $12 billion to support financing of vehicles and equipment for consumers and businesses.
We have extended the deadline for issuing guaranteed instruments under the Canadian lenders assurance facility, which helps ensure that lenders are not put at a competitive disadvantage when raising funds in global markets. This was agreed to at the G20 meeting, and our government has certainly acted upon it.
We have established a new Canadian life insurance assurers facility to guarantee wholesale term borrowings for life insurers, modelled on the Canadian lenders assurance facility.
We have facilitated the provision of extraordinary liquidity to financial institutions by the Bank of Canada, as required, through the modernization of the Bank's authorities in Budget 2008.
I should note that the Governor of the Bank of Canada has certainly acted to complement the actions of our government. We have certainly introduced a plan for fiscal stimulus, but the Governor of the Bank of Canada has been very proactive in terms of trying to combat this recession through monetary policy. If we have learned anything from the mistakes of the past, from the Great Depression of 1929 and the 1930s, it was that monetary policy must not be tightened. The supply of money cannot be tightened when a recession period is entered. The governor has acted to lower interest rates to try to ensure that money is available through the system. He has also acted in terms of trying to provide as much confidence to the markets as possible.
We have also added a ten-year maturity to the Canada mortgage bond program to raise supplementary funding for financial institutions.
I know these measures sound very technical, but they are designed to ensure that money flows through the financial markets to companies so that they can pay their workers, and flows to individuals so that they can continue to borrow for mortgages, for car loans and for their needs. These measures are to ensure that the system continues to work as it should.
As a government, we have acted in this area. Our actions have certainly been warmly received by the Chamber of Commerce, by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, and by other organizations that see the need for businesses to continue to operate because we have this supply of money going through the system.
I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget on behalf of my constituents of Brampton--Springdale, a budget which impacts seniors, families, children, women and men not only in my own constituency of Brampton--Springdale but all of Canada.
In a time of growing economic crisis, many Bramptonians, like many other Canadians across the country, are suffering. They have been hit with the loss of their jobs either in the manufacturing or the auto sector, in the retail sector or at assembly plants.
If we take a look at my riding of Brampton--Springdale, the Chrysler plant has eliminated its third shift, the loss of 1,100 jobs. Eleven hundred families were impacted overnight. The Simmons factory has closed, with hundreds of other Bramptonians losing their jobs. ABC plastics has closed, and the list goes on and on when it comes to people losing their jobs and companies closing their doors.
The result of these people losing their jobs as companies close their doors is that thousands of families out there are struggling to make ends meet, whether it is that single mother worrying about how she will put food on the table for her children, or that father wondering how he will care for his family, or that family struggling to find a child care space, or those seniors having to make that very difficult choice of either filling up the medicine cabinet or their gas tank or their fridge.
We have known in the last month alone that over 100,000 Canadians have lost their jobs. I only have to go to an email that I received a short while ago in my office, which states:
“I have never written to any politician before but I write to you today out of desperation. After working for 22 years at a company I was told last week I was being let go. I have never known another job other than the company I worked for. I thought, when I was let go and the company was closing its doors, I would be able to apply for EI. I have just learned the wait period is for two weeks and then there is a massive backlog of another three weeks. Now almost four weeks later, I am without pay and I really don't know where to turn. I actually don't know where I'm going to be buying the next carton of milk for my baby. I know as I write to you I won't be able to get any money from you for the food that I so desperately need, but I am asking you to please tell your colleagues, your fellow MPs, that there are so many people out there like myself who were employed for years and years at one company and have been let go. All of us are looking for hope. We are looking for hope for a brighter future and a better tomorrow”.
Then there is the story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, my constituents who came in to see me a few hours after they were informed that their company, ABC plastics, was closing its doors. They had been laid off. As I sat with both of these individuals, I learned that they had worked as well for almost two decades at the same company. They were left on that day without any direction or resources as to how they would go on to rebuild their lives. As fathers, they were concerned about how they would feed their children, and as husbands, how they would support their families.
The story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla is like the stories of many other Bramptonians and many other Canadians across the country who are struggling. It is these Canadians, these Bramptonians like Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, who were looking to this budget, who were looking to the government of the day for the leadership, for some action and really for a sense of hope for a better tomorrow.
As time has gone on, we have seen that the Conservative government of the day mismanaged the economy. The result is absolutely no leadership and then no action plan to help those people who are so desperately struggling.
We look once again at the area of Peel, where the issue of poverty and the gap between those who are rich and those who are poor continues to increase. We look at the issue of social housing in my riding, which has a wait list of more than 13,000 individuals, more than 30,000 people. The wait time to get into a housing unit is 21 years. It is these people on that wait list who were looking to the Conservative government and this budget for a sense of hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow.
Let us take a look at the number of people who are accessing emergency shelters. In 2006 over 11,776 people accessed the emergency shelter in Peel. The region provided a total of 111,812 bed nights to those poor people, to those residents who are so incredibly desperate.
Unfortunately, the budget has delivered absolutely nothing for affordable housing and homelessness. We thought, and many of us hoped, that the budget would provide for a national housing strategy. There is absolutely nothing.
Canadians had seen, through previous Liberal governments, eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canadians were given a sense of hope with having one of the best economic records in the G8 and one of the highest employment rates and the lowest unemployment rates.
As my colleague so eloquently described it, as the tsunami hit the global financial markets throughout the world, many of the other G8 countries acted. They acted on behalf of their citizens and on behalf of their nations to provide stimulus packages. What did we have in Canada? We had the of the day denying there was an economic recession. We had the Prime Minister and the Conservative government denying there was the possibility of a growing crisis. We had thousands of people losing their jobs, having the door shut in their faces. We had seniors struggling to make ends meet, to pay their energy bills and their mortgage payments. They received absolutely no hope from the government.
The government told us there would be surpluses. A few months later, when the budget came out the other day, we all learned Canadians would be inheriting an $84 billion deficit.
Then the government promised a stimulus to help create jobs with infrastructure spending. One only had to read the fine print. Mayors across the country got ready because they heard about possible infrastructure spending. They presented their wish lists of shovel-ready projects, wish lists that were presented by municipalities and cities like Brampton which had a wish list that included the Trinity Common Terminal refurbishment project and the AcceleRide bus rapid transit projects. However, when they read the fine print, even though cities like Brampton have a wish list, which have been included in the city's 2009 budget, in order to access the infrastructure spending provided in the budget they must come up with the money. Many of these municipalities do not have the money.
We realize that the list submitted by the Brampton municipality would create an extra 21,000 jobs, jobs that are so desperately needed by many of my constituents. I hope the government will look at an action plan to ensure it provides the support to municipalities that do not have the opportunity to give some of the funding.
Before I go forward, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member of Parliament for .
Let us look at some of the initiatives that were left out of the budget. When constituents lose their jobs, they look to EI for hope. However, the budget does not provide increased accessibility to EI. There will be no reduction in the wait time before an individual can receive EI benefits.
Those people were looking to this budget for hope. Unfortunately, they did not receive it. This is why our leader and my Liberal colleagues have put the and the government on probation to ensure that there is accountability, to ensure the funds that have been promised do not just look great as words on paper but are delivered to the municipalities and to the people who so desperately need them. Canadians across the country and constituents like mine in Brampton are looking to government. They are looking to all parliamentarians, regardless of their political stripe, to put aside their partisanship. They are looking to us for hope.
I think by working together in a spirit of cooperation, in a spirit of collaboration, we have an opportunity to give those people, who are struggling to make ends meet, the hope that they so desperately need for a brighter future and a better tomorrow.