Mr. Speaker, when I meet with Canadians and I ask them what they are looking for from us in Ottawa, their answer is clear. They want a government they can trust. Canadians work hard and they play by the rules. They want a government that respects the rules and follows the law. They want a government that does not waste Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.
Marie, the other day, told me that she wants a government that “is working hard for me, not trying to sell itself to me with my own tax dollars”.
Canadians tell me they want a government that will clean up the books and provide a credible plan to get Canada out of deficit, a government that will make real investments to protect the programs that have helped make this country strong—programs like our national health care system.
Canadians want a government that will invest in families and the jobs of tomorrow. They want a government that is there for them when they need it, whether they are struggling to provide for their children, taking care of a sick relative at home or just trying to make ends meet on a fixed income. However, instead of listening to Canadians, the Conservative regime has put forth a budget with more out-of-control spending that is out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. It continues to show contempt for Canadian taxpayers by hiding the true costs of its agenda.
The Conservatives have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on partisan advertising. They treat tax dollars as if it were their own money. They wasted $1.3 billion of taxpayer money on a 72-hour photo op at the G20. Of course, we all remember the fake lake, the gazebos, the bug spray and sunscreen, luxury furniture, glow sticks and $70,000 on mini-bar snacks.
The Conservatives are borrowing $6 billion and digging Canada even deeper into debt in order to pay for corporate tax breaks for the top 5% wealthiest corporations in Canada. This is despite the fact that the chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada said recently that the effect of corporate tax cuts on job creation is “trivial”.
Meanwhile, in January, the Conservatives raised job-killing payroll taxes for all Canadian businesses when they increased EI premiums. This Conservative tax hike hurts Canadian small businesses in particular—the very employers that are responsible for creating the most jobs in Canada.
While the Conservatives boast about a technical recovery, they are out of touch with the deep human recession that many Canadian families are facing. The fact is that there are over 100,000 fewer full-time jobs in Canada today compared to the fall of 2008. Most of the jobs that have been created have been part time, a fact that the Conservatives conveniently leave out when they are discussing their budget.
In my own riding of Kings—Hants there have been losses of jobs at Fundy Gypsum, Eastern Protein, Canard poultry and the Larsen's plant. A lot of people are losing good full-time jobs and seeing these full-time jobs replaced by part-time work. The Conservatives are boasting about the number of jobs and yet ignoring the plight that families are facing. When good full-time jobs are replaced by part-time work, Canadian families find it even tougher to make ends meet.
I would like to talk a bit about agriculture. My riding of Kings—Hants is an important centre for agriculture and farmers in my riding, in fact farmers across Canada, face real challenges. This is a difficult time in many agricultural sectors. Canada's food producers are a cornerstone of Canada's economy. Canada's farmers in our agrifood sector provide one out of every eight jobs in Canada and generates $42 billion in economic activity each year. Food is a vital link between rural and urban Canadians and the Harper Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting—
Mr. Speaker, I forgot. I read the memo from the Prime Minister's Office and I thought that change had taken effect. I apologize. You are quite right. It is not that government. It is the Canadian government, which is something that party over there seems to forget quite frequently.
The Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting $418 million from Agriculture Canada's budget. There is nothing in this budget to compensate farmers for these cuts. The Conservatives are trying to balance their budget on the backs of Canadian farmers.
The Liberal Party has committed to developing a national food policy and to put the flex back into AgriFlex, as farmers have asked for. That is federal funding that can be used for practical programs and investments in the RMP in Ontario and ASRA in Quebec, improved crop insurance or a livestock market price insurance program in the west, and a bi-Atlantic program in the east. We will invest in and support agricultural research. We will support important agricultural events including, of course, the Hants County Exhibition, Canada's oldest agricultural fair. I would be remiss not to mention that. The Liberal Party will support getting more healthy, high-quality, home-grown foods on Canadian tables.
Canadian families are finding it more and more difficult just to make ends meet. With a record youth unemployment rate of 15%, too many young Canadians are losing hope. Canadian families are now facing record levels of personal debt. A typical family in Canada today now owes more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income. In fact, that is not only a record in Canada but it is higher than American families. Canadian families are struggling now with rising food costs, medical costs and higher tuition.
They are barely able to pay the bills now, and they are wondering how they are going to get by when interest rates start to rise.
However, hard-working, low income Canadians, many of whom are juggling more than one part-time job just to pay the bills, do not seem to factor into the Conservatives' vision of Canada. The Conservatives have deliberately excluded low income Canadians from qualifying for measures under this budget, like the family caregiver tax credit and the volunteer firefighters tax credit.
The Conservatives accomplished this exclusion of low-income Canadians from these programs by making the tax credits non-refundable. These tax credits will only help Canadians who have earned enough money that year that they actually pay income taxes.
The Liberal Party would recognize the work of all volunteer firefighters and all family caregivers regardless of their income. This would include Canadians who have left their jobs and have taken unpaid leave to take care of sick relatives, the very people who are most in need of help. These people would not qualify for the Conservatives' family caregiver tax credit.
It seems like the poor just do not exist in the Conservatives' Canada. The Liberal Party sees things very differently, and we would not leave low income Canadians out in the cold to fend for themselves.
We believe government programs should be accessible to all Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians who often need the help most.
Last fall, the Liberals announced a real family care plan with a refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year that would help all low- and middle-income Canadians. We also announced a six-month family care EI benefit to help Canadians who take time off work to care for sick or aging relatives.
However, in this budget, the Conservatives deliberately excluded the poorest caregivers with a paltry $300 in a non-refundable tax credit that is not available to low-income Canadians. Under the Conservatives, a Canadian taxpayer earning $20,000, with a dependant, would not qualify for any help as a caregiver. It is outrageous, it is unfair and it is un-Canadian for the Conservatives to discriminate against low-income Canadians.
As Liberals, we have a fundamentally different view of Canada compared with the Conservatives.
The Conservatives divide Canadians into categories. They tailor their policies toward potential Conservative supporters and they ignore everyone else. If anyone does not support the Conservatives' agenda, he or she is not seen as part of their Canada.
Liberals are nation builders. We reject the Conservative politics of division. Instead, we aim to govern on behalf of and to defend the interests of all Canadians, and that includes low-income Canadians.
Much ink has been spilled on how this budget will affect seniors. The fact is this budget actually cuts federal support for seniors over the next five years. That is right. Transfers to seniors over the next five years are half a billion dollars less than they were in the last fall economic statement and almost $3 billion less than in budget 2010. That is even after we include the paltry increases to the GIS for seniors. The GIS increase works out to about $50.00 a month for seniors who qualify. That is less than a cup a coffee at Tim Hortons every day.
Also, the clawbacks to this measure are punitive and unjust. Under the Conservatives, a senior who earns just $170 per month in his or her pension is considered to be too rich and that this new $50.00 a month GIS supplement would be clawed back. And if they have a pension of $366 a month, they are too wealthy, according to the Conservatives, to receive even a penny of this GIS increase.
The GIS increase is simply Conservative crumbs, especially when we consider that Conservatives are spending 20 times more on tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. Shockingly, unbelievably, the Conservatives want to give 20 times more to the richest corporations in Canada than they want to give to Canada's poorest seniors.
It is very clear that seniors in poverty are not the only ones getting overlooked by the Conservatives in this budget.
Transfers for children's benefits also go down by $1 billion over the next five years under this budget, which means that over the next five years the Conservatives are actually budgeting less support for seniors and children living in poverty.
The budget has no plan for child care or affordable housing. It is completely silent on the most serious challenges facing our country such as, how we are going to pay for rising health care costs. Everybody knows that the demand for health care is rising. As Canadians in the baby boom generation start to retire, they are going to place a greater demand on government services and at the same time we know that the tax base is shrinking as fewer people are working to pay for these services.
Rapid changes in our society will lead to more and more people without jobs, and more and more jobs without people. We need to invest more in learning and in training.
There is no credible plan in the budget to address the reality of rising health care costs in Canada or the absolute essential need to invest significantly in training, retraining and lifelong learning. This is important because we are on the eve of the most important negotiations with the provinces on health care.
Where is the plan to deal with health care costs after the 10-year Liberal health care accord expires in 2014?
We were part of that cabinet back in 2004. At the time, the Martin Liberal government put $41 billion into health care, the largest single investment in health care in the history of Canada in any health care accord. That was at a time when the federal government was in surplus and many provinces were in surplus.
Today, we have a federal government that has racked up a record deficit. We have provinces struggling with deficits. We have health care costs rising and we know we have these negotiations coming up with a deadline for 2014. Yet, nowhere in this budget are these negotiations discussed. Nowhere in this budget is there money being set aside to plan for this important investment that would protect the public health care system in Canada. There is no mention of this negotiation. For the Conservatives, the public health care system in Canada is not really a priority.
The budget does not provide a credible plan to return Canada to balanced budgets. In fact, instead of getting us back to balanced budgets and putting aside money to invest in health care, the Conservatives are deliberately gutting Canada's capacity to invest in health care and education with reckless spending on corporate tax breaks, fighter jets and U.S. style mega prisons. Conservative spending is out of touch and it is out of control.
This budget spends 1,000 times more for fighter jets than for post-secondary students. This is a government that is spending 1,000 times more for prisons than on youth crime prevention. The Conservatives spent more on the G20 in a single day than this budget offers Canada's seniors for an entire year. The Conservatives spent three times as much on self-promoting advertising than this budget has for family care over the next 12 months.
It is clear that the Conservatives view this budget as only a marketing exercise. It is full of spin. It has a few small attractive gimmicks, baubles and trinkets, but it does nothing to address the main priorities of Canadians.
The other day the member for said that this budget reminded him of a salesman who once tried to sell him a car. The car had a knock in the engine, there was smoke coming out of the tailpipe, the transmission was slipping and it was leaking oil. My friend, the member for , pointed out these flaws to the salesman. The salesman said: “Yeah, but you gotta listen to the sound system”.
The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians from the waste, the rot and the corruption in their government by creating some noise. The Conservative budget certainly has a lot of noise. It also has a $43 billion black hole.
There is no mention in the budget of the Conservatives' plan to waste billions and billions of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars on schemes that have nothing to do with the priorities of Canadian families. There are no details on their plan to spend a staggering $30 billion on untendered fighter jets. To put that in perspective, that is more money than the government spends on health care in an entire year. It does not tell Canadians in this budget, but the Conservative government plans to send a bill for $1,000 to every man, woman and child in Canada to pay for the fighter jets.
This budget has no details on the Conservative plan to spend $13 billion on U.S. style prisons. That is just the price tag for one of its prison bills. Thank goodness we have the Parliamentary Budget Officer who continues to provide Parliament with some information on the costs of the Conservative agenda. We know that the government refuses to provide Parliament with the real costs.
The Conservative regime still refuses to provide Canadians with detailed information on the cost of 18 of its crime bills. The Conservatives want members of Parliament to vote on legislation without knowing how much it would cost Canadian taxpayers.
This is fundamentally anti-democratic. All members of Parliament, opposition and government members of Parliament, have the same fiduciary responsibility and constitutional obligation to know the cost of the legislation that we are asked to vote on. Canadians are wondering, why the Conservative secrecy?
That is why the Conservative government was found in contempt by a parliamentary committee earlier this week. It is a historic first in Canada. In fact, it is a first in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system for a government to be found in contempt of Parliament. It is not a good first. It is not something that any of us is proud of. In fact, we are embarrassed with the government and how it treats Parliament. At a time when the world needs a Canada that is helping build a more peaceful and stable democratic world, we are not setting a very good example when we have a government that is attacking the democratic institutions that keep us free here in Canada.
This is about more than just Conservatives' contempt for Parliament. It is about their contempt for the citizens who chose this Parliament. It is about their contempt for taxpayers who pay the bills.
The Conservatives continue to hide the real costs of their agenda. With all of the items that are not in this budget the question we must ask ourselves is, can we trust the government to tell us the truth? Can we trust the government to give us the real numbers?
The budget reminded me of the fall 2008 now infamous economic statement. Back then everyone knew that the Conservative government had spent Canada into a deficit even before the recession began. People recognized that the Conservatives had increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, in their first three economic statements. The Conservatives knew that too and that is why they wanted to hide that fact from Parliament and from Canadians, so the cooked the books and announced the government would sell over $10 billion worth of assets in order to get to a tiny little $100 million surplus. Ontarians will recognize this trick because it is the same trick that the same Conservatives played in Ontario when the same minister used the same trick of false asset sales to try to hide the fact that the Conservatives had put Ontario into deficit.
In reality, in the fall of 2008, there was no real plan to sell assets. In fact, we asked day after day for the list of assets that were to be sold. As a former minister of public works, I can say that there is at least a year between when one has to actually determine what one wants to sell and a process to actually sell it. The government said that it did not have a list, or rather refused to provide us with a list at that time. There was no list. The Conservatives had no information on assets to sell because it was a phony asset sales plan. A year later, the Conservatives quietly cancelled the plan before anything was sold. The Conservatives went on to give Canadians a record $56 billion deficit.
In yesterday's budget the Conservatives announced what they called a strategic and operating review. It is part of their attempt to pretend that they will cut spending and balance the budget, but once again, the budget does not provide any details whatsoever about these cuts or their restraint. No wonder neither the Parliamentary Budget Officer nor the International Monetary Fund believes the government's numbers. Both the PBO and the IMF have shown that the Conservatives' promise to balance the books simply is not credible.
The Conservatives have added nearly $100 billion to the debt since 2008. They have undone all the sacrifices that Canadians have made to pay down the debt. In fact under the Conservatives, the combined federal-provincial debt to GDP ratio has reached 82%. That is higher than the U.K., France, Germany and it is almost as bad as the Americans.
Let us remember, it was the previous Liberal government in the 1990s that took on the deficit and balanced the books for the first time since 1969. Under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, the Liberals delivered nine consecutive balanced budgets, but according to the PBO, the Conservatives will not balance the budget any time soon.
The likes to say that the government is on track. Let us be clear. The government is on track to add $200 billion to the federal debt by the year 2015-16. The Conservatives are mortgaging our children's future to pay for their ideological schemes, their bad priorities and their reckless spending. They are hiding the true costs of their agenda and they are asking MPs to vote on laws without telling us how much these laws will cost Canadian taxpayers.
In doing this, Conservatives are showing contempt not just for Parliament but for Canadian citizens and taxpayers. They are breaking the rules to hide the facts. They are doing this to cover up their wasteful spending and out of control and out of touch priorities.
As we see from the budget, Conservative spending is out of control and out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. What we see from this budget is more of a government that cannot be trusted to tell us the truth and respect Parliament. It is time to end the Conservative gravy train and to show some respect for taxpayers.
For this reason, I would like to move the following amendment, seconded by the member for . I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:
the House not approve in general the budgetary policy of the government because the government and its policies are out of touch with the economic needs and priorities of Canadian families.
Mr. Speaker, two days ago I had the opportunity to share my initial reactions to the budget. I said that there was nothing, nothing and nothing in the budget for Quebec. Quebec is nowhere to be seen, and I repeat that today.
Last year Quebec was left out. Only the oil companies, banks and the automotive sector benefited in the budget. This year, even though it was Quebec's turn, we are nowhere to be seen. The Conservative government could not care less about Quebec. It has dropped Quebec from its priority list and soon, the people of Quebec will drop the Conservatives.
The has marked a big x on Quebec, and Quebeckers will certainly not put an x on the ballot for him or any of his puppets. I can guarantee that.
We essentially asked for three things in the budget: fairness for Quebec, consideration for Quebec's economic needs and support for the people who need it. To finance all of that, we proposed measures that are simply fair: ending tax giveaways to those who do not need them and asking more from those who have more. It is simple. What did the government do? Nothing. The tough times will come after the election, and the little guy is the one who will continue to pay.
First, we called for fairness for Quebec. There is a series of issues between Quebec and Ottawa that have been dragging on and on, some of them for 20 years. Ontario harmonized its sales tax with the GST and received $4.3 billion in compensation. It was the same for British Columbia, which received $1.6 billion in compensation. The Maritimes received $1 billion in compensation. Quebec has been waiting 20 years for our due: $2.2 billion.
For the benefit of the Conservatives, I would like to do some basic calculations. Since Quebec pays a quarter of federal government expenses, we can easily say that Quebeckers paid a quarter of the three compensation amounts I just mentioned, for a total of $1.75 billion. We can also assume that Quebeckers will pay a quarter of the $2.2 billion that Ottawa owes Quebec, which is approximately $550 million. So Canada's share will not be $2.2 billion; it will be $1.65 billion.
What we must understand is that Quebeckers have already paid their share of compensation to the other provinces, which is $1.75 billion. Quebeckers have paid off their debt to the other provinces. It is time for the other provinces to also do their part. It is time for Quebec to receive its fair share.
The Government of Quebec feels that all of the important points of this issue have been settled. It even sent a draft agreement to Ottawa. The only thing missing is the 's signature at the bottom of the page. But he will not sign it. Since it does not appear in the budget—it is not even mentioned—we can assume that he has no intention of signing this agreement in the coming year. That and that alone means that we cannot support this budget, and the government has known that for a long time. It wanted an election and it will get one because it has written Quebec off.
There are other disputes that are still not settled. For example, the government changed the way in which natural resource revenues are calculated. This will cost Quebec $250 million.
Here is another example: the government is refusing to make protection payments, which would have allowed Quebec, and the other provinces, to avoid significant reductions in equalization payments. That might be fine for the other provinces, but it is not fine for Quebec. That is another $250 million to add on to the first $250 million, which is on top of the $2.2 billion. Still on the subject of equalization, the courts ruled in Quebec's favour and ordered Ottawa to pay $137 million in compensation for losses in the 1990s. And yet the government refuses. Despite the court orders, it has not paid.
The ice storm happened 13 years ago. Just because it happened that long ago does not mean that we should not get paid. Quebec has been owed $421 million for 13 years, and that money has been frozen. Manitoba was compensated for its floods years ago. It has been years and Quebec still has not been paid. And I have not even mentioned cuts to higher education transfers, which have yet to be cancelled. It is high time that Ottawa start paying its debts to Quebec. Yet, it is not doing so. In fact, it is refusing to sign agreements with its creditors. How can that be fixed? Should the Government of Canada be put in default? No, we will just pull the plug and that is that.
We are also asking that the government take Quebec's needs into account. Our economy does not depend on oil or automobiles. In order to prosper, our economy must do various things, such as produce goods. Our manufacturing industry needs to be modernized; it needs to increase production, innovate and invest. Our economy needs increased tax credits for research. Are these things included in the budget? No. Our economy needs an investment program for new product development. Is this included in the budget? No. Support is needed for new business start-ups, for SMEs, one of the main sources of job creation. Is this is included in the budget? No. There is nothing in this budget, nowhere.
Our leading industries must be able to count on support comparable to what their competitors are receiving. I am thinking here about the aerospace industry, which has suffered because of the lack of any true aerospace policy. Meanwhile, the government wants to make major military purchases without any guarantee of economic spinoffs for our aerospace industry. How much did the aerospace industry receive in the budget? Nothing. Not one cent. Just a vague promise that it might be considered one of these days. Perhaps the Conservatives can let us know when they return from outer space.
Another industry that has been cheated is Montreal's financial hub, which does not want to, must not and will not be moved to Toronto. If that were to happen, it would be the head offices and decision makers that would leave. This must not happen. Is there anything in the budget to reassure Montreal? No. To make matters worse, the government is bringing back its ill-conceived plan to create a Canadian securities commission. Nobody wants such a commission except Ottawa because it wants to keep Quebec out of the financial sector to its own benefit and, of course, Toronto because it wants to do Montreal out of its financial hub and head offices. Who is the ? A member of Parliament from the Toronto region of Ontario and the former finance minister for that province.
Quebec City, our nation's capital, needs infrastructure worthy of a national capital. We do not need a peewee arena or a bridge that is falling apart.
Once again, crumbs were thrown to the national capital. I acknowledge that the contribution to the National Optics Institute is a good thing, but Quebec City wanted more. Quebec City deserved much more. It especially wanted respect, not clowns dressed up like the former Quebec Nordiques mascot, Badaboum—no offence to Badaboum. The Conservatives have crossed Quebec City off their list.
Our regions also have special needs. The forestry sector is in crisis. Farm income is unstable. Fishers are struggling. Youth are leaving. Businesses that innovate have trouble attracting qualified employees to the regions. What is there for the sectors that sustain our regions? Crumbs. The forestry industry received $60 million, a 40% reduction from what was announced last year. I would like to point out that Ontario's automotive industry has about the same number of jobs; yet it received $10 billion. Thus, there is cause to be—I will say angry, rather than using unparliamentary language.
Our forestry companies need measures that will provide access to capital. Our forestry regions need a little help to diversify their economies; they were given nothing. The forestry regions are nowhere in this budget.
The environment, clean energy, electric cars—that is where the future lies. Where is this mentioned in the budget? Nowhere. Again, Ottawa has taken a step backwards. There is nothing to expedite the arrival of electric cars, nothing for second generation ethanol production. There is still no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would allow Quebec to enjoy its extraordinary advantages. What are the only specific measures for clean energy in the budget? Measures for pipelines. Quebec sees a green future, but this budget is mired in oil.
Since the government is out of touch with Quebec, we informed it about our economic needs and which sectors of activity are important to us. Bloc Québécois policies are not dictated by Toronto or Calgary. As usual, the government did not listen; it wrote off the Quebec economy.
Third, we asked that they look after people. Employment insurance has not been any kind of insurance for many years. The majority of those who lose their jobs cannot access it. We asked for major reforms so that employment insurance would again be accessible to those who need it. Tuesday's budget confirmed that this government, like the other one, is going to plunder $17 billion from the fund in the next few years. There is nothing for workers in this cynical budget.
We have been calling for an additional $110 a month for those who receive the guaranteed income supplement. Why $110? Simply because that amount would allow our most vulnerable seniors to reach the low income threshold. So, what is there for the poorest of the poor, those who do not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know that it exists or that they are entitled to it? Nothing. Where are they in this budget? Nowhere. This government is insensitive and heartless, and that is reflected, once again, in Tuesday's budget.
The is stonewalling Quebec. The Conservative leader falsely claims that the economy is his priority, but Quebec and its regions were completely written off in the Conservative budget.
Quebec has been denied what it is owed for sales tax harmonization, as well as for other disputed issues. The forestry industry never gets anything but crumbs and scraps. The government continues to steal from the employment insurance fund, leaving workers in the lurch. In light of this indifference, and considering the interests and values of Quebeckers, the Bloc Québécois has no choice but to vote against the Conservative government at the earliest opportunity.
In closing, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Québec:
That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “families” the following:
and because the budget does not meet the expectations of Quebeckers, in particular as regards the $2.2 billion Quebec is owed for having harmonized the GST and the QST 19 years ago.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This week the had a choice to make. He knew very clearly where the New Democrats stood.
Canadians know that it is not particularly natural for us to work with the Conservatives. It is hard to work with a government that consistently puts the interests of Bay Street, the banks and the multinational oil companies ahead of middle-class Canadians but, putting that aside, we were willing to try to make it work because a budget is an opportunity to get results right now for Canadians.
The Prime Minister could have introduced practical and affordable measures to help families make ends meet each month. He could have responded to the serious shortage of family doctors and nurses.
He could have strengthened retirement security for hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Instead, under a cloud of scandal, the showed that he is, unfortunately, incapable of working with others on behalf of Canadians. He has proven himself incapable of putting the needs of our families today ahead of well-connected Conservative insiders.
During the recession, Canadians were looking for leadership from Parliament. They wanted practical solutions to help overcome the challenges they were facing. They were looking for the kind of solutions that were put forward by the NDP. However, what they got was proof that Ottawa no longer works.
Instead, Canadians got was more proof that Ottawa is broken and more evidence that the , sadly, cannot be trusted.
I proposed a road map for strengthening the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan so that Canadians could retire securely and with dignity. These are the people who built our country and they have every right to live in security and with dignity.
I presented a practical proposal to use this budget as an opportunity to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty. One-quarter of a million senior Canadians now struggle just to get by. It is unacceptable and seniors are looking to Ottawa for help.
There are seniors like Cliff Stafford from Oshawa, who, after 50 years of hard work as a mechanic, has to rely on food banks to feed himself. That is wrong. He lost his wife nine years ago. He still has a mortgage to pay and he is grappling with an illness. He watches every penny he spends but the CPP cheque just does not stretch far enough. This budget will not help him at all.
I asked the government to train more doctors and nurses in order to help the millions of Canadians who do not have a family doctor. These millions of Canadians have no one to turn to when they get sick. Parents and seniors need to make a difficult decision—drive for hours to find a doctor or sit in an overcrowded waiting room. This budget does not help them.
We put forward a practical measure to deal with the affordability crisis that people face today, to ease the burden of already stretched family budgets. It was an opportunity to help families by removing the federal tax off home heating. Canada is a cold place. We have to heat our homes.
It would have been an opportunity to take that tax off that necessity of family life, a practical way that Parliament could have helped make life a little more affordable in these difficult times. For families struggling to pay for skyrocketing heating costs, the budget is not going to help them either.
The has had five years to fix what is wrong in Ottawa. He has had five years to deliver on a promise to make life more affordable. He has had five years to clean up the scandals in Ottawa, once and for all. He has five years to do something about health care, about which he has done nothing. Instead he has made things worse.
New Democrats know we can do better.
We can do better. Canadians deserve better. They deserve a trustworthy prime minister who will stand up for families.
I believe Canadians deserve a prime minister they can trust, a prime minister who will focus on the priorities of today's families, each and every day while we work in this place, a prime minister ready to roll up both sleeves and put partisanship aside and work with others to get the job done. That is Canadian leadership and that is what we need.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with some specifics, then move on to generalities.
My goal is to describe the two items in this budget that bother us the most, first, to identify which inadequacies in this budget make it absolutely impossible for us to support it and, second, to expose the government's real intention, which was to have its budget defeated and trigger an election. Then I will examine this in the broader context of this government's budget policies over the past five years and explain why, during the upcoming election, which the government wants, voters will be faced with two conflicting visions of the future. Ours is one of sustainable development.
Let us look at the two examples I mentioned. During my meeting with the and our party leader's meeting with the , we made it clear that one of our top priorities is taking care of seniors living in poverty. We believe it is absolutely unacceptable that in a G7 country, one of the richest in the world, here in Canada we still have hundreds of thousands of seniors living in poverty. This is not an abstract definition; this is a formal definition as set out in Canadian legislation. We have a poverty line, a low-income cut-off, below which the state recognizes that people are not making ends meet. Gas prices have skyrocketed this year, for instance, and people living in this situation are going to see a significant increase in the cost of heating fuel, and quite simply, they will no longer be able to get by. That is why there are more and more seniors having to turn off their heat, because they just cannot afford it. And it is minus 15 degrees Celsius again here today.
So, we put that on the table. It would have cost $790 million. The is trying to fool everyone by saying he made an effort to accommodate our request and put $300 million into the budget. That still leaves hundreds of thousands of seniors in poverty and it is shameful.
Compare that to the money allocated for the next tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. In fact, there have been a number of such cuts over the past few years, which at the end of the day add up to a grand total of $60 billion. This year alone, there was a new tax cut to the tune of $3 billion. Look at the banks. There are other sectors, but it is mostly the banks and the oil industry that are benefiting from these cuts.
The six largest chartered banks in Canada made a record $22 billion in profit last year. They handed out half those profits, or $11 billion, as bonuses for their executives. The government is allocating $300 million to poor seniors, leaving hundreds of thousands of them in poverty, but it is giving $3 billion in new tax cuts for these same banks and oil companies. For every dollar the government was able to find for poor seniors, it found $10 for new gifts, from the national tax base, for the banks and the oil companies. This is unacceptable. The Conservatives knew exactly what they were doing by allocating that amount: they were triggering an election.
Add the cost of the election to their proposed allocation and we would almost have enough money to help all seniors living below the poverty line. But that hardly matters. They wanted this election and they knew what they were doing.
The same argument holds true for the $2.2 billion in my second example, the object of the Bloc Québécois subamendment. One only needed to look at the premier of Quebec last night to understand that we were right when we said that the matter was settled. It was very obvious. They knew very well that, if they put that money in the budget, the Bloc would vote for the budget. It was the last thing they wanted. They would not have had their election. Taking advantage of the weakness of the official opposition and its leader, the , always the calculating strategist, said to himself that he would take the plunge while he was there.
And what about that $2.2 billion? I will tell you right away. It was very obvious from last night's interventions that this announcement will be made during the election campaign. I believe they have miscalculated, and that it could come back to haunt them. People are not stupid. They can see the sheer cynicism and they will not be bought with their own money. All the better if the matter is settled, because that money has been owed to Quebec for a long time. For two and a half years we have been asking questions in this House, and for two and a half years they have responded with empty rhetoric. It is becoming clear that the Conservatives were keeping this one for an election announcement.
With these two specific examples as our starting point, we can now look at all of the government's budget policies for an explanation as to why the Conservatives did in fact want an election they said they were trying to avoid. When I said that the tax reductions favour the wealthiest corporations, the Conservatives' response was often to say that the tax breaks applied to all companies. However, in reality, a manufacturing company that is no longer making ends meet and that is not making any profit is clearly not paying any taxes. So, a tax reduction would not be of any benefit whatsoever. Who was receiving all this money? The wealthiest corporations. Simply put, the Conservatives' policy was to subsidize the wealthiest corporations that did not need assistance, leaving the companies that needed help the most to die on the vine. They have no strategic vision. They completely destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built since the second world war, destroying the manufacturing sector with the high value of the loonie. This rise in the value of the dollar resulted from the fact that we were importing an artificially high quantity of American money because the Conservatives have never factored in the environmental costs of the oil sands.
No one says that we should not develop the oil sands. We merely say that we should not develop them in this manner. Right now, because of the Conservatives' choices, we are saddling future generations with the biggest environmental, economic and social debt in our history. Environmental, because the Conservatives are saying that we will take care of today and you can clean up our mess tomorrow. Behind the longest dams in the world, there are inland seas full of toxins that are seeping inexorably toward the water table and into other surfaces. This will have devastating effects on future generations—on human beings and their health, as well as on our ecosystems.
In the last two years, our economy has seen the largest deficits in our history—another debt that will be bequeathed to future generations. Our society is suffering from what economics textbooks refer to as the Dutch disease, that is, an influx of foreign currency to purchase a raw material that we do not even have the intelligence to process or add value to here. We are exporting tens of thousands of jobs. We are destroying the manufacturing sector. Since 2000, we have lost over 600,000 jobs. Since the Conservatives took power, we have lost nearly 400,000 well-paid jobs, jobs that enable workers to support their families and qualify for a pension. They are being replaced by part-time jobs, most of the time, especially in the service industry, which do not provide a sufficient income to support a family and do not offer any pensions. That is also a debt—a social debt, this time—that we are leaving to our future generations, who will be forced to find ways to take care of all these people who will reach retirement age and will not have the means to take care of themselves.
For all these reasons, based on both the current budget and this government's overall policy over the past five years, we believe that the time has come to contrast a tired vision that does not respect future generations with a social-democratic vision that is firmly focused on the future, that will respect our obligation to implement a real, equitable and sustainable development system, that will eliminate social inequalities and that will be the way of the future. This is what the NDP has been advocating since it was founded 50 years ago.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am proud to stand here today in support of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan and all of its positive measures for job creation, families, seniors and so much more. However, I am also very disappointed.
I am disappointed because, while our Conservative government presented a plan that was balanced, that listened to the real needs of Canadians and actually included items the opposition members claimed were important to them, they had other ideas. They did not want Parliament to work. They did not want to focus on the real priorities of Canadians. They did not want to work together to support the economy, no matter what they have said here today. They did not want to work together to support job growth for Canadians.
We found out what the opposition members really wanted two days ago when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois united yet again as a coalition. Only moments after the budget was released, they announced they would recklessly force Canada into an unnecessary election, Canada's fourth election in seven years. Only thinking about their own political self-interest, the coalition members selfishly made a clear choice just the other day, to place their own political ambitions ahead of Canada's economy and Canadians' financial security.
Let me be clear. Our Conservative government, like the vast majority of Canadians, does not want an election. We need to focus on the economy, especially the fragile state of the global recovery and uncertainty caused by recent world events. We need to focus on helping protect and create jobs. We need to focus on helping families and seniors. That is what Canadians want.
This is what we heard from Canadians during our extensive prebudget consultations. Notwithstanding what the coalition members have said, there is still time for them to stand up and put Canadians' interests ahead of their own political ambitions and opportunism. Today I am going to strongly encourage the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois members, who are all in a coalition, to do precisely that.
I encourage them to work together in Parliament with our Conservative government to implement the positive measures in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to support hard-working Canadians. Let us work together to provide strong initiatives to support job creation and continued economic growth. Let us work together to provide new supports for families and seniors from coast to coast to coast. Let us work together with our low tax plan for jobs and growth.
In my time remaining today, I would like to outline key elements of our plan that would support job creation and those that will help families, seniors and our communities. I would also like to outline what Canadians are saying about it. First, I would like to mention a few ways we are supporting job creation. We are providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring by this important sector.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business applauds this new credit and our plan, praising it by saying it “recognizes the major contributions of small business to job creation and economic growth...while finding important, low-cost ways to help small firms grow the economy”.
We are supporting the important manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in eligible machinery and equipment for two years. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters cheered this item as it would give:
--manufacturers the confidence to invest in their future by boosting purchases of productivity-enhancing technologies... We need these investments to compete with the rest of the world, drive innovation, improve productivity, and offer the high-paying jobs that will in turn sustain the public services and living standards that Canadians enjoy.
We are also legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities welcomed this commitment as “essential to reducing Canada´s infrastructure deficit and securing a high quality of life for Canadians”.
Second, I would like to outline a few measures that would better support families, seniors and communities. We are taking a major step to help Canada's low-income seniors by enhancing the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, for seniors who are most in need. This important measure would provide a new top-up benefit of up to $600 per year for single seniors and $840 per year for couples. This vital measure represents a major investment of more than $300 million per year and will improve the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.
Even the Canadian Labour Congress, not a traditional supporter of our government, commented on this measure. I would ask the NDP to listen to this quote very closely. These are the words of one of Canada's largest labour unions. It called our measure for seniors “a win for every senior living in poverty in Canada”.
Well I'd say to [the NDP leader] there's enough in this budget that we want to look at it seriously in the labour movement. We would think that that would be, if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer.
According to the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec, with this budget the government is taking a step in the right direction, especially by improving the guaranteed income supplement.
We are also helping attract more health care workers to under-served rural and remote communities by forgiving up to $40,000 of the federal component of Canada's student loans for new family physicians and up to $20,000 for nurse practitioners and nurses.
We have already heard applause from across Canada for this measure. Indeed, here is what Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said, “Helping to pay off loans for the federal portion for those loans, that's very positive. Doctors in rural Saskatchewan is a huge issue...Help from the feds is a welcome thing”.
We also introduced a new $2,000 family caregiver tax credit that would provide tax relief to caregivers of infirm, dependent relatives, including, for the very first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children. The Canadian Caregiver Coalition gave high praise for this measure, remarking:
On behalf of the millions of family caregivers across the country, the Canadian Caregiver Coalition applauds the Federal Budget. The measures announced in the budget are an important acknowledgement of the vital role of family caregivers.
We are also introducing a $3,000 volunteer firefighters tax credit amount for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service in their communities. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs gave high marks to the tax credit, declaring it:
--a crucial measure to ensure the retention and recruitment of volunteer firefighters, which will help keep Canadian communities safe.
We are also extending the eco-energy retrofit-homes program that would help families make their homes energy efficient and reduce the burden of high energy costs. The Canadian Home Builders' Association has applauded this decision, stating the plan:
--did the right thing to maintain momentum among homeowners for improving the energy performance of their homes. This initiative...reduces energy bills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
These are only a few of the many measures that would support job creation, help families, help seniors, and help our communities. These are measures Liberal, Bloc and NDP MPs would be turning their backs on if they vote against the budget in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
The opposition coalition faces a choice between opportunism or working together to secure our recovery and strengthen the financial security of Canadians.
We invite the opposition to reject a needless and unnecessary election and, instead, support Canadians and Canada's economy with our low tax plan for jobs and growth.
I implore all of the members of the other three parties to take this into consideration. This is no time for an election. This is a time to look at our fiscal outlook, to look at the needs of Canadians who have spoken loudly through consultations for months and months to prepare this budget. This is no time for an election.
I implore all members of this House to seriously consider the ramifications of the $300 million to $400 million election at a time when Canada is recovering. This is a good budget. In fact, Canadians have applauded it.
I would ask all members from the opposition parties to, again, put aside their aspirations to govern as a coalition and please take Canadians' interests to heart and vote in favour of this very good budget for Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for sharing her time. She is new to the position of and is doing an excellent job in leading our committee. I want to thank her for her efforts.
Today, I have 10 minutes to talk about everything that is in our low tax plan, this budget that the has brought forward. I want to focus on a number of things that affect Burlington in particular. If I wanted to go through all the good things for Canadians that are in this budget, it would take me about two hours instead of 10 minutes.
I am going to focus on things that are for Burlington. I hope my NDP friends listen because this is some of the stuff that they actually asked for and are now going to an election. I think they hoodwinked the Liberal Party into thinking that the NDP was going to support the budget, so they could say anything they wanted. But all of a sudden, no, they are not. Now the Liberals are caught with egg on their face, now that we are facing an election.
Let us get back to what is important to Burlington in the budget. First and foremost, the majority of the calls, emails and visits to my office are from seniors, by far the greatest number are from seniors about the issues facing seniors in my riding of Burlington.
I have advocated for a number of things for seniors over the years with the and with other departments. I am very happy to see what we are doing for the poorest seniors in this country. In the past we have looked at seniors issues, and with pension splitting we have been able to resolve some issues. It is a big benefit to the seniors of Burlington.
In this budget we are enhancing the money that is going into GIS. GIS, for those who do not know, is the guaranteed income supplement. That supplement is for those who have the lowest income levels in Canada. This change that we are making today will affect 680,000 seniors across this country, including many seniors in my riding. It is $600 annually for an individual or $840 for a couple, which will make a significant difference in the income levels for those seniors.
I did a study when I first got into office, five years ago, on what a senior's income actually is. At that time it was just over $18,000 a year for Burlington seniors. It has gone up. Our party has done things for seniors, in terms of deductions and so on. We have been able to address this.
This is a significant change that we are making, that is targeted—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, we have made some significant improvements in that area.
Another area in the budget that I want to highlight, which has not been well-talked about but will be over the next 36 to 45 days, or however long the election campaign will be, is the investment of $10 million in the new horizons program. I will give an example of what the new horizons program has done for Burlington.
We have a seniors centre in Burlington that provides a breakfast program to shut-in seniors once a month. Through the new horizons program, we were able to put a new kitchen in that seniors centre. This program provides support for groups that are doing good work for seniors in our communities every day. I am honoured that the saw that the new horizons program does deliver and that we will continue to deliver by adding $10 million over a two-year period to this program.
I advocated for a couple of things in the budget for families. They are a little different than what I was asking for but they do attack the problems that I have been talking about.
My wife works for Easter Seals, which is a charity in Ontario that raises money for disabled children. I actually used to work there myself a few decades ago. This budget would eliminate the $10,000 cap on the medical expense tax credit. If one is disabled, there is no limit on the amount one can spend and receive for a tax credit. However, if one is caring for someone else, in this case a child, there is a $10,000 limit on what one can spend each year and receive as a tax credit. This budget would eliminate that $10,000 cap.
From my own experience, as well as my wife's experience, the costs and difficulties that parents face every day while caring for a disabled child is a tremendous burden to begin with, but one that the parents who I know take on willingly. They are willing to spend what they can to ensure their disabled children are comfortable, productive and enjoy life as much as possible. However, that costs money. We are removing that cap on the capital expense through the medical expense tax credit that is in existence now. I am proud of that move.
I also advocated introducing a new caregiver tax credit. As we all know, our population is aging. I have two 93-year-old grandmothers still with us and I have known four great-grandparents. In the case of both grandmothers, one lives with my parents and the other lives with my uncle and aunt, so they are caregivers to those individuals. There are caregivers in every single community. What we are doing for those 500,000 caregivers is providing a tax credit to recognize the work they are doing to look after either their spouses, grandparents, parents, children or their common-law spouses. We are recognizing the value and the efforts those people put forward to ensure a good quality of life for those individuals who need help and are given care at home.
The other area I want to mention, which may not have been discussed in great detail yet, is that we are offering a forgiveness of loans to those young doctors and nurses who are graduating from medical school if they choose to practice in rural or remote areas.
Some might ask why that would be important to someone from Burlington, which is an urban area. I actually grew up in a small town in Ontario of approximately 5,000 people. I can say that over the last number of years members of my family have struggled to find a doctor after their doctor retired. It has been very difficult for that community to attract doctors and nurses to come and practice there. This money will give a new doctor or nurse the ability to start a practice in these communities, such as the one in which my parents and family live, without the burden of that debt that he or she may be facing.
I have had meetings with medical students who are looking at debts of a hundred thousand dollars, which is a significant amount. We want to encourage young people in the medical field to go to those rural areas and provide the services that we receive in the urban areas.
The previous speaker mentioned the eco-energy retrofit program. I am proud that we are going back to ensuring that individuals are able to look at their energy efficiency needs for their own home. We will support them in reducing their costs and their consumption of energy, which is very important in this province and around the country.
I heard that we were not supporting research and development. I want to read a quote that I do not think too many folks have read. It is from McMaster University, which has a campus in my riding. The president of McMaster University, Patrick Deane, said:
The Federal Budget announced on Tuesday included new funding to support a variety of important university initiatives. “The government has again recognized the critical role universities play in building Canada's future through its budget commitments to university research and support for students”.
We are putting money into innovation, students and research like no other government ever has in this country. I am very proud to be a Conservative, I am proud to serve in this government and I will be proud to serve in our future government after we go to this unnecessary election.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
I will give three reasons why the Conservative budget so richly deserves to die and why Canadians deserve much better.
The first reason is the budget makes bad choices. Because they go so far as to commit $6 billion to corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary Canadian families that are struggling to make ends meet. Canadians deserve better than that.
Second, there is no fiscal accountability, as I will explain in a minute. When the Liberals made cuts, we itemized every line item in the budget that would be cut. The Conservatives give no information and therefore have no credibility on the savings that they propose in the budget. Once again, Canadians deserve better than that in terms of fiscal accountability.
Third, the government seeks to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. Canadians are a caring, generous people. They will not go for this. Again, Canadians deserve better.
On my first point, that the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary struggling families, given their commitment on corporate tax cuts, let me give two examples.
The first of these is to compare the Liberal home care program and the Conservative home care program. There are three reasons why theirs is just a pale shadow, a totally inadequate shadow of our plan.
First, the maximum amount of money that the caregiver will receive is $300 under the Conservative program. It is $1,350 under our program.
However, it is worse than that. Our credit, the $1,350, is refundable, which means if people are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get the money. If they are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get zero under the Conservative program, even though they have offered only a paltry $300.
Finally, our program, in addition to those grants, offers an additional six months employment insurance relief for caregivers.
The Conservative plan is pathetic because the government is saddled with this $6 billion in corporate tax cuts so there is no more money in the bank to provide meaningful help to families.
The second example is with respect to post-secondary education. The Conservatives are providing $34 million in additional help for students. That might sound like a significant amount of money, but it is about $1 per Canadian. It is about $34 per student. Nowadays students desperately need government support. The unemployment rate for young people is way up, so it is harder for them to get jobs. Often their families are hard-pressed and less able to support the education of their children.
The Conservatives are offering a meaningless, paltry $34 per student. Our Liberal program has not yet been announced, but our leader is passionate about support for learning and for post-secondary education. Unlike the Conservatives' program, our program will be meaningful, more in the order of magnitude, greater than their program. That is because we think very strongly that post-secondary education is crucial, not only to provide equality of opportunity but also to promote a strong economy and higher productivity through well-educated Canadians.
Through those two examples, and I could go on but I have limited time, I am making the point that the Conservatives put up window dressing as if they are supporting Canadian families, but the amounts of money are so small that they are virtually meaningless. Canadians will see, once the election campaign gets under way, that Liberal support for Canadian families is real. Conservative support is paltry to non-existent.
That is one of the reasons why I say Canadians deserve better.
This government makes bad choices. This government does not have any money to seriously support families because it insists on giving tax breaks to large corporations. Canadians deserve better. Canadians will see, over the course of the election campaign, that they will receive more from the Liberal platform.
The second point is fiscal accountability.
When we were in government in 2005, we saved $11 billion over five years. In the 2005 budget, line by line, and that information still exists, it said which programs would be cut, by which amounts, over how many years.
The Conservatives similarly claim that they will find savings of $11 billion over seven years, but they tell us nothing about where that money will come from.
I can give one example. On page 203 of the budget, we have alleged savings of something on the order of $500 million for one department, Human Resources and Skills Development. What are the sources of the savings? Let me read it:
Improve alignment of program funding with actual needs
Find efficiencies through improved program management and use of technology
Improve use of internal resources and administrative efficiency
Align program activities with core mandate
Refocus programming to benefit all Canadians
That is all the Conservatives tell us. It is gobbledygook. Those are weasel words. They mean nothing at all. There is no accountability, no transparency and therefore no credibility in any of these projected Conservative savings.
I come now to my final point, and that is the question of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.
As I said at the outset, Canadians are generous. Yes, they want to balance the budget, but they do not want to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society.
My point is the Conservatives are balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable, both internationally and at home.
Internationally, last year, fully one-quarter of the savings were through freezing foreign aid, through freezing the CIDA budget. Therefore, one-quarter of the money to reduce the deficit was on the backs of the poorest people in the world. That was in sharp contrast to Britain, which favoured foreign aid. Even though everywhere else was getting draconian cuts, foreign aid was spared the cuts because of British commitment to poor countries. Canada is the opposite. Last year, the Conservative government got a quarter of the savings on the backs of the poorest in the world, and this from a starting point where Canada's foreign aid relative to GDP is embarrassingly low.
Not only that, but the committed to me personally that he would have something for microcredit in his budget. We had a unanimous resolution to that effect. He agreed that microcredit was important for the poorest on the plant. There was zero in the budget for it.
It is not as if this balancing the books at the expense of the poor is only international. It is also here at home.
Consider the non-refundable tax credits for firefighters. A poor firefighter gets nothing. A well-off firefighter gets something, not much but something. A poor caregiver with income not high enough to pay taxes gets nothing to look after an aging parent. A richer caregiver, even though it is not very much, at least gets something.
Again, it is at the expense of the poorest and the most vulnerable. The fact is if a person is a poor firefighter or a poor caregiver, he or she gets nothing.
Finally, let us consider housing. Who is more vulnerable than aboriginals living on reserves in poor housing and other Canadians in poor housing?
The Conservatives singled out housing to receive no extension, whereas every other infrastructure program did. Hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared from the budget in support for affordable housing on reserve and repairs to social housing. There are no Canadians more vulnerable than those people.
As examples, poor firefighters, poor caregivers, poor people living in substandard housing are bearing the brunt of the Conservatives' efforts to balance the books.
Canadians are a generous people. We want to balance the books, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country and abroad.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a story that I have been thinking about a lot this week concerning the introduction of this very disappointing federal budget.
A number of years ago, after I sold my company and went to study abroad, I met a man from Namibia who asked me, “Where is my Canada?” I was very perplexed and asked him what he meant by the question. He said, “We used to look up to Canada more than any other country in the world. It used to be a model of good governance, economic success and global engagement”, and then he repeated his question, “Where is my Canada?” He said that Canada had lost its way and he hoped that we would find it again.
I reflected on that this week because I really do believe Canadians have been wondering where their Canada is, where the compassionate, progressive and fiscally responsible Canada is, the one we know and love. Where is my Canada?
We are speaking about the budget this morning and what we should be doing in our country and what our direction and vision should be for next year and the years ahead. I again reflect upon what my friend asked, “Where is my Canada?”
The government's limitless spending has generated the biggest deficit in the history of Canada. Under the Conservatives, the size of government has increased 40% in four years and there has been a huge growth in waste. Let me talk about some of the waste because I have been doing a lot of work on that in my responsibilities on Treasury Board.
The Conservatives spent more in advertising in the last year than all the beer companies combined. They have spent 9.35% more per year on what are called professional and special services than ever before. One of the most egregious examples is the 's Office, which is spending $9.9 million more. It is an increase of 30%. That shows the kind of leadership in this country. There is 16% more being spent on cabinet, $9 million more of borrowed money, all wasted dollars.
So many people in our country need assistance in finding jobs to help their families who are struggling, and this is the best budget the Conservatives could come up with?
More irresponsible than the waste is the fact that the government still does not even have a plan to get us out of the record deficit of $56 billion last year. The Conservatives continue to tell Canadians they will retire the deficit in five years. However, the Liberals know differently. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has forecast an $11 billion deficit for 2015-16. We know how the government feels about the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but how does it feel about the International Monetary Fund, which also says that the government will continue to be in deficit in five years?
How can a government continue to defy two third-party financial analysts that say we will not be in surplus but in deficit. How can Conservatives turn their heads and say, “No, Canadians, we will be in surplus, not to worry”, especially when they did not give any assumptions in the budget for the cost of their megaprisons and the untendered fighter jets, or costs and analysis of what the corporate tax cuts will do.
While this record spending and waste are going on, our national debt continues to accumulate under the government. Under the Liberal government the national debt declined from 1997 to 2007, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. However, in just three years under the Conservatives, all the hard work and sacrifices that Canadians made in the past decade have been wiped out. Already 13.5% of every taxpayer dollar is going to pay for interest, and it is going to get worse because we are continuing to add to the debt.
Clearly, the priorities of the Conservative government are not the priorities of Canadians. I have spent a lot of time speaking and engaging with constituents in my riding in numerous round tables and town halls and other meetings. The message I hear is that families need help: families need access to child care, families need better health care, and seniors need support to live with the dignity they deserve.
In my riding recently I heard of a 93 year old woman about to be evicted from her apartment, yet the Conservatives have not put in any money for affordable housing in the budget. How can that be?
The Conservative budget offers nothing for child care, nothing more for health care and nothing for affordable housing. For the very poorest seniors, the Conservatives will increase the GIS top up by only $1.64 a day. That would not get a person a coffee in this country. Compare that with the waste I spoke of, the costs that will be associated with these mega-style prisons and the costs associated with corporate tax cuts.
I see a lot of poor choices in the budget. I see $30 billion that we know of in untendered fighter jets. That is a thousand times more than the Conservatives are spending on post-secondary education. There are billions being spent on American-style megaprisons. That is a thousand times more than they are spending on youth crime prevention. There is $6 billion in large corporate tax cuts, yet there are $1.3 billion in cuts to CMHC and affordable housing. They are spending three times more on self-promotional advertising than on their supposed family care plan. It is simply atrocious. Canadians wonder where this will end. We hope we will be able to help that along soon.
There are a lot of issues, even in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador concerning this budget, and I will name three. There are cuts, for example, to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, $3.9 million over three years. ACOA is incredibly important to Atlantic Canada. It is important for our economic generation. It is important for community development. We need to restore the funding to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The budget cuts funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by an astounding $84.8 million over three years. We need more money for science. We cannot cut $84.8 million and expect to have the science required in this country to ensure that we have established stocks.
There is $6.6 million over three years being cut from Marine Atlantic. Marine Atlantic is a lifeline for my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is our national highway. It is what links the island of Newfoundland with the rest of the country. It is just as important for goods and services all across the country as it is for goods and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. We must have a solid link between the island and the rest of the country. Yet there are cuts to Marine Atlantic.
Time is short and I wish I could go on and on. The Conservatives are spending billions upon billions on jails, on jets, on corporate tax cuts, but not on the priorities of Canadians. They waste money on advertising and ministerial offices. I told hon. members earlier about the increases. It is a great paradox, really, when we look at it. They spend more on their own, spend more on self-promotion and they take from Canadians.
It is not just about the waste. It is not just about the deficit. It is not just about the debt. It is not just about the wrong priorities. It is about the judgment of the government, the judgment of these Conservatives when they look at priorities for our country.
I started by saying, “Where is my Canada?” I think every Canadian should ask the same question.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on budget 2011. I will be splitting my time with the .
I want to encourage all parliamentarians to support this excellent budget. I want to encourage all Canadians, in fact, to read this budget in detail because it includes a number of measures that are certainly worthy of support.
In general, this budget supports job creation by helping businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.
It keeps taxes low, invests in projects of national importance and it maintains Canada's brand as one of the best places to invest in the world. It supports families and communities so that all Canadians can enjoy a high standard of living and our communities can stay vibrant and safe.
It invests in innovation, education and training to promote research and leading-edge technologies, and to provide Canadians with the opportunity and incentives to acquire the skills needed for jobs in today's labour market.
It also preserves our fiscal advantage in order to be able to invest in the priorities of Canadians, to keep Canada's economy growing strongly and to maintain our low interest rates.
Particularly, I want to address the benefits in this budget for my province, the province of Alberta.
Under our Conservative government in 2011-12, Alberta will see record federal transfers totalling nearly $3.4 billion; an increase of $1.1 billion from the former Liberal government.
Alberta will see growing transfer support for health care, which is a 29% jump from the Liberal government, or $2.1 billion; and for social services, which is a jump of nearly $1.3 billion, or 114% over the former government.
This increased support will help hospitals, doctors, nurses, schools, teachers and other critical services in my province.
A permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund would be legislated, which was the number one priority outlined to me by the mayors of Edmonton, Leduc and Devon in terms of making this a predictable, stable, long-term funding for municipalities that they can count on into the future.
A one-time credit of $1,000 against the small employer's increase in 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010, which was called for by small businesses from across Canada and by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I want to thank them for putting that idea forward.
The budget also provides assistance to the manufacturing and processing sector. I want to compliment the work of people like Larry Kaumeyer from Almita Piling Inc. and Lori Schmidt who works with Productivity Alberta, another investment that we made through western diversification in terms of making these manufacturers and processors even more efficient.
I want to compliment the on extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing, which was something that was unanimously supported in the 2007 industry committee report.
There is also help for farmers, especially those in rural areas, in terms of a $50 million initiative for agricultural innovation.
There is an additional support of $10 million for work sharing. This was raised by companies like Argus Manufacturing and Nisku. It would allow these companies to retain employees by having the government cover part of the cost of the employee. For those industries that have periods of boom and bust, it would allow them to retain employees during those tough times so that they would be there when the market and services pick up.
I would like to recognize the work done by both the current and former ministers in terms of the Red Tape Reduction Commission and also extending the BizPaL service across the country.
As well, I would like to recognize the extension of the energy retrofit housing program.
In my riding in the area of Devon where we have the research centre that deals with a lot of the tailings technology for the oil sands, Sustainable Development Technology Canada is very active in terms of supporting companies like Titanium with some very new technologies. This budget provides $40 million over two years in SDTC and that is why they have come out in support of this budget very strongly.
I want to talk about innovation and investments in R and D. This budget provides $80 million in new funding over three years for the industrial research assistance program, IRAP. Small- and medium-size businesses across this country would all point to IRAP as an effective program that works and our government has funded this to the tune of $80 million over three years.
There is an additional $37 million per year to support three federal research granting councils, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, which had asked for increased funding. We are prioritizing during times when we have to reach a balanced budget by 2015-16.
We are investing in key areas like innovation and research at universities and colleges, which is why the universities and the colleges have come out and strongly supported this budget.
Just before Christmas, this Parliament adopted a motion I introduced with respect to Alzheimer's. I am very proud to say that this budget allocates $100 million to help establish a Canada brain research fund. It will support the very best Canadian neuroscience and accelerate discoveries to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.
The motion was adopted unanimously by this House of Commons. Members of Parliament from the four parties spoke in favour of the motion and it is now in the federal budget. The point that the is making in his statement this week to the other parties and to Canadians is that a lot of the initiatives in the budget were in fact ideas that were presented by all four parties and by Canadians from all walks of life. The motion made its way into the budget and this is why the budget does deserve support.
There is some other funding in terms of investment and research and development. Over $50 million over five years is provided to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.
There is an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its work. This was certainly called for by all four parties as well.
Another $50 million over five years is provided to the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, which is doing outstanding work in that region.
Another $60 million over three years is provided to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.
I do want to address the issue of seniors because many seniors in my riding have come forward, especially in the province of Alberta where the inflation rate has been higher than the national average. Obviously, having an economy that typically grows above a national average overall is a good thing, but it does place some constraints certainly on seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, in terms of dealing with rising costs. The budget enhances the guaranteed income supplement for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and their GIS payments. It puts an additional $300 million into this program, which is $600 for single seniors and $840 for a couple. This investment will help 680,000 seniors across this country.
As the House knows, this was asked for by other parties. It was certainly supported strongly by members of the Conservative caucus. This is an initiative worthy of support and I ask all parties to therefore support it.
With respect to the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees, we in fact are changing the federal rules with respect to this and the targeted initiative for older workers, which was in fact another request made by opposition parties.
I want to review some of the initiatives that this government has already taken with respect to seniors.
Since 2006, our government has increased the age amount, first by $1,000 in 2006, and then by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting. We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSP plans to 71 from 69 years of age, something that was done by the former government. It had put it down to 69 from 71. We have reversed that policy change. This means that in 2011, a single senior can earn at least $19,000 and a senior couple at least $38,000, before having to pay any federal income tax.
In the time remaining in my speech, I would like to quote from a number of organizations which have come out in strong support of this budget. Chambers of commerce from across the country have applauded it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauds a low-tax budget.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network have been very active in the corporate income tax debate over the last few months and our message has been heard:
--Canada’s low tax plan has created a healthy economic environment for business investment and we applaud the government for staying the course.
It is not only endorsed by those organizations representing all businesses. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, also came out and endorsed this budget as well. It endorsed the EI hiring tax credit:
CFIB is extremely pleased to see its top budget priority- an EI Hiring Credit for Small Business--announced in the 2011 budget. As this budget forecasts rising EI premiums in each of the next three years, this credit will be a major help to small firms in growing their workforce.
In terms of red tape, the CFIB as well commends this government for its action taken in terms of improving taxpayer fairness under the Canada Revenue Agency, which I know my colleague will follow up on in his speech later this afternoon.
In terms of retirement income, the CFIB strongly endorses the government's action with respect to the ongoing work to introduce pooled registered pension plans to really help those Canadians who do not have a public pension plan or do not have a private pension plan.
I see that my time is up--
Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to be here today talking about the budget. I think it is incredibly important that we have a full discussion on the important issues that are facing us today and that we also take a look at the solutions that we have presented to the people in order to make it through the next phase of the recovery from the recession.
At the very core of it, I am very proud to represent the constituency of . I am the mother of two boys. They are nine and six years old. My worries, when I am home in the riding, are with regard to the economy. I am concerned about jobs for my family, for my friends, and for my neighbours. I am concerned about the rising costs in my household. I am concerned about whether or not my friends and family, and myself can make ends meet. I am also concerned that my kids are safe and healthy. So when I, in this House, take a look at the budget, first and foremost, that is how I look at it. I look at it as what we call that ordinary, typical family, that person who is worrying about those kinds of things that I just talked about.
What do I see in this budget? I see support for job creation. I see support for families. I see that support for communities. I see investment in innovation, education and training, those kinds of things that are going to help my kids to do better in the future, and my community to do better. I also see what I very much like, which is a plan to ensure that we are taking care of the expenses in government, that we are looking after taxpayers' dollars. All of these things will allow me to manage my day-to-day life.
The child arts tax credit would be incredibly beneficial for a lot of my residents in . Indeed, we have already proven that we care about families, with $3,000 for the average family being saved already from the measures that we have put in place. I am very proud of these things. That is why I know that this proposed budget would make a difference for residents in Halton because I know it would make a difference in my life.
It is important to understand that this budget was built from the ground up, that it was a process that was thoughtful, and we had gone through very specific steps.
As a local member of Parliament, I consulted with municipal councillors, with businesses, with seniors, and with local families. However, as the , my job is to ensure, as well, that the workplace is the most productive, healthy, innovative, and positive place that we can have people working in because it is there where the economy grows. It is there where we do the great things we need to do in order to ensure that our country continues to prosper.
I was lucky enough to go to consultations in Sydney, Nova Scotia, the place where I was brought up. I was in Thunder Bay. I was in Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver and Iqaluit. I made sure in every single case that organized labour had input. I am the daughter of a Cape Breton labour organizer and very proud of it. I respect and I want to hear that voice.
We also had experts in the fields of occupational health and safety as well as labour relations. We listened, we responded, and we heard.
So, what have we done from the labour perspective?
First and foremost, a strike or a work stoppage on the economy could be absolutely devastating. If we were to have a rail strike in this country, we would see a cost to the economy of $125 million a week. Not only that, it is the harm to the third parties, those innocent parties who are not part of the collective bargaining process, who have to live with what is happening at the table, who will feel the pain associated with the work stoppage.
Our role in Labour Canada is to ensure that the parties come to an agreement. That is why we are providing money for preventative mediation and conciliation services to ensure that work stoppages do not happen in Canada. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Never more has this been more appropriate in this case.
In consultations, we listened and we heard from employees about the importance and the dignity of continuing to work past the age of 65. People want to work past 65. There is no question about it. Indeed, on my town hall teleconference on Tuesday night with members of my community, I was told that by separate residents, that they have retired, they want to use their skills, and they want to be productive. In fact, 65 is just an artificial number in any event, that came inherited to us from the past and is truly meaningless.
However, we listened to employers as well. The importance of listening to employers is that in some cases there truly are some bona fide occupational requirements that are needed in order to ensure that there is a healthy and safe workplace at play.
Finally, in 2008, we introduced the wage earner protection program. It gave certainty to people in the event of a bankruptcy, certainty in two ways: first, they would be paid out in a timely fashion as the government steps into their shoes and assumes their claim in a bankruptcy action; and second, they knew that they would get some form of payment for lost wages, severance and termination.
Before that, they were assured of nothing but a long, protracted legal settlement that they would have to go through and pay for out of their own pocket in order to reclaim their wages. Our government stepped into their shoes. Our government recognized the importance of it. It is a lean, efficient, effective program that delivers rock solid results when workers and families are at their most vulnerable.
I have been thanked by organized labour many times in consultations for this program, but I did hear, as I was in Thunder Bay speaking with two of our candidates, Richard Harvey and Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann, about a situation for workers at the former Atikokan Forest Products where, because of the restructuring effects, they were unable to claim the wage earner protection program. We took those complaints back, and I heard them from organized labour as well, and we introduced in this budget the fix.
The member for has been, in his local media yesterday, discussing this issue too and offering to help his constituents. His complaints regarding the situation and his commiserations with the people are nothing but crocodile tears because he has an opportunity to make a difference in these people's lives. He can do it now, today. Instead, his response is to talk about what will happen after the election. It is not enough. The solution is there. It is too little, too late.
In the past 14 months I have absolutely treasured the ability to be the , the role I have taken on. I have met good people and I have seen the great work they do, both domestically and internationally on the organized labour scene. I sincerely want to thank the for the opportunity I have had in these past few months.
We all recognize, as I have said before, that the workplace drives the economy. Organized labour recognizes that too. They understand the importance of working with dignity. They have imparted that importance on to me. I take the matter very seriously and I understand very sincerely that these are the issues that are important to them.
As a government, we have listened to organized labour. As a government, we are the ones who have taken their concerns and translated them into effective measures that we are proposing in the budget. That is exactly why Ken Georgetti of the Canada Labour Congress talked about how important it was that we had put in place the provisions for seniors and that we had put in place the provisions for all the matters respecting EI and work sharing. He is pleased with the announcements in the budget about extending work sharing programs, about EI pilot projects, support for laid off older workers, and improving wage protection for laid off workers. That is a great laundry list of items on which we have delivered.
In terms of seniors, he made it very clear that this as well is a budget that is a win for seniors. We have taken care of that matter too. We respected and we listened to the point of view of organized labour, and I am very proud that we were able to do that in this budget.
It is quite unfortunate, however, that there are different opinions in the House with respect to whether or not the point of view of organized labour should be respected in terms of the budget.
In conclusion, labour relations is a very fulfilling field. Getting to a deal at the negotiation table is incredibly satisfying when we know we have done the best we can, we have gone through the process, that we are able to get a deal that is good for our company and good for the people we represent.
Ken Georgetti from the Canada Labour Congress has over 30 years in senior roles at the table. I have great respect for his negotiating skills, and I have greater respect for his innate sense of when to close a deal. He knows how to do a deal. He knows when negotiations are at an end, and that is why, when he said the following, representing 3.2 million brothers and sisters of the organized labour movement, it meant something. He said:
I'd say to [the NDP leader] there's enough in this budget that we want to look at it seriously in the labour movement. We would think that...if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer.
Plain and simple.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Not surprisingly, I am speaking today to express my disappointment with the current government's budget, which ignores Quebec requests.
When we released our budget expectations in January, we made it clear that certain measures were crucial if the government wanted our support.
For example, one essential condition for our support was that Quebec be given $2.2 billion for tax harmonization. Unfortunately, unlike Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, which was a pioneer in harmonizing taxes—it did so 19 years ago—has been shortchanged. And that was a Conservative decision. The Bloc will propose an amendment to the Conservative budget in order to put an end to this chronic injustice.
When it comes to social issues, the Conservatives have shown that they do not care about the less fortunate. Their budget does nothing to address the well-demonstrated need for real employment insurance reform to reflect the reality faced by workers.
Instead of offering long-term solutions, the Conservative government would rather continue plundering the employment insurance fund, to the tune of $17 billion over five years, and will only commit to pilot projects. In that regard, this government is simply repeating what has always been done in the past. In the end, the employment insurance fund is the government's cash cow, to the detriment of workers.
In particular, Quebec and its regions also needed a real program to assist older workers who have lost their jobs, in order to support them until their retirement. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the Conservatives' rhetoric about the regions and what they are actually doing as a government.
Furthermore, the Quebec manufacturing sector cannot count on any substantial federal policies to help it develop. We submitted some concrete proposals, however, such as funding for research and development for all innovative companies. For example, instead of presenting a real policy for the aerospace industry, which just happens to be concentrated in Quebec, the budget proposes simply reviewing policies.
The Conservatives also continue to favour the wealthy. In order to finance our requests, the Bloc Québécois had submitted a plan that would have allowed Ottawa to increase revenues by $16 billion without dipping into the pockets of middle-class workers.
In particular, we proposed a surtax on the richest taxpayers, who could easily give a little more, the elimination of tax havens, which are liberally allowed in Canada and are costing Canadians billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, and the end of gifts to oil companies, which always benefit from tax cuts. That plan provided more than enough to pay the money owed to Quebec and to meet its most pressing needs.
In addition, the government is maintaining its centralizing agenda, which will have an impact on Quebec's economy. It must abandon its plan to create a single securities commission, a measure that goes against the interests of Quebec and infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions. I might add that it also flies in the face of a unanimous vote in the Quebec National Assembly, yet the government continues on that path, completely ignoring all requests from Quebeckers and the Quebec nation, despite having recognized that nation.
The Bloc Québécois is calling on the Conservative government to back down immediately and put an end, once and for all, to its plans for a single securities commission, which is designed to do Montreal out of what it has for Toronto's benefit and which infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions.
I would now like to talk about a matter that is very important to me. I have been a member for seven years and, throughout that time, the lack of social housing in Laval has been an issue. More than 16,000 Laval households are facing a crisis. They spend more than 30% of their income on housing and represent 36.6% of all renters in Laval. What is even more serious is that 7,400 of them spend more than 50% of their income on housing.
The federal government owns a penitentiary in the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul area of my riding. It has been closed for 21 years, since 1989. Since that time, the government has been considering solutions for converting the penitentiary facilities and the grounds around the old building. Since 2006, I have been formally requesting that the government include affordable or social housing in its plans for the site. In 2007, people sent hundreds of reply cards in support of this request to the minister responsible. This is not a recent file.
In 2009, in the absence of a positive response from the government, I circulated a petition formally calling on the government to proceed with the conversion of the old penitentiary and to work with the Government of Quebec to include affordable or social housing. The petition had 2,813 signatures and was presented here on June 15, 2010. I was very surprised to hear the response of the Minister of Public Safety when Parliament resumed last fall. He unabashedly stated, “the CSC [which is under his authority] is open to the sale of the property to a third party...the development of affordable or social housing is outside the mandate of the CSC.”
I understand that it is outside his mandate, but the petition was addressed to the government, which is responsible for the facility.
And that is the point we have come to with this government. It is not meeting the needs voiced by the people. But the people of Laval will not forget. The government is showing complete disinterest in the needs of the people, but at the same time it recently announced that it would spend $40 million to incarcerate an additional 96 prisoners in the Laval Federal Training Centre, which is located near the former penitentiary. This all stems from the government's repressive ideology. This government has millions of dollars to house inmates, but it cannot find money to house needy families.
In keeping with the needs expressed by the people, the Bloc's budget expectations called for the following measures. First, the Bloc called on the federal government to gradually reinvest in social or affordable housing until it reached approximately $2 billion in additional funding per year. It also expected the government to commit to eventually allocating 1% of its revenues to social housing, a total of $2.6 billion for 2011-12, over and above current funding levels.
In addition, the Bloc wanted the government to introduce a system to manage the CMHC surplus and bring an end to the systematic accumulation of that surplus, which will reach more than $10 billion in 2011. This surplus should be used, in part, to fund the gradual reinvestment that the Bloc is proposing.
Since homelessness is often caused by a lack of social housing, the Bloc is also calling for improvements to the homelessness partnering strategy. It is appalling to see how little the 2011 budget offers in this area. No new funding was announced for construction, conversion or renovation of social housing. The Conservative government boasts that it has invested in construction, but it is the first to government that has not reinvested anything in social housing. The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain is decrying this situation. It says that a single F-35 fighter jet is the equivalent of 6,400 subsidized housing units. That proportion is astonishing.
To conclude, the Conservatives have chosen to turn a blind eye to Quebec's requests and will have to answer to the voters.
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. Bloc Québécois colleagues for supporting me in my speech on the budget.
I am pleased to speak here today, because the budget is of particular interest to me. As the member for Québec and caucus chair for the Quebec City region, I cannot help but note that the Quebec City region has been forgotten in this budget. The budget reads more like an election speech, since the measures within the budget are simply a smattering of goodies for vulnerable groups.
The Conservatives will say that, during the election campaign, seniors will not get their $50 a month. They said we did not read the budget, but with our experience here in the House of Commons, we have a good research service and members who have a thorough grasp of their files. From a careful look at the budget, we could see right away how little it has to offer Quebec.
We made some very targeted requests in precise figures. In fact, the Conservative even said that the Bloc had done a good job. So why are we not voting in favour of this budget at the outset? We had asked for $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing the GST and the QST. Six provinces have been compensated, including British Columbia, Ontario and the maritime provinces. Yet Quebec is being ignored. Several billion dollars were given to those provinces in compensation: $1.6 billion to British Columbia, $4.3 billion to Ontario and $1 billion to the Maritimes, for a total of about $7 billion. Quebec paid $1.75 billion of that amount to compensate them. We are asking for $2.2 billion.
It is also shocking to see how quickly the Conservatives agreed to that: after 244 days for Ontario and 131 days for British Columbia. How long has Quebec been waiting for an agreement to be signed? How many days? It has been 6,841 days. It is truly shocking to watch the Conservatives drag their feet on this issue.
Earlier, the Conservative member for said that we are always whining. We read the papers just like everyone else, just like the citizens of the Quebec City region. We know very well that Minister Bachand has been working hard while trying not to upset the Conservatives too much because they react easily and he does not want them to slam the door and say that they will not compensate Quebec. Nevertheless, Quebec has been waiting for this money. If Quebec had $2.2 billion dollars in its coffers, the Government of Quebec would be able to pay off 60% of its deficit, which would give it more flexibility to meet the needs of the people.
Conservative MPs from the Quebec City area should have demonstrated more leadership with regard to this budget, which could be called an election announcement. The epicentre for the MPs that were elected here in the House is the Quebec City region, which has six representatives. If there is an election—we are, of course, still waiting to see if there will be one—we will hound the Quebec City region's MPs. They will have to answer questions. During debates or when they are interviewed by our local and regional newspapers, they will have to answer, in an intelligent way, certain questions that we want to ask them.
For example, they put on Nordiques jerseys to support the team coming back to Quebec City. We do not know why they put those sweaters on but, in the end, they did not bring in any funding for the Quebec City arena. They said that private funding was needed. Private funding was obtained and then they wanted something else. The real reason was put in writing. There was a directive from the 's office stating that funding would not be given for arenas anywhere in Canada. The Conservatives also wanted to make it seem as though this arena would be used exclusively for sports. That is untrue. This is a multi-purpose arena that would house cultural and sporting events, as well as some Olympic events. Clearly, the people of Quebec City have been misled.
Furthermore, a number of issues have been put on the back burner, for example, the Quebec Bridge.
My hon. colleague from has worked hard on defending that issue in the Quebec City area. He also moved a motion in the House calling on the government to repurchase the bridge and enter into discussion with the owners, CN, to find a solution. Again, we saw the Conservatives' bad faith with this file. They acted just like the Liberals and let the matter drag on, saying it was up to the courts to decide. In the meantime, as in Montreal, the bridge is rusting and it could end up costing more than we think. This was an important issue for the Quebec City area.
The Shannon issue is one that I have followed closely and on which I have dogged the government. The groundwater in Shannon is contaminated. We will not get into details about the levels of contamination, but the shocking thing is that the government failed to include any money in this budget for decontamination.
It would cost roughly $20 million a year for a technique that might be better than the last one. This technique would allow us to move forward and clean up the groundwater so that people in the municipality of Shannon can be safe. I know that this case is currently before the courts, but enough with the excuses.
Before the last election, many things were promised. For example, they promised to resolve the mail sorting centre issue and to do something for the zoo. Once the election was over, we did not hear another word about these plans and they moved on to other things. Many things need to be addressed and there will be many more challenges to face for the development of the Quebec City area.
The said in his speech, the day after bringing down this electoral budget, that he was focused on job creation. If there is one issue in the Quebec City area that all members from Quebec City should focus on it is the Davie shipyard issue.
The rules for the request for proposals were changed causing the shipyard to lose weeks, and thereby preventing it from being able to restructure and become solvent. Regardless of what we want to do in this case, they have stymied our ability to be proactive.
In Le Soleil or the Journal de Québec, a daily newspaper in our region, the counterpart of the hon. member for has said he thinks the federal government should be much broader in its request for proposals and give this company the opportunity to prove its solvency.
What is shocking is hearing the leader of the members from the Quebec City region, the member for , say that the Quebec City region should not expect the Davie shipyard to be a priority. We can see what little weight she carries in cabinet when it comes to talking about the Davie shipyard. She herself said that there should be no expectations, even if the Davie shipyard were solvent. She should stand up for her region and be proactive. She should do everything she can to ensure that the Davie shipyard receives its fair share. The total for all of the contracts is said to be $35 billion. Could the Quebec City region not receive its fair share? We are talking about 2,700 jobs and economic spinoffs to the tune of $2.1 billion, but the Conservatives are nowhere to be seen.
Earlier, I mentioned the Quebec Bridge. Money was taken from the fund for the continental gateway strategy to restore the Champlain Bridge. This fund is meant for modifications or economic inputs in connection with the St. Lawrence River and for the continental gateway. The money being taken from that fund is not new money, and that is what I find despicable about how this government works. We are seeing a smattering of goodies to please voters. I think that vulnerable groups are being held hostage. We know what the Conservatives are capable of doing. During the previous election, we saw how they could dangle the idea of another $50, but we also know that there was a price.
So it is not for everyone. People need to take a close look at this measure.
It is too bad; I would have liked to speak longer. the Quebec City region and a number of leaders were disappointed by the Conservatives' motives in the region—