It has been that long. We have been able to get hundreds of Canadians on the record in Hansard
. It is a wonderful thing when Canadians speak and can have their voices transmitted directly to the floor of the House of Commons.
I am going to go through some of the many tweets. Tweets tend to be very quick. Some members of Parliament have derided tweets as a form of feedback from Canadians. We disagree. We believe that Canadians who tweet or post on Facebook have as much right as any other Canadian to be heard. From one woman, “Shocking what the Conservative budget is doing to environmental protection. Sustainable development includes jobs and the economy.” Another said, “Is it even constitutional to weaken environmental processes in a budget?”
Another Canadian is cheering the member of Parliament for , saying she is enjoying the supportive demeanour of the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I certainly agree with that one.
A writer says,“Canadian fisheries policy is an international tragedy”. Newfoundland and Labrador's comments are at the hands of what he considers to be the tyranny of our majority political system.
Another writer says, “Wouldn't it be wiser to eliminate the deficit by seeking to create jobs and a tax base rather than throwing tens of thousands of workers on to the street?” I certainly agree with that. As we saw earlier today, the first economic analysis of the budget shows 60,000 jobs will be lost because of the budget. He goes on to say that economist Toby Sanger says, “The scale of cuts to the public sector will lead to the loss of 60,000 jobs in both public and private sectors. The 2012 budget is a book of deception. How can it be a job-creating budget when the government will axe 20,000 public sector jobs?”
A proud Canadian writes, “Repeating Conservative talking points is not debate either. At least what the NDP is doing is bringing Canadians' voices to the House of Commons”.
“Why make major cutbacks at Elections Canada when it is investigating what may be the biggest case of electoral fraud in Canadian history? Hmm…” asks one woman who is wondering why, as remarked earlier, these major cutbacks are being made at Elections Canada.
She says, “Cuts to the CBC are equivalent to turning off the lights so people cannot see what is happening. You don't like the message, you kill the messenger”.
Another individual writes, “Thank you to the NDP. It's hard to admit, but I really am afraid for my generation's future. Just hearing someone talking about is comforting”.
To continue on, another writes, “Well done, sir. Keep getting the real Canadian voices heard in the House. The truth can never be silenced”.
Then there are a number of other comments, such as this one, “Thank you for raising our comments in the House of Commons”.
Another writes, “Thank you for being my voice in Parliament on the budget. My member of Parliament, who's a Conservative, doesn't care”.
A constituent from Alberta writes, “The CBC is very important to Canadians and cuts are appalling. We need them for a strong media that is truthful”.
There was also a student who writes, “I am a student from the riding of Leeds and Grenville. With all of these services cut, how will I get a job and pay off my student debt?”
Another writes, “Can the next government undo food regulation downgrades that the Conservatives have put into effect?” Members will recall I mentioned earlier the substantial cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
A constituent from my riding on the west coast says that she is proud that I am her member of Parliament. I am certainly proud of her as well. She writes, “This budget attacks the most vulnerable. Thanks for speaking out so strongly on this”.
Another writes, “I'm staying at work until the NDP is done standing up for public servants, pensions and Katimavik”.
Another writes, “I think it's great that the NDP is reading concerns of the citizens in the House of Commons. It sounds like democracy. Finally, our voices are being heard”.
This is a compliment from an individual who writes, “In the early 1990s Liberal senators read names off a GST petition into the record. I think what the NDP did today was spectacularly better on the budget, hearing from Canadians”.
I will move on to a couple of comments posted on Facebook.
My colleague from will check the Twitter and Facebook accounts in the next hour—the 13th hour of debate so far on the budget—to get as many comments from Canadian families as possible.
On Facebook, an gentleman says, “Katimavik has been the single largest factor contributing to the formation of my own personal Canadian identity. Through Katimavik, I lived, learned, shared and worked with French, English and Aboriginal youth from all walks of life”.
This is another, “I am from the Haldimand—Norfolk riding in Ontario, which is also a Conservative-controlled riding. The Prime Minister wants to get tough on criminals to make Canada safe from crime. The people of Canada think that he should start with his own party, since there seems to be more fraud and corruption in his own party than ever before in Canadian politics. There has not been one week since the last election that this government has not been exposed for some allegations of some kind of criminal behaviour”.
A constituent from Alberta who says, “I am very sick of the Prime Minister's Canada. It sure is not my Canada. I will be affected by every aspect of this budget. I will be affected by the old age security changes. I will be affected by environmental issues. I work in a public sector job and I care about all of these cuts. We must stop this agenda”.
A constituent from northeastern Ontario, I think, in a Conservative-held riding, says, “Ask the Speaker of the House if Canadians can take the Prime Minister's paycheque back and put it into the Canada pension plan, because we are not getting value for money”. That is a very interesting comment from northeastern Ontario.
Those are some of the tweets and some of the Facebook comments that have come in. I am going to turn back to some of the letters and emails that we are getting as well. They are flooding in, so I am going to try to ensure I can get in as many as possible over the course of the next hour.
Tomorrow, with the debate being different, we are not going to be hearing from Canadians. What we will be hearing tomorrow, unfortunately, for the most part because that is the way the speaking order works, will be primarily from Conservative members of Parliament, primarily giving what is a packaged message from the 's office.
For those many Canadians who have been excited and galvanized and who have been sending in information, in letters. tweets and postings on Facebook, this has been an Ottawa spring. It has been spring in the House of Commons, where Canadians can actually have their voices heard directly.
Tomorrow it will be more of a very packaged political messaging that comes from the 's office. People will be hearing more of the same that we heard last Thursday, unfortunately. We will endeavour to get as many comments in as possible.
Another Twitter reads, “The fisheries and oceans cuts as the Prime Minister signs a trade deal with overfished Asia, is that a coincidence?”
There are a number of comments that have come in during the period of question period. I want to ensure I get those comments in. Comments are flooding in. That is the only way to put it, really. We are seeing an avalanche of feedback, with so many people writing in. That is the only way I can put this.
I am going to start with New Brunswick, another Conservative-held riding. That is what we have been endeavouring to do, to let those voices from Conservative ridings be heard in the House of Commons. We are getting all of these comments in.
This is from a constituent in New Brunswick. She writes, “I live near Oromocto, New Brunswick, the busiest Department of National Defence base in our great country. Today my husband retired after 33 years—Afghanistan twice, the Gulf War, Serbia, et cetera, to many places to protect this free land. His severance package will be here in 12 to 16 weeks. Because of this budget, the future severance of brave men and women will be no more. This was discussed at his farewell luncheon today. Instead of what I expected to hear, I listened as they said, 'Well, we'll just soldier on'. I was amazed and this government should be ashamed. Where are their clawbacks? Why don't they lead by example or step aside, learn from this extraordinary group I've just had lunch with and save this country as they have”.
On behalf of the NDP caucus, I would thank her for writing in. Also, we rise today and thank her husband for his 33 years of service to the country. We will certainly commit to continue to fight for the families of service men and service women and veterans
As we have heard, the cuts that are taking place are not cuts to the F-35s, the bloated fiasco that we have seen unfold before us, where Conservatives have been willing to spend any amount of money for these fighter jets. What was started as a $9 billion budget has now morphed into a monster of somewhere around $40 billion. Nobody on the Conservative side of the House has the least idea of how much it all costs.
These substantial cuts in the budget hurt the men and women who serve our country and impact the benefits of veterans, the men and women who have served our country. This is the world upside down. Those who have shown the most bravery and commitment to the country are the ones who are being treated the worst, most disrespectfully by the Conservative government. It is treating our service men, service women and veterans with disrespect.
We are saying loudly and clearly that the men and women who serve our country and the veterans who have served our country deserve respect from the government. They deserve better than what the government has done in this budget.
I will move on to another heartfelt comment from a Canadian resident of the Toronto area, who writes, “I just got off the phone with Michelle, my daughter, who has mental health issues. She was crying because today was the last day she got to see her worker who lost her job, a victim of the cuts in the budget. I didn't know what to say to her. She lives in assisted housing and on a good day you wouldn't know she even has mental health problems. Unfortunately, she desperately needs a case worker to help her have more good days than not. I'm not a professional in that field and the only thing I can do for her in this situation is to listen and to write to let you know that the statistics have a face and that the impact of budget cuts affect a real person now, not to mention the additional heartbreak of her family.”
This is what we are getting from across the country. Hundreds of Canadians have written in expressing, in such a poignant way, their lives and reality of those lives. This mean-spirited budget that strips away services, casts away jobs and in a fundamental way denies all the commitments that the made prior to the last election is not something that takes place in some kind of isolated vacuum where real people are not profoundly hurt. For three days now, time after time after time, we have heard heartfelt expressions of what this budget will do to families across the country, how it will impact them, how it will make their lives worse, how it will turn them backward.
That is the point we are making. For the government to table a budget in such a mean-spirited and callous way, to rip apart those services, the veteran services, the supports for servicemen and service women, to rip apart all of these other things, has impacts on the lives of Canadians that will be felt from coast to coast to coast.
We do not believe that the tens of billions of dollars the government wants to throw away on the F-35s or the tens of billions of dollars the government wants to throw away on prisons are the appropriate priorities. We have been hearing from people from all across the country, from virtually every riding, certainly every region, and not a single Canadian has said, “We think the resources of this nation should be devoted to jets and jails”. Not a single Canadian has said, “Oh yea, we share this government's obsession with fancy fighter jets at $40 billion and shiny new prisons, when the crime rate is falling, at $15 billion or $20 billion”. Not a single Canadian has expressed that. This tells us that Canadians simply are not on the same wavelength as the Conservative government. That is profound.
Members will recall, and it is important to note, that the first letter I read out today was from a person who had voted Conservative all his life, a Mr. McKay from Surrey, British Columbia. He said that when the government plays with people's lives as it is doing, by cutting jobs and playing with the pension plan and cutting funding to the youth of this nation, it is heartbreaking to so many Canadians and sickening. What he says is, “I am talking to people, friends my age, and we are all thinking of changing the way we think about our government”. Even though this is a small partisan note, I think it is important to mention that he concludes by saying, “Even though I've never voted NDP, I just might think of changing my mind because of this government's actions”. Finally, he adds, “Please, NDP, keep up the good work you're doing on these issues”. That shows a real sign of change as we get these heartfelt expressions from across the country. We are getting former Conservative voters who are saying they do not agree with the direction this country is going.
A Mr. Becker writes, “All I get from my [Conservative] member of Parliament in response to inquiries, feedback and requests for information are form letters with the Conservatives' talking points”. He adds the hash mark for worthless.
From the Toronto region, Mr. McCart says, “We cannot allow anymore cuts to our not-up-to-par health-already care. Raising the age of retirement from 65 to 67 can't happen. This is a scam by our government, hoping that by raising the age we will start to die off so as not to have to pay out. Maybe the government should be downsized or fired if they don't do a good enough job for us Canadian citizens”.
We saw today what happened with the Conservative government's economic performance. We were 130th in the world in 2011 for economic growth, and now in 2012 the government is doing even worse at 152nd worldwide for economic growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: I'm still surprised.
Mr. Peter Julian: Yes, it is amazing, absolutely appalling, how badly the government has done. It has dragged us down to 152nd worldwide for economic growth. Thus the comments of the last Canadian I referenced are very apt. If we fire a coach because the team goes from first place to eighth place, what do we do with the whole team when the team drags the whole country down to 152nd place? We fire the whole bunch and start anew. That is just what Canadians are going to do on October 20, 2015.
I will read a message from the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé. One Canadian said the following: “I think that it is scandalous that the retirement age has been pushed back from 65 to 67. Once again, the poor will be penalized.”
I will read another comment from the Ottawa region:
“I believe that responding to the Conservative government's incessant attacks on the environment is critical.... I call on the new leader of the opposition, the member for Outremont, on behalf of the 60% of us who did not vote for the Conservative Party of Canada, to take the government to task for all the things that are wrong in this budget and to continue fighting it through implementation”.
He is absolutely right. That is what we are doing. I thank him, a Mr. Scott from Ottawa, for saying that.
We could have just said on Friday that we're going to let 24 Conservative MPs stand and read their package of the Prime Minister's Office's talking points. That is what the last three days of debate could have been. That is certainly what the Liberals seem to want to see. That is certainly what the Conservatives seem to want to see.
What we are saying is that the last three days of debate have allowed hundreds of Canadians to participate by Twitter, Facebook and email, and that is a good thing. It is democratic when we have hundreds of Canadians who have been able to actively participate and send their comments on what they feel about the budget, where they feel the government has done wrong things to the country. Through all of this correspondence, there is hope for the future. It is very clear, whether Canadians are younger or older, regardless of their background and region, that they all know that Canada can do better, that Canadians deserve better and that one day they will have a government that will actually take their concerns into consideration.
Mr. Robert Chisholm: They deserve better.
Mr. Peter Julian: They definitely do.
I am going to move on to someone's comments from Calgary, another Conservative-held riding. He says, “It's a pleasure to write to [Mr. Julian] to express my appreciation for standing up in the House of Commons for two days and continuing to express the collective outrage of all residents in Canada, whether citizens or otherwise. This budget is a mean-spirited attack on the future of Canada. It's especially mean and devious because the justifications for the large-scale job and budget cuts is clothed in language that is designed to lull people into believing that the Conservative government cares. It uses specialized rhetorical and cheap marketing tricks to convince people that these cuts are intended to balance some arbitrary future budget forecasts. It ignores the suffering, both short- and long-term, that people will incur. It lays the groundwork to permanently and negatively alter future prosperity by asking ordinary people to shoulder the excesses of this government. Many members of this government have engaged in unethical and immoral behaviour that has strained the public purse, yet these members are never held accountable. Instead, ordinary people are asked to place themselves on the chopping block. As an immigrant to this country, I am very concerned about the cuts to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Too often, this government will increase the backlog in applications and then arbitrarily decide to negate all the applications from the past and introduce radical changes in the name of efficiency. Yet the same government has no hesitation in cutting the budget for Citizenship and Immigration Canada and thereby hugely inconveniencing applicants both now and in the future. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your physically and psychologically arduous endeavour to stand up for hours and days on end to bring our concerns to public attention”.
I would respond that it is not physically or psychologically difficult to stand up for Canadians. That is what NDP MPs do. That is what we do every day. That is what we do in the House.
What is physically and psychologically arduous is seeing what the government is doing to this country, after promising a completely different approach on governance. What we are seeing are all the broken promises and the vandalism that the government is enacting on this country. That is why the 102 members of the official opposition, the NDP caucus, were standing so strongly against the budget. We know the harm it will do.
We have heard the voices of Canadians flooding in even as we speak. We are saying that we will not let those Canadians down. We will fight the budget all the way, despite the fact the government says it can do whatever it wants. By fighting the budget we are sowing the seeds for the day a Canadian sunrise will come. It will come sooner perhaps than we expect, but at the latest it has to come on October 20, 2015 when we can finally put the government out of office.
I have a few more emails coming in that I will read out. This is from a constituent of the great riding of : “It seems the finance minister has started to show the voters who put his party in office its true agenda, taking care of the banks, corporations and oil companies. Who got all the tax cuts and how do we pay for them? In his own words, it was reported in the news, on the back of average Canadians. The old age pension has been raised to 67 from 65. So here we have a government keeping an aging population working to get more revenue out of them and denying younger Canadians employment because the older folks can't afford to retire. Canadians will be happy to see election day after the Conservatives have dealt them such a generous helping of cuts to programs with no relief for working people. The past just wants to keep repeating itself—”
There he is referring to the former Liberal government as well.
He continues, “—and Canadians will not even know what is happening until it is too late. The old age pension is just the beginning. They are going to mess with health care and we know they will, but we also know that Canadians will be happy to see the next election day”.
We are certainly looking forward to that, as I think all Canadians are.
Now I will move on. This letter is from eastern Ontario: “I just heard about your speaking in the House from my sister. I'm sure she has already told you that she lives with a disability and how budget cuts will affect her. I am writing you because I will be retiring soon, and after almost 50 years of contributing to this country, the Conservative government is about to steal my retirement. They are going to spend the money on fighter jets we don't need and jails we don't need. The money left over they will give to their millionaire supporters. You're the only party that can stop them. Keep up the good work”.
I say to that constituent that we will keep up that work and we will continue to stand up for Canadian families.
Now moving on to the Toronto area, another person says: “I support the NDP 2,000%. You are standing up for families, for working people and our elderly and our retirees. This budget has failed Canadians. Don't let this government get away with this attack on our country's foundation and a sound and balanced economy. Stand strong”.
To that constituent, I say that we will stand strong. We will stand up for Canadians, there is no doubt about that.
If I am accelerating a little bit, Madam Speaker, you can certainly understand that Canadians are galvanized by this debate. They are appalled by this budget. They are appalled by the cuts and reckless disregard the government has for the economy by its throwing away of 60,000 jobs in both the public and the private sectors. That is why there are so many comments coming in and we simply cannot keep up, but we will endeavour to do so. We will have some time tomorrow, though it will be mostly 's office talking points that will be mentioned, to raise other concerns. However, we certainly encourage Canadians to keep writing in.
I have another one from a gentleman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, who states, “As a young Canadian worker, I have serious concerns about this budget, perhaps too many to go into great depth about. However, I am mostly deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to old age security. As a young worker whose parents have recently retired, I have begun to think more seriously about my own retirement. As someone who's chosen to work for a small non-profit, I do not have the benefit of the sort of guaranteed pension that the Prime Minister and his cabinet afforded themselves. While I put aside what I can into RRSPs and a non-guaranteed pension plan, I know that when the time comes for my own retirement that I will need OAS. By delaying OAS benefits to 67, I will need to save an additional $30,000 for retirement that I would have if this government was to maintain the current 65 age requirement. This is an incredible burden to put on myself and all members of my generation. My generation is being hit in so many directions. Sky-high tuition is creating record student debt levels, jobs opportunities for youth are disappearing, wages are flat or declining, defined pensions are disappearing and housing costs are out of control. We are the first generation of Canadians to know for a fact that we will be worse off than our parents. So my question for the Prime Minister is simply this: Do you hate my generation or do you simply not care?”
That is the voice of honesty and passion from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We thank that gentleman writing in. We want to tell him and all young Canadians across the country that we believe younger Canadians deserve better and that is why we are voting against the budget.
The following message comes from the riding of Joliette, represented by an excellent member of Parliament. I cannot see whether she is in the House right now, but she is excellent. Let us applaud her.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: A resident from the riding of Joliette said the following: “I would like my question regarding the pension at age 67 asked of the Minister of Human Resources. When she said recently that Canadians would have all the time they needed to reorganize their pension, what did she mean exactly? Would the Government of Canada at least have the decency to tell me whether Canadians will have to pay less withholding tax, so that I can reorganize my pension?”
Yet another Canadian badly affected by this budget.
The next message comes from the wonderful riding of Longueuil, which is also represented by an excellent member of Parliament.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: This member of Parliament listens. I visited his riding and I saw the member in action. He truly is very talented and very good. On top of that, he is friendly.
Here is what a constituent from his riding said: “As a former colleague from CBC/Radio–Canada, let me tell you that the atmosphere at CBC/Radio–Canada is glum in the big tower? We are meeting with Mr. Lacroix next week; there are but a few new projects for the fall, and little hope for the future. The cutbacks are really hurting and I have dozens of colleagues who have to look for a new job this fall. Even I do not know where I will be. With three children, I need to work. The Conservatives say that they want to stimulate the economy with this budget. I fail to see how making cutbacks to culture, CBC/Radio–Canada, the National Film Board, and Telefilm is going to stimulate the economy, when it has been proven that every dollar invested in culture brings in far more than it costs. I fail to see the benefit in making cutbacks to Radio–Canada, aside from the fact that it is an organization that the current government finds threatening. CBC/Radio–Canada plays a key role in maintaining the fragile unity of this country and its numerous remote regions. CBC/Radio-Canada costs $34 per Canadian; it is smart, innovative, and brings people together. It ranks 16th out of 18 OECD countries in terms of funding for public television. Do not tell me that we are not getting out money’s worth.
Exactly. This person from the riding of Longueuil is entirely correct.
A citizen in Sarnia, Ontario, a Conservative riding, is concerned about what the government is doing. She says, “My adult son has a developmental disability. Freezing the amounts will prevent him from being as independent as possible, as inclusive a citizen in his community as he could be otherwise. Individuals who already live in poverty are purposefully being held here. This is social injustice. The government who put this budget into place will never change until they feel uncomfortable with their own decisions. Don't they feel uncomfortable keeping my son in poverty?”
As members know, a number of Canadians have raised concerns around Katimavik. We are getting flooded with comments on that as it is very important. A whole range of issues have been raised by Canadians. I do not want to necessarily conclude with Katimavik but I would like to read some comments. Even though I could never read all of the comments we are getting in from Conservative ridings, I will try to tackle some of them. I will stay as long as I can on the general criticism of this budget and more specific concerns that have been raised. Canadians deserve to have their voices count in the Parliament of the country, there is no doubt about that.
My voice is getting hoarse and I hope to keep on speaking. As a New Democrat, I will speak as long as my voice allows. That is what New Democrats do. We work as hard as we can for as long as we have.
I will follow-up with another comment from a woman in Stratford, Ontario, another Conservative riding. She says, “First off, on this penny wise and pound foolish budget, I am fine with the penny being axed”. So are we. In fact, it was an NDP idea. It is one of the few good things in the budget.
She goes on to say, “I'm against cutting the funding to the National Council on Welfare. I'm against stopping the automatic guaranteed income supplement enrolment. I'm against encouraging cross-border shopping. I'm against cuts to foreign aid. I'm against cuts to Elections Canada. I'm against the cuts to the CBC. I'm against the loss of Katimavik. I'm against the change in the OAS. I'm against the so-called streamlining of the environmental review process. I'm against the cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which will no longer be monitoring food labels among other things. I'm against these new requirements of charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources”.
This Canadian from Stratford, Ontario, another Conservative riding, is saying that aside from the cut of the penny, she is opposed to virtually everything that was brought forward in this very bad, mean-spirited budget. Who can blame her, given the impacts that we are aware of on the environment, on services, on future seniors, as well as the decisions taken to cut health care funding in the long term? When we look at the budget as a complete package, Canadians from coast to coast to coast are clearly putting their thumbs down.
I have another comment from another Conservative held riding. A woman from wrote, “I realize that there are great challenges to mitigate the effects of climate change but it appears that the Government of Canada does not seem to want to make any effort towards weaning the country off fossil fuels or to reduce our high per capita footprint. I am most disappointed with the negative elements towards environmentalism and environmentalists in the recent budget. Your government is trying to demonize dissent by making it difficult for charities that don't agree with you to continue to function, and you are also ignoring the rights of first nations and ordinary Canadians who are entitled to have a voice in the face of large industrial projects, and who have deep concerns about fast-tracking the environmental process. Remember that the B.C. government had rubber-stamped the Taseko Mines project, and it would have gone ahead if it had not been for a more stringent federal review, which, by the former environment minister's own analysis, was scathing in its content. It is shocking to me that the Conservative Party is proposing to weaken the Fisheries Act with changes to section 35(1). Please keep that section as it currently stands, with emphasis on environmental protection. We must protect our wild places for future prosperity, not for short-term gain”.
That was the voice of another Canadian from another Conservative held riding.
I will keep going. This is a comment from another Conservative held riding in the area of Regina. As members know, some of those ridings were won by only a few votes. As we can hear, Canadians in a whole range of Conservative ridings are expressing real concerns about the Conservatives' budget
A gentleman from Regina, Saskatchewan wrote, “As a grandfather, I am deeply concerned about the future sustainability of our country. Why are we not moving away from the insane high carbon systems we now have in place for energy, transportation, food production and so many other areas when we know that these are unsustainable? Where is the much-needed movement toward solar, wind and geothermal power? Where are the moves to stimulate Canadian made, green job making alternatives? The countless facets of our country's life will be in deep trouble in the coming years. This budget and the government's continuing direction is awful. Here in Saskatchewan, where the majority of our drinking water comes from glaciers high in the Alberta mountains, we will be facing a huge crisis in the coming years as glaciers disappear due to human influenced climate change. Instead of looking forward to these, the government is continuing to rely simply on bitumen and natural resource extraction. I do believe, I truly believe that an engaged and organized citizenry is a chief way in which we can move this current government aside”.
We share those concerns and we will be working to move the government aside on October 19, 2015.
A woman from another Conservative held riding in Edmonton is concerned about the OAS changes. She writes, “This is a bad, bad idea. This is not just a spending saving. It's a renunciation of the social policies Canadians have painstakingly established after the hard lessons of two world wars and the Great Depression. OAS and GIC were established because seniors living in dire poverty was a national shame. But after 20 years of significant reductions in the situation, the elderly poverty rate has been increasing since the mid-1990s. It's shameful. Here in Alberta, in 2006 more than 50% of seniors, whether single or a couple, lived on a total before tax income of less than $24,000 per person.
“The number of seniors living on the precarious edge of severe poverty is increasing, as everyday living costs increase and user fees for health care services, for pharmaceuticals, for vision and dental care, for food, utilities, transportation and rent are continually shifting the cost of survival, let alone quality of life, to vulnerable individuals and their families.
“Provincial and municipal governments are left to try to offset the consequences, with increasing pressure on provincial and municipal revenues. We wonder why property taxes are increasing. We have to subsidize seniors as well as support food banks and homeless shelters because of the federal government's irresponsibility.
“Reducing income security will have consequences in every area of the lives of seniors, their families and their communities. There will be no miracle to prevent this. It doesn't matter less to me that it will perhaps not affect me personally. It will affect my children and grandchildren, and that matters. It will increase the cost of other services, increase the profits of financial services. It's a bad, bad idea. Shame on this government.”
We say to her that we agree with her. Shame on the government. Canadian families and seniors deserve better than what the government is doing.
I must say I am very impressed with the remarkable energy of the NDP caucus. It is amazing, regardless of what class members were in. Most of the class here is 2011. There are those from the class of 2008 as well, and I am from the class of 2004. Regardless of the class, we have a very energetic, hard-working, disciplined, effective, high-class group of NDP MPs in the House of Commons, and I really appreciate their support.
They give me energy as well. I have to admit that I have been up speaking now for 13 or 14 hours and even though I am galvanized, of course, by the information I am bringing forward from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, I have to admit that I am looking forward to sitting down and having a beer tonight, a little later on.
The reality is that the issues are too compelling, when we talk about how this is impacting veterans and manual labourers. I talked earlier today about that poignant letter from Mr. McDonnell, who talked about floor installers and how difficult it is for them with this forced retirement age of 67. We talked about kids who have written in from across this country and what it means now that the government has taken away their futures. It has made it impossible for them to get post-secondary educations. Student debt loads are bigger than ever, but at the same time it is wrenching away the youth program that was in place.
When we hear about all of these issues on the NDP side of the House, we believe we have to push on and keep speaking out. We do not see any alternative to speaking out as loudly, clearly and strongly as we can on behalf of Canadians.
This one is from another Canadian in Ottawa, Ontario, and it states:
“In 1967 a report on first nations education said, 'Let someone hazard a guess as to what year or what century significant changes toward real equality will be noted in the achievements of children?' Forty-five years later, the federal budget says that first nations children need to keep waiting and that the Prime Minister has given no date as to when the inequality will end. The multiple federal government funding inequalities in children's services on reserves, in areas like education, child welfare, languages, recreation, water, housing and sewer on reserves pile up on the hopes and dreams of this generation of children. Canadians expect more of their government than excuses for giving children less because of their race. The time for equitable funding structures and ways that respond to the culture and needs of first nations children is now.”
We agree with Ms. Blackstock. We agree that the time for equitable funding for first nations children is now, not some time in the future, not cutting back services. It is now.
These are the voices of Canadians that have been raised.
Because I wanted to do this, for just a moment I will set aside the notes. I know they will be coming back to the topic of Katimavik shortly, and I will certainly do that also.
We talked earlier about the issues around the cutbacks to Aboriginal Affairs Canada and how that will impact what has been a massive deficit in the lives of aboriginal Canadians. We know about the visit of our former leader, the member of Parliament for , to Attawapiskat and how deplorable the situation is up there. That is one of the key areas of the budget.
Before I go on to some of the emails we have received from those concerned about the cuts to the youth program, Katimavik, briefly for the record I want to raise the actuarial table as well as the issue from the Parliamentary Budget Officer with respect to the sustainability of OAS. Tomorrow we will hear from all the Conservatives the comments contained in the prepackaged PMO's kit. They are all going to be saying the same thing. However, for the last three days, Canadians have finally had their place front and centre in the House of Commons. The voices of hundreds of Canadians have finally been provided through Twitter, Facebook, email and the ordinary handwritten letter. I think it is important for Canadians to know what the real facts are as they hear the prepackaged comments from the PMO tomorrow.
We talked earlier about how this budget cuts away the facts. It cuts away the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute, and it guts Statistics Canada. Yet again, that is what the government is choosing to do. Therefore, we need to establish the facts prior to the prepackaged comments that will come tomorrow.
I want to submit the evidence. When I started this debate on Friday, I said this in a sense was putting the government on trial for poor economic management, because on Friday we talked about the appallingly poor economic management of the government. On Monday and Tuesday we talked about the budget cuts and what that represents.
To my sense, this is a kind of a trial into the government's behaviour. There is no doubt about that. We are submitting evidence and ultimately the public will judge. In a sense, the public will get their opportunity as a jury to function on the government on October 19, 2015. That is the date of the next election. That is when Canadians will be looking at all the evidence we have submitted, and the government will submit whatever facts it manages to cook up or come up with. At that point, we will see what the verdict of the Canadian people is.
Tomorrow, when the government members stand up and all say the same thing, it will be pretty well the same speech. However, it will be a speech that talks about how the OAS was not viable, how it is difficult and tough to force Canadians to work two more years, but they will all say they did not have a choice.
Therefore I am submitting as evidence the government's own actuarial table. What it says is that in 2012, this year, reading from the government's own document, the total of the OAS and GIS and allowances, as a percentage of GDP, was 2.43% of GDP for the ongoing sustainability of OAS in 2012.
Let us look ahead at the same actuarial table, if we fast forward to 2060. This year it is 2.43%. In 2060 it is 2.35%.
In other words, as a percentage of GDP, that is the impact of the OAS as it currently is constituted, not with this additional two years of work, not with the pain of people having $30,000 less for their retirement, not with the pain and the penalties that are applied particularly to hard-working Canadians. The government seems to be absolutely punishing manual workers, the floor installers, the carpenters, the many we have heard from over the last few days. The government is saying, “Oh, those manual workers. We're going to punish them. They can't work. Their bodies are broken after 30 or 35 years of working. Well, they'll just have to sleep on the streets because they're not going to get their OAS until 67”.
However, it is doing all of that predicated on the notion that somehow OAS is not sustainable. I will mention this figure one more time. This year, it is 2.43% of GDP. In 2060, it will be 2.35%. That is 0.08% less than it is this year.
This is the lie the government is putting forward. It is simply not true to say OAS is not sustainable in the long term. This is from the government's own actuarial tables.
Second, I submit for evidence that what we have here is the Parliamentary Budget Officer's discussion, his summary of the “Federal Fiscal Sustainability and Elderly Benefits”. It says the following is true: OAS is sustainable in the long term.
The summary of that document that is available through the Parliamentary Budget Office shows the federal sustainability, and elderly benefits are sustainable. It says that very clearly. It says elderly benefits are projected to decline gradually to below the former level of GDP by the end of the projection horizon as the baby boom cohorts expire and as growth in the average benefit continues to lag growth in real GDP by capita.
I submit those two reports, the government's own actuarial tables and the PBO's “Federal Fiscal Sustainability and Elderly Benefits” as well.
I am just going to try to go back. I have some concluding remarks, of course, that I am going to make, as I committed to this morning. I thank my colleague from who is reminding me, and my colleague across the way is absolutely right that he making sure I get everything in that I need to get in, and that, of course, is the budgetary amendment we will be offering. That gives me about 20 minutes.
I will move on to a number of comments made about Katimavik by younger Canadians. I thank the younger Canadians who have flooded our offices with comments about the cutbacks to the youth program. I would like to say there is absolutely no way we can even begin to read all the comments into the record about the youth program that has been so savagely cut by the government. I know that so many youth are concerned and have been raising this concern.
We will read a few more into the record, but I know there will be hundreds who may be disappointed today. However, we will continue to fight for Katimavik. There is no doubt about that. Those comments are going to be very useful.
Mr. Forsyth from Hamilton, Ontario said, “I am an environmental studies student at York University who is proud to call Hamilton my home. I am disgusted with the budget that has been recently released. I am deeply saddened to see that Katimavik's funding has been cut completely and the program will no longer be able to continue providing Canadian youth from all walks of life the opportunity of a lifetime. Katimavik gives youth the opportunity to travel the country, to provide volunteer work for NGOs and not-for-profits, to soul search and find direction in life, to learn new languages and about new cultures. More importantly, the program gives its participants the chance to engage as a citizen and grow as a person. I am afraid that this government doesn't see how much good a program like Katimavik can do for our country and for communities.”
I thank Mr. Forsyth for his comments.
Mr. Christie wrote, “I write to you about the benefits of Katimavik across our nation. The benefits keep non-profit and social services stable and keep youth engaged in communities across Canada, making changes in their lives as well as work experience. Katimavik has credits towards certain schools and programs upon completion as well, including the school I will be attending, the University of Capilano in the Lower Mainland of B.C. The service that Katimavik provides is very substantial for non-profits that can barely keep themselves afloat and the underprivileged in the north and elsewhere. Katimavik provides youth growth and changes the majority of our youth who partake in the program. With unemployment rates rising, Katimavik helps not only to give youth a job to volunteer at, but the experience of that volunteer placement to help serve them better in the job market after. The Conservative government is worried about costs and that it is too expensive even after Katimavik's 35 years of service to the country. I disagree. Please help save Katimavik.”
I thank Mr. Christie for his comments.
A constituent from Winnipeg, Manitoba said, “The government is focusing exclusively on the 30,000 alumni who have benefited from the program and use this number to justify the cut to an expensive program, but this is not just about the 30,000 alumni. This program touched the lives of thousands of field staff and office staff across the country, work supervisors, billeting families, local Katimavik committee members, community members and volunteers, the participants' family members and the hundreds of thousands of others who have crossed paths with the program. This is not an expensive program that benefits a small number of people. It is a valuable program that has touched the lives of millions. For every dollar invested in Katimavik, more than $2 is generated in economic return, and this figure doesn't take into account the fact that participants continue giving back to the community long after the program is over. We need to shift the focus away from this number and represent properly the millions of people who have been changed because of Katimavik.”
I thank her for her letter.
Mr. Hébert wrote, “Katimavik has taken my life in a whole new direction. Before Katimavik, I was a drug addicted bartender-waiter and stuck in a rut without wanting to return to school and the apathy in my life. Katimavik gave me a whole new outlook on the world, people and life. It has opened my eyes to countless things such as empathy, work ethic, community engagement, critical thinking and a passion to improve my/our country. I returned to be project leader with Katimavik as it was the most challenging thing I have ever done. It provided great experiences, growth and learning for myself and those around me. I still give back to communities that aren't mine because it's still my country. I owe my life to Katimavik for all that it has given me and allowed me to give to others.”
I thank Mr. Hébert very much for his honesty in bringing forward that eloquent defence of Katimavik.
Ms. Fudge from St. John's, Newfoundland, speaking of Katimavik said, “This program has a major impact on Canadian society which can be seen in the lives of young people developing into engaged and socially active adults and the numerous volunteer hours that help community-based organizations by bringing together English and French Canadians, and most importantly, in the definition of a Canadian identity. This program is uniquely Canadian and deserves a place in the development of our culture. Please voice your support to continue funding the Katimavik program.”
We are. All 102 NDP MPs are voicing their support for Katimavik's continuation.
I find it difficult to read all of the notes that are coming in. There are a lot of them, particularly from Conservative-held ridings. It is very clear that the young people of this country who are writing in defence of Katimavik are saying much more than just about the cuts that have happened in this meanspirited Conservative budget.
It is much more than about Katimavik. When the young people are writing in and they are talking about opportunity, talking about their nation, what they are doing is starting a dialogue with all of us. What they are saying is that they do not like the direction in which the country is headed. They are saying that what they want is the kind of government with the kind of direction that responds to fundamental Canadian values.
We have heard it today from so many Canadians, those values of fairness, solidarity, taking care of each other, and working together towards a common goal. All of these hundreds of Canadians who have been writing, tweeting, and posting on Facebook, and there are more coming in even as I speak. My colleague from and my colleague from are watching them roll in right now.
They are all sending a message to the government and to the entire House of Commons. What they are saying is that the budget represents a watershed. What this has done, the callousness with which the government has approached the whole idea of the budget, the impunity the government seems to be taking to renege on all of its election commitments, and all of us saw when the stared Canada in the face and said, “I will not cut health care transfers. I will not cut retirement security. I will not cut services.” He made that commitment to all of us, to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Canadians see now that those promises are hollow. They see in this budget that is not what the government is going to do. The government is taking the country in a completely different direction from what it promised and what the promised.
What we are hearing today from so many Canadians from coast to coast to coast is that Canadians believe that all of us deserve better, that Canada deserves better. That is the message we are getting from so many people. It is a message that has had an impact certainly on all of us as we have been listening. We have been watching the emails roll in. We have seen the smoke come out of our fax machine as faxes come in from across the country. We have seen the comments on Twitter and the postings on Facebook. It has certainly had an impact on us. We hope it has had an impact on Conservative members of Parliament.
Before I start my concluding remarks, I want to reference something I said earlier today, about the gentleman from Surrey, British Columbia, Mr. McKay, a lifelong Conservative. All his life he has been voting for the Conservative Party. Mr. McKay said:
|| I will start by saying you are doing a great job, as I watched you today Monday April the 2nd 2012 on the parliamentary channel here in Surrey B.C.... I have been a long-standing voter for the Conservatives for quite a lot of years now....I am 60 years of age and I am on disability. I have never been so upset as I am now with this Government of Canada. When they play with people's lives as they are doing by cutting jobs, playing with the pension plan, it is heartbreaking to a lot of people, but when they start cutting funding for [our] youth in this Country [it] is totally sickening. If they would put more funds towards helping [our] youth of today we would not need so many jails to house them.
This lifelong Conservative who never voted NDP in his entire life said:
|| I hope you and your party members keep up the pressure and get this changed before there is severe damage done to our great country. Like I said before, I have been a voter for the Conservatives for years now. But people do and can change [their] way of thinking. I have been talking to a lot of people and friends my age and we are all thinking of changing the way we think about our government of the day. Even though I have never voted NDP, I just might start thinking of changing my mind. So thank you for your time. Please, you and the NDP keep up the good work you are all doing towards this issue.
Here is a lifelong Conservative who is changing his mind. After all the comments that have come in from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we are certainly hoping that there are Conservative MPs who will listen to their constituents and change their minds about what is such a bad budget, because Canadian families deserve better than what is in this budget.
I said yesterday in my concluding remarks that today I would talk about the role New Democrats have played in this House of Commons, the role we have played over the last few days and the role we continue to play under the leadership of our new leader, the member for .
I mentioned the first of four chapters, and that was the two first labour MPs down at the end of the House of Commons, J.S. Woodsworth and A.A. Heaps. Both of them were ridiculed for having brought forward this radical idea that we could have old age pensions, that seniors could actually live on a decent income. They saw their chance in the mid-1920s. Even though they were ridiculed, they pushed the minority government. As a result of that, today we have old age pensions in our country.
Later on those labour parties got together across the country and they formed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.
Mr. Peter Julian: It was a very nice name. Seven members entered into the House of Commons. Yes, they were down at the end, and we can still hear the heckling and the unkind remarks that were directed toward those seven because they had radical ideas. They believed that when somebody was out of work, there should actually be unemployment insurance. They believed that there should be family allowances to help raise children, that the government should be providing some support so that people could raise their children.
Those seven were vilified. Then something happened. There were seven members and as we went through one of the greatest conflicts in the history of humanity, the Second World War, many of the men and women who served our country overseas started to understand the importance of the message that those seven members were delivering in this House of Commons.
There was a time in the early 1940s when Canadians started to understand the importance of the message those seven members were bringing forward, and they started listening. More and more Canadians talked to each other and said that these are the kinds of things they want to have in a free and democratic society.
Canadians started reacting. In the opinion polls, those seven members went from being in third place to second place, and then they were leading in the polls. The old parties that vilified them for their radical ideas like unemployment insurance suddenly shifted. They decided to put into place all of those things that those seven members were vilified for only months before. Those seven members also made a difference in this House of Commons and Canada is better as a result.
I have just a few minutes left, but I do want to make sure that this history lesson is heard.
In the 1950s there were a dozen members in the House of Commons who had the radical notion that all Canadians were created equal. Those dozen members campaigned for the right to vote, for Canadians of Asian origin and Canadians of aboriginal origin. At the age of 14, when I joined the NDP, I reacted to what I saw at that age. I recall seeing a Liberal Party headline that said that a vote for the CCF would give Japanese Canadians the vote. Those dozen members campaigned strenuously. They were sometimes vilified, but they campaigned for the civil rights of all Canadians. Those dozen Canadians succeeded in getting full civil rights given to all Canadians. There were a dozen members in the House of Commons and they made a difference.
In the 1960s, there were about 15 New Democratic Party members, and they believed strongly in human rights and civil rights. When the government invoked the War Measures Act, something I am sure members will remember, it put hundreds of people in prison just because they had spoken freely in a democratic society. At that time, the 15 New Democrat members said that no Canadian should be in prison, regardless of the War Measures Act, simply for expressing their opinion. Those members were often attacked by the other parties at the time. Today, four decades later, we know that Tommy Douglas and his caucus of 15 members were right: those people’s civil rights had to be respected, regardless of what they had freely said in society.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Julian: Whether we be two or seven or 12 or 15 members—and today we are 102—we fill the same role, and we stand with Canadian families. As a number of people have said today, we are looking to the future. We are thinking about October 20, 2015, because that will be the day when the 102 New Democrat members become many more: that will be the first New Democrat government in the history of our country, in the history of Canada
I hope members did not mind my little history lesson. It was important to show the function that we have had in the House and the fact that we will never be turned away from representing Canadians. That is what New Democrats do.
As I promised I would sit down at this time, it is now my pleasure to move the following amendment to the budget. I move:
|| That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
||this House not approve the budgetary policy of this government because it will: a) increase unemployment and fail to stem growing inequality; b) cut promised health transfers to the provinces; c) unilaterally download billions of dollars of costs onto provinces, territories and municipalities; d) needlessly increase the age of eligibility for the OAS and GIS for future retirees, many of whom will be forced into poverty; e) decrease protection of our environment; f) cut vital public services to Canadians; g) undermine Canada's reputation on the world stage; h) attack support for our culture and heritage, including CBC/Radio-Canada; and i) unfairly use the Canada Revenue Agency to attack charities for ideological reasons.