The House resumed from March 25 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for .
The budget tabled last week by the government raises a number of concerns for the future prosperity and sustainability of the economies of my riding of Edmonton—Strathcona, the city of Edmonton, the province of Alberta and Canada. It most certainly raises questions about how well the Conservative government has listened to Canadians about their future prospects. In sum, the economic action plan 2013 is rife with promises and a display of now defunct programs, but short on long-term vision, timely delivery of needed supports and missed opportunities.
The province I come from has a long history of leadership in energy. It is not just in energy resource extraction, but also in innovation and consultation in new energy ideas. The Alberta clean air strategic alliance has a long record of multi-stakeholder consultation and consensus in decision-making on cleaner energy standards. The concept of sound decision-making through consultation and consensus is one that is apparently foreign to the Conservative government.
Alberta industry and the public alike have long called for a dialogue on a cleaner energy strategy for the province of Alberta and for the country. Recently the premier of Alberta called on the federal government to endorse this concept. The concept of a more sustainable energy future has been endorsed by other well-known centre of right leaders, including Preston Manning and the late Peter Lougheed. However, on the so-called jobs, growth and, in very small print, long-term prosperity economic action plan, there is no mention in the budget and no dollars for action on a Canadian clean energy strategy. This is despite the fact that we still have in place, as far as I am aware, a Canada-U.S. clean energy dialogue.
Of note, the term “long-term” appears to have been added to the title in small print as a mere afterthought. The budget certainly seems to have given short shrift to a longer-term sustainable economy. There is no commitment or dollars for consultation with the public or the diverse energy sectors, let alone energy consumers, on a Canadian energy strategy. All of this is despite calls by a number of premiers, including Alberta's, despite calls by major energy sectors, including oil and gas, energy efficiency and renewable power sectors, and despite calls by existing and potential major economic players, including first nations.
Sound decision-making on allocation of taxpayers' money for energy projects requires consultation and a cogent plan. This budget also fails in recognizing the potential for substantial cost savings and job creation from investment in energy efficiency, and cost savings to families, business and to government. In fact, the Conservative government appears to have completely disregarded the potential for reducing its massive deficit simply by reducing its own energy use instead of cutting jobs.
By way of example, this budget allocates no dollars whatsoever to the return of the extremely popular ecoENERGY home retrofit program. It was brought back in 2011 for one year only. It was very popular, oversubscribed and then unceremoniously cut.
Here is what one of my constituents, a property manager, wrote to me. Mr. Tarek Merhej, vice-president of KARST Property Management, said:
|| I read your comments this morning in the Edmonton Journal relating to the ecoEnergy Program where you mentioned: “There's not even the return of the eco-energy retrofit program that helped homeowners make their houses more energy efficient and it is a sector where Alberta has shown leadership.”
|| And I couldn't agree more. I was one of the many people I'm sure who were too late to take advantage of this program. I had selected my builder on large principle by the fact that their houses were Energuide engineered and rated but unfortunately by the time I had received my possession date, the program had expired.
|| I have shared this disappointment with many and I simply wanted to thank you for speaking up as you do and demonstrating, as you put it so well, that “this budget shows a lack of understanding of Canadians' priorities.”
Energy retrofits, whether for homes, businesses or government facilities have huge potential for creating well-paying jobs. The Energy Services Association of Canada shows a tenfold increase in jobs per billion dollars spent between coal fire power and building retrofit. The Alberta Federation of Labour study forecasted 6,500 to 14,000 new jobs in just a two-year period from this sector. It also suggested that a good bridge in jobs between boom and bust years in the energy economy would be energy retrofitting.
It also reduces energy costs for homes, businesses and government. Approximately 15% of household costs are for heating. We have been told in committee that energy efficiency for commercial buildings can reduce energy consumption costs by 50%. It would also reduce pollution and carbon. BOMA, an association that works on buildings to increase their energy efficiency, reports that buildings contribute 20% to 30% of greenhouse gases in this country.
It would be good for business. Realtors and building owners advise that energy efficient buildings are in the highest demand for leasing. It would trigger private investment where governments adopt supportive policies or infuse matching supplementary grants.
Who has testified to this? The Energy Services Association of Canada, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada, or BOMA, and the Real Property Association of Canada, are hardly environmental radicals. All have testified in a current study before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on significant potential job creation and cost savings, for the federal government alone, through expanded energy efficiency.
Let me share a few of the examples that they have shared on projected savings. Before the Centre for Inland Waters was retrofitted, 50% of its operating budget was spent on energy and water, $1.5 million a year. Post the retrofit, it is projected to save $9.1 million. Due to an energy retrofit for CFB Halifax, it is achieving a guaranteed $1.4 million a year in savings. Place du Portage is being guaranteed an annual savings in energy bills of over $450,000.
A total of $43 million per year is projected from energy bills from the overall current federal retrofit program, and it could be more if a long-term strategy and commitment to seeking reduced energy costs for the 40,000 buildings that are owned or leased by the government was approached. That is hardly small potatoes.
Energy retrofits and energy efficient equipment manufacturing are important sectors in my constituency and deserve policy measures to support and foster their growth. Yet, there are no prospects for similar savings for homeowners or small businesses because this budget provides zero support for them.
The government, with great fanfare, announced its removal of tariffs on hockey equipment. Yet based on the estimated cost by Ottawa's Valiquette's sports, a one time purchase of hockey equipment for a child in midget or minor hockey costs about $1,000. The removal of the tariff would reduce that by about $180. Of course, that is a saving for those families who could afford to buy the equipment in the first place.
If support had been provided instead, or in addition, frankly, for home energy retrofit for an average middle-class home, that same value or more in savings could be gained each year, not as a one-off.
What about skills training that was talked a great about by the government? Indicative of the government's lack of comprehension of the global shift to investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, very little recognition is evidenced in this budget for the potential job market if targeted assistance were provided for skills training in this sector.
Few small firms can afford to pitch in the requisite $5,000 to match federal-provincial support. There is terrific potential for small energy audit and retrofit enterprises, including student jobs, and including for aboriginal communities and technical graduates or apprentices, but can they afford a start-up of $5,000? Then again, apparently neither the provinces nor territories have been consulted on the matching grant scheme anyway. Who has been consulted on the skills training or job creation priorities? The big question is, has the energy efficiency sector even been consulted?
With regard to the accelerated capital cost write-off, it is an excellent initiative if parallel measures are instituted to actually trigger the purchase and deployment of the equipment toward cleaner energy production or pollution abatement. Regrettably, the budget is limited in developing clean energy technologies, and we see no new measures to actually trigger the uptake of this equipment. Sadly, the budget allocates a mere $1 million this year for sustainable development technology. More is proposed for the future, but we will wait to see how the government pays down its deficit.
Sadly, in the budget, the key word for education is “commercialization”. There is no support for pure research. There is no backing off on firing scientists or shutting down of the renowned Experimental Lakes project, despite substantiated results in cleaner waterways arising from their research.
Infrastructure is the same story. Some money is coming forward, but not enough to actually address the rising infrastructure deficit. In sum, the budget is more about politics and short-term interests than a road map for long-term sustainable prosperity for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by rereading the amendment proposed by the hon. member for , because my comments relate directly to it.
The amendment is very simple:
|| 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 as it:
During this Christian Holy Week, I have a litany of reasons why we should oppose this bill.
In some ways, politics is like many major religions. There are important, imperative moments throughout the year that should be a source of hope and renewal.
The tabling of the budget should have been such a source of motivation. Thus, Canadians could have regained hope in a government that listens to them and acts on behalf of all Canadians, leaving no one behind.
However, the reality is quite different. It is clear that what we have before us is a pre-election budget, albeit two years early, that is about satisfying a Conservative base and certain ridings that the governing party believes it can win over in 2015.
Where is the who promised to be the Prime Minister of all Canadians?
How can anyone believe in the purported economic competence of the Conservatives, when the missed his economic growth targets by 35% for 2012? He is responsible for a $67 billion trade deficit.
While private sector economists are telling us that this year could be even worse, the minister is still saying that the deficit will be eliminated by 2015. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that someone, somewhere will have to pay the price and that this budget therefore has to be an austerity budget. It would be nice if the burden of that objective rested on everyone's shoulders equitably. That is not what the Conservatives have in mind.
In the next few minutes, knowing that my colleagues from across Canada will be defending their part of the country, I will try to illustrate how Quebec is more of a victim here, rather than a respected partner in Canada's economic development. Why was Quebec bludgeoned so brutally in the most recent federal budget?
Let us begin with infrastructure. Last week, a reporter asked me what my first impression of the budget was. I summed up my thoughts by saying that this budget was from Mr.—I cannot name the minister here, but I gave his name—the magician. Everyone knows that this magician is able to dazzle his audience at first, but upon closer inspection, it quickly becomes obvious that his tricks are all smoke and mirrors.
For example, I would like to talk about the Conservatives' proposals with regard to infrastructure. Given that the main stakeholders, such as the UMQ and the FQM, have said that it will take $123 billion to update Canada's infrastructure, we expected the budget to contain stable, recurrent, predictable, long-term funding. The 's response was a 10-year plan. That is not really long term. Everyone would have preferred a 20-year plan, but that is not the biggest concern we have about this.
Our Merlin the magician is trying to distract us with smoke and mirrors while he transforms a seven-year plan that was already announced into a 10-year plan. As a result, a program worth approximately $30 billion over seven years has become one worth $47 billion over 10 years. The allocation of funding is not at all balanced over the 10 years since the government is allocating very little funding in the first few years and large amounts later on without bothering to index those amounts, thereby ensuring that the subsidies lose their value year after year.
In short, we will have to deal not only with increased infrastructure costs, but also with a foreseeable reduction of approximately $4.7 billion in federal investments over the next four years. The budget is full of this type of doublespeak and counterproductive measures.
The fight against tax evasion is another good example. Everyone agrees that the fight against tax evasion is worthwhile. Right away, this issue garnered the support of all members of all parties in the House.
Can someone then explain to me how the Conservatives can step up the fight against tax evasion and decrease the resources available to those responsible for leading that fight in the same breath? It must be magic.
Savings and job creation are yet another great part of the budget tabled by the minister. It seems that talking out of both sides of its mouth has also become a hallmark of the governing party. After raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 and asking workers to properly prepare themselves, the government is eliminating one of the biggest savings incentives for Quebeckers, namely the supplementary tax credit for labour-sponsored funds. Not only is this reducing workers' ability to generate part of their own pensions, it is also a direct attack on one of the most significant job-creation tools in Quebec. After such an attack, I hope that the Conservatives will have the decency to stop shoving their jobs, growth and prosperity propaganda down our throats, because their measures are having the exact opposite effect.
I would like to move on to job training. I hesitate to say that it is the icing on the cake. Every single page of the budget is harmful to Quebec, so every chapter seems like the icing on the cake.
The government is clearly interfering with a provincial jurisdiction. Every time the responds to a question, he tries to say that we are always confused about areas of jurisdiction, but that the Conservatives respect the division of powers. I have long wondered how it is possible that he has not reminded the cabinet that job training falls under provincial jurisdiction.
The government is taking back $300 million of the $500 million managed by the provinces so that it can put the maple leaf on a cheque. In return, it is asking the provinces to find new funding. In the same breath, it is saying that it is not cutting transfer payments to the provinces. What is wrong with this picture? On top of all that, the government is asking private business to contribute as much as 33% so that the program will work.
The job training system in Quebec has proven its worth and already involves all the stakeholders. My question is: why reinvent the wheel when it already works just fine? Unless our Merlin the magician's real, hidden objective is in fact to recover money for the public purse. The partners will be unable to cover the cost of this new program. The idea of using private enterprise in this way could also have some major surprises in store for us.
Let me give an example. What would happen to a welder trained in a company, using some of the company's funds, if the company had to shut down for some reason? What recognized skills will the worker have? Where will he get his competency cards? What diploma will enable him to do similar work for another employer? These are all questions that remain unanswered.
With respect to the co-operative system, Quebec certainly fosters the co-operative movement. Thus, it is no surprise that Quebec is once again being attacked with the elimination of the tax credit for co-operatives.
The government has also performed magic in the VIA Rail file. The budget allocates $54 million in 2013-14 to support VIA Rail operations. We could think that we might be joining the 21st century at last and that this acknowledges the importance of developing rail transportation in a country where the train quite often drives our regions' economic development, for example in the tourism industry. We would have to have a very short memory, though, if we cannot recall that this investment comes after VIA Rail's budget was cut by $287 million in the main estimates. Once again, this is another trick in an effort to hide the lack of vision of the Conservatives, who had promised to give power to the regions.
The budget renews the P3 Canada fund that forces provinces and municipalities to use public-private partnerships for projects of $100 million or more. No one from the government side has yet explained to me why the P3 solution is better suited to the taxpayers' ability to pay when Canada has the best borrowing capacity on the markets.
We could also talk about the securities regulator and everything this budget does not do. For example, there is nothing about the infamous employment insurance reform. There is not one line about changes to old age security. There is nothing for households with a debt ratio in excess of 167%. There are no incentives for Canadian corporations to reinvest the $600 billion in dead money. There is nothing to close the 30% gap in funding for first nations' education.
I will close by saying that there are a few elements of this budget that we approve of, but it is simply not worth supporting. Our vote applies to the entire budget and, therefore, I will let the House guess how I will be voting.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak about budget 2013. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
A lot has been said by members on both sides of the House about this budget. Let me weigh in with what I think is important for my constituents in Etobicoke—Lakeshore, across the great city of Toronto and the GTA, and across Canada, in fact. It is a good budget in the sense that it brings balance to what we have to spend money on, tax measures and thinking to the future in terms of our long-term prosperity.
This budget touches on issues of connecting Canadians with available jobs and looking at the skills gaps. Representatives of businesses and manufacturing industries in Etobicoke—Lakeshore talk over and over again about the challenges they have of finding skilled people in Canada and sometimes having to go overseas to find people to fill the jobs. It really would be of benefit to our Canadian economy if we could match people, help them develop the skills and get them working right away in some of the important sectors of the economy like manufacturing in Etobicoke—Lakeshore.
Another important feature and one of the reasons I support this budget is the new long-term infrastructure plan. It is really important. If we look at the infrastructure deficit that was created in this country and what was spent on infrastructure between 1993 and 2006, we see it was less than $1 billion a year in transfers to municipalities and provinces. We are looking at a long-term plan so provinces and municipalities can lock in on developing the infrastructure they need to keep people and goods and services moving and keep our economy going.
A third important element is the new investments in world-class research and innovation. It is one thing to do pure research, but an important aspect in the budget is commercialization, looking at the D in the R and D and how to take great ideas and scientific research and make it into something commercially viable and, therefore, sustainable for the long term.
A fourth cornerstone of this budget is around the new measures to support communities and families. We have been doing a lot of things since 2006, which I attribute to our . This is his eighth budget and he has figured out the mix of things over the last seven years to make sure we are supporting families in a sensible, sustainable and affordable kind of way.
Fifth, there are measures to specifically help the private sector grow and succeed in this global marketplace. As we know, the world is very competitive. Even small and medium-sized businesses now have to compete worldwide, and Canadian enterprises are rising to that challenge. They are doing what they need to do to be successful. We are seeing that in the numbers.
I would say the most important part of the budget is the plan to return to a balanced budget. It is absolutely critical. I will say one thing. There is only one party in the House that is proposing a balanced budget. On the one hand, the official opposition is talking about spending increases in the order of $56 billion a year, with no plan to raise the funds, whether it is through taxes or otherwise. In its proposal, it is looking at putting Canada in a deep fiscal hole for generations. The other part of it is that not only would it create a deep fiscal hole, but my children, their children and everybody's children would be paying for it, and that kind of intergenerational debt transfer is just not right.
On the other hand, members of the third party do not have a plan at all. I will forgive them as they do not have a leader in place now, but everything they say suggests that they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. We are the only party in the House that really has any plan whatsoever to restore Canada to fiscal balance.
I will provide a bit of context in the time I have. It has been said many times before that we are on a strong economic track. We have created 950,000 net new jobs since the depth of the recession in July 2009 and that is something to be very proud of. It is not the government that created those jobs but the Canadian economy.
I should mention also that, for the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking sector the soundest in the world. That is partly because of strong measures we put in place as part of our culture as Canadians. We are proud of our banks. In the city of Toronto a lot of people work in banks, are very proud to work for the banks, and that provides the financial underpinning for our strong economy. Reflected in that is the AAA credit rating that our government has. That was awarded by Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's.
I also want to highlight the debt that the federal government has as well as that of provincial and municipal governments. If we look at the total net government debt across all levels of government, we see Canada leads the G7. However, it is important to make the distinction between net government debt and total debt. Our federal government pension plans, like the CPP and the Quebec pension plan, have significant financial assets that underpin them. Many countries in the world do not have that solid underpinning. For that reason, we lead the G7 when it comes to net debt to GDP ratio by far.
I want to talk about job creation, and 950,000 net new jobs is a lot of jobs. That means a lot of Canadians are back at work. In some parts of the country, they cannot fill all the jobs that are out there for lack of people with the right skills. However, some of the criticism from the opposition is that these are part-time jobs, which is simply not true. The information we have is that 91% of those jobs are full-time jobs and 79% are in the private sector. Over and above that, 68% of those jobs are in high-wage industries.
To get back to the plan for a balanced budget, when the recession hit we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit. By the way, that was a decision that was supported by all parties in this House. However, as I mentioned, our net debt to GDP ratio is currently 35.8%, but in comparison, Germany is next at 58.4% and the G7 average is around 80%. Therefore, we are in strong fiscal shape compared to the rest of the G7, but we are not going to rest on our laurels. We are going to keep moving forward because that is the right thing to do, which is why we have made a commitment to return to a balanced budget.
Between 2006 and 2009, before the recession hit, the Conservative government paid down $37 billion in debt, which positioned us well. Obviously, we could not predict every aspect of the global economic downturn that happened with the fall of financial institutions around the world, but we are in a strong fiscal position and we want to become even stronger.
I should mention that we reduced the deficits and debt without increasing taxes. Opposition members talk about grandiose spending plans that they cannot afford, but hidden behind that message is the intention to increase taxes, whether with carbon taxes, a hike in the GST or personal income taxes. That is the only way the opposition could afford to pay for its program, short of passing the bill to the next generation.
However, since 2006, we have cut taxes more than 150 times. We have reduced the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years by cutting personal income tax, adjusting the brackets as appropriate, and reducing consumption taxes. The GST was reduced from 7% to 5%. We reduced business taxes and we have also reduced excise taxes. We have accomplished a lot of tax reduction, which means significant savings for families. For a typical family of four, that is a tax saving of about $3,200.
Small businesses are important stakeholders in this economy and they have also seen significant tax decreases. A typical small business with $500,000 in revenue is seeing about $28,600 in reduced taxes.
One of the things we plan to do with our budget, which is one reason I support it, is take action to close some tax loopholes and make our tax system more consistent with economies in the rest of the developed world. Other countries have taken tax measures to make sure there is no tax loss trading that is done unethically and illegally. We will be making sure those loopholes are closed.
I want to highlight a couple of things that are critical for Toronto and Ontario, one of which is the long-term infrastructure plan. No country has committed this much money, as some members on the government side have mentioned, with $53 billion over 10 years in the new building Canada plan, which is significant. Municipalities like the City of Toronto really appreciate that help from the federal government. As well, there is the commitment to Massey Hall, which is a project I really support. There is an investment of $8 million in 2013-14 that has to do with some adjacent building that is going on. It is important that we get that Canadian landmark built, and the federal government is proud to participate in that.
To wrap up, there are some things in this budget for important industries like manufacturing and the automotive sector. It is a good budget for Canada, and the opposition has recognized the wisdom and the good sense in this budget. I wish it would support it. It puts economic opportunities for Canadians in place now and in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to Canada's economic action plan 2013, our Conservative government's plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Our economic action plan is centred on the priorities of hard-working Canadians and their families. Our economic action plan is focused on building an enduring prosperity for all Canadians. We are taking clear and decisive action to further strengthen our economy, create quality jobs and a better quality of life for generations to come, for our children and our grandchildren.
Today, I am proud to highlight some of the many benefits that our economic action plan 2013 would provide for Canadians and their families. For example, our economic action plan would provide the right kind of support to Canadian job creators. As promised, we are keeping taxes low to continue to help hard-working families and the employers who create prosperity and jobs for Canadians.
Since 2006, our government has consistently reduced taxes for hard-working Canadians, for the moms, dads, seniors and students. Simply put, we have reduced taxes for all Canadians.
Unlike the high-tax NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and leaving more money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadians so they can spend their money on their own priorities and money can circulate in the economy.
As Conservatives, we believe keeping taxes low is critically important to the well-being of our economy. We will continue to encourage job creators to invest in and create jobs in Canada.
Our plan is working. In fact, Canada is leading the G7. This is no small feat. Since the depth of the recession in 2009, we have created over 950,000 net new jobs, the strongest job creation record in the entire G7. Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years and significantly lower than the unemployment rate in the United States. This is quite a phenomenon.
Our banks are considered the most stable in the world, but the global economy continues to be fragile. That is why we are focused on job creation and not spending beyond what we can afford.
We are focused on eliminating tax loopholes that benefit only a select few. We are on track to balance the budget by 2015-16, as promised.
I mentioned Canadian businesses earlier. These businesses are our job creators. One of the measures I am very proud of is our continued support for small businesses and bright, industrious young people. Since 2006, our Conservative government has supported the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. Economic action plan 2013 continues that support by providing $18 million to the foundation, which provide mentorship, advice and start-up financing for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 34.
Our Conservative government has also lowered the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, which allows small businesses to invest in growth, to hire our neighbours and to expand in new markets.
Our government is also providing a temporary credit of up to $1,000 against the small business increase in 2013 employment insurance premiums over those paid in 2012. This temporary credit will help approximately 560,000 employers if they hire more people. We have also increased the lifetime capital gains exemption to $800,000 in 2014 for small business owners.
Manufacturing jobs in southern Ontario are critical. That is why our Conservative government is helping businesses succeed and grow in the global economy. This economic action plan includes $1.4 billion in tax relief through a two-year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new machinery and equipment for manufacturers. Our message to manufacturers is clear: please invest.
These are just a few examples of how our government stands strongly behind our job creators. In order for Canada to grow, we need more businesses to create jobs for Canadians, for our neighbours and more investment in our economy.
Canadian job seekers also need adequate skills and training to fill available jobs. Nothing is more disheartening than to hear my neighbours in Mississauga and Brampton say that they are searching for work and have been for months, only to then hear businesses say that they cannot find enough skilled employees to fill available jobs. There is a serious disconnect here. People are struggling to find jobs, while some businesses cannot grow as quickly as they should in order to compete.
Our government is taking decisive action to fix this growing problem, to ensure that Canada is on the right track for long-term economic prosperity. The new Canada job grant will provide $15,000 or more per person in combined federal, provincial and employer funding to help Canadians get the skills they need for in-demand jobs. By asking employers to equally share in the cost of training their new employees, we know job creator will ensure that the training is targeted and results focused. The new employee is also reassured that he or she is training for a job that exists and needs to be filled.
We also believe in supporting our families and our communities. Economic action plan 2013 introduces several key measures to help Canadian families. We offer new tax relief for families adopting a child. We propose to enhance the adoption expense tax credit to better recognize the unique costs associated with adopting a child, and we wish these young families every happiness.
Let me also remind the opposition that since 2006, we have made the well-being of our children, our future, a priority. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit, promoting physical fitness among children through a credit of up to $500 for programs from hockey to ballet. In addition, we also offer the children's art tax credit, which encourages moms and dads to sign their children up for piano or guitar lessons, also with a credit of up to $500 for arts programs. As a mom, I know how very popular these programs are in the GTA among parents.
Our economic action plan also provides continued enhanced support for our veterans, for our nation's heroes. Canada's veterans deserve the very best. Under the leadership of our , economic action plan 2013 is a budget that invests in our veterans. In fact, the economic action plan proposes to more than double the financial support for funerals for families, while also cutting cumbersome red tape.
Our government understands the needs of Canadians. We have removed over one million low income families, individuals and seniors from tax rolls altogether. We are cutting taxes in every possible way we can. We have targeted personal income taxes by cutting them to the lowest tax rate, to 15%. We are increasing the amount that Canadians can earn tax free. The government has provided seniors with the very much needed ability to split their pension income. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, which has put nearly $1,000 back in the pockets of the average Canadian family. With this plan, the typical Canadian family has seen savings totalling more than $3,200.
Like all Canadians, we cherish our health care. My aging mother relies on hospitals, just as most Canadians sometimes need our health care. Even during these challenging economic times, our government will continue to provide a 6% increase to provinces for health care funding over last year's payments.
Our government's plan to return to a balanced budget is working. We have reduced the deficit by more than half over the last two years. Economic action plan 2013 builds on past efforts to reduce government spending by announcing an additional $1.7 billion in ongoing savings. While the NDP and Liberals want to engage in reckless spending, we have a plan for Canada and our plan is working.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is a reasonable expectation that a budget should not just explain to us but to all Canadians how the government plans to spend its revenues. It should tell Canadians what it plans on doing with their tax money. Further, it is a reasonable expectation that a government putting forward a budget would want, and therefore make efforts, to explain to Canadians how it would do that.
However, these are disappointed expectations. Instead, we have a government that lacks the courage to live up to these expectations and even lacks the courage of its own convictions. Instead, we have a fundamentally dishonest document in this year's budget. It ducks, dodges and dives. It makes stuff up and pretends.
Let me illustrate this point with the subject of military procurement. In 2008, the government introduced the Canada first defence strategy, or CFDS. It is not so much a policy or strategy, as it is a mighty expensive shopping list, calling for $490 billion of spending over 20 years. We now know that is vastly understated.
Only two years after its introduction the Department of National Defence deemed the CFDS unaffordable. The briefing book prepared for the Associate Minister of Defence by the department in the wake of the May 2011 election stated, “The funding reductions from Budget 2010 and the reduced funding line going forward will make the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) unaffordable”. The recommendation is to “conduct a CFDS Reset to confirm level of ambition”.
It needs to be noted that the CFDS was considered unaffordable even when the department was still budgeting just $5.7 billion for the sustainment of the F-35, which the CFDS states the government will buy. Therefore, the department's assessment of the unaffordability of the CFDS was and remains accurate.
Of course it is not just the associate minister's briefing book that we have to look to for an assessment of the affordability of the CFDS. The put together a transformation team in 2010 to “develop ideas to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and to act as the driving force behind organizational changes needed to reposition the DND/CF for the future”.
I am quoting from the forward to the “Report on Transformation 2011”, otherwise known as the Leslie report after its main author, now retired Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie. This was not just about finding savings to the tune of a billion dollars per year from the budget. Rather, in Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie's terms it was also about making “the Canada First Defence Strategy more achievable within the resources available”.
As early as 2010, that shortfall was anticipated to be at least a billion dollars per year.
It should be noted that none of Lieutenant-General Leslie's recommendations were implemented. Also, the reset or rewrite of the Canada first defence strategy recommended by the department and the associate minister remains an outstanding promise of the current . In other words, since 2010, the government has carried on pretending that it has a real, viable, affordable plan for military procurement. That pretense carries right on through into this budget with the incorporation of a document entitled, “Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities”, otherwise known as the Jenkins report.
The Jenkins report's principal objective is to “outline an approach to maximize the overall benefit of the government's CFDS investment”. It assumes that the CFDS is affordable, that it is a viable military procurement plan and that it is what it had proclaimed itself to be in 2008. It assumes that military procurement under the CFDS will generate $49 billion of industrial and regional benefits. It continues the pretense that the CFDS is not long dead, and by way of the incorporation of that report into the budget, so does the budget.
One might ask what the harm is in pretending that we can afford that shopping list, when we cannot.
Let us examine the recent case of the joint support ships. In 2004 the Liberal government set out to purchase three of these with a budget of $2.1 billion. By the time the bids from industry rolled in under the Conservatives in 2008, it was clear that there was not going to be enough money to get just two ships. The Department of National Defence advised the minister in August 2008, the very same month that the bids were deemed non-compliant, that it was going to cost at least $3 billion to buy those ships.
The Conservatives responded by budgeting $2.8 billion two years later in 2010. Now the PBO has advised in a recent report on the matter that the government should be budgeting over $4 billion for what it intends to buy. More important, it also advised that the $2.8 billion that the government has budgeted has actually less purchasing power than the $2.1 billion the Liberals had budgeted in 2004.
The Conservatives started from behind and then stepped backward. The threat is that if the government continues to behave this way, if it continues to pretend that it can be things that it cannot, that it can buy things that it cannot, then we will continue to walk backward. It is called program failure and it has devastating consequences to the recapitalization of our Canadian Forces.
From the sea to the air, we can see that when one pretends to be able to buy it all, a priority is put on nothing. We have fixed-wing search and rescue being performed in this country by aircraft that is nearly 50 years old, belongs in a museum and is in need of replacement. However, the effort to procure replacement fixed-wing search and rescue capability has been grounded, squeezed out by other procurements higher up on that shopping list. Asked just last week about this procurement, the minister responded by saying that it was a good question and pointed his finger at his colleagues and their departments.
On the ground there is a different story still. Procurement projects for the family of land combat vehicles are all at different stages. This includes the LAV III upgrades, close combat vehicles, tactical armoured patrol vehicles, tanks and howitzers totalling, as best as one can make out from beating the bushes, about $6 billion in acquisition costs.
Obviously it is the army for whom these vehicles are intended that seems to be taking the brunt of the budget cuts. Now there is no reference per se to DND budget cuts in the budget. Those facts, that information, in the words of one budget commentator, is only being whispered “in Swahili at the bottom of a well”. However, the chief of the Canadian army, Lieutenant-General Devlin, appeared before a Senate committee recently, acknowledging that his force is facing at least a 22% cut. Reports suggest that a further 8% cut is coming effective next week.
With the government keeping up pretences that the CFDS is affordable, that budget axe is going to fall on operations and maintenance and readiness. It means no more Arctic training. It means a fire sale on government property. It means recapitalized fleets with empty gas tanks as the fuel budget going forward comes nowhere near covering cost increases from the past.
The Conservative government introduced the Canada first defence strategy with the promise of “stable and predictable defence funding”. That promise did not even last two years. It is just that the government has spent the last three years pretending that it did not break that promise.
This budget continues that pretence to the detriment of the Canadian Forces. This budget perpetuates the pretense that this is a competent government. It is most certainly not. The military procurement file brings that truth into sharp relief.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the latest budget. It reads “Jobs, Growth and Prosperity” and says “Long-term” in very small letters. It does not say “budget” and, if you did not know, you might have doubts that it really is a budget. What I have here in my hands is instead a fairly partisan political document that makes nice announcements and brags about what has been done since 2006.
For example, the budget spends a few pages telling us all the wonderful things that have been done for families. It pours out figures, programs and statistics. If this was a 2013 budget, we would clearly see what is being announced as of 2013. No; you need to do a little reading between the lines to see that it is sort of a compilation of what has been done since 2006. In short, as I said earlier, it is obviously a political document.
Another thing we can criticize about this budget or this political document—call it what you will—is its lack of clarity. For example, the paragraph concerning the financial literacy initiatives aimed at seniors reads:
|| The Government will work with partners to improve financial literacy among seniors and respond to specific challenges faced by seniors.
It is a noble intention that nobody can argue with. However, if we really want to do some serious work, if we want to have figures, names of partners and something a little more concrete, we will have to wait. Are we going to support this budget? What is this budget exactly? Where is the substance? Are there any analyses that justify moving in this direction? Do we even have figures that jibe with the announcements? No.
Therefore, I will reiterate that this budget lacks a lot of clarity and, instead, talks up dusty old policies and random measures that have been in place for several years now. This does not give us much direction. At any rate, I will not support the 2013 budget because, despite the lack of clarity in several respects, it still spells out a number of things that we are definitely not happy with.
Another appalling aspect of this budget is that it clearly demonstrates just how incompetent the Conservatives are when it comes to any kind of management. First, the Conservatives say they will give so much in infrastructure funding; then, in budget 2013, they adjust the numbers and take some funding back. They give, they take. First, the Conservative government said that it would put the provinces in charge of skills training; now, in 2013, it is taking that responsibility back. Why, how and what will it do better? No one really knows. It gives, it takes and it takes away.
I do not know if the government has any understanding of the nature of a long-term strategy, say for intergenerational equity or consultations, for example. These concepts are all very relevant and could perhaps help the Conservatives make clear announcements and long-term plans that would allow their partners to really know where they are going and plan for the future.
I will be voting against this budget, and I would like to make a quick comment on that. Voting against a budget is not the same as voting against children, families, workers or aboriginal people. No, it is more nuanced than that. I demonstrated earlier that the budget contains many measures and announcements, some of which are more specific and others that are very vague. Just because the Conservatives announce money does not mean that they are giving more than they originally planned. Sometimes, when they announce that they are giving money, it really means that they are taking it away.
These documents are very nuanced. I say that as an aside for the people of my riding and any Canadians who are watching us debate this budget, because the Conservatives often use that demagogic argument indiscriminately. They say that the NDP voted against families, against this and that. In fact, the NDP is voting against the budget overall. Why? Because this budget gives less; it is not enough.
I would like to share my point of view more specifically as MP for Pierrefonds—Dollard and as the NDP critic for seniors.
First of all, I want to talk about infrastructure. I mentioned it briefly earlier.
I do not know how many members have ever been to Montreal, and more specifically, to the riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard. We need more than a little infrastructure investments for roads and existing infrastructure that need repairs, and for the many municipal and district projects supported by the residents, who are anxious to see those projects completed. Those projects are being blocked, however, because of a lack of funding and support from the federal government.
For instance, I am talking about the expansion of the urban boulevard and the highway 40 on-ramp. In Pierrefonds, the construction of thousands of homes is currently on hold and will be possible only if the municipality is able to carry out the project. Congestion on the boulevards in my riding is terrible. We need to do something for families, for workers and for the development of my region.
This is just one example. I have not yet spoken about public transit. Nothing has been announced in that regard. Yet, this is a vital issue for Montreal and its surrounding communities. Once again, there are many good proposals to promote clean, green public transit for our communities, and these proposals need more support. I met with STM representatives on several occasions. I know that they are doing incredible work to develop long-term strategies and make these proposals a priority. However, without any funding, these proposals cannot be implemented and Canadians cannot benefit from them.
Another factor that is relevant to my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard is co-operative housing. Pierrefonds is home to the second-largest housing co-operative in Canada, and that is not the only co-operative in the community, since there are also others, such as co-operatives for seniors. These are great institutions that have done a lot of work, but they need to know what they can expect from the government. The 2013 budget did not make any announcements indicating that the investments and agreements in this area would continue. Co-operatives and their residents are therefore concerned because they do not know whether they will be able to count on these investments and agreements a year from now.
The agreements expire soon. The government needs to be clear in this regard. If the Conservatives are not prepared to support these agreements and investments, they must say so unequivocally. They must stop trying to avoid this issue, thinking that if they do not talk about it then maybe people will forget about it. People will not forget about this issue. I guarantee it.
As the critic for seniors, I would like to raise a few points about the budget. Unfortunately, this budget is proof that seniors are not one of the Conservative government's priorities. Yet, we know that seniors constitute a growing percentage of Canada's population. This was to be expected. The population is aging and we have known about this for a long time. We can prepare for this phenomenon, but in order to do so, we must implement measures to properly support the changing needs of the population.
Contrary to what the said, the aging population is not a problem for our country. It can be something really positive; we simply have to prepare for this demographic change and adapt to it. Unfortunately, that is not what we are seeing in this budget.
First of all, I would like to talk about the targeted initiative for older workers, which was introduced in 2010 and is supposed to end in 2013-14. Will this initiative be extended? I do not know. The government has not made any announcement in that regard and has not said a word about it in budget 2013. We would expect some information, but there has been none. However, people really appreciate this initiative. That is apparent in evaluations done in Quebec, which show just how much workers and business people like it. In 2010, 96% of Quebeckers polled said they were satisfied. I think that says it all. If the Conservatives really intend to force Canadians to work two more years by increasing the eligibility age for old age security from 65 to 67, older workers looking for a job quite frankly deserve a little help.
I could go on and on. I want to emphasize that even though the promised to make the budget all about job creation and the economy, unfortunately that is not what we are seeing.
However, I can promise that the NDP will continue to focus on a greener, more prosperous and fairer Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my hon. friend, the member of Parliament for , who is particularly well suited, and I think very keen, to speak to the budget.
I would like to begin by complimenting our outstanding , my neighbour and the member of Parliament for , on the latest budget. He and his team have once again set an extremely high standard. By continuing to look a little ahead, he is following the example of Sir John A's great finance ministers, Alexander Galt and Sir John Rose, Hincks, Tilley and Sir George Foster, who looked to the whole world for Canada's economic opportunity. By putting responsible resource development, manufacturing and innovation front and centre in successive budgets, they have articulated a truly national policy for the 21st century.
I would like to speak briefly today about four issues: debt, jobs, markets and the future.
Let us be clear from the start: as the minister said, the past seven years have belonged to Canada, from the performance of our troops in Panjwai, Afghanistan, in 2006, to the G20 summit in Toronto, in 2010, where worldwide fiscal consolidation was on the agenda. That is when the world started to see Canada in a different light. At the height of the crisis, the world turned to Canada for its economic leadership. The and the have never failed to provide that leadership.
The Muskoka initiative has delivered an ambitious global partnership for maternal, newborn and child health, even as we have launched the most ambitious trade liberalization agenda in our country's history, all the while remaining the best in the G7 for job creation, growth and government-funded research. The key to all these achievements, above all else, is fiscal responsibility.
If one compares our deficit projection for this year, $18.7 billion, with that of the U.S., their current projection is $901 billion, with many variables ahead in Congress and elsewhere. The U.K. is £108 billion for this year. As the lesson of Cyprus has shown in the past week, the world is still on a sovereign debt precipice. Many of our allies and partners are already exceeding the 90% threshold for debt to GDP, beyond which growth has historically slowed on average by 1.2% per year, even in conditions of low interest rates, as Reinhart and Rogoff have recently shown in a now famous paper.
Every country that has an average per capita income that is higher than Canada's also has a debt level that is lower than Canada's, be it Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia or other small countries.
This budget resists the temptation to throw caution to the winds and to sacrifice fiscal consolidation on the altar of short-term advantage to saddle our young people with an unnecessary burden. However, that is exactly what both opposition parties would do with their uncosted proposals, their inconsistent statements, their bureaucratic reflexes and their politics of instant gratification.
The Conservatives will not travel this path. We will not miss this opportunity to continue Canada's economic leadership in mining, where we continue to be the world leader in new financing of exploration and development.
In the aerospace and defence sectors. we have the capacity to produce the best products and develop future capabilities, and those sectors just received new support in this budget.
Nor will we miss this opportunity in advanced manufacturing, where we are taking action to promote innovation.
In the area of finance, Toronto and other very dynamic centres of Canada's financial sector—Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver—now rank among the top 10 financial centres in the world.
Also in agriculture, our exports of meat, grain, fish and other food products continue to grow. All of these sectors are creating high-paying jobs from coast to coast to coast, in urban areas and rural.
It is one thing to want to have a low-tax, high-skill jurisdiction; it is quite another to deliver on such a commitment. This and this minister have done both. International investors have been watching. We have the best business plan, according to Forbes Magazine. We have the soundest banks, according to the Davos forum. Over the past seven years, portfolio investment in Canada has grown 67%, while many other advanced economies have lost the confidence of investors, or stumbled. Direct investment by Canadians in the world has grown from $806 billion to $980 billion, while direct investment in Canada has advanced from $802 billion to $947 billion.
These are some of the keys to our recovery. These are the facts that underpin the creation of 950,000 net new jobs, most of them in the private sector and most of them high-quality, since the low point of the last recession. However, we must do more to ensure all Canadians have access to economic opportunity. That is why this budget also includes new measures to tackle homelessness, to build new affordable housing, to empower those with disabilities and to help young aboriginal Canadians find a trade or start a new business.
Let us be clear about our record to date. Canada's growth over the past seven years has been balanced and inclusive. Let us recall what TD Economics told us in December 2012. It stated:
|| Income inequality is both persistently lower and rising more slowly in Canada than in the United States. In fact, inequality in Canada has been flat since 1998, as measured by the Gini coefficient.
That is another record of achievement.
Let us look at the numbers showing the opportunity that Canada has. According to Statistics Canada, our GDP in 2012 was at $1.833 trillion. Again, according to Statistics Canada, as of now the estimated population is 35 million. That is $52,288 of GDP per Canadian, well ahead of larger countries in the G7 and well ahead of most of our peers.
Unlike the opposition, we harbour no illusions about the role that international trade has played in our success.
Let us be clear on what international economic experts are saying. Robert Z. Lawrence of the Peterson Institute said:
|| Trade has improved...living standards. With the exception of oil, emerging economies have been mainly complementary rather than competitive....
This is not what we hear from the NDP, who want to shut down all of our trade agreements in North America and beyond. The NDP is not coming clean with Canadians about what this would do to our living standards, our prosperity and to our future. Instead, the government is pursuing an ambitious trade agenda, building a powerful economic relationship with China.
We are pursuing free trade with India. We are negotiating an unprecedented free trade agreement with Europe for Canada.
We are multiplying free trade agreements with Latin America, and we are driving with the U.S., Japan and others toward a trans-Pacific partnership.
With regard to CIDA amalgamation with foreign affairs, I think all of us on this side of the House welcome it. It will help us to be more strategic about our position in the world, to have an effective policy for partnering with low income countries while trading and investing with developing middle income and high income countries coherently and powerfully.
Is it not a huge advantage for Canada to have a development commitment to the 54 countries of Africa, and to have mining companies that have invested, not $5 billion in 2005, but $32 billion-plus in Africa today? Does that not do more to raise living standards and to secure Canadian leadership?
What does this mean for a riding like Ajax—Pickering? It means young people will be considering apprenticeships in the many sectors where nearly a quarter of a million jobs are still going unfilled. It means small businesses will be seeking Canada jobs grants to plan for new hiring, even while welcoming the extension of the tax credit for new hires.
It means that investment in industrial equipment will continue. In 2010, there was an 11% increase and in 2011, the increase was nearly 25%.
It means that those who attended our pre-budget round table on youth, women and unemployment last fall with the now know that they have been heard. It means commuters, families, and public transit and municipal authorities in Ajax—Pickering can now have confidence that the largest long-term commitment to infrastructure in Canada's history, $70 billion over 10 years, will benefit them. It means that those who believe in a strong defence industry for Canada will be looking to opportunities in shipbuilding, aerospace, and defence procurement to harness new ideas and support the next technological breakthrough in blast resistant materials or low emission propulsion.
During the ministry of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada represented only 1.3% of global GDP. Today, we represent something like 2.6%, after a crisis that has seen the share of other advanced economies slide and as emerging economies have seen unparalleled growth.
Global GDP has risen from $41 trillion in 2000 to over $70 trillion today, but Canada's place remains prominent. Canada's prospects remain bright. Canada's leadership remains strong, thanks to this budget.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to defend and support economic action plan 2013. I want to begin by congratulating my colleague from , who did an outstanding job in his speech in talking about so many issues that are relevant in this budget today.
Economic action plan 2013 is about jobs, growth, long-term prosperity and Canada's bright future. Over the past several years, we have all witnessed the global economy destabilized and former leading nations crippled by global market forces, excess spending and debt. The citizens of these countries have suffered the most, with job losses, fluctuating currencies and a future of uncertainty. However, Canada could not be more contrastive, and budget 2013 is, quite simply, further evidence of why Canada continues to be an oasis for financial stability.
The praise for budget 2013 and Canada's economy is significant. Moody's rated Canada with a solid AAA rating. In the G7, Canada is the only nation with this top credit rating, and following the release of our fiscal plan, we will eliminate the national deficit in an expedient two years. This is complemented by a consistently high ranking by the OECD. Its economic survey of Canada reports that the economy is continuing to grow despite the persistence of international turbulence, federal fiscal plans are seen by markets as credible, the banking system is sound and Canada enjoys strong institutions and policy credibility.
To that final note, the decisions made in budget 2013 are additional evidence of the sound policy-making decisions and our economic stability. From global to local, the praise for our financial institutions and economic leadership is consistent. Canadian Building Trades said it is are “extremely happy” with the Canada job grant and said further, “This is an opportunity to really affect the [trades] industry in a positive way”.
The Canadian Welding Association also said, “We are pleased to see that the Harper government is taking action to support skilled trades in Canada.”
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Across a huge diversity of sectors, an impressive 950,000 net new jobs have been created since 2009.
Quite simply, the understands that it is the economy and jobs that matter to Canadians and their families.
Knowing of the shortage of workers in skilled trades, the government has reallocated $4 million over three years to work with provinces and territories to increase opportunities for apprentices. These apprentices would find potential employment through federally funded construction and maintenance contracts as well as through affordable housing and infrastructure projects.
I should mention that in the industry committee, we spent a lot of time interviewing witnesses on issues such as skilled trades and the need for support in those areas. We heard from those witnesses, and this budget is testament to the fact that this government listens.
The government recognizes the importance of all Canadians working and contributing meaningfully to the workforce. It is for this reason that budget 2013 is committing to the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. This program would focus on enhancing skills training and opportunities for those with disabilities.
It would also extend the opportunities fund to $40 million per year, understanding that the structure of a building can act as a barrier for some individuals. Economic action plan 2013 has committed to an ongoing allotment of $15 million per year for the enabling accessibility fund. This fund would assist in the costs of renovations to increase accessibility for people with ambulatory needs.
The government is here to help Canadians throughout their careers, from their first job to a career transition, ultimately leading to a full and productive life.
We are here to support our youth in finding employment. A primary barrier for new graduates following the completion of their studies is gaining work experience. These bright young adults would now have the opportunity to gain this experience through paid internships. The government would provide an investment of $70 million over the course of three years to help support 5,000 paid internships for new graduates. This would be in addition to subsidizing the upfront costs of tuition, with over $10 billion annually to directly support post-secondary education, including financial assistance such as student loans and grants.
Canada is an exceptionally diverse country. I am proud that my riding of is home to individuals from all countries. Knowing that each individual and cultural community adds to our vibrant cultural mosaic, this government has shown a consistent and substantial investment in supporting newcomers, including, in 2006, over $1.5 billion over five years dedicated to settlement and integration programs.
Also, knowing that Canada is a highly sought after destination for immigrants, I was pleased to see that in economic action plan 2013 there would be a focus on international recruitment to meet Canada's labour market needs.
There is also a commitment to ensure success by providing opportunities for individuals from abroad to experience Canada through the temporary resident program. We would do so by funding $42 million over two years to increase processing capacity for these applicants, as well as countless others. We would help individuals in areas such as Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, two important neighbourhoods in .
Coming from the automotive sector, I was very pleased to see the provision of $1.4 billion in tax relief to the manufacturing sector, with a two-year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment. This would help manufacturers purchase the equipment they need to operate their businesses and in turn create jobs and help to grow our economy.
Our government is committed to research and leadership and innovation, even in a time of global uncertainty.
This is evidenced by the $920 million dedicated to renew the federal economic development agency, of which $200 million would be applied to new advanced manufacturing. This would benefit countless local research centres, such as the MaRS research centre for innovation located in Toronto.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters voiced its support, saying:
|| The federal budget sends an important signal. It positions manufacturing and exporting at the heart of Canada's Economic Action Plan by focusing on practical steps that will enhance competitiveness, productivity, innovation, and business growth.
|| This is very good news for companies creating jobs in Canada, investing in our communities and developing and selling world-class products and services around the world.
It is our government's bold commitment to innovation with a measured fiscal responsibility that has ensured Canada has maintained its place as a leading economy.
The government also recognizes that an integral part of our economy is small business. These are the mom-and-pop shops down the street that provide a host of services that create a sense of community.
As I wrap up my time today, I want to also mention a very special centre of excellence in my community of Don Valley West, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I was delighted to note in economic action plan 2013, on my favourite page in the entire book, page 235, that the CNIB would receive $3 million to assist in the development of its national digital hub, which would provide new technology to assist the blind and the sight-impaired.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague from the riding of .
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak about budget 2013. This budget obviously leaves much to be desired, and that is why we will vote against it. However, there is one positive aspect. Despite the budget's general underlying idea of cutting spending, and therefore slowing economic growth, the government at least has not cancelled two very positive measures that were introduced by previous Liberal governments.
I am obviously talking, first of all, about the gas tax. Acknowledging that there were major municipal infrastructure needs at the time, the Liberals very wisely introduced this measure, which channels funds from the gas tax to the municipalities. That measure remains intact. The second measure dating back to previous Liberal governments is the GST exemption for the municipalities. In other words, the municipalities do not have to pay GST as a result of this earlier measure.
That is the positive aspect of this budget. However, it has a lot of negative aspects. I would like to talk a little about infrastructure. We see across Canada and North America that now is the time to renew our infrastructure. I am not the one saying it. We need only read the newspapers and listen to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We really need to renew and repair our infrastructure, and in other cases we must build new infrastructure if we want to guarantee ongoing economic growth.
What disappoint us in this budget are the cuts to the building Canada fund over the next two years. This makes us wonder whether these cuts are based on an economic argument or a political argument. In other words, is the purpose of these cuts simply to enable the government to achieve its target of a balanced budget just in time for the next election, or are they being made for economic reasons? I doubt they are being made for economic reasons since this measure will slow economic growth. I sincerely believe these infrastructure investment cuts are being made for purely political reasons, to benefit the Conservative Party and further its political objectives.
Driving on roads that are in poor condition costs drivers money. Every time we have to go to a service centre to have our wheels aligned or a flat tire changed because our car hit a pothole, that costs us money. I know the government likes to talk about private investment, but taxpayers could invest that money in an RRSP, for example. Then there would be more money in their RRSPs 10 or 20 years later, which would be good for their eventual retirement. When we do not invest in infrastructure, that costs people a lot of money.
I would like to cite an American example from a study conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. That study was based on figures from 2009. The American Society of Civil Engineers found that the United States had lost $78 billion as a result of traffic jams, which bring cars to a halt. That holds up traffic and wastes gasoline, since cars do not move forward. Those losses cost Americans $78 billion. Repairs to cars as a result of potholes and other causes totalled $67 billion in the United States in 2009. That is not peanuts.
In addition, more car accidents happen when infrastructure is in poor condition. That is a fact. Car accidents in the United States, many of which were due to a road system in poor condition, cost $230 billion in 2009. Not investing in infrastructure is an expensive proposition.
As we know, investing in infrastructure is costly. However, it is highly effective in creating jobs. In 2009, the University of Massachusetts Amherst concluded from research and analysis that every billion dollars spent on infrastructure creates 18,000 jobs. That is 30% more than if we took that billion dollars and gave it in the form of tax cuts. Investing in infrastructure is very effective. It is an effective way of creating jobs, and people obviously save the time and money they would have had to spend on car repairs.
Infrastructure must also be in good condition if we want to promote future economic growth. Economic activity cannot grow without infrastructure. Good infrastructure means strong economic growth in the long run.
As Liberal water policy critic, I observed something a little while ago, and now it is all starting to make sense. I observed that proposed waste water regulations were diluted between Canada Gazette part I, a part of the regulation-making process, and Canada Gazette part II.
What that means is obviously the quality of our water will not be as high as it would have been, but it also means that it will not be necessary to spend as much on waste water plants as we would if the regulations were stricter.
I am wondering now if the government diluted waste water regulations intentionally in order to minimize how much money it would have to invest across Canada in plant upgrades and construction of new plants.
Now it is all starting to make sense when I look at the budget and the political objective of balancing the budget. I am not saying that balancing the budget is not a good idea for the economy, but does it have to be by the fall of 2015? I am not so sure.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is cutting another $108 million over five years from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This is in addition to the $161.1 million cut from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans again announced by the Conservative government in previous budgets. These cuts, coupled with the changes to the employment insurance program and the impact on seasonal workers, will make life a struggle for those who work so hard to make a living from the sea.
Over 80,000 Canadians make their living from fishing-related activities. We fail to realize that it is because of their efforts we have access to one of, if not the best, food sources in the world. Fish is a food of excellent nutritional value, providing high quality protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. If the fishing industry were accorded the respect it deserves, Canada would not have dropped from sixth place to eighth place in the world among seafood exporting countries. Instead of slipping to eighth place, the industry could continue to be a major player in supplying the world with this major food source. Instead, it is treated with disdain by a government that has no appreciation for the industry or those who work in it.
We are left to worry about the economic reality facing our seniors with this budget and the lack of action to improve their situation. Having given so much during their lifetime to help our country succeed, the government is prepared to ignore what should be their right now, if they so wish, to spend time with grandchildren, travelling, enjoying retirement, doing what many could not do when they were working.
The Conservative government has decided in its wisdom, or dare I say lack of, to move the eligibility age for OAS from 65 to 67, forcing seniors to work an extra two years before they can live that life to which many seniors look forward. What is it about Conservatives that makes them think somehow that the majority of our seniors have more than just very modest savings, if any, after years of being in the workforce and deserve to be eligible for old age security at a time in their lives when they can still enjoy the benefits that come from receiving their pension income, as modest as it is?
Ralph Morris, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners Association, is on record saying such changes as raising to 67 from 65 the age at which Canadians could qualify for OAS would push many seniors into poverty. He said, “I think that it is an attack on the seniors of this country again by a prime minister and a government”.
According to Susan Eng, head of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons:
|| CARP members will be disappointed that the federal budget contained little to address their priority concerns--retirement security, seniors’ poverty and equitable access to healthcare, affordable drugs and home care. The modest measures are still welcome. Any other improvements would have had some immediate impact but would mostly set the stage for the kind of future Canadians can expect in retirement.
We are left to worry about the increasing difficulty for young people graduating from post-secondary institutions, more educated than ever before, yet with worse prospects for employment, thanks to the continued lack of real action by the Conservative government.
Committing to a job grant program that will not come into effect for another five years is not real action. Requiring cash-strapped provinces to match federal contributions in order to avail of the program is not real action. Freezing funding for training at 2007 pre-recession levels is not real action.
Unfortunately the only real action from the government is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on self-promotion. If people are looking for a job in the advertising industry, they might just be lucky because, as a result of this budget, that is the only place where they might find work, and then the job they find will be paid by their own tax dollars, hundreds of millions of which the Conservative government is using to shamelessly run a pre-election campaign. Fortunately Canadians see through these tactics as they try to deal with just living from day-to-day.
In today's economic reality, Conservative words will not improve the lives of those in Random--Burin--St. George's and the rest of Canada. Only positive action will improve this economy and create jobs. Unfortunately this budget offers Canadians nothing but empty words.
As the member of Parliament for Random—Burin—St. George's since 2008, I know only too well the hardships faced by many of those I represent. Fortunately, Canadians are no longer fooled by the practice of dropping goodies in budgets to try to distract them from the real message and inadequate performance.
The difficulty is that the budget is so short on detail that it is left to those of us who have the opportunity to read the budget documents to try and read between the lines and find out exactly what the Conservative government intends to do. The contradictions in the messages are alarming.
For instance, in budget 2007, the government promised almost $5.2 billion in new infrastructure funding for municipalities in 2013-14. However, budget 2013 only offers $3.3 billion in new funding for each of 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Conservatives failed to deliver infrastructure funding announced in budget 2007 and are now trying to claim that same money as new funding over the next five years.
The Conservatives claim skills training is the most important issue facing the country. Yet they actually cut training, after inflation is factored in, by freezing funding at 2007 pre-recession levels. Talk about alarming contradictory messaging.
Predictably, Conservatives will decry how opposition members are not standing up for the constituents when they vote against the budget. It is unfortunate that the few positive measures laced in between extraordinarily destructive Conservative economic policy get caught up in the bigger picture.
The Conservatives will attempt to reduce my opposition to their overall economic inaction in their standard speaking points. However, allow me to address one of the changes that I not only support but welcome wholeheartedly.
Of particular interest to me, given my Motion No. 422 to enhance veterans' burial assistance in the Last Post Fund, is the increase in assistance for qualifying veterans from $3,600 to $7,376. Along with the Royal Canadian Legion, I support this measure. That is why I wrote to the before the budget was tabled to ask that the Last Post Fund be enhanced. I was pleased to see part of my recommendation contained in the budget. In fact, if the Conservatives would agree to table this change in a separate stand-alone legislation, I am confident they would find unanimous consent to pass it.
When I wrote to the to ask that the assistance provided be increased, I also expressed my concern for the 66% of those veterans' families who applied to the Last Post Fund for financial assistance to help with the burial of their loved ones but were denied. These denials meant that more than 20,000 veterans whose families applied to the last post fund for financial assistance were denied a dignified burial during the Conservative government's time in office.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion, although the assistance increase is positive, it will have absolutely no effect on the number of deserving veterans in need who are denied assistance by the Conservative government. Following this change, modern-day veterans, in other words, veterans who served in the post-Korean War, are still excluded from applying for government funding.
Fortunately, the government will have another chance to reconsider and support my motion in support of our veterans when it comes up for debate next month. I sincerely hope, given the overwhelming support for my motion by veterans throughout this great country and the legion's Principled letter writing campaign, the Conservatives will vote in favour of my motion and take the necessary steps to implement it.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today and speak about a budget that will continue to propel our nation towards long-term prosperity, not just for now, not just for our generation but for all future generations.
I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
For our government, as it is for every Canadian from coast to coast to coast, a budget is a very serious thing. It is an integral part of a responsible way of life. Just as for any family, the budgetary choices we make today define the available opportunities for tomorrow.
By this measure, our government is signalling what a prosperous future in Canada will require, and we are taking concerted action today to make that happen: action by eliminating the deficit; action by investing in public infrastructure; action by providing incentives for hard-working Canadians to develop the skills and training that will provide them with good, high-paying jobs that will make a difference in the economy; action by investing in Canada's youth, who will drive Canada's economy long into the future, by supporting their educational endeavours.
As we all know, Canada is outperforming other G7 nations in economic growth by leaps and bounds. This budget will ensure that remains the case long into the future.
Our Conservative government is squarely focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs, supporting economic growth and securing Canada's long-term prosperity.
In fact, through the economic action plan, Canada has achieved one of the best economic performances of the G7 nations, during both the global recession and the economic recovery.
Here are the facts. Canada has created over 950,000 net new jobs since the depth of the global recession in July 2009. This is an indication that our economy is healthy. What is more, 90% of these jobs are full-time and almost 80% of them are in the private sector.
Over this period, Canada has had the strongest job creation record in the entire G7 by far. Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years.
The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in four years, and it is much lower than that of the United States. This is a phenomenon that has not been seen in almost 30 years.
Both the independent International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are projecting that Canada will have among the strongest growth in all the G7 countries for many years ahead.
For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world. Canada also has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. All the major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, have affirmed Canada's rock-solid AAA credit rating. Our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far.
As we have said over and over again, the Canadian economy is not immune to the economic challenges beyond our borders. We are and will continue to be affected by the ongoing economic turbulence in the United States and Europe, which are among our largest trade partners.
For that reason, economic action plan 2013 focuses on positive initiatives to support job creation and economic growth, while balancing the budget and ensuring that Canada retains a strong economic advantage today and in the future.
We will maintain this impressive record of success by maintaining our focus on balancing the budget.
Before the global recession hit—and the hon. member who spoke just before clearly did not understand this—our Conservative government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
As a result of our fiscal responsibility and our debt reduction plan, Canada was in an optimal fiscal and financial position to weather the global economic recession. When the recession hit, we deliberately decided to post a temporary deficit in order to protect our economy and our jobs. All political parties in Parliament agreed.
I have to repeat that in English. All parties in Parliament agreed with that plan in 2009.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. It is very important to note that Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is 35.8%. That is the lowest level in the G7 countries. The G7 average is 80.4%. That is a sign of a healthy economy.
Whereas the NDP and the Liberals want to engage in reckless and risky spending, our Conservative government will balance the budget by 2015.
I have some pieces of information I want to share here. The previous discussion clearly misunderstood what we are trying to achieve for youth, so this information is important, and I will change the order of what I am speaking on to ensure that I am able to address this. Let us not forget that this budget would provide many things for Canada's youth, the next-generation drivers of our economy.
It is vital that we provide young Canadians with the information and the opportunities they need to make good choices about education and employment if we want to create sustainable economic prosperity for Canada.
That is why economic action plan 2013 provides for strategic investments that will ensure that today's youth have the necessary skills for tomorrow's jobs.
We would do this by promoting education in high-demand fields, like the skilled trades, the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. We would extend support for Pathways to Education. As a former school trustee who saw the benefit of that to my community, I applaud this investment. It supports students who are at risk of dropping out of high school, through tutoring and mentoring.
We would support more internships for recent post-secondary graduates by investing $70 million to support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates.
We would support post-secondary education for first nations and Inuit students by investing $10 million to Indspire, an organization that provides scholarships and bursaries to first nation and Inuit students.
We would also support youth entrepreneurship. These are the commercial leaders of tomorrow and, by providing $18 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to provide mentorship, advice and start-up financing, we would be helping many young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 34.
These investments are part of our government's solid support for Canadian youth. Since 2006, we have increased funding for the Canada social transfer and, since 2008, we have added $800 million a year in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the post-secondary education system.
Investing more than $330 million per year through the youth employment strategy is critical to help young Canadians get the skills and work experience they need to transition to the workplace.
We would add $123 million to streamline and modernize the Canada student loan program. We would allow full-time students to earn more money: doubling the in-study income exemption, benefiting approximately 100,000 students; increasing the eligibility threshold for part-time students; and reducing the in-study interest rate for part-time students to zero.
Canadians can have confidence that there are many specific issues in this budget whereby we would help Canadians who are going to make a difference in this economy. I am proud to be part of a government serving the constituents of Winnipeg South Centre, who will make a difference with this economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to budget 2013. In fact, going on from what my colleague said, we are the first government in Canadian history to actually lower greenhouse gas emissions. That clearly indicates to me that the more the Conservatives are elected and sent to this place, the less hot air there would be going around Canada.
However, I do believe that for the most part this is going to be an incredible budget for my constituency of . When we go up there to see how much job unemployment there is, quite frankly there is none. There are so many jobs that we cannot fill them. It is a sad state of affairs when we have a situation where there are jobs in this country and there people who are jobless, and we cannot fill those jobs. People do not much better psychologically, mentally, physically, emotionally when they have a job and they know the future is bright.
Canada has tremendous opportunities to provide those jobs. However, up until 2006, there was no movement by any federal government to move forward with a situation in the country where people could take jobs, receive training, and either move on a temporary or a permanent basis to have jobs in their particular sectors.
In fact, that is why this government has continued to provide support to the manufacturing industry, whether it be the automobile manufacturing sector in Ontario or the machinery manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec, or whether it be one of many others. Again, this particular budget would invest in manufacturing, in jobs and job creation, and in skills.
Some may wonder what that is all about. The truth is that we have continued to do that since 2006, since we were first elected. What we have seen as a result of the election, and then the successive moves by this , this cabinet and this government, is the voting in of some good economic action plans and other budgets that have created jobs and successes.
We have heard from many speakers that we have had over 900,000 net new jobs created in this country. We have also been ranked as one of the strongest economies in the G7 year after year. We have the strongest banking sector in the world right now, bar none. For the past two or three years, we have had an incredible opportunity to create jobs, to fill voids in our sector, in our economy generally across the board, and that has worked out to be tremendously successful.
However, these are about past successes. I want to talk about tomorrow's successes. That is why I want the opportunity to talk about budget 2013.
There are tremendous positive attributes of this budget, particularly, as I said, in job creation, job growth and stimulating economic development. However, we would also note, and members have probably heard this a couple of times before, this Conservative Government of Canada, since 2006, has invested more money in quality of life, in particular infrastructure, than any government in our history. Going forward, this is the plan by this government. We are going to invest in solid community infrastructure that would give Canadians the quality of life they deserve. They deserve a high quality of life, the best quality of life of anyone in the world.
We are going to build and construct roads, bridges, subways, public infrastructure, all in collaboration with provinces and territories and also with our partners in the municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in 2005, identified that we had a $123-billion deficit on our infrastructure across the country. As a result, we saw economic action plans that brought forward somewhere in the neighbourhood of $33 billion in 2008, and a total of about $45 billion up to today's budget.
Now we are going forward with even more. There is $53 billion in infrastructure funding for the next 10 years, which I will state again is the largest and longest federal infrastructure plan ever in Canadian history. This would include job creation in that infrastructure investment. That would mean more jobs for Canadians all across the country.
The one thing we are doing differently from the previous Liberal government is actually investing on an equitable basis, a fair basis, all across Canada. Whether it be in each and every province based upon population, or in the territories, we are investing fairly so Canadians would get their fair share no matter where they are in the country. That is something different. We can see that clearly in the funding model we have come forward with today. For instance, $32 billion over the next 10 years of building community infrastructure would include over $10 billion in federal public infrastructure. It will be over $14 billion toward major economic infrastructure, which would include major infrastructure, such as the Windsor-Detroit bridge, and other infrastructure investments across this country.
These things will increase the quality of life for Canadians. That is ultimately what I am doing here and what I was elected to do by the 150,000 or so people in northern Alberta, to give them a better quality of life and to be accountable with the money. There are no slush funds here or $40 million missing. We will find proper investments, proper accountability and make sure that Canadians get value for money. That is why I am here. There is why I was elected and that is why I will continue to represent my constituents and give them exactly that.
There is $1.25 billion for creating more efficient infrastructure through public private partnerships. I like public private partnerships because overall they come in for less than budget and faster in time than public infrastructure. That is correct. We can give more money, more quality of life for Canadians, through this type of model. This government has been very good and very aggressive at setting this up and we are seeing the benefits of that. The benefits go straight back to my constituents, and all Canadians.
We are also doing other things, such as $600 million in improving shelters and stable housing for the homeless with mental health and addiction issues. This is a big issue. These people should not be in prisons. They should be taken care of by the government through some form of alternative measures. We are moving forward with that so we will have stable shelters and housing for those people. Finally, there is over $1.25 billion in renewing our investment in affordable housing.
Opposition members talk about how mean and nasty the Conservatives are, but this budget does not say that. This budget says we clearly care about all Canadians and that we are going to make sure there is an equitable division of the tax dollars that belong to them. We are going to make sure that every part of Canada receives what it needs. There are many priorities out there, but those priorities should be done on a fair and equitable basis. That is what we are going to do.
Along with infrastructure, I mentioned earlier that we are worried about Canada's manufacturing sector. Non-renewable resources, such as oil sands, gas, gold, platinum or uranium do not renew themselves. We need to make sure we have an economy going forward for the next thousand years. That is what we are doing. We are making sure we give tax relief for new manufacturing of machinery and equipment of $1.4 billion. We are making sure we give new investments in our aerospace industry. I think we are the third or fourth largest in the world, and that is something to be proud of. We easily fight above our weight on the international stage in the aerospace industry and we need to make sure those jobs continue to happen into the future.
We also are looking at large-scale technology projects. Not only did our knowledge infrastructure program invest in all the universities and colleges across this country that provided tremendous opportunities for my children, other people's children and the next generation, on public infrastructure buildings, but we are also investing in training and trades. We are going forward even in a time of austerity. The world is looking pretty glum, but Canada is looking great and we are investing in new technology.
I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart, and that is the Canada jobs grant: $15,000 for eligible participates. However, that $15,000 to train new people is not just given to people; it is given to people under certain conditions. Those conditions include participation by the province. Certainly it is provincial jurisdiction to create jobs and to keep that going, but we are working together with our partners, not just municipalities, but provinces and the employers. That is right. Employers have to buy into this program as well. That means that the employers and employees do not get free money. They have to abide by certain regulations and conditions to get the money. However, the money will be there. The employers have to train people. This is not a handout; this is a hand-up scenario.
I am very proud of that. We believe we will have at least 130,000 Canadians who will have access to training and eligible institutions like colleges and training centres that will take advantage of this money.
I also want to talk about new investments. It is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20% of my constituency who are aboriginal. I am proud to see there is $241 million to improve on-reserve income assistance programs to help guarantee first nations youth access to job skills and training. One of the largest issues we have in this country is aboriginal youth who are unemployed. That is a large percentage. There is $5 million to expand the facilities of Cape Breton University's Purdy Crawford Chair, in aboriginal studies throughout Canada. It goes on and on.
This is a government that cares about the people of Canada, that is equitable in the decisions it makes and that makes sure every part of the country receives a fair share. However, it is about jobs. Jobs are the future of this country and we need to take care of the people who cannot take care of themselves. We need to make sure we do the job properly in the best interests of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I rise today to speak to budget 2013. I cannot say it is a pleasure to do so, since the budget is not really going in the right direction. It is my pleasure, however, to report on the concerns of the people in Brossard—La Prairie.
A budget is a series of choices. The and the government decide to go in one direction or another when they bring in a budget. The Minister of Finance and the Conservatives have chosen austerity. That is their choice.
The government's goal is to balance the budget in 2015, the election year. That is a purely political choice. In fact, when we look closely at what is happening today and when we consider the world economy and the situation in Canada where economic growth is less than what the government projected, it makes Canadians worried. The economy is not as strong as the government wants them to believe.
Talking about choices means looking at the measures that have been taken. Ever since the Conservatives came to power, the youth unemployment rate has remained twice that of the average rate in the population. The gap between rich and poor is increasing at incredible rates and reaching record levels. Household debt has reached 167%, which means that for every dollar they earn, people owe $1.67. That is huge.
The Conservative government has also decided to reduce tax rates for big business. They said that would stimulate the economy. What has happened? Companies have $600 billion stashed away. Even the Governor of the Bank of Canada and the have said that the situation is worrisome. That is dead money, money that is not being reinvested in the economy and is not helping Canadians and their families. The government's measures are to blame.
For the 2013 budget, we propose a long-term vision that will also help employment. One of the first things we want to emphasize is the green economy. All members of this House can agree that a long-term vision should include a green economy, but this budget has nothing to offer in that respect. It still favours the big oil companies and subsidizes them to the tune of $1.3 billion.
The government decided to discontinue the eco-energy program, which was working well. The program helped people and families do renovations and get tax credits in order to save energy and help the economy at the same time. Unfortunately, the government has not come up with anything new to achieve that. It mentions the program and says it is proud of it, but it cancelled the program all the same. In my opinion, that is a flaw in the government's vision.
We agree that budgets ought to be balanced. The NDP has demonstrated that at the provincial level. We have the best record on budgets. We are the party with the best-balanced budgets and the least debt. These figures come from the finance department. We agree on this, but timing is critical. Right now is not a good time for an austerity budget such as the government is proposing. An austerity budget slows down the economy and creates a problem.
Since household debt is at very high levels, we cannot count on consumer spending. Moreover, private companies are not reinvesting their money. All that leads to a possible economic slowdown and worse, a recession. I am not the one predicting this; the information comes from the IMF and OECD. Many studies have shown that such a problem would occur.
We made a proposal with respect to infrastructure. I am very disappointed that the government's budget did not include a national plan for infrastructure and public transportation. We proposed that the money from excise taxes be reinvested directly by giving it to the municipalities, enabling them to take the long-term view and invest, especially since our infrastructure deficit is about $123 billion.
That is enormous. We cannot expect the municipalities to make this kind of investment on their own. There will have to be co-operation with the federal government, and unfortunately, it is not happening. I know the government struts about proclaiming the many infrastructure investments in this budget. They talk about investment over 10 years, for example. It is a nice idea.
However, when we crunch the numbers, we can see that after 10 years, these proposals will lead to a loss of $4.7 billion. The government is taking money that already exists and pretending to make new investments, saying that it will be good in the long term, but if we look at today's figures, the money already invested and the existing programs, we realize that we lose in the end, and the consequences will be felt directly.
In my riding, Brossard—La Prairie, the Champlain Bridge is a good example. I know the government boasts that it is investing in the Champlain Bridge. However, I would remind the government that it announced $124.9 million—supposedly new money—last summer. That was for a temporary bridge connecting l'Île-des-Soeurs and Montreal. The money in this budget is not new.
We want the numbers for the Champlain Bridge. The has already said that it would cost between $3 billion and $5 billion. We have no other details about these figures, and no other information about costs.
Having lived through the sad fiasco of the F-35s, we have many questions, particularly about the reliability of and methods behind the Conservative government's management of public funds. We do not want to deal with another F-35 fiasco. That is why we, on this side of the House, are demanding real numbers and an open, transparent, competitive tendering process with public input.
In Quebec, sadly, we have had many problems in the construction sector. Now is the time for the government to pay attention and choose to use a more open process. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.
As for what is happening with the public transit that is supposed to operate on the Champlain Bridge, the government says it is co-operating fully. I have asked the a number of questions in the House on this topic. He says that co-operation with the provincial government is going well and reports that meetings are being held. However, when we read up on the subject, we find this is what the Quebec Minister of Transport has to say:
|| The Government of Quebec wants to work with the federal government on a common vision for this issue. Clearly, the Minister [of Transport] is not interested.
It is clear that the federal government does not want to work with the other provinces. It works behind closed doors without consulting anyone and then shows up after the fact. It should take a more open approach from now on.
The only thing I managed to find in this budget, on page 185 of the English version, is that for the new Champlain bridge, which will cost between $3 billion and $5 billion, no money is earmarked for 2013-14 and $14 million has been allocated for 2014-15. No other information is provided. That is a problem. There is not a whole lot of transparency. The government has to learn to co-operate more.
I am running out of time, so I will move on to the fact that the government is attacking labour-sponsored funds by eliminating the tax credit. Since the budget was tabled, I have received many emails from my constituents. I would like to read one from Bibianne Bédard from Brossard, which I received yesterday and which was also sent to the .
|| I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with your announcement in budget 2013 that the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds will be phased out.
|| I urge you to reverse this decision that will have an impact on the middle class and its ability to save for retirement and will deprive small businesses in Quebec of significant support for their development.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by making an announcement. I want to say just how reassured I was—relieved even—to learn yesterday that our great likes pandas. I think it should be mentioned in the House. A love of pandas is a great thing, especially since they are endangered.
However, I would really have liked it if the had been as receptive to the young aboriginals who walked more than 1,600 kilometres to come here and say that their living conditions are horrendous, that their community is suffering and that they need the politicians in Ottawa to listen. Unfortunately, because of the pandas, the cries of these young aboriginals went unheard. I find that absolutely shameful.
This budget is nothing but smoke and mirrors; it is mere window dressing. It is Orwellian in its vocabulary. In George Orwell's 1984, everyone is happy when the government announces that chocolate rations are increasing to 50 grams per month. They immediately forget that their rations were 100 grams the month before and that the decrease is being passed off as an increase.
There are 300 pages of that in this budget—300 pages of phony announcements, incomplete numbers, recycled announcements and decreases in investments, which the Conservatives are trying to pass off as increases. They will be investing $53 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years. Bravo. How wonderful. However, if we really look at the facts and figures, it is clear that if they kept up the pace of this year's infrastructure investment, they would be spending $58 billion. They are trying to pass off a $5 billion reduction in infrastructure investment as an increase. That is what is happening in every single chapter of the budget.
I do not want to simply focus on incomplete numbers and the charade that is the latest Conservative budget. I want to emphasize the fact that it is an attack on Quebec. There are nasty surprises in this budget, and they will hurt Quebeckers, the middle class and families.
After butchering employment insurance, which has been discussed at length, the Conservatives are adding insult to injury: they are abandoning the job training agreement that was in place with the provinces. They are attacking Quebec's autonomy when it comes to control over how we train our youth and help them adapt to the labour market, and in a sense, although no one knows exactly how, they are privatizing the entire structure of job training. In fact, the Conservative government just made sure it could distribute thousands of cheques right across the country. We have already seen how this sort of thing turns out, under a government of a different political stripe.
Raising Mouvement Desjardins's taxes is another attack on Quebec. This is further discrimination against Quebec, against the pride of the Quebec economy and against Quebeckers' ability to save. These things will hurt people. The people of Quebec will receive less in dividends from the Caisses Desjardins because of the Conservative government.
One final aspect of the direct attack on Quebec's interests has to do with labour-sponsored investment funds. These funds have invested $10 billion in Quebec's economy over the years. This winning formula has paid off. Unfortunately, we have an ideological government that is attacking the formula of labour-sponsored investment funds, such as the Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Fondaction CSN, to name a couple.
Why is this a direct attack on Quebec? Here is why: of the $350 million the government plans to collect, $312 million will come directly from Quebec. This Conservative government measure is completely short-sighted and unfair. It will undermine job creation and is an attack on workers' and Quebeckers' ability to save.
Since 1990, these funds have helped create, save or maintain half a million jobs in Quebec. This is a success story like no other. Businesses like Air Transat probably would not have been possible without the support of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.
These funds have special features, and the most important one is that they create and save jobs in Quebec. What do the Conservatives have against successful job creation measures? It is completely absurd. Even the Conseil du patronat du Québec said it was surprised by this decision because these investment funds benefit Quebec and especially the regions.
This is an attack on the Quebec model in many respects. We hope that the Conservative government will listen to reason and that we will be able to save the tax credit for labour-sponsored investment funds.
What is the role of these funds? Why are they particularly useful? They are different than other funds and complement them. These funds equalize supply, result in the economic diversification of the regions and are a significant source of capital for businesses that operate in sectors that are sometimes overlooked. The yields on these funds are not the highest, nor are they the lowest. Nevertheless, they are used throughout Quebec to create employment, help small and medium-sized businesses, and help businesses start up, modernize, buy new technology, and remain competitive and up to date. This has to be maintained.
The investor gets the benefit of a tax credit. That is what provides the return on the investment. That is why this tax credit exists, why the province created it and why the federal government has applied it for years. We must keep it. Otherwise, this investment will be less attractive and less profitable for workers.
What is rather absurd is that the government constantly boasts about the fact that it is not increasing taxes. However, taxes on such items as bicycles and fans have increased, as well as taxes on the Mouvement Desjardins
Abolishing the tax credit increases workers' taxes. Seven hundred thousand Quebeckers make regular contributions to these investment funds. The Fonds de solidarité FTQ has calculated that these people will pay $425 more in taxes on average. Most of these investors contribute by payroll deduction. For every $1,000 invested in these funds that create jobs in Quebec, the investor receives a $300 tax refund. This amount will be reduced to $150. For every $1,000 invested, the federal government will keep $150. That is $150 that will be taken out of workers' pockets.The least fortunate often are barely able to save a little money for their old age.
We often talk about the poverty of seniors. We had a good tool to encourage them to save, one that benefited them, Quebec, the regions and the companies and that allowed them to have a little nest egg for their retirement. However, now the Conservative government is trying to do away with that tool.
This is not very surprising coming from a party that announced in Davos, Switzerland, that the age of eligibility for old age security was going to increase from 65 to 67. That was the Conservatives' first attack on Canadian seniors and pension plans. We have just seen another phase of that attack with the elimination of the labour-sponsored funds tax credit. This is a very real cause for concern but, unfortunately, it is not surprising coming from the government.
I would like to quote Léopold Beaulieu, CEO of Fondaction, who said the following:
|| Such action by the federal government would deliver a serious blow to Quebec's economy in two ways. The only way that many people with low incomes can save for their retirement is to contribute to a labour-sponsored fund. [The only way.] These funds are a key source of funding for the development of many Quebec SMEs.
The government is killing two birds with one stone: it is attacking both the people and the SMEs of Quebec. The government is also attacking the Quebec model, which makes it possible to provide workers with economic training. Last year, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ alone made it possible to provide 295 courses and train 6,400 people. This fund helps people to better understand investments, share ownership and how their investments help to develop all the regions of Quebec.
Ideological decisions on labour-sponsored funds aside, this budget is seriously lacking in many other areas. It is never going help to stimulate the economy or create jobs. On the contrary, it is going to sink us deeper and deeper into debt and put us on the slippery slope to privatization. The Conservatives have not proposed any measures to fight poverty or provide social housing, and they are making even more cuts to measures that fight homelessness. They are attacking the poorest members of society.
That is why the NDP will be proud to vote against this budget that does not respect people.