Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues in the House.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to kick off debate on Bill , the economic action plan 2013 act. As the name suggests, Bill would implement key measures from the recent federal budget, economic action plan 2013, which is a positive and forward-looking blueprint to help grow the Canadian economy today and into tomorrow. This plan would make our economy stronger by helping our manufacturers buy new equipment with tax relief, help small businesses create more jobs with a hiring credit, help rebuild our roads and bridges with record new support for infrastructure and much more.
Today's legislation, along with the standard second budget implementation bill, which will be introduced in the fall, will help implement that ambitious and positive plan.
Before I get into the substance of the bill, I would like to say that, as a proud member of the Standing Committee on Finance, I look forward to studying the bill in committee.
As the said earlier this week, the study of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act will not be exclusive to the Standing Committee on Finance.
In fact, the government members on the Standing Committee on Finance will move a motion that some other committees review specific aspects of the bill. I hope the opposition will give us its support.
In terms of the legislation we are dealing with today, we must not forget that the economic action plan 2013 is part of a comprehensive plan that goes back to 2006 when our Conservative government came to power. The priorities at the heart of the plan were the Canadian economy, job creation and tax cuts to help families keep more money in their pockets.
I am pleased to say that the plan worked even in the worst global recession since the Great Depression. As we conduct our study, the NDP and the Liberals will try to have us swallow bogus figures, if you will, on Canada's labour market. They will distort the facts and play every conceivable shell game to conceal the truth.
However, the facts are in. All of Canada's credible, independent organizations, such as the Bank of Canada and even Statistics Canada, have the figures and can substantiate them. Canada has created slightly more than 900,000 net new jobs since the depths of the recession in July. More than 90% are full-time jobs and nearly 80% are in the private sector.
This outstanding record has made Canada the top G7 country in terms of job creation since the end of the global recession.
Despite what the NDP and the Liberals would have Canadians believe, over 1.4 million net new jobs have been created since January 2006 when the Conservative government took power. We have also seen that as the best job creation in the entire G7 during that entire time period.
It is not only on the job front where Canada is leading the way. I want to share some of that positive news to counter all the talking down of Canada and of our economy that we are hearing from the NDP and the Liberals.
While the opposition will try to bash the Canadian economy with negative messages and their procedural games to scare people watching at home, I am going to try to build it up with positive facts about the relative success story Canada's economy has been.
To start with, 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 the G7 in years ahead. Even better, here is what the IMF had to say about Canada only a few weeks ago, “Canada is in an enviable position”. For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
All major credit rating agencies, like 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.
The list goes on and on. Little wonder, when asked about Canada's economy recently, Don Drummond, a well-known and widely respected Canadian economist, said the following:
We look like the poster child for the fiscal messes around the world. We are in pretty good fiscal shape, certainly relative to everybody else.
I could not agree more with him, but as Don Drummond noted, there are some fiscal and economic messes around the world, as we are reminded on the evening news or in the morning newspapers all too often.
Some big global economic challenges from beyond our borders remain, especially in the United States and Europe. These are among our most important trading partners. Even though these are not made in Canada problems, they will continue to negatively impact Canada. Like any smart person would in any situation like this, if a problem is out there, we protect ourselves against it. That is exactly what we are doing in economic action plan 2013 by staying squarely focused on what matters when facing a challenging global economy: jobs and economic growth, keeping taxes low and balancing the budget by 2015.
What we are not doing is listening to the NDP and Liberal calls for spending, spending and more spending in order to expand government and add to the national debt.
The NDP and Liberal proposals are doomed to failure and will mean ever-increasing taxes.
Canadians know what happened in European countries that chose to expand government and spend endlessly, which is what the NDP and Liberals are suggesting. Those countries ended up with monster deficits, paralyzing government bureaucracy and massive unemployment.
Just this week we learned that unemployment in the eurozone climbed to 12.1% in March, an all-time high according to EU statistics agencies.
The NDP likely does not want to hear that its economic philosophy of unlimited spending and ever-increasing taxes does not work. However, economic ruin in Greece and Spain illustrate the consequences of the very policies the NDP wants to bring to Canada.
Our Conservative government understands what the NDP and Liberals refuse to believe. In an uncertain global economic economy, the best way for government to build confidence is to maintain its own sound fiscal position, not engage in reckless deficit spending. That belief is at the very heart of economic action plan 2013 and that is why the Liberals and the NDP so vigorously oppose it.
I want to read a great quote by one of the most respected newspaper columnists in Canada, Peter Worthington. It is worth reading at length. He said:
The federal budget...is one of those things that should please every thinking Canadian...it's reality....Think for a moment....When you look at Cyprus, Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world, this should be a huge relief to Canadian taxpayers...jobs are more or less secure as are pensions and health-care costs. Working Canadians will continue to be the blessed of the developed world.
Although I hear the NDP and Liberals making the heckling noises, it is because they do not buy into the fact that we are leaders. We cannot help the fact that we are leaders. The world looks at us with envy because we did not follow its suggestions and we will not follow its suggestions. Canadians can rest assured that this Conservative government will maintain a low-tax plan, we will maintain a plan for job creation and we will look to prosperity for our country for years and years to come.
Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise today to speak to the budget implementation act, economic action plan 2013.
First, we have to note that this is a very timely discussion, because of course, yesterday, April 30, was our tax-filing deadline. By yesterday, there were probably about 28 million individuals throughout Canada who had filed their taxes, and we know that they put over $120 billion into taxpayers' coffers. We have almost two million corporations who again put significant dollars into our coffers.
Too often I hear the opposition members talk about OAS for people who have been residents for only three years, 45-day work years and private members' bills and many motions that ask us to increase spending. This is not the government's money. This is not the opposition's money. We are talking about the hard-earned dollars of everyday Canadians. This is the nurse who works for maybe $70,000 a year, but she might be paying up to $20,000 in taxes. This is the family that works in a corner store. The mother, father and the children are there seven days a week, 16 hours a day, to try to make a living for their family and pay their taxes on time. This is the entrepreneur. He has an idea and is starting a business. He has hired some people. He has dreams and goals and is desperately trying to make it a success. He pays his taxes, and that comes in terms of opportunities he could spend that money on in other ways.
We as a government recognize that we have a very important obligation to the taxpayer, and that is to make sure that every single dollar we spend is spent appropriately. Canadians are generous, but Canadians also expect fair play. Canadians know that there are times when there are extraordinary challenges, whether it is health, mental health, or disability. They have challenges in their lives. They have times when they might lose their jobs.
Again, Canadians are very generous. They understand that there are times when, for the greater good, they will participate, but they do not want to feel abused. They do not want to feel that their EI programs are abused. They do not want to feel that temporary foreign worker programs are not being used appropriately. As we have this debate about the budget implementation act No. 1, it is absolutely critical to remember whose dollars we are spending and whose dollars we are talking about.
The context for the budget for this year was articulated very well by my colleague from . She talked about the global recession we came through, when we had to put in some extraordinary stimulus. Then she talked about how well we have done in reports from the OECD and the IMF. Canada has come through a very challenging time in very good shape. However, we are now responsible for withdrawing that stimulus spending and returning to balanced budgets, and that is exactly the focus of this budget implementation act.
This budget implementation act focuses on three areas. Most important is ensuring that we have an environment that supports growth and long-term prosperity. Second is continuing to support Canadian families and communities. Finally is respecting the Canadian taxpayer.
The budget implementation act is divided into three sections. The first two relate to our tax structure and our GST. The third section has more details in terms of specific measures we are looking at.
We did not come to this place without a long and comprehensive process. Not only was the context set many years ago, but the conversations with Canadians had been happening for well over a year before we got to this point. As a member of the finance committee, I know that we started our consultations in the summer of last year. We heard from groups from across the country, and we gave them three themes. We asked how we support economic growth and long-term prosperity, how we support Canadian families, and how we ensure that we respect taxpayers' dollars.
We need to talk a bit about what we heard. Whether it was a parliamentarian sitting down with people in his or her riding or the having round tables across the country, we heard about supporting jobs and economic growth.
I heard time and time again that mining is important in British Columbia. We heard that the mining exploration tax credit is an absolutely critical feature and that we should continue to support that industry, which ultimately provides so much back in terms of our tax base.
We also heard that manufacturers have been having a challenging time. They have found that the accelerated capital cost allowance is of enormous benefit. They indicated that if it continued for a while longer, it would really support them as they continue to rebuild after what have been some challenging times.
Every member of Parliament talked to council members and mayors. They talked about the infrastructure deficit. They talked about how important the gas tax fund was and how pleased they were that it was doubled and will now be legislated. They also talked about indexing it. We heard that suggestion from our municipalities, and we took action. Now municipalities are not only able to plan for the long term, but every infrastructure program they undertake will have important jobs associated with it.
I heard in my riding that the temporary foreign worker program plays a valuable role and that there are times when Canadians are unavailable to meet the needs of employers. We also heard that we need to ensure that Canadians have first crack at these jobs. The budget implementation act would make those changes. Canadians have said that the temporary foreign worker program has a role to play and is important but that we need to make some changes to ensure that Canadians have the first opportunities for these jobs.
It is incredibly important to provide some general fairness to all Canadian taxpayers. Therefore, we have included measures that would close loopholes and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I know that there are a number of measures. I talked earlier about the amount of money that comes in from individuals. Over 94% of Canadians pay their taxes on time. They pay what is due.
We know that there are some loopholes, or perhaps some inequities. We have changed that. We know that people sometimes move their money offshore. We have taken the opportunity to give the CRA more tools to deal with that.
The final theme is supporting Canadian families and communities.
Every member, I believe, has a Legion in his or her community. Members heard from Legion members about how important they were in supporting our veterans.
I see a number of items in Division 4 of this legislation. Officials from the CNIB talked to me about a hub and how that could really improve their lives. That is another important item we see in the budget implementation act.
Finance committee did a comprehensive study on charitable giving. We were looking for ways to encourage young people to give to the charities that play such an important role in our communities. The donor super credit is a fantastic idea. It is targeted at encouraging people to give for the first time. That will probably help in terms of lifelong giving.
The federal government is like any household, any business, any municipality or any provincial government. The principles are the same. We have a budget. We have to live within it. It is absolutely critical that we get back to balanced budgets. It is absolutely critical, as a federal government, that we create an environment that encourages jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
The budget implementation act, Bill , is an excellent step in terms of the long term and fair taxes. I call on the opposition to support our government in terms of this important and strategic document with its very good measures to move forward with respect to Canada's growth.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on yet another Conservative omnibus budget bill.
Like its predecessors, Bill includes a wide variety of complex measures, such as changes to the temporary foreign worker program, changes to the Investment Canada Act and the merger of DFAIT and CIDA. Each of these alone is an important issue and an important measure that deserves thorough consideration and scrutiny, both here in Ottawa and in communities across the country. People would like to understand exactly what is being proposed.
This is the Conservatives' third attempt to evade parliamentary scrutiny on their job-killing agenda by packing the bill full of unrelated measures into one big bill and trying to push it through Parliament. That is no way to show leadership in a democracy.
I rise today to speak to yet another Conservative omnibus bill. Like its predecessors, Bill includes a large variety of complex measures—from changes to the temporary foreign worker program and the Investment Canada Act to the merger of DFAIT and CIDA. These are important issues that deserve thorough consideration and scrutiny, both here in Ottawa and in our communities from coast to coast to coast.
This is the Conservatives' third attempt to evade parliamentary scrutiny on their job-killing agenda by packing dozens of unrelated measures into one bill and ramming it through Parliament.
The Conservatives are trying to tell Canadians to move along because there is nothing to see in Bill . In a way, they are right. It is true. There is no job creation strategy, nothing to make life more affordable and nothing to strengthen the services that Canadian families rely on.
Following the 2008 economic crisis, the begrudgingly ramped up infrastructure investment. He was forced to do it by the opposition. Now he is cutting billions of dollars in infrastructure investments to communities across Canada. These cuts will cost tens of thousands of jobs in cities and communities right across this country. Cuts to services, coupled with tax hikes on thousands of products that Canadians need, will serve as a double whammy to Canadian families. These are families, certainly in my community, like communities across Canada, who are already far too stretched and struggling to make ends meet.
The Conservatives claim to be good fiscal managers—we will set aside the fact that they just lost over $3 billion of our tax dollars—but there are other facts that speak to the contrary. The missed his economic growth target for 2012 by 35%. He has presided over a record $67 billion trade deficit, and now private sector economists are telling us that this year will be even worse.
It is clear the Conservative economic agenda is not what Canada needs. Perhaps the most ironic part of the Conservatives' reckless cutting is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has clearly demonstrated that the cuts in budget 2013 are just not necessary for Canada to return to a structural budget surplus. In other words, all this pain is not needed.
The PBO has pointed out that what budget 2013 is really about is eliminating thousands of jobs, cutting direct program spending and weakening GDP growth. This is not what leadership looks like, and what a time for leadership to go missing in action here in Canada.
A recent article in The Economist, entitled “Canada's economy: On thinning ice” warns:
—consumers are showing signs of flagging. The economy is set to expand by a paltry 1.6% this year. So the authorities are casting around for another source of growth. The trouble is they cannot seem to find one.
The article in The Economist goes on to say:
Jim Flaherty, Canada's finance minister, has repeatedly warned of the threat household debt poses to the economy.
Yet in his budget on March 21st, [the finance minister] did little to encourage business investment or exports to take the place of consumers in supporting growth. Rather, his focus was on eliminating the federal deficit—currently at 1.4% of GDP, low compared with most G7 economies—before the next general election in 2015. His plan, which relies on spending restraint and unusually high revenue growth, is seen by many as wishful thinking.
So the Canadian consumer remains the main hope for the economy. It is an odd situation where both government and business have decided to be excessively prudent in their spending, but are hoping that consumers will not follow suit just yet.
Despite these risks to our economy, the Conservatives insist on pushing stubbornly ahead with their austerity agenda, and they are crossing their fingers that Canadians, who already have a record 167% household debt, are going to keep spending. It has become clear that the minister's timetable for deficit reduction has little to do with external reality. A growing number of bank economists, including Craig Alexander and Don Drummond, agree that the government is fixated on eliminating the deficit ahead of the next federal election, but that it is not needed; it could wait a year.
Following a pre-budget meeting with the finance minister, BMO's chief economist, Doug Porter, told reporters, “It probably would be unwise for the federal government to step on the brake further than it already has”. In other words, there is no need for more austerity. There is growing consensus from the IMF to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos that austerity is not the way to go. In fact, it is making problems worse.
In March, Carol Goar of the Toronto Star wrote of the finance minister's austerity agenda:
Since he began chopping programs and expenditures, the economy has drooped, the job market has sagged, consumers have pulled back and the corporate sector has hunkered down, sitting on its earnings. The same formula has delivered worse results in Europe.
In fact, an IMF report released in January estimated that in the European case, every dollar in government spending cuts would cost $1.50 in lost output. This past week, the hand-picked interim Parliamentary Budget Officer, put in place by the government, confirmed that the overall impact of budget 2012, fiscal update 2012 and budget 2013, will be a loss of 67,000 jobs by 2017 and a 0.7% reduction in GDP. This is at a time when our economy is only expected to grow by 1.5% annually. In other words, the economy is barely growing at all. This is an additional significant drag on our country's economic growth.
Despite what the Conservatives claim, their plan is actually holding back the Canadian economy, instead of accelerating it. What is worse is that they have failed to outline any contingency plan to deal with slowing growth and increasingly negative fiscal indicators. Instead, they are stubbornly moving ahead with austerity measures despite warnings from economists about the consequences.
Right now, at any given time, there are more than six Canadians looking for work for every job that is available. Statistics Canada figures recently released showed that the number of vacant jobs has fallen to the lowest level since record keeping began in March 2011. Our youth unemployment rate is double the national rate. TD Economics has said that the spike in youth unemployment from the recent recession will cost our economy $10.7 billion over the next years alone.
These are young people whose futures are on the line. They are people just starting out and trying to get a toehold in our economy. Young people should be full of optimism and willing to take chances at the beginning of their adult life. However, too often they are saddled with debt, they are saddled with very limited or no job prospects, and they are saddled with a tremendous amount of insecurity and huge costs.
Our aboriginal population is growing faster than any other group in Canada, yet this vibrant young population faces significant barriers to economic participation and development, including chronic underfunding of education at all levels.
Budget 2013 presented an important opportunity for the government to put forward real solutions. Unfortunately for Canadians, the only job creation strategy the Conservatives have is for temporary foreign workers and some parliamentary secretaries.
The Conservatives like to crow about their 900,000 net new jobs, but what kind of jobs and for whom? Too many are temporary. Too many are insecure. Too many are held by temporary foreign workers instead of Canadians.
Nearly 1.4 million Canadians are still unemployed. There are still 240,000 more young people unemployed today than before the recession. The Conservatives can clap on the other side about this situation, but it is a national tragedy that they are turning their backs on Canada's youth and all of Canada's unemployed.
At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, hundreds of thousands of Canadians are in part-time and precarious work when they would rather have full-time permanent jobs. In fact, a recent report by the United Way in Toronto and McMaster University has shown that 50%, fully half, of the workers in the GTA and Hamilton regions are in this kind of precarious work. It means a day-to-day struggle against insecurity and uncertainty.
For those Canadians who do have employment, wages have stagnated. In fact, in the 25 years between 1981 and 2006, including one of the most prosperous periods since the 1950s, workers' wages across Canada fell sharply behind. While Canada's real GDP per capita grew by 51%, average real weekly earnings did not increase. In other words, workers are being left behind.
At the same time, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has doubled in the past six years and tripled in the last decade. As Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, notes:
The bottom line is that Canadians are being displaced by temporary foreign workers, wages are being suppressed and employers are being allowed to abdicate their responsibility for training Canadians.
Professor Miles Corak of the University of Ottawa agrees:
Flooding the market with workers from elsewhere year in and year out—even during a major recession—is not about an acute labour shortage. It is nothing more than a wage subsidy to low-paying firms, a subsidy that stunts the reallocation of goods, capital and labour that is the basis for efficient markets.
What is the government's response?
Just yesterday Barrie McKenna of The Globe and Mail wrote: “... the federal government is now belatedly acknowledging that two of its signature workplace programs may be making the country's employment landscape worse, not better.”
Belatedly, indeed. After years of mismanagement, the Conservatives are proposing to fix major flaws by giving the minister an override power when work permits and labour market opinions approved by government become political hot potatoes.
This is a Band-Aid solution that does not get to the heart of this government's mismanagement of the TFW program.
In the meantime, not only are the Conservatives failing to create jobs, but they are continuing their attacks on Canadian workers.
Bill gives the Treasury Board sweeping powers to interfere in free collective bargaining and impose employment conditions on non-union employees at crown corporations.
With an enduring jobs crisis and cash-strapped households, where do the Conservatives expect Canada's growth to come from?
In a National Post op ed, economist Armine Yalnizyan writes about household debt in Canada:
Yes, many goods are cheaper than they were a generation ago. But the list does not include higher education and home ownership, both of which lead to greater economic security.
For many people, these two items are increasingly out of reach.
Those costs have zoomed past most people's income growth. Increasingly, Canadians have been pursuing these two dreams with ever-growing piles of debt. You don't need to work at the Bank of Canada to know that current levels of household debt offer a precarious foundation for sustained growth.
No matter your political leanings, most people understand that endless concentration of income, wealth and power is bad for the economy. After all, businesses rely on rising purchasing power of the many, not the few, to deliver growth and profits.
In 2001, a study by the International Monetary Fund found that:
...when growth is looked at over the long term, the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist. In fact, equality appears to be an important ingredient in promoting and sustaining growth.
This comes at a time when inequality is rising in Canada.
Budget 2013 does nothing to address the record levels of household debt or the rise in inequality. Instead the Conservative government has remained focused on an austerity agenda that has made major cuts to the services families rely on.
Putting people to work is clearly the best way to reduce our deficit. There is no need to reinvent or to privatize public services, no need to trample on economic and labour rights, no need to sacrifice equality in the name of efficiency.
New Democrats know that investing in education and infrastructure, making life more affordable and supporting our small and medium-sized businesses in creating high-quality, high-paying jobs is the real solution to our deficit.
Canadians are counting on us to provide leadership and to bring forward ideas and proposals that put the public interest first. New Democrats have tried to make this point time and time again. The Conservatives just do not seem to be getting it, so let me be clear: we do not want a budget that pushes aside the concerns of first nations groups and pushes stubbornly ahead without real consultation.
We do not want a budget that attempts to balance the books by downloading costs onto struggling families, provinces and municipalities.
We do not want a budget that fails to account for the long term and leaves the next generation further behind than the last.
We do not want a budget that fails to move Canada forward in a 21st century economy and leaves a huge environmental debt for our children and grandchildren.
We do not want a budget that not only ignores the concerns of Canadians but will also actually make it harder for families to make ends meet.
New Democrats will continue to stand up and hold the government accountable in the interest of all Canadians. We do not support the Conservative budget of 2013 or its implementation bills unless they are revised to address the real priorities of Canadian families and unless the government starts providing real leadership for this country.
With that, I seek unanimous consent to move the following motion: that notwithstanding any order or usual practice of the House, that Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, be amended by removing the following clauses: (a) clauses 136 to 154, related to the Investment Canada Act; (b) clauses 161 to 166, related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the temporary foreign worker program; (c) clauses 174 to 199, related to the proposed department of foreign affairs, trade and development act; (d) clauses 213 to 224, related to the National Capital Act and the Department of Canadian Heritage Act; (e) clauses 228 to 232, related to the Financial Administration Act and collective bargaining between crown corporations and their employees;
that the clauses mentioned in section (a) of this motion do form Bill C-61; that Bill C-61 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology; that the clauses mentioned in section (b) of this motion do form Bill C-62; that Bill C-62 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities; that the clauses mentioned in section (c) of this motion do form Bill C-63; that Bill C-63 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE);
that the clauses mentioned in section (d) of this motion do compose Bill C-64, that Bill C-64 be deemed read a first time and be printed, and that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Heritage; that the clauses mentioned in section (e) of this motion do compose Bill C-65, that Bill C-65 be deemed read a first time and be printed, and that the order for the second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates; that Bill C-60 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order and that Bill C-60 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and the parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.
In proposing this motion, we are attempting to allow for proper study of some very complex clauses of this bill, rather than have them all merge together in one large bill for study at the finance committee. We believe that the sections that pertain to industry should be studied at the industry committee, which can invite witnesses and actually hear testimony, and similarly for the foreign affairs committee, et cetera.
That is the rationale for introducing this motion.
Mr. Speaker, today we are dealing with Bill , the first Conservative omnibus bill following its 2013 budget. It is a bit less abusive than Bill and Bill from last year, but it is still an omnibus measure, lumping together various unrelated matters. By my count, at least 18 different government portfolios are implicated.
At the end of the day, the government will force a single vote on all of that all at once. That renders the vote so meaningless, because it cuts across so many unrelated disciplines. Again, democracy is compromised in the process.
There are some items for sure in Bill which people could generally support: better allowances for veterans, for example; dealing with the adoption tax credit; more incentives for charitable giving; the extension of capital cost allowance; and additions to the gas tax transfer.
However, these positive things are intermingled, unfortunately, with many very negative measures, especially large tax increases that will hit and hurt middle-class Canadians in particular, and we cannot and we will not support those negative measures.
Budget 2013 is crafted to feed several false illusions. The first of those is the mythical notion that the Conservatives are the competent economic managers that they claim to be, but let us look at the facts.
When they took office in 2006, they inherited from their Liberal predecessors 10 straight years of balanced budgets, an annual surplus that was running at the rate of $13 billion every year, lower debt, lower taxes, low and stable interest rates, a sound and solid Canada pension plan, steadily dropping employment insurance premiums, annual economic growth rates of 3% or better, the best banking system in the world, the best ever transfer payments to provinces and territories, progressive investments in child care, skills and learning, science and innovation, environmental integrity, infrastructure, trade and three and a half million net new jobs. That is what the Conservatives inherited. That is what was handed to them as a starting point in 2006.
Just as an interesting historical sidebar, before the Conservatives inherited 10 years of Liberal balanced budgets and robust surpluses, the last time a Conservative government actually balanced a budget for Canada was 101 years ago in 1912. The prime minister at the time was Robert Borden, originally a school teacher, as a matter of historical fact. He, too, inherited his surplus from a Liberal predecessor, namely Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but sadly, he managed to maintain it for only one year before dropping into deficit.
The current Conservative government has behaved in a similar manner through excessive spending and reckless budgeting. Between 2006 and 2008, they put Canada back into the red again before, not because of, the recession, which hit in the latter part of 2008, and they have not balanced the books every since.
In budget 2013, the Conservatives claim they will eliminate the deficit hocus-pocus by 2015. Is that not convenient? Just on the eve of the next federal election they are projecting a balanced budget. A close look at their financial plans provides ample reason to be just a little bit suspicious. Here are some of the fiscal tricks.
First, they use rosy growth estimates. To puff up government revenues, the Conservatives have based their fiscal planning on optimistic projections about economic growth. They ignore the reality that in years just passed, their numbers have never ever been correct. Time and time again, their initial forecast has had to be downgraded, as both the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Canada have just done once again in this last month.
Second, they use deficient reserves. To create the illusion of more financial flexibility and strength than they really have, the Conservatives have lowballed the reserves that should be in place to serve as fiscal shock absorbers for Canadians against unpleasant future economic surprises. The amounts set aside should grow in the outer years because the risk is larger in the outer years, but the Conservative government has foolishly flatlined its reserves going forward, meaning it is not protecting adequately against future risk.
Third, they use exaggerated lapses. When a government department does not use all the budget in any given year that is given to it, the excess money naturally lapses back to the central treasury. The Conservatives in their budget are counting on very large lapses over the next several years. In fact, that is worked right into their arithmetic. In other words, they are planning to make big announcements of big new spending plans but never actually investing the money.
Fourth, they use excessive optimism about catching those tax cheats. While cracking down on those who do not pay their rightful taxes is an absolute necessity, the Conservatives claim of a balanced budget depends heavily on quickly collecting billions in unpaid taxes, and that seems highly improbable at a time when they are chopping the resources needed in the revenue department to go after those tax cheaters.
Fifth, they use big program cuts. For big programs like infrastructure, the government claims to be increasing its investment, but any hypothetical increase would actually occur only years down the road, beyond the mandate of this Parliament, sometime in the latter part of this decade, conveniently well after 2015. It is a trick that is called multi-year bundling and back-end loading. When the government has nothing to announce, it rolls a bunch of years together and pretends it is going to spend money five or ten years down the road while it actually cuts in the short term. That is happening here. In reality, the build Canada infrastructure budget has been cut by $1.5 billion this year, $1.5 billion next year and $1 billion in the year after that. Any hypothetical increase is only well after 2015.
Sixth, they are claiming before proving. Using all of the tricks that I have just mentioned to concoct the false notion of a balanced budget by 2015, the Conservatives will claim that they have met their fiscal objective just before they call an election and, importantly, before proof to the contrary can become available. In the normal financial cycle, the audit report on the government's books for 2015 will not get published until much later, that is well into 2016, long after any election has come and gone. So much for the Conservative illusion of fiscal and economic competence.
Their second illusion is that they really care about jobs and job training and they boast about their proposed new jobs grant. The mentions it in the House almost every day, but again it is fiction. It is spin. It is make-believe. It does not exist.
What exists are labour market agreements, and they have existed since the late 1990s. They are job training agreements between the Government of Canada and all the provinces. The latest versions of these labour market agreements were negotiated about five years ago, and they are worth now about $2.5 billion all together. Federal money is regularly transferred every year by the Government of Canada to the provinces. The provinces use those funds to tailor job training and labour market programs and services that suit their local circumstances. The provinces are in charge of the design. That is what exists now.
The Conservative government wanted to appear to be doing something about skills and jobs in the 2013 budget. People without jobs and jobs without people is one of Canada's biggest economic problems at the present time. The government wanted to look as if it were aware of that and doing something about it.
However, the government was not prepared to invest any new money to try and make an actual difference in terms of job training. What it did do was create an illusion of action and the fiction it was doing something about jobs and training. What it is basically proposing to do is claw back the $2.5 billion per year labour market money that it now sends to the provinces and renegotiate it with provincial governments. That is all. It amounts to recycling existing money. There is nothing more. There is nothing new. There is no additional federal investment.
The provinces will need to contribute more and so will the private sector. That may actually serve to reduce the extent of job training in some sectors and some provinces, because some of those other partners, the provinces or the private sector, may not be able to match the federal dollars. Even the provincial treasurer in Alberta has made the comment that he does not know whether Alberta would want to participate in that kind of initiative.
The bottom line here is that there is no new money and no additional federal investment in training. It is an illusion to try to create the impression that something new is happening when it is not. That is tragic, especially for young Canadians looking for some hope and opportunity.
Here are the numbers. More than 212,000 fewer young Canadians are working today than just before the recession began in 2008. The youth unemployment rate is a very stubborn 14.2%. That is nearly twice the rate for other Canadians. The actual number is 404,000 jobless young people. Worse still, another 171,000 have simply given up and dropped out of the labour market altogether. The government and the budget do nothing but shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is simply not good enough.
Another fiction, the third one, is the government's bogus claim that is does not increase taxes. That assertion is completely false, and that is one of the key reasons we cannot support Bill . It increases taxes, especially the tax burden of middle-class Canadians and all those who are working so hard to join the middle class. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways. New hidden Conservative taxes on safety deposit boxes total $40 million a year. On certain medical services, it is $2 million a year. New Conservative taxes on credit unions amount to $75 million a year. It goes on.
However, there are three hidden Conservative tax hikes that hit especially hard at the middle class. They are taxes on small business dividends, taxes on payrolls and taxes on imported consumer goods.
First, the Conservative small business tax, a new tax burden on small businesses, will absorb $550 million every year, taking it from small businesses and hurting the middle class.
The second new Conservative tax is the EI payroll tax, which will suck up $600 million every year in higher EI premiums, again hurting the middle class. By contrast, facing a job challenge in the 1990s, a Liberal government did not increase EI payroll taxes. We in fact cut them. We cut them 12 consecutive times and we cut them by 40%. Employers and employees saved billions of dollars and 3.5 million net new jobs were generated. The Conservative government's record is the opposite of that.
Finally, the third tax increase that we object to is the new Conservative increase of tariff taxes, taxes on imports, which will take about $333 million every year from middle-class Canadians.
The cost of vacuum cleaners will go up by 5%. Bicycles will go up by 4.5%. Baby carriages will go up by 3%. Plastic school supplies will go up by 3.5%. Scissors will go up by 11%. Ovens, cooking stoves and ranges will go up by 3%. For coffee makers, the cost will increase by 4%. On wigs, especially cosmetic wigs for cancer patients, the cost will go up by a whopping 15.5%. The cost of USB drives will go up by 6%. On blankets, the cost will go up by 5%. On toothbrushes, the cost will go up by 2%. On pillows, the cost will go up by 6%. On alarm clocks, the cost will go up by 6%. There are dozens and dozens of imported products.
The government's excuse for this is that it only wants to provide these higher tariffs in order to give a benefit to a lower-income country overseas. However, the reality is, when we put on these tariff increases, the country overseas does not levy the tax and does not pay the tax. The tax is levied in Canada and it is paid by Canadians. The burden is on average middle-income Canadian families. This is a self-inflicted cost burden in Canada, which is why we cannot support it.
When all of these measures I mentioned are fully implemented, as well as some other taxes that are buried in this legislation, the burden will add up to more than $2 billion per year in new Conservative taxes that are being levied on Canadians. The largest portion of that burden will fall squarely on the backs of middle-class families.
For substantive reasons of public policy today, we will not vote for these measures. Also, because the government is trying to hide these new taxes and deny them, we cannot sanction such deceit. Liberals oppose Bill .
Therefore, I move, seconded by the member for :
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures (Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1), because it:
A) raises taxes on middle class Canadians in order to pay for the Conservatives' wasteful spending;
B) fails to reverse the government's decision to raise tariffs on items such as baby carriages, bicycles, household water heaters, space heaters, school supplies, ovens, coffee makers, wigs for cancer patients, and blankets;
C) raises taxes on small business owners by $2.3 billion over the next 5 years, directly hurting 750,000 Canadians and risking Canadian jobs;
D) raises taxes on credit unions by $75 million per year, which is an attack on rural Canadians and Canada's rural economy;
E) adds GST/HST to certain healthcare services, including medical work that victims of crime need to establish their case in court;
F) fails to provide a youth employment strategy to help struggling young Canadians find work; and
G) ignores the pressing requirements of aboriginal peoples.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for .
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2013, as implemented through Bill , the economic action plan 2013 act no. 1. This is a positive plan that would continue Canada's momentum in creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Many of the measures in Bill C-60 are aimed at strengthening our economy and ensuring a prosperous future for all Canadians.
However, our government also understands that a successful society also includes the capacity to respond to the needs of all Canadians, including the most vulnerable. That is why I am proud that our government is working so hard to support the charitable sector.
Charities play an important role in our communities. It is vital that we celebrate and support this excellent work. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work that all charities are doing, and I would like to commend them, especially their volunteers, for their commitment to improving the lives of others and contributing to our high quality of life.
In my riding of , I have witnessed the collaboration and the commitment of our charities and volunteers who are determined to make a difference in our community. This has inspired me to focus many of my efforts on supporting the charitable sector. As a member of Parliament, I have been actively engaged and involved in advocating for charities, raising awareness of the important work they do in our communities and serving as their voice in Parliament.
In 2010, I tabled a motion in the House of Commons that triggered a finance committee study that reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. It brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders, and generated a very comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector. I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and their suggestions.
The committee's report, tabled in the House last February, proposed several recommendations aimed at creating positive change in the sector, with a focus on tax incentives, transparency, reducing red tape for charitable organizations, and, of course, increasing public awareness.
Now with Bill , our government is responding to the report's recommendations with the creation of the first-time donors super credit. This innovative new measure would increase the value of the charitable donations tax credit by 25% on eligible cash donations of up to $1,000 in any one taxation year if neither the taxpayer nor their spouse have claimed the credit since 2007.
This is a creative response to the challenge of growing the donor base in Canada, an issue that was brought forward during the committee study. The committee heard that there was a need to foster and promote a culture of giving and that tax incentives can play a role, both in increasing the number of new donors and in encouraging existing donors to give more. Studies have shown that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a smaller number of people to make large gifts. Furthermore, the level of donations increases with age, and older Canadians tend to give more.
That is why I believe the first-time donors super credit would create new opportunities for supporting charities. It would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time, creating an immediate positive impact on the sector.
In fact, a survey recently conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking found that this initiative would go a long way toward achieving these objectives. Quoting from its press release, the survey found that nearly 70% of Canadians support the first-time donors super credit introduced in the federal budget. It goes on to say that 93% of Canadians feel the new credit would encourage more charitable giving or maintain current levels of support. Fifty per cent of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they would strongly consider contributing more to charities because of this new credit.
The charitable sector is also enthusiastic about this new initiative that will help to rejuvenate its donor base and encourage increased charitable giving. Imagine Canada, which had a proposal for a stretch tax credit, received a favourable response in the finance committee report subject to balancing the budget. It applauded the new super credit as a step in the right direction. It said in a press release, “This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint”. This immediate and positive reaction is very encouraging, and it shows that a small change has the potential to make a big impact.
I also believe that the first-time donor super credit will provide an opportunity for charities to foster effective relationships between charities and a new generation of donors. By engaging young people and demonstrating the difference that their contributions can make in our communities, we will build a core of lifelong donors and enhance the long-term sustainability of our important charitable sector. This new initiative would also help to raise awareness of the tax benefits of donating to charities, which as I mentioned earlier was one of the core recommendations of the finance committee report.
This is already happening throughout Canada's charitable sector. In fact, I have seen a number of charities that are already highlighting the new super credit in their website communications for their fundraising campaigns in an effort to engage young people and first-time donors. This includes SicksKids Foundation, Easter Seals, and a number of smaller charities that are seizing the opportunity to inform their potential donors about the tax credits to which they may be entitled. All of these efforts are aimed at the overarching goal of long-term sustainability for the charitable sector.
Our government has a strong record of taking action to support our charities, and since 2006 we have been steadily increasing the generosity of the charitable donations tax incentive. Budget 2006 introduced a complete exemption on the capital gains tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities to public charities. It also extended the exemption of donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities. Budget 2007 extended the exemption for donations of publicly listed securities to private foundations. Budget 2010 further reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity to better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been personally focusing many of my efforts on advocating for our charities with my first private member's motion that initiated the important charity study, and more recently my private member's bill, Bill , which proposes to extend the tax deadline for charitable donations.
In conclusion, I am extremely pleased that our government is taking concrete action to support and sustain charitable organizations. As a result, I encourage all members to support all the important measures in Bill , including the first-time donors tax credit that will benefit charities, donors and our society as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about what I think is a great budget, economic action plan 2013.
Clearly, we can see the difference between the political parties in this House. On this side of the House are the Conservatives, who stand up for the Canadian economy, which ultimately means more and better jobs for Canadians.
On the other side, they stand up for banks, Chinese manufacturers of bikes and other manufacturers from other countries. Instead of supporting local manufacturing, they stand up to support Chinese manufacturers. It seems absolutely absurd, and frankly, Canadians will punish them at the next opportunity they have.
Let us talk about the positive things in the budget that we are bringing in to promote a stronger economy and to make sure that Canadians have a far stronger and better quality of life.
First, in my part of the country, , we have problems filling jobs. We cannot find enough people to do the jobs we have. It does not matter whether it is in a car wash sector, a Tim Hortons or even lawyers or doctors; we cannot find enough people to fill the jobs, and we have the highest household income in the country. That is right: $185,000 is the average household income in my city of Fort McMurray.
One of the things I really like is the Canada job grant. This is to help align individual skills with high-demand jobs. It is a $15,000 amount in a tripartite fashion, with the provinces, the federal government and employers working together to find people to fill the jobs. What could be more important than that? This is a very positive initiative. It makes sure we do not just give a handout but a hand up, and we do so in a way whereby every level of government is working together with employers to do exactly that.
Another thing I really like is directing the gas tax fund payments to build a job-creating infrastructure throughout Canada. This is very important. When we came to office, as I am sure we heard from many people and as we have seen in the streets of our country, we had a $123 billion deficit in infrastructure. It takes time to catch up, so in our budget we brought in one of the largest infrastructure investments in Canada's history, $33 billion.
We heard clearly from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and right across the country that these were great initiatives for ensuring that Canada's quality of life continued to be the greatest in the world by ensuring that potholes were filled, by ensuring we had new roads and less congestion on our roadways, by ensuring we had water and waste water infrastructure. We are doing exactly that in this budget. We are doing so in collaboration with other parties: with the provinces, with the territories, with municipalities and now with employers.
We are also amending the temporary foreign workers program. On one side we cannot get enough employees in Fort McMurray for many of the jobs there, especially in the service sector. Those people in the service sector make a better quality of life for the people in the higher-paying jobs with that $185,000 average household income. However, clearly everybody in the House would agree that there has been some form of misuse of the program. That cannot be put up with. Clearly, our has laid out a plan, a strategy, to ensure that employers cannot do that any more.
There is always a need for tweaks. There is always a need for some changes in legislation to make sure that it would be unacceptable for people, companies or employers to take advantage of the system to the detriment of the Canadian economy and Canadians as a whole.
In this particular case, I have heard from union and non-union members throughout my constituency that they clearly want some changes to the temporary foreign worker program. We are here for Canadians, and Canadians should have first crack at any job they want, no matter what part of the country they are from.
We have also extended the accelerated capital cost allowance for two years to create new investments for Canadian manufacturers. This means that companies will buy equipment, and we hope it will be Canadian equipment. Somebody will then need to make sure the equipment works, so we will have to train people. Those will be Canadian jobs. Then employers will have to make sure they have people to operate the machinery.
This is a kick-start to employers to encourage them to go out and buy new machinery. It is a tax advantage for them, in that it defers tax a bit, and it is clearly a financial advantage for them to do so.
All the way down the assembly line of that manufacturing company will be Canadians working for Canadian output. That is an advantage for all Canadian manufacturers. It is an advantage for southwestern Ontario, for Quebec and for other places where the manufacturing sector has been hit. This Conservative government stands up for, and will continue to stand up for, the manufacturing sector in this country.
We are also doing some other interesting things. We are providing $165 million in support for Genome Canada. I know this is a very popular thing in some parts of the country and not so popular in others, because those areas do not know what the company does. This company makes sure that Canadians are on the forefront of research and development. In whatever field, Genome Canada is going to be the first in the world. We heard clearly in the finance committee that Genome Canada is at the forefront of the field, and this government will continue to support that to ensure Canadians have the best jobs through research and development.
We are also worried about youth. Although we have a low unemployment rate, we have a high youth unemployment rate. Compared to the rest of the world, though, it is very low, and we are going to work on youth because we need to fill those jobs. We are going to invest $8 million in the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to provide advice for young entrepreneurs.
As the father of three children in their twenties, I know it is difficult for them to find jobs in some areas, especially in the lower service sector. This will provide advice for people who want to start up new businesses, for people who want to start on an opportunity that they would not have otherwise or would not know how to fulfill. This government sees today's youth as tomorrow's future. We are going to concentrate on the future of Canada through youth, through quality of life and through a strong economy.
We are also providing $5 million in 2013-14 to Indspire, which supports scholarships and bursaries for first nation and Inuit post-secondary education. This program is important in all parts of Canada, but it is especially important for our economy. That is because we have heard in the finance committee that there is a clear correlation between success in aboriginal communities and the resource sector.
That is right. The resource sector is usually found in remote places in northern Canada. Aboriginal communities are usually in the same places. Here is an opportunity to make sure that those people who are the captains of industry are people from those communities, and they should be. Not only should they have first crack at a job, but they should be the people leading this country in that particular area of development.
In the oil sands in Fort McMurray, aboriginal communities are, for the most part, highly successful. They have integrated very well with the industry to create successful aboriginal stories and successful community stories. Fort McKay would be a perfect example. I would suggest it is one of the best success stories in the country as far as aboriginal communities are concerned.
We are also renovating the Investment Canada Act to further clarify foreign state investments in Canada and national security reviews. I have heard that clearly from constituents too. They are concerned about foreign investment. They are concerned about Chinese investment and other countries investing in the oil sands, for instance, or in key industries such as uranium or potash. Canadians want those industries to be owned by Canadians, to be run by Canadians and to have Canadian employees. Canadians are worried about that. They trust us to make sure we do what is best for them.
I do not have a lot of time left, but I want to talk briefly about something that is near and dear to me.
Our government has set record levels on infrastructure investment in this country. I mentioned $33 billion, but that amount is actually $45 billion over that period of time. That is the highest investment by any Canadian government in our history.
People might ask what this does for them. The answer is that it employs them. As well, it makes sure that they have more and better highways and better bridges, and other infrastructure such as social infrastructure. It gives them a better quality of life.
Some of those things include $32.2 billion in the community improvement fund, which will provide stable funding for community infrastructure projects. We have heard from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and from mayors and provinces right across the country that they need to have stable, predictable, long-term funding so they know where they are going to spend money in the future. They need to know when they are going to get it, just as any business does. If we just tell them that every year they are going to get a certain amount and it is a surprise to them, how can they do any long-term planning? It is impossible.
This government is going to make a variety of other infrastructure investments to build on our economic action plan. We are going to make sure we place Canadians first, for Canadians, for the Canadian economy and for the future of Canada.