The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the phenomenal folks of Davenport for according me this great honour of bringing their voices, issues and stories to this House.
I would also like to acknowledge the former member for Davenport who served this House and the riding with great dignity and grace.
I would like to thank my family. This has been, and will continue to be, a family affair. I could not do this without my partner, my love, my wife Michelle and my children, Sam, Charlie and Lucy Rose, as well as our extended family.
Like other members of this House, in Davenport throughout the election and in fact for about a year before the writ dropped, we knocked on many doors. We hear so often that Canadians are disengaged, removed and cynical about politics, but in Davenport we found, and I imagine most of the members in this House found, the opposite to be true.
When at someone's door, the conversation we open ourselves up to is profound, and I daresay life-changing. It certainly changed mine. I would like to thank the people of Davenport. I would like to thank them for their time, patience, good humour, and their engagement at the door.
I know we interrupted people. We interrupted them a lot. They were having their dinner when we knocked on their door. They were housecleaning or talking on the phone or feeding the baby, sometimes doing all of those things at the same time. We interrupted people when they were renovating their homes or having birthday parties. We woke their sleeping children, which is not a great vote-getting tool.
We caught people as they were rushing out to work or rushing home from work. And since so many people in Davenport are freelancers and are self-employed, independent contractors, small shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, we also interrupted them while they were working.
We knocked on doors and found a father who was sitting in the kitchen wondering when he will ever find a decent paying job again. We knocked on doors and found seniors who no one ever visits. We knocked on doors and found refugees who were fearful of unexpected knocks at the door.
There were new immigrants struggling to get a handle on life in Toronto. We found middle-aged women looking after elderly parents and young children. We found seniors who could not afford to live in the city they helped to build. We found students graduating from college or university with a debt that in my father's day would have been called a mortgage.
We found labourers who had just put in 12 hours, working outside, exposed to the elements, exposed because they have no disability insurance, no sick leave, and no extended health benefits. We found single moms who, every day, squeezed onto the Dufferin bus, who needed better and more affordable public transit but instead got rate hikes and service cuts.
We found urban workers with no workplace pension, no benefits, no job security, and no access to EI. We found middle-class families in debt, unable to afford or even find child care. We found families that could not find a decent, affordable apartment to raise their families.
We found Torontonians just barely getting by with little or nothing in the bank at the end of the month. We see banks recording billions of dollars of profit and they are recording this profit not once a decade, not once every few years but every three months.
I was sent here to relay the voices and stories, the needs, hopes and dreams of the people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto, not to advocate on behalf of banks that have plenty of people doing that for them. I am here to tell the stories of the folks of Davenport and that is what I am going to do.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
At this opportunity, as this is my first speech in the new Parliament, I am pleased to thank the good voters of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for allowing me the privilege, once again, to represent their interests in the Government of Canada. I pledge to faithfully represent their interests to the best of my ability.
I congratulate the for the leadership role he has played in the good governance of Canada; a skill that continues to be acknowledged by thoughtful Canadians and the international community.
Allow me to take this moment to thank my family. My spouse Jamie, my daughters Chantal, Lauren, Ellyse and Amelia stood by me during the election. I thank them for their love, their support, and their patience.
I wish to thank the people who came out to my campaign during the election. I owe them a tremendous thanks from the bottom of my heart. I can assure them their generosity will be remembered.
I also wish to take this opportunity to salute the women and men of CFB Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I gratefully acknowledge the support they have given me since I was first elected in the fall of 2000 and, most recently, in the last election.
The message I received from the military electors in every election in which I have been a candidate has been clear and short, “Keep fighting for us. We need you”. I thank them for their support. I will not let them down. I have their backs.
I would also like to acknowledge the people in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who make a living off the land, be it farming or forestry. Many of the traditional sources of employment, like the working forest, are under severe stress. Unlike, when I was first elected back in 2000, when there were only two MPs from our caucus to represent all of Ontario, today we have a large, strong and vibrant Ontario caucus. I look forward to working with my many new caucus colleagues to ensure the interests of Canadians, particularly, in rural Ontario, always have a voice.
As the MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, a sprawling, rural riding in the upper Ottawa valley of eastern Ontario, I depend on valley residents and their common sense approach to life to guide me in Parliament. I am in good company when it comes to taking this approach. Valley wisdom was recognized by the most electorally successful Conservative premier of Ontario, Leslie Frost, when he would recount his favourite story about a judge in the village of Killaloe objecting to the pleas of a big city lawyer in his courtroom and said, “What you say may be in all them books, all right, but it ain't the Law of Killaloe.”
Too often today, with the rise of more government and the myriad of laws and regulations, which are the result of too much government, decisions lack the element of common sense Judge Dunlop in Killaloe was dispensing from his rural courtroom.
The budget that was re-introduced by our Conservative government, one that was approved by more voters than anything put forward by the opposition, is imbued with the same common sense. For example, we recognize the simple fact that companies do not pay taxes, people do. When we raise taxes on employers, they pass their costs on to the consumer. It is this common sense approach by our government that has resulted in the creation of 540,000 net new jobs since July 2009.
The best social program is a job. The law of Killaloe is about making difficult decisions on behalf of the people of Canada, without forgetting who we are, and where and how we live. I am pleased to share this story as the and his family joined valley residents near Killaloe for that great valley tradition: the farm pig roast for Canada Day.
The understands the average Canadian who works hard, pays their taxes, and plays by the rules. On May 2 the majority of voters in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke chose to elect a national, stable, majority Conservative government. We in the Conservative government believe that public policy should be driven by facts and evidence, not by ideology. Every step of the way, we will be introducing policies in this House supported by facts, evidence and common sense.
The federal budget has a number of important measures that will benefit the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Local employer Atomic Energy of Canada continues to benefit from having a Conservative government voice. The good news for the 2,700 employees at Chalk River Laboratories is the $405 million announced in the budget.
The Conservative Party of Canada recognizes that, in order to be an environmental world leader, we need to focus on clean air, water, land and energy, and nuclear is the key to any national emission reduction plan. I have worked very hard to keep the Canadian Neutron Facility, the CNF, and the need for a new multi-purpose research reactor on the science agenda of our country.
In the 1990s, the former government of Jean Chrétien cut the budget of AECL by 42%. AECL then made a decision that basic nuclear research should be discontinued at Chalk River Laboratories unless it supported the commercial division of AECL. The Auditor General observed that AECL could not operate properly because the Liberal government refused to approve any business plan.
The 2006 federal election of the Conservative Party was a game changer for the good of the Chalk River Laboratories of AECL and of the entire upper Ottawa valley. The revitalization of AECL is a key component of our government's strategy for Canada to be a clean energy superpower. The latest budget allocation of $405 million is evidence of our commitment to the environment and the need to provide dependable, economic sources of electricity for Canadian consumers.
Support for Canada's military announced in last year's budget does not change. Construction of a new Chinook helicopter hangar at CFB Petawawa is proceeding as planned, as outlined in our government's Canada first defence strategy, and the jobs that come with the needed expansion. Petawawa is experiencing record growth to provide the roads and sewer infrastructure to house the incoming soldiers and support personnel associated with the new helicopter squadron. The town of Petawawa, like all local municipalities, will benefit from the budget measure to legislate the annual $2 billion gas tax fund expenditure from the federal government for municipal infrastructure.
Our forestry sector will benefit from the $60 million announced in the budget to assist, innovate and tap into new opportunities abroad. Forestry has been a mainstay in the upper Ottawa valley for many generations and I am committed to working with local foresters to keep that employment base.
In addition to specific budget announcements, like AECL and the $20 million announced over two years for the eastern Ontario development program, there are a number of specific measures that will benefit individuals. Enhancing the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for low income seniors, extending the eco-energy retrofit homes program and introducing the volunteer firefighters tax credit are just some of the measures in the budget that were positively received when I was on the campaign trail. What needs to happen now is for the budget to be passed and voted into law for Canadians to realize the benefits.
Canada's prosperity cannot be taken for granted. During the election campaign, I had the chance to speak to literally thousands of people. The one thing I heard again and again at people's doors is that people want government to remain focused on the economy and jobs. I know our will make choices that honour our shared values to govern on behalf of all Canadians.
The message I heard from voters this past election is that they want to work and they want us to work to get results and to bring people together across rural, urban, regional and provincial lines. This budget moves in that direction by responding to the needs of Canadians with proposals to help middle-class families, proposals that millions of Canadians voted for in the election, such as hiring more family doctors and nurses, making life more affordable, securing pensions and retirement security for seniors, measures that lift all seniors up. Reducing the tax burden sparks full-time job creation.
This federal budget reaches out to families that need help with their budgets. During the election, I talked to people who have great difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month. I also spoke to individuals who have prospered in today's economy. I heard intense personal stories from people who I took into account to motivate me to work in Parliament.
People are working hard. They are working harder than ever. I have met people who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet in the absence of full-time employment. This budget is for them.
Mr. Speaker, I again want to thank the good folks of for allowing me to return to the House in this session of Parliament.
It has been an interesting ride over the last 10 years. When we were first elected in 2000, we had 66 members of Parliament in our caucus. In 2004, that went to 99, in 2006 to 124, in 2008 to 143 and then we came back with 166 members of Parliament in 2011.
I want to point out that it is not an accident that things have happened this way. We have had a long-term strategy and long-term leadership by the . The first goal was to hold the Liberals accountable in 2004. The Canadian people did that after enduring so much through the ad scam hearings and found out just how deep the rot went in the Liberal government and in the Liberal Party. The people were glad to begin to make a change in 2004.
In 2006, we were able to come to government and early on the 's leadership showed through once again very clearly as he moved to reduce taxes right off the bat. We had GST tax reductions. We increased the personal tax exemptions so that many people were removed from the tax roles. That is the kind of leadership that led to 2008 when we were re-elected again.
When the worldwide downturn, the crash, took place, we were ready for that. Canadians were very protected by the government. I hate to think what would have happened had the third party now, the opposition at the time, come to power, because clearly it would have spent us completely into the ground.
We were able to come forward with stimulus spending with the programs Canadians really wanted to see and put them forward. Our economic action plan impacted every community throughout this country. I hear the members opposite even thanking us today for having done that for them. Everyone is glad to see those programs in place that have affected water treatment plants and highways in my riding. The RInC program also had a positive effect on many small communities in my riding. Those grants often were not big grants but they were grants that allowed communities to go ahead with projects they had thought were important for a long time.
Now we come to 2011 and once again I see an increase in the government caucus. I think that has happened because Canadians trust us. Canadians have seen good leadership and good management of the economy. We have trusted leadership and they wanted to see good results and were ready to see those.
We have come to Parliament to bring the throne speech forward and the budget. We are here today to talk about the budget. However, before I do that, I would like to talk on a couple of the key issues that were found in the throne speech that directly impact the budget and will directly impact the next year and subsequent years for Canadians. It is important to note that, as one of the news organizations pointed out, the Conservatives are sticking to their stay-the-course plan with no surprises in the throne speech which lays out their agenda for the coming parliamentary session.
What we told Canadians we wanted to do last year, we presented again this spring when we came back to Parliament. They know what we are about and what we want to bring forward.
In my riding there are a number of very important issues. The one issue that has been around the second longest and has been a real irritant to people in my riding has been the long gun registry. The people in my riding finally have a commitment from the government that the registry will be revoked. It is very good news for the people of .
The firearms community has asked for a number of reasonable changes to the Firearms Act. In order to carry that out, a few things like licensing infractions, which have been so prevalent because of the way the Liberals set up the entire system, should be taken out of the Criminal Code. If that were done, people would not be charged under the Criminal Code just because they neglected to renew a licence. Certainly, it seems that we should be removing the reverse onus character of this whole legislation. It makes citizens into criminals without them actually doing anything. That would certainly help out as well. With regard to certification, it seems that if we could move the one form of certificate for gun owners, that would be a much simpler system than we have right now.
In terms of training, the provinces and the federal government have had different expectations and demands, and, in some places, different courses. It would certainly be good if we could put those courses together to cover the same material to avoid duplication. We have tried to avoid that in so many other areas in this government and it would be good to do that here as well.
There are some other smaller things from the past, one being that when firearms were seized, they could be returned to wildlife organizations, for example, and then be auctioned off to raise money for wildlife projects. We would like to see a return to that as well. That change only took place in the last couple of years, so there should be nothing untoward about that.
Firearms owners are more than adequately served and prefer to deal with their local RCMP. They have done that in the past and we could move toward that as well. That is one of the things in the throne speech that is important to people in my riding.
Another important issue to my constituents is the funding of political parties. As everyone knows, political parties get their funding in a number of ways. They get it through donations; they get some of their funding from the rebates for election expenses; and they have received funding through the per-voter subsidy. Our government has committed to removing that per-voter subsidy, and that is found in this legislation. People in my riding tell me that it cannot happen too soon. They think that political parties are well taken care of and should be supported by the folks who really want to support them, not by the taxpayer.
A big issue in my riding, and probably the longest term irritant to my folks, is the Canadian Wheat Board. There is a long history to the Canadian Wheat Board, going to back to 1943 when crop sales to the wheat board were made mandatory and farmers were not given any choice in the matter. When Europe needed a large supply of cheap grain, the Canadian government made a decision at the time to supply such grain to Europe and it made participation in the Canadian Wheat Board mandatory. Our farmers have been paying the cost of that ever since.
It seems there was no vote when this was imposed on farmers. There was no vote in 1998 when the Liberals changed the legislation to make it impossible for farmers to get out, and that resulted in farmers going to jail. There was no vote by farmers on whether or not they wanted their colleagues and other producers to end up in jail. The previous government was only too happy to do that.
I should note that Australia has opened up its wheat board and that grain acres are actually up there, while Canada has had a long-term decline in the amount of grain acres being seeded. Canola has passed wheat as the number one crop on the Prairies. The reason for that has to do with marketing and the ability of farmers to market their own grain.
We are looking forward to working with the entire value chain, including the Canadian Wheat Board, to bring in an open market for western Canadian grain so that our farmers have the same opportunities, the same experiences, the same things available to them that other farmers across Canada have.
We want to work with the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. We want to work with folks who want to see a wheat board exist in some form in western Canada, in order to give our farmers what they would like to see. However, we will certainly not have the single desk, and farmers will be free to market their own grain. By opening the market up, the Canadian grain industry, the farmers, producers and communities, are going to attract investment.
Finally, we will be encouraging innovation. Our new varieties of grain will not have to go to Montana so that I can drive down and watch it being grown across the border where Montana farmers benefit from western Canadian-developed grain. Certainly, value-added jobs will be created across Canada.
We want to work with everyone in the value chain to bring this transition. There is a huge opportunity here for the board and communities. We really want to see them move ahead.
I want to move from the throne speech to the budget speech, as time seems to be going by fairly quickly here.
I just want to touch quickly on the fact that folks in Cypress Hills--Grasslands have told me that there are many challenges. They appreciate what we have done and they want us to work on balancing the budget as quickly as possible, a commitment that we have made. They are encouraging us to move as fast as we can to get back to balanced budgets and then to move on from there. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to represent them.
I found a quote last night by Tony Blair about deficit budgeting that, “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It's very easy to say yes”.
We certainly want to be able to say yes to Canadians, but no to spending their money in ways they do not approve.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the voters of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me the privilege of serving as their voice in this House. I pledge to keep their concerns front and centre in all the work I do here.
I represent a very diverse riding, stretching from Willis Point and Prospect Lake in the north, down through Royal Oak, Glanford and West Saanich to Esquimalt, which is my hometown, then west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca through View Royal, Highlands, Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, East Sooke and Sooke, and it does not end there. It stretches to Otter Point and Shirley, through Jordan River and all the way to Point Renfrew. I think I may have the most municipalities of any riding in the country.
When we get to Port Renfrew, we are a long way from downtown Victoria. This geographic reach means that my riding is economically very diverse. We start with industrial workers and government workers downtown and go through the suburbs to farming communities, and end up with logging and fishing as the main supports in Port Renfrew.
It is not as diverse a community in the multicultural sense as many other constituencies. While the percentage of new Canadians may not be large, there are significant communities of Chinese and Indo-Canadians in my riding. I am also proud to say that Esquimalt is home of an Ismaili mosque. In particular, we have a bunch of new Canadians performing very important roles in my community, the very large number of Filipinos working as caregivers and in our health care system. I want to make them welcome here today.
Where Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is most diverse is perhaps surprising to the members of this House. As a gay man, I am proud to stand in this House as a member of the largest minority in my riding, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexual people.
The second-largest group in my riding is first nations. My riding is home to five first nations: the Esquimalt Nation, Songhees, Beecher Bay, T'souke and Pacheedaht.
Perhaps even more surprising to those in eastern Canada would be that the third largest group in my riding is francophones, largely due to the presence of CFB Esquimalt.
In my riding, there are five main economic drivers, and this budget does very little to help any of those sectors and, in fact, threatens all five of them. It threatens employment at the base and at the shipyards in my riding. It threatens employment at Victoria General Hospital. It threatens employment in post-secondary education at Royal Roads University and Camosun College. Most importantly, it threatens the new jobs that have appeared in recreation and tourism, and it does nothing to help small business in my riding.
This is a very mixed economy, driven by both public and private sectors.
I want to talk about some of the common concerns in my riding, which are shared with the rest of Canada, concerns like a shortage of family doctors, the affordability of everyday life and the prospect of a secure retirement for all.
In addition, I want to talk about some concerns that are very specific to my riding, in particular the severe lack of infrastructure and services in my riding in the face of very rapid growth in suburban areas. This has led to sprawl that threatens farm lands and wilderness areas. It has led to congestion, as families are forced farther and farther from the core in the search of affordable housing. It has led to an acute shortage of child care spaces, and here I want to tell the House a few of stories I heard during the election campaign.
I met a woman at the door who had been waiting more than a year to go back to work, because she could not find a quality child care space for her child. We not only lose the economic value of her not returning to work but that family also loses economically every day when she cannot go back to work because there is not a safe, quality child care place for her child.
I met a family in Sooke forced to drop one child in Langford, a 20-minute drive away, then to drive another 20 minutes to Esquimalt to drop the other child off before they can both then head to their jobs. So that family is spending an increasingly long period of time together in the car instead of at home where they belong.
I met a Saanich family whose child care arrangements for their three children were such a complicated patchwork that they actually had to use a spreadsheet to make sure they picked up all of their kids at the right place at the right time, because both parents have to work to afford housing in my community.
Residents in my community are also concerned about the potential cutbacks that will cause job losses at the base. They are concerned because of the enormous uncertainty for the families of those who serve in the Canadian reserves and those who work in civilian positions at the base.
However, they are also concerned that the impact of those cuts may affect the ability of the Canadian Forces to do the difficult and dangerous jobs we ask them to do every day on our behalf. So far, the government has not made it clear what kinds of cuts those will be and who will pay the price of the corporate tax cuts being handed out in this budget.
People in my riding are also concerned about endangered species like wild salmon and orcas because the environment is not only essential to our future species, but also to the hundreds of jobs that exist in my riding in fishing, recreation and tourism.
How does the budget address the common concerns about which I have talked? The answer is, not at all. In my riding no family doctor is currently taking new patients. If people's family doctor retires or gets ill, where do they go? They go to the emergency room, which drives health care costs up, and there is nothing in the budget to ensure there will be more family doctors for families in my riding.
On affordable housing, there is nothing at all in the budget. Lack of affordable housing leads to homelessness and couch surfing for hundreds of people in my riding. It also leads to far too many families spending far too high a percentage of their incomes on housing. This means many families whose parents work end up at food banks. When we talk about how the recession ended, that is simply not true for most families in my riding. What do we find on their behalf in the budget? Nothing. There is nothing for child care and nothing for affordable housing.
How about infrastructure? Congestion in my riding causes lost dollars in the economy, harm to the environment and lost time for families. We need the federal government to step up to the plate with adequate funding for rapid transit and restoring E&N Rail, which both the Liberals and Conservatives have neglected so passenger service can no longer be run on this railway, which was a condition of British Columbia joining Confederation.
People in my riding are also worried about a secure retirement. Once they have paid the high costs of housing and child care, helped their kids pay the high cost of post-secondary education and helped their parents with the high cost of prescription drugs, there is very little left to put away for their own retirement. What are the Conservatives doing? They are pushing for something that very few outside Bay Street want. They are pushing for a private and voluntary retirement savings plan, where most of the increase in retirement income will be sucked up by the brokers on Bay Street rather than go into the hands of hard-working retirees. What Canadians want and need is an expanded and strengthened CPP.
On the question of jobs, what do we find in the budget? We find the wrong approach. The government is promising to cut more than 2,000 defence jobs, creating great uncertainty in my riding.
When it comes to shipbuilding, the government is playing favourites, trying to pick winners which may kill off shipyards in some parts of our country by denying a fair distribution of this important work around the country and by threatening the ability to build and maintain our own ships on all coasts in the country.
It seems to me that the Conservatives are curiously proud to have introduced the same budget they introduced in March. They are curiously proud not to have listened to Canadians during the election campaign.
I want to close by referring to a letter I received from Mrs. Pommelet's grade 4-5 class at Marigold School in my riding. In their letter, the students call on all of us in the House to do something about congestion that makes them late for their sports practices, to do something about the threatened cuts that might weaken our defences at CFB Esquimalt and to do something to protect our coastal environment against existing tanker traffic.
Even these grade 4-5 students in my riding recognize what the government does not recognize in the budget. They recognize that we are a community that needs to be addressing pressing common problems much more than huge corporate tax cuts, that tackling these common problems together will do far more for our future prosperity than the government's approach and that working together is essential for our common survival on this planet.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Assistant Deputy Speaker.
It is an honour for me to rise in this chamber for the first time on behalf of the people of Pontiac. First and foremost, I would like to say a big thank you to the people of my riding for their trust in me. It is with great pride that I accept the mandate to represent the interests of their families. I promise that I will do so every day in a dedicated, committed and constructive manner, along with all the members of the House, in order to achieve tangible results for my constituents.
Communities like mine did not simply choose a new member of Parliament. In the history of my riding, with only one exception, voters have elected Conservative or Liberal members since 1867. However, this year, like 4.5 million Canadians across the country and 1.5 million Quebeckers, they sent a clear message: they want change in Ottawa. It is even more apparent that they want a Canada where the people's interests are the priority and where no one is left behind. I am extremely proud to note that the people of my riding want this positive change but, like them, I am very concerned. I am concerned because the government does not seem to have understood that 60% of the population did not vote for them.
As a result, we once again have before us the same budget that reflects the Conservatives' same old habits, that puts the profits of big business ahead of the interests of the people, that puts the interests of the most profitable banks far above those of Canadian families, that puts the interests of big polluters far ahead of environmental concerns, and that puts the interests of companies that are sending our jobs abroad far ahead of those of small Canadian businesses that create jobs in Canada.
I am concerned because there are real problems in my riding of Pontiac, which is one of the most underprivileged ridings in Quebec. These are problems that do not exist in the Bay Street boardrooms or the big boardrooms of large oil companies. These are serious, tangible problems. Among other things, we, like other areas, have lost many jobs in the forestry industry, an industry that is currently in crisis. Since 2003, we have lost almost 75,000 jobs across Canada. The forestry industry accounts for close to 12% of the manufacturing GNP in Canada. It is a cornerstone of 300 communities, a number of which are in Quebec and in my riding of Pontiac.
In its budget, the government claims that it is coming to the aid of the forestry industry, but it is not enough. The government continues to favour the big oil companies and the automotive industry with billions of dollars in tax breaks despite the fact that the forestry industry employs at least twice as many people.
If the government had wanted to help the industry, it could have easily provided at least the same level of assistance it gave to automobile manufacturers. It could have ensured that loans at reasonable rates were available to help the industry refinance its debt and adapt to new market realities, such as renewable and green technology.
In addition, I have spoken with people who used to work in the industry and they are worried about their retirement income. Some of the workers, such as those who worked at the paper mill in Masson-Angers, stand to lose as much as 40% of their pensions because foreign companies are filing for bankruptcy and the government is not protecting Canadians' pensions.
Instead of creating sustainable jobs in this industry and protecting workers' pensions, this government is choosing to put its friends' interests before everyone else's.
I have also recently had the honour of meeting with leaders of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation. Much of the is on Algonquin territory. I also take this opportunity to recognize that this very House and Parliament rests on Algonquin land. I, for one, thank the Algonquin people for their welcome.
The Algonquins of the are deeply worried. On Kitigan Zibi, for example, more than 60% of the people do not have access to basic water infrastructure. The water they do have is so radiated that it is not even fit for animal, let alone human consumption. In addition, some houses sit on land where radon gases are three times the allowable amount.
These serious basic problems keep them from investing sufficiently in other necessary services like education and policing.
As the Auditor General recently pointed out, these fundamental issues of survival among our first nation peoples are a blot on Canada. It is a shame that this budget does not even go far enough to begin to address these problems.
The Algonquins of the and I truly wonder what the government is waiting for.
I have also talked to the people in the south of my riding. They are deeply worried by the announced cuts to the public service.
Having worked as a public servant for more than 10 years, I know very well what “strategic” and “operational reviews” are code words for: unacceptable workloads, more contracting out of jobs, fewer good-paying jobs and fewer opportunities for promotion, but these cuts are also bad for all Canadians. The reliance on attrition and efficiencies in the public sector to balance the budget will reduce the quality of the services provided by the public service workers as they are called upon to provide the same services to Canadians with fewer resources and less staff.
Yet, the government is moving forward with $4 billion in cuts to public services, while it continues to be less than forthcoming as to where it thinks the fat is that it is likely to be trimming.
I have also spoken with seniors in my riding who cannot make ends meet, and whose income is not increasing. Yet the budget contains nothing except promises of meetings sometime in the future; there are no measures to improve our public pensions. It is unacceptable that seniors are living in poverty.
I have also spoken with people who cannot find a family doctor or who have to wait months to see a specialist. It is even harder in areas like mine, the Pontiac, in Maniwaki, Gracefield, Bouchette, Shawville and other places. Yet the government is simply proposing that we forgive a portion of student debt for doctors and nurses. There is no mention of increasing the number of doctors in areas such as the Pontiac, where thousands of people do not have access to a family doctor. Many people are disappointed that Ottawa is subsidizing major polluters instead of promoting a green economy and protecting the water in our lakes and rivers.
All of these reasons will keep me from voting for this budget and for the same old Conservative rhetoric.
However, in the near future, I trust that the will respect the mandate that our team brings into Parliament. I look forward to working with all members of the House on practical solutions that will make a difference for the majority of the citizens in the .
The good people in the voted New Democrat for the first time and they know exactly what they voted for. They voted for a more respectful government. They voted for a perspective that does not reduce Canadians to economic units, an option which understands that there is more to being a Canadian citizen than paying taxes, that there is such thing as the good life in a country that has at its heart the principle of caring for each other. They voted for a stronger, more social Canada, with a strong place for Quebec in it; a Canada where after a productive life one can take a much deserved rest; a Canada where universal health care is a fact, not simply an empty phrase; a Canada which enables families to make ends meet, that helps create new innovative green jobs; and a Canada which leaves to our children, my children, a beautiful environment filled with diverse ecosystems because it is a good in itself and not a means.
By voting that way, they made history. The mandate they gave our party is crystal clear. I, for one, will work tirelessly and constructively with all my colleagues in the House to fulfill it.
Finally, I would like to say that I am deeply honoured to serve all the people of the and that I am doubly honoured to serve the people of Canada, with every member of this House.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
As I rise to speak formally in the House for the first time since my re-election, I would like to thank the constituents of for once again placing their trust in me and returning me to this honourable chamber. I look forward to serving them in my capacity of their member of Parliament.
Many thanks also go to my campaign team and hundreds of volunteers for their hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard work. Special thanks to my family and friends who continued to support me in my role as a member of Parliament.
Our government has clearly demonstrated that our economic action plan is working. If anyone needs proof of this, just last week Statistics Canada announced over 22,000 new net jobs were created in the month of May, bringing the total number of net new jobs to 560,000 since July 2009. The jobless rate is at 7.4%, the lowest it has been in more than two years. This also marks the seventh straight quarter of economic growth.
A recent forecast predicted Canada's economy will grow by 3.2% in 2011, and a further 3.1% in 2012. The future for Canada is bright and the steady job growth rate demonstrates our government is clearly on the right track.
Canadians have given our government a strong mandate to focus on building a stable economy and securing jobs. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan stays the course with a prudent, low tax plan that will continue to support the economic recovery and create more jobs.
This budget contains new measures that will have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of every Canadian. These include a new children's art tax credit and a new family caregiver tax credit, extending the popular eco-energy retrofit program to help families lower their heating and electricity bills, enhancing the GIS so that low income seniors will receive additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, and enhancing or extending the programs to help businesses keep workers and providing a hiring credit for small businesses to make new hires. These measures build on our government's strong record of support for families, seniors and small businesses, a record that I believe speaks for itself.
I would also draw attention to several significant specific achievements of this government. We have cut taxes more than 120 times since forming government and increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. Thanks to our Conservative government's decisive tax relief actions, a typical family will save more than $3,000 a year in taxes. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, and the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. Significantly, we have removed over 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls altogether, and introduced pension income splitting for seniors.
I am also pleased to see our government has set out a three point plan to eliminate the deficit, a plan that is achievable and measurable. As a result, we remain on track to balance the budget by 2014-15. I am proud of the work our government has done to bring our country through the global downturn. By all accounts, we have done a remarkable job and set an example for the entire world to follow. For these reasons, I will support this budget.
However, high taxes are still a problem for Canadian taxpayers. The Fraser Institute recently declared Monday, June 6 as tax freedom day, the day on which average Canadians have paid their total tax bill for the year and at that point start working for themselves.
In 2011, the average Canadian family will earn $93,831 in income and pay a total of $39,960 in taxes to all levels of government, or 42.6%. This year's tax freedom day is two days later than last year's, and ironically is due to our growing economy and Canadians' increasing incomes, which moved many of them into higher tax brackets. There is no sign that tax freedom day will arrive any sooner next year.
Over and over again I am asked, why is it so difficult for government to trim the excess when Canadians across the country have to cut back on their variable spending and make a conscious effort to stretch their hard-earned dollars to the limit. This budget optimistically predicts $4 billion in savings, or 1.5% of total federal spending. If federal departments were able to spend $4 billion less than expected last year without any planning or cuts, then I would suggest we could actually find additional savings within the budget's proposed $4 billion. Canadians expect nothing less of us, and we should reward their trust by delivering common sense federal spending proposals to utilize taxpayers' moneys effectively and efficiently.
Last week, the Manning Institute published research indicating that a vast majority of Canadians, over two-thirds, are becoming less dependent on government. Canadians expect less of government, except in core areas such as public safety. Canadians are increasingly more reliant on themselves, their families and volunteer organizations, and becoming less reliant on government. Canadian taxpayers expect government to focus on that which it can do effectively and efficiently.
Accordingly, the government will conduct a one-year government-wide strategic and operating review as part of our three-point plan to balance the budget. Perhaps one of the first areas we should focus our attention on is the duplication of federal and provincial departments and programs.
Theoretically, it is estimated that the federal government could reduce its operating budget by $44 billion a year and therefore eliminate the deficit by spending only in areas that fall under the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction, and I mention that theoretically. I am certainly not advocating leaving the provinces entirely to their own devices. However, one must seriously question the efficiency of parallel bureaucratic structures administering essentially the same programs. After all, there is only one taxpayer.
Some observers believe we may be facing a long-term structural deficit problem that would not be resolved by simply trimming a mere $4 billion of so-called government fat. A study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies asked why we have never considered “whether government can be restructured in any significant way as to deliver essentially the same level of service to the public at a significantly reduced cost and size.”
In this phase of our fiscal reality, all areas of government must fall under the microscope. A first and important step in this process is the elimination of the $2 per vote subsidy to all political parties. Although not mentioned in budget 2011, greater savings will be realized by the imminent elimination of the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
Eliminating unnecessary services and programs is easy. However, to effectively find our way back to balanced budgets, we must also seriously examine the cost of providing services deemed necessary. This examination will inevitably turn to the government's own human resources. We cannot continue to sustain a public sector whose growth outpaces every other category in size and compensation.
Between 1999 and 2009, the Canadian population increased by 11% but the federal government's civilian workforce grew by 35%, and public sector compensation grew by 59% compared to 30% in the private sector. Canada is fortunate to have an outstanding civil service. However, if balanced budgets are to be achieved, all unsustainable trends must be addressed. Perhaps we should view the predicted rise in attrition as an opportunity and not as a threat. The result would be a significantly less expensive public sector.
Based on the facts before us, some economists believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in our nation's finances. If we do not reduce government expenditures from 43% to 38% of GDP over the next decade, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, invariably the result will be higher taxes, dangerous debt loads or both. As the experience of European countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal has demonstrated, this path must be avoided at all costs.
Canadians are increasingly demanding tax relief, balanced budget and smaller governments. It is always easier to borrow money when someone else will have to repay it than to cut spending. Similarly, it is always easier to say “yes” and cut a cheque than to say “no”. Saying “no” takes courage and resolve.
However, on May 2, Canadians gave this government a mandate to deliver on the promises it has made. A majority government is also an opportunity to set Canada on a permanent course toward greater fiscal responsibility. The budget before this House is an important first step in this pivotal journey.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise in the House today to speak to our government's budget 2011.
Since this is my first speech in the 41st Parliament, I would like to thank the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for the support they have shown me over the past five years and for the trust they placed in me by re-electing me on May 2. It is a great honour and a great pleasure to be their member of Parliament, and I will do my very best to stand up for their interests here in the House and within the government.
Regarding the budget, I would like to begin by noting the tremendous support we received from Canadians for our government's low tax plan that focuses on protecting existing jobs, creating new jobs, securing Canada's recovery from the global economic recession, and improving the well-being of Canadians over the long-term.
All around us we see the signs of economic recovery, yet our country is still at risk. This is why our government has once again brought Canadians a budget that protects and creates jobs while promoting strong, sustained and balanced growth.
The recent election gave Canadians the opportunity to voice their concerns. The priorities of the residents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell are job creation, strong economic leadership as well as financial support for seniors, farmers, families and firefighters. I am pleased that the budget addresses all of these issues. I listened carefully to the people of my riding and I am happy that the budget proposes initiatives that will address their concerns.
Canadians are encouraged by the economic recovery we have experienced here in Canada, and by the strategies taken by our Conservative government to reduce spending and taxes.
We made a number of promises during the election and we are keeping these promises. For example, the newest measure in the budget, the four year phase-out of the taxpayer subsidy for political parties, will save taxpayers over $27 million per year.
We said we would cut this subsidy and we are cutting it. The winner is the taxpayer.
Also, our government plans to cut the deficit by almost two-thirds by 2013. The deficit will continue to decline to just $0.5 billion by 2015. Eliminating the deficit will allow us to continue paying down the debt and investing in the priorities of Canadians.
This will mean even lower taxes for families and a decline of our national debt by 2016.
The International Monetary Fund predicts that Canada will be one of only two group of seven countries expected to return to budget balance by 2016. We said that we would eliminate the deficit and eliminate it we will.
In my riding of , people have benefited significantly from the first phases of Canada's economic action plan. Since 2006, I have had the pleasure of announcing more than $130 million in federal government investments to improve our infrastructure, strengthen the local economy and help community development.
This level of federal investment in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is unprecedented and has never been seen before. This funding has enabled us to preserve and develop our cultural heritages, and helped support our local businesses. That is only the beginning.
Budget 2011 is focused on creating jobs. That is particularly important in a rural riding such as mine. If we want people to move their families into rural areas, we must ensure that there are jobs there for them. The job creators are businesses. During the election we said that we would take measures to keep business taxes low and to stimulate job growth. That is exactly what we are doing.
In particular, there are tax measures to encourage and financially reward small businesses that create new jobs. These measures will help our economy to grow and will add jobs to the over 540,000 new jobs already created since July 2009.
I spoke about benefits for firefighters, seniors and families. Our budget provides for specific measures to help these important groups in our community.
In my riding, there are many volunteer firefighters. Rural communities such as the ones I represent need volunteer firefighters. These men and women have taken on the responsibility of protecting the members of our communities and even risk their lives for others. It is important to recognize that firefighters and their families make huge sacrifices.
I am very proud that our budget contains a significant tax deduction for our volunteer firefighters. Our Conservative government is the first federal government to have included such a measure in its budget. We said we would deliver strong financial support to recognize the critical work done by our volunteer firefighters and that is what we are doing.
Like every riding across Canada, the strength of my riding rests with its families. With the rising costs of living it becomes increasingly difficult for parents to afford extracurricular activities that will help their children develop their creativity. We had already delivered a tax credit to support physical fitness among youth. However, I wanted to see a tax credit to encourage an appreciation of the arts among our youth.
My riding in particular has a unique culture, one based on the francophone culture, dance and traditional music, as evidenced by the large number of youth who participate in the Glengarry Highland Games every year. The arts play a unifying role in the community. The arts enrich our children's lives and prepare them to become leaders in society, a fact supported by the government through the children's arts tax credit.
The budget also provides good news for seniors. I have visited with seniors across Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, particularly during this past election. I know of their important contributions to our communities and to our country. However, these are difficult times. As I mentioned earlier, the cost of living is increasing.
The cost of gas, electricity and food has increased, making it difficult for seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income, to make ends meet. I am pleased that the budget provides for a substantial increase in the guaranteed income supplement. An additional $600 per year will be paid to single seniors and $840 to couples. This is the third increase by the Conservatives for seniors and, it should be mentioned, the largest increase in the guaranteed income supplement in the past 25 years.
Agriculture is another very important issue that affects the well-being of my riding's residents. As the , I worked closely with the farmers in my riding and throughout Canada. I am very honoured that the has again entrusted me with this very important role, and I would like all farmers to know that I will work closely with the and my colleagues to ensure that their interests are well represented in this government.
I believe we have done excellent work over the past five years. Farmers are doing better now than they have in a very long time. This is under a Conservative government and Conservative agricultural policies.
As we move forward in 2011, I will continue to seek input from the farmers of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and across Canada on what our future agricultural priorities should be. It is clear that we have tabled a budget that is good news for Canadians and Canada.
The 2011 budget was presented to Canadians in March, before the last election, and was one that they liked. We based our election campaign on this budget and Canadians evidently approved. On May 2, Canadians elected a strong, stable, majority Conservative government. I invite my colleagues opposite to support budget 2011, as Canadians have done.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I will start, Mr. Speaker, by congratulating you on your election. I also want to congratulate all my colleagues, members of the House, for their election to represent Canadians.
At this time I want to acknowledge and thank my family. My father, who is no longer with us, was one of my true mentors. I am always grateful for the values and work ethic he instilled in me. I thank my mom, brothers, extended family, of course, my partner, Steve, my two wonderful children and my inspiration to run in the last election, my three beautiful grandchildren, Jacob, Jessica and Emily. It is for their sakes that I chose to make this commitment. I know we have to build the kind of Canada in which our children and grandchildren can flourish.
What an honour it is today for me to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Newton—North Delta. Above all, I want to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me. I will put their priorities front and centre every day.
I also want to acknowledge Sukh Dhaliwal for his five years of service to Newton—North Delta. We have different ideas about the country we want to build, but our commitment to social service is constant.
Communities like mine did not just choose a new member of Parliament on May 2, they sent a powerful message to Ottawa. We do not have to put up with the same old ways. Change is possible, we can choose something better, and that is exactly what they did. Four and a half million Canadians from every region rallied behind our New Democrat vision for a better Canada, where families come first and no one is left behind.
I humbly accept the mandate my constituents have given me. I accept their mandate to put families at the front of the line, ahead of the profitable banks, ahead of the big polluters and ahead of companies shipping good Canadian jobs out of the country. I accept their mandate to work constructively with all members of the House to get practical results. The challenges we highlighted in this election are very real for citizens in my community.
I have spoken with families that are being squeezed between caring for their children and caring for their elderly parents. They have seen their senior parents struggle to get by on a fixed income and have had to watch the very people who built our country struggle to meet their health care needs and other economic needs.
I have heard from students who are not only worried about the size of the debt they will have upon graduation, but are also worried that there will not be enough fair-paying jobs to help them get rid of the debt once they are employed. For example, when a young woman I met told me the size of her student debt, I was absolutely flabbergasted, and this is not a unique story. Her debt was higher than the mortgage I took out to buy my first house. That is the kind of struggle our young people face today.
I have talked with families that are seriously concerned that the pensions they have been paying into all their working lives may now be at risk due to privatization and the volatility of the stock market. We have all seen what happened south of the border.
Many of my constituents are puzzled when they see raw logs shipped out of our country, while sawmill jobs in Canada remain dormant. Whole communities are decimated. One only has to go through parts of B.C. to see this. However, this is not unique to B.C. I have seen these former well-paid mill workers now struggling to get by, the lucky ones, while working two or three part-time, low-paying jobs.
Almost all of my constituents, no matter their income, gender or ethnic background, want to see a strong, publicly funded health system in Canada. They want to see it enhanced. They do not want to see it privatized or rationed.
We have all heard about the Tim Hortons-style health care in British Columbia that forces people to be treated in a coffee shop rather than a hospital. Together, every one of us in the House must protect and improve a universal health care system, a gift from Tommy Douglas and other pioneers.
People question why there is a shortage of doctors, while foreign trained doctors and health care professionals are forced to drive taxicabs for a living because the government appears powerless to integrate them into our medical system. I travelled in a cab with a doctor from another country who, while there, was teaching in a hospital. He could not understand why after five years he still could not get a placement to get his credentials in Canada.
I have talked to young working families who are finding it difficult, almost impossible, to balance their cost of living, runaway gas prices, the cost of housing, the cost of child care, care for their aging parents and service their huge student debts. Most are frustrated. Many have lost hope. Almost half have become cynical of government. They see government as representing the interests of big banks and big corporations and not representing their family interests. They cannot understand the continued tax breaks to big banks and oil companies, while they are losing jobs in those sectors.
Families in my riding cannot understand why they have to wait from 12 to 15 years to bring grandparents and parents into our country. They are worried that the government has not made those kinds of commitments to improve family reunification.
That is why the people of Newton—North Delta voted for change. I promise them that I will fight for that change every day and I will fight for their interests. I look forward to working with all members of the House on practical solutions that will make a difference in Newton—North Delta.
I trust that the will respect the mandate our team brings in to Parliament. Four and a half million Canadians voted New Democrat and they know exactly what they voted for. They voted to strengthen public pensions. They voted to improve public health care. They voted to help families make ends meet. They voted to grow our economy with new jobs and opportunities.
Canadians elected our most unified opposition in 31 years, 103 committed New Democrats from every region of the country, the strongest Quebec federalist result in a generation, with the largest percentage of women in Canada history, with the largest percentage of young people under 30 years of age, with representation from first nations and many of the cultural communities that make Canada so diverse and so strong. This is an official opposition that knows where it stands. Our mandate is crystal clear. We will put forward practical solutions for families. We will oppose the government when it is off-track. However, we will work together when we can get constructive results.
I am honoured to serve the people of Newton-—North Delta and I am honoured to serve with every member of the House. We will each bring different skills and priorities into this place and different ideas about what our country can be, but we can all choose to work together constructively, with respect for each other and for the people who sent us here. That is how my parents taught me to move in this world. It is certainly the example I want to cite, not only for the children I have taught, but for my own children and grandchildren. I will bring my best here every day.
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this House and it is a great honour for me to do so on behalf of my constituents, the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval.
I first want to thank my entire team who helped me get here today, especially my spouse, Didier Sacy, who helped me a lot during my campaign. I also want to thank the voters of my riding, which had been Liberal since 1962, for the confidence they placed in me on May 2. It was difficult for some voters, but they voted for change.
The voters in my riding wanted not only a new MP, but also change. They had had enough of the old ways of governing, the decisions that did not represent their interests and values, and the growing cynicism. The voters in my riding placed their confidence in me on May 2, and I and the entire New Democratic Party must respect that.
I will start by making families a priority above the most profitable banks and the interests of polluters, but especially above companies that send our jobs overseas. Families are the future. Families will provide us with the desired population pyramid, a demographic situation that will allow us to help our seniors, offer health care to everyone and live on a healthy planet.
Families should be the first people we help and encourage, starting with our seniors, those who worked their entire lives, contributed to our economy and built the society we live in today. I have spoken with Nortel retirees, many of whom live in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. They lose sleep at night because they are worried about their income. Scandals like the one at Nortel were permitted by previous governments. We have to commit to amending federal bankruptcy legislation to ensure that pensioners and long-term disability recipients are at the top of the list of creditors when employers are placed under court protection or declare bankruptcy. Nothing in the budget suggests that the government will provide them with any help. The cost of living, the increased cost of food, housing and gas is becoming a burden for families. We absolutely must help them.
In my riding, voters have another concern, namely, the very small place that the Conservative budget has given to the development of the green economy. During the election campaign, the Conservative candidate for Lac-Saint-Louis, a former senator and now a senator once again, promised major federal investments in a new rail line between the West Island of Montreal—Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport—and downtown Montreal. This line would serve as a commuter train and a quick connection for visitors to our great city. It is one of the most important and popular issues for the voters in my riding and in west Montreal.
This project, which has been the subject of discussion for years, would have a very positive impact on the economy, employment, the environment and the daily lives of thousands of workers, students and travellers. However, the budget proposed by the Conservatives does not include a single penny for this project, despite the candidate's promises. The senator received a very nice gift following the election, but there are no gifts in this budget for the 500,000 residents of west Montreal who have been waiting for a long time for an effective transportation service that will help them reduce the amount of pollution they are producing and take them to downtown Montreal where most activities take place.
Many residents of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine are disappointed that Ottawa is subsidizing the major polluters instead of supporting a green economy. My constituents want assurances that their environment will be protected. They want the government to take measures to bring people together; not to divide them.
I hope I can count on the co-operation of all members of the House to adopt practical solutions that will make a real difference in the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and in Dorval. I am counting on our to respect the mandate that was given to him and I am counting on our team to allow us to accomplish our work in Parliament. It would not be fair if the ridings represented by Conservatives received more projects than the others. The people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval hope to receive the same favours as the rest of Canada.
On May 2, the voters of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine were among the 4.5 million Canadians who voted for change, who voted to strengthen public pension plans, improve health care, help families make ends meet and ensure that our economy offers new jobs and new opportunities. They voted for a better Canada, with fewer scandals and injustices. By voting for change, Canadians have voted in the most united official opposition in the last 31 years. We have 103 members from across the country: women, young adults and members of the cultural communities that help strengthen Canada. It is a heterogeneous official opposition that reflects the faces of Canada.
I am very honoured to have been chosen by the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval. I am also honoured to have the opportunity to work with all the members of this House. Despite a few differences, we can work together for the good of Canadians, work together constructively as we respect others and their ideas. That is how I will work. I will do my very best every day to represent my riding as well as I can.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be engaging in this debate on budget 2011. I would first like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
This budget was first introduced on March 23 in the 40th Parliament. We all know what happened at that time. The opposition parties avoided a vote on the budget by forcing an unwanted election, but it turns out it was an election that reshaped the political landscape. It proved to be politically costly for two of the three leaders. Mr. Ignatieff of course and Mr. Duceppe not only lost their own seats, but one lost official party status and the other party returned with a severely diminished caucus.
On May 2, Canadians returned to the 41st Parliament with a solid, stable, national Conservative government and an NDP official opposition. It was a surprise to some people. However, I find it interesting that in evaluating the electoral prospects the high school students apparently had it figured out before the pundits did. They selected a Conservative majority government with an NDP official opposition.
Allow me to express my congratulations to you as Assistant Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker and to the other Assistant Deputy Speaker, as well as to the Deputy Speaker on their elections and appointments.
I would also like to congratulate all of the members who returned to this House. It is an honour for them to represent the ridings that they come from.
As well, I would like to thank the electors in for returning me for the fifth time to this 41st Parliament.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize my campaign manager and campaign team who worked diligently and my EDA board.
At our recent policy convention there were five resolutions from brought up for discussion and two that actually passed into policy. There were very enthusiastic supporters from Nanaimo—Alberni. I thank them all for their participation in the process.
One thing that we heard from the caucus members, cabinet ministers and party activists at the convention that we took to heart is that we all have an obligation to engage our neighbours, to listen, to take the pulse of our communities and to stay in tune with what is happening in our communities. We are facing unprecedented change, not only in Canada but around the world and it will be incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we stay in tune with how these impacts are affecting our communities. I thank all of those folks who were responsible for that.
One other person I must thank is my wife of some 20 years now. These last 11 years in Parliament have been a big challenge for someone from the west coast who is travelling back and forth. We are away a lot from the island of paradise that we live on. Helen has stood by me faithfully all of the years I have been in Parliament. All members would know the level of stress that the commitment to our job can put on our families. I thank Helen for standing with me, for without her it would not have been possible.
This budget was well received on March 23. In fact, it was so well received that the thought he would introduce it again and on June 6 that is what he did.
There are many measures in the budget that we can discuss and that have been discussed today. There will be more to discuss as the debate continues.
One of the measures I want to highlight is the one involving seniors. Since coming to Parliament we have reduced the tax burden on seniors significantly. Over $2.3 billion has been given in annual tax relief since 2006 with the various measures that we have introduced taking some 85,000 seniors off the tax rolls. That includes pension income splitting, increasing the age credit amount by $1,000 twice for a total of $2,000 and doubling the pension income credit to $2,000. All of these measures together, along with increasing the guaranteed income supplement, are extremely important in lowering the tax burden on seniors.
I have heard some members say that the $600 a year for singles and the $840 for a married couple of the lowest income seniors amounts to nothing. I think they are remiss in not reflecting on the cumulative effect in shifting the tax burden away from seniors and doing our best to help our most vulnerable seniors.
There are many measures in the budget: a new children's arts tax credit of up to $500, a new family caregiver tax credit, a volunteer firefighters tax credit and extending the eco-energy retrofit. All of these are important for our communities. All of these benefit our communities. In some sectors of the community it takes the burden off people who contribute in a big way, like our volunteers firefighters.
I want to turn the children's fitness tax credit which was introduced earlier. It is only a $500 measure to help encourage people to engage their children in physical fitness. Many experts are concerned about the declining health of Canadians and we have to start with the children. It is a small measure, but it is a good measure. As we get to balanced budgets in the next few years, reducing that deficit year by year, we have a plan that is working. We will extend that measure, doubling it for children and extending it to adults as well.
I want to comment on that briefly. As a health professional for many years and a chiropractor for 24 years, a body man, I want to remind members that the human body has some 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells, some 200 different cell types and 25,000 miles of blood vessels. These cells do not last an entire lifetime. They are being replaced on a continual basis. There is some speculation. The exception is the nervous system, which is actually original equipment. Most of that is here for life and we had better protect it. We are replacing cells on a daily basis. Every 7 to 10 years, every bone cell is replaced.
This is relevant to the budget. Hon. members should be listening. They will enjoy this. When my wife and I are on the cycle path, when we are exercising, pushing the limits and pushing our bodies, we get a little tired sometimes. I encourage her by saying that it is tomorrow's body we are pushing for. It is today's activities that actually set the template for tomorrow's body.
In a similar manner the nutrition, the food we eat contributes to the body we are building for tomorrow. I hope as we move forward and as we are looking for sustainable solutions to our health care challenges that there will be more emphasis on wellness initiatives, more things that encourage positive health management on a personal health level and more incentives to promote a disease prevention strategy.
There are many measures in the budget to help people. I want to remind people that a couple of years ago in 2006, we hit an economic tsunami, a worldwide economic downturn. We had to act quickly, and indeed, that is what we did. We brought in some $60 billion in stimulus measures, outreach measures to help workers displaced, created incentives like job-sharing and a whole range of initiatives to help our communities. Part of that was the economic stimulus measures that brought jobs through some 25,000 projects across the country. On Vancouver Island many projects benefited our community. All of these projects helped to keep people employed during that difficult time.
Cumulatively, we have created over 540,000 jobs, all important, to keep people employed and keep our communities working. There was the home renovation tax credit during that phase that kept people working. In this budget we have the very popular eco-energy retrofit program extended that will encourage positive behaviour by encouraging people to invest in energy efficiencies for their homes: the windows, the doors, the insulation, the kinds of projects that keep people working in our community and contribute to energy savings in the community as well.
There is a whole range of issues that we have not addressed and I am down to my last minute, but there are positive measures for our small businesses with a hiring credit of up to $1,000 to encourage more hiring. There is support for youth entrepreneurs of some $20 million. We are reducing red tape. We are investing in clean energy technology and innovation and we are legislating the permanent gas tax funding for municipalities at some $2 billion a year. That is so important to our communities, many of which have infrastructure deficits and are counting on that money to help refurbish the infrastructure in our municipalities.
For all these reasons I encourage our colleagues to stand with us and support the budget. Let us work together and keep our country strong as we move forward, keep Canada's economy the best in the world. Let us develop all the potential we can in this country as we move ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague's comments. Although normally members would expect me to viciously oppose the government's budget, I want to start in a more conciliatory tone since we are in a new session of Parliament.
Let me start by saying that the one part of the budget I was happy to see was, of course, the return of the eco-energy retrofit program for homes. That $400 million is desperately needed in our communities. However, I have to ask the government why this program was brought back for only one year.
This program is good for homeowners, the environment, jobs and we also know that it is good for the government because for every $1 that the government pays in incentives, families actually spend $10 and generate twice as much in tax revenue. This program really is a win-win.
I was really surprised to see in The Hamilton Spectator this morning, and frankly saddened, that the member for said:
|| They (energy advisers) made a choice. That’s their industry and career choice that they’ve made. Whether we have a government program that keeps them in business or not is not my call--
That is really regrettable because the question remains: Why is this program in place for just one year?
The government pulled the plug on this program in 2006. It was a program that worked well. People clamoured for it to be renewed. Now we have the money, but it is being put on a very short leash. What if there is money left over at the end of the year without programs having actually been implemented effectively? I wonder if the member would comment on that.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today to the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a plan to keep taxes low and to create jobs and growth. This is a budget that is truly good for all Canadians from a government that is here for all Canadians.
Before I begin, I would first like to thank my wife, Neetu, our children, Jatin, Chetan and Arisha, and, of course, our campaign team and all of those friends and constituents who supported me in my election to serve as a member of Parliament for Calgary Northeast.
It was not our choice that Canada was swept into global economic crisis but we had learned from past events. Our Conservative government acted quickly and boldly with unprecedented fiscal stimulus. Our decisive actions then is the reason for our favourable position now.
Canada has the highest employment growth among the G7 nations. In fact, Canada's employment rate is higher today than it was before the global recession began. Canada has created nearly 560,000 net new jobs since July 2009. In May 2011 alone, Canada created over 22,000 new jobs.
That is all good news but I want to caution anyone who thinks we are completely out of the woods. Despite our stimulus measures, our strong banking sector and the hard-working Canadian public, we must not become complacent. Global economic forces outside our control remain uncertain and we need to keep our guard up.
The budget gives more exactly where we need it the most. It supports job creation, families and communities, invests in innovation, education and training, and preserves Canada's fiscal advantage.
Our government understands that it takes a low tax environment to allow businesses to thrive. Our government is providing a temporary hiring credit for small businesses to encourage additional hiring. We are expanding the work sharing program and the targeted initiative for older workers to help keep people in the workforce.
We also understand that investing in technology not only creates jobs today but saves us money in the future. Energy costs are one of the fastest rising costs for Canadians and Canadian households. That is why our government is renewing the $100 million investment over two years for research and development on clean energy and energy efficiency.
We are also extending the popular eco-energy home retrofit program to make our homes more energy efficient. This program also has real benefits for businesses in my riding. Lux Window and Glass is a multi-generational family-owned business in Calgary Northeast that supplies windows and doors to home builders and renovators.
The president of the company, John Petrillo, told me that in 2009, when we established the eco-energy home retrofit program, his company saw an outstanding number of customers looking to renovate. It was thanks to our 15% tax rebate. With regard to the extension of the program in this budget, Mr. Petrillo said, “The eco-energy retrofit program would help Lux Windows to keep over 120 plant employees and 10 installation crews employed”.
Another business, the North West Group, located in my riding, specializes in the generation of high quality digitalized geo-spatial mapping information for clients across all sectors. Tim Crago, the vice-president, had this to say about our government's low tax plan:
|| Creating a competitive, low tax framework for businesses in Canada creates a highly attractive environment not just for big firms, but small and medium sized companies like the North West Group in which to invest and grow.
On this budget, Mr. Crago said:
|| We are also pleased to see that Budget 2011 reaffirms that the Government of Canada will be giving priority to its Digital Economy Strategy, to make Canada a leader in the creation, adoption and use of digital technologies and content.
However, those are not the only success stories in my riding of .
Burhan Khan, born in Pakistan, moved to Canada in 1986, an MBA and registered public accountant in business for 20 years, running his BK accounting firm in my riding with a team of five employees, said, “This budget a is a small-business friendly and great for young and eager entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and create jobs for the good of Canada. The low tax climate also gives me the flexibility to hire and train more apprentice workers, which makes me very proud as a Canadian of Pakistan origin”.
It is clear that our Conservative government has a plan and the plan is working to keep taxes low and create jobs and growth.
The government is also solidifying Canada's reputation as a great place to invest and to do business. In fact, it was under this government that Tim Hortons decided to move its corporate headquarters back to Canada to reap the benefits of our new low tax environment. Certainly Tim Hortons serves as a popular icon for all Canadians, from to Kandahar. We are glad to have it back.
We want all Canadians to enjoy a high standard of living. We are enhancing the guaranteed income supplement for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old security. We are providing new top up benefit of $600 annually for individual seniors and up to $840 annually for couples. This will improve the financial security of more than 680,000 Canadian seniors, many of them from .
This Conservative government understands that more families are sacrificing to take care of their ailing loved ones inside their home. That is why we have introduced a family caregiver tax credit and an enhanced medical expense tax credit that removes the limit on eligible medical expenses that can be claimed on behalf of a dependent relative.
We are also providing a new children's art tax credit to support Canadian families as they pursue the arts.
We are the first Canadian government to provide a volunteer firefighter tax credit for those who serve their communities and put themselves in harm's way.
Our government is investing in its greatest assets: its people. We are expanding eligibility for Canada student loans and grant programs for full and part-time post-secondary students. We are also helping apprentices enter into the trades by making their examination fees eligible for the tuition tax credit. We are investing in innovation, education and training to keep Canada on the leading edge.
We may not have all our wishes fulfilled in this budget but, just as families balance their budgets at the kitchen table, Canadians expect the government to balance its books.
Our government has committed to returning to surplus by 2015-16 and we are on track to achieving this, without raising taxes, without cutting funding to seniors, families or the unemployed, and without cutting transfers for health care and social services, all under a strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It is a great pleasure to be back in the House. I want to thank the people of Cape Breton--Canso for expressing their confidence in me once again. The 41st Parliament will be my fifth Parliament, and it continues to be an honour and privilege to be representing them here in Ottawa.
Some members have been to my riding in the past. The rugged coastlines and landscapes are spectacular. It is a part of the world that is rich in culture. I encourage all members of the House if they have not been there yet and are still working on summer vacation plans to take a trip to Cape Breton or the northeastern shore of Nova Scotia through Guysborough and Canso. I think tickets are still available for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. During lobster season and crab season it is a great place in Canada to visit.
I should add that one does not succeed unless there is a group of people around one who wants one to be successful. Each of us is here because there was a group of people who believed in him or her. In my case, I have had campaign workers who have put in countless hours, pounding in signs, making phone calls, writing cheques and going door to door. We are here because of them.
Then there is family support. I was fortunate to have my sister, Kim Bedecki, act as my campaign manager this time around, and she did a tremendous job. My wife, Lynn, and my three boys, Mitch, Scott and Brad, put up signs and then the sign team would fix them up as well. Everyone who is here does it with a great deal of family and other support from those who believe in them. I am fortunate and am thankful for everyone's efforts.
Much has been said about past Parliaments and the fact that, quite often, the decorum here in the House has been ultra-aggressive or very adversarial. There is a focus now and a commitment to making sure that we try to be a little less aggressive in our debate and throughout question period. It is in that spirit today that I will be making my points.
In speaking to the budget, I am going to look at some of the measures on which the government was close to making some good decisions. I will not talk about the jets. I will not talk about the jails. I will not talk about the corporate tax cuts, though I know the member for will be disappointed about the latter. However, anyone who pays any attention at all will know that these decisions will have a huge impact on this country and the citizens of this country for years to come. I want to talk about some of the things the government was close to getting right in the budget.
The first one was the government's rollover of two provisions of the employment insurance rules, those being the best 14 weeks and working while receiving benefits. The government extended them for one year, and that is a positive thing, because it will make a difference in the lives of those people who are working in seasonal industries but who are actually not seasonal workers. Many times they work in rural or remote communities.
When this pilot project was first announced in 2005, it focused on allowing these people to stay in those communities and support the business that needed access to a workforce. That is why these measures were implemented back then. They were put in place for a period of three years as a pilot project and have been renewed since then. They have been rolled over yet again in this budget.
When this budget was presented back in March, many interventions were made by people who live in rural communities, who said that these provisions should be made permanent. If there were ever two pilot projects that could be justified being made permanent, it would be these two particular measures.
I applaud the government for recognizing the pilot projects for a year. However, it would have been far more beneficial had the government made them a permanent provision of the EI system going forward. It would certainly have been more beneficial for the businesses, seasonal businesses, and workers in those rural communities that were most impacted. Therefore, this was just a half measure.
The other half measure I want to talk about and commend the government for is the firefighters tax deduction. Again, we made these comments when the budget was presented the last time, in particular, that the proposed budget did not include all of the people in the community. If we were serious about recognizing volunteer firefighters, then we would have a refundable tax credit. However, this sets up a two-tier volunteer fire department: those who qualify for the tax credit and those who do not. I have 50 volunteer fire departments in my riding. Many of the volunteers are older and many work in seasonal industries. Those who do not make $22,000, and there are a fair number of them, receive no benefit from this at all. In volunteer fire departments that pay their volunteers an honorarium, we already have a provision where the first $1,000 of that honorarium is tax exempt. However, under this provision the volunteers would have to pick one or the other, and so there is really no net benefit for those already accessing the $1,000 tax exemption.
We are asking all of the volunteer firefighters to do the same job. When the whistle blows or their pager goes off, they are all expected to have the same level of training and know exactly what to do. These are the guys rushing into the fire when everyone else is rushing out. They are all going into the same burning buildings and taking the same risks. When they show up at head-on collisions with the jaws of life, they all have to know how to extricate the victims, such as a young 18-year-old splattered on the dash of a car. However, what the government is saying with this tax credit is that one of the firefighters is worth more than the other who is not making $22,000. That is not fair.
Again, I commend the government for this first half step. We made it aware of this in the last budget discussion, and I wish the government had taken it that one step further. We only have about 100,000 volunteer firefighters. This could have included everyone.
To summarize, there are some aspects of this budget that are like a bouquet, a bouquet of thorns with a couple of roses dropped in it. Once we get into the weeds, into the detail, we see that the government, with a little more effort, could have done better for all Canadians. It could have done better in levelling the field for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to extend a more proper thank you to the people of for putting their faith in me for a seventh time during the last election. I can assure them that I remain committed to their well-being and to fighting for their interests here in this House.
That said, I would like to begin my critique of the budget by talking about the regional concerns surrounding the future of the public servants in our community.
The government is committed to balancing the budget. That is something the government should achieve and Liberals will certainly be supportive in that objective. The question is how it will attain it.
The government has said that it will not cut certain areas, such as transfers to the provinces and individuals. Therefore, essentially it has limited the universe in which it can effect cuts to about an $80 billion discretionary envelope. The cuts over the next four years will not be in the order of 5%, as some people have said. In terms of absolute numbers, it will be in the order of $1 billion in 2012-13, $2 billion the year after and $4 billion in each of the two succeeding years, for a total of $13 billion. Out of an $80 billion envelope, that represents cuts of almost 14%. Therein lies the rub.
Conservatives said during the campaign, and the repeated it ad nauseam during the campaign, that there would be no cuts to the public service and it would only be done through attrition. The average number of public servants who leave the government through attrition every year is about 10,000 and that represents a saving of about $1 billion on the basis that none of them would be replaced, which cannot be done.
The best guesstimates are that about a third need to be replaced, otherwise the delivery of programs would be crippled. The savings from attrition at most is $750 million a year. That is a far cry from $4 billion. Therefore, there will be cuts and the government has acknowledged that, after the election of course.
We are looking at serious numbers. Some have hinted at as many as 80,000 public servants, 40,000 by attrition if none are replaced, which cannot be done as I have mentioned, plus another 40,000. Depending on how and where it is done, it will have an incredible impact on certain local economies, this one in particular. The national capital region will probably be the worst affected. The individuals let go will have some serious fiscal problems of their own if they are not treated properly.
There has been nothing from the government in terms of how it will approach it, except that it put the in charge, and I will say a bit more on that in a minute. We do not know the governing principles and we do not know what kinds of packages will be offered to public servants who will be let go, so on and so forth.
Right now in this area and other parts of the country where there is a higher concentration of public servants there are serious concerns. That is all I heard about over the weekend. People are wondering and are a little concerned about what is going to happen to their futures. The government has to be very transparent with its own employees, something it has not learned how to do in the last five years. Hopefully, now that it feels more comfortable with its majority, it will treat its employees a bit better than it has in the past. We will see.
Speaking of treatment, the basic fundamentals mean the government has to be transparent with its employees and has to treat them respectfully. We still have, despite the efforts of the government at times, one of the best public services in the world and employees deserve no less than professional treatment, transparency, honesty and forthrightness. I hope the , as he embarks on this exercise, will be guided by such principles.
I go back to the . It is rather ironic that he would be the one asked to do this after the Auditor General's report that was tabled in the House last week. What we have found out is appalling. Parliament has been misled by the government in terms of its expenditures and there has been a misuse of funds. An approved envelope meant for one thing was used for something else entirely. There has been an abuse of ministerial authority in determining how money is spent, without any documentary evidence whatsoever.
Talk about padding one's own host. The $50 million that were to be used to improve the flow of goods and people across the borders between Canada and the United States were used 300 kilometres away in the minister's riding, at his discretion. The Conservatives have the gall to put him in charge of cutting $11 billion over the next four years. We will have to see how that goes.
There are a few other matters that should be noted.
One of those matters is political party funding. I do not want the hon. members to worry about me personally, so I will say that it does not matter to me if the subsidies are eliminated or not. I have never received the subsidy and have never wanted to. Things are taken care of in my riding and there are no issues. But the irony runs deeper. We are facing an intellectual challenge: individuals who wish to contribute to a political party are limited to contributing $1,100 a year, while a third party can legally sneak in, get involved in campaigns in every riding and spend $3,000. Why the double standard?
It has not been an issue until now because the per-vote subsidy levelled the playing field. When the subsidy is eliminated, it is crucial that Parliament review political party financing legislation to ensure that fairness is a governing principle. It is not right that one person can spend $3,000 in a riding and that another is limited to $1,100 in political contributions. Political parties are registered by law with Elections Canada to protect the interests of the various political groups represented here in the House. Since this subsidy is being eliminated, Parliament must address the issue.
We do need greater literacy in fiscal matters in our country. On that front, the government had created a body that looked at that and made some serious recommendations. One would hope the government would follow up on those recommendations. It is important that it does.
The level of individual indebtedness in our country is way too high. It brings about a risk factor that we could attenuate. Currently in some cities the housing prices are untenable and if for whatever reason, oil prices, worsening international climates or investments were to dry up, we would see a dramatic drop of up to 10%, 20% in some cases, of the value of real estate and the concomitant disaster in some personal finances because of the high level of indebtedness. We need to address that as a country and I do not see the efforts to do just that in the budget.
Those are two things to which I would hope the government would pay attention and that we would see better efforts to ensure that the financial situations of individual Canadians would be looked after.
We will be coming back to the whole issue of crime. The government's approach to this issue is completely backwards. The exact opposite is what is needed. We need to reduce crime, rather than throw people in prison for even longer periods and at increasingly exorbitant costs. We will come back to this, since an omnibus bill on crime is coming down the pipe. We will definitely be talking about this issue again.
Lastly, I would like to talk about post-budget questions. What worries me about the government's attitude is that it has said nothing about any investment in education, health care or the needs of Canadians once the budget is balanced. Instead, it talks about increasing the number of tax havens for the wealthy, when it should be doing the opposite. Therein lies the main difference between the Conservative philosophy and the Liberal philosophy. We Liberals try to strike a balance between the needs of Canadians and the need to create enough wealth to support one another.