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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 202

CONTENTS

Tuesday, April 28, 2015




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 202 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Auditor General of Canada

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the spring 2015 report of the Auditor General of Canada, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g). This document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Committees of the House

Health 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the tenth report of the Standing Committee on Health, entitled “The Statutory Review of the Pest Control Products Act, 2015”.

Petitions

Public Safety  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.
    The first petition relates to the bill currently before this House, Bill C-51.
    Petitioners from Saanich—Gulf Islands as well as Whitehorse and Mississauga wish this House to reject Bill C-51 as a dangerous bill that intrudes on constitutional rights.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands who are concerned about the proposal for what is described as the northern gateway pipeline.
    The petitioners call on this House to ensure that support for this project from the Conservative administration be withdrawn.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition to the Government of Canada on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion of the new pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby. The signatories object to this pipeline and ask the Government of Canada to immediately act to prevent this new oil pipeline from proceeding through Burnaby.
    The reasons are numerous. For example, the petitioners state that the pipeline would only create 50 permanent full-time jobs and would most likely be built using temporary foreign workers. Also they are upset that this new pipeline would not bring oil to be refined in British Columbia or be sold to Canadian consumers but instead would be shipped by tanker to foreign markets.

Public Transit  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present petitions on behalf of constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River who understand the struggles because of gridlock and the importance of the creation of a public transit strategy nationally in this country. Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy, and it is estimated that over the next five years, there will be an $18-billion gap in transit infrastructure needs.
    The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to enact a Canada public transit strategy that seeks to provide permanent investments to support public transit; to establish federal funding mechanisms for sustainable, predictable, long-term, adequate funding for public transit; and to ensure that all levels of government are working together.

Gender Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.
    Two of them are on gender selection abortion.
    The petitioners call for equal treatment for males and females before birth, asking that the practice of aborting those fetuses determined to be female because they are female be ended.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition is with regard to displaced Christians in Iraq.
    The petitioners call on our government to continue to pay careful attention and to do what we can to help displaced Christians in Iraq.

Palliative Care  

    Mr. Speaker, this petition deals with palliative care.
    Recognizing that hospice and palliative care is an essential component of national health systems, the petitioners ask the Government of Canada to call for the inclusion of hospice and palliative care in the United Nations' sustainable development goals.

Dementia  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from dozens of residents of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia from Delta, Richmond, Surrey, and Burnaby.
    These petitioners call on the Minister of Health and the House of Commons to pass Bill C-356, sponsored by the member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, to put in place a national dementia strategy, including a comprehensive national plan to address all aspects of Alzheimer's disease and to ensure that we have national objectives to fight what for many people is one of the profound health issues in our country.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[The Budget]

[English]

The Budget

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance  

    The House resumed from April 22 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, from the outset I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Hochelaga.
    I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak today on this budget and on the NDP amendment. So many times in the House we have seen the movement of closure and time allocation, so I have not been able to speak on all of the motions and bills before the House, and I am very grateful that I have this opportunity today.
    In an age of growing inequality, it seems that the Conservatives just want to help accelerate it. In Scarborough, my office hears about the need for jobs, the need for affordable and reliable transit, and the need for fairer immigration policies, among many other issues. Across Canada, communities are struggling to cope with major job losses.
     In Scarborough, we are a fast-growing community. In 2011, there were about 616,000 people living in Scarborough. As an area, our average household income is below the provincial average, and so is per capita income. There are many people struggling to make ends meet in our community. We have many small and medium-sized businesses that are the real job creators. We have been waiting for a budget that meets our needs and priorities, but frankly, this is not the budget we need.
    Canada's economy is not strong without a strong middle class, and Scarborough is home to many in the middle class. From this budget, it is clear that the Conservatives either do not understand the realities of middle-class Canadians or just do not care. Instead of taking action to help Canadians get ahead, the Conservatives are stubbornly pushing their schemes that would help only the richest 15% of Canadians.
    The Conservatives simply do not understand the priorities of Scarborough and the priorities of Toronto. This region has lost hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, yet the Conservatives have offered the bare minimum of support for manufacturing and have failed to build a balanced economy. Toronto alone has lost 24,600 jobs in the last six months and nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs since the Prime Minister took office. The Conservatives have failed to build a balanced economy that works for our city.
    Looking at the budget, it is clear that it would not address our city's looming affordable housing crisis either. It would fail to extend funding for social housing. The $150 million in the budget would not address the scope of the challenges facing our cities. Right now, there are 167,022 people on the City of Toronto's affordable housing wait list. Our city is committed to working on social housing, but it needs federal support to meet this glaring need.
    However, something we do see in this budget is the government's income-splitting scheme, which the former finance minister, Mr. Flaherty, strongly opposed. Financial experts have warned that 85% of Canadians would get nothing at all from the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, yet this is what the government has put forward. This wasteful and unfair policy would take billions from middle-class Canadians, who need the help the most, and hand it over to the richest 15%. This makes no sense at all when one in two Canadians lives paycheque to paycheque and countless others work full time but still fall below the poverty line.
    For ten long years of the Conservative government, we have seen billions dumped into tax giveaways to the largest corporations and tax loopholes for CEO salaries. With rising inflation rates and storm clouds looming for our economy, most of us would not benefit from this income-splitting scheme, which is really there just for the wealthy few, or from the doubling of the TFSA limit, or from the tax loopholes for CEOs. These would not benefit most Canadians.
    Where are the measures in this budget that support middle-class Canadians? We know that people are going to need strong supports if this storm materializes and our economy faces a further downturn.
     We could benefit from closing the tax loopholes to fund the recent commitment to eliminate child poverty. My motion to eliminate child poverty was supported almost unanimously here in the House, but we do not really see any measures in this budget that work toward that goal.
    Unfortunately, this budget continues the $700-million loophole for CEOs to avoid paying taxes on stock options, forcing ordinary Canadians to pay more.
     We could provide a helping hand for parents looking for child care, return the retirement age to 65 from 67 for Canadian seniors, and create a $15 minimum wage so that people have more money in their pockets and support they can rely on.

  (1010)  

    I must mention some of the victories, which are measures that are actually good in this budget. I am pleased to see that NDP proposals, which the Conservative government voted down in the House already, have now, of course, shown up in the budget. These are measures such as decreasing taxes on small businesses, increasing the time working Canadians dedicate to caring for their ill loved ones, stimulus for investment in manufacturing, and extending basic workplace protections for interns. I am also glad to see the government act on the NDP proposal to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing investments and new equipment.
     It is great that any of the positive measures in this budget are really all NDP proposals. This demonstrates to Canadians that clearly we are ready to be the government and should just write the entire budget next time around.
    Small businesses have watched their tax rate drop 1% since the Conservatives took office, to 11% from 12%, while watching the corporate tax rate drop 7%, from 22% to now 15%, which included a now defunct surtax, over the same period. This budget proposes to drop the small business tax rate by 2% by 2019, which is exactly what the NDP had proposed, but the Conservative government voted against it. It would bring the tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises from 11% to 9%. Nevertheless, it is good to see the government adopting another NDP proposal.
    We also believe in extending basic workplace protections for interns, and I commend the government for supporting this NDP initiative also. Again, I wonder why the government just recently voted down the same measures in my New Democrat colleague's private member's bill, but it is what it is.
    The Conservatives have brought forward the NDP proposal for seniors for registered retirement income funds, RRIFs, and have reduced the amount seniors must withdraw from their RRIFs so that they are not forced to deplete dangerous amounts of their savings.
    However, the Conservatives have broken their word to seniors on pensions, and this budget shows no sign of their changing course. The current government plans to raise the retirement age for old age security from 65 to 67, and the Conservatives have blocked progress to boost CPP and QPP benefits.
    Finally, the budget accepts the long-time NDP proposal on the employment insurance compassionate care benefit that would extend it from six weeks to six months, which will begin in January 2016. I am very happy to see another NDP initiative brought forward in this budget.
    However, I would be remiss if I did not mention at this point that access to employment insurance has dropped to historic lows following cuts by the current Conservative government, leaving many Canadians unemployed and unable to get the support they need. Sadly, this budget does nothing to ameliorate that situation.
    I also believe that this budget is short-sighted at a time when Canada needs vision. What are we passing on or leaving behind to future generations?
    The Conservatives plan to double the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings account to $10,000. This is another unfair scheme that only helps the rich. Most Canadians can only dream of those kinds of savings. Worse yet, this measure will cost Canadians $20 billion over the next four decades. The response from the Minister of Finance that our grandchildren will deal the problem is simply unacceptable. It is not responsible to burden our grandchildren with this $20-billion problem just because this government wants to create another venue for their wealthy friends to put away more money. I wish the Minister of Finance thought of the vast majority of people living in Toronto who just cannot afford to part with $10,000 every year.
    According to one of the new reports from the Metcalf Foundation, authored by one of my constituents, John Stapleton, on the working poor, 63 of Toronto's census tracts show an increase in working poverty rates between 2006 and 2012, while only 14 show a decrease. In 2012, the report noted, there was a major deepening of the incidence of working poverty in census tracts for the northern parts of Toronto, representing a constituency that is only north Scarborough. This is very concerning for me and the constituents I represent.
    I would have liked to have had more time to go through more issues, such as gridlock and more instances of poverty. I hope someone will follow up with that in the questions and answers.

  (1015)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River on her speech, which pertained directly to her community and raised very specific things about this budget that we condemn, namely, the fact that this government's priorities are completely out of touch with the reality of Canada's middle class.
    The government seems to have stolen its ideas from our platform—yes, we are prepared to take office—even though we have to admit that those ideas will benefit Canadians. What is more, our ideas seem to be the only good things about this budget.
    Could my colleague elaborate on that?

  (1020)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. Any of the good initiatives that we see in the budget are strictly taken from NDP proposals that we have made public over the last many years and which we have been working on for many years. It adds to the proof that when we combine all budgets at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, the NDP has balanced the budget more often than any other party. The Conservatives are now promising balanced budget legislation but those are just words coming out of their mouths. As usual they are saying, “Please, believe us. We are going to do better”.
    Our country deserves better. That is what the NDP is doing. We are going to continue fighting for Canadians. The presentation of this budget goes to prove that the NDP is the only party that is standing up and fighting for middle-class Canadians.
    New Democrats are ready to form government. We are ready to write the budget next time around.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague would have liked to speak about infrastructure and public transit, but she did not have the chance to do so. I would like to give her that opportunity because I think she agrees with me that the budget is seriously lacking when it comes to infrastructure and public transit, particularly for a city such as Toronto.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, gridlock costs Canadian cities billions of dollars each year. Earlier, I presented a petition which says that Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy. We know there will be a gap of $18 billion over the next five years with respect to infrastructure needs.
    The NDP proposed a bold urban plan for permanent, stable and predictable funding for public transit. The Conservatives talk the gridlock game, but they do not really do anything. Their scheme is filled with so much red tape that the municipalities will not even be able to get their hands on the money they desperately need to invest in our crumbling cities.
    In Toronto, bridges and roads are crumbling and are literally falling on top of cars that are driving below them. In Scarborough, we are so reliant on buses in our community. In Scarborough—Rouge River and north Scarborough we are reliant on surface level buses only. The Conservatives are continuing to leave people in Scarborough waiting on the streets for buses.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments today, most of which I agree with.
    One of the things we in the Liberal Party have noticed concerning the budget is the total lack of focus on something that is incredibly important, which is economic growth. As we know, in January our economy actually contracted. We heard the Governor of the Bank of Canada's comment about an atrocious start to the year. The CIBC said that we have the worst job quality in 25 years. The numbers are still pretty high on unemployment.
    What would the NDP propose in terms of growth? I know New Democrats consider it to be an important aspect of the budget.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the economic growth projections have actually been downgraded. The budget is balanced in 2015, but persistent weak economic growth has dramatically reduced the expected surpluses.
    The Minister of Finance touts that there will be a surplus and that he is investing it in communities and our seniors, but really we do not see that. We need to make sure that we are investing in our small and medium-sized enterprises even more. The government has continued to give away tax breaks and create loopholes for the large, already profitable corporations and CEOs instead of actually investing in our small and medium-sized businesses that are the economic engines of our local communities and the ones that are really creating jobs in our communities. The Conservatives are not really investing in them.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, I am disappointed with the budget the government has presented.
    I thought that in an election year, the Conservative government might throw people who are less fortunate a bone to try to win their votes. However, much to my dismay, the 2015-16 budget offers them nothing. In reality, I am not surprised. Those people are not the Conservatives' target demographic.
    Again today, I am going to talk about issues that are very important to me and were overlooked in the budget: housing and homelessness.
    I want to set the record straight right away on the fight against homelessness. The word “homelessness” appears only three times in Canada's economic action plan for 2015, and in all three cases, the budget refers to announcements that have already been made. The Conservatives are just repeating old announcements that were made two years ago and were not even good news then.
    The first mention is to remind Canadians that in 2013, the government renewed only part of the funding for homelessness. Personally, if I had made cuts to an already insufficient amount of funding two years ago, I would not remind everyone of what I had done. The other two instances where the word “homelessness” appears remind Canadians that the government unilaterally changed the way the homelessness partnering strategy works, to focus on the housing first approach.
    Since this approach was adopted at the time of the last call for proposals, it has become clear that directing all the funding to one area has had serious consequences: many groups that provide front-line services are realizing that they will no longer be eligible for funding that they have been receiving for years now.
    Many essential services provided to the homeless through a variety of approaches, including prevention measures, are simply disappearing. How short-sighted this government is being. It would have been better if the Minister of Finance had said nothing at all, rather than rubbing salt in the wound.
    I would now like to shift the discussion to housing, a subject that is extremely important to the NDP, although clearly, it is not something that the Conservatives put much thought into.
    Through some accounting gymnastics and by manipulating numbers and language, the Minister of Finance tried to make it look like he was actually following through on what the NDP has been calling for for years, implying he would stop cuts to social housing when the long-term agreements between social housing providers and CMHC expire.
    Let us set the record straight: no new funding for social housing has been announced, beyond what had already been invested in previous years, and I think the budget has even been cut. I will come back to that in a bit.
    The budget plays with words and throws numbers around to create confusion among housing groups. However, some of those groups are beginning to realize the extent of the trickery and have contacted my office to confirm their fears.
    In addition, as recently as last Friday, FRAPRU used social media to send the message that contrary to what most people thought they read in the federal budget presented last Tuesday, there are no new investments to maintain the $1.7 billion in funding in the long term. This funding helps subsidize 568,600 social housing units in Canada, including 125,500 in Quebec. I cannot believe a Canadian government would stoop so low.
    The estimates in table 4.2.1 of the budget speak for themselves. The only new amount is $150 million in relief over four years to allow co-operative and non-profit social housing providers to prepay long-term, non-renewable mortgages held with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation without penalty. Many of those mortgages were taken out at interest rates in the neighbourhood of 20%. This will enable providers to undertake necessary renovations or help their lowest-income tenants.
    This ministerial decision too is at least two years old. I supported the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada's call for this and hounded the ministers about it a few years ago. Finally those groups were successful.
    Imagine this: when a social housing provider wanted to negotiate a mortgage with a credit union, for example, at the best interest rate on the market, CMHC forced them to pay a penalty equalling the total residual interest, which was a huge sum of money.
    The $150 million the government is offering to help groups get out of their mortgages without paying that penalty was framed as an investment, but I think it is actually a cut.
    When the minister made that decision several years ago, no cap was set.

  (1025)  

    Now, we are talking about a maximum of $150 million over four years, which will not be available for another year and will be broken down as follows: $50 million in 2016-17, $50 million in 2017-18, $25 million 2018-19, and $25 million in 2019-20.
    What happens if this is not enough money to help all the social housing groups that want to break their mortgage with CMHC without paying the penalty? As I was saying, there never used to be a limit. Now, there will be a maximum of $50 million for the next two years and a maximum of $25 million for the following two years. This seems more like funding cuts than new funding.
    There is tremendous need for housing across the country. Twenty-five years from now, the $1.7 billion allocated to social housing will have completely disappeared. The 570,000 social housing units and as many families currently receiving federal funding might end up in hot water. What is more, according to the most conservative estimates, more than 300,000 housing units are in jeopardy in Canada.
    I have a few tangible examples of the repercussions of the Conservatives' inaction on social housing. In my riding, Hochelaga, Carole Parent, a resident of the Odyssée housing co-operative, whose long-term agreement is ending in the next few months, will see her currently affordable rent go up by $200 a month. Ms. Parent is unable to hold a job because of her physical condition, and she cannot afford to pay this new rent. What is she to do?
    What do the Conservatives have to offer other people across Canada who, like Ms. Parent, will no longer be able to pay their rent when their social housing provider is no longer able to subsidize them and will have to increase the rent?

  (1030)  

[English]

    I have another example, but this time in Ontario. In 2013, the executive director of the Native People of Sudbury Development Corporation came to me to testify about a situation that occurred in his community. That October, two Sudbury families had to move out of their apartments because their rent had jumped from less than $400 a month to more than $900 a month. The housing provider had to rent the apartments at market price in order to pay the bills. That meant the loss of two more social housing units.
    Those are just a few examples of what is happening right now, and the worst is yet to come.

[Translation]

    The government continues to repeat the same scripted lines to the effect that their budget is a good thing for those less well off. Instead of announcing measures that will only benefit a small part of the population, Canada's rich, the federal government could easily help low-income families and make life more affordable for the middle class by ensuring that housing is actually affordable in Canada.
    Investing in social housing by spending the amounts saved when the long-term agreements expired on maintaining rent subsidies for families in need, helping social housing providers pay for renovations and contributing to the construction of new units would at least be a start that would not affect the current budget.
    When we, the NDP, win the next election and form the Government of Canada, we will work with the provinces, territories, municipalities, first nations, housing providers and groups in civil society to achieve that goal. We have to ensure that everyone has adequate, affordable and sustainable housing.
    Housing is an important determinant of health. Money spent on housing is an economic and social investment. In the medium term, it would reduce government spending on health, public safety and justice. Truly affordable housing where tenants and owners would not have to spend more than 30% of their income on shelter would allow them to invest in other sectors of the economy by buying better quality food or a public transit pass to go to work, or by investing in their children's education.
    Canada is a party to international treaties recognizing that housing is a right. We must now put words into action. Cities and communities across Canada need the federal government to be a stable and long-term partner in housing.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. She focused primarily on social housing, which is extremely important, but I know that homelessness is also important to her, and it is to me as well.
    I would like to ask her what she thinks about the government's attitude towards the homelessness partnering strategy. The government does not seem to realize that homelessness will, tragically, be around for many years. In fact, the problem is even growing. Furthermore, the agencies that work in this area and could help the homeless need predictable, long-term funding instead of last-minute, piecemeal funding. Of course, this would require a good relationship between the provincial and federal governments. They need to talk to each other.
    What does my colleague think about homelessness and long-term funding to combat homelessness?

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question on an issue that is close to my heart.
    As I said earlier, in budget 2013, the Conservatives renewed the budget for the homelessness partnering strategy, but they reduced the amount. The budget had not been indexed since it was created, which means that the budget had been going down and then it was actually cut in 2013. There is not enough money.
    Then, the Conservatives came up with the new housing first approach. I completely agree that we need more housing. I mentioned that. However, this approach only helps one group of people: people who are in desperate need of housing and who experience chronic or episodic homelessness. The approach does absolutely nothing to address hidden homelessness or to prevent homelessness. This is a short-term vision, since the budget was renewed for five years instead of for a longer period.
    Furthermore, if we give food to people who have to choose between paying the rent and paying for food, for example, we could prevent them from ending up on the street. We must not wait for people to end up on the street before we provide assistance. It shows our humanity when we help prevent people from ending up on the street instead of helping them only after they are already there.
    Mr. Speaker, as the voice of the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord in Ottawa, I would like to quote Sonia Côté, coordinator at Loge m'entraide, an organization that represents low-income people who are looking for affordable housing. In response to the federal budget, Ms. Côté said:
    This is another slap in the face from the [Prime Minister's] government to poor tenants who, over the next few years, will lose the subsidies that currently allow them to spend 25% of their income on housing. Overlooking them like this is a totally inhumane thing to do.
    In light of Ms. Côté's expertise in the area of affordable housing, does my NDP colleague agree with what she said?
    Mr. Speaker, Ms. Côté, much like Mr. Saillant from FRAPRU, is in a very good position to know what is happening on the ground.
    Every time I ask the Minister of State for Social Development a question about the agreements expiring, I get the same answer. She tells me that the agreements have expired and that these groups should be able to help people who cannot afford to spend more than 25% to 30% of their income on housing. However, this does not reflect the reality. Expenses have gone up faster than incomes. There are a number of housing co-operatives, for example, that are currently in a very difficult financial situation. We have had to download this onto the provinces. In its most recent budget, the Quebec government, for instance, offered assistance to groups whose funding is expiring, but only for two years.
    Is that what the federal government wants to do? It is in a much better position to support housing than the provincial governments are. It is absolutely critical that the federal government do not abandon its support for social housing.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am certainly honoured to rise in the House today to speak to the budget, economic action plan 2015. Before I get started, I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who has graciously let me go first so I can get to a committee meeting that I must chair.
    Each year, we gather in this House as a matter of tradition and obligation to recognize the importance of planning and of creating the conditions that ensure that this country will continue to be the greatest place in the world to live and to work. I can assure members that this country is the greatest place in the world to live and to work.
    Time and again, we are confronted with the challenges of uncertainty, risk, and change. This year, our way of life and security was threatened, presenting us with a new, albeit equally important, challenge. I am proud to stand behind a government that has consistently responded to all of these challenges with the same quality leadership.
    In this year's budget, we continue to exhibit the leadership Canadians deserve by staying true to the principles that put us in government in the first place: supporting hard-working Canadian families, supporting small business, and consistently daring to innovate and grow our economy in ways that make Canada a world leader. Today, I will spend the time I have, speaking about these three parts of the budget and how they combine to offer a strong vision for what this great nation can be in 2015 and in the years to come.
    Supporting hard-working Canadian families is where my journey as a member of Parliament began and it is where I begin today. Central to my values is a belief in the importance of community and the importance of family. One of the unique aspects of this country rests in the Canadian family unit. Moms and dads working equally hard to pay for daycare, put their oldest through another year of university, pay for activities like hockey and dance, and eventually pay off the mortgage on their first home make up a snapshot of what it means to raise a family here in Canada. I know that raising a family is hard work, and I believe that any investment in Canada's future means investing in ways to help our Canadian families. Simply put, measures introduced by our government in this budget would make life more affordable for every single Canadian family with children across this country.
    Increasing and expanding the universal child care benefit, or the UCCB, to provide every family in Canada with an additional $720 per child under the age of 18, and introducing the family tax credit, are two out of many ways in which we plan to help support raising a family here in Canada. All in all, this budget would ensure that the average Canadian family of four gains average benefits of more than $6,600 every year. One of the most important aspects of these benefits is that every single Canadian family would receive them.
     Part of why I am so proud to stand here in the House today in support of the economic action plan 2015 comes from this budget's recognition that no two families have the exact same needs. It is through accepting this reality that we as a government have taken seriously our duty to introduce programs and policies in the 2015 budget that would help all families and would leave the most important decisions to the true experts, which happen to be moms and dads. Great examples of such programs lie in our continued support for benefits such as the children's arts tax credit and the children's fitness tax credit, which promote the importance of arts and fitness programming among children through credits of up to $500 and $1,000 respectively.
    Additional programs such as the first-time home buyers' tax credit, the expanded home buyers' plan, and the public transit tax credit would help Canadian families with the process of buying or building their first home. No matter what stage a family is at or where it needs most help in shouldering its expenses, this government has made it clear that it will be there for Canadian parents and their kids.
    Building on the base of the family, this government has committed a great number of resources in this year's action plan to provide communities across Canada with the infrastructure and support they need to continue providing the high quality of life that Canadians should expect.
    The new building Canada fund is a key example of one of these investments to the community, earmarking $5.35 billion per year for provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure. Another is the creation of the new public transit fund that would ramp up to $1 billion a year to reduce urban congestion and gridlock in Canada's largest and dynamic cities. It is one example that comes to mind. Under the $33 billion building Canada fund launched in 2007, we supported more than 12,000 infrastructure projects from coast to coast to coast, and we would continue to support projects that make up our communities' great spaces in which to raise families.
     To me, part of taking pride in the strength and the resilience of community is tied to taking pride in the businesses that are rooted in communities. Making up over 90% of Canadian businesses and employing two-thirds of all Canadians, small businesses are an essential part of what makes our Canadian communities so great and unique. Our communities grow, and this is something I have believed to be true for my riding since first being elected in 2004.

  (1040)  

    This government believes in small businesses, and therefore wants them to not only grow but prosper and triumph. That is why, since forming government, we have reduced the small business tax load by almost 50%, and in this budget we would continue to invest in small-business owners throughout this nation.
     Part of this investment is through our slashing EI premiums for small businesses through our small business job credit. This credit would be effective for two years, beginning in 2015, and available to employers paying $15,000 or less per year in EI premiums, so that is approximately $570,000 in EI assessable payroll in Canada. The net result of applying this credit would be a 15% reduction in employment insurance premiums paid by small businesses over the next two years and roughly $0.5 billion in savings from small firms and payroll tax cuts.
    The CFIB has commended measures like these that make it easier to hire new workers or invest in additional training to help Canadian entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
    Feedback such this drives our government to work even harder to help small businesses where we can. In this year's budget we continue to commit to the following: reducing the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% by 2019, allowing small businesses to do what they do best, invest in their companies and create jobs; improving access to financing for Canadian small businesses under the Canada small business financing program, which since 2006 has provided more than 50,000 loans to help new businesses get started and expand; increasing access to venture capital financing to help innovative, high-growth companies grow and create jobs.
     Accompanying these measures, this year's budget would enshrine into policy what has been made clear through the Red Tape Reduction Commission in its finding that needless red tape kills jobs and growth for small business. Cutting the red tape burden by eliminating more than 800,000 payroll deduction remittances to the Canada Revenue Agency, made every year by more than 50,000 small businesses, marks a step towards jobs and growth for small business owners. Pairing this policy with the freeze on EI premiums demonstrates a winning strategy for small businesses and their ability to gain the certainty and flexibility that they need, to continue being key parts of Canada's economic success story.
    It is measures like these that allow for small businesses to gain support, stay competitive, thrive, and prosper. An important part of leading Canadian small businesses towards paths of success is ensuring that their paths towards success are not stifled by red tape and raising the capital necessary to grow.
     It also means, most importantly, investing in the futures of Canadian entrepreneurs. We take seriously the need to invest in tomorrow's best and brightest small business owners by allocating substantial resources to the future of entrepreneurs in Canada.
     Economic action plan 2015 would support entrepreneurship by investing substantial resources into internships in small business and supporting leaders in the promotion of entrepreneurship, such as the Canada Youth Business Foundation.
     By investing $15 million for up to 1,000 post-secondary graduates to intern in small and medium-sized businesses across Canada, and further providing $49 million to the CYBF, this budget would create the supports needed to make sure that Canadian entrepreneurs are part of the unique success story emerging from this great nation post-recession.
     Strongly tied to entrepreneurship and what is perhaps the most important part of this budget is the vision it articulates for research and innovation. This budget would make substantial investments in world-class research and innovation by providing more than $1.5 billion in funding over five years to advance the government's renewed science, technology, and innovation strategy.
     Enshrined in this investment is the belief that the real key to Canada's future prosperity is investing in making Canada a hub for cutting-edge research and innovation. We are currently ranked number one in the G7 for our support for scientific research and development in our colleges, universities, and other research institutes. However, why stop here?
     By supporting innovation in our post-secondary institutions and centres of higher learning, we commit towards continuing to foster the sharpest minds when it comes to driving Canadian-made ideas, research, and technologies.
     This generation will receive the support it needs to thrive, starting with this budget's commitment to the following: expansive support advanced research infrastructure at universities and colleges through new funding to the Canada Foundation for Innovation; and landmark investment in post-secondary education through the creation of the Canada first research excellence fund, with $1.5 billion over the next decade.
    These initiatives would combine to create results for all Canadians. By remaining committed to the principles upon which we were elected, we have created 1.2 million net new jobs since the depths of the downturn and have delivered the lowest overall federal tax burden in over 50 years.
     Supporting hard-working Canadian families, supporting small business, and consistently daring to innovate and grow our economy in ways that make Canada a world leader represent the road map for this accomplishment, but leadership is what has made this possible.
    What separates a simple plan or design from true leadership is the willingness or the wherewithal to innovate and excel above the status quo.

  (1045)  

    By putting forward a budget like the economic action plan, we are allowing every Canadian to do what they do best. We are continuing to uphold our commitment to make this great nation the best that it can be in 2015 and the years to come.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the problem with this budget is that it is the latest in a long line of budgets. Since Paul Martin, the former Liberal finance minister—I apologize for naming him—in the past 20 years, we have seen a neo-liberal philosophy whose sole policy is to bring in massive tax cuts for the richest in the hope that they will one day invest, that they will one day drive the Canadian economy. After 20 years of that approach, after the former finance minister, in the final months of his life, pleaded with the wealthiest to stop accumulating wealth and do others a good turn for a change—which they still have not done—it might be time for us to ask ourselves whether it really is a good idea to keep cutting taxes for the rich and sending the bill to the rest of Canadians given the meagre outcomes in terms of investment.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that pretty much sums up the difference between the NDP and the Conservative Party. We believe that hard-working families deserve dollars back in their pockets for them to decide how they should spend that money.
    While there were structural deficits that were happening under the Martin government and the Liberals went a long way to correct that, unfortunately it was done at the expense of education and health care in this country.
    One of the things that we wanted to do, and we realize it is a fine line, is how do we create incentives for job creators? How do we create a climate for people to invest in this country? What the NDP sometimes fails to understand is that capital flows around the globe all the time and can be invested wherever people and companies want to invest. Companies are going to invest wherever they think there is the best prospects and where there is the greatest opportunity, where the culture or the climate is best for companies.
    We firmly believe that more money should go back to families; there is no question about that. We will never apologize for that, because we think that is very important. We will continue to create a climate that fosters job growth, innovation and creativity in this great country.
    Mr. Speaker, budgets are all about priorities. For example, 18 firefighters and seven police officers, on average, die every year in the line of service. There is a public safety officer compensation fund. The annual cost to provide that subsidy to the families of those 25 first responders who die on average every year would be about $7 million. That is actually half the amount that the government is going to be spending on advertising to promote its budget alone.
    Would the member not agree that budgets are about priorities? When we think about the millions of tax dollars that are being used to promote this budget, would the money not be better spent by doing what the leader of the Liberal Party indicated yesterday, and supporting the public safety officer compensation fund by giving it $300,000 for those who die in the line of service?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly I know that not only the member's party but all parties in the House support the great work that our first responders do. They play an important part in the economy. They play an important part in society.
     I would point out that it was our government that actually introduced the tax credit for volunteer firefighters in previous budgets. While I understand that is very important, we also understand that families are under unbelievable pressure. That is why we have made sure that not one family will be left behind. Every family will have a chance to participate. That is why we have gone out of our way to make sure that families have resources and tools. That is why we have looked at tax credits for families.
    It is important when it comes to the arts and to sports. My mom and dad had me involved in sports. They also had me, unfortunately, in piano lessons. My mother wanted to make sure that I was involved in the arts and my father wanted to make sure that I was involved in sports. This provides a great balance for all families to take advantage of what we have to offer as a government.
    Mr. Speaker, it was approximately one week ago that the finance minister stood in this House and delivered economic action plan 2015. We have all had approximately one week to reflect on what is in the plan. I have read the document in greater detail, and I am coming to realize how accurately this budget reflects a lot of the things that were said to me during our round table, my budget consultation process, in many areas. I am very pleased to be speaking to this budget and reflecting on what it means to the residents of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. I will speak briefly about a couple of broad themes, but really I want to get into talking about individual families and constituents and what it would mean to them.
     I was here in the House as we headed into the global economic recession. I remember the minister of finance of the day saying that we would have stimulus spending that would be temporary in nature and that we would get back to a balanced budget as we did not want to leave a debt for our children. This budget is really a promise made and a promise kept.
    Another broad subject is supporting jobs and growth. There is a whole host of measures, again in the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, that I heard directly about in terms of what is important to support. There is the mining exploration tax credit, the fund around innovation for our forestry sector, the response for technology, responsible resource development, and in particular, LNG, although it is predominantly the accelerated capital cost allowance for the LNG industry to really take hold in British Columbia and will provide enormous benefits. It is not as direct as it is much more north, but we see that there will be tremendous opportunities through that for us.
    Obviously, ensuring the safety of Canadians is the government's most solemn responsibility. There are significant and important measures in place for that.
    Helping families and communities prosper is where I really want to focus some important comments. I will do this by providing examples. I think the New Democrats need to hear that this is not about supporting families that are rich, that this is about supporting everyday Canadians who work hard and try to move ahead in their lives.
    My first example is a young adult whose name is Ali. She graduated from university two and a half years ago. From when she was very young she had always been told by her father to put away 10% of anything she earned, whether it was babysitting money, money from her first job after graduation, or money from her first career opportunity. She is 25 years old now and her tax-free savings account is sitting at $10,000. This is an enormous achievement, because she paid herself first and then looked at the things that she wanted next. This year her employer offered her a bonus for work accomplished and she was able to move ahead of what she had planned for her contribution. That extra bonus will be moved right into her TFSA and it will be tax free. All of us recognize that right now it is very hard for our savings to move forward because of the interest rates. We all talk about how Canadians need to save more, but we also look at the interest rates and how hard it is to have our savings grow. When the government takes a portion of that every time, it makes it that much more difficult. This is one person. This is not a person who is rich, but while she does not make an awful lot of money, she will exceed the $5,000 limit this year because she has savings from paying herself first.
    My next example is again from my riding. Peter is in his 40s and is married. They have three children who are all above the age of five. In this case, the mother is working full time to support the family and the father has chosen to home-school his children. They live in a rural area. The father is home-schooling, and he has a small agricultural business on the side.

  (1055)  

     We can imagine that if a family has predominantly one income and three busy children, it is a little tough to make ends meet. In their particular case, the expansion to the universal child care benefit to now include their three children between the ages of five and eighteen is going to make an enormous difference. The family tax cut is also going to make an enormous difference, with his wife working and him making not as much income. In their case, the changes to the child expense are not going to make a difference. What is happening is that their tax money is not going to pay for services that they are not going to have, such as a bureaucratic program that very few people have access to. Again, it speaks to leaving the money in the pockets of Canadians.
    In this particular case, there is something else that is important to recognize. People frequently ask who can afford $10,000, and that only the rich can afford $10,000. In this case, they were given a small inheritance. Some money was given to them. They have not really been able to save for the future, given their circumstances, so they have chosen to have a tax-free savings account. Although they maybe could not put in $10,000 every year, they could take that $40,000 that is coming to them and put it in between the space that they have. It will be an enormous benefit. Again, this is not a family that is rich. This is a family that is very prudent and is working very hard.
    My final example is with respect to seniors, a couple in their late 70s. They owned a small business. They partnered in a small business all of their lives. There was no pension plan for them. They have the old age security and they have the money they put aside during their working years in order to give them a retirement that they were comfortable with. They had a huge challenge during the time of the recession, because they had to make fairly high mandatory withdrawals from their RRIFs. That provided a real challenge for them in terms of how they were going to support themselves in the future. Again, for them, there are the changes to the RRIF. Many people came into my office to talk about how they would really appreciate some increased flexibility in their registered retirement income funds. I am really pleased to see that.
    There is another item that is of enormous benefit. One of the spouses is beginning to have some significant mobility issues. They have had to adapt their washroom facilities. The home accessibility tax credit is something that is significant.
    First of all, what we see in these three examples are everyday Canadians who are working hard and saving money, and who are going to see an enormous benefit from the changes that we have made in our policy, by keeping taxes low and keeping money in their pockets. In the end, it might actually save our system some additional money in terms of how we are supporting Canadians in their homes.
    Another important element of this budget that speaks to hearts and something that I see in my constituency is the compassionate care benefit. There is the ability for family members to take time to be with their loved ones, not for six weeks, but for six months.
    I could take a lot more time to talk about this particular budget and the elements that I believe are going to be particularly effective in supporting the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. Mostly, this budget is a budget that would be good for communities and would be good for people. They are not rich financially, but they are rich in being able to live in the greatest country in the world, and rich in terms of their life and opportunities.
    I am very pleased to see this budget, and I look forward to all parties supporting it.

  (1100)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask my colleague a question.
    She provided some examples of typical families that might benefit from her budget. I would like her to comment further on the higher tax-free savings account limit. That limit is now $5,000, and the government would like to double it. Many experts, tax experts and economists have said that this will benefit only the wealthiest.
    I would like her to tell us about a typical family in her riding that will benefit from that additional $5,000. What typical middle-class family has enough money to benefit from being allowed to put an additional $5,000 in a tax-free savings account?

  (1105)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we know that the majority of people who have money in the tax-free savings account, apparently 60% of them who have middle and lower incomes, are contributing the full amount. I gave two very important examples. Perhaps there are a number of years where a middle-class family cannot contribute but has space and receives a small inheritance. That is one example where it is an enormous benefit. Maybe in one year the family would contribute $40,000.
    I also gave another example of a middle-income single person who has made a commitment to save 10%. Making $50,000 a year and receiving a small raise, that individual would have more flexibility. Again, this is important for Canadians to do. We talk frequently about concerns regarding Canadians saving enough and this is an enormous benefit in terms of people being able to take advantage of saving their hard-earned money.
    Mr. Speaker, this morning I attended a big thinking conference that the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences put on for many of us on Parliament Hill. It was with great sadness that what the professor produced for all of us in attendance was that prior to Conservatives taking power in 2006, when it came to the 15 OECD countries, Canada placed third. Today, Canada is 14th out of 15 countries when it comes to providing the various services, and so on, that Canadians need. Therefore, Canada has fallen to the bottom rather than being the example.
    I would like to hear my hon. colleague's comments on the fact that Canada is 14th out of 15 now.
    Mr. Speaker, I think it was just last week that a study came out with regard to Canada being one of the best places to live in this world. Due to many measures in the last 30 years, in spite of what the opposition says, which is inaccurate, middle-income earners have enormous opportunities. We have enormous mobility within our country for someone who struggles. Another example would be the 32 weeks that are now available for students to access programs. A single mother might be willing to make a commitment to a 32-week course and become a dental assistant.
    Really, Canada measures very well in terms of mobility, the middle class and being one of the best places in the world to live.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Trinity—Spadina.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to speak to “budget 2017”, as I call it, because it will be 2017, frankly, before much of this budget ever gets enacted. That, again, will depend very much upon what happens in the the upcoming election.
     As the representative of the people of York West, I am on my feet to express my disappointment and the feelings of betrayal felt by the people and the communities, certainly, in my riding. They have been very vocal in their concerns for many of the things lacking in this budget that they were hopeful would be there.
    Budget 2015-17 is not about what we have accomplished. Sadly, this budget is about what the current government has yet to attack, including the security of our grandchildren. If members want an example, during the budget speech, the Minister of Finance smugly declared “the winds of prosperity again fill our sails”. This is perhaps one of the most shameful and out-of-touch statements to cross the lips of a federal finance minister to show that, clearly, the Conservative government is out of touch.
    First, when a government pretends to balance its books by selling off public assets and swallowing the rainy day reserves, just to look good because we have an election coming, it is both disappointing and dangerous for the future of our country. However, the current government did exactly that, and worse.
    After being handed a massive $14-billion Liberal surplus, just nine short years ago, we have to say, look at what has happened. The Conservatives have mismanaged Canada's finances into a deep hole and budget 2015 proves they have no plan to stop digging themselves into that hole.
    Budget 2015 contains nothing that would make a real difference for the families, students and seniors living in my riding because it ignores key items like job creation. This budget ignores the pleas of students at York University, Humber and Seneca. It does nothing to expand the vital community programming offered by groups like Elspeth Heyworth Centre, Ephraim's Place, Youth Now On Track, and so on, and it ignores the struggles faced by those living in places like 35 Shoreham and 7/11 Arleta.
    These are good people who work hard and deserve better. They deserve a hand up from their government, but they have been ignored by the current Prime Minister.
    Yet, again, the minister is proving that Conservatives are more concerned about prosperity around boardroom tables than the kitchen tables. To me, and to those I am here to serve, it seems clear that this budget would be about giving more to those who already have so much, rather than helping those who need it most.
    Even the Conservative backbench knows that the current government has dropped the ball when it comes to real fiscal management. The Conservative backbench is appalled by the minister's shocking admission that he and the Prime Minister are sticking our grandchildren with a huge bill in an effort to hide the growing holes in the Conservative fiscal strategy.
    I listened to the budget speech and I have read the minister's comments carefully. I am astounded that he would pretend that “the winds of prosperity again fill our sails”. Clearly, the minister has never worked a shift at West Finch Bakery or at Globe Meats. He has clearly never slept the night at 15 Tobermory or 3001 Finch. Had he done any of these things, he would understand what it is like to worry about the next rent payment, the grocery bills or a medical bill.
    Perhaps the minister was referring to his banker friends on Bay Street, who are the top 10% of income earners, because he certainly was not talking about the single parents, the blue-collar labourers, the low-income seniors, the struggling students or the unemployed workers along the Jane-Finch corridor. Yet, this kind of prosperity quest is part of a very long tradition that we have seen from the current government. Community groups and service organizations in my riding, and in ridings across the country, have been staring down draconian cuts in the face of the government since it came to power.
    No, the lasting and deep social damage caused by the current government's short-sighted, top-down philosophy started long before budget 2015.
    The members of North Islington Seniors and the Giovanni Caboti silver age club remember too well when the Prime Minister announced to the world that he would be rolling back old age security benefits for low-income seniors. He said it was necessary because they needed to tighten their belts.

  (1110)  

    After that, the Conservatives lined up to vote against a Liberal motion to end a special $90,000 annual prime ministerial pension. I guess thePrime Minister is all about belt-tightening, as long as it is not his belt.
    This was similar to the shock felt by the Northwood Community Centre seniors when the Prime Minister specifically violated his election promise, just another one, not to tax income trusts, again thrusting seniors under the Conservative cost-slashing knife because he thought it was necessary. Seniors know just how the Prime Minister is funding the so-called prosperity agenda that the Minister of Finance is crowing about.
    However, seniors are not the only ones under threat. Certainly, the Conservatives would not dare deny their attack on new Canadians when they decimated settlement agencies in 2011, just as a reminder. The 10% cutback in funding was quietly announced just days before Christmas. Most of the cuts fell in Ontario, where at least 10 Toronto based agencies had their funding cut by 100%, while 35 other Ontario agencies had their budgets drastically reduced. I would gladly give the Prime Minister the telephone number for the Elspeth Heyworth Centre if he had the courage to chat with the administrator there about how the Conservative prosperity agenda has touched people in areas like mine.
    The reality of budget 2015 is that it is the most recent hack in a series of Conservative cuts working to dismantle and destroy the vital social programs built over generations and manned by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers across Canada. Since winning power nine years ago, the Conservatives have chipped away at programs that helped define the compassionate, caring Canada built by our grandparents. We all know, thanks to the Minister of Finance, what the Conservatives plan to hand to our grandchildren.
    On the ground and in my riding, groups like Black Creek Community Health Centre, Northwood, Doorsteps, Youth Now On Track, Jane Finch Community Legal Services, the Elspeth, and the Jane Finch Community and Family Centre have all faced so-called prosperity cuts at the hands of the government.
    These groups and agencies are not alone. Multiple aboriginal organizations, environmental groups, including the Experimental Lakes Area research site and the Hazardous Material Information Review Commission, have all been hit. Anyone working to advance the causes not in the Prime Minister's good graces has faced and will face the knife. Groups working on child care, rights advocates, health care researchers, numerous immigration support organizations and women's groups, including the National Association of Women and the Law, as well as the National Network on Environments and Women's Health received less support from Ottawa than they did under the previous Liberal government, a government that offered support while delivering tax cuts and the largest surplus in our history. It is too bad the Conservatives did not ask for some advice. I am sure we could have helped them.
    The truth of the budget is the same as every Conservative budget delivered under the mean-spirited and paternalistic eye of the Prime Minister. The budget offered a $2-billion tax break for the wealthiest 13%, while slashing support to the 87% of Canadians who will never see a dime of that money. The budget fails to offer even a glimpse of a plan for job growth and ignores the fact that unemployment is now higher than before the recession began.
    The minister feels that the winds of prosperity again fill our sails, but those living in my riding, and countless ridings across the country, are unfortunately tied to an anchor that Stephen Harper has produced for them.
    Clearly, I have touched—

  (1115)  

    Order, please. The member is a veteran. She knows she cannot use given names of other members, including the Prime Minister, in the chamber.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have completed my comments.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a bit strange to listen to the speech of my distinguished Liberal colleague because she is criticizing a budget that could be a carbon copy of a Liberal budget.
    Under the Liberal watch, Paul Martin made unthinkable cuts to public services, particularly to the health care system and social assistance. The zero deficit was achieved at the expense of the provinces and public services. The Conservatives are seeking to achieve a balanced budget at the expense of future generations. Our grandchildren will have to foot that bill because we are off-loading our problems onto them.
    The problem is that my colleague is criticizing the Conservatives' Bay Street and oil company friends when she is a member of the Liberal Party. Perhaps she needs to be reminded that Bay Street is on her side, not on Canadians' side.
    We would like to hear the Liberal Party's position on Canada Post, the CBC and foreign trusts, for example, rather than hear my colleague claim that she is different from the Conservatives when she is exactly the same.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, clearly some of the history has already been forgotten. When the Liberals came into power in 1993, there was over a $42 billion deficit. Canada was facing bankruptcy.
    The cuts that had to be made were made, and the reinvestments were also made in the years that followed, to the point that the Liberal government was able to leave a $13 billion surplus for the current government, which it squandered away in its first three years and then started running a deficit.
     In order to have a so-called balanced budget today, the Conservatives had to raid the contingency fund and anything else they possibly could to claim they had balanced the budget, finally, after nine years.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing questions from a party that talks about coalition, but every time we speak, its members get mad at us for having an opinion. It is a strange way to make a coalition work.
     I, too, lived through the nineties with the Liberal government and worked at a Crown corporation at the time. I was also aware of the cuts. However, I also saw that as the budget was balanced, repayment and rebuilding social programs were well under way.
    There were two programs in particular. The first was daycare, a new national agreement, which would have delivered real daycare spaces across the country, was finally achieved with consent and co-operation from the provinces, in which provincial jurisdiction is important to acknowledge. The second was in housing which, in the last budget presented in the House by a Liberal Party, had $2.7 billion for public housing. When that government fell, the $2.7 billion, which would have been spent this year, disappeared with it.
    Are those the programs that are part of the thinking that criticizes the budget, the absence of daycare and a housing program? Is that why the member is so concerned that the budget fails to meet the needs of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, many of the single moms I meet every day in my riding all want to go to work or they want to return to school. They cannot do either one of those things because they cannot get child care. There are long lists to get into subsidized child care. If we truly want to give people a hand up and give them the opportunity to work, we have to provide opportunities for child care.
    I do not believe anybody wants to sit at home collecting welfare. I think people want to work, but there are two fundamentals: one is housing and the other is child care. Those basic things need to provided to ensure that women can get out to work today so they can fulfill their dreams just as everybody else has wanted to do for such a long time.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight three areas of significant concern with this budget as they relate to both the city I live in and also the portfolios I hold as the Liberal critic for housing and urban affairs.
    This budget really should be called the 2017 budget, because none of the money for cities really arrives for two years. The promises are made now, but the obligations and opportunities are off into the future. I can assure the House that the government in 2017 will be addressing those issues, but it will be addressing them in real time, not in some deferred payment scheme that, quite frankly, does not work for cities that have needs now and the people who live in those cities have needs now.
    The first issue and the one dearest to my heart is housing. There is one provision in this budget that deals with housing. The government's position has been to penalize co-ops and affordable housing projects that are suffering from extraordinarily high interest rates. If those projects sought to refinance, the Conservative government would penalize them at a profit for the treasury, but at a huge detriment in obligation to the housing providers.
    The government has now surrendered its punitive penalty program and in doing so may free up dollars that can deal with some state of good repair issues, which are enormous in our country. This is because there is no program on state of good repair budgets that even comes close to dealing with the deficiencies that exist, not just in aboriginal housing but almost all public housing stock in our country. It is a public asset that has been neglected, part of the infrastructure deficit that is not addressed by the government and a real hardship for people living in substandard housing. However, when the Conservatives put that policy on the table and we asked CMHC or even yesterday when I asked a member of the government to detail how it would work, they had no idea how it would work.
    For example, when surrendering CMHC mortgages, quite often the subsidy agreements are tied to those mortgages. Therefore, would we be surrendering the subsidy as well? The agreements that expire see the mortgage expire and the subsidy agreement expire. The government is saying not to use that money to recapitalize or repair housing, rather use it to sustain subsidy so one neighbour subsidizes another, which is a crazy way of providing public housing, but it is the ideological position adopted by the government.
    When we ask that question, we can not get an answer because nobody at treasury, nobody at CMHC and nobody in the House knows the answer. However, it is a fundamentally important question, because if the money that is supposed to flow to public housing suddenly disqualifies the subsidies that make it affordable, it is no longer affordable housing and will actually cost housing providers more money than they will be earning under this surrendered penalty policy. We need an answer on that.
    We also have no idea how one would qualify or apply, because no program has been enunciated beyond the promise in the budget, and this is important. The city of Toronto's public housing provider, Toronto Community Housing, could use all of that $140 million in one year, which means no other providers across the country would get relief from it. If it is not available to Toronto Community Housing, then it suddenly does not have the money to repair its housing stock. Therefore, how it is handed out, who gets to apply, whether it is done on a regional basis or project-by-project basis, what the size of the penalty is, or how close one is to the end of one's mortgage, are all details for which answers do not exist. That is why this budget, which is so unfair to individuals, is also useless to civil society when it tries to actually use it.
     This is not a budget, but rather a series of ethereal promises that will be worked out in time. In other words, even though the Conservatives took extra time to write this budget, they now need extra time to tell us what it actually means. Therefore, those promises are empty on housing.
    However, the real issue is that the Conservatives continue to brag about the status quo, and the status quo in our country is terrible. There is not a city that does not have a waiting list for public housing. Yet, when we look at the waiting list, 92,000 households in Toronto and close to 200,000 people, the money given under the existing agreements that the Conservatives are bragging about deliver 60 units of housing per year over the next five years. That means the city of Toronto technically has a 1,500 year wait list, and the Conservatives pat themselves on the back for having approached this with $140 million in mortgage relief penalty funds. It is does not work. That money does not build new housing. We need new housing. There is no national program, and we need one now.

  (1125)  

    There are two issues, and one of them is transit. The FCM has thanked the government because in two years $250 million will start to flow for transit projects. Even then, there is a catch. The money has to be borrowed through a private sector fund and the money is spent out over 30 years. Then, they are going to be chosen on merit. No one can define what merit means. The last time merit meant something, the government went to a guy called Rob Ford and got advice on how to spend money on transit. If that is the kind of merit process we are about to walk into, God help us.
    The real issue is that the money is needed now on this file. The biggest problem the major cities, like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, have is not new projects, it is the state of good repair of existing transit infrastructure. That money, that capital dollars, those flows could start immediately and start helping to repair and support cities that are trying to provide transit, despite the fact the government has no real policy except when it comes to the opportunity to cut a ribbon and put a billboard up.
    The transit policy has to move far beyond new projects. It has to include state of good repair. Yet, on this file, the money is not there for two years, and the commitment to state of good repair does not exist at all. When we look at the actual dollar amounts, it is too little for the big cities and it actually becomes too big for the smaller cities because they do not have the fiscal capacity to partner with the federal government let alone the private sector to deliver many of these programs.
    The fear is that this will only work in a few suburban communities, and it will not provide us with a national transit strategy that is effective.
    The final issue is water, the most pressing concern for the folks in city halls and town halls right across the country. They are dealing with two very different dynamics. One of them is climate change, and we can see the impact of climate change and not preparing for it. We can see the impact of that in Calgary with the floods and the hundreds of millions, close to billions, of dollars that could cost that city hall because it did not have the money to protect itself with the infrastructure.
    There is no money for climate change, no money for adaptation, no money for cities to deal with these flash storms that are occurring and creating havoc in cities right across the country, large and small.
    Without the ability to manage the next century, it will be hellish for municipalities because they do not have the capacity to deal with storms of the century, which now occur every two and three years. This is a significant issue. No money has been set aside in this budget, anywhere, for new infrastructure to deal with that issue.
    The Conservatives talk about the building Canada fund, but there were zero dollars last year to almost every city in the country. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal received zero dollars, all matched by Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Halifax and Quebec City that received zero dollars. The reason was because the budget that introduced it also had no program and no detail attached to it. It took the government almost eight months to even set up a desk to take inquiries let alone applications.
    Once again, because the government delayed the budget, it has missed another building year, another construction cycle, and it will be two years before people can even apply for that money and get real dollars into their budget. The real crux of the matter is that money does not arrive for 10 years.
    Therefore, there is no money for climate change adaptation in this budget to arrive at city halls to get to work now to help cities immediately.
    The final piece of the water puzzle is clean water for drinking. On this file, the federal government has loaded requirements onto small cities in particular and has not provided one penny in predictable, stable funding in a way that those small cities can actually build the water plants they need to meet new federal regulations and also to replace aging infrastructure.
    In places like the regional municipality of Cape Breton and Sydney, where there is a $625 million water bill on the horizon, the infrastructure dollars are so insignificant that people in that part of the country are wondering if they have to shut down their entire governmental operations, which is ironically $625 million a year on a regional budget basis. They are wondering if they have to shut the whole thing down just to pay for the new federal regulations. Then they are wondering if they are going to get any help from Ottawa.
    Small town by small town, rural town by rural town, northern town by northern town, these new obligations are so magnificent that the federal government has driven into city hall and town hall budgets. We have to wonder why the government did not respond with an infrastructure program that dealt with this specific set of requirements.
    Instead, what we get is silence. The only help that seems to materialize is 10 years from now. We cannot wait 10 years for clean water. We need it now.
    On housing, water and transit, this is not a 2015 budget, it is a 2017 budget at best. Even then the dollar amounts are so low, it is a useless budget and it is an unfair budget, particularly for people living in urban areas.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to ask my colleague a question. We share some of the same questions and concerns.
    More specifically, I want to ask him about the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. I am still not clear about where he stands on this issue. When the budget was presented, the leader of his party did not take a clear stand on this issue. He said one thing but then changed his position. I would therefore like the member to clarify his party's position regarding lowering the tax rate from 11% to 9% for small and medium-sized businesses in Canada.
    Many local businesses in my riding, whether it be my dry cleaner or the convenience store around the corner from my house, are happy that we proposed this measure and that the Conservatives took it from our platform.
    I would therefore like to know what my colleague thinks about lowering the tax rate from 11% to 9% to help small and medium-sized businesses across Canada.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our leader was very clear, so let me help the member understand it in more detail.
    We support the cut for small businesses, but we think the implementation requires more detail. There are different types of small businesses. People can self-incorporate as individuals. They can have a law degree and hire themselves out as a consultant and make a six-figure salary, doing wonderfully well, but only employ themselves and effectively self-incorporate as a model to manage their tax load as opposed to actually starting and running a small business.
    Then there are small businesses, of which my riding has many, that employ people: a corner store, a small start-up firm in a high-tech field, or a new law firm. There are small businesses that have employees. We think that the tax cuts need to bonus those businesses that hire people; so we should target the small-business cut to employment growth, not simply to tax avoidance.
    A blanket statement of whether a cut for small-business taxes is good or bad is too easy to make. The question is how to make cuts to small-business tax to generate jobs for people and grow the strength of a community. That is the distinction that the leader of the Liberal Party was making when he said he was concerned about the tax cut as just a tax cut in and of itself.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his remarks. I want to go back to the theme he raised with respect to climate and what has been increasingly described as the need for resiliency as we adjust and adapt to the new normals around the effects of climate change.
    The member alluded to water. California is now drilling 600 metres below the surface to try to find water for agricultural and irrigation purposes. The not-so-deep aquifers have been depleted to such an extent that the California land mass has actually fallen, which is why California is building, for example, massive desalination plants on the coast.
    There is nothing in this budget that addresses the need for innovation. There is nothing that addresses the need for new-tech, clean-tech start-ups. There is no recognition of the need to prepare ourselves to be resilient and adapt to climate.
    I wonder if the member could expand on those concerns and particularly talk not just about the concerns or the magnitude of the challenge in front of us, but let us talk, as we like to talk in the Liberal Party, about the magnitude of the economic and job opportunities for us to create wealth and do well inside and outside of Canada. He could start, for example, to talk about water and water technology.
    Mr. Speaker, the way in which urban areas manage water is going to be one of the defining issues of the next century. In downtown Toronto, I have a great set of examples as to why it is so critical. Our drinking water comes from the lake and our lake is fed by the rivers. The rivers that flow through Toronto are heavily polluted and as they enter the lake they pollute our drinking water. Cleaning up the Don River, as an example, is fundamental to protecting the source of our drinking water in a city like Toronto, but also for the region of the GTA.
    We have a project that is on the books that requires a federal commitment of about $325 million. It is a $1 billion project to build flood protection for the lower Don lands but also a filtration system to clean the water before it gets to Lake Ontario. We had heard that money was going to be in this year's budget, but it is not. When we do not invest, we send pollution into the lake that makes it difficult to clean for drinking water, but we also have not unlocked billions of dollars in real estate opportunities in downtown Toronto.
    We end up with the worst of all worlds: we do not make an investment that protects the water; we do not make an investment that produces an economy; and we do not make an investment that protects the city from being flooded. Instead, we expose the city to risk on all three fronts.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak once more on a budget. As a matter of fact, this is my 18th budget speech I am making today, and 11 of them were on Conservatives budgets.
    Before I talk about the budget, I want to pause and reflect on the terrible tragedy that has befallen Nepal due to an earthquake.
    In January, I went to Nepal to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canada-Nepal relations. Our relationship has been a long and good one, and it was a successful visit. I saw the development challenges Nepal was facing due to the long Maoist rebellion. It was looking forward to moving on; then this tragedy struck. Nepal is poor, and the Nepali are poor and struggling to provide for themselves and their families.
    The government has responded in a variety of ways. I today want to make an appeal to Canadians to give to organizations that are in the forefront of assistance. The government will match contributions. Please help the people of Nepal in their time of need.
    Turning to the budget, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
    It would come as a big surprise to have the NDP and the Liberals actually supporting the budget. As in the past, this year they have indicated without looking at the budget that they will not be supporting it, and then they went on to find reasons why they do not want to support it.
    I come from Calgary, Alberta, an oil-producing province. No one here is talking about the dramatic collapse of oil prices, as if the price of oil falling would have no impact at all on the budget or on the economy, not recognizing the fact that all of Canada benefits from the oil industry, including from eastern Canada. Everybody is saying we want money, we want money, and the government has not done this, and that it went into the contingency fund to balance the budget. What are we talking about? There has been a massive shortfall in revenue.
    My own family works in the oil industry. My daughter, my son, and my son-in-law are facing an uncertain future today. Massive layoffs are taking place. This is impacting the whole of Canada, yet this is the time to provide sound economic management of the economy and that is what the budget would do.
    The budget has focused on growth, on jobs, and on security. In October last year, we were attacked in Parliament. These are the concerns of Canadians. When I went doorknocking last weekend for my colleagues in the Conservative Party in Alberta, this is what I heard from people. Yet, here we have the NDP and the Liberal Party talking about no investment here, no investment there. It is time they took a pause and said it is time to provide sound management.
    When the price of oil goes back up and the economy moves forward, then there will be choices to be made where we can invest, but currently, what Canadians want is security of their jobs. That is what we are facing. That is what the budget is talking about. That is why the budget is a forward-looking budget.
    It is amazing that the Liberal MP said this budget will hit in 2017. The price of oil is low today and revenues are compromised and even then we managed, without raising taxes, to bring in a balanced budget. What is the contingency fund for? This is a rainy day. Opposition members do not know what a rainy day is, as the Liberal member talked about. When the price of oil was $100 a barrel and today it is close to $50, is that not a rainy day? When is a rainy day then?

  (1140)  

    Nevertheless, this government has made sound decisions on where it will invest and which ones it will invest in, so that there is confidence that the Canadian economy is moving.
    I am the parliamentary secretary. When I go overseas and when I meet people, all of them have questions to ask me. How did we manage to escape the 2008 recession? Are our banks not failing? How is Canada providing such strong, economic stability while other countries are facing different challenges?
    Who are we? We are an oil producing country. We are not an oil consuming country that is benefiting from low prices.
    At the end of the day, I want to say to my colleagues that at this given time when there are challenges out there of low oil prices, it is time to make sound judgement. The NDP opposed the pipeline that would help export our oil. That would benefit the whole country, but no. The NDP nitpicks here and there.
     For the Liberals, let me say this. As I have said, this is my 18th budget. Of them, 11 were Conservative and 7 were Liberal. Members should have seen the rhetoric that was coming from the Liberal Party. Today, the last Liberal speaker to stand up was insulting the Minister of Finance. That is all the Liberals love to do. They love to insult people. They do not come up with any good ideas. All they do is insult. What a shame. I have sat in this Parliament. Canadians do not like other people insulting them. If they want to talk, they should talk about exactly what it is that they are standing up for.
     That is why there is confusion now. The question was asked by the NDP to the Liberals: what do they stand for? There is total confusion out there.
    I was here in Parliament when the Liberals presented their budgets, and did they come up with anything? Now they are blaming the Conservatives for doing anything, specifically when there was the 2008 global recession. We went through that, with banks failing. No Canadian bank failed. Where do they think that came from, the Liberals? It absolutely did not.
    Now, with low oil prices, we are still doing okay. The country is still managing well because of sound management. Do they think it came from the Liberals? It absolutely did not.
    The NDP, of course, wants high taxes. That would be their government. I have no idea where they would get the money that they are talking about, spending with high taxes. This is something where, these days, the Liberals and the NDP are becoming pretty difficult to distinguish between. They have different names, but they seem to be talking the same language. Maybe this is the coalition that they are trying to form for the next federal election. I can tell the House that the way in which this budget was presented and from the feedback that I got, we are on solid footing and we will remain on solid footing.
    This government, under the Prime Minister, has provided excellent leadership on economics as well as on security. Let us talk for a minute about security. Canadians are concerned about security. We hear it time after time. We just heard from the security agencies that, yes, Canadians are under threat, and the jihadis have made absolutely no secret about wanting to attack Canada. Would it not be prudent for us to invest money there for our own security? Would that not be prudent?
    My opponent from the Liberal Party came out and said that we should not be in Iraq, that we should be out of Iraq, until he got such a severe backlash that he had to withdraw what he wrote on his Facebook page.
    Mr. Speaker, you have pointed out that I have a minute. I want to say this. This is the budget that would provide the security of jobs and national security for the people of Canada, and I am very happy to support it.

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member is complaining about the price of oil and the faltering economy, but the Conservatives have only themselves to blame.
    They put all their eggs in one basket. They ran seven deficit budgets. They increased the national debt by $100 billion. They subsidized big corporations and banks without requiring them to reinvest in our society. They dipped into the contingency fund and the employment insurance fund, they sold off shares and they would have us believe that they are good managers.
    The only thing the Conservatives are currently doing for the future is accumulating debt for future generations.
    What does the member think of the government's mismanagement?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is talking about my being concerned about oil prices. He should be concerned too about oil prices, because it impacts the whole country.
    I am absolutely amazed and stunned, and in my speech I said so, that Canada did not need to bail out the banks during the worldwide recession, as other countries did. Therefore, I have no clue what he is talking about when he says that we subsidized the banks. As a matter of fact, we had excellent regulations that ensured that the banks would not take the risk. He should be proud of some of the things that have taken place instead of giving the NDP rhetoric, as it always does, about wanting high corporate taxes and about helping banks, which did not take place.
    Let me remind him quite clearly: Canada did not bail out the banks in the worldwide recession in 2008.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is perhaps the most revisionist piece of history I have heard here in 11 years.
    The member may have been here for 18 budgets, but I think he was probably asleep for most of them. I want to remind Canadians about a few of the facts he alluded to.
    Number one, there were 11 consecutive surplus Liberal budgets before the Conservative government came into power. Number two, it was left with a $14-billion surplus, and it put this economy and country into recession before the 2008 great recession hit the globe. Everyone knows that. Every economist knows that. That is fact number two.
    Number three is this idea that he goes around the world and hears from folks about the Canadian banking system. He is right, the Canadian banking system did withstand the American meltdown and is a model now for most of the planet, but I would like to remind him and Canadians and members in the House that his leader, as leader of the official opposition at the time, was attacking the Liberal government and then prime minister Chrétien, clamouring for Canadians banks to be owned by American banks to allow them to merge and join the ranks of the hyper-exposed global banking actors. His leader was the one who fought hardest to have the Canadian banking system exposed.
    Therefore, it is very rich to hear the member put forward this revisionist history. His credibility here is on the line. He should perhaps keep to the merits of the budget he was speaking to earlier without going back and inventing things.
    Mr. Speaker, I have to give credit to the member. At least he is not doing what previous members were doing and insulting others personally.
    Let me say one thing about what he said. How did the Liberals balance the budget? They did it by cutting transfers to the provinces. The Liberal government he is talking about made massive cuts to transfers to the provinces to balance the budget, and he should feel ashamed. His government downloaded everything so that it could take credit, and it left the provinces on their own. It is this government that came into power and restored them. This government has increased transfers since 2006 so that front-line services could be provided to Canadians with the transfers his government cut by downloading to the provinces.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in support of and to provide some input into economic action plan 2015. This is certainly a plan of action to continue the necessary actions required to keep our country in the focused direction needed and that has made us the envy of the G7.
    Our government has worked hard, and continues to, and is focused on its commitment to the priorities of Canadians: jobs, economic stability, growth, and long-term prosperity. Economic action plan 2015's clear focus on jobs, growth, and security is what my constituents in the riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville and Canadians across the country are looking for.
     Back in January, like many of my colleagues, I hosted pre-budget consultations with community and business representatives in my riding to hear their ideas and suggestions. Representatives from a number of key areas, including health, manufacturing, skilled trades, social services, business, and community services, were consulted. I submitted this valuable input to our Minister of Finance and am very pleased to see some of the measures that were included in this budget, economic action plan 2015.
    A highly skilled and highly educated workforce is key to succeeding in the global economy. It is also important that we give an equal opportunity to everyone. I was very pleased to announce over $238,000 in funding for the opportunities fund to support the Centre for Education & Training's project to help people with disabilities overcome barriers to employment.
     During the pre-budget consultation I held, there was a gentleman by the name of Mike Di Donato, who is the dean of the Skilled Trades College of Canada, which is located in the area I represent. He joined in the discussion on the role of skilled trades and pre-apprenticeship training. We had an opportunity to talk, and he voiced his concerns about the future of skilled trades training and the upcoming federal budget. There is always work to be done in the area of skilled trades, but there are some measures in this budget that are key to the future of skilled trades. This is something Mr. Di Donato is passionate about.
     Our government is taking action to harmonize the apprenticeship training and certification requirements in targeted Red Seal trades. The budget also proposes to reallocate up to $35 million over five years for a pilot project for foreign credential recognition loans, and to make it permanent, to support internationally trained workers. This is important news for many constituents in my riding, where many new Canadians come and make their home and want to contribute their skills and expertise.
    As a government, we have to do what we can to help create the conditions under which businesses thrive, create jobs, and move our economy. That means helping small businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs. I am pleased to say that our budget proposes to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019.

  (1155)  

    The support of our communities is important, and this is done through a number of commitments, including gas tax funding. For the city of Mississauga, that means millions of dollars every year that allows the municipality and the Region of Peel to make priority investments in transportation and infrastructure to keep people moving.
    The budget also proposes several measures to help families. The underlying point of balancing the budget is that it allows us to keep the focus on lower taxes to help families and hard-working Canadians. In fact, the overall federal tax burden is now at its lowest level in more than 50 years.
    Just two weeks ago, I hosted the 50+ Expo for people over 50 years of age. It was an exciting event for local people who are at the point in their lives when important matters such as retirement planning, security, and safety become a reality. I heard from a number of those who came that they want to remain independent and not have to depend on others as they move to their later years in life.
    I would mention some of the measures in the budget to support seniors and people with disabilities. The budget proposes a home accessibility tax credit to help seniors and people with disabilities with renovation costs to make their homes accessible so that they can stay at home and be independent.
    We are also introducing changes to the registered retirement income fund that will assist seniors and allow them to withdraw less from their tax-deferred savings. Also, we are increasing the tax-free savings account annual contribution from $5,000 to $10,000. This is something colleagues on the opposite side are criticizing very heavily, but this is a great measure, and I have heard wonderful comments from constituents in my riding about it.
    We will always support our veterans, our heroes. Just recently I was honoured to receive a visit from one of them, a Mr. Donald Somerville, who is going with a group of veterans, leaving this weekend, to the Netherlands to celebrate the 70th anniversary of liberation.
     We honour our veterans, and we have to make sure that they receive everything and anything they need, especially at the later stages of life. It is important that veterans know that they can count on support for their services. Our budget increases the level of individualized care to veterans requiring regular support by improving the ratio of veterans to case managers. We are also introducing a new retirement income security benefit for severely disabled veterans.
    I also want to speak about security for all Canadians. This is very important. People across Canada are looking for safe streets and safe communities, and they want to make sure that our government provides measures and support to our security agencies that keep us safe here in this country.
    In closing, the budget is a balanced budget. This was a promise made. This is a promise kept. Therefore, I would like, in closing, to ask all my colleagues in this House to support the budget to support what Canadians are looking for.

  (1200)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask a question of my colleague, who concluded his speech by talking about the Conservatives' promise to balance the budget, when they presented Canadians with seven budgets in a row that were not balanced.
    Today, the Conservatives have a new-found passion for balanced budgets. What is more, they are set to introduce a bill to force future governments to present balanced budgets when they themselves did not do that for the past five years. It is rather surprising, not to mention hypocritical, for a government to claim to be passionate about balanced budgets when it did not balance any of its own budgets in the past five years. It did not even respect its own legislation that it is about to introduce to Canadians.
    Could my colleague speak to how sincere the Conservatives' new passion really is?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am as surprised as my colleague who spoke before me that all that is coming from the other side is criticism without any ideas being put forward. It is very easy to criticize.
    To answer the member, he should probably go back and read the history of what happened in the past. That would probably help him understand better why there was not an investment during the difficult economic times, and how well Canada did in those past years. We have done so well that we are truly the envy of other developed nations. That is what government is for, to act when there is a need to act, to work in the best interest of the country, to work in the best interest of Canadians and to act when the need arises.
     We were able to balance the budget this year without raising taxes. We are cutting taxes. Taxes are at the lowest level in 50 years. I think the member should appreciate this. Canadians do appreciate it.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps this is a question that should more properly go to the finance minister but I have not had a chance to put a question to the finance minister yet.
    We could have balanced the budget last year had the minister been willing to go into the contingency fund. The balanced budget this year is because the finance minister went into the contingency fund. I am not clear at all on the matter of fiscal planning why the contingency fund was needed this year but not last year, other than the political promises that have been made based on “once we balance the budget, we will bring in income splitting” and so on.
    In other words, I think this budget is being driven by political machinations and not actual good financial planning. Perhaps the member could explain why the contingency fund was not used last year to balance the budget.
    Mr. Speaker, as I stated when answering the first question, the government is here to do the best for the country and for Canadians. These measures that are included in this balanced budget are what Canadians were looking for. We are helping Canadians. We are helping businesses. We are helping families. We are helping those who have challenges in life. That is what is important.
     This is what Canadians are looking for. They are looking for good management of the economy, and they are looking for a good future for themselves and their families.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.
    It is an honour to rise today and speak in response to the budget introduced by the government in the House last week. Over the last four years, as a member of Parliament, I have learned one thing for sure: Conservatives and the Prime Minister are not nearly the economic managers they seem to think they are. In fact, time and time again, the government chose precisely the opposite. The Conservatives have shown us, and Canadians, just how incompetent they can be as managers of the economy. The government has dropped the ball on so many incredibly important files. We just have to look at the F-35.
    Conservatives must have a good supply of pixie dust to use on unsuspecting Canadians if they think they can pass this budget off as sound economic planning. Of course, this is backstopped by at least a $13-million advertising budget, using Canadians' money, which they are going to spend on propelling themselves into the election.
    I had to laugh last week when my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said this in his response to the budget:
     They spent the surplus before they had it. Then they panicked....They didn't know what to do because the economy was not performing the way they had hoped. One would think that planning more than praying would be [the norm] within the finance department, but not under [this government].
    My esteemed colleague could not have been more correct.
    How else do we explain a budget that is predicated on such a shallow set of priorities and planning principles, with so little regard for thinking things through? How else could one explain draining the contingency fund so that in the short term it looks like we are not in a deficit? Of course, dropping that from $3 billion to $1 billion means that any unforeseen event that could take place would actually bring the government back into the red. We just have to look at last year to some of the events that happened. We had the ice storm in Toronto. We had tremendous flooding in Alberta and in Toronto. There were also other weather events that cost the economy, and certainly cost the provinces and the federal government, billions of dollars. The contingency fund is there for good reason, to protect against unforeseen events.
    We also saw the fire sale of our government's interest in General Motors. We all understand that the government was not supposed to hold on to these shares in perpetuity. However, one of the simple staples of investing in stocks is to buy low and sell high. What the government has done in selling the shares at this time is actually costing $3.5 billion. It sold the shares at a net loss of $3.5 billion. It is as if every single Canadian across the country had a $100 bill to begin with, took it out of their pocket and set it on fire. That is $100 for every Canadian that the government has wasted in order to say it has a balanced budget.
    These things are very questionable, and not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of many economists on both sides of the political spectrum.
    Much more importantly, I want to talk about the changes the government is making to tax-free savings accounts. These changes really represent just how cynical and crass the government can be and how shallow and short-sighted its economic policy really is. The Conservatives are going to change the maximum allowable contributions for TFSAs to up to $10,000 a year. Who does this help? We have heard from the government that millions of Canadians have TFSAs.
    Mr. Andrew Saxton: Eleven million.
    Mr. Dan Harris: Yes, Mr. Speaker, 11 million. However, only 11% of those people deposited the maximum last year. Therefore, 90% of the people depositing already do not have enough to deposit the current maximum, but the government wants to double it. Why is that? It is because it will help the Conservatives' well-heeled friends. It is not going to help the majority of the working-class and middle-class people I work for in my riding of Scarborough Southwest. These people do not seem to find themselves burdened at the end of the year with having to decide what to do with an extra $10,000 that is burning a hole in their pockets. I wish I could say that they did because Scarborough used to be a prosperous place. It used to have above national average incomes. It used to have tens of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs that helped to elevate people into the middle class. However, through successive Liberal and Conservative governments, since first free trade and then NAFTA came in, all of that industry and all of those good-paying jobs left.

  (1210)  

    We used to have a GM van plant in my riding. It has been gone since the early 1990s. We used to have tens of thousands of good jobs along what was called the golden mile, which, when it opened after the Second World War, was the model on which many communities ended up being built because people could live and work close together and also have good-paying jobs. They are all gone, and they have been replaced by part-time, precarious, largely retail jobs and car malls that are not very accessible by transit, that do not make good planning for those areas. Who are these changes being made for? I have said, it is for the wealthy few.
     That is just like the income-splitting plan, a $2.5-billion waste of our money that could be far better spent, either on actually balancing the budget so they do not have to dip into the contingency fund or on other programs like affordable child care.
    The current government's entire package and plan for families would give families up to $1,960 a year per child. In the city of Toronto, child care costs are between $1,000 and $2,000 a month per child. Exactly what are the Conservatives telling families to do for the other 10 to 11 months beyond what the government's money gives? The government would give $1,960 but then families pay between $10,000 and $20,000 in child care costs. Are families actually going to be further ahead at the end of the day? No, they are not. They end up having to make really tough choices in our city of whether to lose one income and have one parent stay home, which puts a lot of strain on families and makes it hard to pay the mortgage. God forbid if the parents are also trying to help a kid through university or college, because of skyrocketing tuition fees. The Conservatives want to give $1,960 but then let parents throw $15,000 to $20,000 a year into child care costs.
     The NDP has an alternative plan of $15 a day for child care that would actually be affordable for families and would let them make the right choices for their families, whether to have a parent stay home or have both parents work because they would have the option to do either. It would be good-quality child care. I started my working career in child care. I worked at the Not Your Average Daycare in Scarborough for five years, and I saw first-hand the importance of early education and learning.
    The story does not end there. It gets worse. As we move forward through the years, the Conservatives' plan at the start would cost a few hundred million dollars, primarily of course to the wealthiest Canadians. The amazing thing is that this cost would grow with each passing year. In a relatively short time, the cost to Canadians would be $20 billion to the treasury. I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries say the Conservatives do not want to pass on debt to the next generation, to our children. The Conservatives are doing something far worse. They are passing it to our children's children. They are passing it to our grandchildren. No responsible parent, grandparent or government should ever pass the buck along two generations down the line.
     Of course, we have seen this approach with the government when we talk about climate change, which was not mentioned even once in the budget. We see that the Conservatives do not care. They have not put this as a priority. They said they are going to regulate sector by sector. Then the Prime Minister got up and said they are not going to touch the biggest polluter, the biggest sector, oil and gas.
    The current government's entire philosophy is relying on the high price of oil, a commodity where the cost goes up and down. I worked in Fort McMurray, in the oil sands. I have been there through one of those turns. The folks there know that it is cyclical. The casino in Fort McMurray is called Boomtown Casino because they know that the price of oil and commodities goes boom or bust. However, the Conservatives were relying on the fact that it was going to boom forever. It is absolutely preposterous to be putting all their eggs in that one basket.

  (1215)  

    We all know that we are supposed to diversify the economy. We are supposed to invest in different areas of the economy so that we can weather those storms, but the Conservatives never did that and now Canadians from coast to coast to coast are paying the price.
    This budget should be helping people, but it is only helping the wealthy few and the rest are left to fend for themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, the budget is extraordinary for what is left out.
    I want to mention something so that Canadians will know, because I continue to be astonished by what has been left out of the budgets over the last number of years. They do not contain what I used to regard as the nuts and bolts of a budget. There used to be tables at the back of the budget that showed what every department was going to get in total to spend in the year. There was a comparison to the previous year and also a rollout for a forthcoming period of years. This budget does not include that, and neither did last year's.
     For instance, if we want to find out about international development assistance, another topic not mentioned in this budget, we cannot find that department. Of course, the department has now been folded into the Department of Foreign Affairs, but we cannot find the foreign affairs budget in here either. We cannot find the budgets for Environment Canada or Parks Canada.
     There is actually no information about what each department of government will be allowed to spend compared to other years. We have to wait for the main and supplementary estimates for that.
     I wonder if my colleague has any comments on that.
    Mr. Speaker, my first comment would be, what happened to that open and transparent government?
    By removing the tables, by removing information, the Conservatives have made our jobs as members of Parliament harder, but they have also made it very difficult for Canadians to see what actually is and is not being spent. It is even more insidious than that, because it hides the money that the government is spending. This means it gives ministers and certain departments the ability to deliberately underspend their budgets. We only have to look at veterans affairs since the Conservatives took office. Instead of spending all the money it was allocated on improving veterans' lives, it ended up returning billions of dollars to the treasury, and that is shameful.

  (1220)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.
    I really liked the part where he told us that he is very familiar with the child care sector. Once again, that shows just how prepared we are on this side. We have a plan, whereas the other side of the House clearly has bad plans and it only helps their pals.
    Like all Quebeckers, I spoke out against the lack of measures for culture and the environment, for example. It is pathetic that there is nothing for those areas.
    Clearly, there comes a time when it is not only disappointing, but also worrisome to see that there is nothing—and I believe this is the topic of the day—for rail safety.
    Would my colleague like to comment on that last point?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
    Personally, I love taking the train. When I was young, I always took the train between Toronto and Montreal to visit my family. I also spent several summers in Lac-Mégantic, where my family has roots. In fact, my grandmother was born there and my mother was born in Sherbrooke.
    It is therefore difficult for me to express how I felt when I saw the disaster that befell that town, a disaster that happened because the government cut corners. Fifty people died, and we must never let that happen again.
    We must definitely make the safety of our railways, pipelines, airplanes and roads the top priority in order to prevent such disasters from happening in the future.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague opposite why he is so against tax-free savings accounts. Why is he against allowing Canadians to save for their future, for their retirement and for their children's education? This is an opportunity to give Canadians that chance. Eleven million accounts have already been opened.
    My next question is regarding his expensive bureaucratic child care program. How does he expect to pay for that? Will it be through a $20 billion carbon tax?
    Mr. Speaker, maybe the member was not listening when I said that while 11 million accounts are open, only 11% of Canadians currently donate the maximum.
    We are not opposed to TFSAs. We are not going to get rid of them. We just do not want to put in the increase the Conservatives have put in. There are other investment opportunities for people. If they are saving for their education, there are RESPs. If they are saving for their retirement or to buy their first home, there are RRSPs. There are other avenues for Canadians, if they have extra money, to put their money into to change their taxes.
    The specific benefit he is talking about would mostly go to wealthy Canadians who already have it easy. Why did the Conservatives not close loopholes for CEO stock options that cost the treasury $750 million? There would be some of the money for child care. Why did they not cancel income splitting? There would be $2.5 billion for child care. Why did they not increase corporate taxes to the rate where they would be paying their fair share? That would pay for roads, for transit and for child care.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in this place to discuss the budget that is before the House. I only have a few minutes, so I would like to divide my remarks into, first, some general comments specifically relating to seniors, second, to speak to the health aspects of it, as I am the official opposition health critic, and third, to focus on British Columbia and the city of Victoria, which I represent.
    On the general points, we have heard much this morning already about the income-splitting regime in this budget and the TFSA going from $5,500 to $10,000 a year. On top of that, of course, we have $4,400 in new federal debt that every newborn child has and our grandchildren are going to have another $15 billion or $20 billion in debt created by the TFSA. It may be a laudable policy, but doubling contributions, or virtually doubling them, certainly will be helping wealthier Canadians more than others.
    That has been the subject of much commentary, and not just by opposition politicians. It is important that Canadians know it is the Parliamentary Budget Officer who, just a day or so ago, drew attention to the disparity. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley pointed out yesterday that these handouts will cost tens of billions of dollars a year and the doubling of the TFSA itself will give the wealthiest 20% twice as much as all other Canadians combined.
    The Globe and Mail, of course, has brought to our attention just what this document is. It is designed, as it says in its editorial of April 21, to win an election. That is really all it is. This is a document designed to give gifts to the Conservatives' wealthiest friends and donors in the hope that the rest of Canadians will not notice what is happening to our country in the meantime.
    The Conservatives talked at one point about having a leaner, meaner tax code, cleaner and simpler. Of course, that has not happened. It is rare for me to stand in this place and agree with the Fraser Institute, but in a report that it put out just this week, it pointed out how the tax code has become bigger and bigger and more and more complex. It is great work for accountants and lawyers, I am sure, but it is incomprehensible to many Canadians. That is not the result of these little tax breaks and credits here, there and everywhere, what are called boutique tax credits, which litter this budget.
    In addition, members have heard my colleagues talk about the fact that the contingency fund cupboard has been raided and it has gone from $3 billion to $1 billion in order to balance the budget. We have heard about the fire sale of GM shares in order to get more money to balance the budget, the holy grail of re-election.
    The Globe and Mail said:
...one category of taxes remain far higher than it should: Employment Insurance premiums. These premiums are, basically, a tax on jobs. For years, Ottawa has quietly been taking in several billion dollars more than it pays out. The budget promises a long-term plan to lower premiums....
    Guess what? That, like so much in this budget, does not happen until 2017, 2018, 2019. We will hear about that in the context of transit and so many other issues. It is bad public policy. It is simply a gift for re-election purposes, and I am confident Canadians will see through this.
    A day or so ago, the Canadian Alliance of United Seniors, which brings together dozens of seniors groups, talked about this budget in very unfavourable terms. It pointed out that income security, including restoring the old age security and GIS to age 65, should be enhanced. The Prime Minister went to Davos, Switzerland, and announced that the government was going to change the age for OAS to 67, which seems to me a little unfair to people who had the misfortune of being born after 1958, and no change to the Canada pension plan. That is a payroll tax, although it is not a tax at all, and that is why we cannot fix for the next generation the inequities. Nothing in the budget would deal with that. EI, of course, is okay, but CPP improvements are not.
    Health care reform is the second thing that the Canadian Alliance of United Seniors has talked about. It asked for increased funding for issues such as home care and a national pharmacare plan. That notorious radical group, the Canadian Medical Association, has called for a seniors strategy on care and health care, something which, of course, the official opposition has been very much in favour of. The government has done nothing whatsoever on that score in this budget.
    A national housing strategy is the third thing it asked for, a strategy to allow seniors stay in their homes or move to purpose-built affordable housing. There is very little, as so many critics have pointed out, on the affordable housing front in this budget.

  (1225)  

    There is very little for fighting inequality to assure all citizens, including seniors, can get out of poverty. That is a bit of a sleeper issue in the budget.
     Yesterday, Mr. Ian McGugan wrote in The Globe and Mail that there was a disparity increasingly among seniors, among the wealthy and the less wealthy. There was a lucky elite that could take advantage of TFSAs and the like, but that there was another group, a growing mass of retirees who must patch together their own safety net. Their prosperity or lack of it hinged on how much they could stow away in RRSPs, TFSAs and defined contribution pensions. If they happened to be in the wrong industry and suffered prolonged periods of unemployment, their retirement nest eggs would suffer through no fault of their own.
    It is a tale of two cities among seniors in our communities. There is no doubt that the budget works for the wealthy seniors. We just have to ask the Parliamentary Budget Officer. However, for the vast majority of seniors who struggle to get by, with the low interest rate environment and so forth, it is a very different part of the world in which they live.
    On health care, the College of Family Physicians of Canada talks about the federal budget as “a missed opportunity to advance health care”, and that is what it is. It, like the official opposition, are pleased with government's commitment to a Canadian centre for aging and brain health innovation, but it says what is needed is “higher-level leadership for the entire spectrum of health care”, not a patchwork of single programs, and that is the point about the budget.
    There are lots of little goodies here and there, boutique tax credits here, announcements there, innovation centre there, but on the main event it is a notorious and continuing lack of leadership on so many fronts.
    Regarding the Canada health transfer, Conservatives keep talking about how much money is being transferred, and there is a lot of money being transferred, but much less than there would have been if they had not killed the Health Council a few years ago. The government sees no benefit in doing anything that involves leadership and working with the provinces to achieve better results for our population.
    There is much more about health that needs to be said in this context, and not only the fact Conservatives are sticking to the unilateral formula for the health transfer, axing the Health Council and showing no leadership in public health issues for Canadians. However, the one good thing is that the mandate of the Mental Health Commission of Canada has been renewed. We need to see a lot more leadership in that area. I salute the government for that aspect of the health care issue. However, money is really what has to be important.
    I promised to talk about British Columbia. It has been said over and over again that climate change is a foreign concept in the budget, it is a word that dare not be mentioned by Conservatives. I think they do not believe it exists. The word “Victoria” did not get mentioned and for British Columbia, pretty thin gruel. British Columbians will remember a few weeks ago, when the government in its zeal to save $700,000 thought it was sound public policy to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard. That $700,000 should be matched in people's minds with the $7.5 million Conservatives will spend to advertise the budget.
    Budgets are about priorities. Governing is about choosing. The government chose to put our coastline at risk for a small savings. We see the results. Thank goodness they were not worse, but $7.5 million for feel good ads is what will happen.
    What is not in the budget? Money for transit that comes forward many years later. There is nothing for local roads and bridges, nothing for the Belleville Street terminal in my riding, which everyone agrees is the number one infrastructure, not even a signal that it might occur sometime, no money in gang violence prevention and so forth.
    This is a budget that works very well for the wealthy. It does not make the kind of long-term investments in health care that will be necessary going into the future. Seniors groups have understood that it helps only a small segment of their population. For British Columbia, it reflects priorities that British Columbians simply do not have.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned employment insurance premiums and rates and how they were too high. When we introduced the small business job credit, which is a significant reduction in EI premiums for small businesses, in fact, 700,000 small businesses in Canada will benefit from that, why did the member and his party voted against that reduction in premiums?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is famous, and Canadians see right through it, for what we call the poison pill strategy.
    What it does is it puts a lot of things in a budget that would appear to be things we could support, and then it puts poison pills in that no serious opposition could ever support. That may be an example of that, I do not know.
    Let us remember this. What I was saying about the employment insurance fund was not me talking, I was talking about The Globe and Mail saying how the government, “has quietly been taking in several billion dollars more than it pays out”.
    That is another nefarious way the government has used to create this mystique of a balanced budget. It has raided a contingency fund, used the EI fund as a piggy bank and sold GM shares just in time to create this magical illusion. I think Canadians understand what is going on.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's last statement because his so correct.
    When we look at it, even before the recession occurred a number of years ago, the government entered into a situation where we went from a surplus budget to a deficit situation. It has been in that deficit situation for years now.
    Then when we are in an election year, the Conservatives wave a wand to try to give Canadians this impression, spending a lot of money to tell Canadians, that there is a surplus. The way the surplus was created was through the wholesale sale of GM shares and dipping into the contingency fund, for a marginal surplus that could evaporate depending on the price of oil.
    Would the member provide his thoughts in regard to how much a falsehood it is to give Canadians the impression, in the time of an election, that the books are in good order when it comes to balanced budgets?
    Mr. Speaker, I can do no better than quote the headline of The Globe and Mail editorial to which I referred. It states, “This budget was designed to win an election”. I think the member for Winnipeg North and me understand what that is about.
    Imagine a government that spends a decade with deficits, huge debt, and all of a sudden, on the eve of an election, announces that, there is a surplus. Then we are told that we are getting it by way of raiding a contingency fund, selling shares and using the EI fund.
    I think Canadians understand that this is really about an election promise. Much of the goodies that we are hoping will happen, goodies that are essential in places like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and my community of Victoria, to deal with transit, for example, will not happen for many years.
    All of the good stuff is back end loaded with these great promises but, hallelujah, the government has balanced the budget. I am sure Canadians see through that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, could my colleague tell us more about his thoughts on the proposed investment in public transit announced in budget 2015? The government is proposing just $250 million, which will start in 2017 and will then be gradually increased.
    What does the member think about this new funding that will not start until 2017 and of the amount of this investment, compared to the scope of the problems with public transit in our Canadian cities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, most Canadians understand that we have a crisis in our major cities with crumbling infrastructure and particularly problems with transit.
    I noted that the Ontario finance minister referred to the transit part of this budget as “crumbs”. Recognizing that we need help now, the government, wanting to balance the budget at all costs, has decided that this stuff will start after the election, and the $1 billion is two years after that. Then all of a sudden we are supposed to be happy. Let us not forget, we have to work with P3s, private-public partnerships, which often cost more money and reward friends of the government.
    It is a happy package for everybody but the people who need transit services now.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for York Centre.
    It is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today and speak to a budget of which all Canadians can be proud. It is a balanced budget. This is a great accomplishment. Canada is not where it is at today by chance. The budget did not balance itself. It was hard work, careful financial planning and prudent fiscal responsibility on the part of the strong leadership of our country that we can boast of a balanced budget.
    We went from a deficit of $55.6 billion at the height of the global recession to a projected surplus of $1.4 billion for 2015-16. Canada is the envy of many countries right around the world. Over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since the depths of the recession. Despite what the opposition would like Canadians to believe, over 80% of these were full-time jobs, and nearly 80% were in the private sector. Over half of these jobs were in high wage industries.
    Canada's economy has seen one of the best economic performances among all the G7 countries in recent years, both during the recession and throughout the recovery. As a business owner myself, I am pleased that Canada's business investment performance has been the strongest in the G7. We leapt from sixth place to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive countries for business to grow. For the seventh straight year, we have also ranked with the soundest banking system. That ranking was given to us by the World Economic Forum. We are also one of two countries in the G7 to have a rock solid AAA credit rating.
    I could go on and on about the many great things that our government has accomplished.
     Most Canadians understand and personally strive for such things as a balanced budget and a good credit rating. They understand well the benefits of achieving this on the federal level as well. Running a surplus, having a sound banking system and having a AAA credit rating makes our country more attractive to investors, and that opens up the doors that lead to more growth.
    Running a surplus also means more tax breaks for Canadians who need and deserve them the most. The opposition continues to say that our tax breaks benefit the wealthy. That, quite simply, is not true. Canadian families across the nation with children up to the age of 17 will feel the advantage of enhancements to the universal child care benefit directly when payments begin this coming July.
    Across Canada, there exists a significant diversity of people living in a very diverse landscape. We have people of many ethnicities, cultures and religions. We have people who live in very remote places up north and who live in the busy urban centres of our major cities. The universal child care benefit includes all Canadians and accommodates Canada's diversity. It is not required that children be placed in state operated child care centres to benefit. Families benefit while maintaining the freedom to choose the way their children are raised, whether they be with a stay-at-home parent, at a day care centre, or with a friend or family member.
    We are allowing families to choose what works best for them, decisions that are best left for mom and dad.
    The opposition also continues to purport that tax-free savings accounts benefit the very wealthy. Again, that simply is not true. Individuals with incomes of less than $80,000 accounted for more than 80% of all TFSA holders, and about half of TFSA holders had annual incomes of less than $42,000. At the end of 2013, about 1.9 million Canadians had contributed the maximum amount to their TFSAs. Of those who contributed, 45% were seniors and over 70% were over the age of 55.
    I am pleased that economic action plan 2015 proposes to increase the TFSA contribution limit to $10,000. Our government understands the importance of saving money and of financial security.

  (1240)  

    The TFSA provides greater savings incentives for low-and modest-income individuals, because in addition to the tax savings, neither the income earned in the TFSA nor withdrawals from it affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits such as the Canada child tax benefit or old age security.
    Another component of economic action plan 2015 I would like to highlight and that I am particularly proud of is the extension of compassionate care benefits. This budget proposes to provide up to $37 million annually to extend employment insurance compassionate care benefits from six weeks now to six months. I know first hand people in my riding who would benefit from this extension.
     People who have cared for a gravely ill family member know the incredible demands involved. It can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. They also know that caring for a family member, especially at the end of his or her life, is a responsibility they would not want to leave in the hands of anyone else. Unfortunately, I have witnessed people who have had to quit their jobs to care for a family member, adding financial hardship to the struggles they are already facing. Through this enhancement, the government would ensure that the employment insurance program would continue to help Canadians when they needed it the most. Canadians should never have to choose between family and financial security.
    I am pleased that so many people in my riding would benefit from the emphasis this budget places on families. In addition, coming from a riding that has a large farming community, I am happy that the budget would also positively affect the backbone of our community, farmers. Economic action plan 2015 proposes to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption for qualified farm or fishing property to $1 million.
     The lifetime capital gains exemption for farm or fishing property provides an incentive to invest in the development of productive farm and fishing businesses and helps farm and fishing business owners accumulate and protect capital for retirement. It is estimated that this measure would reduce capital gains taxes for owners of farm and fishing businesses by about $50 million over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period. There are many farmers in my riding who would benefit directly from this increase.
     Our government is also committed to promoting Canadian products. Agricultural and agri-food products produced in Canada are among the safest and highest quality in the world. That is why economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide $12 million over two years, starting in 2016, to expand Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's agrimarketing program to promote and differentiate Canadian products in a highly competitive global and domestic market. Promoting Canadian products here and abroad would have a positive impact on our farmers and food processors.

  (1245)  

    As Canada continues to grow, it is necessary that we continue to maintain the critical infrastructure that keeps our country running smoothly. It seems only appropriate that as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we support the renovation, expansion, and improvement of existing community infrastructure. Economic action plan 2015 proposes to create a new dedicated infrastructure fund for exactly that purpose to celebrate our 150th anniversary. These new investments, which would be cost-shared with municipalities, community organizations, and not-for-profit entities, would support projects that celebrate our shared heritage, create jobs, and improve the quality of life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    On a final note, I would like to commend our government for listening to the concerns of Canadians. As a sitting member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I sat through the vigorous study of Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act. We listened carefully to expert witness testimony and have proposed appropriate corresponding amendments. One concern voiced many times over was that we needed to enhance oversight of our Canadian Security Intelligence Service review body. I am pleased that our government heard those concerns and has responded. Economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide up to $12.5 million over five years, starting in this next fiscal year, and $2.5 million ongoing thereafter, in additional funding for the Security Intelligence Review Committee to enhance its review of CSIS.
    While we ensure that our national security agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians from the threat of terrorism, we would also ensure that these practices would be governed by an effective and transparent framework that would protect the rights and freedoms of individual Canadians.
    I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this budget.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    The problem is that he claimed that this budget is for all Canadians. I remind the member that the maximum RRSP deduction is $21,000; the TFSA limit is now $10,000; the RESP limit is $5,000; and the deduction for sports and arts is $2,000. That is a total of $38,000, yet 90% of Canadians do not have $38,000 of net income. For someone to take advantage of that $38,000 in tax breaks and to still have the means to pay rent and buy groceries—which are kind of important—they would have to earn over $150,000. Just 2% to 3% of Canadians earn that amount. When the government brings in such big tax breaks, they benefit just 2% to 3% of Canadians. Another example is income splitting, which is also not designed for the vast majority of Canadians.
    Could my colleague explain why the government wants us to go without this money now and to leave our grandchildren with a $140 billion bill? Where is the tax fairness here?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the biggest users of the TFSA program are seniors. They have found that program extremely useful and have benefited greatly from being able to put money into tax-free savings accounts to shelter some of the income that is so desperately needed in their retirement years from income tax. There was a demand for that, and I am sure our seniors are going to appreciate this measure, because it is a measure that is specifically used by that group of people.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of concern about the federal budget. When I think of how I would try to put it, I would suggest that it is a very unfair budget.
    This is a budget that would do nothing to support Canada's middle class or people who aspire to become members of the middle class. There would not be any investment in a tangible way in infrastructure, when we know that virtually every municipality in every region of the country is in need of infrastructure spending, not two years from now, after the election, but this year so that they can be developing infrastructure this summer, not to mention the previous years when the government failed to deliver.
    My question for the member relates to the Minister of Finance making reference to letting the Prime Minister's granddaughter deal with the issue. Does he not believe that there is a responsibility for the Government of Canada to start governing for today, not pass off issues to our grandchildren?
    Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer today said that our grandchildren will not be saddled with the burden of that responsibility. I think that comment was taken out of context, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer has added clarification on that issue today.
    In reference to his question about the middle class, this budget would do so much for the middle class. I am thinking of the universal child care benefit. The biggest beneficiaries of the universal child care benefit would be low- and middle-income families. For every child under the age of six, each family would get $2,000 annually. For children between the ages of six and 17, they would get $720 annually. As a percentage of income, the middle-class and low-income earners would be the biggest beneficiaries of that program.
    In addition, we are not mandating that people send their children to a daycare to be recipients of that money. It is a very fair way of saying that they can choose to invest that money in a state-funded daycare, or they can choose to invest that money with a friend or a relative down the way who is willing to look after their children while they seek employment, or they can just use that money to subsidize their household budgets if they are stay-at-home parents. That is one of the most fair and appropriate tax measure in this budget for low- and middle-income families.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to our budget, strong leadership, a balanced budget, and the low-tax plan for jobs, growth, and security.
    We live in the greatest country on earth: Canada. People come here from all over the world for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, they come to Canada for hope and opportunity. Yes, they want opportunity for themselves, but more importantly, they want opportunity and hope for their children.
    The riding I am so privileged to represent, York Centre, is very ethnocultural. I go around the community endlessly, time and time again, and what I see reminds me of when I was young, when my dad came to Canada as an immigrant and how hard he worked, and how hard new immigrants to Canada work. When I shake the hands of some of these men, these hands are worn. These hands have blisters. These hands are hardened by the hard work they do because they want to see their kids succeed in the hope and opportunity Canada has to offer.
    We see this paying off. When I go to high school graduations, which I do every June in the riding of York Centre, I see kids whose parents came to Canada just a few years ago, and they are the ones who are getting all the scholarships to universities and colleges. They will be the doctors, the lawyers, the professionals, and the tradespeople of tomorrow.
    I remember, growing up, when I would wait for my dad to come home late at night. He had a shoe store, and I remember peering through the window blinds waiting for him to come home. When I saw him pull into the driveway and get out of the car, I got so excited, and I know that these kids do too. As tired as he was, he still had time to play with me or do homework with me, just like these kids today in the riding of York Centre whose parents come from another country. That is what Canada is all about.
    That is why we have presented here today, and since 2006, a path and a plan for economic prosperity in Canada. It is so immigrants will have opportunity and can have hope for their children.
    We have presented a plan here in the House for debate today that is based on low taxes, on trade, and on a balanced budget. Why is it important to balance the budget? The opposition parties do not think it is important. We cannot really blame New Democrats. They are blinded by their ideology, an ideology of spend, spend, spend. Spend as if we have it, is their ideology. What is the Liberals' ideology? They are still searching for one, but they do have a set of principles, and if we do not like those, they have a whole other set for us.
    Let me tell the House a bit about our plan, a plan for jobs, for growth, and for long-term prosperity. Our plan has created 1.2 million net new jobs since the depth of the recession in July 2009. Our financial sector has been rated by the World Economic Forum for the seventh year in a row to be the soundest in the world. We have lowered taxes not 50 times, not 100 times, and not even 150 times. We have lowered 180 different taxes. We have taken over one million people off the tax rolls altogether. We have brought in income splitting for seniors so they can split their pensions and do not have to pay as much tax.
    Now we see that the Liberals and the New Democrats are against the proposals we have in this budget to put more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families. They seem to be under the impression that the government treasury will have less money. We know what that means. First, they have to understand that this is not the government's money. My dad and these dads and moms in York Centre who are working hard, that is their money. They have earned it. They say that the government will be out of that money.

  (1300)  

    The taxpayers would have more money to spend how they see fit. Let us not forget that, when our government introduced the universal child care benefit, it was the Liberals who got up and said people would just use it to buy beer and popcorn. What an outrage. People are using this money to pay for education for their children, and if they so choose, to pay for daycare for their children. It is about choice. It is about putting kids with the experts, those who know how to raise them. That is not the government, Liberals, or NDP. That is mum and dad. They are the experts on how to raise children.
    Our fiscal plan is sound. It makes sense and it is working. We do not know the opposition's fiscal plan. We know the Liberal's is smoking marijuana, for one, but the NDP plan is to raise taxes and spend recklessly. Both these plans fail the first test of fiscal responsibility, which is that the numbers just do not add up. New Democrats just want to tax and spend because they think there is an endless supply of money out there. Well, that chicken has been plucked. There are no feathers left. There is only one taxpayer, and taxpayers are maxed out. That is why we are lowering taxes. That is why we see people spending more money.
     We have lowered corporate taxes. The NDP seems to think we need to raise corporate taxes. We do not. It does not understand that corporations, artificial entities, do not pay taxes. Taxes are passed down to the end user, which is the consumer, so middle-class Canadians pay higher prices because corporate taxes are higher. Therefore, we lowered those taxes. Now we find that corporate investment in Canada is way up. Corporate taxes are way up and there are more jobs as a result. That, at the end of the day, is doing our job.
    Canadians sent us here in 2006, 2008, and 2011 to get the job done, and that is what we are doing. We made a pledge to the Canadian people that we were going to provide jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are going to be the first government in the G7 to balance our budget, and not just balance it—we will have a surplus of $1.4 billion.
    The opposition parties are very fast at criticizing what we do, and they propose these kinds of wacky schemes like carbon taxes and one-size-fits-all daycare where there is no choice. They do not understand the reality, and when we try to explain it to them, they just want to double down on what they know is wrong, or they should know it is wrong. That is why it is incumbent on us, the government, the Conservative Party, who know that Canadians deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets so they can decide how to spend it. It is not to create big bureaucracies to spend and tax wildly with reckless disregard for the future.
    Success is not by chance, but it is by choice, and we have been making the right choices since 2006. That is why we are not mired in recession, as are other countries around the world. If it were up to the opposition, it would have us right at the edge, like Greece.
    Hon. Wayne Easter: Thanks to Paul Martin.
    Mr. Mark Adler: Mr. Speaker, we did not balance any budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable, like the Martin and Liberal Party did in the 1990s. Even in those heydays of economic prosperity, they could never get the unemployment rate below 7%. Ours is lower today, while our economy is still fragile.
    We have made the right choices as a government. The Canadian people sent us here. We made a pledge to them in three successive elections that we would balance the budget, create jobs, and lower taxes. That is exactly what we have done, and we are proud to take this platform to the Canadian people come October.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find it quite interesting that the member says that the NDP does not have any real propositions or ideas coming forward; yet every single thing he has touted as good in this budget is an NDP proposal that the Conservatives voted against every time it came up for a vote before. Now, the Conservatives are saying it is their brilliant idea.
    My question is about one of the brilliant ideas that the New Democrats have. That is to create universal child care in this country that would cost parents a maximum of $15 a day. Doing some quick math, for 20 days a month, that would mean a family's cost for child care would be $300 a month.
    The statistics right now show that an average family in Toronto is paying $1,676 per month for child care. The NDP would offer savings of $1,376 per month for these families; whereas, the member and his party are saying the Conservatives would give them $100. The NDP is saying we would save them—
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for York Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to that.
     Logic alone would tell us that, if these ideas were proposed in the past, they would be policy today. I do not know where the member is coming from when she talks about proposing policies that we are now adopting, but I would caution the New Democrats on one thing. It is this party here that we have to be careful of. They used to call the NDP “Liberals in a hurry”. I would keep an eye on these guys. People should not be worried about us stealing their policies.
    What we offer Canadians is choice. We are not saying they cannot send their kids to daycare, but we are giving mums and dads the option. We are offering the money and they can send their kids to daycare or, if they want, they can raise them themselves. The New Democrats should imagine not having government raise their children. What a unique concept.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with wonderment to the remarks of my colleague from the Conservative Party.
    First, the budget was delayed by the current government well into the next fiscal year for one reason: the Conservatives had to sell the GM shares and book those revenues for $2.2 billion to achieve an illusory surplus of $1.4 billion, on the eve of an election.
     Going forward, the Conservatives' budget projections for the future are based on oil prices increasing by 50%. Nobody saw oil prices dropping by 50%, but the current government is actually basing its fiscal projections on increases in oil prices of 50%.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Bank of Canada are using much lower figures in their projections for oil prices. As a result of that, the PBO is projecting budget deficits in 2017-2018, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020.
    Does the hon. member actually believe that rosy projections and wishful thinking are a replacement for sound budget practices? Why is the government making—
    Order, please. We are out of time in this time for questions and comments. The hon. member for York Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, we have a phrase in Yiddish. The word is “chutzpah”. This is a great demonstration of a question that is based on chutzpah, which loosely translated means rashness or nerve to ask such a thing.
    Did members know that a Liberal budget was introduced into this House on February 16, 1999? In the following fiscal year, in 2000-2001, lo and behold, there was no Liberal budget presented by the government. Then, the following fiscal year, two and a half years after the Liberals introduced the budget on February 16, 1999, they got around to introducing their next budget. It was two and a half years.

  (1310)  

    Order. We are resuming debate with the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rivière-du-Nord.
    The Conservative government promised a balanced budget that would benefit all Canadians. Instead, it presented a budget filled with election goodies. In the past four years, we on this side of the House have gotten used to seeing propagandist bills. However, the fact that the Conservatives presented a completely populist budget just to win votes in the election this fall is simply mind-blowing.
    The budget is balanced because the Conservatives scraped up money by draining the contingency reserve and selling shares. They are using House of Cards as their inspiration as they scrounge for loose change, the same way they took their statistics from Kijiji.
    They are promising measures that will not take effect until much later on. However, income splitting will take effect immediately. This government is dishonest. Believe me when I say that Canadians are not fools. They understand that the Conservatives' promises are worthless, not to mention that the budget promises came late this year, just like spring.
    I was elected to defend the interests of the people of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I am obliged to tell them that this budget fails them. It is failing Quebeckers.
    Let us talk about health. Health is being dealt a blow again this year. The government still has not understood the importance of investing in health. It does not understand that thousands of Quebeckers will not be able to pay for their health care costs, much like it does not understand that investing in health is investing in our country's economic future.
    Treating a person over the age of 65 costs five times more than treating a person between the ages of 15 and 65. This government is failing our seniors, middle-class Canadians and the poorest members of our society, who will not have access to proper health care.
    Quebeckers can only manage a hollow laugh because Canada must respect the Canada Health Act, which provides for universal health care. That means that all Canadians have the right to free public health care. However, how can the provinces apply these principles if cuts are being made to their funding?
    The Conservative government is ignoring the provinces' desperate needs. It has refused to take Quebec's rapidly aging population into account when calculating health transfer amounts. Health transfers will no longer go up by 6% per year. They will be capped at 3%. This means a heavier burden for the provinces. The Conservatives are depriving the provinces of thousands of dollars. Canadians deserve better. They deserve a good health system.
    Clearly the government does not understand a thing about health. It expects people to be happy with a few piddly programs when staff, nurses and doctors are in short supply and people are not getting the care they need at the right time.

  (1315)  

    Medical clinics are closing. Three clinics have already closed in my riding, Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and another will be closing this year. That is unacceptable. The federal government must adhere to the principles in the Canada Health Act. If the Conservative government is unable to maintain a formula that enables the provinces and territories to pay for universal access to quality care, it should let us take over. We on this side of the House will listen and sit down with the provinces to come up with solutions that fit.
    The NDP has a plan to strengthen our health system because we all deserve access to quality care no matter where we live. In 2013, I introduced Bill C-523, which called for the mandatory reporting of drug shortages. The Conservative government voted against that bill, then last February, it announced that it would require drug companies to report drug shortages in advance.
    I was delighted that the government had finally seen the light on such an important issue. However, I was very disappointed to find no sign of the announcement about drug shortages in the budget. There is nothing about that in the budget, and certainly no investment. Simply put, the government is dishonest. It makes big announcements, but that is all it knows how to do. There comes a time when you have to stop making promises and get out the chequebook.
    Let us talk about infrastructure. Freight trains and oil cars go through Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie and I have talked to our constituents, who have all said that they are very concerned about the lack of investment in rail safety. The Minister of Transport promised that the government would invest in enhancing safety, but where is that investment in budget 2015? Where are the promises of tangible measures to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials? Where is the increase in the number of inspectors? Unfortunately, I do not see any of that.
    Nor is there anything about the Champlain Bridge. There are no details as to the cost of the toll or how this toll will affect the other bridges. We gathered more than 1,000 signatures in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert alone from people denouncing this arbitrary measure. That is more than 1,000 locals who have spoken out against this toll, and thousands more if we include the south shore, but the government does not seem to think that what they have to say matters. My colleagues from the south shore and I are going to have to explain to our constituents why they are not important enough for the government to listen to them.
    Let us talk about public transit. The government boasts about having good ideas in its budget to address public transit. The Conservatives' proposed measures for public transit are limited, and the provisions are so complicated that they will prevent funding from getting to the municipalities. The budget is out of step with what the south shore mayors want. They say that improving public transit, the light rail system, and extending the metro to Longueuil are priorities for the local economy and the shift toward sustainable development. What is more, the money for public transit will not be available for another two years, provided there is a contribution from the private sector.
    Canadians expect budgets to address their priorities. They expect budgets to provide their children with the best possible start in life and create good jobs. The Conservative government is walking on thin ice. It is Quebeckers and middle-class workers who are paying the price.

  (1320)  

    Two words come to mind when I read the budget: “dishonesty” and “improvisation”.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to what is a very important issue to me, that being health care. When I think of social issues that are important not only to my constituents but to all Canadians, it is the issue of health care. We believe very passionately in our health care system. I know that Canadians treasure it and feel very disappointed that the federal government has not been able, through a first ministerial conference or through ministers of health coming together, to come up with a health care accord.
    There was a great deal of satisfaction in the Paul Martin era where we had a health care accord. We had the provinces working with Ottawa to recognize one of the most important social issues that Canadians feel very passionate about.
    Could the member comment on the government's failure to recognize how important health care is to Canadians by not getting a new health care accord and working with provinces on this very important issue?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my Liberal colleague for his relevant question.
    The accords required that the Conservative government sit down and listen to the provinces and territories talk about their needs and priorities. We have asked the government many times not to impose measures arbitrarily.
    Clearly, nothing has been done. We have not seen even the slightest political will to listen to the provinces and territories regarding the issue of health transfers.
    I think the following metaphor is quite fitting: our free public health care system seems to be in palliative care. It is as though we were trying save something that is already dead.
    The Conservative government does not understand that Canada has an aging population and that, ultimately, having high-quality health care when we need it will be a heavy burden for the provinces to bear.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passionate speech about health care and about public transport also. I would like to talk to her about public transportation and the need for more investment in the public transit infrastructure.
    We know that within the next five years, Canada will have an $18-billion infrastructure gap specifically for public transit needs in our communities. I am asking with a Toronto lens because we know that in Toronto we are seeing our bridges and roads literally crumble down before our eyes. I am sure that she is facing a very similar situation in the Montreal region also. Would she comment on some of the NDP proposals to improve infrastructure or with respect to public transit funding specifically?

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    As I mentioned in my speech, the government claims it is investing in infrastructure. Unfortunately, those funds will not be accessible this year and actually not until four years from now.
    I also said that infrastructure is important. In my region on the south shore, in the greater Longueuil, Saint-Bruno and Saint-Hubert area, all the mayors agree that we need money for infrastructure.
    How are our provinces and municipalities supposed to function with this aging infrastructure? It is important to act now, and that is what we on this side of the House, the NDP, want to do.
    Mr. Speaker, here we are with the Conservative government on its way out. I am sure that the government would have liked to finish its term with a bang, but instead it is fizzling out.
    Just about everywhere, the Conservatives are calling the balanced budget a fantastic achievement. Unfortunately, it is not an achievement. How did they balance their budget? Once again they took money from the employment insurance fund. They are not the first to do so. The Liberals did the same thing. I remember the days when the Martin-Chrétien duo tackled the deficit. They took the federal deficit and passed it on to the provinces and the provinces passed it on to the health system. Since then, our health system has has been posting a deficit. The deficit only moved somewhere else. It is no longer in the columns of federal government figures, but it is somewhere else. They are presenting that as a fantastic achievement.
    We must not forget that behind all that, what is putting the government in a precarious position is the fact that since 2006, the Conservatives have cut corporate taxes from 21% to 15%. This money has been accumulating in the coffers of major corporations and depriving us of resources. That was a significant source of tax revenue. Unfortunately for the Conservative strategy, it did not work. That money accumulated in the corporations' cash reserves, which means that there are currently $660 billion to $700 billion that were not reinvested. We can look at the situation of our manufacturing production systems. Corporations did not reinvest this money to improve their productivity with robotics or informatics. No, they waited. Why? Because the economic situation was unstable. Consequently, these tax reductions did not help Canada's economic recovery. That is quite the accomplishment.
    A government must make choices. In the few minutes I have, I will try to show that the government has chosen to help those who are well off.
    Take, for example, income splitting, which our Conservative friends love so much. This measure will not benefit 86% of the population. I did a little calculation. A family that earns $120,000—one person earns $100,000 and the other earns $20,000—will pay $1,807 less in taxes. However, a family that earns $50,000—one person earns $35,000 and the other earns $15,000—will get what kind of tax break? Nothing. It is very clear that these measures are essentially geared towards the wealthy. A government must make choices, and this government made this choice.
    Meanwhile, the $1.5 billion that this measure will cost in terms of tax expenditures is the amount it would take to bring seniors out of extreme poverty. Right now in Canada we have seniors who are forced to go to food banks for food because the guaranteed income supplement and their small pension are not enough. The government could have taken this $1 billion and invested it to help bring our seniors out of poverty, but no, it would rather help a small fraction of the population that is already well off and does not need this measure to survive.
    The government also made a choice with employment insurance. It is once again dipping into the EI fund. In his report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that with this money, the government could have increased the EI wage replacement rate from 55% to 68%. On average, EI recipients receive $440 in benefits to live on.
    The government could have implemented another measure on something I have a personal interest in, since someone very close to me has cancer. This person received 15 weeks of employment insurance and is now living off their meagre savings because they are not eligible for last-resort assistance. The government could have implemented some sort of measure to ensure that this person had access to EI throughout their treatment, but no, it chose not to. Instead, the government dipped into the EI fund and is using that money to balance the budget.

  (1330)  

    They are not the first to have done that. When the Martin-Chrétien duo came to power, 60% of unemployed workers could get employment insurance. We pay premiums, as do employers, to help unemployed workers during their unemployment so they can have the time they need to find work. Back then, 60% of those people had access to employment insurance.
    When the Conservatives came to power, the rate was 46%. The Liberals had already chipped away at that margin because they filched $50 billion from the employment insurance surplus. We need to remember that. The election is coming soon.
    That funny guy over there talked about the middle class. What does he know about the middle class? When has he ever lost his job and waited a month for his first employment insurance cheque, unable to pay his power bill or his rent? He does not know the first thing about that. The only people who have been through that are the people around me, the people who belong to the only party that stands up for ordinary people who have had actual ordinary people problems.
    Right now, what percentage of people have access to employment insurance? It has dropped to 38% under the wonderful Conservatives, who also balanced their budget using that money. The other thing they are going to do to balance their budget is scrounge money from federal employees' sick leave. I think that federal employees have really felt the pinch since the Conservatives have been in power. Some 19,000 jobs have been cut. People everywhere are working hard and burning out, so now what is the government doing? It is taking away their sick leave. That is no great achievement.
    What would be an achievement is delivering a budget that cares about ordinary people and helps them get by, helps them get from one week to the next with enough money to cover their expenses. An achievement would be delivering a budget that includes measures to reduce people's indebtedness. Right now, people are going into debt because the big banks are taking advantage of them and interest rates are too high. We have to find a way to get out of the debt spiral, which is not good for anyone.
    Now that I have finished my heated speech, I am available to answer questions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will ask the member a couple of questions.
    It is our Conservative government that has increased health and social transfers to provinces to historic highs all while balancing the budget. Unlike the Liberals, we did not balance the budget by slashing transfers.
    If NDP members are serious about health care, will they support budget 2015? More importantly, if NDP members are serious about helping seniors, will they support measures in the budget, like the companion care benefits and the change to the RRIFs?

  (1335)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what my colleague across the way claims, health care transfers for the next 10 years will be cut by $36 billion. The percentage increase in health transfers does not match the percentage increase in health care costs. The provinces are headed straight into a brick wall.
    Canadians need a government that recognizes this. We in the NDP are committed to maintaining health transfers at 6%, which will allow the provincial health care systems to survive the situation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my question follows in the same vein as the last question.
    It is baffling to me that the Conservative member asked if the NDP would support the RRIFs as well as the increase in the time from six weeks to six months for EI compassionate care benefits, because both of these proposals came from the NDP. We brought them forward and when they came to a vote, the Conservatives voted against them. Now the Conservatives have included these proposals in the budget, among a plethora of other things. These are two of the good things in the budget, and yes, they are good things that came from the NDP.
    I would like my hon. colleague to comment on some of the other good measures that are NDP proposals that are in this budget.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I dare say that the only good measures in this budget came from the NDP.
    This morning in committee, we met with the Parliamentary Budget Officer and we were examining TFSAs. Have Canadians been saving more since TFSAs were introduced? Canadians are not saving more. There has been an increase in tax-free savings primarily among the 15% of the population who reach the maximum. However, there has been no increase overall. There has been a shift in savings. Savings that used to be placed in other kinds of funds are being redirected to TFSAs. However, there has been no net gain in savings. On the contrary, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said that the household debt ratio is rising and will continue to rise.
    Clearly, this is merely an election-minded measure, although it is not fooling anyone. What we want is a budget that really helps people in need.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member's comments, but he was asked a question by my colleague about health care spending specifically, and I would like to understand the NDP's math. I would like to understand how an increase in health care transfers, which is what our government has scheduled in the foreseeable future, an increase every year, could be somehow interpreted by the NDP as being a decrease. We have to get beyond the party's talking points and get to the math. Apparently the NDP has a little trouble with math because the reality is there is an increase.
    In fact, in Alberta, it is a 145% increase in transfers from the federal government to the provincial government, a two-and-a-half-times increase since we came to office in 2006. By anybody's math, that is an increase, and that will continue with an increase every year.
    I would like to understand the NDP's math when the NDP says that somehow this federal government has reduced or will reduce health care transfers to the provinces, because it is not true.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, based on past promises to maintain an increase of 6% for health transfers and based on the Conservatives' plan to reduce it to 3%, overall, there will be $36 billion less in the provinces' coffers. That is easy to understand.
    It is not complicated; the federal government will transfer proportionally less than it is currently transferring. It is as simple as that. A little lesson on the rule of three would be good for everyone here.

  (1340)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Whitby—Oshawa.
    I am dedicating the 10 minutes I have to speak to the budget today to my friend Darrel Wong, who passed away much too young on the weekend. Darrel was the very long-time president of the large International Woodworkers local in Courtenay, British Columbia, and subsequently the Steelworkers local after the unions merged.
     We collaborated on many issues. Our goal was the same: to represent our constituents. He represented his membership at all times. Perhaps his greatest triumph was to negotiate the Coast Sustainability Trust, a $35 million fund to assist union and non-union members, their families and communities, including first nations communities on the coast.
    I am reminded of our collaboration by the upcoming softwood lumber agreement anniversary in October, as 10 years ago, we held a series of joint press conferences in B.C. and Ottawa, pushing for free trade in lumber with the United States. Of course, two-thirds of our production is exported, and two-thirds of our export goes to the U.S. That was a very important measure.
    Darrel was non-partisan because he wanted to work in the best interests of the larger community, and he succeeded. The proof was in the pudding, which is why he was re-elected so many times by the membership.
    I am pleased to see in the budget that the forest sector, which contributes $21 billion to Canada's GDP, is recognized with a provision to extend for two years the innovation and expanding market opportunities programs.
    The budget is a large document and it is of much interest. I can only touch on a piece of it during my speech. We all know that in the lead-up to the budget, there is much speculation. In the case of this year's budget, most of the speculation revolved around pre-election posturing. There was no speculation about new taxes. This is unlike speculation about new revenue sources, also known as tax increases, in previous federal administrations and as we just witnessed, in Alberta and Ontario. Governments in many jurisdictions continue to do exactly the things that got previous governments into trouble. I am very proud to be part of a government that is consistent and reliable, that displays respect for the taxpayer, and that is leading Canada in a direction that is responsible and increasingly is the envy of much of the world.
    Canada's economic action plan is working. Our job creation record since the depths of the recession is the best in the G7. Our overall federal tax burden is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is less than half of the G7 average. Since 2006, we have reduced greenhouse gases by almost 6% while growing the economy by 11%.
    Former finance minister Jim Flaherty delivered great budgets before, during and after the global recession. His wish was to deliver a balanced budget post-recession, and he almost achieved it last year. Pre-recession, he paid down $37 billion in debt. Our current finance minister delivered a surplus budget on April 21, with the promise of growing surpluses in succeeding years. At the same time, the budget supports job-creating businesses, contributes to safe and healthy communities, supports families and seniors, and strengthens our security and enhances improvements to meet the needs of veterans.

  (1345)  

    I would like to talk about the doubling of the tax-free savings account contribution limit to $10,000. As the member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North and with a brother living and paying taxes in the U.S., I became intrigued by the tax-prepaid Roth, individual retirement accounts that the U.S. introduced in 1998.
    Subsequently, I put forward a private member's motion in 2004 to urge the government of the day to initiate a tax-prepaid savings plan in Canada. I had heard that Paul Martin had thought about it. In 2005, at the Conservative national convention in Montreal, I brought my private member's motion as a Vancouver Island North constituency organization-backed resolution, and the party adopted it. This became the rationale for Jim Flaherty making it the centrepiece of the 2008 budget.
    There are now 11 million Canadians with tax-free savings accounts, and 60% of tax-free savings account holders who max out their contribution earn less than $60,000 a year. Over half of those who have these accounts earn less than $42,000 a year. I am proud to have been part of this development. I do not understand the opposition stating that tax-free savings accounts only benefit the wealthy.
    We have had much speculation about the tax-free savings accounts since the budget. I can quote a little from The Globe and Mail:
    For retirees, the increased limit has placed a greater light on TFSAs being efficient tools to use in tax planning
    We have another vehicle that is becoming much more useful with tax-free growth, and we are running the math and seeing that instead of waiting until someone is in their 70’s, we should be drawing out smaller amounts of money earlier than we historically would’ve but at a lower rate of tax over all and then shift it into the TFSA.
    For young people buying their first house or condo in their 20s or early 30s, the advice we have been giving if you are in a lower tax bracket is don’t even contribute to an RRSP because chances are you will be in a higher bracket when you have to take it out.
    Clients also have the added benefit of having a flexible repayment plan....as anything taken out of the TFSA will be added to your contribution room for the following year (unlike the home buyers' plan, which requires investors to start repaying the fund two years after the withdrawal).
    This has changed many things in a positive direction.
     I think I have a minute or two. The ground is shifting on the comprehension and understanding of the federal role in providing funding to the provinces for health care. I can quote from Maclean's magazine, Paul Wells, on April 20, and this has to do with health care transfers:
....the Conservatives have kept transfers to the provinces growing at six per cent a year for as long as they’ve been in office. But after 2017, that rate of growth will fall to somewhere between three per cent and six per cent, depending on how fast the general economy grows.
    But something odd has happened. Growth in health spending has slowed right down, as provinces with very different governments decided, all by themselves, to curb this runaway budget line. In 2011-12, health spending grew by 6.2 per cent in British Columbia, six per cent in Alberta and 4.4 per cent in Ontario. This year it will grow by 2.9 per cent in B.C. and 1.8 per cent in Ontario. Alberta will cut health spending every year for the next three, then let it grow again at less than three per cent per year.

  (1350)  

    As we can see, the federal transfers are greater than what the provinces are currently budgeting. Therefore, what we are providing is leading to less provincial input into health care spending. That is an observation made by anyone who does the math.
    I see my time has elapsed. We are moving in the right direction with budget 2015.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I noted my colleague's interest in lowering taxes. One of his colleagues said that he was proud of the government for lowering taxes for more than 2 million Canadians.
    However, I must emphasize that Canada has a population of 35 million people. It is all well and good to lower taxes for 2 million people, but what about the other 33 million?
    They have infrastructure that has not been modernized, roads that are crumbling, bridges that are falling down, inadequate public transit and hospital services that are harder and harder to obtain.
    Can my colleague explain how his budget helps the vast majority of Canadians?
    It is great to hear him talk about the people who will benefit from his budget, but as far as I know, we are the government of all Canadians, not just the wealthiest 5%.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a much larger speech that I have been using as my constituency-based speech on the budget. I can talk for 40 minutes on the budget at the drop of a hat. A lot of what I was speaking about is exactly what we are doing in the budget for seniors, for families, for businesses, for communities, for growing the economy and for providing jobs.
    One thing that really attracts a lot of attention, particularly from municipal governments, which are the closest government we have to the people, is what we as a government have done consistently with respect to infrastructure throughout the piece. Our infrastructure investments are actually three times what they were under the previous Liberal administration.
    Mr. Speaker, when we interview people to do a job, we often ask them if they have done the job before. If they do not have that much direct experience we might ask if they have done something comparable that could build our confidence that they would be able to do the job.
    The government tells us that it will have a balanced budget and that it will have a surplus and so on, but what is that claim rooted in? Has the Conservative Party in government ever done that before? I do not think so. Perhaps once under R.B. Bennett during the Great Depression. Therefore, there is very little confidence-building matter here.
     In terms of a more recent example, I would just like to talk about the Mulroney government experience. Under the Trudeau government, the annual average deficit was 2.9% of GDP between 1969 and 1980. Under the Mulroney government, the average annual deficit was 6.7% of GDP, and the debt burden rose dramatically under the Conservative government of the day, from 37.5% of GDP in 1983-84 to 66.6% in 1994-95.
    Why should Canadians believe that the government will be able to balance the budget and run a surplus when it has not done so for a very long time?

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have the advantage of having had only two finance ministers in government since 2006. Our first finance minister paid back $37 billion on the national debt. One does not do that unless one has a balanced budget, so it is obvious that the person who asked the question had not done his homework to even know that we ran surpluses prior to the recession.
    Contrary to the member's assertions, under Pierre Trudeau's government, during his 14 years in power, he increased spending by an average of 14% a year for 14 years, completely unsustainable. It changed us from a government that was small and efficient to one that was bloated and inefficient. We have been trying to get back to a decent and responsible place ever since.
    We will resume debate, but I will let the hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa know that statements by members will start in a few minutes, so she will have about three minutes to get under way for her 10-minute remarks. The remaining time, of course, will be available to her when the House next resumes debate on the question.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the Chief Government Whip, for his comments and sharing his time.
    It is an honour and privilege to rise in the House to talk about economic action plan 2015, a budget that provides a low-tax plan and that will continue to provide jobs, growth and security for all Canadians.
    Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Canadians from coast to coast to coast have seen the creation of over 1.2 million net new, full-time and well-paying private sector jobs since the depths of the great recession. Since being given the clear mandate of responsible spending, job creation and lowering taxes in 2006, our government has delivered on the promise of making life more affordable for all Canadians. Economic action plan 2015 builds on this mandate and ensures that Canadians are the direct recipients of sensible economic measures that will help them save money and improve their everyday lives.
    Moreover, this budget also supports the growth and development of job-creating businesses. I am happy to use my time today to outline just a few of the many proposed sensible and effective measures that are going to specifically benefit the lives of all Canadians and businesses while fulfilling our promise of a balanced budget.
    This year's budget would build on our low-tax record, with our government proposing measures like the new family tax cut. This tax cut would provide a federal non-refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 for couples with children under 18 years of age. This budget would also provide enhancements to the universal child care benefit by adding an increased benefit of $160 per month for children under six years old or a benefit of $60 a month for children aged six through 17. In fact, when we factor in all of these money-saving measures, this year a two-income family of four would save approximately $6,600 in taxes. That $6,600 in savings would stay in the pockets of Canadian families and allow them to use their hard-earned funds on what matters most to them.
    The hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa will have seven minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on the question.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Eastern Quebec Port Facilities

    Mr. Speaker, the government issued a simple press release last Friday evening to announce that it was going to divest itself of 25 ports in eastern Quebec. In most cases, this is fundamental infrastructure that is at the heart of the communities' history and economic activity.
    The mayors in my region, who lament the fact that the federal government announced this under the radar, are concerned that they do not have all the details they need to properly prepare themselves. They are wondering how the municipalities are going to cover these expenses, when even the federal government is saying that it does not have the means to do so. The threat of privatization or the complete abandonment of these port facilities is also hanging over their heads.
    What the mayors are asking for is simple: the government must upgrade these ports and provide the communities the financial support they need to be able to acquire and operate the facilities instead of making them foot the bill for infrastructure that has been neglected by the federal government.

  (1400)  

[English]

Railway Safety Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week is Railway Safety Week. Every year in Canada, approximately 300 collisions occur at railway crossings. Virtually all of these could be avoided. The goal of Railway Safety Week is to give awareness to Canadians in order to prevent collisions between trains and motor vehicles.
     Rail safety is of the utmost importance to me. Ensuring that our families and our communities remain safe is something for which I passionately advocate. In fact, my private member's bill, Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property), which has recently passed the committee stage, seeks to give additional powers to the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors so they may intervene when required in order to better ensure the safety of citizens, property and communities.
    I am confident the bill will make a positive change, and I encourage all Canadians to become involved and promote rail safety. One injury or fatality is one too many.

Railway Safety

    Mr. Speaker, people in my riding of York South—Weston are still concerned about rail safety. Since the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic in 2013, little has changed, while the volume of explosive crude oil transported through Weston, Mount Dennis and the Junction neighbourhoods has continued to grow.
    The Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board have both scolded Transport Canada for its lack of attention to rail safety, while the government cut its budget.
     This winter's oil train wrecks in northern Ontario add to the growing list of wrecks all over North America. The resulting fireballs are from the newer, supposedly safer 1232 tankers. They were travelling at speeds much lower than the minister's new limit and they still burst into flames.
     The attitude of the government, that we should just pray that train wrecks do not happen in a populated area, is not calming the fears of the residents of York South—Weston or anywhere.
     A Toronto group of hard working volunteers called, Safe Rail Communities, has taken up the cause, and will be testifying before the transportation committee this afternoon. Let us hope the government is listening.

World Immunization Week

    Mr. Speaker, last Friday, I was honoured to welcome the Minister of Veterans Affairs to my beautiful riding of Kelowna—Lake Country.
     As Rotarians, the minister and I started our day off at the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary Club, one of the many clubs across Canada that partner with government to make life better for people locally and globally. One of those steadfast partners is the Canadian government, which has been, and remains, a global leader with Rotary International and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
     April 24 to 30 is World Immunization Week and Rotary International is calling on all countries to “Close the Immunization Gap".
     It takes less than a dollar to vaccinate a child against polio. Although the world is 99% of the way there, one in five children still misses out. In 2013, an estimated 21.8 million infants did not receive lifesaving vaccines.
     We have a narrow window of opportunity to close the gap. I encourage all members in the House and everyone to support their local rotary clubs and Rotary International and help reach the goal to end polio now.

Christine Stewart

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate a life of service. Christine Stewart passed away last Saturday. She dedicated her life to her family and to social service, as a nurse, school board trustee, tireless volunteer involved in charities, arts bodies, international development, co-founder of NGOs whose names are, as such, a reflection of her whole life: “Horizons of Friendship” and “Northumberland Fare Share Food Bank”.
     She invested her passion as a Liberal MP for the riding of Northumberland, which she proudly represented from 1988 to 2000.
     As secretary of state, she improved Canadian involvement in Latin America and Africa. As minister of the environment, Christine Stewart negotiated and signed the Kyoto protocol, improved the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
    After leaving politics, Christine never stopped her life of service. She will be deeply missed.

  (1405)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government believes that parents know what is best for their children. That is why we are increasing the child care expense deduction to $8,000, increasing the universal child care benefit to $1,920 annually for children under age 6, and expanding it to $720 annually for children aged 6 to 17.
    Policy is much more than numbers on paper. The right policy has an important human dimension, as I learned from one of my constituents. Ms. Mackenzie Danard, from Swan River, Manitoba, wrote me a letter to say, “This helps a lot for single parents. Thank you for helping us raise our children”.
    Our government is delivering support directly to families like Mackenzie's. The Liberals and the New Democrats want to take that money away from Mackenzie and families like hers. That is shameful.

[Translation]

Air Force Appreciation Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Air Force Appreciation Day. This is an important day for me as the Bagotville military base is in my riding. I constantly see what a great contribution air force members and their families make to communities across Canada.
    During my term in office, I have had the pleasure of forging strong ties with senior air force officials, officers at Bagotville, members of the air force and civilian personnel who support our military members.
    I would first like to thank the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin. In addition to the remarkable work he has done in every position he has held, he has played a crucial role in ensuring that the mental health issues of our forces are no longer as taboo as they were in the past.
    It has also been an honour to regularly meet with Colonels Paul Prévost, Sylvain Ménard and Érick Simoneau and to see how they support members of the forces and their families through difficult times and also how they serve the community where they are based.
    I have such an appreciation for so many officers and members of the air force in Bagotville that I cannot name them all. Please know that I am proud of your efforts and proud to represent you in Ottawa.

[English]

Air Force Appreciation Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Air Force Appreciation Day on Parliament Hill, and I am pleased to honour my constituent, retired Chief Warrant Officer Reginald Daws.
    Reg joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1955 and served with distinction during his 36-year career in postings across Canada, including at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering in Chilliwack. He has been a member of the RCAF Association for over 20 years. Reg never misses a ceremony at our local cenotaph, and he has been instrumental in preserving the memory of the fallen, particularly with our youth.
    For his leadership abilities, people skills and dedication, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 2013. Today, Reg will be honoured with the Len Baldock Memorial Award, which recognizes skill, enthusiasm, direction and leadership in association activities above the ordinary.
    I invite all members to join with me to congratulate Reginald Daws and salute all Canadian Air Force personnel, past and present, for their outstanding service to Canada.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, my constituents of Red Deer know that it is only our Conservative government that will lower taxes for the middle class.
     Middle-class families in my riding are looking forward to receiving the benefits from the family tax cut and the enhanced universal child care benefit. These benefits will leave 100% of families with kids with more money in their pockets.
    The Liberals and the NDP would take this away and raise taxes on middle-class families, raise taxes on middle-class seniors and raise taxes on middle-class consumers. That is their plan for the middle class.
    Our government's plan is for reducing taxes for the middle class.

National Day of Mourning

    Mr. Speaker, today, in Hamilton and in communities across Canada, workers are marking the National Day of Mourning for workers injured and killed on the job, and those who have become ill because of their workplace.
    The National Day of Mourning is not only a time of reflection and remembrance, it is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the goal of keeping workers safe at their jobs. Every day, four workers die on the job and each year another one million are injured. Such statistics are clearly unacceptable, but equally staggering is the fact that one in seven young workers is injured on the job. These are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.
    Canadian workers lose their lives because workplace safety is thrown out of the window in the interest of the bottom line. When workers are killed, it is far too often because they have been pressured into doing unsafe work.
    I would close with one of the labour movement's most important mottos: an injury to one is an injury to all.

  (1410)  

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, residents of my riding and across all of British Columbia are concerned about the crime epidemic in Surrey. That is why our Conservative government has taken strong action to increase front-line RCMP officers in our communities. We have passed more than 30 new measures to combat crime and we have made the youth gang prevention fund a permanent program.
    Unfortunately, the Liberals and the New Democrats have opposed and obstructed us every step of the way. The Liberals' solution to drug-fuelled gang warfare is to make marijuana easier for all children to buy and smoke.
    British Columbians know that it is only the Prime Minister and this Conservative government who can be trusted to protect them from violent crime.

Workplace Safety

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in solidarity with working Canadians who gather in places like Kapuskasing, Elliot Lake and AOK First Nation because no one deserves to die at work, which is what happens to an average of four people in our country every day.
     Workers die from traumatic injuries sustained on the job, occupational diseases and even violence in the workplace. That does not include individuals who die from work-related conditions and diseases that go unreported.
    While the number of workplace-related deaths has grown in Canada, other OECD countries have seen their numbers go down. Canada has laws for criminal responsibility in some cases of occupational death, but they are so rarely applied that there is no incentive for employers to address dangerous working conditions. We are trading the safety of our workplace for profits. However, for families who have lost loved ones, there is no amount that can provide comfort.
    While so many workers needlessly lose their lives year after year, we have to ask ourselves: How many men, women and teenagers have to die before governments finally take action?

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Finance tabled a balanced budget in this House. Now that we have balanced our budget, we would help hard-working Canadian families balance theirs through our new family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit. These measures would benefit 100% of families with children, leaving every family with more money in its pocket to spend on its priorities.
    Sadly, the Liberals and the the New Democrats have a different plan, and it is a simple one. They want higher taxes on middle-class families, higher taxes on middle-class seniors and higher taxes on middle-class consumers so those parties can afford their plans to expand their control on the finances of Canadian families. They philosophically believe that government is better suited to handle the finances of Canadian families than the hard-working people of Canada.
    That is the wrong plan for hard-working Canadian families. That is why our Conservative government is reducing taxes on the middle class.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, our government's top priority is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Our plan is working.
     Since the depths of the global economic downturn, over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created, overwhelmingly full-time, well paying and in the private sector. Indeed, Canada has had one of the best job creation records in the G7 over the recovery.
    Economic action plan 2015 builds on the government's plan for jobs and growth by supporting the manufacturing sector, helping small business and entrepreneurs, training a highly skilled workforce, investing in infrastructure, growing trade and expanding markets. The list goes on.
    My constituents in Richmond Hill and, indeed, all Canadians know that our government is the only one they can trust to cut taxes and put money back in their pockets. They cannot afford the Liberal and the NDP plan that would raise taxes on middle-class families, on middle-class seniors, on middle-class consumers and on small businesses.

National Day of Mourning

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the entire Liberal caucus, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to all families who have been affected by death or injury in the workplace. Their sacrifice and that of all their families must serve as a lesson to us all.
    The National Day of Mourning is held on April 28 every year to remember those who have suffered and died on the job, and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces. Today, there is pronounced sadness and, at the same time, frustration that needless injuries and deaths can continue to occur as a result of not enacting the right law or not doing a good enough job enforcing the laws that exist.
    The April 28 monuments are often inscribed with the words “Fight for the Living, Mourn for the Dead”. Today is the day we honour the dead, but also a day to remind us that, as parliamentarians, we have a never-ending obligation to make workplaces safer by enacting and enforcing laws that prevent workplace injury, illness and death.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

National Day of Mourning

    Mr. Speaker, today we commemorate the National Day of Mourning.
    Statistics show that today, three people—fathers and mothers—will go to work and will not return home. In 2013, 902 people died on the job, thousands of others were involved in workplace accidents, and even more people developed occupational illnesses. These statistics are alarming and disturbing. Lives and families are ruined.
    That is why, on this National Day of Mourning, we pay tribute to these workers and we reiterate our commitment to protecting each and every one of them. The NDP is committed to improving workplace safety and to reducing the number of accidents.
    On this day of remembrance, and each and every day, we will fight to ensure that every worker has the right to safe working conditions. We will not forget them. No one should lose their life while trying to earn a living.

[English]

National Day of Mourning

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to mark the National Day of Mourning and pay tribute to those who have been killed, injured, or suffered illness as a result of work-related incidents.
    One of the best ways we can recognize those who have been affected by these incidents is to do everything in our power to protect Canadians from workplace hazards and prevent further accidents, illnesses, and deaths. Although there has been a decrease in fatalities from the previous year, one fatality is one too many.
    Our government works with our partners and stakeholders to educate employees about their health and safety rights, responsibilities, and preventive measures. We develop and share tools and best practices with employers and workers to help them make informed decisions on how best to ensure workplace safety.
    All Canadians deserve to return home safe and sound every day.

National Day of Mourning

    Following discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, I understand that there is an agreement to observe a moment of silence to commemorate the National Day of Mourning and to honour the memory of workers killed or injured at work.

[Translation]

    I invite hon. members to rise.
    [A moment of silence observed.]

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, today, the Auditor General confirmed that the Conservatives are really bad managers. In fact, the Minister of Finance does not even evaluate the tax measures he puts in place. Those measures are just electoral goodies for the Conservative voter base, period. The Conservatives have no idea how much these measures will cost and they do not analyze the results. The finance minister said again this week that he does not even know whether the measures will create jobs.
     Why is the Prime Minister insisting on giving gifts to the wealthiest Canadians when the Auditor General has once again proven that the Conservatives do not even know what they are doing?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is not what the Auditor General said. He said that he found that Finance Canada does a good job of analyzing new tax measures and monitoring existing ones.

[English]

    The Auditor General has asked for an additional two years of data to be published in addition to the two years we have already published. That is a recommendation we will accept.
     What we do not accept is the premise of the NDP that somehow giving people more of their own money is taking something away from Canadians. This is people's own money. We want to make sure more of it stays in their pockets and creates jobs and economic growth.
    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that 85% of Canadians do not benefit from it. He is taking from the poor to give to the rich.
    The Auditor General just slammed the Conservatives for failing to be transparent with Canadians about billions of dollars in tax giveaways. Conservatives have introduced dozens of loopholes and boutique tax credits that help the wealthiest few, but they refuse to give even basic information about precisely who benefits and how much the giveaways cost.
    Does the Prime Minister really think he can hide the cost of his gifts to the wealthy few? Who does he think he is, Paul Martin?
    Mr. Speaker, obviously I am not. If I were Paul Martin, the NDP would be supporting me.
    The Auditor General actually said he found that Finance Canada does a good job of analyzing new tax measures and monitoring existing ones. He has asked for an additional two years of data in addition to the two years we already publish and, of course, Finance Canada has accepted that recommendation.
     What we will not accept is the NDP wanting to take away tax-free savings accounts and wanting to take away universal child care benefits. These are for all Canadians.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, he is right. Paul Martin would put up the same program as he. The only problem is that, after 150 years of Conservative and Liberal incompetence, Canadians deserve real change.
    The last time we were in the House, the Prime Minister claimed that, before he appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate, Duffy signed a declaration swearing that he was a resident of P.E.I. The only problem is that there is nothing in that declaration about that. So here is the problem: The Prime Minister says Duffy signed it before being named; it is not true. Can the Prime Minister please tell Canadians which declaration he was referring us to, and when exactly did Mike Duffy sign it?
    Mr. Speaker, just to reply to that earlier comment by the leader of the NDP, when it comes to what we have done to give 11 million Canadians tax-free savings accounts, to increase the guaranteed income supplement, to create the universal child care benefit, to allow income-splitting for seniors and for families, and to give a 2% tax cut to the GST, I know that the NDP wants to take those things away, but that is not the kind of change Canadians are looking for.
    Mr. Speaker, Mike who? It is Mike Duffy. Mike Duffy is not the only longtime Ottawa resident that the Prime Minister appointed to represent Atlantic Canada. Carolyn Stewart Olsen not only lived in Ottawa; she worked side-by-side with the Prime Minister day in and day out as his press secretary. She was his communications director and, frankly, his closest political confidant. Therefore how is it possible that the Prime Minister thought Carolyn Stewart Olsen actually lived in New Brunswick, when she was showing up to work for him here in Ottawa every single day?
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly would not accept by any means the premise of that question. What I would say is what is very clear, that Mr. Duffy's actions are before the court. The government has been assisting the RCMP in its investigation and the Crown in its presentation of the case. Those matters are before the court. We will let the court adjudicate those matters.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Liberal and Conservative senators are trying to block the internal audit report regarding their places of residence.
    Senators do not want Canadians to know what they found out about their own colleagues. They are protecting each other, and the Prime Minister is playing along. There is a Conservative majority in the Senate.
    Where is the internal audit report?

  (1425)  

[English]

    Will the Prime Minister stand up and demand that his Conservative senators, who are his caucus colleagues, make this report public?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition knows full well that that is a Senate matter. It is not a House or government matter. Mr. Duffy's case is now before the courts, and we are going to let them do their job.

[English]

Government Advertising

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians watching the hockey playoffs are being bombarded with millions of dollars of wasteful, partisan government ads for which they are paying. As we have seen time and time again, the Conservative government has the wrong priorities, and here is another example.
    Why is the Prime Minister spending more than twice as much on budget ads as he is on young entrepreneurs?
    Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to see the support of Futurpreneur Canada for the budget. I would urge the hon. leader of the Liberal Party to listen to it.
    The reality, of course, is that the things we are doing for Canadians, such as the tax benefits that go to seniors and to families, are very good for all Canadians. We want to be sure that all Canadians benefit.
    I know that the Liberal Party is opposed to these things and wants to take them away, but the reality is that these are benefits available to Canadians, and we want to make sure Canadians get them.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is about to waste millions more taxpayer dollars on advertising in praise of its latest budget. Public money should serve the people's interests, not the Conservative Party's interests.
    Can the Prime Minister explain why he is spending $17 million of our money on partisan advertising when he could have created 5,000 more jobs for our young people this summer?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan provides many benefits to middle-class consumers, families, seniors and women, as well as to small and medium-sized businesses.
    I am well aware that the Liberal Party despises benefits and tax cuts for the middle class, but those benefits are available, and we want to make sure people can get them.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, these are the answers of an out of touch, decade-old government. It is hard to imagine the Prime Minister supporting these measures back in 2006. He has changed.
    Why is he spending $17 million on budget ads this year? Why not invest that into the Canada summer jobs program and put 5,000 young people to work this summer, as they want to do?
    Mr. Speaker, here is a party, the Liberal Party, that has opposed tax-free savings accounts for ordinary Canadians. The Liberal Party has opposed the increase in the guaranteed income supplement for Canadians. It is a party that has opposed the universal child care benefit, income splitting for seniors and for families, and other tax credits for Canadian families. We know who is out of touch.
    On this side of the House, we are helping families, seniors, and the middle class, and they can keep voting against them all they want.

[Translation]

Nepal

    Mr. Speaker, we watch helplessly as the death toll in Nepal rises by the hour. Everyone needs help immediately, including our fellow citizens who are stuck there.
    Apparently Canadians there are getting better service from the American and French governments than from our own.
    Why is Canada not working with those countries and our other partners to coordinate help for Canadians in Nepal?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is certainly not the case. First of all, there has never been a Canadian embassy in Nepal. That being said, we already have eight additional staff members on the ground, who arrived yesterday, and there are six more on their way. We are working with our allies, other countries.
     I can indicate to the hon. member that every single effort will be made to assist Canadians in that part of the world.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course, our deepest condolences go to the people of Nepal as they deal with the devastation of this earthquake, but Canadians stranded in Nepal need help too. They want to return to Canada. They are being told that the Canadian transport plane will take them back to New Delhi, and they will be left, at that point, to find flights home on their own.
    Will the government provide Canadians evacuated to neighbouring countries with the further emergency consular assistance they need until they can return home?
    Mr. Speaker, the C-17 Globemaster, which has already been deployed, will be available to evacuate Canadians from Kathmandu. That is the first priority.
    I can tell the member as well that a second C-17 will be made available in the coming days to get Canadians, again, out of Nepal.
    That being said, a consular service has been established at the American Club in central Kathmandu and will make every effort to assist Canadians.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, first nations have worse health outcomes than other Canadians, yet the current Conservative government has shown total disregard for this fact.
    The Auditor General revealed this morning that first nations in remote communities are being forced to seek health care from substandard clinics with undertrained staff. The government is not even trying to allocate services based on need or to make sure that first nations have the same care as other Canadians.
    The question is, why does the current government think it is okay to treat first nations in a substandard way?
    Mr. Speaker, that is actually not what the Auditor General said, but I do thank him for the work he did, and I had a chance to meet with him to describe the comprehensive nature of the responses to his audit.
    It is important that Canadians know that we have actually increased funding on first nations for health by 31%, and our number one priority is making sure that aboriginal Canadians have access to health care providers. Nurses on first nations are highly educated and qualified individuals, and they are a big part of the community. We are increasing our efforts so that nurses meet public service requirements, but we are also encouraging more practitioners to work in remote first nations by having Canada student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses. We have also launched a nurse recruitment and retention strategy, and I am pleased to say that we have had over 250 applications since February. We are well on our way to addressing all of the issues the Auditor General--
    The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this government's record is simply indefensible.
    The Auditor General made it clear that first nations in remote communities have no choice but to seek care in substandard clinics from nurses who lack training.
    One of those communities did not get a visit from a health specialist for two years because of a septic system failure that was never repaired. Two years. That is crazy.
    Why are the Conservatives abandoning remote communities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me just explain to the member how access to health care providers on remote first nations works.
    First of all, we have over 734 aboriginal health facilities on first nations. We are investing over $30 million toward the maintenance of these facilities, and we are constantly working with first nations to ensure that they are maintained. In fact, we have built five brand new facilities in the last three years. We also have Telehealth available. If any first nation aboriginal cannot get access to the health care they need, we are willing, of course, and always have the opportunity, to use emergency medical evacuation at no cost to the first nation.

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, there is another thing we have learned from the Auditor General's report: last year, 1,500 offenders were released directly into communities in Canada without any rehabilitation. Not only are offenders entitled to rehabilitation, but we all know how beneficial social reintegration is for public safety.
    Will the minister listen to the repeated recommendations made by the Auditor General and the Correctional Investigator and prioritize the effective, safe reintegration of offenders into our society?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that we welcome the Auditor General's recommendations and we share his point of view.
    Our government has established truth in sentencing measures, which means that offenders serve their sentences behind bars, and that keeps Canadians safe. While they are serving their sentences, offenders can access more rehabilitation programs than in the past. Nearly 95% of offenders have access to such programs.
    We will continue to make the safety of our communities a priority.

  (1435)  

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, today's Auditor General's report on the National Defence ombudsman is extremely troubling. The report reveals serious mismanagement and ethical breaches within the office. According to the Auditor General, the defence department knew about many of these problems but failed to fully investigate.
    The ombudsman's office is a vital resource for soldiers and their families to get redress. Can the Minister of National Defence explain why his department allowed this toxic work environment to exist, and will he commit to proper monitoring of the ombudsman's office to ensure that this cannot happen again?
    Mr. Speaker, all of these oversight bodies, like ombudsmen, operate in a quasi-independent fashion, but I want to thank the Auditor General for getting to the bottom of this completely unacceptable abuse of both public servants and tax dollars. We accept all of his recommendations without reservation. Specific measures are already being taken, including a new agreement to better manage employees and processes for better financial accountability.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, a new report confirms yet again that fewer and fewer unemployed workers are getting employment insurance when they need it.
    The Conservative budget took billions of dollars from the employment insurance fund, which, let us not forget, is funded solely by employees and employers. Why did the government raid the fund? It did so in order to offer income splitting to the wealthiest Canadians and allow them to shelter more money in their TFSAs.
    Here is the real question: Why are the Conservatives using employment insurance contributions to fatten the wallets of the wealthiest Canadians instead of helping the 1.3 million unemployed Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the facts in the hon. member's question are absolutely false.
    Our policy, as described in the budget, seeks to balance the employment insurance account in the medium term: there was a deficit in the account during the recession and now we are paying down that deficit. What is more, in two years, we are going to reduce the contributions by 21%, which will create jobs for the employees and leave more money in their pockets.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians who lose their jobs through no fault of their own expect the EI system to help, because that is what it is supposed to do, but even with so many Canadians out of work, 1.3 million at last count, access to EI benefits is at historic lows. Two-thirds of unemployed Canadians are denied support.
    When so many are struggling to make ends meet, how can the Conservatives justify giving handouts to the wealthy few ahead of helping those who really need it?
    The policy laid out in the budget is for the employment insurance account to balance over the medium term. It was in a deficit during the recession. That money is now being paid back. We are cutting employment insurance premiums for both employees and employers by 21% in 2017. That will create jobs by making it less expensive to hire and will leave more money in the pockets of people who work.
    The NDP and Liberals want to spend billions on a 45-day work year, where people would only work 45 days, and then they would be on EI for the rest of the year. That would cost billions and kill jobs. That is why we reject it.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, a 45-day work year sounds like the Minister of Finance.
    The Prime Minister once lectured the UN, saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.
    That could have actually been the title of the Auditor General's report that said that the Conservatives are failing on drug safety, failing on first nations health care, and failing even to measure the cost to taxpayers of billions of dollars in tax handouts.
    Now I understand why, after the bad week the Minister of Finance had, he has been benched. Is there anybody over there willing to take some responsibility for the mess they are making, or are they leaving that to future generations to clean up?
    Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member what the Auditor General said:
    We found that Finance Canada does a good job of analyzing new tax measures and of monitoring existing ones.
     I remind the member that those tax measures are measures like income-splitting for families, pension income-splitting for seniors. Those are tax measures that are putting money back into the pockets of Canadians.
    We know that the New Democratic Party would tax middle-class Canadians. It would tax middle-class seniors. We are not going to let that happen. Canadians know they are better off with this Conservative government.

  (1440)  

Tourism

    Mr. Speaker, the government has spent nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars on partisan ads, yet last week's budget included no new money to help promote Canada as a tourism destination in the U.S. Instead, after years of cuts and neglect, the budget included only a vague commitment to consult with important stakeholders.
    Hundreds of thousands of middle-class Canadians depend on our tourism industry, yet the government still has no plan. Can the minister tell the House how much money he has set aside to promote Canada in the U.S., or does Canada's action plan only include partisan advertising?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his question, and I would like to welcome him back to the House.
    Appreciating that he has just recently returned, there are a few things I would like to bring to his attention and to the members opposite.
     Our government is extremely proud of the concrete actions it has taken to support Canada's tourism industry. In fact, he might be interested in knowing that the investments we are making in the Canadian Tourism Commission are paying off. Since last January 2014, overnight trips to Canada have increased 10.8% over last year. Where is that coming from? That is coming from the United States. Budget 2015 proposes additional support to the CTC to embark on a new marketing program in the United States, in partnership with the tourism industry.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, the minister should not be proud. He should be embarrassed. Quite frankly, we spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars on partisan advertising, totalling three-quarters of a billion dollars. This is something the Prime Minister needs to kind of get his head around. That is a phenomenal amount of advertising.
    Let me ask the Prime Minister this: How much advertising has been done to advertise the fact that the Conservative government has increased the age of retirement from 65 to 67? That is going to affect millions of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, after the Liberal ad scam, that party has no credibility talking about government advertising.
    We are advertising the family tax cut, which will save up to $2,000 through income splitting. We are advertising the Prime Minister's increased universal child care benefit, which pays almost $2,000 for kids under six and $720 for kids six through 17.
    Here is the difference: Liberals use government advertising to give money to themselves; we use government advertising to give money back to Canadian taxpayers.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, the Bank of Canada says housing prices are overvalued by up to 30%. The bank cites elevated risks of a housing correction in Alberta, Toronto, and Vancouver and warns that if that happened in these markets simultaneously, “the spillover effects to the rest of the economy could be significant”. These are serious risks facing our economy and housing markets. That is why the government was advised to increase the contingency reserve.
    Why did the Conservatives actually ignore that advice and raid the reserve? Was it just to cobble up an illusory surplus on the eve of an election?
    Mr. Speaker, in recent years the government has taken action to ensure long-term stability of the housing market and to reduce taxpayers' exposure. These actions have helped ensure that Canada's housing market remains relatively strong. We will continue to monitor the housing market closely.
    Our government is lowering taxes for taxpayers. We are providing benefits directly to families and are creating jobs for families to make sure they can make ends meet. We are doing all we can to keep money in the pockets of Canadians. We know that party would take that away from Canadians.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, the government's complacency when it comes to aviation safety is troubling.
     The Transportation Safety Board of Canada report released yesterday is very clear: the current approach to oversight is not enough to address unsafe practices and conditions. If Transport Canada does not adopt an approach that combines audits and inspections, the risk of accidents may increase.
    The government has cut the transportation safety budget by more than 20%. When is it going to take Canadians' safety seriously?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all we want to thank the Transportation Safety Board for its report wherein it found that the Buffalo Airways airline was found to not be following the rules. We find this to be absolutely unacceptable.
    Safety management systems are internationally known as the gold standard. That is what we employ here in Canada. In 2012, Transport Canada developed a civil aviation action plan to ensure that oversight was as robust as needed for its mandate. We will continue to monitor the implementation of these changes that Transport Canada is bringing about, and we will not hesitate to use every tool that we have in order to ensure that Transport Canada is carrying out the mandate.
    Mr. Speaker, this is another troubling TSB report on the government's failure on air safety. The report is clear that the current approach to oversight is at risk of failing to address unsafe practices and conditions, and that if Transport Canada does not adopt a balanced approach that combines inspections with audits the risk of accidents may increase.
    When will the minister stop cutting transport safety and start ensuring the safety of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, as I previously mentioned in the answer before, in 2002 the department created a civil aviation action plan in order to respond to the critique of the report of the Auditor General that spring.
    We are monitoring the carrying out and implementation of this action plan. There is also parliamentary committee oversight. As I stated already, we will use every tool we have to ensure that Transport Canada is fulfilling its mandate with respect to oversight of civil aviation.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the man the Prime Minister chose as his parliamentary secretary, his spokesperson on ethics, is now facing possible jail time after violating the Elections Act, yet at every step, despite all of the accusations, the charges, and the investigation, the Prime Minister staunchly defended him.
    Why did the Prime Minister insist on Del Mastro's innocence, or was this just the standard Conservative practice of denying everything—
    Order, please. I think we may have strayed away from government business on this particular question.
    The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, good governance starts with obeying the law. That is why the question is pertinent.
    Election fraud is a direct attack on our democracy because it takes away the people's choice of government. Unfortunately, such fraud lies at the very heart of this Prime Minister's administration.
    Today, the former parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister is facing serious charges. After the in and out scandal, after the robocalls, after the expenses of another Conservative minister, are the Conservatives going to respect Canadians and—
    The hon. member for Wetaskiwin.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, we know Canadians cannot afford the reckless plans of the NDP and the Liberals. We know the NDP and Liberals would hike taxes on middle-class families, middle-class consumers, and middle-class businesses. Whether they want to purchase a new home or car, start a new business or save for their retirement, Canadians have many reasons to save at every stage of life. Can the Minister of State for Finance tell this House what the Conservative government is doing to help Canadians save for their own priorities?
    Mr. Speaker, that is why our Conservative government introduced the tax-free savings account. Nearly 11 million Canadians have opened a tax-free savings account. Of those who have maximized their tax-free savings account, 60% earn under $60,000 a year. Budget 2015, provides Canadians with a greater opportunity to save on a tax-free basis. We know that the Liberals and the New Democrats would take that away and raise taxes. We will not let that happen.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, it has become a habit for the Conservatives. They deliberately refuse to keep their promises.
    In the case of thalidomide victims, they do not have the right to create false hope. As a result of an NDP motion, the House unanimously voted to provide financial compensation. However, five months later there is nothing in the budget. Not only is Health Canada not releasing its assistance plan to the public, but it is even refusing to provide the details to thalidomide victims.
    When will the minister finally treat these victims with dignity?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are working closely with TVAC, the organization. It was always our understanding after we announced the historic assistance to cover the survivors' needs that we would be working with the organization on the tax-free, ongoing yearly support. We have already, obviously, and as identified by the organization, given a cheque of $125,000 to every individual in TVAC so that they can deal with any urgent needs immediately.
    Mr. Speaker, the government's behaviour is simply inexcusable. Five months after the House voted unanimously to provide thalidomide survivors with full support the Conservatives have offered them nothing but half measures and broken promises. Survivors need financial certainty now. They deserve to know now that their needs will be met, but the government is flatly refusing to answer their questions and there is no sign of the annual compensation the government promised.
    Why are the Conservatives failing to keep their promise? Will the minister announce today that she will fully implement the program approved by all of us in the House?
    Mr. Speaker, we announced historic assistance to cover survivors' needs and that includes up to $180 million that will be distributed throughout the survivors, until every last living survivor is taken care of. We have already given each survivor $125,000 tax-free cash. They received that payment already to get them through the next year. We also have $168 million tax-free, ongoing yearly support, and in addition, the extraordinary medical assistance fund.
    Right now, Health Canada is working out the particular issues around dealing with a third party administrator and working out details of the yearly compensation.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, a lot of talk, but no action.
    The Vancouver oil spill was a wake-up call, and it is not just Canadians who are ringing the alarm bell. Newly released documents show that U.S. officials are worried. A briefing note for Washington state's governor said Canada's oil spill response is probably a couple of decades behind the system in place in Washington state and that our weaker standards could cost Washington alone billions of dollars in harm.
    Will the Conservatives stop making excuses and start protecting our coasts?
    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, we are pursuing the most ambitious trade agenda that Canada has ever seen. However, we are also taking it very seriously that in order to deliver our goods to the world we have to make sure that we are ready for the increase in traffic. That is why we have embarked upon a world-class tanker safety system. We have made significant investments. We have worked with many partners in British Columbia to deliver on these promises.
    These are actions. These are real, and that is very contrary to what the party over there does, making empty promises it can never deliver on.
    Mr. Speaker, they closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. What is the minister talking about when she tells us that they made investments?
    They say that we have a world-class oil spill response system. They forgot to give us the year, 1970. Let us try to get something that corresponds to 2015.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the animation from the opposite side of the House. However, the reality is this. We have increased Coast Guard funding by 27%. That is one thing this government has done.
    I can also indicate that we are ensuring that there is enough money to pay in a polluter pay principle to ensure that spills can be dealt with in an effective manner.
    We have expanded the national aerial surveillance program by 55% to ensure that we have a watchful eye on tankers moving through Canadian waters. We are adopting area response plans. These are real things, not the fantasies of the NDP.

  (1455)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today the Auditor General outlined the government's total failure to provide access to quality health care for first nations. According to the Auditor General, nursing stations in first nations communities are in poor repair and are chronically understaffed. The health care workers lack the very training mandated by Health Canada to work in these communities. The government has known many of these issues since 2010 and done nothing. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, I had a chance to meet with the Auditor General to assure him that we are working on every single issue that he has raised in his report. Our number one priority is to make sure that aboriginal people on first nations have access to health care providers. That is where our nurses come in. Nurses on first nations are all highly educated, qualified individuals, and a big part of the community. We are working to make sure that they are all trained with the additional credentials that they may need to work out of scope in terms of their scope of practice.
    In addition, we need to encourage more people to come to work on first nations. We have our Canada student loan forgiveness and we have a new nurse recruitment strategy.

Correctional Service of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General today revealed that the Conservatives are releasing hundreds of inmates from prisons directly into the community, before rehabilitation and safe integration programs are even completed. The AG said that 1,500 offenders were released directly into the community from medium and maximum security prisons last year without the full benefit of a gradual re-entry program into society or proper supervision.
    I ask the Conservatives: why are they gutting programs that ensure the safety of Canadian communities?
    Mr. Speaker, this question is coming from a party that did not want to cut the old age security for inmates.
    Let me reassure the member that we agree with the Auditor General that “if you do the crime, you do the time”. I am pleased that the Auditor General found that our truth in sentencing measures have worked, because more prisoners are staying behind bars for a greater portion of their sentence, where they can have rehabilitation and where we can make sure that our communities are safer.
    We will make sure that Correctional Services Canada has accepted the recommendation of the Auditor General and are working to address some issues raised by the Auditor General. However, let us be sure that we will keep our communities safer.

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, they have done it again. The minister of the Canada Revenue Agency has managed to fail at one of the most basic functions of government. This time, the CRA managed to create mass confusion about when the tax filing deadline actually is and now, for the second year in a row, has been forced to extend the filing deadline.
    Will the minister explain how this latest failure occurred, and take some responsibility for the sorry state of affairs at the CRA?
    Mr. Speaker, due to a CRA error, an incorrect notification was sent around to tax preparers on Friday, indicating that the CRA filing deadline is May 5.
     Our government has made it clear that providing this incorrect information was unacceptable. Therefore, I have directed my officials to ensure that no Canadians are penalized for the CRA's error. Canadians who file their taxes before May 5 will not face any penalties.
     Our government remains committed to ensuring a fair tax system for all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians no longer know what to make of this agency.
    The Canada Revenue Agency has dropped the ball so many times that it should be awarded the Jerry Lewis prize. First, it lost personal data and sent envelopes chock full of personal information to the wrong people. Now a press release has spawned total confusion among taxpayers by mistakenly extending the deadline for filing tax returns.
    My question is simple: is anyone at the controls?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, our priority is to ensure that Canadians are not negatively affected by the unacceptable, incorrect information sent out by the CRA. As such, I have directed my officials to ensure that Canadians will have until May 5 to file their taxes. This is what Canadians would expect.
     Our government will not tolerate Canadians paying a price for a CRA mistake. That is why these actions have been taken in the interest of fairness to all taxpayers.

  (1500)  

Nepal

    Mr. Speaker, the loss of life that has occurred in Nepal and the surrounding region is devastating. This government has acted swiftly, deploying additional consular staff and pledging $5 million in humanitarian aid.
    Can the Minister of National Defence update the House on further resources deployed in response to this disaster?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to indicate to the House that the Canadian Armed Forces dispatched on Sunday a C-17 Globemaster with some 40 personnel and an enormous amount of equipment, including an ambulance, rescue equipment, humanitarian supplies, tents, et cetera, to Kathmandu. We hope that it will be arriving tomorrow, Canadian time.
    Earlier today, we dispatched a second Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 bound for Nepal. Both of these airplanes will be available to help bring Canadians out of Nepal and back into New Delhi.
    Canadians are acting, and I want to thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, many Canadians are stuck in Nepal, where they are exposed to significant risks.
    Denis Prud'homme, a Canadian tourist in Kathmandu, said, “The American embassy is doing an excellent job, but we haven't heard anything from our fine government...We aren't doing very well on the world stage when it comes to helping to Canadian nationals caught in disasters.”
    The minister can say whatever he wants, but frankly, the government has been slow to react.
    Where is the plan to bring Canadians back to Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is completely wrong and unfair with respect to the Canadian efforts in that part of the world.
    We just heard from my colleague, the Minister of National Defence. In addition to that, we are sending hundreds of emergency travel documents to assist Canadians who may need them. We have consular services established at the American Club in Kathmandu. I would encourage Canadians and their families to contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre for further information.
     People are doing an outstanding job and they should have the support of the Liberals.

[Translation]

Canadian Coast Guard

    Mr. Speaker, let us get back to the Canadian Coast Guard. A former maritime lawyer said that if the United States Coast Guard scored an eight or nine on a worldwide 10-point scale, Canada would score a one or two, which is far from a passing grade.
    This is particularly critical for my riding, since a crab fishing boat, the Frédérike.C. II, is currently on fire off the coast of Rimouski. It took more than three hours for the Canadian Coast Guard to respond with its ship the Cap-Percé, based in Tadoussac. We can only imagine what would have happened if the search and rescue centre in Quebec City had been shut down, as the Conservatives planned.
    When will this government take action?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have improved our ability to respond to these events, including new funding, new tools and ensuring that the companies responsible are the ones who pay. Under our government, investments in the Canadian Coast Guard have increased by 27%. By the way, the opposition voted against this.
    The situation in Quebec that the member speaks of is currently being monitored by the Coast Guard.

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, last week our Minister of Finance tabled a balanced budget in this House. Now that we have balanced our budget, we will help middle-class families balance theirs through new measures, like the enhanced family tax cut, the home accessibility tax credit and the universal child care benefit, which will benefit 100% of families with children.
    Could the Minister of State for Social Development please inform this House what she is hearing everyday Canadians say about our new measures to support them?
    Mr. Speaker, recently I met with Emmanuel. He prepares taxes for everyday Canadian families. He said that the best thing about his job over the last few weeks is the look on the faces of middle-class Canadians when they see their tax return because of our family tax cut and our expanded benefits.
    The difference between this government and the New Democrats and the Liberals is we believe this money belongs to Canadians. The Liberals and the New Democrats think that money belongs in the government coffers and that somehow it is our revenue. No, it is Canadians' money and we believe it should be in their pockets.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, despite this government's smoke and mirrors about the fight against terrorism and despite the peanuts it has allocated to law enforcement agencies, there is absolutely nothing in this budget to prevent violent extremism, to support research, or to combat radicalization in the community or in our prisons.
    On the contrary, we learned that the Kanishka project will not be renewed. While many countries in the world have no problem investing in these areas, Canada is still lagging behind.
    Will the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness take real action—yes, real action—and propose a real policy to combat violent extremism?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, our government has long been investing in prevention. For example, there is our counterterrorism strategy, which the New Democrats unfortunately opposed.
    My colleague may think that $300 million is peanuts, but I think that money is crucial to our police forces, our intelligence agencies and our border services.
    Furthermore, I invite my colleague to examine the budget, which will improve security on the Hill. We will continue to invest in prevention through our programs to prevent and combat crime.
    Let us be serious about the fight against terrorism. I urge all members to support the implementation of measures to protect the public.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, oil prices have done nothing but drop recently. Canada knows how important the oil industry is and how the price of oil can affect our finances, given that every dollar less costs the government $150 million.
    In budget 2015, the Minister of Finance predicts that the price per barrel will rise from $54 in 2015 to $78 in 2019. However, in the 2014 budget, there was no mention of the fact that the price of oil would drop in 2015.
     How can the minister predict this rise in oil prices when the world situation is so unstable? Is the minister balancing his budget by manipulating the forecasts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the economic outlook in budget 2015 is based on an average of private sector forecasts, as has always been the case since the mid-1990s. This year was no different. Private sector economists agree that this was a prudent basis for the economic forecast.
    Our balanced budget, low-tax plan will create jobs and economic growth for Canadians with measures like cutting the small business tax rate to 9%. We know that the opposition parties would take those away.
    Canadians understand they are better off with this Conservative government.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Reginald Daws, member of the Air Force, who is receiving today the Royal Canadian Air Force Member of the Year award.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the question from the member for Hamilton Mountain and the comments that were made by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
    As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is responsible for the executive branch of government. He alone is responsible for the quality of appointments, whether they are for the ministry or parliamentary secretaries. Canadians definitely deserve answers when the opposition asks the Prime Minister to account for the quality of those appointments.
    I would like to say very clearly that Canadians deserve answers, but they are not getting them from the Conservative government. However, I would ask you to consider and allow the questions.
    I appreciate the member raising this point. As he knows, I have already ruled on the matter.
    The questions as I heard them had nothing to do with the executive branch of government nor with the administration of government. They had to do with a now private individual, a former member of the House. The member may be interested and may wish to ask the questions, but those must be done outside of question period, which as he well knows, is for the purpose of holding the government to account for actions of government, government departments, government spending and things like that.
    I have given several rulings on this matter, including a very comprehensive ruling in January or February 2014. I can double-check for the member and I would be happy to send it to him.
    Members are given a great deal of latitude to pose their questions, and I am sure that he and his team will find ways to use their time for questions to hold the government to account for actions of the government, but not of private citizens or things that are outside the purview of government.

Government Orders

[The Budget]

  (1510)  

[English]

The Budget

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance  

     The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government and of the amendment.
    The hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa has seven minutes left for her remarks.
    Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2015 proposes to increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000. Whether it is saving for retirement, the purchase of a home, or starting a business, Canadians can greatly benefit from the wide range of tax-free investment options that the TFSA is offering them. I am happy to say that there are now 11 million Canadians who have opened up accounts to save for what matters to them.
    Support for Canadians and their families is best complemented with smart measures like relief for job-creating businesses.
    First, we must not forget that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and they make invaluable economic contributions. Our government is proudly keeping its promise of delivering measures that help foster job creation for small businesses, which make up 50% of Canada's total private sector workforce. That is why economic action plan 2015 proposes to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, which is the largest tax rate cut for small businesses in more than 25 years. This measure will reduce taxes for small businesses and their owners by an estimated $2.7 billion over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period.
    In addition, the economic action plan also supports thousands of manufacturing jobs across Ontario, for example, such as the many found in my riding of Whitby—Oshawa. Our government has proposed funding for manufacturers through the new automotive supplier innovation program, which includes providing $100 million over five years to help Canadian automotive suppliers gain a competitive edge through new innovative products and processes. Of this amount, $50 million will be reallocated starting in 2015-16 over three years from the automotive innovation fund and new resources of $50 million will be provided over a two-year period starting in 2018-19.
    The automotive supplier innovation program will complement already existing initiatives, like the automotive innovation fund, by creating a favourable environment for automotive research and development while providing firms with opportunities to enter global supply chains.
    In closing, economic action plan 2015 is a sensible plan that will balance our budget and directly benefit all Canadians. It builds on the disciplined choices that our Prime Minister and the previous minister of finance, the hon. Jim Flaherty, had to make when faced with economic uncertainty, and today it continues to focus on jobs, growth and security for all.
     It is no wonder so many entrepreneurs, economists, community groups and experts, such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Investment Industry Association of Canada have endorsed the measures that this budget has introduced. I am very proud of our government for bringing forward this balanced budget for all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Whitby—Oshawa for her speech. I would also like to thank her for tacitly admitting that the measure that the NDP has been defending for years, namely the lowering of the tax rate for small businesses, was a good idea. We commend the Conservative government for including this measure in its budget, even though it waited many years to do so.
     That being said, I would like to come back to the motion that my esteemed colleague moved, which I was pleased to support. This motion seeks to amend the budget through substitution. This is the third day of the budget debate, and I am very concerned about the fact that the term “income splitting” is nowhere to be found in the budget nor is it being mentioned in my Conservative colleagues' speeches.
    I would like my colleague from Whitby—Oshawa to explain to the House why Conservative members cannot use the term “income splitting”. Did they receive that instruction from the Prime Minister's Office?

  (1515)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think it is rather presumptive to think it has become a taboo term. I think it is a term of which we are very proud. This government has created income splitting for seniors, which has helped keep seniors in their homes and allowed them to live independently. It is creating opportunities for families to live in a fashion in their homes without having all of the financial burdens that they would otherwise have had.
    I believe that this government is very proud of the income splitting, as it should be.
    Mr. Speaker, I think there is some validity to ask the question about the income split, because it is very obvious with respect to this budget that it is an unfair budget. It would not do anything really tangible for Canada's middle class, and it is the middle class that is really going to be driving our economy into the future. That is how we generate the wealth. We need to invest in our middle class. A healthy, strong middle class will result in a healthy, strong economy for Canada.
    When I look at the taxation issue of fairness, Jim Flaherty, the person she quoted in her speech, said that the income split was not on the table; it was something that was not good for Canada, because it would elevate only a few. Fewer than 15% of Canadians would actually benefit from that.
    The ones that would be affected hardest would, of course, be the middle class because they are the ones who would foot the bill for it.
    I wonder if she believes that Jim Flaherty, when he was the minister of finance, was wrong.
    Mr. Speaker, I think that the income-splitting plan we have before us now is not the same income-splitting plan of which then minister Flaherty was actually speaking. I think there are some significant differences. I believe that minister Flaherty, with the numbers that were before him, made the correct call. I think the current Minister of Finance and the current government, with the information before us, are also making the correct call.
    Mr. Speaker, the previous minister, the great Jim Flaherty, did a lot of innovative budgeting for persons with disabilities.
    I wonder if the member for Whitby—Oshawa would discuss, perhaps, the EI compensation increase from six weeks to six months, the accessibility home tax credit, the RDSP, the enabling accessibility fund, or anything else that helps Canadians reach their full potential?
    Mr. Speaker, the economic action plan proposes a new permanent non-refundable tax credit rate of 15% for seniors and persons with disabilities who need to improve safety, access, and functionality of their homes. This tax cut would apply on up to $10,000 of eligible home renovation expenditures per year and provide up to $1,500 in tax relief.
    These improvements would help ensure that seniors and persons with disabilities could have healthy, independent lives in the comfort of their home or their family's home, and they could include things like wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs, wheel-in showers, and grab bars for safety. All of those sorts of things are there, available to be funded, to help all people with disabilities.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to be able to speak to economic action plan 2015, which I feel is a capstone on strong, stable Conservative government in terms of Canada's long-term growth prospects in our economy.
    Since coming into office in 2006, our government has been squarely focused on ensuring equality of economic prosperity for all Canadians. This means a very purposeful, focused policy approach on this particular issue.
    After we came into government, between 2006 and 2008, we aggressively paid down Canada's debt. We paid down billions and billions of dollars on Canada's debt during this period, because we understand that we need to have balanced budgets and a reduction in debt in order to ensure long-term economic prosperity for Canadians for generations to come.
    However, when the economic downturn hit in 2008, we understood that a large portion of this economic downturn related to debt burden. We knew that if we were going to undertake stimulus measures, which would increase consumer confidence and ensure the long-term prosperity of Canada's economy, those measures needed to be short term and impactful in terms of ensuring economic infrastructure.
     That is why we put in place things like the knowledge infrastructure program, which has legacy projects across the country in Canadian universities.
     As well, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, who has wonderful winemakers in his region.
    Continuing on, these infrastructure programs left a legacy of economic infrastructure across the country. They positioned Canada for long-term economic success. However, once they were completed, they did not increase the size of government and they did not create entrenched long-term government bureaucracy, which meant that once we were through the worst of the economic downturn, once we started to see a sign of recovery in 2009, our government was squarely focused on coming back to balance.
    On this side of the House, we know that budgets do not balance themselves and that we need to be very aggressive in terms of having a plan, both for efficiencies and spending. We have to make sure that, as a government, we understand how to deliver services to Canadians in a most effective and efficient way and be wise stewards of taxpayer dollars but also, on the other side of the balance sheet, create opportunities for growth.
    Since 2009, we have aggressively pursued a trade agenda. When we came into office in 2006, I believe the figure was five free trade agreements. We now have more than 40, including historic access into the European market, with more than 500 million new consumers for Canadian goods and services, and entry into the Asian supply chain with this Canada-South Korea free trade agreement.
    This places Canada in a historic, world-leading position in terms of attracting foreign direct investment, because we can trade with other nations in an unprecedented way.
     We have tried to build a very skilled labour force with things like the Canada job grant and our apprenticeship programs.
    The capstone of this budget is that we have created a very low tax burden on both Canadian families and job-creating companies.
    Between our coming into office in 2006 and today, a Canadian family of four has $6,600 more in its pocket than before we came into office. When I listen to members across the aisle and I hear the Leader of the Opposition say that only affects the wealthy, I think we would be hard-pressed to find a Canadian family to say, “Wait a second; I am rich; that doesn't help me.” I think that is actually rich.
    When opposition members go to the polls in the fall and try to spread that message to Canadians, they will be in for a very big surprise.
    We understand that the role of the state is to get out of the way as much as possible, while ensuring the health and safety of Canadians and creating economic opportunity, not creating government for government's sake and not running on power for power's sake.
    In this budget, we have measures such as reducing taxes on small business. Since we came into office in 2006, small businesses pay 44% less in taxes than before we came into office. That is an incredible milestone. That means that small businesses can hire more people, they can innovate, they can spend more money on developing new products and services, they can increase productivity, and they can weather economic storms, because hopefully, they are in a position where they can be liquid.

  (1525)  

    Canadian families have choice in child care. They have choice in how they spend their finances.
     My colleague opposite, in the last question, talked about a taboo topic. I do not think it is taboo to talk about Canadians having more money in their pockets, that somehow being a bad thing, and somehow governments know how to spend Canadians' money better than Canadians do. That is the difference between this side of the House and my colleagues opposite.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Speaker, for all those who are watching, of course we hear rumblings from members across the way, because they know we are right. They know that the average Canadian understands this principle. This is not an esoteric debate about whether we should expand the size of government. This is about making ends meet, and our government is the only party that understands that making ends meet means more money in the average Canadian's pocket.
    I am the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification and have a file that looks at the diversification and long-term growth of Canada's economy. We set five priorities after I came into cabinet in 2013 in terms of our portfolio. Those were ensuring that innovative technologies and services could be translated into the Canadian economy in western Canada; that first nations and aboriginal peoples had accelerated economic opportunities in the context of the western Canadian economy; that the industrial technological benefits program, which relates to government procurement and small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada, ensured they were well positioned to take advantage of these types of programs; that western Canadian SMEs were well positioned to both take advantage of both trade and investment opportunities that have been created through our government's free trade agenda, and be in a position to attract foreign direct investment into western Canada; and of course, that we have a highly skilled labour force.
    This budget, economic action plan 2015, would impact Canadian businesses and families in western Canada in a very meaningful way. Here are some of the highlights.
     I am very excited that western economic diversification will have a role in managing the Canada 150 infrastructure program, which as was outlined in the budget, would see renovations and expansions of community infrastructure as it relates to Canada's 150th anniversary with regard to our innovation agenda.
    We have seen increased funding to Canada's tri-council research partners, which is fantastic. I am fully supportive of a strong knowledge-based economy in Canada. We understand that basic research has a strong part in that. We have been one of the few countries in the world to have seen not only a status quo but an increase during an economic downturn, with a balanced budget to support basic research. I include a shout-out to one of my favourite agencies across government, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which does excellent work in providing basic research infrastructure.
    I include a shout-out to my colleagues at the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, CIPC, for advocating for some measures in the budget related to client privilege. For a long time Canadian intellectual property agents have advocated that they should have rights similar to lawyers' in terms of client confidentiality privileges, because this would help protect Canadians' intellectual property in a stronger way. That is in this budget.
    I would also like to highlight that some of my colleagues in the NDP might actually be at odds with their leader. They are sending out householders, and I have one here from the member for Ottawa Centre in which he actually highlights all of our government's tax savings. The title of the householder is “Household Tax Tips for 2015”. He says here that the Canada child tax benefit, a national child care tax supplement, benefits low- and middle-income families and that the national child care benefit supplement should be something that they provide. He highlights in here that if people have spouses or common-law partners, they should also file for the benefit on an annual basis.
    My question is this. For all my colleagues opposite who are standing and saying that this is something that would not benefit Canadians, why would they spend taxpayer dollars sending out information, with a party logo on it, selling the benefits of this particular piece? I am confused.
    However, I certainly hope Canadians will not be confused when they go to the polls this fall, because they understand that our government wants more dollars in the pockets of Canadian families, and that is what we would do with economic action plan 2015.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have some questions about the Canada 150 grant because I have a number of places in western Canada, particularly in northwestern B.C., that are looking for opportunities.
    I noticed that there was not enough in the budget document about western Canada specifically. I know the member is the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification so this is important to her. I know there is money there for a telescope in Hawaii, and that is good, but there seems to be a bit of an absence, a bit of a taking for granted. I know the minister has some answers as to what I may have missed in the 500 pages about western Canada specifically.
    Also, what has changed in this budget document is the typical Canadian family. I do not know if members have followed this but in every budget the Conservatives roll out the typical Canadian family is usually made up of two parents, a man and a woman, and two kids. In previous budgets, the woman in that typical family was earning more than the man, but were earning some equivalency. In this latest budget, the woman has taken a dramatic pay cut. I do not know if everybody noticed this, but she took a $50,000 pay cut in order to apply for income splitting.
    Is this the Conservative imagination at work here in terms of what the typical family needs to be, which is that women will have to take this pay cut in order to take advantage of something like income splitting? Canadians are not looking for that. They are looking for a representational government—
    Order, please. The hon. minister of state.
    Mr. Speaker, I will respond very quickly,
    With respect to my colleague's first question on the Canada 150 infrastructure program, I look forward to working with him and all of my colleagues from western Canada, regardless of political stripe, on rolling out an excellent program that will benefit all Canadians in western Canada. Members should stay tuned for details to come. We are working hard. Kudos to my staff at Western Diversification Canada, the dedicated public servants who are working on this program.
    What is interesting about the latter part of the member's question is that he is entrenching a social more. I did not see anywhere in the budget where it talks about the woman as the smaller income earner. By the member saying that a woman should take a pay cut, he is actually saying that fathers who are allowed to stay home should not be allowed to do this. Income splitting does not allow—
    This is what you put in your budget. This is the example you used.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I know the minister of state is responding. Honestly, with all of the noise in the chamber, I am even at odds myself to hear what the response is. Therefore, we will have a bit of quiet, we will let the minister of state finish her response and then we will get on to a second question or comment.
    The hon. minister of state.
    Mr. Speaker, at the heart of the matter, our tax cuts for families benefit all Canadian families, regardless of gender, ethnicity and demographics. If we look at the graphs that are in the budget, they will show that it impacts low-income Canadians at a much higher rate. We are very proud of that.
    I certainly hope my colleague opposite, who I do have a lot of respect for in debate, will support the budget as his colleague from Ottawa Centre has done in his householder.
    Mr. Speaker, the questions I had in mind kind of piled up as my hon. colleague continued to speak, so I will try to roll them out and see what she says.
    My first comment is that the budget and the minister have ignored the effects of inflation on the budget. If we look at the tri-council budget, it is about $33 billion, which means that with 1% to 2% inflation rate, which it has been in the last few years, that is $30 million to $60 million of lost purchasing power. She mentioned the funds that were announced in the budget. First, we will have to wait an extra year to them and they do not even cover inflation.
    The second thing is that she talked about a balanced budget, but she did not talk about the fact that $2 billion were taken from the reserve. That $2 billion is what people who do computer programming call a magic number. It is just pulled out of nowhere without really good justification. If a different number had been chosen, would we have a budget surplus?
    The third thing I would ask the minister is this. The budget assumes a future price of oil which does not agree with the real price in the market. If we believe in the market, if we believe that we are not smarter than the market, which is a good thing to do, we would use a much more conservative, lower future price for oil.
    Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleague opposite to look to his leader for the definition of “magic number” when he made the statement that budgets would balance themselves. That actually is the definition of “magic numbers”.
     When Canadians look to the Liberal Party and hear that it would reverse some of the tax cuts that are in this budget, they probably wonder if leader of the Liberal Party leader, who has existed on a trust fund for many years, thinks they are rich. That is a little rich. When we are talking about magic numbers, or magic eight balls or magic substances, that is probably more closely associated with the leader of the Liberal Party than any of the economists, leaders, business leaders and people who listen to average Canadians. That is who this budget supports.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am tremendously honoured today to speak on our budget, economic action plan 2015.
    In the darkest days of the recession, our government made a very important promise to Canadians. It was a simple promise that once the crisis passed, we would set a course toward a balanced budget. We would not raise taxes to do it. We would control spending and rein in costs. Economic action plan 2015 fulfills that promise.
    Canadians can rest assured that our fiscal house is in order. We have balanced the budget, just as families must do every day of their lives, and we balanced this budget while cutting taxes. Today, the overall tax burden is at its lowest level in 50 years. We balanced the budget while increasing transfer payments, thereby protecting our investment in the education and health care that Canadians cherish.
    This is no small achievement. It took a plan, hard work and tough choices. After all, unlike the statement from the opposition, budgets do not balance themselves. We have heard that fallacy so many times.
    Now, Canada sets out on a new course. With a balanced budget comes opportunity, the opportunity to put even more money back into the pockets of Canadians, and the responsibility to continue our focus on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That means cutting taxes even further for hard-working families. It means taking action so businesses can thrive, innovate and expand their markets. It means new and innovative investments in the infrastructure that Canadians rely on, and training a highly skilled workforce to respond to the evolving needs of employers. It means investing in Canada's most sacred responsibility, that of protecting Canadians and securing Canada.
    Again, what is very important to our government, and certainly to me, is the fact that this budget would do what we promised to do. Canadians need to know that when their government makes a commitment, it is true to its word. It has been said many times that promises do not pay the bills. It is a lesson, sadly, that our opposition has not taken to heart.
    Importantly, this deficit has been reduced from $55.6 billion at the height of the great recession to a projected surplus of $1.4 billion for 2015-16. It is necessary, because for all Conservatives, we recognize that we cannot continue to run deficits. Very simply, I and most of colleagues, if not all of them, believe that today's deficits are tomorrow's taxes. We must demonstrate to our young generation that we will not leave them with the obligation of paying for our responsibilities.
     Importantly, we have done this while investing in families, seniors, the military, security, veterans, job creation, transfers to the provinces and infrastructure, while still reducing taxes and waste. We have proven that we can create a more prosperous economy, resulting in increased revenues.
    I will briefly outline just a few of the positive elements in this budget, and I will touch on only a few because time will not permit me to go on at length.
    We are supporting jobs and growth. What this particular component is about is tax cuts, training and trades. We are reducing the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, putting in an estimated $2.3 billion back into the pockets of job creating entrepreneurs between now and 2020. We are increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $1 million for farmers and fishermen.
     We are improving access to financing for Canadian small businesses through the Canada small business financing program. We are expanding the services operated by the Business Development Bank of Canada to help small and medium-sized businesses. We are investing $14 million over two years to Futurpreneur Canada in support of our young entrepreneurs. We are investing in the action plan for women entrepreneurs to help women business owners succeed.
     We are helping innovative companies grow and create jobs through the venture capital action plan. We are taking action to harmonize apprenticeship training and certification requirements in targeted Red Seal trades.
    We are investing in world-class research and innovation by providing $1.5 billion in funding over five years to advance the government's renewed science, technology and innovation strategy. We are continuing to provide $5.3 billion per year on average and growing for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure under the new building Canada plan.

  (1540)  

    In addition, we will invest another $750 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, and a billion dollars more ongoing thereafter, to a new public transit fund aimed at building new public transit infrastructure to reduce congestion and fight the gridlock in our large cities.
    We are helping families and communities prosper. As has been stated many times, and I know it is so welcome, we will increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective in 2015 and subsequent taxation years. About 60% of the individuals contributing the maximum amount had income of less than $60,000. Overwhelmingly, they are seniors who are taking money from their RRSPs and putting them into their TFSAs so they can have a secure retirement.
    We are supporting families through tax cuts, which will give money to 100% of households with children. That is critical. For an average family of four, that is over $6,000, through the family tax cut and the increased universal child care benefit. We believe moms and dads are absolutely in the best position to look after the interests of their children, and certainly not government bureaucrats.
    We are supporting seniors by introducing changes to the registered retirement income fund that would allow them to withdraw less from their tax deferred savings. We are supporting seniors and persons with disabilities by introducing the home accessibility tax credit to help with renovation costs so they can live independently and remain in their homes.
    We are enhancing access to post-secondary education by expanding the eligibility for low and middle-income Canada student grants to students in short duration programs.
    We are extending the temporary measure that allows a qualifying family member to become the plan holder of a registered disability savings plan.
    We are supporting the most vulnerable in our communities by providing an additional $50 million in 2016-17 to what is already there to support social housing in Canada by allowing social housing providers to pre-pay their long-term, non-renewable mortgages without penalty.
    As well, we are improving access to print materials for the visually impaired.
    We are introducing a new retirement income security benefit for severely disabled veterans. We are increasing the level of individualized care to veterans requiring regular support by improving the ratio of veterans to case managers. We are expanding the veterans independence program.
    Very important as well, we are ensuring the security of Canadians. How? We are increasing National Defence funding by providing the Canadian Armed Forces with an additional $12 billion, thus ensuring that Canada can and will continue to be a combat capable military, ready to serve at home and abroad.
    We are supporting the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces in order to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. We are countering violent extremism and terrorism by providing additional resources to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Security Agency.
    We are enhancing Canada's capacity to gather foreign intelligence. We are protecting the integrity of our borders by expanding the use of biometric screening to further improve the security and integrity of the Canadian immigration system and facilitating legitimate travel to Canada for low-risk travellers from select visa-required countries.
     I have only had a bit of time to highlight a very few of economic action plan 2015's many important initiatives. Therefore, I urge listeners to visit the Department of Finance website, where they will find the complete budget plan and the my benefit site that spotlights individuals, just like anyone listening today, to see how they could benefit from this budget.
    Our government is absolutely committed to job creation and economic growth, objectives that have underpinned our economic action plan since its inception in 2009. Implementing policies focused on raising Canada's economic potential and creating stable, well-paying jobs continues to be our government's top priority, and it always will be.
     Economic action plan 2015 proposes to take additional steps to achieve these objectives, including eliminating the deficit, as promised.
     Maintaining focus on these priorities is the best way to ensure that Canada is prepared to weather any future economic storm. By staying the course and sticking to our proven economic action plan, we are clearly on track to a better future.
    I thank the numerous groups and individuals in my riding of Prince Edward—Hastings for their wise counsel. I know they are encouraged to see their input has been reflected in this budget, a budget that is designed not only for today but certainly for tomorrow.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings for his speech on the Conservatives' 2015 budget. We serve together on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. First and foremost, I must say that he is doing an excellent job as chair of the committee. I really appreciate his work. That brings me to my question, which relates to public safety.
    One of the main issues that every member here in the House would like to work on is that of radicalization and terrorism, although we all have different opinions. Various law enforcement agencies from across the country all talk about the same problem: financial resources. As the Minister of Public Safety said during question period, the Conservative budget gives the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service $300 million to combat terrorism across the country. There are two problems with that. First of all, $300 million is not enough for our law enforcement agencies to put a plan in place to combat terrorism all across the country. Second, most of that money will not be available until 2017. Less than $20 million will be available between now and then. That is a very small amount, considering the huge impact this issue is having on our communities and our society in general.
    I would like to ask my colleague if he thinks that the Conservative government should have presented a plan providing for increased investment in our law enforcement agencies to combat the serious problem of terrorism and radicalization, not only among our young people, but in our communities in general.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly I recognize the contribution of my colleague from across the floor and it is a pleasure to work with her at committee. We have a tone of civility that certainly adds not only to the composition of the committee but also to the good work that we do. Our differences may appear to be so large in the public sphere when they are magnified under a national media perspective. Quite frankly, we share a lot of common values that in most cases we can work through to find a solution, so I thank her for her contribution in working with her.
    There is no doubt that any increase to all of our enforcement services, whether it is CSIS, RCMP, NSE or the police services, is always welcome. Is there enough? There is never enough, particularly facing the challenges we do today. But I recognize in dealing with Bill C-51 right now at committee that we understand how much of a challenge we face as a country. I do not want to be melodramatic about it, but it certainly is a serious challenge that requires not only serious dollars, but serious attention to dealing with all the prevention tools that we need.
    We have had consultations with these organizations and I am quite confident that we are going to be able to satisfy their needs so they can work for the protection of Canada accordingly.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to also thank the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings for his contribution to the debate on budget 2015.
     My question relates to his party's support, or lack of support, for the opposition day motion that was introduced by our party this week with respect to government spending on advertising. He talks much about protecting taxpayer dollars and about making sure that taxpayers are respected, yet it appears Conservatives will not be prepared to support our party's motion calling for an independent commissioner to look at ads that are supposedly out to promote the government's position on various initiatives. Why is that the case?
    My second question relates to the whole question of jobs and growth. There again, there is much talk about how this economic action plan will be promoting jobs and growth, yet the Minister of Finance cannot actually tell us how many jobs the budget will produce.
    Can the member shed some light on that question?

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find it almost strange that the member would not want to comment on the budget. He wants to switch to another topic. That says it all to me for a simple reason; I will go through some of my life experiences. I was in the hospitality business for many years where one becomes a student of body language. I sat in the House while the budget was introduced and I understand why the opposition members do not want to talk about the budget. I could see across the floor, opposition members were deflated. They knew that the budget touches literally everybody across this nation in a positive manner.
    I can certainly understand wanting to switch the channel, but I welcome the member back to the House and we are pleased to see him in the recovery mode and making a contribution to the House. As I said, whether we agree or disagree, the fact is we are all proud Canadians. From the point of job numbers, the job numbers are going up while the unemployment level is going down. What better indication is there than that, that the country is in good shape with this government?
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Random—Burin—St. George's.
    I want to discuss budget 2015 in detail with regard to science and technology and research and experimental development. I would like to start by talking about why that is important. It is important because we must invest in the future. If we want our grandchildren to have well-paying jobs, they need the know-how, the tools, the equipment, the infrastructure and the community in order to be productive. If they are productive, they can command good salaries. We need to stay on the forefront of technology to do that.
    If we want our grandchildren to have jobs where they have a competitive advantage, if they work in areas where Canada's competitors have a barrier to entry, then science, technology and innovation are a prime source of that advantage. If we want good jobs to stay in Canada for our grandchildren, then we have to develop new industries, not only new companies but new industries, which means companies around emerging technologies but also the supply chain, the partners, the pool of skilled labour, the finance, all of the infrastructure. Those are the things that would create good jobs for our grandchildren.
    In light of the finance minister's comment that the Prime Minister's granddaughter could fix any problems in the budget, I say let us give our grandchildren the resources to fix problems, some wealth-generating resources to help them. They will need it because our grandchildren, it seems, will be taxed by the burdens left behind by a short-sighted, closed-minded, innumerate and ideological Conservative government.
    I want to talk about the budget in detail now, and I would like to start by looking at federal spending on science, technology, research and development in constant 2007 dollars. This comes from data collected by Statistics Canada. It is government spending on science and technology corrected for inflation. In 2005-06, the spending in all of the federal government was $10.0 billion. This was just before the Conservatives took power. In 2014-15, the fiscal year just completed, the number, according to Statistics Canada, corrected for inflation, was $9.1 billion. Therefore, federal government spending has gone down by $900 million a year before we even get to anything announced in the budget.
    Remember that there were cuts to the scientific research and experimental development tax credit announced in 2012 that are not counted, because StatsCan is only counting contracts, grants and contributions and research fellowships. Therefore, that tax credit, which was cut for scientific research and experimental development in the private sector, really kicked in last year and this year, so that in 2014-15, there were $315 million of cuts to tax credits. This year, there were $480 million. Next year, there will be $500 million. This is money that is not going into companies that are doing research and development here in Canada.
    I want to now deconstruct what the government would say in reply to that. The government has been saying that $11 billion in new investments in science, technology and innovation have been made since 2006. I put in a written order paper question, which is Question No. 950, asking for a breakdown of that $11 billion. The answer shows that when money was moved from one place to another, it was called new spending. Aside from about $3 billion in stimulus spending right after the recession, there was not really any new spending. When the government talks about this $11 billion, it does not account for any cuts, especially inside the federal government, such as in Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, StatsCan, and the government does not account for inflation when it quotes this number.
    The most egregious example is that the government told me, in the reply to the written order paper question, that included in this $11 billion was $110 million a year of new money for IRAP, the industrial research assistance program, and one-time $400 million for a venture capital fund investment. However, if anybody remembers budget 2012, that was supposed to be paid for by cuts to the scientific research and experimental development tax credit for the private sector. That $500 million a year cut in support for the private sector R and D swamps that new spending.
    At this point, I want to make some special mention of the cuts to the eligibility of capital expenditure for the scientific research and experimental development tax credits. We have heard from a number of companies that it should not have been eliminated. Some companies are labour intensive, others are much more capital intensive, and there is no good reason for favouring one over the other.

  (1555)  

    I will say to the credit of the Minister of Industry, who was not the minister in 2012, when he was in my riding of Kingston and the Islands, somebody who owns a company asked him about the exclusion of capital expenditure. He sounded open to reversing that mistake and I hope that he will look at that and change the government policy in the budget implementation legislation.
    I would now like to talk about particular lines in the 2015 budget. There is a line in there for CANARIE, which is Canada's Internet backbone. The government said it would spend $21 million a year for five years. The problem is, that is just continuing the current level of funding, which is $20 million a year with a little inflation adjustment. Great, it is worth a congratulatory tweet from the minister, but the minister forgot to mention that the budget is now $20 million. It used to be $30 million before the government cut the budget in 2012.
    Budget 2015 also mentions funding for the CFI, $1.33 billion over six years. I talked to somebody at CFI who told me it is actually equivalent to just continuing funding at the current level, so there is nothing new there.
    National Research Council will get $60 million a year for the next two years. Two years ago in budget 2013, the government said that it needed to spend an extra $60 million on top of the $900 million NRC budget to refocus NRC. It is not clear to me whether it finished refocusing, whether these next two years of funding are required to continue the refocusing because it is taking a lot longer than expected or whether NRC has found a good use for a permanent $60-million increase to its budget. We cannot tell that from the budget document.
    MITACS internships, which connect graduate students in Canada by giving them industry experience, get $14 million a year for four years. Last year, when the last boost to MITACS was announced, budget 2014 moved the NSERC industrial post-doctoral fellowships to MITACS and said that NSERC, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, could use the money left over for other purposes, could reallocate it.
    This year, the government moved a different program, the NSERC industrial post-graduate scholarships program, over to MITACS to create internships, but it does not say that any money would be freed for NSERC, so we may actually be losing money over at NSERC to pay for this increase to MITACS. The budget is very different this year than last year. It is not clear at all. It seems to me there will actually be a cut in NSERC.
    Since we are talking about the research councils, we could go over their budget. Budget 2015 announces $46 million for the three research granting councils, starting not this year but next year. Notice the skipping year. The problem is that the three research councils have a $3-billion budget, so we lose $30 million to $60 million every year just from inflation. The government does not mention that. A one-time boost of $40 million does not even cover the inflation, since we have to wait another year until it starts. Bread and butter research grants across Canada will shrink.
    That leads us finally to the new programs. There are new programs. There is money for TRIUMF out of Vancouver, the 30-metre telescope and the Canada first research excellence fund. I am sure that good science will come out of these programs because of the proven quality of Canadian scientists. The point I would make is that the funding on these new programs does not come near what all the cuts have been so far.
    Let me just summarize. The Conservative government's spending on science, technology, research and development, according to Statistics Canada, is down $900 million since it took power. Add to that another $500 million every year from cuts to the scientific research and experimental development tax credit for the private sector. Add to that another $102 million cut just because of inflation and the Conservatives have not replaced the effects of inflation. That overwhelms the real new money in budget 2015.
    We will hear the members on the Conservative side tout the extra spending. The conclusion is that on the Conservative record on science and technology, if we really dig down into the numbers, look back at the last ten years, look at inflation, look at what has been cut elsewhere in the federal government and in the private sector when it comes to research and development, the talking points of the Conservatives fall apart.
    The Conservative government's record on science and technology and research and development is dismal and it is failing our grandchildren.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's take on the budget. He indicated future generations, which I think is extremely important.
    When we look at first nations education, for example, the government in its budget has put down that it is going to invest $200 million. Now, we know that the Liberals are the ones who put the 2% funding cap in place, but I would like the member to acknowledge the math the government has actually put forward. There would be $200 million divided by 600 first nations. Guess what that would come to? It would be about $67,000 for each first nation. How much does the member think that would help a first nation community?
     I want the member to acknowledge that it was wrong for the Liberals to put in the 2% funding cap and that we need to make sure that there is a very good investment in first nations education. They are the future of this country, but $67,000 will not go very far.
    Mr. Speaker, I will note that the Liberal critic for aboriginal affairs, the member for St. Paul's, brought up this very issue during question period. I am also reminded, although I was not here, that it was the NDP that brought down the government just before the Kelowna accord went into place.
     However, I think it is very important for Canada to make sure that aboriginal Canadians are full participants in building the Canada of the future, and education is a very important part of that.
    I went to Saskatoon recently and talked to people there about the importance of aboriginal education and the local situation in Saskatchewan. I would just say that we need to return to a Liberal government, and when we return to a Liberal government, we will improve the situation for all of Canada.
    The NDP members are laughing and shaking their heads, but they did vote down the government before the Kelowna accord was implemented.
    Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat intrigued by the earlier question. The member stood up and was somewhat critical of the Liberal Party in terms of a commitment that was made.
    The Kelowna accord was a Paul Martin achievement. We had consultation throughout the nation, including with many stakeholders who were chiefs of first nations. It was the NDP, working with the Conservatives, that killed the Kelowna accord. They do not need to give any sort of lesson on not being there when it really mattered for first nations.
    In any case, my question is very specific.
    Could the member comment on the $14 million the government has decided to spend on promoting a budget that really is an attack on the middle class because of the taxation that would be imposed on them to fund tax splitting, at $2 billion a year?

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am all in favour of government advertisements when they contain real information and talk about programs that are in place. However, the practice right now seems to be to promote government initiatives that are being debated in Parliament. The problem is that we are not supposed to use public money to influence the public while government legislation or proposals are being debated. The public should decide for itself and not be influenced by advertising, using public funds, until the legislation is passed through Parliament. We could then say that it is government policy. We should make sure that we have real information in these advertisements.
    I would call on the government to vote for the Liberal motion, which calls for an independent third party to review advertisements. Maybe a lot of the government advertisements will go through in the future. I do not think the Conservatives should fear that.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the issues and concerns my constituents of Random—Burin—St. George's have raised with me about the measures contained in the budget we are debating today.
    Unfortunately, this is a budget that is unfair and does not generate growth, contrary to what the Conservatives would have us believe. Instead, it provides the most for those who need it the least.
    Last Tuesday, the Conservative government ended weeks of procrastination and finally presented the federal budget for 2015. To my disappointment, the Minister of Finance presented a plan to help those Canadians who need it least instead of presenting a plan to help the middle class and those working to join it. Instead of giving all Canadians a real and fair chance of success, the Prime Minister is giving a $2.2 billion tax break to Canadians through his income-splitting scheme, a program, by the way, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates will help only 15% of Canadians.
    On top of that, the Prime Minister's decision to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 and to double the limit for the tax-free savings account is being paid for by taking $32,000 out of old age security for our elderly, who need it the most.
    The Minister of Finance also claims that the budget is balanced, a misleading claim at best. Make no mistake, the budget was not balanced by stimulating the economy and job growth. In fact, the Bank of Canada said last week that the Canadian economy saw zero growth in the first quarter of this year. According to a recent projection by the International Monetary Fund, 139 countries are ahead of Canada for expected growth in 2015, and that projection was made before the recent decline in oil prices.
    CIBC has said that job quality is at a 25-year low and is declining. A Statistics Canada survey released earlier this month reported that another 28,000 full-time jobs had disappeared. A recent report in The Globe and Mail stated that Canada is in its longest period of anemic job growth, outside of a recession, since 1976, which is when Statistics Canada started keeping comparable records.
    This lackluster job growth is bad news for all Canadians but especially for our youth, who need that very first job. As our young people strive to start careers, it becomes harder for them to do so as the economy stagnates and opportunities disappear.
    Recently released employment data for the province I represent, Newfoundland and Labrador, shows that unemployment levels are steadily rising. The general unemployment rate for February 2015 was 12.6%, up nearly a full percentage point from February 2014. For the same period, the unemployment rate for young people aged 15-24 was 16.4%.
    Adult children are moving back in with their parents, because many cannot get that first job, and if they are lucky enough to secure work, if jobs are available, they are part-time, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to survive by their own means. That is the impact such a weak economy is having on parents and their children.
    While the government provides tax giveaways to those who need them least, there are people throughout our country who are struggling to make ends meet and are having to tighten their belts to provide for their families. Household debt is at a record high. Two-thirds of middle-class parents are worried about affording post-secondary education for their children.
     No, the budget was not balanced through sound economic management. The budget is not actually balanced at all, not to mention that over the last decade, the Conservative government has added $150 billion to the national debt and that unemployment is higher than it was before the recession.
    The Conservatives brought the books back into the black by selling off assets like the remaining GMC stocks and by cutting the contingency fund by $2 billion, not exactly a plan for the future. Contingency funds are meant to deal with unforeseen circumstances, emergencies that might arise.
    Just this past January, the Minister of National Defence said, “We won't be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances, like natural disasters”.

  (1610)  

    He apparently forgot to tell the Minister of Finance.
    The Conservatives are clearly more focused on looking good before the election than they are on growing the economy and helping Canadians in need. We only need to look at where money is being spent to see where the government's real priorities are and who they appear to have written off. This budget is clearly more about politics than people.
    There is no new funding for Marine Atlantic, which faced a $108.1 million cut earlier this year. It is not only a vital part of Newfoundland and Labrador's economy but serves as an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway, connecting the province to the rest of the country. With the Conservative government fixated on cutting expenditures at all costs and demanding what I think is an unreasonable percentage of cost recovery from Marine Atlantic, the crown corporation found it necessary to increase its fares by a total of 11% over the past three years. Less government funding may well result in yet more fare increases.
    For those producing goods for sale on the mainland, higher shipping costs using Marine Atlantic make their goods less competitive. For those shipping products to our province, the high cost is added to the cost of the product and is absorbed by the consumer. For those in the tourism industry, high fares are a deterrent to visitors. Fare increases impact everyone.
    Yet another example of where the government has fallen short in this budget is that it does not address the immediate needs of the Canadian Armed Forces. Although the mission to Iraq has been expanded, the last few years have seen major cuts to the Canadian Armed Forces' bottom line. Budget 2015 defers all new defence spending to 2017. Is it any wonder this budget is being referred to as budget 2017 and not budget 2015?
    Canadians are tired of seeing the Conservative government pay lip service to issues affecting our enlisted men and women. For those who are presently deployed or will be deployed this year and next to an extremely dangerous conflict zone, the fact that funding for upgrades to resources has been pushed out to 2017 has to be worrisome for those directly involved and for their families. Whenever we ask our Armed Forces personnel to put themselves in a situation where in many cases their lives are at risk, the very least we owe them is our full support by providing them with all the resources necessary to keep them as safe as possible. It is irresponsible and disrespectful to offer anything less.
    Again, it speaks volumes about the misguided priorities of the government when it is more concerned about presenting the illusion of a balanced budget and saving $2 billion dollars in taxes for those who need the break least than it is in supporting our military.
    However, no one should be surprised. Over the past 10 years we have repeatedly seen the callous attitude of the Conservatives toward our enlisted men and women and veterans. We watched as the former Minister of Veterans Affairs ignored the concerns being raised by a spouse of a veteran.
    Veterans are forced to repeatedly prove that they are still amputees as a result of service injuries. As Matt Edwards, a veteran from Newfoundland, said, could the government not save money and make lives easier for veterans by streamlining medical approvals? Common sense solutions seem to elude this government.
    My Liberal colleagues and I believe that every Canadian deserves a real chance at success and that budgets should be balanced by growing the economy, not by using smoke and mirrors or creative accounting, which we witnessed last week with the Conservative government.
    We need to cancel the Prime Minister's unfair income-splitting scheme, from which only 15% of Canadians will benefit. We need to reverse the unthinkable decision that forces seniors to wait two extra years to receive their OAS benefits. It is a particularly cruel decision for those seniors who will have no other source of income at age 65 and will have to rely on the welfare assistance programs in the provinces. Not everyone is able to continue to work past 65, as some Conservatives have said is an option.

  (1615)  

    Canadians are being served a budget that would benefit those who need help the least. The needs of the most vulnerable in Canada, including seniors, students, and veterans, are being ignored by the Conservative government. It is obvious Canada needs new economic management with measures to protect the most vulnerable and a plan to build the middle class and grow the economy.
    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is very simple. Why do the Liberals and the NDP continue to oppose all the measures our government introduces for the middle class? About 600,000 seniors with low income below $60,000 are currently maximizing their TFSA room, and would benefit from the measure. About 11 million Canadians have a tax-free savings account, with the vast majority of these accounts belonging to low-income and middle-income earners. Why would the Liberals and the NDP take away education savings, retirement savings, and first-time homebuyer savings from the middle class? Why are they so against prosperity for the middle class?
    Mr. Speaker, the answer to my colleague's question is an obvious one. This budget does so little to help the middle class and those who are trying hard to become a part of the middle class that no one in their right mind could possibly support it. If we look at the tax breaks that are in this budget, they are geared to those who need them least.
    It is time to listen to what Canadians are saying. That is what we have been doing as Liberals. We have been listening to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, hearing what their priorities are and determining from our perspective, having listened to what they had to say, what it is we need to be doing as a government, and what the Conservative government needs to be doing, instead of ignoring the priorities of Canadians.
     It is not about the Conservative government. It is about Canadians. It is about their money, taxpayer dollars, that the government is deciding to use to put in place programs and give tax breaks that are of no value. The income-splitting scheme would benefit 15% of Canadians. How is that a responsible decision?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
     Speaking of income splitting, when the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification spoke in defence of her colleague who gave a speech earlier—unless I missed something, and my colleague can correct me if I am wrong—she refused to use the words “income splitting”.
    I have to say that such self-censorship on the part of Conservative cabinet members is certainly a mystery. They refuse to use the words “income splitting”, which are actually nowhere to be found in the budget.
    Can my colleague comment on the restriction that seems to be in place for certain Conservative caucus members, or at least for the Conservative cabinet?

  (1620)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what is happening here is it has become pretty obvious that Canadians are not reacting favourably to the income-splitting scheme. They have heard what has been said in terms of the number of Canadians who would benefit from this and they are realizing that this was not a good measure to put in the budget. As their former finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, said, this is not a good initiative. In fact, he spoke extensively about that and tried to convince his colleagues that it was not the right thing to do. What happened? Because the Prime Minister had committed to it and had committed to those who deserve it least so they could benefit from this high tax break, of course they went ahead with it, much to the chagrin of most Canadians who are now realizing that they will not benefit from this. They do not like the measure that is contained in this budget.