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 .
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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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, , 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?
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.
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 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 , 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.
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.
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.
Mr. Speaker, it was approximately one week ago that the 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 . 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 , 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.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
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 , 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 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 .
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 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 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.
After that, the Conservatives lined up to vote against a Liberal motion to end a special $90,000 annual prime ministerial pension. I guess the 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 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 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 , 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 '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 . 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—
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.
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.
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 .
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?
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 . 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 , 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.
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 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 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.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
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 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 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.
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 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.
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, 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 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 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.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
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.
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.
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 , 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.
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, , 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 , 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 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 who are working hard, that is their money. They have earned it. They say that the government will be out of that money.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
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.
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 , 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 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 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.
Two words come to mind when I read the budget: “dishonesty” and “improvisation”.
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.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
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.
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 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.
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.