The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude my comments.
As I was stating, the provincial government, when it comes to the funding for health care and the transfers from the federal government to the provinces, has not released a budget for the fiscal year. Therefore, I will use the data from the 2013 budget.
This data clearly shows that the increase in federal health funding to Ontario was actually greater than the increase in the provincial share of funding. The federal government provided over $635 million in increased funding to Ontario's health transfer. This represented 59% of the increase in health care funding in Ontario from 2013-14. Nearly 60% of the increase in funding for health care in Ontario, which is close to 50% of the Province of Ontario's budget, was made up from the federal transfers that we delivered to the Province of Ontario for health care for the year 2013-14.
In the first two budgets since the last provincial election, the federal government increased Ontario's health transfers by over 11.8% from 2012 to 2014. Yet, between 2012 and 2014, the Ontario government increased its share of heath care funding by only 3%, and that is over two years. The annual increases were 1.8% and just over 1% in the last budget. Therefore, with the federal government providing almost 12% in increases between 2012 and 2014, the Canada health care transfer grew by almost four times the rate of the 3% that Ontario raised in its share.
When we account for equalization, let us not forget that Ontario, under the provincial government, is now a have-not province, but it was about $1 billion above 2012 levels. One has to wonder if the Province of Ontario has invested a single penny into new health care spending that did not come from the federal government since the last election.
If anything is truly “outrageous”, as the provincial minister of health has stated, it is not only that the federal government invested more new money in Ontario's health care system than the Province of Ontario did but that the Province of Ontario's share of new money from increased equalization payments was paid for by the federal government.
I applaud this budget's move to a sustainable model of health care funding. The Canada health transfer would increase by a minimum of 3% each year and would increase above 3% when the economy grows faster than that. This budget would bring in a sustainable funding model for health care that could guarantee a predictable level of funding for provinces and territories, and could do so for generations. On our commitment, our promise, we have delivered. Even in times of recession, it would be at least 3%.
I believe those comments summarize economic action plan 2014 as well.
The budget is managing taxpayers' dollars wisely while investing in the services Canadians need and positioning Canada to experience further job creation, economic prosperity, and long-term growth, including a commitment to health care for generations to come.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure for me to stand in this House to talk about how Bill would positively impact residents of Palliser in Saskatchewan and in all of Canada.
Our government is focused upon building strong communities with prosperous businesses and creating good high-wage jobs for Canadians. We know that this vision is achievable through creating an environment in which for business can flourish.
Just as we promised in the 2011 election and in budgets since then, we are working toward a balanced budget while not raising taxes or cutting transfers to the provinces. This budget bill would provide support where needed while being mindful of the bottom line.
I would like to add that there is $3 billion in the contingency fund to adjust for risk in the event of disaster, as we unfortunately witnessed last year in Lac-Mégantic and with the floods in southern Alberta. Canadians can be confident that we will achieve a balanced budget this year, and we will.
In my address, I will focus largely on initiatives to train the workforce of today and tomorrow. Canada needs to do much better to ensure that training reflects the needs of the labour market.
Members might be wondering what issues are facing our labour markets.
We have regional and sectoral job vacancies coupled with unemployment. We have a number of groups that are being used to fill different potentials, including recent immigrations, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and older Canadians. I am very pleased that this budget contains a number of measures to encourage and foster skills training to help these people find meaningful employment while filling job vacancies. Creating highly skilled and well-paying jobs is very much in the national interest.
To emphasize the importance of finding solutions to skills shortages, I will mention that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lists skills shortage as the number one barrier to Canada's competitiveness. One of the most exciting aspects to foster skills training involves allowing apprentices to qualify for interest-free loans during their four-year training period. The Canadian apprentice loan would build upon substantial support already in place to help apprentices with costs. This loan of up to $4,000 per period of technical training would assist apprentices as they complete their training and would encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades.
It is important for apprentices to complete their training to ensure their qualifications are recognized in other parts of the country. At least 26,000 people are expected to apply for and ultimately benefit from this $100 million annual investment.
Robert Blakely, of Canada's building trades union, has indicated his support. He said:
||...the way apprentices are being treated has changed and they are now, thanks to measures introduced in the 2014 Budget, treated more like their colleagues in college and those involved in university training.
Another exciting feature entails modifications to strengthen the labour market opinion process to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs. This would be partly accomplished through limiting the use of LMO programs in high-employment regions. This $11 million investment over two years, and $3.5 million ongoing, would realign applications to high-demand fields.
We will continue to better meet the demands of the labour market through the newly created expressions of interest system to allow the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to actively target highly skilled immigrants who wish to establish permanent residency in Canada. This program represents an investment of $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing.
So far my words here today have focused on meeting the needs of our workforce, because this is the primary obstacle to growth facing Saskatchewan. Indeed, Saskatchewan's unemployment rate ranks among the lowest in the country, while Regina ranks the lowest among Canadian cities. In fact, as of yesterday, there were more than 15,500 jobs listed at saskjobs.ca.
As a government, we are primarily concentrating on securing the long-term financial security of Canadians. We work toward this vision through creating jobs and economic growth and keeping taxes low to allow Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Our government is known for saving Canadians money through the 160 tax cuts already in place, which save the average family of four approximately $3,400 annually. Also, one million people are now entirely off the tax rolls.
New indications of our ever-expanding list of tax cuts include increasing and indexing the adoption tax credit to $15,000 to make adoptions more affordable. Adoptions can be costly, and this measure would greatly help young growing families.
Helping Canadians save more of their own money extends to ensuring that they get better value for their service in the marketplace. Wholesale domestic roaming rates will be capped to allow the smaller cellphone companies to be better able to compete, which would lead to increased competition and ultimately to lower prices. We can look forward to lower cellphone bills.
These measures build upon existing consumer-friendly items, including reduced tariffs on baby clothing and athletic equipment and clearly displayed airfares without hidden fees.
With the keen judgment and steady hand of our former finance minister, Canada is well positioned to continue leading nations of the world down the path of economic recovery. I know that our new finance minister will continue to steer our economy down the right track, given his discipline, work ethic, knowledge, and depth of experience.
Through Bill , we are continuing to support Canadians of today and tomorrow. All in all, it is a good budget that would encourage economic prosperity not only in the short term but also in the long term. We are investing in our economy today while not mortgaging our future.
I have mentioned just a few points that would greatly improve the situation for issues facing Saskatchewan and, indeed, all of Canada. I hope all members will appreciate the forward thinking demonstrated in Bill and support it.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this budget bill.
For those who are watching, it is well over 400 pages. It is quite a book. It certainly is too much for anybody, without 10 people, to analyze it individually and pick out the things that are problematic. I suspect that there is a variety of items that will go unnoticed, until Canadians feel the impact and then call us, as legislators, to ask if we knew whether it was in the budget.
Try as we might, we cannot cover all the things that are in there. Given the fact that we have time closure, there is a limited amount of time to speak to the bill. I am fortunate to be one of the few people on the Liberal side who has the chance to actually speak to the budget. I would have preferred to have much more opportunity, so that all of us could have spoken to it. However, time allocation renders that next to impossible.
As I said, I am pleased to be here to talk about the budget issue today, particularly because it is my hope that Canada will soon set aside many of the years of Conservative fiscal mismanagement in favour of something better. That could be this fall or it could be next spring, but it certainly should not be any later than next fall. We have to weather another 18 months or so of these kinds of budget bills coming in, which are so huge that people do not know a lot of what is in them.
The day before the budget was released, the Liberal caucus released what we would have hoped the budget would contain. We said that we thought the federal budget must focus on generating the kind of economic growth that would finally help struggling middle-class families, including people in York West, in Toronto.
Many are struggling with the high cost of living in apartments. They are trying to find housing, lack affordable housing, and have all of the pressures that drive many people to join the steady line at food banks every weekend. It is quite appalling for a country as wealthy as we are, and in a city as large and successful as what Toronto has been. I am sad to say that there is nothing in this budget that is going to help the residents of York West and Toronto, or there is very little, if anything.
The reality is that our economic growth rate has not been this poor since the days of R. B. Bennett. The government should have used this budget to invest in infrastructure, education, and other areas that would help to get Canada on track and help to create jobs, and to invest in making our country stronger and more effective.
Instead, this budget provides little more, again, than smoke and mirrors. It provides even less for the average middle-class family in this country.
Budget 2014 speaks directly to the government's priorities, which is why it is good to be clear about the government's priorities versus our priorities as the Liberal Party of Canada. There is nothing in here for seniors who are struggling with limited increases in their pensions while they struggle to pay for more prescription drugs that continue to become more and more expensive.
There is nothing for the many students going to York University, in my riding, and to other universities and colleges across Canada, to deal with the high tuition fees. There is nothing as far as jobs when students graduate. They may get through school with a big debt, but then they will not have jobs at the end of the day. Those are serious problems that governments need to look at and try to find solutions for.
There is nothing to address the fact that the only thing keeping pace with the GDP growth over the past 10 years has been household debt. We know, from all of our analysts, that the amount of debt that all Canadian families are carrying continues to increase every year.
What about veterans? There is nothing to help veterans make ends meet any easier.
There is nothing to deal with the fact that the Canadian middle class has not had a decent raise in over 30 years.
Indeed, those are the government's priorities, and that is its choice. Our job is to point those things out and to plan for the future and the kind of budget we would introduce ourselves, which I expect will try to meet the needs of middle-class Canadians and all Canadians, whether young or old, with their struggles.
That is enough of generalities, I want to look at the budget in a more specific way now.
The government would have us believe that it has set aside money to help veterans. However, in reality what are we hearing? We are hearing that veterans have been left out in the cold again, with $6 million for veteran funerals and $2 million to improve Veterans Affairs.
Now, in order to get access to this tiny bit of money, a veteran would have to be below the poverty line, which means that to get money to help offset a veteran's funeral cost, one has to be bringing in an income of less than $12,000. We do not want people living on less than $12,000. However, in order to be able to apply for help to pay for a veteran's funeral, one has to be down to that kind of a pocket, which means that very few people would be able to qualify to apply for it.
What about the veterans who are struggling with PTSD, physical injuries, and resettlement issues? There is a lot of talk, but the rubber hits the road when it is in the budget. The amount of money that should be in the budget to help with PTSD cannot be just talk; it has to be in the budget.
However, it is not just veterans who have been left out of this Conservative brand of so-called economic prosperity; rural Canadians have been ignored as well.
Budget 2014 allocates what amounts to be about $6.75 per rural man, woman, and child for rural broadband. That is right: after slashing the Liberal program to connect every rural and remote community in Canada to the Internet, the government is hoping that a paltry $6.75 will be enough to connect rural broadband with the rest of the country. It does not work that way.
However, we are glad to see that the government has finally put some money into connecting rural and remote Canada to the Internet. It is a lifeline, a railroad, that will help all Canadians have access to the Internet. We were disappointed when the Liberal programs had been slashed, but pleased that the Conservatives finally adopted the previous Liberal plan. They are now going ahead and realizing just how important that is.
Remember, the budget looks very similar to another example of financial planning on the fly. Phony ad campaigns and one-off cash injections did not bring prosperity when the minister was selling Ontario down the river in the 1990s. Clearly, it is not going to work here either.
In 2012, the government made ill-advised changes to environmental regulations and immigration laws. Then, in 2013, it reversed those changes. Am I shocked that the 2014 budget made more reversals? No, it is just how these guys appear to roll: one step forward and two steps back.
Worst of all, let us keep in mind that this is all just in time for an election. It begs the question: are the Conservatives minding the best interests of Canadians or their own best interests?
Of course, seniors are happy that they have been left out of the budget because recent history tells us that when they are included in the Conservative budget it usually means pain, such as moving the age of retirement to 67, the beginning of taxing income trusts, and increasing the income tax rate for low-income Canadians. The good thing is that seniors were ignored this time. They cannot take much more of the kind of prosperity that they have in the past.
Now, that does not take into account the fact that the government appears to be reversing itself again on previous commitments to seniors, rural Canadians, and middle-class Canadians.
Remember the Conservatives' income-splitting promise? Remember their promise to cut the excise tax on diesel in half? What has happened with those things? This is 2014, and that was a commitment from 2011. Three years later, we have not seen that happen at all.
Remember when the said that taxing income trusts was raiding the best nest eggs of our seniors? Well, budget 2014 has verified a full reversal on all of those commitments.
All of this is just as a leaked government report shows that middle-class Canadians, students, seniors, farmers, truckers, and nearly every other person who works for a living, are falling behind. I did not invent these things. These are facts that come from Statistics Canada, or our public policy forums, which certainly confirm this. Household bills are growing, but incomes are stagnant throughout Canada.
People in York West, who I meet with every day, are struggling to find jobs, looking to take anything. I met a fellow last night who was pumping gas. He said he has three jobs and that is the only way he can stay on top of things.
Things are tough out there. The government's role is to make it better. The Liberals are going to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I am truly proud to rise today to speak to our budget implementation bill.
I have listened to what members of the opposition have said about the bill. They have spent more time complaining about the lack of time they have for debate than anything else. Some finally are starting to focus on some of the issues, and that is a good and healthy thing. That is what the opposition should be doing.
However, we have had day after day of debate on the bill, and we are only at second reading. It will go to committee for hours and hours and days and days of discussion and debate. Then it comes back to the House for third reading debate, which will be several days more. Yet the opposition spends time complaining about the lack of time they have to speak on the bill. It does not jibe with reality.
I would encourage members of the opposition to focus more on dealing with the issues. If they have concerns, they should bring those forward, absolutely. That is the role of the opposition. It is an appropriate role. I encourage them to do that. It would not hurt, from time to time, to say something positive where they see strengths in the budget. In fact, the last member to speak did that, and I give her credit for it. We have heard precious little of that from the opposition in this debate, although we hear more in private conversations.
I will focus on a couple of the key issues that are important parts of the budget and of this implementation bill. First, I will focus on the government and its absolute commitment to balancing the budget by 2015. That is very important to people in my part of the country and to Alberta as a province. It would bring benefits to Canadians right across the country. It is worth talking about a little bit.
Unlike the Liberal leader, who said that the budget would balance itself, we do not believe that, and we put in place a plan back in 2006 that started the process of working toward a balanced budget. That is when we got into government.
The opposition forgets that we paid down $37 billion in federal debt before the recession hit. When the recession hit, the government took the position that it was important to provide some stimulus for the economy. Most of that was delivered through infrastructure funding, new innovation, and things that would make Canada more competitive and would allow us to compete with our neighbour to the south but also with the world. We have seen really incredible results from that over the past few years. The benefits are becoming obvious.
We have focused on balancing the budget. We will not do it by legalizing marijuana, another position taken by the leader of the Liberal Party, which is to tax it but make it more readily available for our youth and our kids. We will not do that. First, I do not think that would do the job. Second, I think it is more important that we protect our children from marijuana and from other drugs, for that matter. I do not believe that they are harmless. I believe that they are dangerous drugs that are to be kept from our children. Legalizing marijuana, as the leader of the opposition suggests, no doubt as a plan to increase taxes to balance the budget, is not an acceptable way to go, and I will not be part of that. I simply will not support that, and our government certainly will not propose that in any fashion.
Nor should we try balancing the budget by implementing a carbon tax, which has been proposed by both the New Democratic Party and the Liberals. I do not believe that is the right way to go. Our government does not believe that is the right way to go either. In fact, we believe that would stifle business and harm our economy and therefore kill jobs. That is not what we are about. We are about creating a stronger economy and creating jobs and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
We have certainly moved our country along in that direction in the past few years. I am proud to be a member of the party that is in government now. We are not willing to go the carbon tax route.
We have members of the opposition saying that we do not care about the environment. That is simply not the case. In fact, if we look at history, it is always Conservative parties that actually do something about protecting the environment. When the former Progressive Conservative government was in place, Prime Minister Mulroney was the prime minister. He was criticized and beaten upon day after day, week after week, year after year, because he was not doing enough on the environment. Who was then awarded recognition by the Sierra Club, which was led by the current leader of the Green Party, as the most green prime minister in Canadian history? It was Mr. Mulroney. What the opposition said at the time, when the Conservatives were in government, and what it said later, once it was actually recognized what they had done, were two different things entirely.
That is really what is happening with our government as well. Certainly the opposition does not recognize what we have done for the environment, nor does the national media, but the reality is that we have done a lot. We have Canada well positioned when it comes to dealing with the environment and ensuring that Canadians are going to live long into the future in a very safe environment. I am proud to be a part of that. We are doing that without a carbon tax at the same time as we are balancing the budget. That is an important focus. It is a commitment we will meet next year, if not sooner.
I think Canadians want to know that. Why should they care? They should care because once we balance the budget, we can pay down the debt. At that time, maybe we could offer some tax relief as well. Maybe there could be targeted new spending as well. Certainly the infrastructure spending we have committed to in the budget will increase as time goes on. All of that is in place. As we start paying down the debt again, as we did when we first got into government, with $37 billion in those first three years, I think it was, it means lower interest payments for Canadians. That means more money they can keep in their pockets. We are all about that.
How have we balanced the budget? I was here in 1993 when the Liberal government balanced the budget. I give it credit for that. How did the Liberals do it? They did it almost entirely by downloading to the provinces and municipalities. They did not do it by making government itself more efficient. They did not do it by improving operations within the departments. They did nothing when it comes to that. They did it by downloading to the provinces and by slashing health transfers by $21 billion. That is completely out of line.
We are balancing the budget with increased spending on infrastructure and increased spending on social transfers while at the same time keeping taxes low. We have lowered taxes for an average Canadian family of four by $3,400. At the same time, we offered these families $1,200 a year for every preschool child. We left that in place. We are not increasing taxes. We are keeping taxes low. In fact, taxes in Canada are the lowest they have been in 50 years. What a reversal.
The world is noticing. There has been a 35% reduction in business tax. The rewards are great. We have more companies moving to Canada to do business. This is a great place to do business. The example we all love to point to is the head office of Tim Hortons. It moved from the United States back home to Canada, where it belongs. That is just one example of many.
I am proud to be part of a government that has balanced the budget and at the same time has kept taxes low and is increasing transfers to the provinces for infrastructure and social programs. It is the right thing to do. I wonder why the opposition does not talk about that more.
Mr. Speaker, under the leadership of this , Canada has enjoyed a stellar economic record. This is why I stand in this House today in full support of the measures contained in the 2014 budget implementation act.
Year after year, through our economic action plan, this government has created the economic conditions that allow Canadian businesses to prosper and Canadian citizens to benefit from a high standard of living.
There is a sentiment shared by many. Globally recognized authorities, from the OECD to the International Monetary Fund, have ranked Canada as one of the best countries in the world in which to do business. In fact, they expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and next.
The international business press, including Forbes Magazine and Bloomberg News, is equally fulsome in its praise for Canada’s success in creating a climate conducive to job creation.
Indeed, the facts speak for themselves. There are over one million more Canadians working today than during the worst part of the recession. That is the best job creation record of any G7 country during this period.
Despite significant global uncertainty, the Canadian economy has continued to expand. Real gross domestic product in Canada is significantly above pre-recession levels. All of this is translated into the strongest real per capita income growth in the G7 since 2006, which means Canadians have more money in their pockets today than their counterparts have in other developed countries.
This is a testament to this government's and this 's strong economic stewardship.
Of course, there is ongoing uncertainty in the global economic environment. That is why we must continue to encourage job creation and foster economic growth, the twin pillars of the economic action plan since its inception in 2009, while remaining on track for balanced federal budgets.
That is exactly what budget 2014 will do.
We must—and we will—continue to improve the conditions for business investment. We will keep taxes low and reduce the tax compliance and regulatory burden on businesses so they can focus on jobs and economic growth. We will also make sure everyone pays their fair share.
There are over 20 tax measures in the budget that would improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system and crack down on tax avoidance and evasion.
One of the most important of these measures would advance the work of the Red Tape Reduction Commission. Economic action plan 2014 announced that we are cutting red tape for more than 50,000 employers by reducing the maximum number of times employers need to send source deduction payments to the CRA. These are deductions companies withhold for their employees' income tax, Canada pension plan contributions, and employment insurance premiums.
At the moment, if employers withhold an average of $15,000 to $50,000 in deductions monthly, they are required to remit deductions up to twice per month. Larger organizations withholding monthly deductions of $50,000 or more have to remit them up to four times a month. This can be an onerous task for Canadians already working tirelessly to run their businesses.
To reduce the tax compliance burden, economic action plan 2014 proposes to reduce the frequency of remittances by increasing the threshold levels. Employers would only need to remit up to two times per month when their withholdings are between $25,000 and $100,000. The upper threshold would also be increased. Now only employers with monthly withholdings of $100,000 or more would be required to remit up to four times a month.
We also intend to launch a liaison officer initiative pilot project to improve compliance within Canada’s small and medium business community.
Firms will be provided with information and the support they need, when they most need it, so they get their tax obligations “right from the start”. This will help them avoid costly and time-consuming interactions with CRA, freeing up businesses to focus on doing business.
Another way we would reduce the paper burden for companies big and small would be by making improvements to CRA service delivery. For instance, authorized company tax representatives, such as accounting firms, can now submit an electronic authorization request to the CRA instead of filing paper forms.
As part of our efforts to reduce red tape, we have engaged Canada's business community and listened to its concerns. We are now acting on its recommendations.
As of October 2014, businesses will be able to update their banking and direct deposit information online.
October is also when the first free online option for paying taxes will be available for business owners registered with My Business Account. As well, a detailed payment history for all of their accounts will be available in one secure and convenient place.
Our government takes the abuse of Canada's tax laws very seriously. Unpaid taxes mean less money for programs that all Canadians depend upon. The CRA is clamping down on international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. The majority of the measures announced in economic action plan 2013 to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance are now in place and are giving CRA investigators more tools to crack down on tax cheats. These measures will build on our efforts in dealing with international non-compliance.
To date the CRA has identified over $4.5 billion in unpaid tax. This includes 340 cases of high-net-worth groups using sophisticated business structures and offshore arrangements to avoid taxes.
Word of CRA's success is spreading. Disclosures received through the CRA's voluntary disclosures program involving offshore accounts or assets have increased from roughly 1,200 in 2006-07 to close to 4,000 in 2012-13. Total unreported income from this period was $1.77 billion, with just over $470 million in federal taxes owing.
To make it easier to identify more cases of international tax non-compliance, we now require Canadian taxpayers with foreign income or properties to report more detailed information, and we have extended the time the CRA has to reassess those who have not properly reported this income. As of 2015, we will have even more tools at our disposal. Banks and other financial intermediaries will be required to report international electronic file transfers of $10,000 or more to the CRA.
We have also streamlined the legal process that allows the CRA to get information from third parties, such as banks. This makes it easier to access information on unnamed individuals, such as those who hold foreign assets or are involved in foreign financial transactions.
This government is working to ensure the CRA has access to as many sources of information as possible. That is precisely why we introduced the new offshore tax informant program, which allows individuals to provide information related to major international tax non-compliance.
I could go on highlighting a long list of new tax credits in this year's budget. They range from recognizing the contributions of volunteers who fight fires or conduct search and rescue to expanding the list of eligible medical expenses and enhancing the adoption expense tax credit, initiatives that would make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadian taxpayers.
I urge all parties to join us in passing this legislation so that we can continue on our path of job creation and economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on this bill. First, I would like to thank our shadow minister for finance, the member for , for all his work in preparing us for this bill and defending Canadians within and outside of the House. I am really proud to have him as a colleague, and he serves British Columbia very well.
I have to say that I am opposed to this bill for much of its substance, as well as for the process by which these laws are being passed. I will elaborate at length about my procedural objections to Bill .
Bill would fail to take adequate action to create jobs or reverse cuts to infrastructure funding, which is apparent from the speeches we have heard. That is why I would like to focus mostly on the process by which these omnibus bills are passed through Parliament.
Bill would fail to create jobs, it would cut infrastructure funding, and it would also continue the sorry tradition set by previous omnibus budget bills of forcing hundreds of changes through Parliament without proper oversight. This is an all too common Conservative practice, and it is disturbing as it undermines the work we do here in Parliament. The tabling of such a wide-ranging bill in such a short timeframe undermines our ability to properly scrutinize the bill and denies MPs the ability to thoroughly study the bill and its implications.
The bill has over 350 pages, almost 500 clauses, and would amend dozens of bills, including a variety of measures never mentioned in the budget speech. This is the Conservatives' fifth attempt to evade parliamentary scrutiny of their economic agenda.
In the remainder of my time, I would like to use an example from a previous omnibus budget, Bill , to show the damage these omnibus budget bills can cause and why it is important that we break these bills apart and debate them piece by piece.
Among other things, Bill rammed through changes to the National Energy Board Act regarding the approval of new oil pipelines. In addition to shortening the length of time the NEB has to review new projects to just 15 months, whereas previous reviews had no time limits, the NEB is now only a mere advisory body, with the cabinet now having the final say on any project.
Now, the changes that were rammed through the House in Bill with little consideration or debate are hitting the road in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas. Again, we had a large package of bills bundled up in Bill and passed through with little debate, and now the effects of those bills are impacting my riding in a negative way.
I would like to use the example of Kinder Morgan's proposal to build a new pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby to illustrate why the current omnibus bill should not be rammed through the House.
Last December, the Kinder Morgan company filed an application with the National Energy Board to build a new export-only bitumen based crude oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. This application includes a request for permission for a 150 metre-wide right of way to dig a trench as large as one that would be required for a subway or SkyTrain. The project would bring 400 new oil tankers to Burrard Inlet. The project will likely be built using temporary foreign workers. It will not use Canadian steel, limiting the economic benefits to B.C. However, the benefit to Kinder Morgan is obvious, with the company standing to make as much as $5 million per day if the project is approved.
Before the changes brought in by Bill , any company proposing to build a new pipeline of this size would have filed an application with the National Energy Board. The NEB would have reviewed the application to determine that it were complete, and if complete, the NEB would have issued a hearing order and called for public participation. Any Canadians interested in speaking to the project could have either sent a letter of comment, given a short oral presentation, or applied to be a full intervenor. This was the case for the Enbridge northern gateway project, which, incidentally, is about the same size as Kinder Morgan's proposal.
After the changes in Bill , the process has been completely changed and, I submit, undermined. First, due to a new 15-month time limit, the NEB has had to cut the public almost completely out of this approval process. To do so, the NEB has cancelled scheduled public information meetings; issued a call for participation without as much as a press release; reduced the possible participation routes from letters, oral presentations, or full interventions to just letters or a full intervention; and ruled that if the potential participant fails to register, he or she cannot even send a letter to the National Energy Board. The NEB has also issued a hearing order for this project, even though the company has filed an incomplete application. For example, Kinder Morgan has not even determined the final pipeline route.
This is serious, because if this project is approved, the company would have the right to expropriate homes and land along the proposed route through the NEB Act right of entry clauses, and we could find ourselves in the absurd position that those who might lose their homes would not even be allowed to send a letter of objection to the board. These changes were all brought about because Bill was rammed through the House without proper debate.
Although the NEB wanted this whole process to proceed without public input in order to meet the conditions prescribed in Bill , 2,200 people still registered to participate in the process. However, last week we learned that all but 400 of these applicants had been kicked out of the process, including many homeowners. That means they will not even be able to make an oral submission or appear before the National Energy Board. Whereas companies were almost universally accepted, including one that filed after the deadline had closed for participation, the vast majority of those now excluded from the process are residents and landowners whose lives could be turned upside down by this project.
Not everyone is upset by how this project is being rammed through my community in British Columbia. The Conservatives are certainly pleased and have referred to these pipelines as “a national dream” and label anyone who asks questions about the logic of these pipelines—they do not even have to be opposed—as “radicals”.
However, the support for this pipeline and a process by which it is being approved does not stop there. In the January 22 edition of Metro News in Calgary, the leader of the Liberal Party said:
|| I am...very interested in the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline that is making its way through. I certainly hope that we are going to be able to get that pipeline approved.
To reiterate, the leader of the Liberal Party said he certainly hopes we would be able to get this pipeline approved. This quote was again confirmed in an article published on February 26 in the Vancouver Observer.
While others in the House may view the Bill omnibus bill as a dream, my constituents, especially those who might be negatively impacted by this project, see this process and project as a nightmare.
I too am worried. This pipeline is not only slated to run through the communities I represent, but is also slated to run through 15 first nations reserves and 80 territories, and 130 nations have signed a declaration against this pipeline.
My nightmare scenario is that bulldozers show up in B.C. neighbourhoods or reserves, start digging trenches without consent, and then we have conflict. This is a real possibility. Because of the way Bill was rammed through the House, because of the way the NEB process was undermined and shortened, now the National Energy Board really has had no choice but to limit public participation. This means excluding residents, people who own homes and land and businesses along the route, but also first nations.
Many first nations did not register to appear before the National Energy Board, thus they will be cut out of the process. They will not even be able to send a letter to say that they do not want the pipeline to go through their community.
This is unacceptable, and I think the changes to the National Energy Board Act and the negative impacts on my community are a direct result of these omnibus bills. They are cobbled together so that the government can force its agenda through and perhaps facilitate these very large projects like energy pipelines.
It is important to realize that now that we are here discussing a new omnibus budget bill, an implementation act, we should take the time to break it apart to make sure that we have an adequate discussion of these different clauses.
Perhaps I have not stressed enough how this project and these changes have affected my community. I have literally had hundreds of constituents call or come into my office to express their concerns, completely oblivious to the fact there will basically be something as large as a subway going through their backyard and that they will not even be able to send a letter to say that they do not want this to happen.
I think it is a disgrace, and I apologize to my constituents. We fought against Bill as much as we could. We will fight against this current budget implementation act until the government sees fit to make sure that Canadian voices are heard when we are debating this important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak about the budget implementation act.
We have been down this path before in terms of the complexity involved in the challenging economic times we live in today. It requires large comprehensive budget implementation bills. This is the first of two. There will be one in the fall that we will debate.
As always, it is good to get a budget passed in the same year we propose it. We will likely get this budget all wrapped in December of this year. It is through a lot of work among all members of the House of Commons where we debate this bill.
I know they complain about process across the way, but that is the reality. These are not simple economic times. They are challenging economic times, and they do require large and comprehensive responses.
I will focus my comments on a few items that are very important to me and, I know, to the people of my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore and in Toronto.
First I will talk about what frames the budget, and we are looking to get to balanced budgets, which is really fundamental.
Before the recession hit, we paid down about $37 billion in debt between 2006 and 2009. That was very important. It actually put Canada on firm economic ground. It gave us flexibility to do certain things.
Unlike the Liberals, we do not believe that budgets just balance themselves. It does require a lot of effort to balance the budgets. We ran some deficits intentionally during the global economic crisis. There was stimulus that was required. A lot of infrastructure was built through the stimulus program and it was necessary to keep people working, but we want to get back to balanced budgets.
The way we get there is not by stifling consumer confidence, by raising taxes, or by raising all kinds of other taxes that drive people to work in the underground economy. One of the fundamental underpinnings of our approach to balancing the budget is to keep taxes low.
What we have in our plan are some sensible tax policies. My colleague, the , talked about some of those sensible tax policies, such as pursuing aggressive tax avoidance and putting new plans there. It is also keeping those taxes low precisely so that the people work in the above-ground economy and pay those taxes.
We see this inverse relationship. When we are lowering taxes, tax receipts are going up. It is because it does create jobs and stimulate the economy, and more people and more companies are paying taxes.
We also have to have as an underpinning some very sound job creation strategies. I mentioned earlier that natural resources are an important plank in our economy, but there are all kinds of other places where we have seen significant job growth in Canada over the last few years. In fact, we have had the best job creation record in the G7.
A third very important underpinning is that we have to have some control on government spending. It is really important that we manage the tax spending on behalf of taxpayers. We are the custodian of these tax dollars that they send us and we have to spend those dollars responsibly.
I am proud of what we have put together in the last few years, and this budget builds on that theme of controlling expenses necessarily. We have done that. We actually have the lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7 as a result of that strong hand on the economic tiller.
I want to salute the previous minister of finance for all the fine work he did over the years. I look forward to working with the new to make sure we continue with that strong tradition.
What are we doing to control those expenditures?
One, the has been in negotiations with the public sector unions to make sure the wages and benefits we are paying our fine, hard-working public servants are affordable to taxpayers. They have to be reasonable. They have to be in line with what people would get for similar kinds of jobs in the private sector.
As I mentioned earlier, we are also closing tax loopholes to make sure we strengthen tax enforcement and ensure we can keep those taxes low.
We are looking at things that control the size, scope, and cost of government. We have done some things in the last couple of years to freeze departmental spending, which is very important, by using new technologies and consolidating back-office kinds of functions, as any good business would do. The Government of Canada is a very large enterprise and we have been doing certain things that have been saving taxpayers money.
We are also looking at assets that are under the control of the Government of Canada, and where it does not make sense for the Government of Canada to be in that business, we are looking at where the private sector can jump in and play a more important role.
I will talk mostly about what the Liberals did in the 1990s, because I think there is a strong contrast between what we are doing with our plan to return to balanced budgets and what the Liberals did.
In 1993, the Liberals came in with a promise to abolish the GST. Well, of course, they did nothing of the sort. In fact, they kept it in place and even encouraged an expansion of the consumption tax base through the HST without cutting the rates at all.
They also kept EI payroll taxes very high and ran enormous surpluses in the EI account, which they then transferred to pay down the debt, which was a tax on jobs; members know that. They also kept income taxes high, and this happened through bracket creep, by stealth, so more and more people who actually had lower income were paying income taxes. What we have done with our plan is remove those people from the income tax rolls altogether, by adjusting the brackets appropriately.
One of the things the Liberals did in the 1990s to balance the budget, which we are not doing, is they failed to meet the needs of our armed forces. The armed forces needs equipment. It needs the supplies. It needs all of the materiel to ensure it can do its job protecting Canadians and engaging in places around the world. That is something we are not doing. We are maintaining those important investments in our capacity there.
The biggest dollar item and biggest contrast between what we are doing and what the Liberals did in the 1990s to balance the budget is we are not slashing transfers to the provinces. That is very fundamental. As members know, we have a record high of $65 billion in transfers to the provinces for things like health care and social services. I should mention that it is an increase of 50% since 2006.
These are important differences between how we are balancing the budgets and what the Liberals did in the 1990s.
I also want to mention that, before we can do all these things, we have to have this foundation of jobs and growth. There are some important measures that we have taken to create jobs in this country. I mentioned natural resources. However, it is also important that we talk about the employment and skills strategies that we put in place. Last year, in 2013, we talked about the Canada jobs grant. This year, we have some agreements in place with the provinces because we know that, for companies to grow, they need to have the skills. We hear over and over again from employers across the country about the skills gap and what employers need. In fact, some employers are looking to bring people from overseas, which is great for those immigrants to come to Canada and take those high-paying jobs in various roles, but at the same time it is a shame that there are not more Canadians available who can fill some of those important jobs in areas like science, engineering, and technology. That is where the job growth is in our 21st century economy, so we are doing things to ensure Canadians are connected with those available jobs.
There are some significant investments we are making in R and D that need to be pointed out. We are working with universities and working with private companies. Where Canada has been challenged has been in private sector R and D. We have always maintained a very high level of public sector R and D, but we can encourage companies to make those investments and really take their great ideas to the commercialization stage. We have some specific measures in the budget, which I firmly support. In talking to people at innovative companies in my area of the GTA, I hear them talk all the time about the need for these programs, to ensure we are building those jobs for the 21st century.
One of the last things I am going to talk about is also what we are doing to foster small business. Many of my colleagues have mentioned the importance of small business, the way it flexibly adapts to changes in the economy and creates jobs all the time. Since 2006, we have had a very firm record of supporting small business through measures like tax reductions. Some of my colleagues mentioned we have reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. It does not sound like a lot, but it is actually reducing the taxes small business owners are paying by almost 10%.
We have eliminated that corporate surtax that they were paying, which is a very big item for small business. Very importantly, we are maintaining EI rates for small businesses. These are some significant measures. We raised the lifetime capital gains exemption for small businesses. So when they build capital and build a nest egg for their future, we have raised the rate they are not taxed on to $800,000 in 2014. Importantly, it is now indexed to inflation.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the important investments in infrastructure. In Toronto specifically, $4.5 billion has been spent by this government on GTA infrastructure, on things like subways and roads: for example, the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension, the Union Station revitalization, GO Transit enhancements, and finally, with the commitment with the City of Toronto, the extension of the subway into Scarborough.
With that, I am just going to mention that our plan is to keep taxes low, create jobs, and ensure people are paying taxes; and we are not going to spend recklessly like the opposition.