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.
Mr. Speaker, this omnibus bill contains two components that are very important for my riding. This is yet another omnibus, or “omnibrick” bill, as I said to my colleague from . What is sad is that the two measures I am going to focus on have nothing to do with a budget. I am talking about railway safety and imposing a toll on the Champlain Bridge.
The government knows full well that railway safety is a major concern. It has been said in the House on a number of occasions. It is even more important where I come from because the rail lines travel straight through large urban centres and residential neighbourhoods. The elementary school where my mother teaches, in Otterburn Park, is located near train tracks, and trains pass by carrying the same products that caused the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. We are therefore very concerned about this issue, to the point that when my colleague from , the NDP transport critic, came to Mont Saint-Hilaire for a public consultation, more than 100 people showed up. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, which goes to show how worried people are.
We have hammered away at many points over and over again. One interesting point was raised a number of times. It is not being talked about much, but it comes up in the bill. I am talking about the issue of transparency. One of the changes proposed by Bill would allow cabinet to make amendments to railway safety regulations without the public's knowledge.
That is extremely troubling because if Canadians wants to pressure their government into making changes and ensuring our safety, they can no longer challenge the government's decisions because they will not even know about them. That is clearly very problematic, especially because it runs counter to the current trend.
Indeed, in the United States, the trend is to investigate the various regulatory issues. We know that the U.S. also wanted to make changes because of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, among others. After all, it was an American company, and thus a somewhat shared jurisdiction. However, the fact that this falls under shared jurisdiction is not an excuse to do nothing. The government has done nothing to date. It is extremely troubling to think that the government wants to make changes without the public knowing about them, particularly since Canadians are already concerned about the government's lack of transparency. These changes are only going to make things worse. What is more, they have nothing to do with the budget.
This shows a lack of respect for Canadians, given that people are concerned. From what we have seen, people are becoming increasingly aware of this issue. The government may say that accidents rarely occur, but when they do, it prompts people to find out more. During the public consultations, I was extremely impressed to learn that people know a lot about this issue and about the various regulations. That is good for our democracy.
As MPs, this really helps us to properly stand up for what our constituents want. However, it also shows that if people are looking for information, it must be available to them. The government's desire to make decisions behind closed doors is insulting to Canadians who are clearly committed to getting informed in order to improve the regulations. We are very concerned about this.
The second point I would like to make is about the toll on the Champlain Bridge. I could never speak about this issue with as much passion as my colleague from showed this morning. However, I would like to say that all members of ridings in the south shore share his passion. I am not just talking about federal MPs. All elected officials in the region are united on this issue, as are ordinary Canadians and the business community.
Once again, the government is hiding measures in an omnibus bill. That seems to be a consistent trend.
Since the was once a mayor, he should understand the importance of consulting municipalities and businesses. He should also understand that it is a grave insult to the people when Ottawa fails to consult them and hides measures that eliminate other consultation tools. That is what is going on with Bill . There is no independent consultation about the new Champlain Bridge to make sure that future tolls will be similar to tolls elsewhere in the world and that the government is following best practices.
Unfortunately, the minister's contempt for the people comes as no surprise. We may not be surprised at the lack of consultation or the government's decision to hide measures in omnibus bills, but we are nevertheless disappointed.
That being said, as my colleague pointed out, we will not let this go unnoticed. We have rallied the people. In my riding, there was a luncheon with the new president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie du Bassin de Chambly. The new president and the new board have three priorities for the chamber of commerce in the coming year. Their top priority is the Champlain Bridge. A huge number of people in the Chambly basin use this bridge. We are right along highway 10, so it is easy to see why this is such an important issue.
The mayor of Chambly, Denis Lavoie, gave a presentation to the chamber of commerce during the annual mayor's luncheon. He talked about his disappointment and said that he would not let the issue drop. My colleagues and I stand firmly behind them.
In that spirit, on Saturday, May 3, we will be knocking on our constituents' doors on the south shore and in the northern and southern suburbs of Montreal, since I am in the second tier of suburbs, not the immediately adjacent suburb. My riding straddles two regions, but we are still in the south shore region. Some of our constituents commute to Montreal for work, so it is important for me to consult them. Just today some of my constituents said they are worried about this, and their concern is growing every day.
I really liked the expression my colleague from used. He called it bullying. Some people may find that a little strong, but the word is fair, since the situation in our region is very serious. It would seem as though I am repeating everything my colleague from said, but that is a good sign, because it shows how united we are on this and that our constituents have the same priorities.
The lack of consultation really worries us because it was the mismanagement by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments that got us here in the first place. They did not want to maintain the bridge properly. Now the government is saying that it is a disaster and that measures must be imposed immediately. They even skipped the tendering process. The government used past mismanagement to justify its current mismanagement of this file. We have a problem with that. This situation is unacceptable, and we will continue to oppose it.
This is a positive message, because an NDP government would consult Canadians, whether regarding the Champlain Bridge or on any other matter. We have the courage of our convictions and we would not hide them in an omnibus bill like the one I am honoured to oppose here today.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to highlight some of the key measures in the federal budget, the economic action plan 2014. It is entitled “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”. It was recently tabled by the .
Those are two very important aspects of the plan to ensure that indeed there are continuing jobs and continuing long-term prosperity in Canada.
This is the government's tenth budget since 2006. I have been here for each of the years of the budgets after that. Over that period, our country has been confronted by some unprecedented global and economic challenges from beyond our borders. We have certainly had to take action as a result.
In good time and bad times, we have never strayed from our commitment to strengthen our economy for all Canadians, with the determination to see our plan through without raising taxes—and that is an important aspect of it—while at the same time addressing of the deficit. Those are important pillars in keeping our economy strong and ensuring that we do well in the long term.
As was mentioned a number of times here today, Canada is leading the global economic recovery. The fact is that over one million net new jobs have been created in Canada, over 85% of them full time and nearly 80% in the private sector. Those areas are very important. That is where we are creating the jobs.
This has all happened since the end of the recession in July 2009. Over this period, this is the strongest job growth in the entire G7 by far.
Canadians have also enjoyed the strongest income growth in the G7. Canada is the only G7 country to have more than fully recovered business investment loss during the recession.
It is important that we keep on track for balancing the budget. Before the global recession hit, our government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
Members will remember that there was a discussion about what we should do with the extra funds that were available, and a decision was made to pay down the debt. That was in advance of the global recession that was to take place. We now find that was a very wise thing to do. That aggressive debt reduction and fiscal responsibility and good planning put Canada in the best position possible to weather the global recession.
When the global recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs. I was there when that discussion was held as well. Would we go into deficit in order to preserve our economy, in order to create jobs? The answer was that we would indeed go into deficit, fairly significantly, but in the short term and with a plan to return to balance. Those monies were not placed or spent by putting them on some big dark black hole. The money was utilized primarily to create infrastructure.
Infrastructure was indeed needed to create jobs. In fact, infrastructure is the backbone for our economy. Businesses that want to invest and expand require infrastructure to move products to the port, especially if they are in central Canada. They require electricity. They require highways. All those kinds of things are necessary. That money was invested in infrastructure and certainly helped to create jobs in the short term, but it also ensured our economic prosperity in the longer term.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada remains in a most enviable fiscal position among the G7 countries.
Our Conservative government remains on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015-16. Specifically, economic action plan 2014 announced that the deficit is expected to decline to $2.9 billion in 2014-15 and that a surplus of over $6 billion is expected in 2015-16, even after taking into account a $3 billion annual adjustment for risk.
For all intents and purposes, the budget is balanced, and we are going to announce a surplus.
At the same time, federal transfers that provide important income support to individuals, such as old age security and employment insurance, and major transfers to other levels of government, including those for social programs and health care, have continued to grow.
Budget 2014 also builds on these efforts to reduce wasteful and ineffective government spending by announcing an additional $9.1 billion in ongoing savings. It is not just a question of creating a climate by keeping taxes low to ensure that income is earned and taxes are paid; it is also important to ensure that we do not spend wastefully or operate ineffectively.
We have made public service sector wages and benefits affordable for taxpayers by ensuring that compensation is fair and in line with other public and private sector employers. We have improved the fairness of the tax system by closing tax loopholes and strengthening tax enforcement to ensure low taxes for all taxpayers, not only a select few.
In addition, we have controlled the size and cost of government by freezing departmental budgets to ensure efficiency in government operations and administration. I know it is difficult to do. Once we start doing that, there are a lot of complaints that we are starting to require more efficiency to ensure that we can operate better. It is like a culture that sets in, asking if we can do more with less. Once that starts happening, the amount that is saved ends up being a significant portion. It is not just a saving in the short term; the savings continue to accumulate as the years go forward. It is important for that to happen.
Overall, since 2010, actions that we have taken to make government more effective and efficient are saving taxpayers roughly $19 billion a year, which over a number of years amounts to a significant saving to Canadian taxpayers. At the same time, since 2006 we have increased transfers by over 50% to an all-time high of about $65 billion in 2014-15.
As I said, another important pillar in ensuring that the economy continues to do as well as it has is keeping taxes low. Unlike what some others would suggest, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and in leaving more money where it belongs: in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and Canadian families and in job-creating businesses.
Indeed, as has been mentioned here in the House before, we have cut taxes nearly 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to the lowest level it has been in 50 years. We have cut taxes in every way that government collects them, including personal tax, consumption tax, business tax, excise tax, and more. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant savings of nearly $3,400 for a typical family of four in 2014.
We cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. That was welcomed by all Canadians. We increased the amount that Canadians can earn without paying any tax at all so that low-income earners would not have to pay tax.
We introduced pension income splitting for seniors. As we all know, we reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, placing more than $1,000 back into the pockets of the average family.
We introduced and enhanced the working income tax benefit to ensure that low-income earners could earn more and keep more in their pockets. That has been well received, and the enhancement has certainly done well for lower-income earners.
We introduced the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP.
We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. We steadily lowered the general business tax rate from 21% to 15%. When someone looks to invest in Canada, whether they are a business person, a corporation, or an entrepreneur, having a good tax climate is important in deciding to either expand a business or invest in a new business.
Overall, we have also removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.
Of course, the final point I want to talk about is investing in communities and infrastructure. It is an interesting area.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak out against the budget implementation bill, Bill .
I am against this bill and I am going to try to state the reasons why as quickly as possible in the 10 minutes that I have to speak. Various measures in this bill affect the people of Laval and, today, I am speaking on their behalf.
First, I would like to talk about debt. My colleagues would be very surprised to know how many people write to me every month to share their concerns about our debt. Many people are concerned about the way their money is being spent at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. People know how to count. They expect politicians to spend the money that is available to the different levels of government wisely, and I understand that.
The federal debt went from $582.2 billion in 2011-12 to $627.4 billion in 2013-14 and, according to projections, it will reach $634 billion in 2014-15. What is more, there is no reason to believe that the Conservative government will achieve the surpluses it expects given how much the deficit has grown over the past few years.
I therefore believe that the members on the other side of the House should take the debt issue a bit more seriously and deal with it head-on. According to our numbers and forecasts, this is a very serious situation. Our national debt has increased significantly.
Furthermore, I am still extremely disappointed in the Conservatives' lack of commitment to community organizations and particularly the lack of funding given to these organizations across the country. I cannot mention them all because it would take me much longer than 10 minutes. I could spend a whole day listing them.
As an aside, I would like to talk about the chronic lack of funding for amateur sport. As a result of decisions made regarding the building Canada fund, the federal government was going to help fund an arena for amateur sport in Laval, but at the last minute it decided to back out of the project. We never found out exactly why. That is just one example.
In fact, other amateur sports organizations get very little funding. I am thinking, for example, of Josée Lepage, executive director of the Club de gymnastique Laval Excellence, which continues to work miracles with very few resources. The government is not there to help finance the work needed to maintain the organization's facilities, which costs $35,000. That does not even include the operating budget, which is practically non-existent.
There is another element that affects both the people of Laval and Canadians in all of our ridings. I am talking about funding for cadet corps, which help young people immensely. The young people I met in Alfred—Pellan are involved in community organizations and do volunteer work. For example, they help out at spaghetti suppers and are always there to lend a hand.
In addition, they successfully find ways to raise money for other community organizations, by packing groceries and so on. The people who work in cadet corps are very dedicated, and that includes not only the youth who often become civilian instructors, but also all the officers and civilian instructors.
Because of the current lack of funding for cadet corps services, some people basically use their salary to help pay for activities. I am thinking about Major Felix Macia, from the 2567 Dunkerque cadet corps in Laval, who uses his meagre officer's salary to pay for his cadets' activities.
This budget should have done more to address the challenges facing youth organizations. People can work miracles with very little.
The riding of Alfred-Pellan is an urban but highly agricultural riding on the island of Laval; its economy is largely based on many small and medium-sized businesses. They are a key part of the economy of the eastern part of Laval.
I was very disappointed to see the lack of action for small businesses in this budget and to realize that we will have to wait for the next budget, in the coming year, before small-business owners will see their tax rate drop. They asked for this relief years ago. Ottawa has already granted that privilege to big businesses but refused to do the same for small businesses. Under the Conservative government, the tax rate for big business dropped from 22% to 15% in order to kick-start investment. The government seems to be willing to show some flexibility with small businesses, but we need to wait for the next budget, during an election year, for that to happen. They are simply insulting people who own small and medium-sized businesses.
Where I come from, we are proud of our small and medium businesses. One that comes to mind is the Dolce Pane bakery in Saint-François, which makes cakes with dulce de leche. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Another is Ongles Royal at the Centre Duvernay, where amazing, incredibly gentle and polite women work every day. Another is Démen-Ciel, a restaurant in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, where an absolutely charming couple, executive chef Éric Côté and pastry chef-host Sophie Lapointe, devote themselves to serving local products every day. Au Féminin in Vimont is a clothing boutique run by Chantal Côté and her team that sells only clothes made in Quebec. These are extremely dedicated people who have small businesses with five, 10 or 20 employees. If the government wants to help the economy, it has to help our small and medium businesses.
I also wanted to talk about youth unemployment. Even though 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed, this budget contains not a single significant measure to tackle that problem. In January 2014 in Laval, the unemployment rate was 5.7%. In Quebec, it was 7.5%. This problem hits younger Canadians hardest; their unemployment rate is 2.4 times higher. Statistics Canada's comprehensive study of youth unemployment dynamics found that, in 2012, the unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 24 was 14.3%, while it was just 6% among adults aged 25 to 54 and those over 55.
I am thinking about the young people in Saint-François who are going through a very difficult time and who are even more isolated than the other young people in Laval. They are having a hard time finding work. The young people in Auteuil and Vimont are also struggling to find work even though they are highly educated. Youth employment has never recovered since the 2008 recession. What is more, young people are twice as likely as adults to be laid off . Young workers with low seniority are at greater risk of being laid off by their employer. The sectors that are most affected are construction, manufacturing, retail sales, and hospitality and food services. This budget proposes far too little for young, unemployed Canadians across the country.
I would like to close by talking about arts and culture. In Alfred-Pellan, arts and culture are important to the community. Just look at all the agencies that work in arts and culture in Laval, such as Choeur Chanterelle du Collège Laval, La Chorale le 400, Corporation Rose-Art, Société littéraire de Laval, St-Vincent de Paul Art Gallery, Maison des arts de Laval, Galerie du Ruisseau, le Pépin d'Art, and the list goes on.
As far as culture is concerned, the budget earmarks $105 million in ongoing funding for a number of cultural funds such as the Canada arts presentation fund, the Canada book fund, and the Canada music fund. It should be noted that in all three cases, the allocated funding is not as high as the actual expenditures for those programs for 2012-13.
For its part, the Canada media fund is to end in 2014-15. There is nothing in the budget for now, which is causing some uncertainty and concern among culture stakeholders.
I just want to mention very quickly that the Mayor of Laval, Marc Demers, laments the federal government's disengagement when it comes to social housing. I totally agree with him because there are no measures for social housing. I hope to be able to address this point during questions and comments.
Again, I must say that I am opposed to this omnibus bill. The NDP will keep fighting for a fairer, greener, and more prosperous Canada.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address the House on Bill , the budget implementation act for budget 2014.
Life is a people business, and nowhere is that a truer maxim than in politics. A number of years ago, I decided to stand for election for reasons that most of us did, and that was to make the country a little bit better for everyone.
The last five years have been challenging for our country, even though we have weathered the recent economic storms relatively well since 2008.
Much has been made of the fact that budget 2014 puts the federal budget on a clear path to balance next year, and we in the government are very pleased and proud of that fact. However, I would like to highlight some other measures that Bill implements.
This budget implementation legislation makes improvements to the lives and economic well-being of Canadians from coast to coast. That, after all, is why we are here. We might disagree with each other on how to improve the lives of Canadians, but we all want to make things better, regardless of where we sit.
For my part, I know that budget 2014 and the measures in it would make a difference in the lives of Canadians, and particularly in the lives of my constituents. I would like to highlight some of these measures in Bill that would help our families and communities.
We all know that we face an aging population situation and that with aging comes health-related challenges. Budget 2014 expands health-related tax relief under the HST/GST and the income tax system to reflect the health care needs of Canadians. We are committed to ensuring that the tax system is representative of the changing nature of the health care system and the health care needs of Canadians.
In economic action plan 2014, the list of eligible expenses under the medical expense tax credit would now include costs associated with service animals specially trained to assist individuals with severe diabetes. These are diabetes alert dogs.
Additionally, budget 2014 would provide further tax recognition of costs associated with specially designed medical therapies and training. These costs would be addressed by expanding the current HST/GST exemption for training that is specially designed to aid those Canadians coping with a disorder or a disability. Budget 2014 would now exempt services for designing these particular training plans. The amounts paid for the design of an individualized therapy plan would also be considered an eligible expense for income tax purposes under the medical expense tax credit.
The services of acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors would also be exempted from the GST/HST.
Furthermore, eyewear specially designed to electronically enhance the vision of individuals with vision impairment that was supplied on the order of a physician or other specified health professional would also be added to the list of GST/HST-free medical and assistive devices.
These changes to the medical expense tax credit would apply to expenses incurred after 2013. While these measures are not large or expansive, they are recognition by our government that the expenses of Canadians are changing, and the tax system needs to change with them.
Another measure for budget 2014 I would like to highlight is the increase in the maximum allowed for the adoption expense tax credit to help make adoption more affordable for Canadians.
There are many Canadians out there who would make phenomenal parents, but for whatever reason, they are not able to have children. Equally, there are many children out there who are put up for adoption and need loving families, parents, and safe homes to go to, since for whatever reason, their biological parents are simply not able to take care of them properly.
I believe that no one would argue with me that we want all Canadian children to be in safe, loving homes with parents who care for them and their well-being. For some Canadians, adoption is the only road to parenthood. As such, I believe that we should help Canadians adopt children, and that is what budget 2014 does.
The adoption process however, can be costly for potential parents. Currently the adoption tax expense credit provides a tax credit of up to a maximum of $11,774 in expenses per child for 2014. To increase tax recognition of adoption-related expenses for things such as adoption agency fees and legal fees, budget 2014 would increase the maximum amount of the credit to $15,000. This change would apply to adoptions finalized after 2013. Normal indexation would apply to the new maximum amount for taxation years after 2014. By increasing the adoption expense tax credit to $15,000, we would be providing further tax relief for Canadian parents who want to adopt and would be recognizing the unique costs that arise from adopting a child.
Budget 2014 would also help parents in another critical area. It would enhance access to sickness benefits for claimants who receive parents of critically ill children and compassionate care benefits. Sometimes, when Canadians get sick, they might be unable to care for family members who are seriously ill or injured.
Our government is committed to ensuring fairness in employment insurance programs, to make sure they continue helping Canadians when they need it most. Budget 2014 would build on previous enhancements to the EI sickness benefits for parental benefit claimants, and would commit $2.4 million over two years and $1.2 million ongoing per year to enhance access to sickness benefits. This would be for claimants who receive parents of critically ill children and compassionate care benefits. These enhancements would allow claimants who are temporarily away from work to take care of a critically ill or injured child or gravely ill family member at significant risk of death to temporarily suspend their claims in order to access sickness benefits should they themselves fall sick or become injured. This is good, common sense change and speaks to the compassion of Canadians for one another.
Last, I would like to speak to another measure from budget 2014 that demonstrates the care Canadians have for one another. Speaking from personal experience, I know that Canadians have a great volunteer spirit, and that spirit is very evident in the great city of Edmonton, which I have the honour to represent in this House. I have been privileged to live in many areas of Canada, and I have never seen a city with the volunteer spirit that Edmontonians demonstrate every day and that results in Edmonton staging many large international events with spectacular results.
Canadians volunteer for many great causes, and the one that many people volunteer for is search and rescue. These Canadians volunteer in this role on the ground, in the air, and on the water.
In budget 2011, our government introduced the volunteer firefighters tax credit to recognize the important role that volunteer firefighters play in many Canadian communities. Search and rescue volunteers are another group of quiet heroes in Canada. They put themselves at risk to serve their communities by volunteering for ground, air, and marine search and rescue groups. They do this in support of the Canadian Coast Guard, police, and other agencies. These volunteers are a very important part of the emergency response system, and they provide a source of well-organized, well-trained, and well-equipped volunteers in the event of a natural disaster or large-scale emergency.
To honour these quiet heroes, budget 2014 announced a 15% non-refundable search and rescue volunteers tax credit on an amount of $3,000 for ground, air, and marine search and rescue volunteers. This credit would be available to search and rescue volunteers who perform at least 200 hours of combined eligible search and rescue services and volunteer firefighting services in a given year. They would be able to choose between the volunteer firefighters tax credit and the new tax credit. Those search and rescue volunteers who currently receive honoraria in respect to their duties as emergency service volunteers would also be able to choose between the new tax credit and the existing tax exemption of up to $1,000 for honoraria. This measure would apply for the 2014 tax year and subsequent years, and it is an excellent way to honour the heroes of our local communities.
All these measures I have mentioned would help Canadians and their families. They would make life a bit easier and a bit less expensive, help Canadians become parents, and honour our local heroes. These measures reflect the values of Canadians: compassion, caring for others and those in need, and volunteerism, to name a few. These are values that should be reflected in our federal budgets, and budget 2014 does exactly that. It reflects truly Canadian values.
It has been an honour to address the House on such an important piece of legislation as the budget implementation bill. I look forward to answering questions from my colleagues on both sides of the House, and I truly look forward to casting my vote in favour of Bill .
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill. Clearly, as you know, the Liberals will vote against it.
I will start with the temporary foreign worker program. Three hours after question period, I moved a motion in the House that, unfortunately, did not receive unanimous consent. However, that motion reflects our point of view on this program.
What I tried to do in this motion, which did not receive unanimous consent, was to propose that the section of the budget implementation bill having to do with fines being imposed on those who break the laws regarding temporary foreign workers be removed from this bill and passed immediately through all stages of the process, thereby becoming effective immediately. This would provide another tool in the kit for the government, which is seeking to punish, so to speak, employers who are breaking the rules on temporary foreign workers.
The government did not like that. I guess it does not like the principle of breaking up its huge omnibus bill, no matter how much sense that might make. However, this would have given the government the tools right away to deal with this problem. This illustrates the more general point that while we in the Liberal Party agree that the temporary foreign worker program should exist, we also believe that the government has been incredibly irresponsible in allowing the number of temporary foreign workers to more than double, from approximately 150,000 or 160,000 people when the Liberals were in government, to well over 300,000 today.
As we know from examples involving my former employer, the Royal Bank, and also a mine in British Columbia, there have certainly been abuses of this program. Now the government has created its own mess and is trying to fix it. Liberals believe that many thousands of jobs that have been occupied by temporary foreign workers should have gone to Canadians in need of work. That is becoming more evident. It was evident from the public response to the situation involving McDonald's in Victoria.
We think the Conservatives should never have gotten into this in the first place. However, now that they have a mess to clean up, we think they should have accepted our motion so they could have imposed fines right away, rather than waiting weeks and weeks until this massive budget implementation bill finally passes through both Houses and becomes law.
According to what I have heard, the NDP wants to abolish the temporary foreign worker program, which would be really stupid if that were true. That shows that the New Democrats' attitude and economic policy are devoid of any common sense.
Experience has shown that in some sectors, including agriculture, this has been a useful and vital program for decades. There is absolutely no question that we want to keep this program. However, under the Conservatives, the numbers have shot up irresponsibly. Therefore, we want to put limits on the program, not abolish it.
The danger of this program is that it risks taking us away from Canada's long-held immigration system, where people come in with their families, become citizens, have children, vote in elections, and have grandchildren. That is how most of us, if not all of us, came to this country. By having massive numbers of temporary foreign workers, who are not in many cases qualified to be here but are taking other Canadians' jobs, we are gravitating toward a Europe-style, a Switzerland-style guest worker system, where people come in for a couple of years and then are shipped out again. That is not and never has been the Canadian way, but I fear that is the way the government is taking us.
I would like to spend the rest of my limited time on two other immigration-related issues.
The first issue is the immigration investor program. I believe there are approximately 20,000 applicants to the program who would be unceremoniously dumped by this bill. Yes, they would get their fees back, but in many cases they have been waiting many years to come into this country on the basis of this program. All of a sudden they are cut off at the knees and have absolutely no possibility of coming to Canada under the terms of that program. It is perhaps coincidental, but it is a fact that a very high proportion of these people happen to be from China. Naturally, they are not at all happy about this development.
I would be the first to acknowledge that the program, which I believe was brought forward in the Mulroney years, was imperfect. It had deficiencies and things that should have been fixed. Instead of $800,000, which the people get back, maybe it should be $8 million. Maybe there should be a requirement for real job creation. Maybe this, maybe that. We do not have the resources of the government to design a precise program.
My point is that rather than cutting these people off at the knees and throwing them out the window, the government should first develop an improved version of the program and give those who were already applicants in the old program the option of transferring to the new program. That would be fair. That would be better for Canada, because those people are likely to make a major contribution to the country, especially if the requirements imposed on them are more onerous and more favourable to this country.
Therefore, rather than proposing a little pilot program, which the Conservatives do not define and for which we have no idea of when, if ever, will happen, the government should have done its homework first and reformed the existing program, giving the applicants to the old program the opportunity to apply to the new program. That would be the way to move our system forward in an efficient and effective manner, primarily for the sake of Canada but also for the sake of those who waited many years and spent many dollars to apply to come to this country.
Finally, I will speak to another provision in the bill. This provision would extend to 20 years, rather than 10 years, the time that has to elapse before a newcomer is eligible for GIS.
The poorest seniors will now have to wait 20 years instead of 10 in order to be eligible for this benefit.
This is a subset of a more general issue. The government has decided that instead of sponsors being required to look after their parents for 10 years, they will have to look after them for an extended period of 20 years. In today's volatile economy, it seems to me that this is an unreasonable imposition. One does not know over a period of 20 years whether one will lose one's job or whether other unfortunate things might happen.
The bottom line is that in imposing these changes, the government is rationing the number of parents and grandparents to be allowed into the country according to the income and wealth of those who are applying. I think it is a very restrictive approach and I do not think it reflects the long, positive Canadian traditions in the area of immigration.
Mr. Speaker, those of us in the Harper government are immensely proud of economic action plan 2014, and for good reason.
Once again, our government has delivered for Canadians while making plans to return to a balanced budget in the short term. Under our Conservative government's financial stewardship, Canada has seen the strongest job growth rate among G7 countries. Canada is the only G7 country to receive a triple-A credit rating from all major reporting agencies, thanks to our government's sound economic policies. Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is, by far, the strongest among the G7 countries.
In short, our Conservative government has steered Canada through a worldwide economic storm and come out on the other side stronger and better equipped for the future than any other nation.
It should come as no surprise that economic action plan 2014 delivers for Canada's aboriginal community, a segment of the population that, for obvious reasons, is very close to my heart.
A quality education is more important than ever in today's global marketplace. Economic action plan 2014 allocates $1.9 billion to first nations education. In addition, new funding of $500 million for building and renovating schools on first nations, set to begin in 2015-16, is confirmed in our new education infrastructure fund.
These investments in learning will manifest themselves not only in new schools and improved staffing, but also in building a stronger future for first nations communities and Canada itself. With quality education, first nations members will participate more fully in the world economy, providing benefits to all segments of our nation's population. Improving first nations education improves Canada.
Canada's national disaster mitigation program has been funded, to the tune of $200 million. This fund allows our government to mitigate the effects of catastrophic situations affecting Canadian communities through the assessment of risks and the implementation of measures to eliminate those risks.
These disaster elimination protocols are vigorously applied on Canada's first nations, but an additional $40 million has been set aside for on-reserve emergency management. Those of us living in northern Saskatchewan are too familiar with the disasters that can affect first nations, such as floods, fires, severe weather, and power outages. The on-reserve emergency management framework for Canada provides crisis funding to assist in combatting the effects of these disasters, including search and rescue efforts, and action to reduce the impact of community infrastructure failures such as bridge collapses.
The funding agreements between Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Canada's provincial governments ensure that first nations communities have comparable emergency services to non-aboriginal communities in the same province.This system provides assurance to provincial governments that Aboriginal Affairs will provide funds to cover emergency costs, ensuring rapid responses from provincial authorities. First nations deserve the same level of care as all other communities, and measures such as the on-reserve emergency management framework for Canada are helping to make this a reality.
With a young and vibrant populace, Canada's first nations members are entering the workforce in record numbers. Our Conservative government's job creation strategy has been wildly successful, with more than one million jobs created since 2009.
Education programs targeted at aboriginal Canadians are helping place first nations members in high-paying, high-demand jobs. With so many bright, young first nations members entering the workforce with skills in high-demand fields, we are growing that workforce at a record rate. We are reversing the near criminal neglect of a valuable segment of our workforce by helping aboriginal Canadians get the education and skills necessary to compete in the global economy.
For too long, we have recklessly squandered the talents of our first nations citizens, and our government is now taking concrete steps to address this shameful situation, allowing first nations citizens to fulfill their potential.
A healthy Canada is one in which we recognize and reward the skills of its citizens. Now that first nations members are finally getting a toehold in the workforce, there is no holding us back. By forging strong ties to our aboriginal communities, our Conservative government is now showing that working together makes us all stronger.
Violence against women is a concern for all segments of our Canadian society.
Often living in remote areas, traditionally without much in the way of support or protection, aboriginal women and girls will benefit from the renewal of our government's addressing violence against aboriginal women and girls program. This effort continues our government's mission to address the alarmingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. This initiative has made possible the creation of the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.
Enhancements to our government's victims fund will ensure that aboriginal victims and their families as well as missing first nation members and their families have access to culturally appropriate services.
Perhaps most important, our government has materially supported the development of community-based awareness initiatives and safety plans to promote the safety of aboriginal women and girls.
With a disproportionate rate of incarceration as well as victimization, a plan is necessary to allow Canada's first nation members to emerge from this crippling situation.
Economic action plan 2014 proposes $22.2 million for the continuation of the aboriginal justice strategy. The initiative, which is showing very positive results, has allowed aboriginal people to take a larger role in the administration of justice in their communities while giving victims of crime a strong voice. By allowing first nation communities a stake in the judicial system, we are demonstrating a desire for justice rather than punishment.
Community-based justice for non-violent crimes gives aboriginal communities a say in the administration of punishment with regard to crimes affecting their neighbourhoods. It also demonstrates to the accused the impact of their crimes on the region and eliminates any suggestion of bias on the part of those administering the punishment.
Community-based justice is working, and I am proud of the part the government has played in its implementation.
More than $323 million has been earmarked for the purpose of continuing the first nation water and waste water action plan. Since 2006, our government has invested more than $3 billion in assisting first nations in the construction, maintenance, and operation of their water and waste water systems. This investment was sorely needed and has resulted in a vast improvement in water quality for first nations.
These communities have also been made safer through the enhancement of waste water management systems. Clean drinking water and the safe handling of waste water are essential to the health of any community. Through our government's investments in water on first nations, we have made them safer places to live. Insurance for these investments is provided through the disaster mitigation protocols I spoke of earlier.
A particular point of pride for me with regard to the economic action plan concerns the support provided to first nation fishing enterprises. Great progress has been made in the integration of first nation fishing enterprises with existing fishing operations since our government instituted the supporting first nation fishing enterprises initiative.
With an investment of more than $66 million over the next two years, our government is taking concrete action to improve the overall management of fishing on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This program will continue to create new jobs and opportunities for first nation fishers.
Many aboriginal communities will also benefit from our government's improving access to broadband in rural and northern communities proposal. Social networks and the worldwide web are helping to bring people together, not only on a personal level but for the purposes of business networking and promotion as well.
Canadians in rural areas are demanding faster access to the Internet, and our government is responding. We are proposing more than $300 million over five years to improve access to broadband Internet connections for 280,000 households, with a target of five megabits per second. This would represent near-universal access to broadband for Canadians.
By improving Internet access for first nations, we will increase the ability of aboriginal businesses to compete globally.
As members can see, our government understands that the things that make Canada's aboriginal communities better make Canada better. By continuing to improve the already strong relationship between the aboriginal people of Canada and our Conservative government, we build a stronger Canada.
The healthy bond that the government has forged with the aboriginal peoples of Canada is reflected in the budget, and I am proud to stand today in support of our government's economic action plan 2014.