The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, let us imagine that I am a television game show host who has a multiple choice question for those who are following the debate on Bill .
I will give a few numbers and they can tell me which political party those numbers make them think of. For example, I am thinking of a bill with 146 clauses. That is a fairly common occurrence. However, the bill I am thinking of also amends 13 laws. People may now be starting to get a better idea of which party I am talking about. Another hint is that the bill is 234 pages long and has to be examined at record speed. Also, as of just a few minutes ago, the bill became subject to a time allocation motion, or what is commonly known as a gag order. If people answered “the Conservative Party”, they are incorrect, but I understand their reasoning. What this clearly shows is that the Liberal Party does not seem to have brought real change. Once again, the government is using the same old strategies to ram through bills that should be debated more extensively in the House.
That is exactly the situation that we find ourselves in right now. Once again, when it comes time to debate a bill like Bill , a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures, we do not have enough time.
There are some aspects of this bill that I could get on board with. However, since I have only 10 short minutes to share my views on this bill, I will focus on the aspects that I find completely incomprehensible and even surprising.
The first example I would like to talk about is the infrastructure bank. There was no mention of this type of measure during the election campaign. It came as a total surprise, and God knows that not all surprises are good ones. We have to discuss this. For those who are watching, I would like to show just how harmful this approach will be.
Taxpayers like me, hon. members, and all citizens heard no mention of this before. During the election campaign, the Liberal Party told us that it was going to invest heavily in infrastructure by borrowing money, supposedly because interest rates are so low. That message struck a chord, 39% of Canadians thought it was a good idea, and now we have a Liberal government. No matter how low the interest rates are, we are going to have to pay back these billions of dollars one day. I see no way to pay back these low-interest loans other than through taxation. We might feel a bit better if there were a plan for paying back these loans, but it seems that issue has been left for another day. The modest $10-billion deficit is now hovering around $30 billion.
Worse yet, now we learn something that was never mentioned before, namely that the government wants to privatize a significant portion of our public infrastructure. I want to emphasize the word “public”. The Liberal strategy involves transferring $15 billion earmarked for infrastructure into a bank that will be used as a lever to attract private investors.
The first problem is that those $15 billion, which are actually in the infrastructure bank, are earmarked for infrastructure projects of $100 million or more. The result is that $15 billion is taken out of the public infrastructure budget for projects under $100 million. A town like Trois-Rivières and a region such as Mauricie have much infrastructure they would need to build or upgrade, and these projects seldom come in at more than $100 million. The Liberals have just taken $15 billion that could have been used to fund these projects, and there will be interest to pay.
Once the $15 billion is in the bank, the government wants to attract many more hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors: pension funds, retirement plans, major corporations, and private investors.
Government finances and personal finances are subject to the same main principles of sound management. If I invest $100, I am looking for the best return. I imagine that those who are going to invest billions in a public investment bank will also want a return well above the low interest rate on the loans that the government talks about making. We even heard Michael Sabia, of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, say that he hopes for a rate of return of 7% to 9% on the investments made by the infrastructure bank.
Second, who will be paying these returns? The citizens, as always. I would remind members that they have already paid once by paying the interest on government loans. Now, they will be paying a second time by offering a return on the investments of private companies. If there is one thing we agree on, it is that Quebec and Canada have an infrastructure deficit. Our infrastructure is in bad shape and needs major investments. Many economists agree that we need about $500 billion. We could debate that amount, but let us just say that it is somewhere in that range. There is too much of a gap between $500 billion and $15 billion. They really need to do something else.
Too often, we forget to talk about how economists estimate that, over the past 10 years, as the corporate tax rate fell from 28% to 15%, the government missed out on $15 billion to $20 billion per year, money that it could not invest in updating our infrastructure. The government called its economic approach revolutionary. It said that corporations would inject the money they were able to save back into the economy, that they would create jobs, that everything would go gangbusters and be totally awesome, but in fact, that did not happen.
Even more unbelievable is the fact that the money corporations saved is now available to be invested in an infrastructure bank. Not only did taxpayers forgo the fair share that all members of society should pay, but also, if corporations take the money they were allowed to keep in the hope they would create jobs, and if they invest it in this bank, it will cost us to pay them a return on their private investments, which they expect to be between 7% and 9%, investments that they will make using money they saved at the expense of the public purse.
In other words, this is the third time that taxpayers, including me and my colleagues, have had to use their own money to pay for the very same public infrastructure, which will be private from now on. If we compare that to the $15-billion federal infrastructure fund and the hundreds of billions the government hopes to attract, it becomes clear very quickly that the government is going to become a minority in its own regime and that our public infrastructure will be increasingly privatized. Private infrastructure automatically means additional taxes, user fees, tolls, and so on. Imagine all the systems needed to ensure good returns.
I was hoping to address a number of other topics, including EI. We have some interesting ideas on that, such as coming up with a better definition for “suitable employment”, although it is not clearly defined in the act. However, nothing has been done so far regarding accessibility.
I also would have liked to talk about SMEs. We are still waiting for support measures for them. Instead, a promise to lower the tax rate from 11% to 9% has been broken. On top of that, nothing has been done to cap credit card rates and fees for our SMEs.
I will use the few minutes I have left to answer questions.
Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured and privileged to rise for the first time during debate here in the House of Commons on this traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples.
Allow me to begin by thanking the people of for continuing to put their faith and trust in me. It has been an incredible journey serving this community over the past 10 years, starting in 2006, when they first elected me as their public school board trustee. I am deeply humbled to now represent them in this House, where I will fight on their behalf each and every day.
The people of constitute a cultural mosaic in which visible minorities are the vast majority. More than 90% of the population are people of colour, which is the highest percentage of any riding in the country, and 70% of them were born outside of Canada. They have come from all corners of the world to make their home.
Indeed, this is the story of my parents, who emigrated from India to Canada over 40 years ago for a better life not only for themselves but for future generations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their unconditional love and support. When I speak about the residents of , I am reminded of the hopes and dreams my parents brought with them to Canada.
My constituents are hard-working families. Many of them are new immigrants. They work long hours to pay rent or the mortgage, to put food on the table, and to provide a good life and education for their children. They are young Canadians who have studied hard, graduated, and are now looking for work. They are seniors who have worked hard their entire lives, contributed to society, and are now hoping to spend their retirement days in comfort.
Now more than ever, many people in , and across Canada, are finding it increasingly difficult to get ahead. That is why our government has focused our investing on our people to make their lives better and to build a country that works for everyone.
That is precisely why I stand today in support of Bill , the budget implementation act, which would round out the measures our government introduced in the 2016 budget. This bill would help create a stronger economy by supporting the middle class and those working hard to join it. It would enable Canadian families to have more money in their pockets. It would create more opportunities for youth, give seniors a bit more assurance, and ensure tax fairness and a strong financial sector.
There is no better time than now to invest in Canadians. Interest rates are at historic lows, and Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio among the G7 nations.
At the heart of our country is the middle class. When the middle class has more money to save, invest, and grow the economy, all Canadians benefit.
One of the key measures our government introduced to help build the middle class is the Canada child benefit. As of last July, nine out 10 Canadian families with children have more money each month to spend on the things they need, like school supplies, groceries, and winter jackets. What is so great about the new Canada child benefit is that it is not only more generous than previous programs but is also better targeted to help the families that need it the most. This new tax-free benefit will lift 300,000 children out of poverty this year by providing an annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of six and $5,400 per child aged six through 17. It will mean that Canadian families with children will see an average increase of approximately $2,300 in child benefits this year.
This budget implementation bill would further help these families by ensuring that the Canada child benefit is indexed to inflation, starting in 2020. I know how important this is for Canadian families, having worked with many parents, children, and youth in my previous role as a school board trustee.
Our government is also working hard to set up young Canadians for success. This past summer, I witnessed first-hand how the 2016 budget is helping our youth gain valuable work experience, experience they need. In my riding of , close to 80 non-profit organizations, businesses, and faith groups received funding through the Canada summer jobs program to hire youth. All across Canada, twice as many young Canadians were employed this year through Canada summer youth jobs, earning income and experience that will help them land a good-paying job after graduation.
As caring and compassionate Canadians, it is important for us to empower the next generation but also for us to take care of older generations. That is why I am pleased to see that this budget implementation bill would help seniors by enabling them to retire more comfortably. Our elders have worked hard their entire lives. They deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
In budget 2016, the government returned the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 from 67, thereby putting thousands of dollars back in seniors’ pockets. Since last July, 900,000 single seniors across Canada have enjoyed improved financial security thanks to a guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit of as much as $947 per year.
It is the right thing to do because single seniors are especially vulnerable and have a much higher risk of living in poverty. This budget implementation bill would take it one step further by making benefits for seniors more flexible. For couples living apart due to extenuating circumstances, each senior would be entitled to the guaranteed income supplement and spousal allowance benefits based on their individual incomes. This measure, along with the changes our government has made to strengthen the Canada pension plan, will help our seniors live with dignity and respect. It is dignity and respect that they deserve.
This budget implement bill supports a plan to invest in Canadians not just for today but for the years and decades ahead. As we approach the 150th anniversary of Confederation, let us work together to build an even better Canada where all Canadians can flourish and find opportunities to achieve success.
Hope and hard work was not just the campaign slogan we ran on. Hope and hard work represent the values that have built this great nation, the true north strong and free. Let us create a climate of hope across this country, a land of opportunity, for every single person who works hard to make Canada a better place.
Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in this place and speak on behalf of my constituents.
While in the riding this past weekend, I was fortunate to meet many citizens of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola and hear first hand their concerns. To be candid, while many appreciate the new tone in Ottawa, they are increasingly losing confidence in the direction. Let me explain that.
Every member in this place knows full well that economic growth continues to be downgraded, much as we also know there are no promised net new jobs. Keep in mind that these facts are irrefutably true.
We also know the Liberal government has basically pulled an Evel Knievel and jumped over all the promises of modest $10 billion a year deficit budgets. The same Liberal government has pulled off a four horsemen magic performance and turned a promised $10 billion modest deficit budget into a $25 billion budget, with no end in sight for red ink. While turning that $10 billion promised deficit budget into a $25 billion deficit budget, the Liberals also made their promise of a return to a balanced budget in the 2019-20 fiscal year. That has magically vanished as well.
As citizens told me last week, they have not felt this betrayed since the Liberals originally promised, if elected, they would eliminate the GST in the 1990s. How did that Liberal red book promise turn out? We all know, but why does that matter?
If we look at the 2013-14 fiscal year, the federal government spent $28 billion servicing debt. Let us put that $28 billion into perspective. That is more than was spent on national defence that year, at $21.5 billion. In fact, that same year the federal government spent over $30 billion on the Canada health transfers to provinces. In other words, we are spending almost as much servicing debt as we are transferring to provinces to pay for their health care.
Let us be clear. The Liberal budget in Bill sets a series of deficit budgets that will exceed $113 billion by 2021. There is no path to a balanced budget despite Liberal election promises to the contrary.
We heard from people at finance committee during the pre-budget consultation process. For example, the Chamber of Commerce for Metropolitan Montreal said that it was a credibility issue for the government and for the . It said that a return to balance had to be a part of the budget.
When and exactly how does the Liberal government propose to reconcile the obvious? How do we return to balance? We all know the Liberals have no answer to this question. What we do know is that the Liberals like using buzz words. Debt is now called “investing”. Deficits, interestingly enough in Liberal speak, are also called “investing”. I suspect if the Liberals offered a VISA card instead of a credit limit, we would see an investment limit on our credit card bills. Canadians know there is interest on debt and so far we have yet to hear what the translation for interest on debt is in Liberal speak. Perhaps it could be called “a price on investing”.
Now the infrastructure bank is coming. Is this directly related to the bill? We do not know. The bill hints about all kinds of spending on infrastructure, yet $35 billion, about the same amount as annual health transfers to provinces, is being carved away from somewhere for this infrastructure bank.
P3 partnerships used to mean that the private sector would borrow money to finance public infrastructure in partnership with the government, all done with private capital. Now the Liberal government wants to borrow money it does not have to ensure private capital receives a generous rate of return to finance public infrastructure. What do we call that? The borrow low to pay high interest plan. This week the Liberal government is promoting a plan where, according to Liberals, for every $1 that the government puts in, borrowed, it hopes to attract $4 in private money in return.
Let us think about that for a moment. Where else on the planet does anyone borrow $1 and get $4 of private money lent to them in return? It seems the Liberal government has taken a page from the four horsemen. There is only one problem with turning $1 of borrowed money into $4 of private sector investment. Private sector investment requires a return. Not even the four horsemen can change that.
Exactly what level of return to private investors has the Liberals promised to their Bay Street friends? We do not know. So far, I have yet to see any rate of return being promised. However, we should make no mistake that it is the taxpayers who will be paying. When? We do not know. The Liberal budget implementation act enacts a cone of silence on returning to a balanced budget. The only thing we do know is that the billions of soon to be added debt will now be financed by Liberal friends with interest paid by Canadian taxpayers.
After one year, we already know the Liberal plan is failing. Economic growth has been downgraded. We just have to ask the Parliamentary Budget Office or the Governor of the Bank of Canada. There are no new net jobs. What is worse that the Liberal changes to mortgages will hurt the housing market.
We know from internal finance reports that the expanded Canada pension plan will be a drag on the Canadian economy and will particularly hurt jobs for the next 15 to 20 years.
Let us keep in mind that this is not just speculation by me. All of this is factually verifiable. The Liberal solution is to borrow more money and throw more money at this failed plan. I am not trying to sound partisan, however, that is really what is on the table and why I am opposing the budget implementation bill.
I would also pause for a moment to point out that it is easy to criticize, more so at the present time given that the PBO, major bank economists and Statistics Canada all provide data and reports that easily show this Liberal plan is failing, and failing badly.
What should the government do? First, members should raise their hands if they think an MP or anyone earning up to $199,000 a year should have a tax cut? The Liberals are wrong to do this. What should have been done instead? Instead of penalizing potential homebuyers in all of Canada for a problem that existed largely in the Liberal strongholds of Vancouver and Toronto, and keep in mind that recent B.C. government changes to foreign buyers was already cooling off the Vancouver housing market, the Liberal government should be implementing measures that would help to increase housing supply across the country.
Increasing housing supply will lower prices. It will get more Canadians into home ownership, which in turn opens more rentals to ease the demand for rental accommodations. More important, it also helps our Canadian economy. It will put more people to work and it will help the Canadian lumber market as well. That is very important considering the Liberals have made zero progress on the softwood lumber deal with the United States.
How could Ottawa help to catalyze housing supply? By increasing the threshold for the GST rebate on new housing, so new homeowners are not penalized by Ottawa for realizing their dream to own a home. The B.C. government is already doing this with the property purchase tax, and it is working. It is time that Ottawa stepped up and did the same.
This policy would not only help our economy at a time of desperate need; it would also help the very middle-class Canadians who have become the Liberal government's second favourite talking point right behind debt—sorry, I mean investing. That is one idea that I would propose the Liberal government could do in the budget implementation bill to help.
I have one final thought. If more Canadians were homeowners and had home equity, the Liberals might realize that harming jobs and our economy through a bigger CPP is the wrong way to go. There is already an alternative that will help jobs and our economy through enhanced home ownership.
I have other proposals as well. We also know the Liberals have no interest in imposing internal trade on Canadian provinces. They would much rather impose a national carbon tax. On that note, I would simply point out that none of our major trading partners will be imposing such a tax. All those same trading partners have superior internal trading policies of their own, something we should all be thinking about if we are serious about growing the economy.
I am thankful for the opportunity to not just oppose this bill, but to make a few proposals on how I believe we can strengthen our economy and increase the unity of our country.
Mr. Speaker, before I start my speech, I would say for the member who just spoke that he should be happy to vote in favour of this bill, because actually, we are sending the bill to the same committee of which he is a proud member, the finance committee. Therefore, he should be happy that he will have the chance to look at the bill in detail, and I hope he will invite his constituents to share their perspective on the great things we are doing for Canadians.
I will now speak of the matter before us today. My colleagues have spoken at length about the Canada infrastructure bank, but what we are talking about is very simple: implementing the plan we have proposed to help Canadians and Canadian families. This is the plan to help the middle class, to help families, and to invest in our infrastructures.
It is also a plan to help young Canadians succeed, and to improve employment insurance and our seniors’ quality of life. This plan also supports our veterans, and it will bolster our fiscal integrity. I hope that all of my colleagues will be able to vote in favour of this bill and send it to committee, because it is a plan for Canadians.
I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak about part 2 of the budget implementation act. As the House knows, the government has an ambitious plan to ensure the growth of the middle class, and with it, the growth of the country’s entire population.
Canada was the first country to act on the idea of focusing on the progress of the middle class in order to spur growth across the entire country. We understand that when the middle class is thriving, the whole country thrives.
We have received major support from all over the world for the measures we have taken. The Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the managing director of the IMF, Ms. Lagarde, cite Canada as a model to be followed for its capacity to utilize every possible lever to generate growth. I am sure that my colleagues in the House today will want to support a bill that generates economic growth.
The government of Canada is resolved to pursue its economic agenda centred on the middle class and on Canadian families. Since November, our government has taken concrete steps to support the middle class and so make our economy grow.
That is why we have taken measures to support the middle class. The first thing we have proposed is an income tax reduction for the middle class. Nine million Canadians are in fact paying less tax today thanks to this government, which has adopted this initial key measure.
Next we introduced the Canada child benefit. I would say that this is probably one of the measures of which my colleagues and I are most proud. It is probably the most innovative social measure since universal health care. It is a measure that helps reduce child poverty. Indeed, it may be possible to lift 300,000 young people out of poverty.
When we visit ridings and talk to people, we realize the extent to which this sort of measure, which helps our youth succeed and emerge from poverty, creates a profound transformation in our society in terms of the fight against poverty.
In addition, we have increased the guaranteed income supplement for nearly one million seniors living alone. Often our single seniors are women. People have talked to me about this situation.
At the time of the last budget framework, I had the opportunity to travel from Moncton to Yellowknife to consult with Canadians. People talked to me about these measures that would help them. They asked us for two very simple things, namely that we help them and their families, and that we help the middle class grow. That is exactly what these measures have done.
Next we managed to conclude an historic agreement with the Canadian provinces to top up the Canada pension plan, because this is someone who looks to the long term. He is someone who looks ahead, who knows that we have to make some changes now to help young Canadians prepare for their retirement. We know that today some 2.3 million Canadian families are not saving enough for retirement, and we want to give them the tools they need to live with dignity in their retirement. That is important to us.
Now I want to talk about the plan for the Canada child benefit.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, even in your riding Canadian families have been receiving more money since July 1 thanks to the Canada child benefit. They are receiving up to $6,400 a year for each child under age six and $5,400 for each child between 6 and 17. Nine families in ten have seen their benefits go up. This is an outstanding measure for reducing poverty in the country.
The 2016 budget implementation act no. 2 also strengthens the Canada child benefit by indexing it to inflation. This government has a long-term vision and is making sure that families can count on supplemental assistance today and for many years.
Canadians also need to feel supported and protected once they have taken their retirement. That is precisely the aim of the Liberal government’s plan. This plan helps people at every stage of their lives. We have talked about measures for youth, for families, and for pensioners. We have decided to invest so as to ensure that people who are retiring can have more money in their pockets.
In 2014, the latest year for which data have been collected, 3.9% of senior citizens in Canada, or about 200,000 of them, were living below Statistics Canada’s poverty line. Nearly 80% of these low-income seniors, a large majority, are single, and most of them are women. This is why we have also increased the guaranteed income supplement for low-income single seniors by $947 a year. It is one of a series of measures aimed at investing in the middle class, because it is the right thing to do.
I would like to return to comments made some of my colleagues. They have talked a great deal about the Canada infrastructure bank. That is another important measure that will enable us to do more and do it faster. However, that is not the purpose of budget implementation act, 2016, no. 2. That is a measure we announced in the 2016 fall economic statement, but that is not what we are talking about.
Since my colleagues said that they needed to express their views, that they were commenting on the measures intended to improve the lives of Canadians, such as the legislative measures we have just taken on employment insurance, I would like to hear their views on this. Why are they opposed to measures that will give more people access to employment insurance?
I would also like them to talk about the increase in benefits for senior citizens. I am sure that seniors in my colleagues’ ridings are talking to them about this important measure.
In addition, I would like to hear their views on the measures in this bill to assist veterans. We all care about helping and respecting veterans, and there are specific measures on this in budget implementation act, 2016, no. 2.
I would also like to hear my colleagues’ views on the integrity of the tax system. My colleagues are wondering about many things on this issue, and rightly so. Well, budget implementation act, 2016, no. 2 in fact contains measures to strengthen the integrity of Canada’s tax system.
My colleagues must realize that these measures will help Canadian middle-class families and provide for more fairness. I am sure that this is exactly what my colleagues want: to foster prosperity at home, to provide financial security for families, and to allow senior citizens, as well as young people, eventually, to retire with dignity.
All these measures are improving the living conditions of Canadians. Every one of us is here, in Ottawa, today, working on their behalf. That is exactly what the budget implementation bill does. It helps families and middle-class people and invests in infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining this debate on what is now the amendment to the amendment of the bill. Sadly, this will be the last day, so I am lucky to be getting a chance to get up and speak in the House. I will probably not get a chance to speak at committee, although the Liberals are saying that it will be a great opportunity for all of us to go there to participate. But I do not think they are expecting all 337 of us to show up at the committee and all ask to speak, and talk to the witnesses and have an opportunity to debate the contents of this bill. I doubt the Liberals are expecting all of us to be there. I would like to see that, as it would be an interesting committee meeting to have all 300-plus members there. I think the best place to have a debate is right here at second reading, so we can have a fulsome debate by all of my colleagues from different political parties, with an opportunity to have their voices and those of their constituents heard.
I would like to thank my seatmate, the member for , for this opportunity and for moving a subamendment that would add the words “a stagnant economy” after “exemplified by”. On that concept of a stagnant economy, what is happening in Alberta is the direct result of the economic policies of the current federal Liberal government and the provincial Notley New Democratic government. What was a commodity downturn has been turned into a full-blown recession. Although there are hints of a possible recovery, I just do not trust the government to have the best interests of Albertans in mind when it is making policy decisions that will have an influence over that.
Indeed, what we have here is a wholly owned Liberal stagnant economy. The biggest benefit from the Liberals so far today is the so-called middle-income tax cut, which they know would benefit those earning over $100,000 because those are the individuals who will take full advantage of this tax cut. For those people earning just over $45,000 and up to $95,563, they will be able to save a few dollars at most from this, whereas those earning more, including the members of the House, will be able to save all of those dollars.
The Liberals on the other side took away the children's fitness tax credit; they cut in half the TFSA; and they took away many of the other tax credits that the working class and the working poor were taking advantage of. The Liberals are going to make it more difficult for those people to earn a living. To earn a living, they have to have a job as well. They could find a job working on behalf of someone else or for themselves as small business owners. Then small business owners are hoping that they will be able to earn a profit and provide for their family and pay their workers.
Talking about small business, one thing I want to mention is the common reporting standards in the budget, which would have a severe impact on small credit unions. Alberta has a thriving credit union sector for many generations. The credit unions have been contributing especially to rural Alberta, but also to Calgary and Edmonton's economies. During the downturns of the 1980s when the big chartered banks were refusing to turn over mortgages and extend lines of credit to Albertans, it was the credit union sector that filled the gap and helped Albertans keep their farms and their homes. With the common reporting standard, it is one size fits all. That simply does not work for smaller credit unions that do not have the means to comply. But the current government loves one size fits all.
I have a couple of examples to demonstrate this. We have heard from the government that it will be imposing a one-size-fits-all carbon tax across every single province. Whether a province likes it or not, it really will not matter, because they will have to live with the carbon tax.
There are provinces like Saskatchewan, which has a great premier, Brad Wall, who is fighting to ensure that the people of Saskatchewan will not have to pay the tax, because the province has made a policy decision repeatedly during elections not to go down that path.
Then there are governments like Alberta's, which already had a carbon levy and is introducing a carbon tax on January 1. It is something that the vast majority of Albertans do not want, including the vast majority of Alberta business owners. But the Liberals have said that if the provinces do not do it, the federal government will impose it. Hopefully we will change provincial governments in 2019, and hopefully it will be a former member of this House, Jason Kenney, who will be leading that political party to victory in 2019. Even if provincial governments say they do not want a carbon tax provincially, the federal government will impose one with that one-size-fits-all mentality.
On the Canada health transfer negotiations, again the government has said that one size fits all and that the provinces will get what they will get. No negotiations are going to happen. There is no give and take. It is one size fits all.
On the CPP or Canada pension plan premium increase, which basically is a payroll tax, the government has again said that one size fits all. It does not matter what type of seniors they are. It does not matter how they are trying to save for their future. It does not matter what choices they have made in terms of income, career, or moving around the country. None of that matters to the government. It is one size fits all for everyone.
The government has been talking about how it will help seniors. The premium increase will not help seniors immediately because CPP works in a very particular way, like any pension plan, which is that we make an investment into it, we put a certain amount of premiums into it, and 40 years down the line, our investments then return as a pension to us. The seniors of today will gain no new benefits. They cannot. They have to pay into it.
Unless the government amends this budget bill or introduces another budget bill at some point, what they are saying is that it will simply increase unpaid benefits to someone who has not invested into it. For the younger generation especially, my generation, the CPP is not a great return on investment. I can make real estate investment decisions, I can use my TFSA. Many young people I know are making those types of decisions and planning for their own retirement. They are being responsible with their own savings. This will take away the opportunity to choose the types of savings they want to make and the investment vehicles they want to have, and it will give all of these decisions to the government.
We have an inkling as to why the government is doing this. It is potentially this infrastructure bank that it wants to use to finance large infrastructure projects. However, will it be touching CPP money to make it happen? Is that why it is increasing all of our premiums? It is just an extra tax that businesses will have to pay, which they cannot afford at this time, especially in Alberta.
Here I will cite the Human Resources Institute of Alberta quarterly report, which track things among the 6,000 HR professionals across the province of Alberta. It tracks how people are losing their jobs and why they are leaving the workplace.
For the longest time, dating back 2013-14, the leading reason for losing a job or moving on from a workplace was resignation for a better opportunity, which simply reflects an economy that had surplus job vacancies and people who were taking advantage of that and hopping between jobs, earning better pay, perhaps better benefits, and perhaps more flexible hours. They were taking that opportunity to better their careers, to grow their personal human capital.
However, today, thanks to the decisions of the federal Liberal government and the provincial New Democratic government, we have termination without cause all across the board. Whether employees, executive managers, professionals, technical staff, tradespeople, or administrative support staff, across the board, termination without cause is the leading reason they are leaving their workplaces.
I have heard members talk about infrastructure spending, which is something I had corrected the on in a prior debate. When the Liberals were in power many years ago, over the entire time they were in office, they only invested $351 million in Alberta. That is a pittance, really. There was even a year when they invested exactly zero infrastructure dollars. The past Conservative government, in contrast, invested $3.4 billion in Alberta, in things like highways and economic infrastructure, the things that would grow the economy, not only social infrastructure, which is spending that would probably be wasted.
The economy of Alberta is stagnant, as the subamendment of my colleague alludes to, an economy with 122,000 out-of-work energy workers. The Calgary unemployment rate is just over 10%, or 10.2%. The Calgary vacancy rate for downtown lease space is going up to 30%. That does not even capture the true depth of how bad things are, because there are so many leases with no sublease opportunities. There are leaseholders paying full price to occupy buildings that no one wants to occupy. It just gets worse from there. The unemployment rate has increased over the past year by 1.9 percentage points province-wide. It is not just the story of Calgary suffering, but Edmonton and the rural areas as well. Out-migration is increasing. Alberta used to be a place where 30,000 people per year were moving to for work. Now we have this number dropping precipitously. Retail sales are down 3.9%. Cattle prices are down 25%. Electricity generation is down 10%, which is a great indicator of how much manufacturing is going on, how much usage there is, and thus economic activity.
I will be voting against this bill with a clear conscience. There is very little for Albertans in this. There is no pipeline approval in this budget. There is nothing for the Trans Mountain pipeline in this budget. There is nothing laying the groundwork for economic recovery in Alberta, which Alberta workers, energy workers in particular, need. That is what I am looking for from the government.
I do not see it in the budget, and I will be voting against it.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up on the points that relate to the carbon tax.
When putting a price on carbon across the country for business certainty, it is very important that there be the same price on carbon across the country. The use of the term “one-size-fits-all” actually does not fit the facts. Every province can design their own. Quebec and Ontario have already decided to work on a cap-and-trade market with California.
That is distinctly different from British Columbia's carbon tax, which is a straight-up tax at the pump, but revenue neutral. All British Columbians, such as myself, will get back in their taxes what they pay in carbon prices.
The structure of the carbon price that was announced by the , and I have problems with it but not the same ones the hon. member does, allows that for any province that has not put in place a price, the federal government will. However, all the money will be returned to that province.
I note, and congratulate, a member of the Conservative caucus in the leadership race, the hon. member for . He called for a much steeper carbon price than that being put forward by the Liberal government, but with a very important distinction that it would also result in deep cuts in income and corporate taxes. He was recently commended for this in the pages of the National Post by Andrew Coyne.
Could the hon. member take off the assumption that carbon taxes are somehow always bad and look at it as a pricing mechanism to internalize externalities in the economy, which is ultimately correcting a market failure and not a partisan issue?
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak on Bill , the budget implementation bill.
As we all know, the Budget Implementation Act provides the legislative framework to implement the key campaign promises that were reiterated in budget 2016. In this bill, our key focus is to grow the economy by investing in people through tax cuts, as well as investing in the environment.
For the past 10 years, there has been no growth. The economy was lethargic, because the previous government did not take measures to invest in the economy. It made a lot of announcements and spent millions of dollars on advertising but not on people. Our government is more focused on investing in people and in helping to grow the middle class.
We know that middle-class Canadians are working harder than ever, but they are not getting ahead. We know that there is a growing consensus globally that governments need to invest in the economy, and that this investment has to be on a long-term basis and not short term. Therefore, to grow the economy, we need an ambitious agenda and an innovative agenda, which is the focus of our government. If we wish to move forward and not be stagnant, we need to think outside the box.
A strong economy starts with a strong middle class. When the middle class grows, so does the economy, because there is more purchasing power, and more money to save and invest. For example, in my riding of Don Valley East, our government's budget has had a great impact on the constituents. The riding is primarily a middle-class riding. Youth unemployment is above the national average. Our government's tax cuts have helped 90% of my constituents. This has put more money in their pockets. In my riding, I have seen a renewed sense of hope.
Families with children have also benefited from our government's Canada child benefit. This has alleviated the poverty level for nine out of 10 families in the riding. We know how expensive raising a child is. Families work hard to provide for their children. Our government's Canada child benefit program has been a welcomed impetus for these families.
As well, in the area of youth unemployment, we doubled our investment in the Canada summer jobs program. In my riding of Don Valley East, 66 businesses employed over 234 students. This was very important for these students, because it provided them with the skill sets and resources to help them through their university years.
While we are talking about employment and the area of creating jobs for the future, our government has been bold in not only taking steps to invest in infrastructure, but working with provinces and municipalities to help them address the issues of falling bridges, tracks, bicycle paths, walking trails, switches, etc. These were neglected by the former government, because it never participated or talked to the provinces or municipalities.
These are important first steps. In my riding, I have seen that there is an investment of over $125,000 in walking trails and paths. How does that benefit the residents? It benefits the citizens, because it is an area where people walk and build healthy lifestyles. As well, we help the environment.
Also in my riding are engines of growth, which have benefited from our government's innovation agenda. The companies in my riding have been able to create over 100 good-paying jobs for young professionals.
Confident, ambitious countries invest in their own future. They invest where the economy is growing. They do not shy away from progress. This type of progress is not easy. It takes smart investments in infrastructure, in technology, and most important, in the skills and creativity of its people.
Our government has taken that bold step. We have worked with provinces. We have worked with municipalities. We have invested where there are shovels in the ground, when municipalities have come as our partners, when provinces have come as our partners, and we are seeking to expand that pool as well.
Through our budget implementation bill, Bill , that is what we are doing. We are moving forward. We are thinking outside the box. I would urge members opposite to participate in this bold, innovative agenda.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps my hon. colleague's memory has failed her, because clearly she did not want to mislead Canadians with her comments, but under the governance of the previous government, we cut GST from 7% to 5%. We had the best job creation and economic growth in the G7 over the decade that our Conservative government was in power.
It goes beyond that. That came at a time when the world was seeing one of the worst global recessions since the 1930s, the Great Depression, and our government did that. How did we do that? By strong fiscal management.
The government continues to talk about strong investment. I might add that the Conservatives removed 380,000 seniors from tax rolls completely. When we talk about things that have measurable impacts, our government did that over a decade of governance.
The present government is spending billions and billions of dollars. In my riding of , we are a resource-driven economy. Canada is a resource-driven economy, but the government has failed to renegotiate a new softwood lumber agreement. There are communities in my riding that are facing some serious times, and the budget, the bill we are debating today, does nothing to get people back to work.
It is great that the government is putting more money in EI, but Canadians need jobs. They do not want to be reliant on the government. They need jobs to be successful.
I ask my hon. colleague to show me in the budget, in the bill, where the budget will create jobs in my riding of , which is resource-driven. High-speed transit does nothing for my riding.
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to a bill focused on building a strong middle class that will build up our economy, Bill C-29, the budget implementation act 2016, no. 2.
Budget 2016 is a real plan to do the two things Canadians told us to do: help them and their families, and grow the economy.
I want to take a moment to compliment the and his team's work. I also want to thank his parliamentary secretary. The member for came to Brampton last week. He is an honorary Bramptonian now. We consulted the Brampton Board of Trade and a number of economic stakeholders on important issues going forward into budget 2017.
Brampton has a lot to celebrate. There have been so many exciting developments in these past months: a long-desired university site coming to Brampton; the opening of Peel Memorial hospital in February; and other infrastructure developments, such as water and wastewater funding, which will protect Brampton against another flood situation, investment in post-secondary institutions such as Sheridan College in my riding, and Canada 150 local arts funding in order to keep our vibrant downtown an arts hub.
At the consultation we heard that these developments need to be expanded upon, and I agree. I will not stop listening to Brampton's needs as we move forward into this exciting period of growth and development for all our children.
I was pleased to hear at the event last week that many agreed with the fact that there is much ahead. I look forward to engaging in that discussion, building upon budget 2016 and these measures we are discussing today.
People in my riding have noticed we have accomplished a lot already in our first year. A number of online lists outline the things we have accomplished.
It is important for Canadians to understand that our government's plan builds upon things that strengthen the infrastructure of our system itself.
Without a strong CPP, without strong cities, without post-secondary investment, everything else suffers. Building the Canada of tomorrow means investing today, now. We as a government understand that it matters to build from the ground up and focus on people first. Brampton understands that these major developments will make our community stronger and our children's lives better.
In the last year, we took some important steps toward helping families regain the confidence they will need to drive our economy forward. We cut taxes for close to nine million Canadians. Our middle-class tax cut was the first thing we did as a government. We increased Canada student grants for students from low- and middle-income families and for part-time students. We increased monthly payments for the most in need seniors. We signed an agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan to provide young people and future generations of workers with a stable and dignified retirement. We have also begun making major investments that will help the middle class grow and prosper today, while delivering economic growth for years to come.
This second budget implementation act proposes items that will complete the implementation of outstanding measures from the Government of Canada's first budget, growing the middle class.
We should be proud of what the House has passed. Budget 2016 puts people and families first. It introduces investments that take an essential step to growing the middle class. It is the first step of a long-term plan to restore hope and revitalize the economy for the benefit of all Canadians.
The bill we are debating today would help foster a strong Canadian economy and would enable Canadians in the middle class and those working hard to join it to keep more of their money to save, invest, and ensure economic growth.
The bill includes measures that would help families, give seniors a little more flexibility, protect consumers, and improve the quality and integrity of our country's tax system.
In budget 2016 one thing that we introduced, which is at the centre of what I notice making a real difference in Brampton South, is the new Canada child benefit. The Canada child benefit is simpler and more generous than the benefits it is replacing. It is also tax free and better targeted to help those who need it most.
The Canada child benefit will lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in Canada. The cheques began to go out in July, and nine out of 10 families are now receiving more money than they did under the previous system. Families in my riding of can use that money to make more nutritious choices for children's lunches, buy a warm coat for winter, or invest in activities like soccer or basketball.
Let me explain how this benefit will help Canadian families. Parents with children under the age of 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under the age of six and $5,400 per child aged six through 17. Supporting this budget implementation bill would help ensure that the Canada child benefit will be indexed to inflation so that the families can count on this extra assistance today and for years to come.
This budget implementation bill would also support seniors by helping them retire in more comfort and with dignity. Canada's retirement income system has been successful in reducing poverty among seniors. However, some seniors continue to be at a heightened risk of living with low income. In particular, single seniors are nearly three times more likely to live with low income than seniors generally.
I see an unfortunate number of them in my riding. There is much more to do to help seniors living in poverty and to prevent the next wave of people who are retiring from facing this situation some day. Budget 2016 aims to help seniors retire comfortably and with dignity by making significant new investments that support them in their retirement years. In budget 2016, we repealed the provision of the Old Age Security Act that increased the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67 years of age, and the allowance benefits from 60 to 62 years of age over the 2023 to 2029 period. Restoring the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 will put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of Canadians as they become seniors and look to retire. That is the right thing to do.
Budget 2016 also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors most in need, starting in July 2016. This is helping those seniors who rely almost exclusively on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits and who may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across our nation.
In the second budget implementation bill, we are delivering on the promise we made in budget 2016 to support senior couples who face higher costs of living and are at an increased risk of poverty because they must live apart. The second budget implementation bill would amend the Old Age Security Act to make the program more flexible. When couples who are receiving the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, each will receive benefits based on their individual income. With respect to the income supplement and spouse's allowance, the government is improving fairness for seniors and helping them live with the dignity they deserve and need in retirement.
In conclusion, budget 2016 represents a giant step forward in our plan to put people first and deliver the help they need now, while investing for the years and decades to come.
I am so proud of these measures. They are focused on middle-class communities like , which is a model riding where these benefits make a real difference.
We can and must do more, and we will do more. We can achieve the Canada of the future together. Therefore, I encourage all members in the House to support this bill. It is right for Canada, it is right for families, and it is right for the middle class.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join this important debate on the government's fiscal update and the fiscal policy of the government in general.
To be frank, there is a lot to sink one's teeth into in terms of objections to the government's direction. I can say, having just come back from constituency week and having spoken with constituents in my riding, that people in Alberta, but I think across the country, are being hit very hard by the policies of the government.
As I think through it and talk to business leaders, I am reminded of the fact that every single tax they pay is going up. Small businesses in my riding face a higher small business tax rate as a result of the fiscal policy of the government. They face a carbon tax, a carbon tax brought in by the provincial government but which the federal government will do everything it can to prevent any subsequent provincial government from repealing.
We have the elimination of the hiring credit for small business. Bill would raise payroll taxes that individual employees as well as small businesses would pay. There is the undoing of employment insurance reforms, which would, in the long run, force up employment insurance premiums. Of course, small businesses are facing higher business tax rates in general from the provincial government and are grappling with the minimum wage hike and other changes that are happening, and there still has been no serious effort when it comes to market access for our resources.
We have a government that is hitting businesses again and again and again. The reality is that these are the job creators in our economy. These are the people whose investments and ingenuity create jobs and opportunities for our country. I just went through the list, objectively, of things that are happening to businesses in my riding, and I have to say that I find the continuing optimism and the continuing desire of business leaders in my constituency to move forward and build truly inspiring. The government should be there to try to help them succeed, not make their job more difficult when it comes to creating jobs and opportunities.
I will mention one specific thing in this fiscal update, and that is the implementation of certain regulations with respect to credit unions. There are credit unions in my constituency. The application of one-size-fits-all regulations, perhaps designed for the big banks, to every small credit union is a huge red-tape burden. Again, we have a government that is not listening, that is not paying attention to small businesses. This deals with one specific sector of the economy, credit unions, but it is another example of how the government is simply out of touch with the needs of the job creators in our economy.
Moving beyond that, I was to talk about two general points: deficit spending by the government in general and the issue of the employment insurance changes contained in this fiscal update.
The government's approach to deficit spending is, yes, to run deficits, but it is more than that. It is to undertake a policy of constant structural deficits. This is very different from the traditional arguments made for deficits. There are, I think, good arguments for running deficits in certain situations. The basis of that would be the Keynesian economic principle of counter-cyclical government spending, a government doing more spending during times of economic challenge to offset the pullback happening in the economy as a whole and then the government pulling back and running surpluses during times of economic prosperity.
The importance of this is that the government is providing that stimulus for economic activity during relatively difficult times but is still balancing its budget over the long term. It is still in a position, in the long run, to balance its budget. I think we should all accept that we have to balance the budget in the long term. We cannot constantly, over a sort of forever time horizon, spend more than we have. Eventually, the capacity to borrow will run out. There is nothing wrong with running deficits in certain situations, provided that we intend to balance the budget over the long term.
When we talk about stimulating the economy, the important thing is that it needs to be in times that are relatively less good. Of course, even during good times, there will be people who are struggling. There will be people without jobs. There will perhaps be a desire to increase growth. However, if the government always spends more than it has in good times as well as bad times, then eventually, it is going to run out.
The government talks about stimulus, but it is really abusing these arguments, because its position is not that the government can do counter-cyclical spending at certain times to stimulate the economy. Rather, its position, stated by the, is that we can just run deficits all the time. The finance minister responded to a question I asked earlier during committee of the whole about whether the government would ever balance the budget. He would not say yes to that very simple question.
If we look at what is happening in the economy, the government is constructing arguments that are entirely resistant to the evidence. If things are going well, Liberals will say it is an indication of the fact that they can spend more. When things are going poorly, they say that they need to spend more. Every situation, good or bad, every data point, in their minds, is proof that they need to constantly be spending more money. Of course, there are limits.
Although Canada has a relatively low federal debt-to-GDP ratio, our total government debt-to-GDP ratio, which includes what the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in Ontario are doing and other spending programs of provincial governments, is comparable to countries like the United States and the U.K. It is important that we look at the total debt-to-GDP ratio, because in Canada we have relatively more public services provided at the provincial level than we do federally. For the federal government to say that it has lots of room to run deficits just is not true, because it needs to look at the overall debt-to-GDP ratio.
We see in this fiscal update the government making promises to people, increasing spending, and announcing the indexing of the new child benefit program. The Liberals are just not dealing with real money, because they are making promises into the future that are not costed, and that, in the long run, they should know they will not have the capacity to do. I think it is wrong to promise people that the government is going to spend money on things it knows it does not have the capacity to. When it has this kind of policy, when it undertakes government spending and assumes that it can run deficits forever, what it leads to eventually are significant cuts. The benefit of running surpluses during relatively good times and stimulating deficits during relatively less good times is that the government is able to spend more during challenging times, whereas countries that have consistently spent more than they have find themselves during bad times also in a position where they are forced to cut spending before they go off the fiscal cliff. That is the situation of some countries in Europe. We know that this has happened. We do not want to see Canada go down this road.
Just to complete blowing a hole in this stimulus argument, if we look at government spending, it is not targeted or temporary stimulus spending. Liberals are instituting what they would like to propose as permanent new social spending. They are proposing spending that is not targeted to economic stimulus. It is permanent new promised spending, a promise they know, or should know, simply cannot be kept.
I will conclude with a few comments about employment insurance reforms. In the last government, we brought in some very sensible reforms for employment insurance. Under new rules we brought in, it was expected that individuals would be actively involved in a job search to receive benefits. That is a reasonable requirement. We worked to define suitable employment in a way that said that even if individuals could not find exactly the same job they had before, there should be a broader definition of suitable employment but also that the government should provide more help to people in terms of finding jobs. We instituted a stronger system of providing job information to people who were seeking jobs.
It is important that individuals be actively involved in a job search when they are on employment insurance, that employment insurance be a meaningful insurance system, and that it be designed to help people get back to work, not something that can be constantly relied on year after year. I think that is a sensible way of structuring the program. The government, in undoing those employment insurance reforms, is creating additional costs for small businesses as well as for individuals, because everyone has to pay into that EI fund.
Therefore, if we take away those reforms to encourage job search on the payout side of it, then we have to increase the burden on those paying into it. This has a real cost for the creation of jobs and for people who work in our country. I prefer a policy that makes it easier for people to get jobs, not one that cuts back on jobs.
This is the wrong direction for our country, and I will be voting against this.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in support of Bill .
Members of Parliament know better than most the staggering importance of the federal budget. I am speaking not only about this budget in particular but federal budgets in general. The spending choices federal governments have made since confederation have in fact shaped the Canada we live in today.
We know that billions of dollars of investment, if spent wisely, can transform our nation for the better. Indeed, a good budget has the capacity to push Canada closer to our shared ideal, a country where every Canadian, especially those struggling or who have been historically neglected, has a chance to succeed and find happiness, to feel secure, included, cared for and valued by his or her government.
I believe the budget we are debating today is one of those budgets, a very good budget, one that leaves no Canadian behind, and one that I am proud to support.
I represent a very diverse riding as the largest metropolis in Atlantic Canada. The riding of Halifax is home to people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. It is part of what makes my city so great. However, as with any diverse urban core, there is a range between those who are doing well for themselves and their families, that is those who are financially secure, and those who struggle every day to put food on the table, to pay rent and to make basic ends meet.
This is a city that is on the leading edge of some truly amazing things, gripped by an excited, ambitious energy, a city on the rise, growing every day at an exceptional pace, second in Canada only to Vancouver. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
Yet the hard truth is that some of our most vulnerable populations in Canada have been overlooked for too long. For 10 years, their potential was left unrealized, their interests put on the back burner, their most basic needs often ignored. Therefore, I want to focus my remarks today on some of the important provisions proposed in budget 2016, in particular investments that will support Canada's struggling vulnerable and otherwise neglected communities.
I would like to begin with our government's investments in indigenous communities, which seek to support a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples. Members may know that I have the honour of serving as the chair of the House Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. It is a role that, for me, has put a sharp focus on the extraordinary challenges facing indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as the daunting work that lies ahead for our government to address the tragic state of affairs caused by years, centuries, of neglect.
This budget demonstrates our government's commitment to begin this important task to remove the obstacles faced by indigenous people through investments in on-reserve education, training, and infrastructure, to name just three.
All in all, the government seeks to invest $8.4 billion over five years “to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples and their communities and bring about transformational change.” That funding includes $40 million for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls; $3.6 billion for ensure all first nations children receive quality education, including building and repairing schools; $1.2 billion for housing, early learning and child care centres on reserve; $2.2 billion for water and waste water treatment on reserve; and $33 million to support first nations to build sustainable fishing enterprises.
Many members here will know that following the release of the budget, the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the $8.4 billion investment historic and a break against the status quo. However, this funding is only the beginning and there is still much work to be done on this matter. It is the start of transformational change that is long overdue, and it is one of the sections of the budget of which I am most proud.
The next set of investments I would like to speak to are those supporting Canada's seniors. Our government understands that many seniors in Canada are facing difficult financial times after retirement, in particular single seniors who are three times more likely to live with low income than seniors more broadly.
For this reason, our government has proposed to enhance seniors' pensions, including an increase in the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors by up to $947 per year, a measure that will improve the financial situation of 900,000 seniors across the country. Further, as promised, the budget returns the age of retirement from 67 to 65, giving seniors thousands of more dollars as they retire from the workforce.
Another matter addressed by the budget is housing for seniors. On the campaign trail, I spoke with many seniors living in conditions that were inappropriate or inaccessible or where their rent and associated costs would eat up a devastating share of their monthly earnings. To help address this problem, the budget would invest $200 million in the construction, repair, and adaptation of affordable housing for seniors. These investments would unburden struggling seniors across Canada, allowing them the secure and dignified retirement that we all want for our grandparents, our parents, and ultimately ourselves.
I would like now to speak about support for students.
My riding of Halifax is home to seven colleges and universities. I learned this summer from representatives of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students that one in 10 Haligonians is a student. As their MP, the issue of student debt is very important to me. We must make post-secondary education affordable to everyone, without burdening our future workforce with an impossible debt burden on the day of their graduation. That is why I am proud to support this budget, which would increase the Canada student grants program by 50% for low and middle-income students and which increases the loan repayment threshold, which is the amount an individual must be making per year before being required to make a student loan payment, from $20,000 to $25,000 per year.
I am also happy to support a budget which would double the number of Canada summer jobs available to students. This is money that would go right into the pockets of Canadian students and would give them valuable work experience. In my riding, students benefited tremendously from the Canada summer jobs program this year, but so did the employers of students as many would otherwise not be able to hire student help. It is truly a win-win for our students and our community in Halifax, as it has been across the country.
The final item I would like to speak about is the budget's support for low-income families.
One of this government's flagship initiatives, and one I was proud to bring to the doorsteps of voters when I was running to be the Halifax MP, is the new Canada child benefit. It just did not make sense for the previous government to be sending cheques to millionaires to cover their child care costs. It sure did not make sense that it was sending the exact same amount to millionaires as it was sending to the low-income families. That was unfair and plain wrong, and yet the Conservatives and the New Democrats thought it was the proper approach. Canadians saw just how out of touch that scheme was and they voted for a plan that included an improved child benefit, the new Canada child benefit.
The CCB is a simple, tax-free, and more generous benefit tied to family income where those who need it most receive the most, and no more cheques to millionaires. Now, nine out of 10 families receive more in child benefits than before, with the average family seeing an increase of $2,300 per year, and 300,000 fewer children will live in poverty in Canada. Simply put, the CCB is a transformational tool for low and middle-income families and it is another part of the budget that makes me so proud to support it.
There is one other item that will improve the living conditions of low-income families, and that is affordable housing.
All Canadian families deserve safe and affordable housing. Without stable housing at a price they can afford, every other goal families seek to achieve becomes secondary. Without adequate shelter, families struggle to raise their children, to get educated, to find employment, and even to stay healthy. Therefore, I am very glad, as an MP and as a career city planner, that budget 2016 would invest $2.3 billion over the next two years in affordable housing investments, which would be a great help to many low-income families and would lay the groundwork for a healthy economy for all.
At the beginning of my remarks today, I spoke about how the federal budgets had shaped the Canada we know today. Budget 2016 would reshape Canada again, for the better, a Canada that would work for everyone, including our most vulnerable Canadians, those who are struggling to make ends meet and those who have been neglected for far too long. I support the vision this budget puts forward, and I will be voting for it. I implore my colleagues in this chamber to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP opposes Bill , the budget implementation bill, for a number of reasons. It has multiple flaws. The Liberals were very vocal in their criticism of the fact that the Conservatives introduced mammoth budget implementation bills known as omnibus bills.
Now the Liberals have introduced a bill with 146 clauses that amends 13 acts and is 234 pages long. It is quite an eclectic mix. The Liberals are also and undemocratically imposing time allocation, which is a tactic they themselves condemned back then. Imposing time allocation prevents us from debating our positions in depth. The Liberals want to rush this bill to committee, which means that our constituents will not have access to all of the information. This is moving too fast, and the Liberals are not honouring their democratic commitment to transparency.
Throughout the campaign and even to this day, for the past year, they have been talking about working for the middle class and reducing inequality. However, and I will talk about this in my speech, many of the proposals in Bill , the budget implementation bill, are utterly incompatible with their stated aim of reducing inequality.
Let us start by talking about SMEs. During the election campaign, we heard time and again from the Liberals that they would reduce the small business tax from 11% to 9%. Now they are not moving ahead with that proposal, which is not in the budget. We know, as do the Liberals who keep saying this, that SMEs are the job creators in the regions. They create 80% of jobs and keep the economy running. Why then are the Liberals putting obstacles in their way?
Two independent grocers in my riding came to see me because they wanted to tell me that it makes no sense that our country has still not passed legislation to cap exorbitant credit card fees. One of these grocers told me that it costs him $141,000 a year just to be able to accept credit cards. Grocers make a net profit of only 1% or so a year. Credit card charges are between 1.5% and 2.5%.
What should we do to ensure that these independent grocers continue to invest in our community? Every time there are school or community projects, independent grocers are asked for their involvement and financial support. However, if they are constantly hobbled, how are they going to survive in order to create jobs, first of all, not to mention to be able to contribute to their communities and our society? Times are tough.
The Liberals also promised a tax credit for hiring youth. However, that is also missing from Bill . Young people really are the forgotten ones in this bill. Just look at the lack of funding for youth organizations.
My riding has three youth consultation forums. One is in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, a second one is in Beauharnois-Salaberry, and the third is in Haut-Saint-Laurent. During the three meetings I had with over 100 youth organizations, everyone agreed that the Liberal budget does not include any investments for prevention.
The Conservatives made cuts, and then the Liberals came along and said they wanted to focus on youth and give them the tools they need to thrive. However, there is nothing for prevention, nothing for mental health, nothing to tackle crime and drug addiction. In my riding, Salaberry—Suroît, those three issues are related to a great many problems. When has this government ever talked about investing in youth programs and prevention? It never has, unfortunately.
Problems related to housing, homelessness, and youth suicide persist.
The NDP recently moved a motion calling on the government to reinvest in child services for first nations. This year alone, there is a shortfall of $155 million. In the end, the Liberals voted in favour of our motion after initially being opposed to it.
However, there is nothing in the budget to suggest that there will be a reinvestment. No announcement has been made on reinvesting in first nations youth. In January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that by failing to provide recurring investment year after year, the Government of Canada was demonstrating systemic discrimination and racism toward first nations children. How can this still be happening in 2016? There are cases where 25 young people are crammed into a substandard home and have limited access to drinking water, education, and health care. The Jordan principle is not always applied. Still, the Liberals are patting themselves on the back and imposing time allocation. They see no problem. They think the bill should be sent to committee right quick so that we can study it there. It is unbelievable.
That is not the only measure affecting youth services. Young people were supposed to receive $105 million, as announced in budget 2016, to help them gain work and life experience while also supporting communities. However, those funds still have yet to be allocated, and there is nothing on that in this bill. Young people are important, but the federal government is not taking any meaningful action that reflects that.
On the subject of legalizing marijuana, no new funds have been announced for prevention. In my riding, organizations like Liberté de choisir work on preventing addiction. According to them, every time the talks about legalizing marijuana, young people think it means that they can use it, because he said it was legal. This demonstrates a lack of awareness and a lack of prevention. This government has not announced anything on that. The Prime Minister is putting young people at risk by saying these things without giving the organizations and groups that work with young users the tools they need.
In a French article entitled “Légalisation du cannabis: les intervenants jeunesse aux aguets”, which was published two days ago on November 13, 2016, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a professor at the University of Montreal's École de psychoéducation, stated:
Unfortunately, very few investments are made in prevention. When it comes to drugs, nearly 90% of the funding is allocated to the court system or addiction treatments.
I could talk for a long time about youth, but I would like to move on to other things. The Liberals have been bragging about lowering taxes for the middle class. However, if we look at this measure even just a little more closely, we see that the Liberals are lowering taxes for those who earn $45,000 or more. Over half the population earns less than $45,000, and these people will not benefit from a lower tax rate. Is that what working for the middle class and reducing inequality in Canada looks like? Personally, I do not agree with that.
The Liberals are also saying that they are going to help lift seniors out of poverty. However, they are only focusing on seniors who live alone. Seniors living alone will be entitled to more guaranteed income supplement benefits. That is a step in the right direction. However, what about those who do not live alone? Do they not also have the right to live out of poverty? Can the government not also increase their guaranteed income supplement benefits and make sure that those benefits are paid out automatically?
Many of the people who come to my office have heard about this measure, but they do not know what to do. They do not have the tools they need. They do not have Internet access. Most of our seniors live in difficult circumstances.
I would like to wrap up with some comments on employment insurance, where there are still problems. Only four in 10 workers have access to employment insurance even though all workers pay premiums. Six out of 10 workers who need help are denied the benefits, never mind those with serious illnesses. The people who help these individuals are entitled to 26 weeks of employment insurance compassionate care benefits, but the individuals who are gravely ill are entitled to just 15 weeks of benefits. That makes absolutely no sense. There are still problems, and we still need to talk about them.
It makes no sense to impose closure.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak about Bill , which implements a number of important elements of the 2016 budget. I proudly support this budget, because it represents the best that this country has to offer its citizens.
I have been following Canadian federal politics closely for more than 20 years, especially during the more than seven years that I worked as a constituency assistant, a parliamentary assistant and now as a member of Parliament. As a result, I have seen many budgets and changes, many attempts to try out new ideas, and numerous mistakes.
The bill before us is not just an annual budget intended to stay the course with policies that did not work before, in hopes that they will work this time. On the contrary, it is a budget that focuses on our future. It lays the groundwork for years of even better budgets, investments and innovations.
In the economic update presented a few weeks ago, new investments were announced. As the MP for a very rural riding, I am pleased to see a new $2-billion investment, as a first step, for rural infrastructure priorities.
We need to make up for the decades of negligence the regions have suffered. That money, along with $180 billion for infrastructure in many categories that are not specific to the regions, demonstrates the government's interest and its plans to deliver on that.
Where I come from, high-speed Internet access is a very important issue. As far as we are concerned, all socio-economic issues can be linked to high-speed Internet access. The government allocated $500 million for this in the budget. That money cannot come quickly enough. However, we are not so naive as to believe that this small amount is going to solve the problem of rural Internet access after 20 years of failures in digital communication. That money is merely a first step. I am very proud to finally see a forward-looking budget that focuses on long-term planning after 10 years of mismanagement.
I know the Conservatives will ask me how we can plan anything with such large deficits. It does not surprise me that they keep asking that question. For years, they looked at their own deficits and had no idea what to do about them or where they came from, even as they cut taxes and investment in our economy. They actually increased the national debt by more than $150 billion. Year after year, the Conservatives never stopped to think about how future generations would pay off the debt they accumulated.
The Conservatives eliminated government revenue sources and spent willy-nilly. They did not have an infrastructure plan to build the country and our future. They fixed potholes and built gazebos. They spent, but they did not invest, with the possible exception being economic action plan posters, which sprouted up all over the country like mushrooms.
During this debate, the Conservatives have repeatedly questioned whether paying taxes is the way to go. They do not believe that taxes are society's best tool for sharing common costs. They do not agree that it is the government's responsibility to manage that money and spend it in the country's best interest.
Clearly, our job is to improve the lives of all Canadians. However, I can assure the House that we are not going to change things just by listening to the Conservatives. It will take concrete action by the government, and that means spending money in almost every case.
As far as I am concerned, it is obvious that the government has an important role to play in the economy. As I said during yesterday's debate, taxes allow us to pool our resources in order to pay for the expenses shared by our society. The role of government is to improve citizens' lives and it does that by managing these pooled resources, in short, taxes.
We should be talking more about citizens rather than taxpayers. We often do not consider the goal of the institution we work for and the reason why we are here. When the Conservatives imply that the government has no useful role or function, or that taxes are nothing more than a burden for citizens and business, they have completely missed the point.
I find it amusing that the Conservatives are complaining about the government moving forward with enhancements to the Canada pension plan when they have a parliamentary pension plan. They complain about the fact that the government collects taxes and decides how to spend them to improve people's lives, but they do not turn down their own salaries, benefits, or their parliamentary budget.
They know that, as members of the government and members of Parliament, we have the vital role of managing common resources and expenditures and of debating the best ways to improve the lives of our fellow Canadians.
Accordingly, I believe that, eventually, we should consider the possibility of ensuring that all Canadians have a guaranteed minimum income. This idea has been debated in many countries by many generations and may have been around for as long as the debate on whether to annex Turks and Caicos, a measure that I am also not likely to oppose.
Because so many aspects of our society are becoming automated, one day, there may not be enough work for all Canadians. However, I may be wrong, but I believe that that day is still a long way off.
One of my favourite movies is The Gods Must be Crazy. The beginning of this South African and Botswanan movie from the 1980s explains how society becomes more modernized. We have created technology to simplify our lives, but the more simplified our lives become, the more complex the technology becomes. We need more education to understand our simplified lives, which are in fact becoming more complicated.
To come back to what I was saying, the Canada child benefit, which provides parents with up to $6,400 a year per child, is a type of guaranteed minimum income. We already have a guaranteed minimum income for seniors in the form of the guaranteed income supplement, which we increased by 10% in the budget for those who need it most. The idea is already present in our social structures because one of the shared commitments we made as a society was to take care of those who do not have the means or ability to take care of themselves.
Our budget therefore includes a number of components that focus on improving our future. Investments in infrastructure are essential, but we have to run a deficit to make those investments because our infrastructure is already in a deficit situation.
For example, Internet access in our regions is often so unreliable that it is having a significant harmful effect on our economy. Many of our roads are in disrepair. It is estimated that only 400,000 km of Canada's one million kilometres of roads are paved. The investment needs of indigenous communities are so great that I cannot even begin to describe them here. It costs money to make all of these changes and fix these long-standing problems. However, all these investments will improve the quality of life of Canadians in the short term and strengthen our economy in the long term.
Yes, we must go into debt to get there, but our society is already in debt, whether we are talking about our roads, our communities, or our basic infrastructure. By investing, we are simply quantifying this deficit.
With a stronger economy, improved infrastructure, and essential investments, government revenues will increase without hurting the economy and the deficits will start to go down. We have the record to prove it. There has not been a Liberal Prime Minister since confederation who has not managed to balance at least one budget. The only exception was when no budget was tabled. As for the Conservatives' record, the opposite is true.
The good news about infrastructure in the budget does not stop there. I initially had concerns about the idea of an infrastructure bank that the private sector would contribute to, as I consider myself more left-leaning. However, I now understand how we might benefit from it and I see the tremendous potential. I am by no means an expert on this, but if it is done correctly the possibilities are immense.
Private-public funding of infrastructure gives us the chance to finally address the issue of high-speed Internet access in the regions, seriously address the issue of affordable housing, and build other green, social, and traditional infrastructure where traditionally user-pay models are used, without giving up on the idea that infrastructure should belong to the public sector. It is quite interesting and I look forward to following this project.
I am proud of our budget, Bill and of our government's plans and I am not afraid to say so.