Mr. Speaker, as the official opposition, it is the Conservative Party's responsibility to tell the what hard-working Canadian families expect to see in his budget tomorrow.
Canada’s Conservatives are the voice of the taxpayer. We focus on results for Canadians.
Budget day used to be an exciting time for Canadians. Looking at some of our past Conservative budgets, I was thinking about the day before the budget in the 10 years we were in government. It was an exciting day, because we all knew that the next day, we would be giving Canadians a break. For all those people back home who are working hard, who are struggling, who are working in their small businesses, who are worried about their kids, we knew we would be giving them a break. We did that in every consecutive budget, so it was an exciting time.
Our plan created 1.1 million net new jobs. It cut taxes to their lowest level in 50 years and increased health transfers to the provinces by 70%. We had a very aggressive free trade agenda. We introduced tax free savings accounts so families could save for their retirement and for their future. We introduced income splitting so couples could afford to have a family. Business confidence was high. However, today, the day before this budget, people feel anxiety. There is anxiety all across the country, and people are wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. Question after question keeps coming up. I have never seen anything like this before a budget day in the House of Commons.
Small-business owners are wondering, families are wondering, “Are the Liberals going to raise capital gains taxes?” They say they are, we just do not know when. “Are they going to come after our homes? Are they going to come after my business?” These are the questions people are asking. “What tax credit are they going to take away from my family that I use day in, day out to make life more affordable? What is next? What taxes are the Liberals going to raise?” These are the kinds of questions Canadians are asking.
Business investment is at an all-time low. Business confidence is low. This is the kind of business climate and economic climate the has created.
This will be the Prime Minister's second budget, and we are now encouraging the government to seize this opportunity to change course, but all indications are that it will not. There is so much anxiety, in fact, that the Liberals are not even going out to their ridings after the budget.
I think back to the 10 years we were in government. Not only was the day before a budget exciting, because we knew we were going to give hard-working Canadians yet another break, but we were excited to get out to our ridings to tell everyone about it. We would meet with our chambers of commerce. We would meet with all of the families and business owners in our communities, excited to tell them about how we made their lives more affordable.
Do members know what the Liberals are doing? They are staying here for the weekend for an emergency caucus meeting. I guess they are a little embarrassed about what might be in this budget and what might not be in this budget.
After a year and a half, the evidence is clear. There are a lot of broken promises and there is a lot of spending, but no results for hard-working Canadians. Let us go back to the 's original election promise, that he was going to borrow his way to prosperity. He was going to borrow only $10 billion in order to grow the economy and create jobs. On that first part, on the borrowing, Canadians got a lot more than they bargained for. On the second part, the job creating, they got far less than they deserved.
The promise to borrow no more than $10 billion has been forgotten, broken even before last year's budget was presented. The deficit is now much higher—we will know how much higher tomorrow—because of an irresponsible policy of increased spending that has been described as unprecedented in modern times.
In a report that was quietly released right before Christmas, the Department of Finance admitted that the government will not be able to balance the budget for at least 30 years. Under the Liberal plan, the next generation will be forced to pay down our generation's debt. Canadians who are 18 years old today will not see a balanced budget until at least the age of 50.
Imagine, a Canadian who turns 18 years old today will not see a balanced budget until he or she is 50 years old. I do not remember this being in the Liberals' election platform.
The broke one of his key election promises when he said that he promised to balance the budget by 2019. He still believes, apparently, that the budget will balance itself, and those words are just as foolish today as when he said them during the campaign.
What have Canadians actually got for all of this spending and red ink? Growth is no higher than before the borrowing began. The is not growing our economy; he is just growing the size of government.
Let me repeat that. The Prime Minister borrowed all of this money. He put the next generation in debt and this generation in debt and he has not actually created any growth. He is not creating the jobs that he promised, so what was it all for? It was to grow the size of government.
Imagine: the actually promised to add 0.5% to GDP in 2016. He was very specific. However, Statistics Canada data shows that the economy grew no faster than initially projected. The only thing he is growing is the size of government.
He promised he would spend this money on infrastructure, but guess what—the infrastructure funds are not flowing into critical projects like roads, highways, or bridges. I know that people in my home province of Alberta hoped the government would get the shovels in the ground so those jobs would be created, but in fact the construction industry shrank by 3.3% last year. The shovels are not in the ground and jobs are not being created through infrastructure projects.
Now the is looking for more money anywhere he can find it to fund his pet project, the so-called infrastructure bank, because apparently there are not enough banks in Canada. All of us are concerned that the money that the Liberal Party and the desperately needs will come from a sale of important assets, such as Canada's airports. Private investment might be beneficial for Canadian airports, but the complete lack of transparency about a proposed sale leaves Canadians asking a lot of questions, such as whether this is in our national interest, whether this is just a fire sale to fund the Prime Minister's reckless spending, or whether it will increase costs for travellers, businesses, or airport authorities.
This is not about a vision or strategy. It is just because the has run out of money and needs to find more. A botched airport sell-off does not protect Canadian travellers and could also lead to dramatically higher costs, but we have none of those questions answered.
Of course, this morning, as usual, the creates all kinds of anxiety and then says the government may not do that. That creates a lot of conflict. Once again, he says he is backing away from this idea of selling off strategic assets like airports, but yesterday the Prime Minister refused to actually commit one way or another. It is not good enough to keep Canadians guessing about such a critical issue. He does this on taxes. He does this on everything. This constant indecision and lack of any clear plan or vision for our economy is creating anxiety all across the country. The Liberals move from one thing to another, from one idea that they float out there to another. They actually have no real plan.
Whether it is airports or other assets, the should not be selling off the furniture because he ran up the credit card. That is not a vision for this country.
Canadians pay among the highest air transportation costs in the world. Canadian families who want to go on vacation and entrepreneurs who need to travel to build and grow their businesses should not have to pay for this government's mistakes.
The rumours that airports are to be sold off at a garage sale are problematic and not just because of the costs involved. Canadians have every right to question whether selling those airports is in Canada's best interest or is simply a way for the Liberals to finance their out-of-control spending.
We also know that lurking behind of all these ideas of selling off strategic assets to an infrastructure bank, there is this idea that the is very welcoming to Chinese government-owned companies and their interest in buying up Canadian assets. In fact, Conservatives feel he is ready to sell just about anything to them. The sale of Canadian airports or any other strategic Canadian assets to companies with links to foreign governments must first meet a test of national interest, always, because they are strategic assets, but we have no transparency on this as well.
Let us remember that this is the same who held closed-door cash-for-access fundraisers where he met with people from the Chinese government and then weeks later reopened national security reviews on the sale of Canadian companies to companies that were controlled by the Chinese government.
When they hear this, Canadians rightly wonder, “Is our national security for sale to the highest bidder?” Canadians have good reasons to be concerned about the Liberals selling off assets, and we demand more transparency. Canadians do not want to see a fire sale in tomorrow's budget or the next budget. In fact, since the took office, Canadians are actually working less. Their paycheques are not rising, and they feel it.
The young people of our country feel it the worst. The youngest workers have now lost over 40,000 full-time jobs just in the past year. We have a youth unemployment crisis. What did the do? He promised an EI break for workers who hire youth. Then what did he do? He broke that promise, and instead he raised EI premiums on businesses, making them less likely to hire.
We want the budget to include immediate measures to put young Canadians back to work and address the youth unemployment crisis.
However, as we have seen, creating a realistic plan to stimulate the economy and help Canadians find good jobs is simply not a priority for this Liberal government.
However, that is not what we are going to see tomorrow. This will be a budget written by Liberal government consultants, and it will grow the size of government. For some reason, Liberals are enthralled with these latest glossy, jargon-laden consultant schemes, all about moon shots and innovation strategies, but it is really simple when we are thinking about innovating the economy. As economist Jack Mintz says, if we want to create innovation, we have to create an attractive business climate, cut red tape, lower taxes, and boost entrepreneurs' confidence in the economy.
I have a lot of confidence in Canadians and I know they are going to see right through this. They know that these buzzwords and these brochures do not actually put people to work. These flashy programs also come with a $1-billion price tag, and this bill gets paid by the millions of regular Canadians who are not so lucky to work somewhere that the wants to go visit for a photo op, such as New York.
Canadians see this 's priorities. If people are fashionable and well connected and work in a certain sector that he thinks is sexy, then he is very generous. However, for the taxpayer—well, they have to pay up. They have to pay up to $2,500 per household for a new national carbon tax, and add another $2,200 per household for higher CPP premiums. Then they have to give back their family tax cut on income splitting, watch their tax-free savings account get slashed, and say goodbye to their kids' arts and fitness tax credits and the textbooks and education tax credit if they are students.
The Liberals have an innovation program for every government consultant, but to pay for it, they have a tax hike for every Canadian. Frankly, families cannot take any more of this. With the cost of living rising, the last thing they need is more government. The last thing they need is their government looking for new ways to nickel-and-dime them.
This government is taking far more from Canadians than it is giving them, and that must stop.
The situation calls for a change in direction, and that is what everybody was hoping to see tomorrow, especially when we know the United States is about to slash taxes and cut red tape to pull investment and job growth south of the border. We are already seeing it. There is a reason that business investment is already leaving Canada to go to the U.S.
We cannot meet these challenges with decades of deficits, an ever-increasing tax burden, and a government that cares more about pleasing major foreign investors than helping Canadian families get by.
Tomorrow Canadians, regular Canadians, want to see a plan that makes their jobs and their families a top priority. They want a break from the government. They want a plan that gets spending under control, focuses on real-life job creation, and stops these nickel-and-diming tax hikes.
As the voice of the taxpayer, we will be judging tomorrow's budget on whether it meets those priorities. Canadians can always rely on the Conservative Party and the opposition to put them and their families first. That is why we are calling on this House to adopt our motion today.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House today to talk about our ongoing support for Canadian youth and seniors. I am glad the member opposite has raised this important issue, which is so vital to the economic well-being of our nation.
Youth and seniors are high on our government's agenda. There is no doubt about that. Since we took office in 2015, we have brought in real, tangible changes that are making a real difference for Canadians both young and old.
Youth represent our present and our future in Canada. They lead, shape, and transform this country. When we invest in our youth, we are investing in a brighter future for all of us. With that said, let me start by outlining the support we provide to young Canadians.
In budget 2016, we increased our investment to the youth employment strategy, better known as the YES program, by $278.4 million. The fund is being used to create new jobs for youth and increase the number of youth who access the skills program. It also increases job opportunities for young Canadians in the heritage sector, and it increases the number of jobs offered through the Canada summer jobs program. In fact, the Canada summer jobs program created more than 65,800 jobs last summer, essentially doubling the number of jobs created, compared to the previous year. Our investment has yielded real results for young Canadians.
Apart from making investments in our youth programs, we know that we need to identify barriers to youth employment. This is why we launched the expert panel on youth employment initiatives in October 2016 as a way to improve the opportunities for all youth in Canada. The panel's findings will play a key role in identifying future investments in youth programs, including ways to enhance our youth employment strategy.
For young Canadians to get good jobs, they first need to get a good education. With this in mind, we will continue to work with our provincial and territorial governments regarding the implementation of the Canada student loans and grant measures. In fact, as of August 1, 2016, we kept our promise and increased Canada's student grants by 50% for students from low- and middle-income households. This will help an estimated 247,000 students from low-income families and 100,000 students from middle-income families, as well as about 60,000 low-income part-time students each year.
We are doing more. Starting August 1, 2017, students from low-income families will only have to contribute $1,500 per school year, with contributions rising to a maximum of $3,000 for students with a higher family income. This change will allow students to work and gain valuable market experience without having to worry about the reduction in their level of financial assistance. It will also simplify the application process for student financial assistance, making the Canada student loans program more transparent and more predictable for our youth. Furthermore, students with identified employment barriers will not be expected to make a contribution, including students who self-identify as indigenous, students with permanent disabilities, and students with dependents.
In November 2016, we also increased the repayment assistance plan threshold to ensure that no students will have to repay their student loan until they have reached earnings of at least $25,000 per year. We estimate that about 23,000 additional borrowers will have lower, more affordable payments if they apply for their repayment assistance plan.
Helping families plan for education expenses is also key and very important. The Canada learning bond is money the Government of Canada deposits into registered education savings plans for children to help save for their post-secondary education. The government is committed to working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to promote the benefits of early savings for post-secondary education in RESPs for all Canadians to ease access to the CLB for low-income Canadians. These measures are making post-secondary education more affordable for Canadians.
Post-secondary education is an invaluable asset in today's job market, but employers are looking for more than a person with a degree. They also need the experience and the skills to succeed in today's workforce. That is not something we can teach in a classroom.
That is why our government has invested more than $73 million over four years to support the student work-integrated learning program. One might ask what exactly this initiative is. The goal is very simple: the program will help ensure that students develop the foundational, entrepreneurial, and business skills required to secure meaningful employment in high-demand occupations in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business.
We need to work with colleges and universities to prepare the next generation of Canadians for the highly skilled jobs that are out there, and we need to ensure that Canadian employers can bring about and benefit from co-op and work-integrated learning opportunities. Under our government, more students and workers will have access to co-op placements, work-integrated learning opportunities, and summer jobs so they can get the skills they need and their employers need.
Let us take a moment now to talk about seniors. I have covered the extensive support we have provided to youth, and now I would like to turn my attention to seniors.
Seniors are among the most valuable members of our society. They actively contribute to their families, to our communities, and to our economy, but they can also be among the most vulnerable of our society, especially low-income seniors.
We are proud to report that Canada has one of the lowest rates in the world of seniors living in low income. Our latest numbers indicate that, in 2013, 3.7% of our seniors were considered low income. However, Statistics Canada tells us that about 192,000 seniors still live below the low-income cut-off. These valued Canadians are struggling to make ends meet at a time in their lives when most are not able to work. Our government believes that all Canadians deserve to live out their senior years with respect and dignity. They should also be able to have peace of mind knowing that their needs will be taken care of. We also have to keep in mind that the demographic composition of this country is changing very fast. I, for one, know that in the province of New Brunswick, where I am from, we are actually at the point that the death rate is outnumbering the birth rate. It is very concerning.
Predictions are that seniors will make up nearly one-quarter of the population by 2030. Millions more Canadiens will be eligible for the OAS and the CPP over the coming years. We are talking about hard-working Canadians who contributed to this country their entire lives and paid into the tax system. When they enter retirement, it is time for us to give them the support they need in recognition of the contributions they have made to Canada during their entire working years. That is where the old age security program comes in.
The old age security program, also known as OAS, has a clear purpose: to provide a minimum level of income to seniors and contribute to their income replacement in retirement. The OAS program is composed of a number of benefits. The first is the OAS pension, which is paid to everyone who is 65 years old and older and who meet the residence and legal status requirements. The second is the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors. The third is the allowances for low-income Canadians from ages 60 to 64 who are the spouses or common-law partners of GIS recipients or who are widowers or widows.
The previous government increased the eligibility age of OAS from 65 to 67 years old. These changes were set to take place starting in 2023. However, changing the age of eligibility is unfair to Canadians who have worked hard their entire lives and cannot, for a variety of reasons, continue to work at the ages of 65 and 66. This government will not leave low-income seniors high and dry at a time when they need our support the most. That is why our government set specific goals to support Canadian seniors and ensure economic security for them.
First and foremost, we have repealed the previous government's measures to move the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. This will put thousands of dollars in the pockets of the lowest-income Canadians each year as they become seniors.
We are not just maintaining the status quo. We are taking clear steps to help lift thousands of seniors out of poverty. In this spirit, we are increasing the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors by 10%. This will give one million of our most vulnerable seniors up to almost $1,000 per year. This is much needed support for our most vulnerable in our society. We will also consider a new seniors price index to make sure that the old age security and income supplement benefit keep up with seniors' actual rising costs.
Let us take a moment now to talk about the CPP, Canada pension plan, measures. Retirement income security starts with a good, stable, public pension program. This is more important than ever at a time when many Canadians are not saving enough for their retirement. In particular, middle-class families without workplace pension plans are at a greater risk of under-saving for retirement. A third of these families are at risk. While those in workplaces where pension plans are faring a little better, 17% of them are still under-saving, and they are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Economic conditions since the global recession of 2008 pose a particular risk for younger Canadians.
With this as a backdrop, we have enhanced the Canada pension plan. Last summer, Canada's finance ministers reached a historic agreement to make meaningful changes to the CPP that will allow Canadians to retire with more money in their pockets. The CPP enhancement will increase the benefits that people receive when they retire. This also means that contributions will increase accordingly, typically 1% for most people, and cash benefits will accumulate gradually as individuals pay into their enhanced CPP.
Young Canadians just entering the workforce will see the largest increase in benefits. What does that mean for future generations? That is a good question. As my fellow members know, the CPP is currently designed to replace a quarter of our income in retirement. The changes we are proposing will increase that percentage to fully one-third, so if someone earns $50,000 a year over their working life, they will receive about $16,000 per year in retirement, instead of today's $12,000 per year.
To fund these enhanced benefits, annual CPP contributions will increase modestly over seven years, starting in 2019. For example, individuals who make $54,900 per year will contribute about an additional $75 per year, or $6 a month, starting in 2019. By the end of the seven-year phase-in program in 2025, their contributions will amount to an additional $515 per year, or $43 per month.
Employee contributions to the enhanced portion of the CPP will also be tax deductible. Providing a tax deduction for new employee CPP contribution will avoid increasing the after-tax cost of saving for Canadians.
I used the amount of $54,900 per year in my example because this is currently what we call the year's maximum pensionable earnings when we talk about CPP. This means that everyone contributes 4.95% of their income up to that amount. Once these enhancements are fully implemented in 2025, the maximum will increase by about 14% to $82,700. An individual who makes $80,000 a year over his or her working life will get a third of that per year in retirement from his or her CPP.
Helping people plan for their retirement is among the key elements of long-term economic and social stability, and in fact Canada has a long history of doing so. Our retirement income system is widely recognized around the world as one of the best. A stronger CPP is the core promise we made to middle-class Canadians, and we are very proud that with the collaboration with the provinces, we have been able to deliver these important enhancements. Our government is fully committed to supporting seniors and giving them a dignified retirement.
We are also giving equal attention to our youth. By focusing on education and job training, we are giving young people the support they need to steer Canada to economic success both today and in the future.
In closing, tomorrow, our government will cement this commitment as we table budget 2017.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the incredible, fantastic member for .
I want to pick up on what our Liberal colleague just said. According to the Liberal government's definition, the middle class does not include any workers who earn less than $45,000 a year. Those workers did not benefit in any way from the tax cuts the Liberals have been bragging about for the past year. They did not get one red cent. That is a rather strange definition of middle class. The people who benefited the most from Liberal tax cuts are those who earn between $90,000 and $210,000 a year. Those folks got a rebate of $270, while the workers who need it the most got absolutely nothing. Zero.
I will now talk about the bragging the Liberals have been doing about infrastructure. Our regions, our cities, and our towns desperately need the government to invest in infrastructure, not only to stimulate the economy and economic growth, but also, quite simply, to help businesses move their goods, their services, and their employees.
As the parliamentary budget officer pointed out recently, although the Liberals made a big deal out of their $13.6-billion announcement, only $4.6 billion of that has actually been or is about to be invested. That means about 75% of the total was a figment. The people doing the work in public service and municipal government have not seen a penny of it. That money is not doing anything to create jobs or stimulate the economy. We need to take Liberal promises with a grain of salt.
I am very much looking forward to tomorrow's budget speech to see if there will be any new developments in this area. The Liberals will talk about innovation and training workers, but what they announce is likely to differ from what they actually invest. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between what this government says and what it does.
I would like to talk about the Conservative Party's opposition day motion. We do agree about one thing: privatizing Canadian airports is dangerous. I am surprised that the Liberal government is even considering this because there was no mention of it during the election campaign or in the Liberal platform. Maybe I should not be too surprised, because the Liberals often say something but do not do it. Electoral reform is a prime example of that. On other matters, they keep mum, only to spring unpleasant surprises on us, such as this airport business.
Right now, federal airports in Canada belong to everyone. They are public assets. Our airports are managed by airport authorities and non-profit organizations. They have to self-fund, which is why we have airport fees. Their purpose is not to turn a profit or generate a return on investment. They also pay rent to the government, a total of about one billion dollars a year.
Right now it feels like the federal government is in panic mode. It is trying to sell our belongings so it can gain control of its massive deficit. That is short-sighted. There are two ways for the airports to turn a profit: either make cuts to services, jobs, and the working conditions of airport employees, or increase fees. Passengers are going to end up paying out of their pockets. They are literally going to pay the price. All those who travel in the country or abroad will pay the price for the Liberals' nasty little surprise, its move to privatization. Will private foreign companies be allowed to buy our airports? Airports provide not just any public service. They are also part of a very strategic infrastructure. At the risk of fearmongering, not only is this a bad idea, but it could also lead us down a path that we do not want to take.
The Liberal government has been skating around this issue for two months now. It refuses to answer questions and avoids the issue. We know that the Liberal government hired a firm to study the pros and cons of privatizing airports. Who was hired to conduct this study? A company called Credit Suisse, an international company that specializes in privatizing airports and ports. That gives us an idea of where they are going with this. I am sure that Credit Suisse will provide a fully impartial and neutral report. Yeah, right. The people in that company are extremely biased. It is their business. It is what they do for a living.
This fire sale might bring in $8 billion, $9 billion, or $12 billion. That is a quick cash injection, but since airports are a source of revenue for the federal government, what will it do in year nine, 10, or 12? That is when the government will start losing money and then it will be too late. It will be over. It is the passengers who will pay the price.
To ensure that everybody understands the message, I will continue in English on the same issue of the privatization of our airports. The Liberals never said anything during their campaign. It was not in their political platform. Suddenly it is a bad surprise for everybody. There is an option that is probably on the table to sell our airports. Right now federal airports are the property of everybody in the country. It is a common good. It is a service for all travellers. Those airports are managed by non-profit organizations. They have to raise enough money to function, but they are not there to make profit. Therefore, what will happen if the Liberals sell off our airports?
The private company that will buy them will need to make money, and there are only two ways to do that: decrease the services, the quality of services, or the working conditions of the employees at the airports, or increase the fees that passengers pay to use the services at airports. At the end of the day, travellers will literally pay the price for a bad decision by the Liberal government. We do not have any clear answer on that, but the door is wide open right now.
We know the Liberal government asked a company to study the advantages and disadvantages of eventually selling and privatizing airports. Who did the government ask to do that? It was Credit Suisse. What does Credit Suisse do? It provides counselling for the privatization of public assets like airports. The conclusion is already quite clear.
I want to point out that there is another part of the Conservative motion that New Democrats strongly oppose, which is forbidding the government to increase taxation on individuals or companies. The New Democrats do not think it is a good idea for the CEOs of the country, in big companies like banks and oil companies, not to pay their fair share for good public services, like taking care of seniors, health care, child care, and housing.
Right now, the average pay of the 100 highest-paid CEOs in our country is $9.5 million per year. They are earning 193 times the average pay of Canadian workers. There are growing inequalities in the country. If we cannot raise taxes on big companies or eliminate some loopholes, such as the stock option deduction, for the richest in our country, we will not have the resources we need to take care of our neighbours, to create good jobs, or to take care of our environment and health care.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the motion before us. As this motion is very much aspirational with respect to budget 2017, I will use my time today to talk about the things I believe Canadians need to see in it.
New Democrats have expectations for this budget that are entirely reasonable given the commitments the Liberals have made, either during the last election or since. We will welcome all concrete initiatives to address the many pressing issues facing Canadians today. Frankly, everyone has pretty much had it with rhetoric at this point. It is time to follow through.
A good way to start is by building a fairer tax system, closing loopholes for the wealthy, and cracking down on offshore tax havens. While most Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, our tax code is full of loopholes that allow the wealthiest among us to pay less. Altogether, our unfair tax system takes tens of millions of dollars from Canadians annually in lost revenues, money that should be spent to support services like health care.
The Liberals campaigned on a specific promise to address a gaping hole in our tax code that costs the government more than $800 million each year: the stock option deduction used by CEOs. They have since abandoned that promise in response to lobbying from corporate executives.
The government also curiously left untouched Stephen Harper's radically low corporate tax rates, which were slashed by a third and continue to cost the government more than $12 billion each year. In spite of this giveaway, Canadians have not seen the promised increases in investments or jobs.
The Liberals could also use this budget to deliver on promised investments in public infrastructure, rather than selling off airports and pursuing their infrastructure privatization bank scheme. While selling off Canadian assets like airports to turn a quick buck may make short-term sense, from an accounting perspective, it will leave Canadians to pay the costs through increased user fees for many years to come.
Canadians are increasingly stuck in precarious jobs characterized by part-time, low-paid, and temporary employment without benefits or pensions. Let us also hope that this budget will make a priority of creating and protecting good full-time jobs for Canadians and of improving conditions for all workers. It can implement a $15 federal minimum wage and restore promised small-business tax reductions.
Canada can also create good full-time jobs and be a leader in clean energy if the Liberals take the necessary steps to invest in home energy retrofits, to train workers for the emerging green economy, and to get critical infrastructure dollars out the door.
As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is unacceptable that indigenous people continue to face third-world conditions as a result of a long and indefensible history of chronic underfunding of services. They lack adequate access to housing, clean drinking water, mental health services, and education. The budget must make immediate investments to rectify this long-standing injustice by immediately investing the minimum required $155 million to end discrimination in the delivery of child welfare services, as per the unanimously passed NDP motion last year.
It should also provide the necessary resources to end the dozens of boil-water advisories affecting indigenous communities and ensure that all communities have access to clean, safe drinking waiter. It should, likewise, make an immediate injection for mental health services for first nation and Inuit communities to address the tragic funding shortfalls for such services, shortfalls that have been acknowledged by department officials. It should also lift the punitive 2% gap in funding transfers that continue to apply to most of the base funding that supports indigenous communities. That was a key election promise.
These commitments were made to our indigenous brothers and sisters in a very public way. The fact that the government has yet to honour them shames and embarrasses us all to no end.
Following from this, it would be great to see stable, predictable funding for the many native friendship centres throughout the country. With over half our native population living off reserve, friendship centres provide an array of services to urban natives but lack a regular funding formula. This has forced a number of these centres to close, while many others struggle from month to month to keep their doors open. On a yearly and grant basis, it is impractical to expect organizations such as our Can-Am friendship centres to consistently be able to strategize and provide these services.
It is crucial, as well, that this budget take the next steps to meet the health care needs of Canadians. Currently, one in 10 Canadians are unable to fill their prescriptions due to financial constraints. It is simply unacceptable that Canada remains the only country in the world with universal health care that does not include prescription drug coverage. It is time to fill this gap by committing to a universal pharmacare plan. This will not only make critical medicine more affordable for Canadians but will save provinces and our health care system billions in lower drug costs.
Despite lofty promises of a renewed co-operative federalism, the government has used a divide-and-conquer approach in provincial-federal health accords. It has forced deals on provinces that are, disappointingly, based on Stephen Harper's planned cuts to health care transfer increases. In fact, the Liberals, who I would like to remind this chamber were elected as a real change government, are giving only the same 3% escalator proposed by Harper for core health care funding, far short of the resources required to ensure the quality of care Canadians expect. More disturbingly, the Liberals have agreed to ignore violations of the Canada Health Act by accepting private clinics, such as MRI clinics in Saskatchewan, in order to cut a deal, another short-term gain that will result in more privatization and more costs down the line. As well, new funds for mental health and home care services are heavily back-loaded, with just 2.7% of new funds to flow in the first year. This will leave Canadians waiting for improvements and suffering.
Lastly, the Liberals made a promise to civil society groups during the previous election, as part of their successful campaign to woo progressive voters, to establish, if elected, an office of the mining ombudsperson. The ombudsperson would operate independently of government and would provide much needed oversight of Canadian extractive industries operating abroad, oversight these industries are in dire need of, given the increasing number of well-documented human rights abuses, as well as violence, associated with their operations around the world. I would say to the current government that it wooed them, it got them, and now it needs to honour its word and create this office.
One of the main reasons the Liberals were trounced out of power 12 years ago was that Canadians had grown tired of a party that seemed willing to say and do just about anything to stay in power. It has unfortunately only taken a year and half for the Liberal Party to re-establish its reputation along these lines. However, with this new budget, all could be changed. The Liberals can show Canadians that when they make a solemn commitment, they intend to follow through, or not.
We will be watching.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take the floor today following the 's motion on the budget that will be tabled tomorrow.
As is the case every year, the finance minister of some government or parliament or other stages what is called a photo-op in the business, meaning a photo session on the broad strokes of the finance minister's enthusiasm. All finance ministers of every party have participated in this kind of PR exercise. Of course, this is an opportunity for the minister to show off his new shoes, as British tradition dictates.
Yesterday, what caught my attention is that the was in Toronto, which is a good thing, but he had children with him. What a nice way for him to show how kind and sensitive he is to children!
However, knowing full well that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to foot the bill for the 's poor fiscal mismanagement, the photo of him surrounded by children truly captures the harsh reality of this government's mismanagement.
We will have an opportunity a bit later to take a look at the Liberal government's record over the past 16 months, since the Liberals have already been in power for 16 months.
First of all, let us recall the facts. What was the state of Canada's finances at the time of the 2015 election? There was a surplus of $2.9 billion, as confirmed by the parliamentary budget officer last October 24 at the Standing Committee on Finance.
We left a clean house, with a surplus. Yes, “surplus”. This word existed under our government. It was not a deficit but a surplus, and our government had to address the worst economical crisis in the world since 1929. However, thanks to the Right Hon. Stephen Harper and those members of Parliament who supported him hard and strong, like the late Hon. Jim Flaherty, we came back as strong as possible. We came back as Canadians can come back. This was the signature of the Conservative government in the last 10 years. We left a clean house, and we were the first country in the G7 to get back on track. We were faster and better, which was Canada under the Conservative government.
Actually, we left the house in order with budget surpluses and the lowest tax rate that Canada has had in the last 50 years. All in all, Canadians had more money in their pockets at the end of the Conservative administration than in the previous 50 years. That, too, was signature Conservative.
We also had the best debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, the most valuable legacy a government can bequeath to its constituents, and especially to the following government. Indeed, this debt-to-GDP ratio gives it the wiggle room it needs. Still, you need to know how to use it intelligently, contrary to what the Liberals have done.
Let us now remember the circumstances in which the Liberals were elected.
It was very surprising to see the successor to Paul Martin table a platform, which included a deficit. Paul Martin did a credible job as the minister of finance in the good old days of the Liberal Party when the Liberals were very afraid to have a deficit, and they fought for that. However, the successor of the Right Hon. Paul Martin, the actual , tabled a program in which he included a deficit. It is crazy.
What was this deficit?
Let us remember that the Liberals promised a very small deficit of $10 billion a year for three years, and then a return to a balanced budget in 2019. Hogwash.
Last year, the Liberals were very proud to table a budget that had a deficit of about $30 billion, three times higher than planned, and now they have completely lost control of public finances. We are not the ones saying it, Finance Canada officials are saying it, too. Indeed, two or three times a year, these officials conduct evaluations, assess our current situation and consider future prospects.
Now, on October 10, 2016, the Department of Finance gave the a report that concludes that if nothing changes, Canada's debt will be $1.5 trillion in 2050, and if nothing changes, we will return to a balanced budget in 2055, 36 years later than expected under the Liberal agenda.
This isn't coming from the Conservatives. Department of Finance officials, the people who deal with this every day, are saying it. They see exactly what is going on. Their conclusion was brutal.
There will be a zero deficit in 2055. The government missed the target by 36 years. This is totally unacceptable but this is totally Liberal. This is the same situation.
The minister was so proud of the report. What did he do with the report? He put it on his table, not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, but for a full two months. He did not look at it for 10 weeks and then finally published it. When?
An hon. member: Before Christmas.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Just a few hours before Christmas, Mr. Speaker.
In French, there is a nice song by Beau Dommage. When did they release it? On December 23.
December 23 “Merry Christmas, Mr. [Tanguay]!”
Take it easy, little buddy! See you again on January 7...
That is the song, but we actually did meet again on January 7.
On January 7, we finally had the report. The odious face of the government was shown to everybody. The Liberals had lost control of spending.
That is the signature of the Liberal government.
Today, we are just a few hours away, 26 or 28 hours away, from the budget being tabled, and Canadians are rightfully worried. They were promised many things in the last budget, as we recall. Even today, the overblown rhetoric drones on. The Liberals spout lofty principles and claim to be thinking of the children, that they have never been as generous as with the Canada child benefit.
Hang on a second. First of all, let us recall that this program abolished all sorts of programs parents could use to help their children. This government abolished the tax credits for fitness and arts activities, the purchase of textbooks for school. This government that spouts lofty principles about helping families has eliminated a number of tax credits.
Worse still, the Liberals are all proud to say that they are spending $2 billion more than the previous government. Of course they are, they are creating a deficit. They are sending the bill to our grandchildren; they will be paying for it. Which brings me back to the picture I spoke of at the start of my speech. The , surrounded by children. Of course, he told them that he will be sending them the bill later and that they are the ones who will be paying for his mismanagement.
Let us not forget that this government overlooked one small detail in its new family allowances. It forgot to factor in inflation. This is just a small detail. This small oversight turned into a $20-billion mistake. It is incredible. Any low-level accountant working for a small business, whatever it is, forgetting to factor in inflation would be quickly kicked to the curb. Now this government is patting itself on the back, pleased as Punch. They are the nice guys; they can do no wrong.
It is totally unacceptable. To forget the inflation rate when a budget of billions of dollars has to be tabled is the proof without a shadow of doubt. The Liberals have no control when it comes to spending money. This is a signature of the Liberal government.
It gets better, as the government's lofty principles do not end there. It claims Canadian workers pay less tax because it was good enough to think of the poor, hard-working folk and to punish the big bad one-percenters, those who make a good living, as if they were criminals. Come on, now! For my part, I dream of the day when the 1% will be the 10%, 20% or 30%. That is what we want. Why attack them from all fronts, on all sides?
Worse than that, these people say that they are the modern Robins Hoods, that they will make the rich pay for the less fortunate. What is the result of their tax changes, really? On Senator Larry Smith's initiative, the parliamentary budget officer was asked to assess the precise impact of these tax changes. The PBO revealed that 65% of Canadian workers saw no difference at all. Those earning $45,000 or less get $0. Those who earn $60,000 have $2 more in their pockets a week. Even worse, the biggest winners are those who earn between $140,000 and $200,000 a year. I admit to my conflict of interest, as I fall into that category of people, like every other MP. Indeed, MPs are paid handsomely.
That means this measure will benefit us the most. Those people are trying to tug at our heartstrings by saying they want to help the middle class. Well, I am sorry, but when the people earning $199,000 a year are the ones benefiting the most from these changes, that is hardly the middle class.
That is what we, as parliamentarians, have been working with up to now, so we are very concerned about what the government has planned for the budget it will be tabling tomorrow. We are especially concerned about three issues: entrepreneurs, Canadian workers and the management of public funds, and the potential sale of airports. Let me go over those one by one.
The government has been hiding the truth from Canadian workers. False promises, bad management, and saddling our children and grandchildren with crippling deficits is the name of the Liberal government's game.
Canadian workers who get up every morning only to watch half their paycheque drain away in taxes expect to get their money's worth. Eliminating tax credits for families, as we discussed earlier, does not help these people. Even worse are the new pension plan fees that will cost businesses an average of $1,000 more per worker. That is classic Liberal government.
The same goes for the Liberals' coast-to-coast carbon tax, which will hit taxpayers right in the pocketbook.
Just to be clear with everyone, the best example of that is this. The government had a study done by the civil servant about the impact to the average Canadian of the Liberal carbon tax. I thank my colleague, the member for , who day after day in the House of Commons talked about the reality of the carbon tax cover-up. The government is not so proud of this study because, without a shadow of a doubt, it concluded there would be a lot of money to grab from the pockets of the people instead of helping them.
The carbon tax will have a real impact on the average Canadian. That is why this is totally unacceptable. I extend my thanks for the hard and good job of my colleague from Carleton who has raised the issue in the House of Commons day after day. We also had a debate on it a few days ago.
Canadian taxpayers therefore have good reason to be worried about the Liberal government's upcoming budget. Let us talk about entrepreneurs.
For us, the Conservative Party of Canada, entrepreneurs form the backbone of our economy. Those people create wealth. They create jobs. They are real actors for the wealth of the Canadian economy. We shall support them as far as we can. We do not want to make things difficult for them. We must help them.
For us Conservatives, small and medium-sized business owners are the backbone of our economy. Need I remind the members of the sad day barely two years ago when the current said quite seriously that, as far as he was concerned, small businesses were a means to save on taxes or even evade taxes?
I understand that he was looking at himself in the mirror when he said that, but I would prefer that he respect those who risk suffering huge consequences and who are creating real jobs and real wealth.
What did the government do for those people? First, it eliminated a number of tax credits that helped stimulate economic activity for businesses. This government is going to increase pension fund premiums for every worker. Not only do employees have to pay $1,000 more for their pensions, but businesses also have to pay an extra $1,000 for each employee.
I would also remind the House that the Liberal carbon tax is going to penalize those who work to grow the economy rather than carbon producers. This is not the right approach, and we do not support it. This is why entrepreneurs ought to be supported, especially since the new American administration keeps saying that it plans to reduce fees and taxes for businesses.
Let us face facts: our Canadian businesses are going to go head to head with U.S. companies, which are both our main competitors and our main partners. They will be facing businesses that will see their taxes go down, while Canadian businesses will see theirs rise. That is not the right approach. We believe that the best way to help businesses is not to invent 36,000 programs, but to lower taxes.
Finally, let us look at airport privatization. This is worrisome because, to my knowledge, the Liberal platform did not include this measure. Every time the issue is raised, inside or outside the House, the government avoids giving a definitive answer: maybe yes, maybe no, maybe we will do this, maybe we will do that.
We are asking the government to take a firm position against this privatization. We must be vigilant. Let us keep in mind that starting on December 5, the and I have asked about 20 questions in the House. The questions were about a possible tax on health and dental benefits. After he was asked twenty or so questions, the finally rose, here in the House, and said that the Liberals would not tax health and dental benefits. We were very pleased. Common sense had finally prevailed. However, six days after the Prime Minister said this, we had a vote on a motion that said exactly what the Prime Minister had said. What did he do? He opposed it. He voted against what he himself had said. What is the Liberal government's word worth? Nothing.
This is why we are concerned. When we hear the government say one thing, we know very well that it could do the opposite—not to mention that it got elected by promising to run small deficits, when in actual fact these are massive, colossal deficits, and the budget will not be back in balance until 2055. This is ludicrous, preposterous, and unacceptable.
What concerns us about airports?
Let us get one thing straight: airports are not corner stores. They are the gateway to Canada. The same goes for ports. There is an over-arching function to this kind of infrastructure that makes it different from the others. Moreover, Canadians have already paid, through their taxes, to develop the airports that we have today. If they are sold, the new owners will need to make money somewhere. This makes perfect sense in a market economy, of course. We have nothing against this principle, but can it be applied to airports? We do not believe so, because Canadians have already paid for airports with their taxes. By increasing fees and charges, this government will make Canadians pay twice for something they have already paid for. This is not the right thing to do.
We are not talking about jet-setters here. We are talking about average Canadians who go on pleasure trips with their families to see friends across Canada or abroad. Gone are the days when only the proverbial 1% travelled by air. Today all Canadians regularly travel by airplane. These are the people who will end up paying if the government unfortunately goes ahead with this initiative. Why are they doing this? It seems that this would be to finance the infrastructure bank. Why does the government want to establish an infrastructure bank given that a private infrastructure investment tool already exists? It is called PPP Canada. Yes, it was created by the Conservatives. Is it because it is a Conservative creation that the Liberals are unable to use it? It is not some venereal disease!
We are asking the government what its motive is to create this initiative from scratch. Why do we need something else when the tool already exists? Even worse, creating a bank takes a fund. What will they do with the $15 billion they are going to put in the fund? Will they freeze it just like that? The government is going to freeze billions of dollars at a time when the Canadian economy needs them today.
Do not get me wrong, Mr. Speaker. We do not disagree with the investment for infrastructure. When we were in office, the hon. member for Roberval was the head of the ministry that had tabled an $80 billion budget for infrastructure for the next 10 years. It was a most ambitious program at that time, and we are proud of that. The main difference is that we would have done it with a zero deficit budget, compared to the current government, which spent without any control.
Today we are debating the sound management of public funds. This government has proven without a shadow of a doubt that it has no control over public finances, threatening to put Canada in a downward spiral without a return to a balanced budget until 2055. This is completely unacceptable. I call on all parliamentarians to vote in favour of this motion, which takes the government to task and takes to heart the interests of our entrepreneurs and, first and foremost, the interests of all hard-working Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Last fall, the presented his vision for the future of transportation in Canada, also referred to as Transportation 2030. This vision reflects his extensive engagement with Canadians, stakeholders, provinces and territories, academics, and indigenous groups, following the release of the Canada Transportation Act review final report in February 2016.
Transportation 2030 emphasizes five main themes: the traveller; strengthening transport safety; green and innovative transportation; waterways, coasts, and the north; and trade corridors to global markets. During the consultations conducted by the and his superb , Canadians were very clear. They want lower-cost air travel and more opportunities for leisure and business travel. They seek more efficient processing at the border and airport screening with shorter wait times. They have asked for long-term, sustainable competition, which would allow the introduction of additional air services, improved air connectivity, and more choice. As competition increases and air carriers look for ways to reduce prices, Canadians also want a more consistent, transparent, and rigorous approach to passenger rights.
The has listened, and is committing to achieving tangible improvements to the travel experience. He is taking action now.
The government believes that the rights of Canadian air travellers need to be made clearer and fairer for passengers and airlines. That is why the is establishing more predictable and reasonable air passenger rights. To that end he will introduce a bill mandating the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop regulations that would create a new air passenger bill of rights.
Although the exact details are established by the Agency's regulatory process, the new bill of rights will establish clear standards for treating people travelling with children and travellers who end up in trying situations, such as flight delays or cancellations, which will also include compensation in some cases.
The bill of rights will also ensure that passengers are clearly informed of their rights and will allow Transport Canada to gather more data on airline performance. The government intends to take a balanced approach in this file by assuring the airlines that their ability to compete will not be compromised and that they will not be made to bear an excessive burden that could potentially affect the cost of air travel.
The will pursue legislative changes to allow international investors to own up to 49% of the voting shares of Canadian air carriers, which is up from the current 25%.
As some members may know, other countries have different approaches to international ownership of air carriers. It is important to ensure that Canadian carriers compete on a level playing field. To protect the competitiveness of our air sector and support connectivity, no single international investor or any combination of international air carriers will be allowed to own more than 25%.
Liberalizing international ownership restrictions means that Canadian air carriers will have access to more investment capital, allowing them the opportunity to be better funded. This new measure is expected to facilitate more competition in the Canadian air sector, and lead to more choice and lower prices for Canadians, as well as benefits for airports and suppliers, including new employment opportunities.
In the interim, in December of last year, the minister granted exemptions to the current international ownership restrictions to two companies that are looking to establish new ultra-low-cost carriers: Canada Jetlines in Vancouver and Calgary's Enerjet. This action is intended to allow these companies to go ahead with their financing efforts while the new legislation is being developed.
Furthermore, as he announced in November 2016, the remains determined to establish world-class service standards for aviation screening in Canadian airports.
Also, the government continues to improve the experience of air passengers by negotiating new and expanded air transport agreements with international partners, which will enable airlines to expand Canada's links to the rest of the world.
Air transport agreements provide Canadian passengers with access to more airlines, destinations, and flights.
Canada has signed air transport agreements with 120 bilateral partners. In recent months we have expanded our air transport agreements with key aviation partners such as Mexico, China, and Australia. These expansion efforts made it possible for Air Canada to launch daily service between Vancouver and Brisbane, Australia, in 2016.
In closing, I want to point out that the experience of Canadian air passengers is an important priority for the Government of Canada. The initiatives that I have just described contribute greatly to improving the experience of Canadian passengers. They will help lower prices, provide more choice, improve connectivity, and clarify the rights of air passengers while ensuring the viability and competitiveness of Canadian airlines.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say how pleased I am to speak in the House today on what our government has done and is planning to do for infrastructure in this country.
The Government of Canada knows that infrastructure provides Canadians with opportunities to get an education, to volunteer, to grow a business, to raise a family in a safe community. Infrastructure is the foundation of better communities. It strengthens our economy, and a strong economy starts with a strong middle class.
Investing in infrastructure creates good, well-paying jobs that help the middle class grow and prosper. By making it easier to move people and products, well-planned infrastructure can deliver sustained economic growth for years to come.
The Government of Canada is more than doubling infrastructure spending. We are investing more than $180 billion over 12 years to support public transit, green and social infrastructure, and trade and transportation in rural and northern communities. We have already started by addressing our most pressing infrastructure deficits, making repairs to our aging pipes and roads, building and refurbishing affordable housing, and adapting buses to ensure seniors and individuals with disabilities have access to safe and reliable transportation.
Our plan is well under way in two key programs that I am proud of: the clean water and waste water fund and the public transit infrastructure fund. They are already making a difference in Canada and Canadian lives. More importantly, more than1,100 projects have already been approved under these programs, and more than half of those projects are already under way. It is because of this progress that residents in many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador will experience fewer water shut-off requests and school closures caused by deteriorated service lines.
Commuters in Surrey, B.C., will get to spend more time with their families and enjoy a cleaner environment as a result of the expansion of key transit lines. These expansions will reduce travel times and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something we all must applaud. In the north, residents of Iqaluit will benefit from a new secondary waste water treatment plant that will ensure cleaner water flows back into the environment.
Those are just a few examples of the outcomes we will see across the country.
With more than $10 billion announced in budget 2016, infrastructure projects across the country are already making a huge difference in communities. These projects include nearly 550 public transit projects, including the expansion of more than 80 transit systems that will make it easier to get to work on time, reduce pollution, and ensure that public transportation is there when Canadians need it; more than 700 projects under the clean water and waste water fund that will improve access to clean drinking water and reduce pollution in our lakes and rivers; more than 1,000 projects to retrofit or renovate social housing to repair more than 48,000 social housing units, which will make housing more affordable for families and more energy efficient to live in; and more than 950 housing projects in indigenous communities, including 125 projects aimed at building and improving schools and 200 water and waste water projects.
We have also worked closely with partners to expand eligibility requirements and accelerate the funding being delivered under such legacy programs as the new Building Canada fund and to quickly move forward with new programs to support projects across the country from coast to coast to coast. These improvements respond to the feedback we have received from communities and stakeholders across the country. Broadly, these changes created greater flexibility for highway and road projects across Canada and expanded funding categories to include culture, recreation, tourism, civic assets, and passenger ferries. We are listening to stakeholders and responding.
Of these legacy programs, $800 million was committed in the last year to new projects that are moving forward. The remaining $30 million is being transferred directly into the federal gas tax fund so that Canadian communities can have immediate access to those funds.
This approach is generating results. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador 20 projects were approved in the last year, whereas no projects had been approved in the previous three years under these legacy programs. As well, just last week three municipalities in Quebec received more than $18.3 million in federal funding for much-needed recreational facilities that will greatly enhance the quality of life for residents. Without expanded program parameters, these important projects would not have been funded.
We are also following through on our commitment to find innovative ways to fund infrastructure in Canada by announcing the creation of the Canada infrastructure bank. The bank will allow the federal government to “crowd in” private sector investment in infrastructure through loans, loan guarantees, and equity participation. It will create more options and opportunities for provinces, territories, and municipalities across the country to undertake transformative infrastructure projects, such as major public transit in our largest cities, energy transmission corridors, major corridor projects, and much more.
The bank's funds are over and above the commitment we made to double infrastructure funding to approximately $180 billion over 12 years. By using private capital to build those new projects, public money is freed up to build more public infrastructure. Most importantly, it offers our funding partners a new tool to help meet their pressing infrastructure needs.
The Government of Canada recognizes that in order to compete globally, our communities need to be at their absolute best. That is why we are moving forward on the Smart Cities Challenge, which will challenge communities across Canada to develop integrated, innovative, evidence-based solutions to improve quality of life for their residents.
The challenge draws from similar competitions around the world and aims to accelerate the planning and adoption of innovative urban infrastructure. It will be an opportunity for communities to innovate, take risks, and think outside the box. Ultimately, the challenge is another tool that will help support long-term transformative changes across Canada.
In conclusion, the Government of Canada remains committed to building a fairer, more inclusive country that reflects the priorities of Canadians and reflects the priorities of the residents of my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. The government understands that change must result in the kind of growth that benefits all Canadians at every stage of their lives—young Canadians, newcomers to Canada, working Canadians, seniors, veterans, and indigenous peoples.
We have made significant progress over the last year investing in projects that build healthier, more liveable communities, with cleaner air and water, and better care for our kids and grandkids. Budget 2017 is the next step in the Government of Canada's ambitious plan to invest in Canada's future, putting Canada's talented, skilled, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative future economy.
Mr. Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am honoured to rise to speak to the opposition motion presented by the leader of the official opposition.
Tomorrow we will hear from the the government's plan on the future of Canada's economy and for all Canadians. Our ask of the government is simple: no further tax hikes; measures to address youth unemployment; a plan to see the budget balance by 2019; no plan to sell Canadian airports that involve revenues to finance the Canada Infrastructure Bank; selling to investors influenced by foreign governments; and no hikes to user fees for our taxpayers and travellers.
In budget 2016, we heard a great deal from the government about how it was planning to grow the middle class and help families. However, what did we actually see and what were the end-user effects?
As I have said often in the House, I am the mother of five children. Issues such as the cost of post-secondary education, employment opportunities, affordable housing and taxes are commonly discussed. I want to know that my children have a chance at a good future and a chance to have the same opportunities that I have had.
In a report circulated by the , we have seen statistics comparing 2012 and 2016 data. In 2012, 48% of respondents stated that they felt the next generation's standard of living would be lower. We have actually seen an increase in this number in 2016, and over 58% of Canadians now indicate that they feel the next generation's standard of living will be lower. That is a huge increase, especially when we see these elements that the government is pushing. This same document stated similar findings when asked, “Canadians are increasingly feeling left out of the middle class”.
In 2009, 63.3% felt they were part of the middle class, with 28.9% indicating they were in the working class or poorer. In 2016, just three months following the federal budget and changes to the Canada child benefit and to the tax rate, only 48% felt they were part of the middle class, and a hike to 44.3% felt they were part of the working class or poorer. To me, these are not good results. This document indicates that job insecurity is increasing, saving for retirement is harder, and the growth has not been inclusive.
I would like to focus on the future and on the future of our country. Tomorrow we will potentially hear about a plan focused on the national child program and social housing. We will hear from the Liberal government plans to create new jobs through innovation investments. We may hear how the Liberals are planning on selling capital assets to finance an infrastructure bank and we will hear that Canadians will be burdened with more taxes, whether it is today or in the future.
The 2016 budget introduced the Canada child benefit, while eliminating the universal child care benefit and the Canada child tax benefit. We saw the cancellation of important tax credits to families, including the child fitness tax credit and arts credit. We saw income splitting eliminated for families. While some families may be receiving more money through tax benefits, is the government making a plan to help families in the long term?
I am also proud to be from a riding with many smaller municipalities that rely on volunteers, volunteers who include firefighters. In this budget, I fear that important tax credits, including the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers, will be eliminated. We have to think this. Without these credits, what will be the impact to municipalities like Central Elgin and the municipality of Bayham in my riding that have volunteer firefighters, who not only help with fires but as well the search and rescue missions on the shores of Lake Erie? What will these effects be?
There are also murmurs of the elimination on public transit tax credits, and extremely important in my community, the trades person tool deduction. At the end of the day, people will be paying more taxes.
Through the HUMA committee, we studied a poverty reduction strategy, and the committee is finalizing a report on the findings. Some witnesses clearly indicated that important factors such as skills development, high taxes and unreliable income were issues that were not being dealt with. When looking at some of the strategies that members of the government have spoken of in the past year, we see band-aid solutions. This will is not lead the country to growth and prosperity. We need solid plans, not just more spending.
The government promised to remove the cap on post-secondary education for indigenous people. We know that education will provide important skills development and knowledge that will help those living on a reserve. However, we have not seen or heard anything about about this important issued in the past 18 months. When reviewing the "Pre-budget tour: The State of the Middle Class", PowerPoint presentation put out by the minister, it notes that certain groups remain particularly vulnerable to poverty, specifically indigenous peoples on-reserve. Therefore, will the government do the right thing and remove this cap?
Youth employment is also a huge concern. In the 2015 election, the Liberal Party focused on youth employment, while scolding the Conservative government for its initiatives and belittling the efforts of the Canada summer jobs programs. Trust me, it happened in my own debates. However, in reality, increases to temporary work for summer students is all we have seen from the government. We need to ensure that we are looking at the labour force and matching it to the skills development. Has the government taken any of these steps to fill the gap in the labour force by ensuring we are graduating students from programs where employment opportunities exist?
I currently have two children in post-secondary education. I know the expenses that are incurred for each year of education, especially since we assist with some of those costs. Those costs include housing, tuition and food. My son pays $950 a month in rent in the city of Toronto so he can go to George Brown College. Each year, costs for each of my children are approximately $17,000. What are we doing to ensure that students have employment to assist not only in their current education, but down the road when they try to pay off these loans? Are we going to ensure that when our children graduate, there is actually going to be employment so they can get on their own two feet?
We know the best way out of poverty is a sustainable, reliable, and decent income. The most reliable method of gaining this income is through a job. We support job creation through tax breaks to small businesses, and avoiding needless government debt.
What is the government going to do to assist Canadians to get ahead? If we are looking at the government's record, we see the following: a decrease to disposable income through the Canada pension plan tax hikes; the cancellation of the small business tax rate; potential taxes on health and dental benefits; and potential user fees. The first three of the four points hurt employers. These employers are the people who employ Canadians in the private sector. It is the private sector that keeps our economy healthy.
According to a study published by the Fraser Institute, Canada has put itself at a disadvantage to attract and retain skilled labour, investment, and entrepreneurs, due to personal income tax rates that in response, truly failed to meet the expected increase in revenues to the government. Therefore, what we have seen is less revenue and more spending.
We have heard for months from the new administration in the United States that it will be focusing on lowering taxes and right now, we do not have a plan to compete with this new reality.
I live in a community with U.S. borders, both to the east and west of my riding, and along the 401 corridor. Over 500,000 vehicles per day travel this highway, with billions of dollars of goods transported through this corridor. My area is filled with agricultural producers and manufacturing facilities that rely on trade and export to the United States. If Canada cannot remain competitive, what will happen to these jobs and to the goods that cost more to produce in Canada?
We need to have a plan to be competitive, and I do not see the Liberal government creating a solid plan that can be implemented immediately. The government must come forward with a low-tax plan to remain competitive that in turn will create high-paying jobs.
Just yesterday, I read a quote in the National Post. It said:
Middle-income Canadians may take comfort in the Liberal message, but this messaging hasn’t yet resulted in policies to increase median incomes. At some point, middle-class Canadians may start to wonder when the Liberal message will finally be backed up with cash.
To me, this means income and employment opportunities. I am concerned that the government's plan does not consider any of these factors and we are jeopardizing the future of young Canadians, families, and indigenous people. We need to ensure there is job security, the ability for businesses to invest and grow, and for us to be competitive.
Will the budget do what is necessary for Canadians as a whole? I guess we will find out tomorrow what the government is planning for its future and the future of Canada. I am hoping it does not come with a $30 billion price tag for the next generation.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak today to the Conservative opposition day motion that states:
That, given the failure of the government to achieve the economic and employment objectives presented in Budget 2016, and given the growing protectionist and competitive threat from the United States, the House call on the government to ensure that Budget 2017 includes: (a) no further tax hikes on Canadian families, businesses, seniors or students; (b) immediate measures to encourage companies to hire young Canadians and address the youth unemployment crisis; (c) a credible plan to return to a balanced budget by 2019 as promised to Canadians; and (d) no plan to sell Canadian airports that involves (i) using the revenues to finance the Canada Infrastructure Bank, (ii) selling them to investors or enterprises that are under the political influence of foreign governments, (iii) higher user fees for Canadian taxpayers and travellers.
I felt that it is important that we all know what the motion clearly states and what we are talking about here today. As we know, tomorrow the Liberal government will table its second budget, a budget that is expected to include tax hikes for Canadians, a budget that is expected to sell Canadian airports to foreign investors in order to raise funds to finance the Liberals' infrastructure bank even though we have P3 Canada, which was specifically set up to leverage private sector dollars for infrastructure projects. In fact, P3 Canada has leveraged $6.6 billion for infrastructure, which would not require the government to sell off our ports or airports.
As the official opposition critic for infrastructure, communities, and urban affairs, I have been following the Liberals' infrastructure plan very closely, and I use that term very loosely. I have several concerns around the continued announcements on infrastructure spending and the number of projects that are actually under construction.
Despite numerous announcements and re-announcements of infrastructure projects, the Liberals have actually failed to begin construction, create jobs, and grow the economy as promised to Canadians during the election. The only thing that is growing is the deficit. The Liberals are burdening Canadians in debt with no possibility of a balanced budget until 2055. As of today, there have been 1,432 infrastructure projects announced and re-announced by the Liberal government. Of these projects, 1,344 have not—I repeat, have not—started construction. That is 94% of the infrastructure projects. There are more than 1,300 projects not under construction, not creating jobs, and not stimulating the economy.
The Liberals like to claim that they are investing more money in infrastructure than ever before, simply because they like announcements, and of course we know they love photo ops, yet, they have announced more projects in their first year in office than any government previously--not built, not constructed, not growing, just announced. The difference here is this. The Conservative government actually managed to build infrastructure, not just announce it. In fact, under the Conservative government, we did announce 7,802 projects and we constructed more than 7,300 of those projects. Some 94% are complete, and that means jobs. In fact, that means 1.1 million jobs were created. We completed 94% of our infrastructure projects before we left office, while the Liberal government has not been able to start 94% of its infrastructure projects.
When the Conservatives came into power, the federal government had been spending approximately $500 million a year on infrastructure. By the time we left office, we were investing over $5 billion per year in infrastructure. We still managed to balance the budget and leave a surplus. I have provided these details today because infrastructure is directly related to today's opposition motion. Canadians need to understand exactly where their money has gone and how much is being spent to create a $30 billion deficit.
During the election, the Liberals promised Canadians that their small $10 billion a year deficit would pay for unprecedented levels of infrastructure spending in their communities, would stimulate the economy, and would create thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs. All of this would be over the first three years in office, and in the fourth year they would balance the budget. Instead, Canadians got a $30 billion deficit in the first year and admittedly an unprecedented level of infrastructure announcements and no balanced budget. We heard from the numerous times that budgets balance themselves, but as every Canadian knows, budgets do not balance themselves. The Liberals failed to get infrastructure funding to communities in 2016, and in fact they have frozen nearly $1 billion that, according to budget 2016, should have gone to communities last year. Instead, they have allowed it to lapse, one thing they said they would never do. In fact there are many things they said they would never do, but this is one. Instead of sending the money to communities through the gas tax fund, as they promised during the election and which is written in their platform, the Liberals decided to roll it over into next year's budget.
In receiving and reviewing the 2017 main estimates, the parliamentary budget officer stated in that report that $2.5 billion worth of infrastructure projects cannot be located. This is money that according to budget 2016 should have gone to communities next year. Another parliamentary budget officer's report states that the Liberals' infrastructure plan has no way to measure performance, has virtually no transparency on how the money is being spent, has shortchanged communities billions of dollars for local infrastructure, and has failed to stimulate the Canadian economy. That is all from the PBO. There have been four independent reports citing the same concerns, including the latest Senate report.
We hear over and over again the Liberals' talking points of how they have cut taxes for the middle class, but they also ignore the fact that they have introduced numerous new taxes on the very same Canadians, like the new national carbon tax, new taxes on savings accounts, new taxes on children's arts programs, taxes on tuition and textbooks, taxes on children's fitness and sports programs, higher CPP taxes, higher EI premiums, higher small-business tax rates, higher taxes on campgrounds. Also, coming soon, capital gains taxes are on the table, airports and ports are up for sale, and we do not know yet about the health and dental benefits. The list goes on. This is what Canadians need to know when the Liberal government tells them it is growing the middle class and helping those who want to join it.
We need a plan that cuts taxes for Canadians. We need a plan that gets Canada's spending back under control and brings in a balanced budget. We need a plan that will support small businesses and encourage companies to hire and create jobs, especially for young Canadians. We need a plan that does not include selling off some of Canada's most valuable assets. Unfortunately, a solid, transparent, and accountable plan for Canadians' future is not what we can expect from the Liberals' 2017 budget tomorrow. Therefore, I urge my Liberal colleagues across the way to work with all parties in this House and come up with a real plan, a plan that puts Canadians first.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is always a pleasure to rise in this House regarding the Government of Canada's ambitious plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
Over the past year, the government has put in place a plan to grow the economy in a way that works for the middle class and those working hard to join it. Our government has raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% so that we could reduce taxes for the middle class. We have introduced a new Canada child benefit that gives more money to nine out of 10 Canadian families and lifts 300,000 children out of poverty. We have strengthened the Canada pension plan to help Canadians have a more secure and safe and dignified retirement, which they deserve.
We are supporting strong communities by using innovative solutions to help meet pressing infrastructure needs. We are investing in infrastructure that creates good, well-paying jobs that help the middle class grow and prosper.
By making it easier to move people and products, well-planned infrastructure can deliver sustained economic growth for years to come. We put in place an ambitious long-term infrastructure plan that will invest more than $180 billion in federal funding over 12 years. This plan focuses on five key areas: public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and rural and northern communities.
Under the first phase of this plan, budget 2016 invested more than $10 billion toward public transit and social and green infrastructure projects. We wasted no time in rolling it out and have made considerable progress. This includes investments toward nearly 550 public transit projects that will make it easier for Canadians to get to work on time and will ensure that public transportation is there when Canadians need it the most; more than 700 projects under the clean water and wastewater fund that will improve access to clean drinking water and will reduce pollution in our lakes and rivers; and 1,000 projects to retrofit and renovate social housing to repair more than 48,000 social housing units. These projects are already making a difference in communities across our country.
To maximize the benefits of infrastructure investments and to ensure that more money flows into infrastructure, the Government of Canada is committed to finding new and innovative ways to fund infrastructure and mobilize private capital. As part of our fall economic statement, we announced the creation of a Canada infrastructure bank. We have consulted broadly with experts on the creation of the bank and will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the bank meets their needs and the needs of all Canadians.
Canada has a very mature market when it comes to infrastructure projects, and partnerships between the public and private sectors have always been a key to the success of infrastructure. Many key pieces of infrastructure, including the Edmonton light rail transit system, were financed in part by the private sector.
In terms of moving the yardstick even further, we believe that there is an opportunity for the federal government to crowd in private sector investment in infrastructure through loans, loan guarantees, and equity participation. The bank will do just that.
The bank will also create more options and opportunities for provinces, territories, and municipalities across the country to undertake transformative infrastructure projects. The bank will invest $35 billion in new projects across Canada, projects such as major public transit in our largest cities, energy transmission corridors, major corridor projects, and more. Of the $35 billion planned to capitalize the bank, $15 billion will be sourced from the announced funding for public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and rural and northern communities. This $15 billion is less than 8% of the total commitment of infrastructure funds under our long-term plan.
In addition, $20 billion in capital will be available to the Canada infrastructure bank for investments that will result in the bank holding assets in the form of equity or debt. This $20 billion will therefore not result in a fiscal impact on the government.
The bank will serve as a single federal government point of contact for the private sector and will employ private sector experts to enable the government to invest effectively with private capital. The bank's funds will be over and above the commitment this government has made to double infrastructure funding. Most important, it will offer our funding partners a new way to help meet pressing infrastructure needs. By using private capital to build those new projects, public money will be freed up to build more public infrastructure.
The bank will be a centre of excellence in infrastructure investment by the private sector. It will provide advice to project proponents to allow for better planning and procurement decisions. The vast majority of the infrastructure funding will still be delivered through traditional financial contributions through bilateral agreements or national programs. As such, many infrastructure projects will not need the bank.
I want to be clear. We will not impose the bank on any of our partners, but we will work with willing partners who think this can offer them additional value. The bank is just another tool in our tool kit that our partners can use to invest in the infrastructure they need.
The Government of Canada remains committed to building a fairer, more inclusive country that reflects the priorities of Canadians. We want to put an ambitious plan in place to grow the economy and to build healthier and more livable communities. We are already taking unprecedented action to invest in Canada, our communities, and Canadians. With these smart investments and a commitment to fairness, the government will ensure that Canada's best days are ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in today's debate, which has been very lively.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about our efforts to ensure that Canadian seniors enjoy a good quality of life. I am also pleased to note that my colleagues in the opposition do not want any burden to be placed on our seniors. I agree with them wholeheartedly.
During the last campaign and every time I go out and about in my riding, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, I speak with seniors about their ambitions and their vast knowledge, which they so enjoy passing on. I believe that including our seniors is crucial to the well-being of Quebec and Canadian society.
As everyone knows, our government is doing everything it can to allow all Canadians, including seniors, to participate fully in society and in the economy.
Currently one in seven Canadians is over the age of 65. In 2030, which is soon, it is estimated that there will be 9.5 million seniors in Canada and that they will make up nearly one-quarter of the Canadian population. In 2030, I will be one of those seniors.
Seniors are among the most important members of our society. As we all know, they are very much engaged in their families and contribute actively to their communities and our economy. That said, seniors, particularly those with low incomes, are also among the most vulnerable members of our society.
We are proud to say that Canada is one of the countries with the lowest low-income rate for seniors. Indeed, the most recent data indicate that in 2014, only 3.9% of them were considered low-income. However, Statistics Canada tells us that some 212,000 seniors are still living below the poverty line. These important Canadians are struggling to make ends meet at a point in their lives when most of them can no longer work. I think we all need to agree that no one should have to grow old in poverty or in isolation. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of this issue for our government.
Our government believes that all Canadians deserve to retire with respect and dignity. They should also have some peace of mind knowing that the government will help them make ends meet. We are talking about Canadians who worked hard their entire lives and who contributed their fair share to the tax system. When they retire, it is up to us to give them the support they need in recognition of their contribution to Canadian society during their years of work. Budget 2016 included important measures that sought to do just that.
The previous government pushed back the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. One of the first things we did was to correct that situation and bring the eligibility age back to 65 for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.
We believe that someone who works their entire life and contributes to our economy and our society deserves a secure and dignified retirement. Seniors do not deserve to be told to keep working for two more years to qualify for their pension. Every Canadian should have the chance to live without worrying that they will not be able to make ends meet.
That is why we increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% for low-income seniors living alone, which was very well received in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. As we know, the guaranteed income supplement is an important tool for reducing poverty among seniors. It will give one million of our most vulnerable seniors almost $1,000 every year. We believe that this measure will lift 13,000 of the most vulnerable Canadians out of poverty.
I would like to remind the House that pensioners and seniors are also fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, and neighbours. No one wants their friends or family members to suffer and clearly no one wants to find themselves in a difficult situation in the future.
That is why we are also going to ensure that the old age security program will continue to provide adequate support for the most vulnerable seniors by indexing it to the cost of living. This was raised by groups in my riding and several other Canada-wide associations.
We will index the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to reflect the increase in the cost of living that seniors face. With respect to income security, our government is currently working to strengthen the Canada pension plan. I would like to assure the House that we will work with our provincial and territorial counterparts and that we will also honour the close relationship between this plan and the Quebec pension plan.
I am proud to say that we have kept our promises to seniors. Other key initiatives, such as the Canadian poverty reduction strategy, will also have a big impact. Last year's budget also included an investment of more than $200 million over two years in support of the construction, repair, and adaptation of affordable housing for seniors.
However, financial security is not the only measure of a happy life. We all hope to continue to be active and to contribute to our family life and to our community as we age. One way to succeed is through the new horizons for seniors program, which supports projects led or inspired by seniors who make a difference in the lives of others in their communities.
Not only do these projects promote volunteerism, which seniors in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles are quite involved in by the way, and mentoring among seniors, but they also help many seniors stay active and engaged as well as keeping them from the dangers of social isolation. To date, 7,000 projects across the country have been approved, and six were approved in my riding since I took office.
As well, in recent weeks, I announced two grants under this program in Deux-Montagnes to support two projects created by and for seniors. I can tell the House that our seniors are motivated to help their neighbours and to make our communities better places to live.
All this clearly demonstrates our commitment to seniors. I am proud to say that the important work we are doing for Canadian seniors will continue after the budget is announced tomorrow. Our government is taking important and decisive action to provide seniors with the support they deserve. We will continue to do so in the coming year.