The House resumed from April 3 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment, and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct pleasure to rise in the House to speak to a unique and historic budget.
Budget 2017, “Building a Strong Middle Class”, paints a clear picture of our government's priorities. These priorities include investing in skills, innovation, and infrastructure and establishing a fairer tax system. It also includes a comprehensive listing of new programs and initiatives and how they will help middle-class Canadians succeed. It provides an accurate picture of the economy and the fiscal anchors we are using to help guide us. Most importantly, it outlines an aspirational vision of what we together are building: an inclusive, diverse nation ready to excel in the economy of tomorrow with a plan that works for the middle class, our most valuable economic engine.
However, it is 2017, and it is well past time that Canada's feminist government put the full weight of our intentions in writing. Budget 2017's gender statement represents the government's first comprehensive effort in reporting on a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures. It is a real opportunity to show how we considered and prioritized outcomes for women. Hon. members in the House do not need to be convinced that this work is essential, because it is. I do not need to remind the House that the effort we are taking to promote women is not about partisanship. With this gender statement, we are challenging the basic assumption that budgets are always gender-neutral. They have not always been, and we mean to change that. In fact, we need to change it.
In this period of slow economic growth, empowering women to become economic drivers equal to men would have a real and positive effect on our economy. Let us consider the facts.
Recent history has shown that as women have become more educated and more established in the workforce, Canada's economy and the incomes of both men and women have grown. Canadian women are among the most educated in the world and make up 47% of the labour force, yet women are still paid less than men in exactly the same positions. Compared to gender wage gaps in countries similar to Canada, our record is less than stellar.
Women are also less present in certain sectors, particularly the trades. Conversely, they are overly employed in lower-paying occupations. Executive level positions are most often held by men. On company boards, women are a minority.
Most important of all, we know that women and girls are more likely than men to experience poverty, violence, and harassment. As policy-makers, it is our obligation to consider and take action to address the inherent bias that persists in these areas, not only because it makes economic sense but because it is the right thing to do.
Well before budget 2017, our government started taking action on gender-based challenges. This included increasing the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to boost support for the most vulnerable seniors, who are disproportionately women. This year we go much further, with actions that focus on innovation and inclusive and sustained growth for women and all Canadians. That includes $7 billion toward early learning and child care and over $11.2 billion for a national housing strategy over the next 11 years.
Before I had the honour of being elected to serve in the House, I was a municipal councillor for close to a decade. I am proud that this budget continues the work of budget 2016 in providing the support communities need to grow in a sustainable and inclusive way.
Public transit and truly affordable housing are critical infrastructure for communities like Pickering and Uxbridge. Just this previous weekend, the announced that more than 300 projects have been approved in Ontario under the public transit infrastructure fund. Through this fund, Durham Region received over $17.5 million in federal support. That means that residents in Pickering and Uxbridge, including students and seniors, will be better able to access important community facilities, services, and workplaces. The Prime Minister also announced that our government will invest more than $1.8 billion in GO Transit regional express rail projects in the greater Golden Horseshoe area. These investments are shortening commute times, decreasing air pollution, and growing our economy.
I am also proud that budget 2017 will fund a national housing strategy that provides a road map for governments and housing providers across the country. This has been a major priority for our region of Durham. This strategy will focus on a renewed partnership between the government and our provincial and territorial partners while creating a new $5-billion national housing fund to address critical housing issues and to better support vulnerable citizens.
In 2017 we all must do our part to combat and prevent homelessness. Budget 2017 takes an important step in addressing this issue by renewing and expanding federal investments.
One of the areas in the budget that I am most proud of is the investment and support we are providing to young people. Back home I speak with residents regularly who want the government to create the conditions for young people to succeed in our economy. Budget 2017 would see the launch of an ambitious initiative to support up to 10,000 new work integrated learning and co-op opportunities per year. This investment would help ensure more young Canadians are able to get the skills and experience they need to attain that well-paying career after they graduate.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, I was particularly proud of the budget's work on creating a fairer tax system. Canadians agree that building a fair, more inclusive society includes raising taxes on the wealthiest individuals and closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the richest Canadians.
I want to thank the for accepting all of the finance committee's recommendations on combatting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Last year's investments in the CRA to crack down on tax evasion and avoidance have already been working. Budget 2017's additional investment in supporting the CRA's work to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance is expected to have a revenue impact of $2.5 billion over five years. That is expected to yield a return on investment of five to one. It is also in addition to a number of actions that strengthen the integrity of our tax system.
As I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not mention the investment of $30 million in budget 2017 to complete, enhance, and maintain the Trans Canada Trail in partnership with provinces and individual Canadians. This is of particular importance to me because Uxbridge, a community that I am proud to represent, has been named the trail capital of Canada. This is a point of pride for my community, and I am thrilled to know that more Canadians would be able to enjoy our trails and natural scenery.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the budget that was recently tabled by the Liberal government. First, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my friend and colleague, the member for , who will be taking the second half of our party's time.
I will begin by commenting on what the member for just said.
The leader of the Green Party just made a statement that I found spot on, that the Liberal story narrative, the Liberal arc, is classically the following. The Liberals make a bunch of promises during an election campaign, things like democratic reform, let us say, and then, one by one, they do not keep those promises, but as it gets closer and closer to the next election, they say that the world will come to an end unless the Liberals are re-elected because they were just about to get to it. I guess we could call that particular Liberal approach the “we are just about to get to it” budget, because that is what we have here.
Benjamin Franklin had a famous saying that people loved to quote, and it is true. He said that were only two certainties in life: death and taxes. I can say that there are only two certainties in Liberal administrations, debt and taxes, because that is what we see in this budget. It is not so much a question of how it is the Liberals have already planned to have a deficit of over $100 billion only 18 months into their administration and they are announcing that they will never ever see a balanced budget, despite the promise during the election campaign that they would only have an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny deficit and then, by the next election, they would be back to balanced budgets.
What we are seeing is just what the leader of Green Party correctly described as the Liberals' take on things. They are so good at spinning their stuff they would even have Canadians believe that consistent deficits with nothing in return are actually a progressive value, that somehow that is what left-wing administrations do. Actually, that is what Liberal administrations do. People who are progressive hold the following to be their key value: to make sure that they are there consistently and reliably. Let me provide a counter example.
After seeing the success of the CCF NDP's health care plan in Saskatchewan, Canadians were happy to see universal free public medical care applied across the country. It was a fifty-fifty federal-provincial plan. What is it now, now that the Liberal government is imposing Stephen Harper's cuts in health care? We are down to less than 20% of the federal government share.
This is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog because the Liberals are telling us that not only are they going to go forward with Stephen Harper's cuts but that, from now on, the federal government will be dictating what the provinces can and cannot do when it comes to health care. We all witnessed this vicious cycle of quick spending to score cheap points and the inevitable backtracking where the government is forced to make cuts under Paul Martin.
This is the cycle of the Liberals. We have seen it time and again. They pose as progressives, yet they fought against the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage during the campaign. They posture as environmentalists, but Environment Canada says that it will not even meet Stephen Harper's woefully inadequate targets for greenhouse gas emissions. By the way, that is the only thing that matters.
I was in Paris when the threw out his arms and proclaimed that Canada is back. That produced a lot of head-scratching in the room, people saying that they did not know Canada had ever left. What we had was a Prime Minister trying to communicate that thank goodness he was there because now things would finally change on the environmental front.
Here is the reality. The only plan the Liberals have is Stephen Harper's plan, and they will not meet Stephen Harper's target. People do not have to take our word for it, because Environment Canada confirmed that over the weekend. I guess that is what the Liberals meant by real change. They keep Stephen Harper's targets but they just do not meet them.
The Liberals pretend to be feminists. When one knows that one of the principal impediments to equality in the workforce is the lack of quality affordable child care, one knows that emphasis has to be put on child care. How much money is in the budget that was just tabled for child care? There is not one cent. My colleague from asks how much. There is not one cent in this budget for child care for next year.
The Liberals are saying that, if we just give them a chance, they will get there eventually. It is a bit like the promise they made on housing. They are saying that they are going to make a huge investment in social housing, to the tune of $22 billion, but when is that going to happen? It will not happen until after 2022. That is the game they are playing. They got elected by promising to do a certain number of things, such as changing the electoral system. They did not keep that promise. They promised to restore home mail delivery, but they did not keep that promise either. They pretend to do those things. Two years later, after many broken promises, when people start to wonder what is happening and reminding them that they promised to restore home mail delivery and change the voting system in this country to make it fairer, they start making promises for after the next election campaign.
Let us not forget that, in this budget, the Liberals cut exactly $1.25 billion from the environment portfolio. Yes, members heard me right.
Despite all their preening, posturing, and their cardboard cut-outs on environment, the reality is that in this budget the Liberals cut $1.25 billion in what they had promised in the fight against climate change. Canada will never be able to meet Stephen Harper's weak targets, much less our obligations under the Paris accord. That is the reality of the Liberals.
I do not underestimate their ability to spin a yarn in their own favour. I have grudging admiration for it. However, sooner or later the reality always comes back to haunt them, as it did with this most recent budget, which I think we could give a subtitle of the “we will get to it” budget. They are promising, as the Liberal arc always does, that it is going to happen sometime in the future.
I remember that after 13 years in power and four consecutive Liberal governments, Liberals wailed and moaned and whined about the injustice when they were defeated in 2006 because Canadians were going to be deprived of the Kelowna accord and of child care. When we reminded them that they were thrown out not because of child care but because of corruption, they said that they were just about to get to child care and the Kelowna accord. They were just about there and how unfair it was that they were not re-elected.
Meanwhile, today in Canada, six out of 10 people who lose their jobs are not eligible for employment insurance. Nothing in this budget addresses that. We have a who tells young Canadians to get used to it, that the job churn and lousy, low-paid, part-time precarious work are their lot in life. There is not a single measure in this budget to address that. That is the reality. See you in 2022, Madam Speaker.
What is being proposed for public transit is unbelievable. The Liberals are creating an infrastructure bank in order to steal money from taxpayers and make access to assistance even harder and twice as costly. There is not a single word in this budget about major infrastructure projects, including the Caisse de dépôt's electric train. Not a word and not a penny.
To top it off, the Liberals are getting rid of the public transit pass tax credit. When did they say they were going to do that? During the election campaign and again three weeks ago, they promised to get rid of the tax loophole for corporations.
We saw it again yesterday. So much for the middle class: $32.6 million U.S. in bonuses for Bombardier, keeping the CEO stock options; that is how they pay themselves. That is the reality. Right now we know what the Liberals are all about, and that is why it is important for Canadians to start paying attention, because they have to go.
Madam Speaker, Canadians and scientists alike understand the urgency of taking action on climate change.
We often think of it as a race against time, but the truth is that it is really two races. First there is the race to reduce our carbon emissions and limit their impact on our climate. This is a race with the highest possible stakes: ecological and social upheaval, food security, mass migration, and natural catastrophe.
However, there is a second race, too, and that is the race to lead the transition to a new post-carbon economy. In the second race, the stakes are jobs and prosperity for our communities, success for our businesses, knowledge and technical advancement, and the benefits that come from leading the world.
On the one hand, it is a race to avert disaster, and on the other other, it is a race to seize opportunity. In both races, the stakes are enormous. In both races, the key is a shift to clean energy. In both races, unfortunately, Canada is running behind.
Today, Canada produces only 18% of our primary energy from renewable resources. Sweden and Norway manage to meet 45% of their energy needs with clean energy, outstripping Canada by two and a half times. In Iceland, the figure is a staggering 88%.
Now, it is not for a lack of talent. Our country has some of the most cutting-edge companies in clean energy. In my own riding, I am thinking of Ballard Power Systems, with its fuel cell technology; Nano One, which is changing how the world is making battery materials; and just a few blocks away, Bullfrog Power, with its innovative approach to funding renewable energy.
It is not a lack of resources holding us back, either. We have huge potential reserves for wind and solar, for tidal and geothermal energy, and to extract even more from our hydro.
If talent and innovation are working in our favour, and if our reserves of renewable energy potential are so tremendous, the question remains. Why does Canada still lag? What is lacking, frankly, is commitment and strategy at the highest political levels in Canada. I am sorry to say we saw that lack of commitment in the latest budget from the government.
For years Canada had a federal government that held renewable energy in nearly overt contempt. Anything that did not burn oil, gas, and coal was not worth the time of day as far as the Conservatives were concerned. Then came the Liberal government, and I will say this for it: it talked a very good line. If feel-good rhetoric and symbolic gestures were energy sources, Canada would be the next OPEC, but they are not and we are not.
Instead, the budget we are debating actually removes over $1 billion from funds the government had promised for the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. Apparently sunny ways do not extend to solar power.
They do not extend to conservation of energy efficiency either. One of the most important energy insights in the past 50 years has been that a kilowatt conserved is even more valuable than a kilowatt generated, because it does not require the overhead of generation and transmission. However, this budget offered nothing to help Canadians reduce their emissions and lower their energy bills by retrofitting their homes. This kind of program has proven, time and time again, to cut emissions and save money while creating well-paying jobs. Not tapping that potential, while cutting back on investments in clean growth, is a failure of vision, a failure of leadership.
That is why I introduced my private member's motion, M-123, calling for a national clean energy strategy. This is a call for Canada to act urgently to rally our full array of resources to make the most of the opportunities clean energy offers and to meet the challenge of climate change head on. To succeed, a clean energy strategy has to be collaborative to the core. Imposing top-down solutions has a bad reputation in Canada, and rightly so.
Instead, Ottawa should be working with provinces, territories, municipalities, aboriginal communities, and with both public and private sector energy providers. For one thing, we know there is far too much wisdom and expertise among Canadians to let it all go to waste by ignoring it. For another, we need all hands on deck to make our transition to post-carbon energy successful. That means buy-in from all quarters, and we will not get that unless everyone has a hand in shaping solutions.
Even more fundamental than that is the question of fundamental justice and self-determination, and it applies in particular to aboriginal communities. Too often, when energy questions arise, first nations in Canada are bypassed, ignored, patronized, or offered lip service. However, energy policy and resource use are inextricably tied to our land base, and land is fundamental to aboriginal title. There should be no question that aboriginal communities must be full partners in crafting our clean energy strategy—anything else is unthinkable.
In the same way, when we talk about clean energy, it should not just be clean in terms of carbon and the environmental footprint, but clean ethically, as well. A project like B.C.'s site C hydro dam fails this test because without the consent of affected first nations it has no social licence to proceed.
The goal of our strategy, then, should be to steadily increase our capacity to produce ethically and environmentally clean energy.
The first step is to assess how feasible it is to increase that capacity to 100% of our energy needs; that is, through both increasing raw generation and reducing demand through conservation.
Obviously, this will vary from region to region. However, people will probably be shocked to learn just how close we are in British Columbia. BC Hydro estimates that we are currently meeting 93% of our needs with clean, renewable energy.
Once we have that sense of feasibility and timelines, let us set a realistic but ambitious target and, together, develop a plan to get there. At every step in that discussion, let us ask ourselves these questions. How does this help Canadian workers, communities, and businesses? How can we give them every chance to succeed and prosper? How can we ensure that we are helping workers and communities affected by the transition away from carbon-based fuels? What is needed to secure for them the kind of opportunities that come with being one of the world's leading renewable energy exporters?
I mentioned regional differences. Different regions will, of course, have different specific needs, strengths, challenges, and priorities, and each region understands better than anyone else how these needs and priorities play out. Therefore the strategy should allow for a made-in-B.C. plan, a made-in-Alberta plan, a made-in-Quebec plan, and so on.
Now, nobody who seriously thinks about these issues believes for one moment this will be easy; but anyone who thinks seriously about these issues knows it is essential.
If we fail to act, if we continue down the path we have been headed, we do not get to avoid this transition. All we are doing is ensuring this transition, when it comes, will be an upheaval—unplanned, chaotic, and disruptive. Communities and, potentially, whole regions will fall through the cracks of a rapidly shifting economy. We are ensuring that other countries get to seize the opportunities instead of us. They get the jobs. Their businesses lock up the markets, build the research and technology capacity, and set the standards, not ours.
Meanwhile, we continue to pay the ecological price of relying on fossil fuels: the spills that can devastate the ecosystem in communities; the environmental degradation; the poor air quality; and the damage to people's health and well-being.
Of course, we reap the results of failure to act more quickly and more effectively to reduce the carbon load in our atmosphere. The disruptions and damage wreaked by climate change may well dwarf any of the other impacts I have mentioned.
Compare this bleak picture to what we could instead gain, such as energy security: a sustainable, secure supply of safe, affordable energy throughout the country. Families need to know that they can heat their homes; schools and hospitals need to know they can light their corridors and power their equipment; and businesses need to know their offices and factories can operate reliably and affordably.
We can bring an end to price shocks and the economic roller coaster of a commodity-based economy. This strategy can give us leverage to diversify economies and build a thriving and growing clean energy sector in communities throughout the country. The countries that make the transition now get early-mover advantage. This means they develop expertise and industrial infrastructure that create a virtuous circle, attracting investment and research that, in turn, strengthen our economic leadership.
We can deliver cleaner air and water; we can end the ruinous devastation of our land that is too often the calling card of the carbon economy; and we can reclaim the mantle of global leadership that Canada has held before, technologically and economically and in the fight to end the destabilization of our planet's climate.
Clean energy is ultimately about securing our future and doing it in a way that is quintessentially Canadian. It is about working together to ensure prosperity that can be shared by everyone throughout this country. That should be the goal of any budget.
The most important measure of that budget's success is an economy that lifts everyone up.
By that measure, this budget represents a tragically missed opportunity. Let us not let these opportunities pass us by.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
With spring in the air, I rise in the House with great optimism to speak to budget 2017. However, before saying anything more, I would first like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents. I have had the privilege of rising in the House for more than a year thanks to their confidence in me. Today, I want to thank them.
I am very proud of the people in my riding and they are the reason why I became involved in politics. I have said it before and I will say it again, my riding of Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is enriched by its people. I was proud of what budget 2016 gave my constituents and all Canadians, including the Canada child benefit, which has helped lift 300,000 of our children out of poverty.
Today, I am just as proud of budget 2017 for the following reasons. First, it shows compassion to our veterans and the most vulnerable Canadians. It manifests a visionary confidence in our youth and our businesses. The Canada child benefit is a fair and compassionate initiative that targets our children and remedies an unacceptable vulnerability.
Many of the measures announced in budget 2017 reflect the same values, beginning with measures for our veterans. We are announcing a new veterans' education and training benefit. We are also committed to enhancing the career transition services program so veterans can successfully transition to the civilian workforce. Veterans and their families have made many sacrifices. In return, we need to ensure that they do no become vulnerable.
I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities for over a year now. This fall, the committee spent several of its meetings discussing affordable housing, so committee members were very pleased with budget 2017's significant support for affordable housing to ensure the security and independence of some of the most vulnerable members of society, such as seniors and people with disabilities who need accessible or adapted housing.
Another file that I have spent a lot of time on over the past few months in committee is technology, specifically, digital literacy as a springboard for our youth and our most vulnerable citizens. The government responded to that need in its new budget with a $22.3-million investment over five years to set up a new accessible technology development program. This program will make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to participate in the digital world and its economy.
There is support for seniors too. Our government announced a $29.5-million investment over five years for a new digital literacy exchange program to support non-profit organizations to implement initiatives that teach basic digital skills and so on to seniors. Imagine classes in Laval where seniors can learn how to use iPads. Imagine an individual who transcends his or her disability and develops a smart phone app to help others.
Budget 2017 sends a clear message that our government is looking to the future, but is not forgetting to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society benefit from technological progress.
I want to talk about the future, since we often hear that our youth best represent the future. Young people will also benefit from the government's vision. In fact, our government announced a $50-million investment over two years to support a program for youth, from kindergarten age up, teaching them how to write code and giving them the tools they need for the digital era.
This means that we are investing in our young people and giving them the means to become the next big innovators in digital technology, and not just one or two, but a dozen of them.
Robert Kennedy talked about a tiny ripple of hope, but that one measure alone represents a tidal wave of hope and potential for the future of our society. I have talked about the importance of such a measure many times in committee. Seeing it become a reality in budget 2017 makes me so proud. This measure comes with two other major investments in our young people. The PromoScience program will get a boost. This existing program is designed to give kids hands-on learning experiences in order to promote the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
As a former teacher, I am also pleased to see that we are working on expanding eligibility for student loans and grants. Our budget supports students, but it also supports our young, ambitious entrepreneurs. We are investing to renew funding for Futurpreneur Canada to support the next generation of entrepreneurs through mentorship and funding.
The budget supports both current and future entrepreneurs because we are investing in fostering international trade opportunities for Canadian companies.
Clearly, with the announcement of such measures for our entrepreneurs and our economy, we have cause to be optimistic in the riding of Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and from coast to coast.
I will close by coming back to what I said about the budget last year. I said that budget 2016 helped build our society brick by brick. Budget 2017 will allow us to continue to make our society a place where we strive to take better care of the most vulnerable. Budget 2017 allows us to do so with compassion, while facing the future boldly and confidently. That is how we will continue to strengthen the middle class.
Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to speak in support of budget 2017 and all the work our government is doing that continues to build a strong middle class of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I am pleased with the continued investments by our government in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and, more specific, in my riding of Avalon. We continue to make significant investments in infrastructure and in our communities, but we are also making good investments in our youth, working Canadians, and seniors.
Following in the footsteps of budget 2016, this budget offers immediate help to those who need it most and helps ensure everyone has a real and fair chance of success.
A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for our children. By investing in the projects Canada needs and the people who can build them, we can strengthen and grow the middle class and make our communities an even better place to call home.
Over the past year, our 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. Taxes were raised on the wealthiest 1% so we could cut taxes for the middle class. We introduced a new Canada child benefit that would give more money to nine out of 10 children and lifts thousands out of poverty.
My home province of Newfoundland and Labrador continues to struggle with the financial mess that was caused by years of previous provincial overspending and financial mismanagement. Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador suffered from years of an unco-operative approach and no collaboration with the previous federal government. A total lack of trust and personal vendettas with the previous administration set our province years behind.
As an example, after the last federal election we found the allocated federal infrastructure funding was never applied for or provided to Newfoundland and Labrador. A total lack of trust and disrespect saw some $350 million of infrastructure funding not being invested in our communities.
Things have changed, and I am proud of the co-operation between all levels of government.
Just this past Friday, I was delighted to stand with one of my provincial colleagues and the mayor of Placentia to announce a strategic investment whereby all three levels of government contributed to ensure much needed improvements to the Placentia Culture and Heritage Centre would be completed, and I did the same thing just two weeks ago in the town of Holyrood.
It is great. We are co-operating and we are getting things done.
However, it is not all about big infrastructure projects about which our constituents are talking. In my riding, people come up to me every day and express their gratitude for the things their federal government is doing for them, but is everything great? No it is not.
Our fishery and those involved in the industry are going through a difficult transition. We are transitioning from a lucrative shellfish-based industry to the realization of a future industry based on groundfish and aquaculture. We are very fortunate to have a in Ottawa who has a keen interest and understands the complexities of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry. I am very confident that his decisions around the quota reductions in the shellfish resource and his cautious approach to ensure the return of healthy groundfish stock is done with the best intention of the resource and the people who work in the industry.
Our government has stepped up to the plate to help Atlantic Canadians in the fishing industry with the Atlantic fisheries fund. This $325 million investment will transform and drive innovation in the fish and seafood sector in Canada, with a focus on developing the sector to better meet growing market demands for sustainably sourced, high quality fish and seafood products. The fund will position the sector for even greater future success by supporting national market access, creating jobs for the middle class, and supporting coastal communities that rely on the sector.
The Atlantic fisheries fund will encourage innovative ways to harvest, process, and deliver the highest quality and sustainably sourced fish and seafood products from Canada's wild capture and aquaculture fisheries.
Our most recent budget contains important new initiatives that will help middle-class Canadians be more productive in the workforce and more adaptable to ever-changing family dynamics.
I want to speak for a few minutes on some of these initiatives, including changes to the employment insurance program that promotes new training opportunities and assists with the aspects of lifelong learning and making employment insurance more flexible for families around caregiving and parental benefits.
I also want to speak about our new investments in child care and housing. These initiatives are important to Canadians but more specific, they are important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Budget 2017 is the next step in our government's ambitious plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities for middle-class Canadians. Our budget put Canada's greatest strength, its skilled, talented, and creative people, at the heart of a more innovative future economy, one that will create middle-class jobs today and tomorrow. We will equip Canada's workers with the tools they need to succeed in the economy of the future.
We are committed to better support adult workers returning to school, who face the high cost of post-secondary education, along with the financial pressures associated with daily life and raising their families. Our budget outlines how we will significantly boost federal support to provinces and territories by $2.7 billion over six years to help more unemployed and underemployed Canadians access the training and employment support they need to find and keep good jobs.
Furthermore, we will ensure Canadians receiving EI are able to get the training they need without fear of losing the critical benefits they may depend on to support themselves and families.
Recognizing that Canada prosperity will increasingly depend on young people getting the skills and training needed to access the good, well-paying jobs of the future, we are further increasing our investments in our youth employment strategy.
Family caregivers are so important in every one of our communities. As such, we will better support caregivers by creating a new EI caregiving benefit of up to 15 weeks. This new benefit will cover a broader range of situations where individuals are providing care to an adult family member who requires significant support in order to recover from a critical illness or injury.
Parents of critically ill children will continue to have access to up to 35 weeks' benefits, with additional flexibility to share these benefits with more family members.
Parental benefits are such an important advantage for young families functioning in our workforce. Proposed changes will allow parents to choose to receive EI parental benefits over an extended period of up 18 months, but will also continue to be available for the existing 12 month benefit. Our government believes in offering flexibility to make the lives of young Canadians that much easier.
Child care is another huge pillar of budget 2017. I am very proud of our additional $7 billion investment over 10 years to support and create more high-quality, affordable child care spaces across the country. Over the next three years, our investments could increase the number of affordable child care spaces for low and modest income families by supporting up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces. This will make it more affordable for parents to return to work, with thousands of parents more likely to enter the workforce once child care is made more affordable.
As housing needs vary greatly by community, our government is committed to working with the provinces and territories to ensure the unique needs of communities all across Canada can be met. Over the next 11 years, $3.2 billion will be provided to support key priorities for affordable housing. These priorities could include the construction of new affordable housing units, the renovation and repair of existing housing, rent subsidies and other measures to make housing more affordable, safer, and accessible for seniors, persons with disabilities, and other individuals requiring accessibility modifications.
I was very pleased to stand last year to support budget 2016, which had a huge and real impact on our youth, working Canadians, and our seniors. I am equally pleased to stand now, on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Avalon, to support brand new and very strategic initiatives in budget 2017.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the hon. member for .
I welcome the opportunity this morning to speak in support of budget 2017 and all the work our government is doing to continue to build a strong economy in the country from coast to coast to coast.
Before I get into my comments on the budget, I want to first congratulate all the volunteers and organizers who helped ensure that O'Leary, Prince Edward Island, was named Kraft Hockeyville 2017.
O'Leary is a small community in my riding. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of its volunteer committee, made up of members Della Sweet, Jo-Anne Wallace, Tammy Rix, Bill MacKendrick, and Dean Getson, for their tireless effort to ensure that this community would win Hockeyville 2017. It has already received $100,000 for facility upgrades to its arena. It will be hosting an NHL pre-season game between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils. This is a significant accomplishment for a small community with a population of less than 1,000. Therefore, I want to acknowledge this tremendous effort. It was an island-wide effort. Indeed, the effort was from coast to coast, as people were supporting it. I am pleased that I also took part in it.
I briefly want to acknowledge budget 2017 and the positive impact on my home province of Prince Edward Island. The budget would increase transfer equalization payments by $10.1 million from the previous year. There would be $152 million through the Canada health transfer, which is an increase of $4.6 million, and $56 million through the Canada social transfer, which is an increase of $1.7 million.
I am pleased that the government would provide Prince Edward Island with an estimated $45.1 million in the next decade, of which $24.6 million would be dedicated to better home care, including for addressing critical home care infrastructure requirements, and $20.5 million would be allocated to support mental health initiatives in the province. These are issues I heard a lot about during the campaign in the summer and fall of 2015: the issue of home care and support for our aging population, seniors; and the growing issue of mental illness and the need to provide more services. I was pleased that our government recognized that my home province was meeting additional challenges in these areas and required additional funding to make sure that the citizens of Prince Edward Island have access to health care that is equal to that enjoyed across the country.
I want to touch briefly on a specific issue my colleague from Newfoundland spoke to a little earlier, and that is the significant new announcement by the of $325 million to support innovative technological investments in the fish sector on the east coast, in fish processing facilities, and in training upgrades to bring this industry into this century. It is recognition that we must invest in technology to ensure that our first-class seafood is processed in the most innovative manner to allow us to stay competitive in the international market.
As well, this budget would continue on from budget 2016 by allocating an additional $5 million to small craft harbours, which are essential to a successful fishery. This would follow on an investment last year of $149 million. These are strategic investments in strategic infrastructure on the east coast to support the very important fishery on Prince Edward Island.
While addressing the budget today, I want to focus on three areas that I feel are important in our society. Those three areas speak to the heart of what a government is expected to do in the area of strong social policy and social supports.
Governments, after all, always have to meet the challenge of managing the affairs of a country with methods close to the private sector. At the same time, they have a social responsibility to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks and that they have access to programs and funding to ensure that they have equally productive lives in this country.
I did a little research. The 2016 budget was an historic one, with the transfer of a significant amount of money to children in this country. I do not have to go into detail. There have been various debates in the House on this issue. Why I am referring to this is that when I look back at three very significant social programs in the country, they were all initiated by Liberal governments.
The first family allowance in Canada was issued on February 20, 1945. Mackenzie King was prime minister of the country. The first family allowance cheques to Canadian mothers was $5 a month for each child under the age of five, $6 for children aged six to nine, $7 for those aged 10 to 12, and $8 for teenagers 13 to 15 years of age.
My riding is small compared to some of the larger ridings in the country. In one month, in my small riding, our government's child tax benefit, and this is an estimated figure, is $2.31 million. It is money that goes to children in my riding of Egmont. That is a significant benefit to children, families, and single-parent families in my riding. That is one of the signature initiatives of our government. It started last year and we are continuing to build on it this year. It is $2.31 million for a program that was started in 1945 by a Liberal prime minister. It shows that our government recognizes that we have a responsibility to make sure that children have every opportunity in life. The Canada child benefit is the tool that does that. It is one of the initiatives I have been most proud of since I became a member of Parliament.
As well, the first mandatory old age security system, in 1927, was under Mackenzie King. A non-contributory program, the system was later updated by Prime Minister St. Laurent in 1957 and by Prime Minister Pearson in 1965. It is interesting to note that universality was repealed for a while by the Mulroney government in 1989. Again, the old age security system, one of the hallmarks of Canadian society, was an initiative introduced by a Liberal government.
I was pleased that our government was able to recognize that seniors most in need, single seniors, were depending on OAS and GIS, and we raised that by $90 a month in the last budget.
The final issue I want to talk about briefly is the employment insurance system. I was pleased that in this budget, our government recognizes that a deterrent to skills training and higher education is that people on employment insurance cannot take training on their own initiative for fear of losing the benefits they depend on. We recognize this. It is an issue I long championed as a provincial politician. Why not allow people who are out of work to access training, upgrade their skills, and receive employment insurance at the same time?
That is why I am proud to support this budget. These three social programs are pillars of what defines Canada as a nation, and I am delighted to support budget 2017.
Madam Speaker, I grew up in a rural area, and like the member for Avalon, rural issues are very important for me.
The town I grew up in has about 1,000 people. It is about an hour from Montreal. It is not a large town, and it lost its school more than 40 years ago. The school, of course, is the anchor of a small town. The school was lost before I was born, and with it went a small number of economically critical good jobs, as well as the social and cultural focal point of our community. A few years ago, we got a gas station. Life, it seemed, was starting to look up.
However, my hometown is one of the lucky ones in rural Canada. Our population is stable. Today I am a member of Parliament for my hometown and 42 other municipalities in the riding of Laurentides—Labelle. The riding is some 40 times the size of the Island of Montreal.
The trouble with big ridings like mine is to understand the different needs we have in rural areas, so I really appreciate that the budget is putting billions of dollars into rural needs, very specifically, especially into our biggest issue, which is Internet access. For me, Internet access is the core of all of our issues. We can invest billions and billions of dollars into rural infrastructure, but if we do not have the Internet to back it up, it is not going to help with the bigger problems that we have. We need to ensure that families can bring their kids back.
In my riding, we have people who finish high school and leave to go to college or CEGEP, because we do not have very much in our riding. They do not come back, ever, or they come back to retire many years later. When I ask the students at the end of high school who is planning to stay, none of them are. The issues, they say, are the lack of public transit in rural areas, the lack of post-secondary education, and the lack of Internet and cellphone service.
Therefore, for me, the addition of $2 billion in the fall economic update for infrastructure is very important. That was just for deep rural needs. The budget made this money available for rural Internet projects.
This is a really critical infrastructure program when added on top of the $500 million Connect to Innovate program from last year.
Madam Speaker, I do not remember exactly what I was saying, but I was talking about the need for Internet in rural areas. Very often I see people who come to the riding, want to buy houses or set up businesses, look at beautiful properties, look at their phones, and see the famous red X because there is no signal. They ask the real estate agent if they can get online, and the answer is that they cannot get online here unless they want to use satellite, which has high latency and low reliability. People are looking for solutions, and I am really looking to solve these issues. The billions of dollars available for Internet will help that region.
My riding in the north has the MRC county of Antoine-Labelle with a population of approximately 35,000. It has 17 municipalities. It is a large and not very wealthy region. We did a study last year to find out who had access to Internet, and fewer than one in three households had theoretical access to 10-megabit service. Even fewer than that are actually connected.
What happens is that the kids finish high school, and they want to get online. They want to participate in the modern economy. They go to to the city and they simply do not come back. Then the parents want family to come visit, but they will not even come to visit as much as they used to. The cottage owners are having their grandchildren come less often than they used to because of this very serious problem.
Related to this is cellphone service. If people do not have both Internet and cellphone service, we are not going to solve the communications issues we have.
What do we do about all this? We have to invest. The federal government, provincial government, municipalities, and the CRTC have all committed large sums of money to grow the Internet, so I am very happy with that progress. The CRTC's statement just before Christmas that broadband has to be defined as 15-megabit service with unlimited data is a critical new threshold, because, quite frankly, nobody in my riding has that access.
I am really hoping we can build on the huge progress in our budget, which moves a whole lot of things forward very well, and move this file forward as quickly as possible. Internet is critical, and I would like to make sure we get there.
Another issue is public transit funding, which I think is terrific. I spent years, when I was living in Guelph, as a transit advocate. I believe that if we invest a lot of money in our transit systems, then we can get enough people out of their cars that we do not have to expand the highways infinitely.
I always wanted to know if there is a line beyond which we do not need to pave any further. I have always been curious if we can find that line. We can build highways and roads in every direction as far we want, as long we want, as often as we want, but at some point we have to ask if we have enough, if there is a better way of getting around. Our budget and platform have committed large quantities of money over a long period of time to improving our public transit infrastructure. I really believe this is the direction we need to be going as a country.
Madam Speaker, today, I will be sharing my time with the member for . I apologize to the people who reside in Similkameen because I probably said it wrong. In any event, I am honoured to be here today to discuss the budget with all parliamentarians and with Canadians.
Specifically, there are a lot of things in the budget that may be good for Canadians and may be good in 10 to 20 years, but I have a lot of concerns and I heard many concerns from our local residents of during our break week. However, I am actually going to start off with some positive things that I did see in the budget that I can actually applaud the government on, some good initiatives. Initiatives are one thing, but it is the implementation that is going to be the biggest hazzard here.
I would like to applaud the government for the caregiver employment insurance. Over my time as an assistant, working many times with families who had critically ill children or critically ill parents or a family member who had been in a terrible car accident and was in the hospital, I saw that a lot of times that would create a lot of chaos for people in their homes. Having the opportunity to have this employment insurance allowing people up to 15 weeks so they could take care of a loved one is very important, especially when it is not compassionate care but we are looking at people who will indeed be better in a few months. I do applaud the government on this.
I had a lot of people coming through. It might be someone's wife who is suffering from cancer, who needed to go to the cancer clinic, and so, being able to be there to support a family member is really important. I believe a lot of times we expect others to do it, but it is very important for families to have that opportunity, so I too would like to commend the government on the caregiver EI.
Parental leave is another thing that we actually had in our 2015 budget, as well, extending it to 18 months. This is going to be a really tricky one, though, I believe, for the government. Although it is a really good, honourable thing to do, we have to recognize that there is a cost to extending it to 18 months to allow families to be able to nurture and raise a child for the first 18 months. We know that those persons taking off time to raise a child would have 33% of their income for the period of 18 months. A lot of times when we are dealing with that, we hear people say employment insurance at 55% is not enough and it is very difficult to get by. Therefore, we have to recognize that, for 18 months at 33%, there are going to be struggles as well.
By no means am I saying that the government should be increasing or decreasing those amounts. I am just saying the government might end up in a real pickle and it should be very aware of that.
I actually sit on the status of women committee. Just a few weeks ago, when we were talking about employment insurance, we were talking about men getting involved in the caregiving of their children. I believe the uptake currently on parental leave is 2% for men, meaning 98% for women. We really talked about equality and things of that sort. One of the things that I heard from witnesses was, “Well, they're going to have to have employers top up the employment insurance.”
One of my biggest concerns is, when it is a government and these people are working for taxpayer dollars, there may be programs available to them in the public service that might top them up to 90%. I know that my sisters, as school teachers, were able to have that. They received the 55%, and then an additional 35% that topped them up to 90% of their actual earnings. We have to understand the effect and the impact that this may have on those people employed in the private sector. We have to be aware that, at the end of the day, it might end up costing employers more.
Those are some concerns that I have in the long run. I believe the idea is very good, but at the same time, we have to see what we are going to be doing to private employers, people who work for non-taxpayer dollars who may not have those benefits available, because I do know that there are advocates out there saying it should be the employers. I think anytime we are discussing those things, we need to really take that into consideration.
We talked a lot about the gender lens and the fact that this entire budget was looked at through the gender lens. I know there was an entire chapter in the 2016 budget. However, when we are talking about the gender lens in this one, I do not see it actually applied because I do not think that the government is taking into consideration what would happen. Is it going to be mothers who are going to be taking off those 18 months and then going back to a job?
We also have to recognize that the Canada Labour Code has to be addressed, as well, because currently we can only take one year off; so that is another thing, as well. There are a lot of Canadians who are pleased with that but, at the same time, are extremely concerned, and it could cause a lot of issues.
Finally, another positive thing is the targeted funding for housing. There is some funding that I saw in a little note talking about housing for persons who are leaving domestic violence. I would once again applaud that.
During my time, during my work not only as an assistant but as a member of Parliament and within my own community, I recognize there are not the financial resources available to help victims of violence. One of the greatest things is the need for shelters. Having targeted funding that is going to help people escape violence and get into a safe home that is going to be assisted through the federal government, that is very positive.
However, we also need to make sure that it is going to hit all 338 ridings. Domestic violence is not a rural issue. It is not an urban issue. It is not a first nations issue. It is an issue for all Canadians. We know that one in four young women are part of a sexual assault within their first eight weeks of post-secondary schooling.
We have to be aware of all of these situations before we target this funding. We need to make sure it is available to everybody, and not just going to urban centres.
We know some of the key issues. When we are looking at housing in rural areas, we may see the resources very limited. Just last week I was in the municipality of West Elgin, where we were looking at the Canadian index of well-being and discussing some of the resources or lack of resources that communities have.
It was interesting because they were talking about all of the resources available to them in southwestern Ontario. One of the biggest and most important, crucial impacts that they have is the fact that there is no transportation to many of these services. They are not actually located in the municipality of West Elgin and the transportation for them is limited, because there is no busing other than that from West Elgin to Glencoe.
If people need to have services in the city of London, the city of St. Thomas, or the city of Chatham, things like that are not available to them. It is not just the domestic violence piece, but it also has to do with mental wellness and mental illness. We have to understand that when we are doing targeted funding, we need to think of all Canadians and not just punt the money into government-held ridings. That is something I am very concerned with: we have to make sure we are looking at this as a broad issue and not specifically in one riding or another. It is something we all have to deal with.
As I continue with this, I am going to look at some of the other concerns I have. I have talked many times about helping our youth. One thing we saw last year was that the tax credit for textbooks was removed, and this year we are seeing that the tax credit for transit is being removed. A few minutes ago I heard the member from Quebec say that it was not helping his riding.
I live in the city of St. Thomas, actually the municipality of Central Elgin. We do not have a municipal bus there. I have a son who goes to school in Toronto, and because of the cost of living in Toronto, he is looking at living outside of Toronto proper. He will be moving into a community outside. Therefore, we really looked into transit, to make sure there was public transit available to him.
Last week we heard the member of Parliament for talk about the fact that those people using GO Transit will no longer be able to get those passes and credits that will help with those costs. It is not just for those people who are using GO Transit, but it is families like my own, families like most Canadians. A child leaving and going to post-secondary education is not going with a car. Therefore, important things like public education and transit credits are very important when people are living outside a large city and trying to travel in to their schools. This is just another cost to the student.
We saw that the tax credits for tools are also gone. Anyone working in apprenticeships or the trades programs are kind of being nickle-and-dimed. They are not going to be able to take some of those initial expenditures and use them as tax credits.
I am going to shift away from that and look more at Elgin—Middlesex—London. Last week I was speaking to some of our mayors. Immediately, they brought up the SWIFT program. It was interesting, because we speak a lot about the infrastructure and the need for Internet. What we saw in budget 2016 was a $2 billion amount to be spent on infrastructure for rural Canada. All we have seen in the 2017 budget is the money that was not spent in 2016 being transferred to the 2017 budget and still not getting out to Canadian rural municipalities.
When I spoke to the mayors, the mayor from Central Elgin and the mayor from Southwold, I asked them specifically about the budget. These are people who would be very honest with me. If they were very happy with the budget, they would say, “Karen, it is a great budget.” Instead they said, “Karen, there is nothing in it for us.” As mayors, they found there was nothing for their municipalities. There was nothing in it for the farmers. Worrying about rural infrastructure, worrying about Internet, we are not seeing that.
Just six months ago the announced the SWIFT program that was put forward by our Western Ontario Warden's Caucus. We do not see it mentioned in the budget. The caucus is concerned this program will not be supported.
As a person from rural Canada, as a person representing many municipalities with populations of 300 and 400, I am concerned that much of our money will go to larger municipalities and not to rural Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my comments this afternoon in this debate by pointing out I have some very serious concerns with the budget. I would like to take a few moments to explain exactly why.
My concern is that I am seeing an alarming pattern. All governments and all elected officials will try to add a little pizzazz to their words, try to add a little flavour to their rhetoric so they sound like they are addressing the needs of the day. All governments will do that but, as we know, the current government is a big fan of buzzwords. In fact, it was humorous to read punditry columns the morning after the budget as they were all virtually united in expressing how boring and overused buzzwords had become with the Liberal government. In many respects, this was a buzzword budget.
Getting back to my point, in last year's budget the go-to buzzword was “infrastructure”. Here is the thing. The Liberal government threw out a massive number of over $186 billion in infrastructure spending. However, when we look at the fine print, that is $186 billion over 12 years. Only $13 billion and change was proposed to be spent over the first two years.
I mention that because we know the parliamentary budget officer could only identify just over $4 billion in infrastructure projects currently under way. Why do I mention that? Because in the budget presented a few weeks ago, we learned that over those same two years the Liberals would run up deficits totalling over $50 billion.
To recap, the parliamentary budget office finds over $4 billion being spent on actual infrastructure, yet the Liberal government is adding over $50 billion in new debt. This basically means the whole infrastructure theme was a carefully designed sham, as the vast majority of that promised infrastructure spending has been punted down the road. That is the same problem we see in this year's budget for 2017. Yes, the buzzwords have changed, but the pattern of making big promises that are in effect kicked down the road has not.
Let me give a few examples of this from the budget. “Helping working adults upgrade their skills” is something people would be very supportive of. How much new money did the Liberals actually budget for that in the 2017 budget? Absolutely zero, but $151 million in the 2019 election year.
The next is “Investing in skills Innovation”. How much new money did the Liberals budget in the 2017 budget? Once again, the answer is zero, but guess what? The Liberals have budgeted $50 million in the 2019 election year. What a coincidence.
How about “Expanding the Youth Employment Strategy”. Guess how much new money is budgeted in 2017? Once again, the Liberals budget zero for that in this year's budget. However, wait for it, the Liberals budget $96 million, but in which year? That is right, the 2019 election year because unemployed youth who need jobs today should have to wait around until Liberals need to be re-elected.
The budget is simply playing politics with the lives of Canadians. I can cite many more examples where there are items in the budget that are not actually budgeted in 2017. In every case, surprise, surprise, there is money for these things in the 2019 election budget. Again, the budget is playing politics with the lives of people lives.
Is it any wonder why one columnist describes the budget as being an empty wrapped gift box. All that is missing is the do not open until 2019 credit card.
I mention the latter part because we know despite all these unbudgeted items, the Liberal government will be running a deficit in excess of $25 billion this year alone. We all know the Liberal government promised Canadians modest deficits of $10 billion per year, much as the Liberals promised to lower the debt-to-GDP ratio annually and, of course, to balance the budget in 2019.
On this last promise, the went on CBC, looked Canadians right in the eyes and said that the promise to return to a balanced budget in 2019 was set in stone. Today, the words “balanced budget” are dirty to the Liberal . A few weeks ago, the finance minister embarrassed himself, I would allege, by refusing to answer a very simple question from Peter Mansbridge as to when his plan would return Canada to a balanced budget.
The fact is that the does not have a plan to return to a balanced budget. However, his department does. It told us that, at a minimum, having a balanced budget again would be somewhere in 2050. What did the finance minister do when he saw the report from his own department last October? He intentionally punted and hid this information from Canadians until it was posted on Friday, December 23 of last year.
Why did he do that? Here is the most alarming part of it all. If we look at what the Liberal government said about real GDP growth in last year's budget and compare it to what it is forecasting in this year's budget, for every year the Liberals are in power, they have now downgraded real GDP growth expectations. In fact, the Liberals even show that real GDP growth in 2019 will actually be lower than it is today. In other words, even the Liberals own budget factually shows they know their own fiscal plan is failing.
Keep in mind that we also know that business investment in Canada has declined every quarterly reporting period since the Liberal government came to power, and we all know why. Simply, it has made Canada less competitive. How? Because the Liberals increased costs on employers and job creators. Even when told by their own Department of Finance that increasing CPP would harm jobs and the Canadian economy for over 20 years, the Liberals did not care and did so anyway. Establishing a national carbon tax, when none of our major trading partners are implementing one also, makes us less competitive. Again, it is no surprise why Canadian business investment is in decline. It is actually at the lowest level since 1981.
Now we have the Liberal government deciding to borrow money and picking the winners and losers for investment. All this has to be paid for, but the refuses to say how. We may have the first finance minister in Canadian history who believes that balanced budgets are bad, or that balanced budgets are dirty words. I will challenge the finance minister to prove me wrong, to come to this place and tell Canadians when and how he will balance the budget.
That leaves me with my final thought.
If the Liberals are clearly so opposed to a balanced budget, because, let us not forget that the parliamentary budget office caught and exposed them for trying to manipulate the balanced budget they inherited from the former Conservative government, why did the promise Canadians they would return to a balanced budget in 2019? I would submit that the Liberal Prime Minister knew this was what Canadians wanted to hear. In fact, there are growing examples, almost by the day, of a Prime Minister who is willing to promise anything in order to get elected. Today we have this budget, much like budgets that do not deliver what the Prime Minister has promised, promises set in stone.
Nobody forced the into promising a return to a balanced budget in 2019. He made the decision to look Canadians right in the eyes and make that promise. While I cannot force the Prime Minister to keep his promise to Canadians, I will certainly vote against this budget. It breaks the very word the Prime Minister set in stone.
If members on the government side wanted to truly make a difference and become part of history, they could do the same, if only to send a message. When someone looks Canadians in the eyes and makes a promise that is set in stone, Canadians deserve and expect to have that promise honoured.
I ask members to please join me in voting against this budget, never mind the and his inner circle, who are really running things. Canadians deserve and expect the Prime Minister to honour his word.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I must say that I am extremely pleased and excited with budget 2017. This budget focuses on the middle class. With this budget, Canadians will benefit. Nova Scotians will benefit. The people from will benefit as well.
This budget is a framework around many groups: seniors, youth, veterans. This budget is really one that is comprehensive and helps many Canadians. We will see that throughout the year, of course, but I want to talk about three main areas. The first one is family. The second one is seniors. The third one is veterans. It is very obvious we will talk a lot longer about veterans, because there are a lot of good things there. We have been working with veterans across Canada for a number of years.
First, let us talk a little about the 2016 budget. The 2016 budget started the good work of our government, and it is a four-year plan. I want to talk about two major areas where budget 2016 is powerful. The first one is the CCB, the Canada child benefit. When I was campaigning from one area to the other across my large riding, people were very concerned. Young families were concerned about how they could continue to provide what their kids need. They were not able to. They were struggling. The CCB contribution benefit that our government put forward is extremely impressive. In my riding of , over 15,000 children benefited since it started in July 2016.
Let us focus on the month of October 2016. Believe it or not, 15,000 children benefited. The government paid $5.2 million in that month alone to support families in my riding of . That in itself is impressive, but it is not only in my riding. There are 338 ridings, and they are all benefiting. Families in all those ridings are benefiting. That was a major help.
The second one in budget 2016 that is extremely important to mention is the 7% tax reduction on the middle class. The middle class had been struggling for over 10 years with the former government without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In our first year in government we were able to bring forward a 7% reduction in taxes to help the middle class. Throughout the last six months I have been chatting with my constituents, and it is clear that is a major help.
Also our government is the only government that was willing and able to put a 1% tax increase on the wealthiest Canadians. Our party was the only party that supported that.
Budget 2016 puts a nice framework on what we have done. Let us look now at budget 2017 and focus on families.
For a long time everyone in this House has heard over and over again the necessity to create child care spaces for young kids, preschool children. Back in 2005-06, it was the government under Paul Martin, and I believe the minister of the day was Ken Dryden, the famous goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. If I did not mention that, I would be—
Hon. Kevin Sorenson: He was a better goalie than an MP.
Mr. Darrell Samson: Mr. Speaker, that being said, at that time the Liberal Party of Canada was getting ready to approve a child care plan, but the Liberals did not win the election. The Tories did, and then they went back to sleep. For 20 to 30 years, we had been talking about how important child care is, but it was forgotten. At that time, we had committed $5 billion over five years. That is quite impressive.
What do we have this year, this time around? There is $500 million this year, but $7 billion over the next 10 years for child care in this country. There is not one riding in the country that would not definitely benefit from that investment. That is impressive.
The second thing under the family concept in the budget, which I am extremely proud of, is a national housing strategy. We have talked about it on and on in the House for years. They talked about it before I got here, and after I leave they will still be talking about it. Our government is putting forward a strong national strategy on homelessness and a strategy to support families that are less fortunate and to support seniors who want to stay and live in their communities.
Those are major benefits. We are going to see all kinds of investments to repair and renovate housing and investments for new housing, which is so important. I know that my community would benefit from that investment.
The third point relates to the issue of rural Internet access. People with low incomes often have a hard time paying for Internet service. Our government has allocated funding to address this problem. Cable companies will be able to create packages for lower-income families.
The next category in the budget I want to talk about is seniors. Seniors have been talking about health care and the cost of prescription drugs. They have told me that they have to make tough choices between food, lodging, and prescription drugs. Our government is coming forward to invest in Health Canada to help reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
The second piece I want to talk about is the compassionate care EI benefit. We would invest in those individuals and families who want to help those who are gravely ill. That would be over and above the 35 weeks already granted to support the terminally ill. That is another clear sign of our strength in that area.
In the short time I have left, I want to move to veterans affairs. Quickly, 20% of the new money invested in the budget would go toward veterans. That is extremely important. These men and women have risked their lives for Canadians and democracy and continue to do so, and we need to recognize that. In Sackville—Preston, 23% of the people in my riding are veterans or military.
The lifetime pension option is something I have heard about over and over again. That is being done, and it is extremely important.
Transitioning from being in the military to being a veteran and how we can help in that transition is also very important. Already Veterans Affairs and DND are working together to simplify and streamline the process.
Another one is the military family resource centres. We propose expanding the centres and providing outreach to make sure we help as many Canadians as we can.
The emergency fund and the family well-being fund are things they have been asking the government for over and over again. They asked the last government for that support, and they were ignored, but our government is coming through.
Just yesterday, I read that VIA Rail, for the 150th anniversary, will provide a 25% reduction for travel for veterans and military families. There is investment as well in the family wellness program. We will see VIA Rail start hiring up to 10% of its workforce from retired military members.
In closing, I want to say that seniors, veterans, young people, Canadians, Nova Scotia, and the people of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook will continue to prosper under budget 2017.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to take part in today's debate on budget 2017, which goes a long way to advancing gender equality in Canada.
The inclusion of the first-ever gender statement in a federal budget is groundbreaking. In fact, an entire chapter is dedicated to this statement, demonstrating the value we see in gender equality.
As the has said, we published the government's first-ever gender statement, an assessment that ensures that all budget measures, not just those aimed specifically at women, help us advance the goals of fairness, stronger workforce participation, and gender equality. In many ways, the gender statement sets a new bar for openness and transparency by examining the ways in which public policies affect women and men differently. It also emphasizes the need for a more diverse workforce and for closing the gender wage gap.
Canada continues to have one of the highest gender wage gaps of all the OECD countries. This is unacceptable. Canada should be a leader in closing the wage gap, and our government is committed to taking actions that will help close it. Budget 2017 includes a number of measures aimed at reducing this gap, encouraging greater workforce participation among women, and helping to combat poverty and violence.
These measures include a new investment of $11.2 billion towards a national housing strategy; an investment of $7 billion in early learning and child care, as the previous speaker mentioned, over the next 11 years that will support access to child care and allow greater participation in work, education, and training, particularly by mothers; a new employment insurance caregiving benefit that will allow more caregivers, the majority of whom are women, to balance their work and family responsibilities; the adoption of more flexible work arrangements for federally regulated employees, including flexible start and finish times; and the ability to work from home, as well as new unpaid leaves, to help people manage family responsibilities.
One of the key investments in this budget is a commitment of $101 million over five years to address gender-based violence. Gender-based violence remains an overwhelming barrier to equality and to ensuring that our communities thrive. We must address it. Our government is committed to doing its part to help end this violence and will soon be announcing a strategy to address it.
To develop the best and most appropriate gender-based violence strategy, we must see the entire picture and exchange best practices. For this reason, we will gather evidence and engage our provincial and territorial counterparts to find the best path in moving towards a national strategy.
Budget 2017 commits to a number of additional actions to increase safety and security, including investing in gender and cultural training for judges; investing in the family law system; creating a secretariat on LGBTQ2 issues; and investing in a new national housing fund that prioritizes vulnerable individuals, including survivors of domestic violence.
As we discuss budget 2017, it is also important to keep in mind that it builds on some of the foundations established last year as part of budget 2016, measures that support women and their families. This includes, as has been mentioned, the new, tax-free Canada child benefit, which provides low- and middle-income families with more help with the cost of raising their children. Nine out of 10 families receive more help than they did before, under previous programs, with average benefits for these families rising by nearly $2,300 in the first year.
The Canada child benefit is particularly beneficial for families led by single parents. These families are most often led by single mothers and tend to have lower total incomes. It is also important to note that most families receiving the maximum Canada child benefit are led by single mothers.
Budget 2016 also increased income support for vulnerable seniors. Enhancements to the guaranteed income supplement have resulted in 750,000 single seniors receiving an increase of up to approximately $1000 each year. This enhancement is helping to lift 13,000 vulnerable seniors, including 12,000 senior women, out of poverty.
In conclusion, my comments today underscore just how strongly this government believes in moving our country closer to gender equality. Our government has a plan that builds on budget 2016 so women and girls can reach their full potential.
Budget 2017 represents a tremendous opportunity for all of us and for our country to reach its full potential. Doing so benefits all Canadians by helping to build an inclusive, prosperous country that strengthens the middle class from coast to coast to coast.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague from , wtih whom I practice my English, as he works on his French with me.
We francophones really appreciate the fact that the Conservative Party respects French and English equally.
On March 22, 2017, the Liberal government's presented a bare-bones budget that has no vision and creates a climate of uncertainty. His budget is entitled “Building a Strong Middle Class”, but I think it should be called “destroying hope for the middle class”. I am no finance, tax, or budget expert here in Ottawa, but I was smart enough to confirm a few things with experts who work with numbers in the tax field every day and can predict their impact.
Now I would like to comment on a statement by Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, or CPA Canada. The organization said that the federal budget is missing a key target for future planning. In other words, the government has no idea where it is heading. CPA Canada president Joy Thomas said, “This latest budget raises concerns because there is no timeline to address these persistent deficits.” She added, “Establishing a target date to bring the budget back into balance would create a goalpost to guide the government in its financial planning. This would greatly assist in fostering business confidence, supporting essential programs and minimizing the burden on future generations.” So basically, no vision.
Then there is the title of the budget analysis by Desjardins, a co-operative financial institution that is the pride of Quebec and Canada: “A lacklustre budget for the 150th anniversary of Confederation”. In other words, this is a ho-hum budget that does nothing to bolster the confidence of citizens, small businesses, or foreign investors. It conveys a blatant lack of vision. The Liberals have no plan.
In addition to listening to what experts have to say, we parliamentarians pay a lot of attention to what is being said by the media, which has some subject matter and communications experts. The following are the comments of one journalist, Mario Dumont, who wrote an article entitled “A promise broken three times”. In that article, he said, “once elected, this government was supposed to run a modest deficit”.
The Liberals were talking about “a small deficit of $10 billion” but, in their first year in office, they ran a deficit of $23 billion. We clearly do not have the same definitions of “small” and “modest”. What is more, the deficit was supposed to be temporary. Looking forward, we do not see any sign of when the Liberal government will allow Canada's finances to generate a surplus. From what we are currently seeing, there is no set date for that. It could be 2055, but I do not have much faith in that estimate. The Liberals said that they would run a small deficit before quickly balancing the budget again, but now they are saying that they will not balance the budget until 2055. The House will understand that I am skeptical about how serious the members opposite are about this. They are going to run deficits in order to implement structural economic measures, but it has been two years and I have yet to see any such measures.
François Pouliot of Les Affaires wrote an article entitled “Federal budget: red as far as the eye can see”. Red is the colour of the Liberal Party and symbolic of debt. I am not an expert in interpreting finances, but writing things in red or in parentheses indicates a debt. Michel Girard wrote an article entitled “Canada: in the red for a long time”. That is what I just said. The Liberals do not have a plan, and we do not know when we will be able to get our head back above water.
Even the journalists at CBC/Radio-Canada have reluctantly criticized the budget. According to Gérald Fillion, “Bill Morneau's second budget is anything but an easy, simple, agreeable, and understandable exercise for journalists. It was written to try to please everyone.”
The media recently reported that this government spent much more on public consultations in 16 months than Stephen Harper did in the 10 years he was in power. The Liberals like to please everyone, but that is no way to govern Canada.
Liberal members also told CBC that people should trust the government to manage the budget and to ensure Canada's prosperity. As far as we are concerned, nothing in the world would make us trust the government.
Emmanuelle Latraverse, a Radio-Canada journalist, said that it was not a budget, that it was a political document and that it was not a plan for governing a country.
Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy best expressed the unanimous views of the media when she said “Like PM, like budget”: empty
Let us remember the atmosphere in the House during the hours and minutes that preceded the budget presentation. All parliamentarians on this side, and probably some on the other side, were frustrated by the . Why? The Prime Minister does nothing, is nonchalant, careless, and arrogant. Furthermore, he fails to show leadership, respect, and vision. He is irresponsible. He acts like a dictator. Take, for example, his reform of House of Commons rules. That is another matter, however, one I will not get into.
Let us not forget that this is the same person who once said that budgets balance themselves. Better yet, he said it was the right time to borrow money because interest rates were low. He is not wrong, but what are we going to do when the interest rates go up? There is no money left. We have our to thank for that.
The Liberals are maxing out the credit card. Worse yet, they are filling out a form to apply for a second credit card because they can no longer pay off the first. That is where we are headed and it is unacceptable.
Let me sum up the budget. The Liberals blindsided public transit users by getting rid of the public transit tax credit. They increased the cost of insurance for Canadian farmers. Not much has been said about that, but it is written in the policy paper. Canadian farmers will see their taxes go up because the Liberals eliminated the income tax exemption for insurers. Insurance companies gave our farmers and fishers some breathing room. The government is creating 40,000 child care spaces. It is interfering in provincial and territorial jurisdictions. What will happen in Quebec? Will the province lower its costs? It likely will, but there is nothing that will go directly into the pockets of our Quebec and Canadian families.
Since I do not have much time left, I will skip to the end of my speech even though I have a lot of interesting notes to share with my colleagues. There is nothing here to support Canadian families, seniors, or youth. There are measures that will do nothing for our small and medium-sized businesses. This government has no idea where it is headed, unless it realizes that it is headed straight for a brick wall. The deficit has gone up exponentially for 2017 and is now at $28.5 billion. Talk about putting things off. Our children and grandchildren will be on the hook. Any individual who behaved like this would have to declare bankruptcy.
This government is irresponsible. It is mortgaging the future of this great country. Farmers will face additional costs. There is nothing for the regions. There is nothing to help the people and businesses of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, nothing to support family centres. Today I presented an e-petition in support of people who are working hard to help the families of our soldiers who fight every day to protect this country. There is nothing about that in this budget.
We will not be silent. The is irresponsible. He is spending like crazy, but he has nothing to show for it. That is the problem with this budget. As I said, I have a lot more information to share with the House, but unfortunately, I am out of time.
Mr. Speaker, just as budget 2016 was a budget built of broken promises, so budget 2017 is an insubstantial rehashing and doubling down on last year's bad ideas, replete with the shameless repetition of catchphrases rendered meaningless by the government's actions to date.
It is no secret that this budget was widely panned. I talked to a number of people in Calgary who could not understand how the government could run these large deficits without having anything to show for them and without any economic justification.
One constituent said that the budget presented by the and the under the disguise of support for the middle class is a hoax, an insult to the intelligence of Canadians. She went on to say that the Liberals are not building a stronger middle class, so they should stop with this insulting, embarrassing, foolish facade.
Andrew Coyne called it a “nonsense-filled budget”.
Perhaps the quote from last week's National Post sums it up best in describing the budget as “278 pages of flowery verbiage dressed up in the thin veneer of marketing speak. The whole thing will be forgotten by the weekend.”
While it is mostly true that this budget is so thin on substance that the news cycle has already forgotten it, the debt that this budget piles on certainly cannot be forgotten that easily.
I mentioned the government's penchant for meaningless catchphrases, so I will remind members of this House that the government promised unprecedented transparency, sound economic stewardship resulting in greater rates of growth, fairness for the middle class and those working hard to join it, and attentive consultation with all Canadians—all empty platitudes coming from the Liberal government.
In the last election, Liberals also promised maximum deficits of $10 billion and a return to the balanced budget that the parliamentary budget office confirmed that the Liberals inherited when they formed government.
What are these so-called modest deficits that were promised? Hearing any talk of anything modest from the Liberals should have been a red flag, but Canadians elected them anyway on a promise that the maximum $10 billion deficits would be incurred strictly in order to fund infrastructure projects that would immediately facilitate economic activity and real GDP growth.
It did not happen. This budget with its $28 billion now structural deficit and no hint of even a timetable to return to surplus, along with downgraded growth projections, leaves no room for the government to deny that it broke the central promise of the last campaign. Liberals make no apologies for breaking their promise, and they have no intention of even trying to keep it. They are simply hoping nobody noticed.
Canadians have noticed, and while Canadians are forgiving people and will forgive an honest mistake, they will not forgive a broken trust. It is widely known that when the Liberals do get thrown out of office, they are historically brought down by their own arrogance and corruption, yet arrogance and corruption are at the core of the Liberals' big government, government-knows-best political philosophy: arrogance in the technocrats' conceit that a small group of self-styled experts know better than millions of individuals making choices in their own interest; and corruption, which inevitably crops up when a small group of insiders has the power to control economic activity through regulation and to pick corporate winners and losers.
The latter point is evident by the budget 2017 corporate welfare agenda. It boasts almost $1.3 billion over six years of investment in six main economic priorities, like clean energy, advanced manufacturing, and agrifood. To be clear, these may well be important fields of economic development, assuming these fancy-sounding terms can be defined and actually mean something. However, when it comes to business, when a government says invest, it actually means spend, which actually means subsidize.
Likewise, when it says it will spend over $1.7 billion over six years on, among other things, spawning superclusters, offering state-supplied venture capital to favoured firms, and twisting procurement policy to let taxpayers bear the risk of testing out Canadian products, it means that the government will try to steer the economy toward its pet priorities with no regard to the desires of Canadians free to choose their own priorities in a free market.
This opens the door for economic distortion and corruption, since interested firms will inevitably try to curry favour with the government in order to get their share of its subsidies, perhaps doing so at cash for access fundraisers. However, I digress.
Returning to the main point about the budget, it is laced with simplistic, idealistic depictions of a world that the Liberals wish existed, instead of the complex reality at hand. Even the cover art on budget 2017 suggests a possible Freudian slip, showing the Liberals know that their promises are merely illusions.
We have the illusion of useful infrastructure actually being built by a government that is simply making endless project announcements. We have the illusion of timely medical care for the elderly under a government that ignores real threats to the sustainability of the single-payer system and has yet to deliver on its palliative care promises. We have an illusory guitar and a recording system in the hands of a creative young woman, apparently put there by the same government that eliminated the children's arts and fitness tax credits. We have the illusion of solar-powered fishing boats and effective wind power production under a government whose senior PMO advisers were the architects of the Ontario Liberals' disastrous Green Energy Act.
The back cover doodles also depict the Liberals' vision of the world and their idealized economy. There is scientific equipment, wind turbines, bicycles, happy families, and recreational fishing boats, but there are no mines, no oil rigs, no farms, and no cut timber. There is no primary industry and no recognition of the millions of jobs that depend on natural resources.
Speaking of wishful thinking, budget 2017 contains many aspirational phrases that ring hollow when set against the government's record. For example, on page 179 it says that “In Canada, we have made the choice to build an economy that works for everyone” even as the and his party can barely contain their disdain for the resource and agricultural sectors.
Budget 2017 says on page 204 that “The Government remains committed to building a fair tax system that benefits the middle class and those working hard to join it”, yet the government cannot and will not define what that even means because it has no definition of “middle class”.
One of my personal favourites is on page 214 of budget 2017. It claims that “The Government is committed to enhancing the transparency and accountability of federal borrowing activities to Parliament and ultimately Canadians”—this from a government that as we speak is trying to change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons without all-party consent.
The ability of the government to speak of transparency with a straight face in the midst of an unprecedented attack on democratic parliamentary privilege would be hilariously ironic if the stakes were not so high. The Liberal government's vision of transparency would centralize even more powers into the hands of a small executive, would diminish Parliament's ability to hold the government to account, and would allow the party in power to unilaterally change parliamentary procedure for its own convenience.
The government sees members of Parliament and their democratic prerogatives as a nuisance, oblivious to the fact that every member of Parliament, regardless of the caucus in which he or she sits, won an election to represent their constituents. The ones on this side of the House were elected by people who do not share the government's views, and those people have the right to have their voices heard in the House through the members of Parliament that they elected.
I still cannot figure out whether the timing of this budget was meant to distract attention from the Liberals' power grab at PROC or the other way around. Both the budget and their actions at PROC are surely embarrassing to the government and would be better covered up by a stronger news story. The question is, which embarrasses the Liberal government more? Again, I digress.
Instead of offering trendy buzzwords that signify nothing, the government should serve Canadians through practical and tangible measures. This budget repeats the word “innovation” some 200 times, but Canadians know that just repeating a word over and over again will not get unemployed Canadians back to work. Saying the words “venture capital”, “catalyst”, “supercluster”, or “infrastructure bank” on the cocktail party circuit might make a Liberal feel clever, but words will not balance a budget, grow the economy, or lift anybody out of poverty. Merely announcing or reannouncing infrastructure projects will not get shovels into the ground.
Instead, the government should rein in its out-of-control spending and the tax increases that it requires. It should reverse course on taxes like the carbon tax and follow the example of Conservatives, who brought federal tax to its lowest point in 50 years while returning to a balanced budget on schedule.
The government should reduce regulation to unleash the creative and innovative energy currently trapped in red tape. It should fulfill its own broken promise and reduce the small business tax rate, and it should reverse its ill-conceived and poorly timed job-killing payroll tax.
Lastly, the Liberals should quit trying to think of new ways to nickel-and-dime money out of Canadians while flailing in a sea of red ink, broken promises, and rhetorical nonsense, all against the backdrop of an ethics investigation and an unprecedented attack on democratic accountability.
This budget may well have been designed to be forgotten quickly. I wish it were so.
Mr. Speaker, let me say how thrilled and pleased I am to stand here in the House and speak to budget 2017. It is a budget that gives much hope and promise for middle-class Canadians.
Let me digress and go back to when I started to run in the past election and started going door to door in communities, going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. I started in one of our priority neighbourhoods, Crescent Valley. The work that is being done in Crescent Valley is absolutely magnificent. The Crescent Valley association, led by Anne Driscoll, is doing a fantastic job.
One thing that was loud and clear to me going door to door in Crescent Valley was that the housing needed upgrading and rebuilding and in many instances a total overhaul. The families were and are living in conditions that certainly needed to be upgraded. There were many people who talked to me about their current situations. I went back and talked to non-profit organizations in Saint John and surrounding areas, and there was concern that a lot of the operating agreements with the housing co-ops were expiring and there was uncertainty in the future.
First and foremost with respect to housing, I want to commend and compliment people in my riding and in my region who are doing outstanding work on housing and helping those who need affordable housing to attain it. They include people like Kit Hickey, Randy Hatfield, Narinder Singh, Brian Marks, and many others who are working tirelessly every day to help those who are looking for housing in my riding.
I am not proud to stand here today and talk about the fact that there are 1,300 people from my riding on a wait-list for affordable housing. That is not acceptable, so I am absolutely delighted to speak in support of budget 2017. I am excited about the commitment of $11.2 billion for a national housing strategy for our country. This is something that I advocated for and something we have worked tirelessly toward. I am a proud member of the HUMA committee, which has just finished travelling from coast to coast to coast. Certainly one thing that was very evident travelling across this country was the need for affordable housing, and the fact that as a country we need a national housing strategy.
Our government signalled its intention to re-establish a federal leadership role in housing in budget 2016. As hon. members will recall, in addition to the existing baseline annual funding of over $2 billion, our first budget included funding of $2.3 billion over two years to address urgent housing needs across this country. This included a doubling of the investment in affordable housing, as well as targeted funding to improve housing for seniors and low-income households, northerners, indigenous people, and those fleeing situations of domestic violence. I am proud to say that this funding has already benefited more than 58,000 households across Canada. That is significant and transformational.
Budget 2016 also provided funding for low-cost loans and new financing tools to encourage municipalities, housing developers, and non-profit housing providers to develop more affordable rental housing units. This funding will significantly expand the stock of affordable rental housing in Canada.
I want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
We made it clear a year ago that these investments were only a first step as we took the time needed to develop a new, inclusive national housing strategy to help guide the way forward.
Budget 2017, I am thrilled to say, affirms this. Let me be clear. This is the largest single spending commitment in our budget. It is historic, and it will be transformational for many, many families across our country.
To be formally launched later this year, the national housing strategy would provide a road map for governments and housing providers across the country, as well as focused support for those who need it the most, those living in poverty.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be meeting with provinces and territories, housing stakeholders, and indigenous leaders to discuss how we can best work together to ensure a coordinated and truly national strategy. This is key and is of utmost importance.
The strategy would be delivered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation through a number of initiatives, which I would like to highlight for hon. members. Let me begin with our commitment to a renewed housing partnership with the provinces and territories.
Our government recognizes that housing needs vary across the country, and we are committed to working with provinces and territories to ensure that the unique needs of all communities are met. These priorities may include the construction of new affordable housing units, the renovation and repair of existing housing, rent subsidies and other measures to make housing more affordable, and initiatives to support safe independent living for seniors and persons with disabilities.
The national housing strategy would also include a new housing fund to address critical housing issues and prioritize support for vulnerable citizens, including seniors, indigenous peoples, victims of domestic violence, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and veterans. Administered by CMHC, the fund would receive $5 billion in federal funding over the next 11 years. It signals the government's renewed role, finally, in a housing policy for our country. Further details will be announced when the national housing strategy is launched later this year, but it includes a new co-investment fund to encourage greater collaboration and investment among diverse partners to prioritize large-scale community renewal projects.
It would also support innovative approaches to housing development and a strong, sustainable affordable housing sector. CMHC' s direct lending activities would be expanded to include low-cost loans for renewal of social and affordable housing. This is in addition to the budget 2016 lending program I mentioned earlier, which will support construction of new rental units.
In addition to these new investments of $11.2 billion, the government is also preserving baseline funding related to the expiry of long-term social housing operating agreements. The use and renewal of these funds will be determined over the next year.
Hon. members who represent northern ridings will know that the housing challenges in that region are unique and complex. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $300 million, starting in 2018-19, to provide stable and predictable funding to the territorial governments, to help offset the higher cost of construction, and improve housing conditions across the north.
Budget 2017 also includes an additional $4 billion over 10 years, starting in 2018-19, to build and improve housing, water treatment systems, health facilities, and other community infrastructure in indigenous communities. This builds on the $554 million provided in last year's budget to address urgent housing needs on reserve and the more than $10 million we are investing in new shelters for first nations families affected by domestic violence. We will be working with first nations, Inuit, and Métis partners in the coming months to determine how the budget 2017 funding will be allocated.
Finally, budget 2017 includes a proposed investment of $241 million through the national housing strategy to help CMHC improve housing data collection and analytics, expand housing research, and strengthen our ability to make informed policy decisions. Long-term funding would also be provided to Statistics Canada to develop and implement a new housing statistics framework.
I have talked primarily about the proposed investments in budget 2017 that relate specifically to the national housing strategy. It is key and critical for my riding to have this national housing strategy. I was proud to travel the country from coast to coast to coast to help in implementing this. I am proud to stand today and say that our government is actually backing a national housing strategy which will be good for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to budget 2017, our government's next step to building a Canada that works for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
Take Noor and Kate, a young couple who are headed toward settling down, getting married, and having their first child. Let us say they live in my riding of . For them, our budget means that if they choose, Kate can receive EI maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before the due date, which is up from the previous eight weeks. Once the baby is born, there are more flexible EI parental benefits available, including the choice of stretching the benefits period over 18 months.
To respond to one of the biggest costs for parents and families, we will be investing $7 billion in affordable child care spaces. We are looking to create 40,000 spots for children like Noor and Kate's little one.
Kate takes the GO Train to work, and Noor takes a bus. We will be investing $20.1 billion in public transit over the next 11 years, which means that the buses and GO Train that Kate and Noor use will improve.
These are the kinds of investments that make a difference in the day-to-day lives of hard-working families in . This is on top of all the things for families that came in budget 2016, like the more generous, automatic, monthly Canada child benefit.
According to data from the Department of Employment and Social Development with approximately 23,500 children in , there was an average monthly payment of $680. This totals over $9 million being sent to low- to middle-income families in in 2016 to help with the cost of raising kids.
On top of the approximately $8,160 that Kate and Noor will be getting once the baby is born, they also benefit from the middle-class tax cut we unveiled in 2016. On average, single individuals who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $330 every year, and couples who benefit will see an average tax reduction of $540 every year. For Kate and Noor, that is $540 more in their pockets.
All of these things focus on putting more money in people's pockets and investing directly in our best Canadian resource, our middle class.
If things get tough for Noor and Kate, budget 2017 has a number of measures that build a stronger safety net for them. We are thinking of how to get people back on their feet solidly and quickly, so they can get back to supporting their family, building towards their retirement, and contributing to the Canadian economy.
In fact, we have already seen in the seven months preceding the budget, a quarter of a million new jobs created in Canada. The unemployment rate dropped from 7.1% to 6.6%. Our plan is working.
Budget 2017 has measures to help those who are struggling. In the case that Kate unfortunately loses her job, our budget has committed a significant amount, $2.7 billion, to the provinces and territories to help those unemployed or underemployed access training or employment supports to find and keep good jobs.
Our El benefits for the unemployed are also geared towards those like Kate so they can go back to school to get the training they need without the fear of losing the critical benefits they depend on to support themselves and their families. We are increasing the El in total by almost $900 million over five years to make it more flexible for families like Kate and Noor's family. If Kate has any issues with her El claim, we are putting tens of millions into improving access to El call centres and to improve claims processing times.
As Canadians know, to be successful in this day and age, there need to be opportunities for lifelong learning, so that their next job is also a better job. We will better support adult workers returning to school who face the high cost of post-secondary education along with the financial pressures associated with daily life and raising their families. If Kate goes back to school part-time in order to get the skills she needs for a good job, her EI benefits will still be there for her.
Under budget 2017, she also now qualifies for financial assistance from the federal government, unlike under the previous system, which did not support students with dependent children or part-time students. Therefore, she can apply for Canada student loans and grants to help with the cost of going back to school.
We are investing $225 million over four years to identify the skills gaps to be best prepared for the new economy. Kate will be able to find a place where she can make a long career because it is something that we are lacking enough talent in right now. This will help to promote job security for her. She will be a needed commodity in a field that needs more people who are newly trained and ready to work.
In fact, as a student again, Kate will also possibly be able to get a co-op position, something in which budget 2017 is investing $221 million.
We hope to create 10,000 work-integrated learning placements that link people from their education into an industry in which they can succeed.
So far I have talked about how budget 2017 speaks to the experience of many in my downtown riding with young kids, who commute into work and who need flexibility in how they decide to arrange their life when things get difficult.
On top of that, we are thinking about how families actually work. When times get tough, they turn to family and they turn to those around them. In my riding of Brampton South, family and community go hand in hand.
That is why we are making significant measures for caregivers. We are creating the Canada caregiver credit to better support those when they need it most. This is a new, non-refundable credit to help caregivers, whether or not they live with their family member, to help pay for the burden of caregiving responsibilities. There is $310 million in total tax relief for families with caregiving responsibilities over the next five years.
If Noor's mom lives up the street and he goes there to take care of her and he has to take time off work when he could have been at work making money, he can get credit on his taxes for that important work.
More than that, if Noor and Kate think it is best to bring in a medical caregiver to Canada from elsewhere, in budget 2017 we have eliminated the $1,000 LMIA fee.
Also, since Noor and Kate's total income is less than $150,000 altogether, they do not have to pay the LMIA fee for caregivers anymore either. Then Noor's mom can have regular medical attention, which means he can be at work while Kate is at school.
As their current living space is draining their savings, they put in a request to be placed in affordable housing. With our historic investment of $3.2 billion in affordable housing, we are going to bring down the long wait times for a placement and help the provinces and territories to build new projects to increase access.
Over the years, their little one will grow up doing things we would not have imagined, like learning code in elementary and high school. We are investing $50 million over the next two years for that.
Also, the opportunities of the future will be global leading, through our investments in strategic innovation, superclusters, clean tech, artificial intelligence, smart cities, and future entrepreneurs.
While the budget has so much for infrastructure, veterans, public safety officers, community infrastructure, and other important measures, and I could speak about so much more, I find myself thinking about how it will help people like Noor and Kate. There are so many people like them across Canada who are at the core of our success.
People in my riding will benefit greatly from budget 2017 now and into the future. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to talk about this, and I look forward to continuing to share this news in the weeks and months to come.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
The Liberals claim that this budget is all about the middle class and those working hard to join it. Let us talk about precisely that subject and examine some of the systematic wealth transfers the government is undertaking, to move money from the middle class and those working to join it to the most wealthy and well-connected people in Canada.
Let us start with the carbon tax, which will charge $30 a tonne at the beginning and rise to $50 a tonne of emitted CO2 by the time it is fully implemented. That will undisputedly increase the cost of almost everything. According to finance department documents, it will increase the cost of gas, home heating, and groceries, and create a “cascade” of higher prices throughout the economy.
Who will that affect? According to Statistics Canada, poor families spend a third more of their household income on the things that tax applies to than do rich households. That is because many of the costs I just laid out are fixed for families. It does not matter if people are rich or poor, they have to heat their homes and turn on the lights, and they have to eat.
The more discretionary products that people enjoy, like going on long vacations or enjoying a luxurious time with their family at a fancy resort, would not consume nearly as great a percentage of the resources that are taxed under this regime, so the percentage impact on the incomes of poor families is much higher than on the incomes of rich families, the very definition of a regressive tax.
Who will get the money? We know that in none of the provinces across the country will this tax be revenue neutral. Even British Columbia, which has the least damaging regime, is taking more in taxes than it is giving back in tax relief. Other provinces have convoluted schemes that require lobbyists, consultants, and political influence for anyone to get that money back.
For example, in Ontario, people can get some of their carbon tax money back if they apply for a rebate on a $150,000 electric car. Now, that is going to be great for the millionaires and billionaires who drive Teslas, but not so great for minimum wage-earning secretaries or hairstylists struggling to pay for their kids' basic needs.
We know that those who are well lobbied for, well organized, well connected, and just plain wealthy will get the lion's share of the proceeds of this tax. It is a wealth transfer from the middle class and those working to join it to the wealthiest one per cent.
Then let us move to the national debt. This budget adds $25 billion to the national debt. What does that bring? It brings interest. To whom does it bring interest? It brings interest to those who can afford to buy government bonds. Who are those people? Are minimum wage-earning people buying governments bonds? Are single mothers struggling to pay for their groceries setting aside money to buy government bonds? No, of course they are not.
In fact, the budget gets rid of the Canada savings bond, which used to be a vehicle of savings for Canadians, and that is an acknowledgement that it is not everyday Canadians who lend to the government anymore; it is wealthy institutional investors who like the risk-free return that government bonds offer, because they are backed up by a taxpayer guarantee.
Therefore the higher-income people will necessarily benefit more from the billions of dollars in interest payments taxpayers will fund on this year's $25 billion deficit.
Then there is the infrastructure bank. The Liberals have proposed an infrastructure bank that would offer loan guarantees and subordinated equity to large institutional investors building public infrastructure in Canada.
I have no problem with the private sector building public infrastructure. I do not even have a problem with the idea that it might benefit from the value it adds to the economy. However, profit cannot come without risk. At the end of the day, the profit-maker must be the risk-taker. However, the infrastructure bank is designed to lift the risk off the balance sheets of the wealthy investors and put it on to the backs of taxpayers. That is what loan guarantees do. If the project fails and it cannot repay its funds, there is a guarantee from the taxpayers to pay it back. A subordinated equity position would ensure that the taxpayer contribution to an infrastructure project would be the first dollar lost and the last dollar to get a return on.
For example, if the infrastructure bank led to the construction of a toll bridge and that toll bridge made money, the private investors would get the profit of that money. However, if that bridge lost money by going over budget or coming in under revenue, then the taxpayer would take the loss. That is what subordinate equity means. It means the taxpayer would be subordinate to the wealthy interests that profit from this program.
Then there is all this talk about innovative, accelerated, synergistic, supercluster, all the science fiction in the budget. They give as an example of that the $372 million taxpayer funded loan to Bombardier that was supposed to be really innovative, create lots of innovative jobs. In fact, 4,500 Bombardier's Canadian employees have lost or will be losing their jobs, while six executives are sharing $32 million in current and deferred compensation.
If the government had required that the executives only make $200,000 a year, which the is the Liberal definition of “rich” out of its platform, then there would have been enough money to hire hundreds of additional employees at the median income rate that is defined by the budget to which I am speaking right now.
If this corporate welfare were really about jobs and not about lining the pockets of well organized, well lobbied for, well lawyered, and well connected insiders, then there would have been guarantees for that public money to translate into real jobs for middle-class workers. There were no such guarantees. In fact, precisely the opposite occurred. The 1% of the 1% of the 1% made off like bandits. The billionaire Bombardier-Beaudoin family got reinforced with the taxpayer dollars funded by middle-class people in our country.
These are but four examples of how this big and growing government has created a feeding frenzy with those who have the influence and the money to benefit from all the proceeds that are going out the door.
We know that if we want to help the middle class and those working to join it, we do it by lowering taxes, opening up free enterprise, getting rid of all the favours, and allowing people to achieve great things based on their merits