Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in this debate on budget 2017. Canadians have now had the opportunity to review much of what is in the budget, and I believe there is a growing recognition that it will do a great deal to support gender equality and the economic advancement of women in this country.
Before looking at the budget itself, it is important to note that, as Canada marks the 150th anniversary of its founding this year, women are positioned for tremendous economic success this year and into the future. Women already represent nearly half of the workforce and continue to advance in many sectors of the Canadian economy. In the public, private, and non-profit sectors, women hold many leadership positions. The areas of the economy where women are under-represented are slowly becoming fewer. Our country has a significant pool of talented women with the skills and abilities needed for a range of economic opportunities, which is a clear competitive advantage. Canada ranks first out of 145 countries in female educational attainment, according to the World Economic Forum. Women now make up the majority of enrolments in college programs, and the proportion of women is even greater among graduates. Since the early 1990s, women have made up the majority of full-time students enrolled in undergraduate university programs.
However, we also know that our work to advance women into the economic opportunities they desire is far from done. One area where action is needed is in closing the gender wage gap. The fact is that women earn 87¢ for every dollar earned by men, largely as a result of wage inequality between women and men within occupations. In 2016, Canada ranked 35th overall in the global gender gap, a drop from 30th in 2015. We are going to change that.
While women are making inroads into all industries and occupations, they are still concentrated in lower-paying sectors, such as retail, health care, and social services. Women are overrepresented in part-time work and are less likely to reach more senior positions. In 2014, women held just 11.9% of construction jobs, 19.2% of forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas jobs, and 29.4% of agricultural jobs.
Let us not forget the most recent statistics from the Canadian Board Diversity Council's 2016 report card. It indicates that women hold just 21.5% of the FP 500 board seats, which is a competitive disadvantage for the corporate sector and the economy.
There are also some things we do not know yet about the gender wage gap. Many studies suggest that more than half of the gender wage gap is due to unexplained factors that we either have not yet learned how to measure or are the result of issues such as patriarchy and the systemic bias and discriminatory practices toward women in the workplace.
Given the challenge presented by the gender wage gap in Canada, the federal government is determined to play a leadership role in closing it. This includes a number of commitments made as part of budget 2017, which build on important steps taken in budget 2016 and additional actions by this government over the past year. Allow me to briefly describe some of these.
Budget 2017 includes a major commitment over the next 11 years for new investments of $7 billion in early learning and child care and over $11.2 billion in a national housing strategy. These investments in early learning and child care, in particular, will support access to child care and allow greater participation in work, education, or training, particularly by mothers.
A new employment insurance caregiving benefit will allow more caregivers, the majority of whom are women, to balance their work and family responsibilities. The government will create more flexible work arrangements for federally regulated employees, including flexible start and finish times, the ability to work from home, and new unpaid leaves to help manage family responsibilities. These actions, as part of budget 2017, represent tremendous opportunities to support women and girls reaching their full potential, and help close the gender wage gap in Canada.
We also cannot ignore the tremendous step forward that budget 2017 represents for openness and transparency by including a groundbreaking gender statement, not as an annex but as a full chapter in the budget itself. The gender statement raises the bar in our understanding of how public policies affect women and men differently.
Let me also remind Canadians about some of the measures announced prior to the budget that support economic opportunities for women and help us close the gender wage gap. These include advancing a national poverty reduction strategy; enhancing the use of gender-based analysis to ensure decisions about policies, programs, and legislation advance gender equality; introducing the new Canada child benefit; putting in place a new merit-based, open, and transparent approach in order to select high-quality candidates for some 4,000 Governor in Council and ministerial appointments with gender diversity as a key goal; and finally, introducing legislation to modernize Canada's federal corporate governance framework, which includes using the comply or explain approach to improve gender diversity on corporate boards, which is badly needed.
I am proud of the many actions being taken by the Government of Canada as part of budget 2017, along with the measures we have put in place beyond the budget itself to support women's economic success and help close the gender wage gap in this country. Not only will women and their families benefit greatly from these actions; all Canadians will benefit as we work together to build an inclusive, prosperous country that strengthens the middle class from coast to coast to coast.
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise and participate in debate, and more so in this case. However, if I might be indulged for just a moment, I would like to share a little news with this place.
First of all, about a year ago we had a vote in this place on whether or not the Supreme Court was the best body to hear a case out of New Brunswick, the Comeau case. Many might remember that it was the case of a man who bought both spirits and beer in Quebec and transported these items home to New Brunswick. He was fined for crossing a border with a Canadian-made product, and I and many people in this place have taken issue with these unfair and inequitable trade barriers.
I am happy to say today that the Supreme Court has announced that it will be hearing the Comeau case. I want to show appreciation for all the members who supported that motion and I do hope the Liberal government members will reconsider their opposition to it. I also hope they will argue for a restored section 121 of our charter, our free trade clause, because I believe it is a constitutional right. I believe we are one country, not just as a political unit but as an economic one, and I hope the and associated ministers will take that position and argue for a liberalized opening of trade in Canada.
I am very happy to join the debate on this particular budget and the related implementation bill. Obviously, over on the opposition side of this place, there is an expectation that there will be some disagreement over measures proposed in a budget implementation bill. However, I also do not believe it is productive to re-fight an election, and likewise it is my view that it is counterproductive to oppose everything simply for the sake of opposing, as we often saw in the previous Parliament.
However, it is my intent today to raise a few issues that I have serious concerns with. For starters, let us all agree that this is, for all intents and purposes, an omnibus budget bill. From my own perspective, having sat on the government side of this place, I recognize that when a government is trying to implement a broad fiscal agenda, as much as it would be ideal to debate every measure on a stand-alone basis, that expectation is just not realistic, so I am willing to give some consideration for the Liberals to use an omnibus budget bill.
However, where I will call out the Liberals is on promising during the election to not use an omnibus bill, and yet here we are, debating an omnibus piece of legislation. This is exactly the type of hypocrisy that drives cynicism among Canadian voters in our political system, which ironically is yet another campaign theme the was all too happy to rally against during the election campaign but on which he now adds fuel to the fire.
Getting back to the budget, there is a very troubling aspect to this budget implementation bill, and that is the fact that this budget mentions items that are not actually budgeted for. Let me give a few examples.
The budget had a line item of “helping working adults upgrade their skills”. This sounds like something that most Canadians would support. However, how much actual money did the Liberals budget for in the 2017 budget? Zero. There is nothing in the 2017 budget to actually fund that item, nothing. There is only a promise to do so in the 2019 election year.
Another curious item in this budget is “investing in skills innovation”. Once again, it sounds like something most Canadians would support. Would anyone here like to take a guess at how much actual money the Liberals have budgeted to pay for this in the 2017 budget? How about zero? That is right: zero, as in nothing. Once again, there is a promise the Liberals might spend something in the 2019 election year, which I would say is no coincidence.
Another line item in this budget is “expanding the youth employment strategy”. Who would not support that, but wait—let us guess how much money the Liberals budgeted in 2017. Once again the answer is zero. There is not a dime. I cannot say, “Not a penny”, because of course there is no longer a penny, but let us guess what year the Liberals promised they might actually spend money on a youth employment strategy.
If members guessed the 2019 election year, they must have a crystal ball because, of course, that is the right answer.
Let just just think about that for a moment. Unemployed youth who need jobs today will have to wait until 2019, when the Liberals need to be re-elected. Let us seriously think about that. At the same time, we can ask why they even bother putting line items in a 2017 budget for measures not even budgeted within the 2017 budget. This is from a Liberal government that promised that better is always possible, just not until 2019, apparently, when it needs to be re-elected.
I recognize that this budget comes from the and not from the majority of members sitting on the government side of the House. I mention this because I believe that many would agree that fluffing up a budget with items not in the budget is not raising the bar in this place. Yes, we all know that a budget implementation bill will always be heavy on government messaging, but this budget takes it a step further by playing politics with the lives of Canadians.
I can cite many more examples of line items in this budget that are actually not budgeted for 2017. In those cases, surprise, surprise, there is money for those things, but guess when: 2019. Again, that adds to the cynicism.
Here is my other major criticism. As much as there are line items in this budget that we know are not actually budgeted for, guess what is missing from the budget. There is absolutely no time line, if ever, for the Liberal to return Canada to a balanced budget.
Let us recap. Here is a Liberal government that looked Canadians in the eye and said, “We will return to a balanced budget in 2019.” At some level, even the Liberals must realize why a balanced budget is a good thing to have. Otherwise, why did they bother to promise to deliver this to Canadians by 2019? No one ever forced the Liberals to make such a promise, yet they did. Here we are today, and I seriously challenge any member of this House, the government side included, to get the to even mention the words “balanced budget”, let alone in what decade he intends to honour the Liberal promise to deliver one to Canadians.
Here is what we do know. Back in October last year, the 's own department projected that not until 2051 would Canada return to balance. What did the do? He intentionally withheld that information from Canadians until December 23 of last year. What kind of finance minister does that? Why has “balanced budget” become a dirty word to this ? These are all troubling questions.
It is not unlike the fact that this budget proposes to run a deficit in 2017 that is almost three times larger than what the Liberals originally promised to get elected. Though I have sat on the government side of the House, it was never under a government that made so many promises to Canadians it clearly had no intention of keeping.
I can tell members that in my riding, even many who voted Liberal are seriously disappointed. They feel duped, betrayed, and beyond that. I am not going to use any unparliamentary language.
There are a few points I will mention about this budget. It is well known that the Liberal government has eliminated some of the targeted tax incentives enacted by the previous government. Let us call them what they are often called: boutique tax credits. Curiously, the Liberal government eliminated a tax credit that helped families with kids in fitness activities. It killed the tax credit that helped make public transit more affordable, and then it turned around and introduced a tax credit that helps teachers pay for school supplies.
It would be one thing to eliminate all targeted tax credits equally, but essentially, what the Liberal government is doing is sending a message that targeted tax credits are wrong if enacted by a Conservative government but okay if enacted by a Liberal one. That is just partisan politics at its worst.
Before I leave the topic, let me just say this. I have heard from some teachers, particularly those who teach at the elementary level, that this tax credit will help them, and that is a good thing. However, I have also heard from families and from those who are disabled that eliminating the children's fitness credit and the public transit tax credit will hurt them, and these are not good things. Some are actually shocked that the Liberals would cancel a tax credit designed to support public transit solely because of Liberal ideology, because we all know that increasing public transit use helps to decrease our carbon footprint. Of course, when it comes to doing that, we know that the present Liberal government only supports tax increases on carbon to make life less affordable for the same middle-class families it professes to want to help.
Another point I would like to raise is about the so-called infrastructure bank. This one, I will be frank, scares the heck out of me. I will explain why. We are hearing that the mandate for the infrastructure bank would be to fund only projects with a price tag of $100 million or more. There is not a single city in my riding, and I would submit, in the ridings of a large number of members in this place, that has the population base to support any project even close to that magnitude. About the only major cities in Canada that can support these types of projects just happen to be the ones that elected the most Liberals, and how convenient that is. The problem is that the small and smaller rural communities in ridings such as mine would have to help pay for them, and they are strongly opposed to that.
The Canadian Press reported that the admitted that global investors will only invest in large transformational projects that produce enough revenue from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investments. In other words, the Liberal government would be borrowing money it does not have, at reduced rates, so that Canadian taxpayers could finance and subsidize high rates of return for private international investors.
What is more disappointing about this scheme is that taxpayers in rural, smaller, and even mid-sized communities would be taking on this debt. They would be helping to pay the high interest to pay these private investors, and they would not even be eligible or able to afford the projects in question because of the pricey $100 million minimum price tag. Worse is that the Liberals would borrow roughly $32 billion to use as seed money for the creation of the investment bank. It is money that will not be spent on building infrastructure today in the very same municipalities that will not be able to participate in this expensive program.
The infrastructure bank, in my view, would be detrimental not just to my region but to many regions across this great country, and the person in charge of it is a who refuses to even say the words “balanced budget”. What could go wrong? Article after article I have read has come out opposed to the scheme. Comments range from it being not needed to being a disaster waiting to happen, but of course, the Liberals' attitude of “we know best” prevails.
I would be very curious to know how many Liberal MPs from smaller rural areas think the infrastructure bank is a great idea, because the citizens they represent would pay for it but would not benefit from it. As one senior citizen in my riding pointed out, the federal government used to sell Canada savings bonds to raise capital for things like building infrastructure and paid the interest to Canadians, so those returns stayed in Canada, but not anymore. Now the lucrative interest financed by Canadian taxpayers would instead be paid to big-league international players. I suppose that is helpful when one is a celebrity throwing taxpayer-financed parties in Davos with global elites. I will leave it to the Liberal members in this place to explain why they think that is a great idea.
There are other areas of concern I have with this budget implementation act. Yesterday morning, the parliamentary budget office issued its latest report. We know that the Liberal government is not happy with the PBO, who caught and exposed the Liberals for trying to hide the fact that they did indeed inherit a balanced budget from the previous government. Let us not forget that it was also a recent PBO report that revealed that the Liberals' promised infrastructure spending to date has largely been smoke and mirrors. What are the Liberals doing? In the words of the PBO, the Liberals are limiting “the PBO's ability to initiate reports and members' ability to request cost estimates of certain proposals”. Basically, the current so-called transparent Liberal government is going to restrict what the PBO can and cannot investigate.
It is no secret that the PBO has been a thorn in the side of government since the Conservatives created this critically important office. The former government had battles with the PBO, but unlike the current government, it never changed the rules to muzzle it.
A government is free to disagree with the PBO as much as the former government did, and it was justifiably scrutinized and held to account for doing so. However, we know that the Liberals realize that the optics of battling the PBO are not sunny enough. They are not sunny ways. The Liberals are, instead, muzzling him and limiting the scope of what can be scrutinized and who can authorize said scrutinizing.
The Liberal government has, increasingly, become known for saying one thing, typically in flowery language, but quietly doing the opposite. It is a sad state of affairs to see the Liberals being so sensitive to criticism and scrutiny that they resort to muzzling and manipulation.
It was quite something to recently see a former leader of the opposition point out that the former prime minister gave answers to questions without using platitudes and non-answers, as the current does. The muzzling of the PBO will only further destroy transparency and credibility, again fuelling the cynicism people have about our political system, something the government had promised to do differently.
It is important to recognize when we are actually becoming part of the problem. I understand that politicians will try to present in the best light, but they should, in presenting in the best light, actually shine on substance and then let the people decide.
The bottom line is that this Liberal budget implementation act is sending Canada in the wrong direction. We have massive amounts of new Liberal-created debt on the way, with no plan whatsoever for how and when it can be paid for. At the end of the day, all this newly created Liberal debt is going to have to be repaid, and it will be our kids and grandkids stuck with those bills, all at a time when we know that our demographics in Canada are changing. This was revealed yesterday. There are more older people than younger people in Canada, and we all know that many people are expecting to be supported by their government as they age. We are adding more debt for the very same people we are going to be asking to help those individuals as they age.
This is not something that just showed up. This is something we cannot put a positive spin on. We have this problem. The Japanese are ahead of us on this. We have to ask ourselves if we can continue to push our economy in a direction where we cannot pay the bills and will be pushing them onto fewer and fewer people.
The fact is that the fastest-growing segment in our society is those aged 65 and over. We know that in Canada, the ratio of those still in the workforce versus those who are retiring is changing and that 20 years from now, the number of those working is going to be much smaller than the number of those who are retired. That is why all expert evidence says that Canada needs to raise the age of eligibility for old age security, precisely as the previous government did, yet this so-called evidence-based decision-making Liberal government overturned that.
Briefly, I am looking for answers. I like accountability, but if the Liberals do not like the ideas of the previous government, they should put forward something, not just platitudes. That is why I support the Supreme Court case going ahead. It may be a chance for us to become not just a political unit but an economic one. It will help us offset these challenges as we age.
This is a great country, and it needs to stay great. It needs to stay great by remembering the founding principles of the Fathers of Confederation. They said that this country is built on hard work and sacrifice. Sacrifice should not be political sacrifice, where a good policy is eliminated just to get elected. Sure, all parties will dance close to that edge, but as a group, we need to start taking responsibility for where our country will be and what country our kids and grandkids will inherit.
I will be part of the solution, but I also need other members of Parliament to work with us to propose those solutions.
I will not simply oppose. There is lots to oppose in here. There are also some good things. However, we are going to have to do it in a way that, at the end of the day, gives us that solid footing to move forward. The government has yet to show it wants to take that step. In many ways it has taken us back.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from .
It is such a pleasure to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the residents of my riding of on budget 2017, which was released on March 22. It is a good budget and a lot of positive benefit is in it for the people in my riding.
It is not a big spend budget like 2016, but it is a responsible budget and a targeted budget. It is the next step in the government's ambitious plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more support for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
I will be targeting my comments very specifically to a few key areas, which are jobs and economy, transit, affordable housing and health care. These are the key areas that are of great interest to the people of .
I have been blessed over the last couple of months to hold a number of community pop-up offices around the riding. I have heard very loud and clear from the residents of that their top issue is jobs and economy.
People are worried about being able to afford a decent living, both today and moving forward. Some have part-time work and want full-time work, some have full-time work but some changes are happening within their industry and they might be losing their jobs, and some are on contract. However, all of them are worried about their jobs. They want better paying jobs and they want more predictable pay.
I was very pleased to see a a focus on innovation and skills in budget 2017. The reason I am so excited is that this will help better prepare Canadians for the workforce of today and tomorrow.
A number of initiatives will help people to upgrade their skills: more co-op and work-integrated learning; more support for adult workers who are trying to go back to school or to upgrade their skills while supporting their families; and more support for families that are caregivers, that are trying to take care of their children. Then there is also a huge section around trying to help new immigrants, new Canadians, newcomers who have wonderful foreign credentials, to get them into the workforce a lot quicker.
I will go through a list of key initiatives that I think are important, which I have pointed out to the residents of , and will be beneficial not only to those in Davenport but also to all Canadians. I will go through all the numbers. Whenever we talk about numbers, $2.7 billion here and $132 million there, people's eyes get a little bit glassy, so I will just go through certain key initiatives.
We are providing quite a bit of money for skills training and employment supports for unemployed and underemployed Canadians under the Labour Market Transfer Agreement. We are giving about $3 billion for that, and this is super important. I just had a conversation with someone a couple of days ago. He told me he had three jobs and he would really like to have one. I told him I had good news, that we had put some money into budget 2017 that would help him improve his skills so he could hopefully have one job that would support his life.
We are putting a substantial amount of money into making the EI program more flexible to enable the unemployed to pursue self-funded training, while remaining eligible for EI benefits. This has always been a puzzle to me, the fact that those who were on EI looking for jobs and wanted to self-improve would have lost their benefits if they did their own training. I am glad we have fixed that.
We have also put a substantial amount of money, almost half a billion dollars, to extend eligibility for student financial assistance for both part-time students and students with dependent children. We want to make it easier for adult learners to qualify for student financial assistance.
So many people tell me they have to support their families and wonder how they can improve their skills while they do that. This will help to support them to do that. It helps them to access financial support to go back to schools on a part-time basis, upgrade their skills and move into a profession that either pays more or a profession that gives them more happiness.
There are also a number of supports we provide that will help families to take care of their families. We have a new EI caregiving benefit that will provide a substantial amount of money for adult and child care.
We have also made adjustments to provide EI parental benefits for up to 18 months. We have also put some money to allow expectant mothers to claim EI for up to 12 weeks prior to their due date. The last thing is that we have also put a substantial amount of money, $7 billion, to create a number of spaces for high-quality affordable child care.
I will mention one last thing.
A wonderful woman talked to me last Saturday at my last pop-up. She is a young doctor from Mexico City and has just come here. She told me she would love to be a doctor in Canada. She had married a Canadian and was now a permanent resident. She wanted to know how she could use her skills to serve the Canadian population. Our government has put $30 million over five years in the budget to help those with foreign credentials, like doctors, get recognized, to help them get Canadian experience, and to help them to start working and contributing to the Canadian economy as soon as possible.
We have put a tremendous amount of money into transit. I represent a downtown west riding, an urban riding in Toronto. One of the biggest irritants for the residents of my riding is transit. They want to have reliable transit. They want it to be accessible and affordable. They are also very big supporters of active transportation such as bicycling. They can cut across traffic, go through bike paths and lanes, and Ontario Hydro routes, so they can cross the city in a more expedited way. As an environmentalist, I love the idea of more dollars being put into transit, because there would be less pollution, less CO2 emissions, and there would be a huge economic benefit. It moves both people and goods around seamlessly.
Budget 2017 has announced $20.1 billion over 11 years to team up with the provinces and territories to build new urban transit networks and service extensions. I hope that will translate into a downtown relief line in Toronto. We desperately need additional ways to move people across the downtown core. This money will also help to finish up the work around the Eglinton LRT. In addition to this $20 billion investment, our government is also putting an additional $5 billion into transit from Canada's infrastructure bank.
That is an additional $25 billion in addition to the $3.4 billion announced last year in the 2016 budget to improve and expand our public transit networks to get people around, to ensure they are accessible, reliable, and affordable, which is a key issue for the residents of Davenport. These investments will transform the way Canadians move, work, and live.
Another key area I am really proud of in our investments in budget 2017 is affordable housing. People in Davenport say they not only need affordable housing but they also need to be able to afford to live in Toronto, because it has become so expensive. I am delighted the federal government is stepping up to the plate. I want to give huge kudos to our for his leadership on this. We started last year with $2.2 billion over two years to give Canadians more access to affordable housing, to give more loans and financing tools so we could develop more affordable rental units. That also allowed for the renewing of co-op agreements of which I have two or three in my riding. They were very happy to see that money coming from the federal government.
Budget 2017 announces a historic $11 billion over 10 years. That is historic because it is 10-year funding. This is wonderful news because it will allow cities to plan ahead. It will also provide a lot of stability. The agreements are being negotiated now with municipalities across the country. ln Toronto, this will translate into a number of new affordable housing units. It will renovate existing units, provide more rent subsidies, and provide more affordable housing spaces.
Also, there are $11 billion in additional money for mental health and home care over 10 years. In Ontario, this will translate to $4.2 billion over the next decade, $2.3 billion for home care and $1.9 billion for mental health supports. It is extraordinarily important. These additional dollars have been a long time coming in terms of an additional focus on mental health. I am looking for more dollars to support ethnic communities to help them get the support and the resources they need for home care. More people want to be taken care of at home. I am delighted with this investment at the national level.
Budget 2017 is a good budget for Canadians. It is a good budget for residents of Davenport.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish my wife, Rana, a happy wedding anniversary.
I am pleased and proud today to speak to budget 2017, which is the logical follow-up to last year's budget. It includes targeted measures to help the middle class deal with everyday challenges, to lighten the tax burden for those who need more money in their pockets, to create good jobs, to allow young people to have the career of their dreams without being stopped by the financial stress, and to allow families to take care of a sick family member. This budget meets the needs of communities such as Laval, whether it is the needs of entrepreneurs, or the need for public transit, infrastructure, or social housing.
I will begin by talking about the challenges of the middle class struggling with the famous work-life balance. In general, what do we want out of life? We want to have a good job or to start a business; we want to be able to pay our rent, hydro bill, and other bills, and hope that there will be a little left over that we can save for retirement or our children's education; and we also want to look after our elderly parents. In short we want quality of life.
For the , my colleagues, and I, our constituent's quality of life is very important. Consequently, we cut taxes for the middle class and increased them for the wealthiest 1% in order to create a more just society and a fairer tax system. We created the tax-free Canada child benefit, which is income-tested. This means that families can benefit fully from the money they receive. We lowered the retirement age to 65 and increased Canada pension plan benefits to ensure that more seniors who have worked all their lives and contributed to our economy can retire with dignity, which they deserve.
In this budget, we put in place something dear to my heart. We helped the caregivers by establishing a unique and simpler tax credit for those who take care of loved ones suffering from a serious illness. I have been a caregiver for my mother for several years. I know the level of commitment and compassion it requires. Having to deal with different sorts of tax credits to fit with our specific situation can be confusing and stressful. In a time when we want to put all our efforts into caring and loving a person who needs us, we should not be stressed about our financial situation. The caregivers deserve a break, and the help we propose will do exactly that. The new Canada caregiver credit will simplify and improve the existing system. It will apply to caregivers whether or not they live with the family member, and ti will raise the income threshold for eligibility.
We also created a new EI caregiving benefit. It will give up to 15 weeks of EI to a person who has to be away from work to support and care for an ill loved one.
In addition to helping caregivers, we continue to help families through measures supporting children. Parents have many concerns when it comes to their children, but finding day care they trust and paying for their children's education are two of the biggest ones. Our government believes it is critical that all Canadians have access to quality affordable child care spaces. Quebec is a model, of course, but the shortage of subsidized spaces is a common problem for people in my riding.
That is why Quebec's share of the Canada social transfer will be $79 million higher than last year's amount. A total of $3 billion will be transferred to Quebec to support post-secondary education, social assistance, and child care.
We also improved the Canada student loans and grant programs to make them more accessible. Plans were also made regarding certain amounts and specific programs to address students' various needs. Quebec will be given the planned amounts to invest in its own loans and scholarships system.
I want to talk about transport. Since I am a member of the committee on transport and infrastructure, I am interested in the investments done in transport. It is a challenge to have an efficient, safe, and green transportation system. It also has to support trade. This is why we put in place a national trade corridor fund to build stronger, more efficient transportation corridors to international markets. It will help our businesses compete, grow, and create more jobs. The fund will target investments for congestion and inefficiencies at marine ports, such as Montreal, which is critical to the success of Canada's trade agreement with the European Union.
I would now like to focus on the region that I represent, Alfred-Pellan, in Laval, a diverse, vibrant, and innovative city. I am proud to be one of this city's representatives and just as proud of the fact that the measures announced pertaining to innovation will help Laval continue to be a leader in the technology, digital, agrifood, and science sectors.
I am very proud to announce recent investments of more than $8 million in Collège Montmorency de Laval for the construction of a new building devoted to research and technology transfers. This is a tangible measure in support of science and technology.
Workers in Laval are also going to benefit from our initiatives. We will support as many as 10,000 workplace learning opportunities per year so that businesses can train the workforce of the future. Businesspeople in Alfred-Pellan have often expressed this need.
Laval could take part in the smart cities challenge to get the money to fund its new technology initiatives, such as the projects of the Société de transport de Laval, one of the country's most innovative transit corporations, by using applications that enhance the efficiency of their transportation system as well as client services.
Speaking of public transit, we will support the next phase of public transit projects with a $20-billion investment to improve service and create more efficient, greener transportation networks. I am committed to supporting our transit corporation to help it achieve its goals.
In addition to money for public transit, we are investing in infrastructure. Our programs have already helped Laval improve its drinking water. Laval will continue to have access to the funds allocated for its infrastructure projects.
There is also a great need for social housing in Alfred-Pellan. That is why we are going to develop a national affordable housing strategy and invest $11 billion so that more single mothers, people living alone, and seniors can access safe, affordable housing. This will help Laval provide housing to the families that need it most.
I will conclude by reiterating my support for the people of Alfred-Pellan and Laval, local elected officials, businesses, and, most importantly, the people. My job gives me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, to talk to them about issues that matter to them, to celebrate their successes, and to support them in their endeavours. They are the reason my government and I are working on targeted measures for families, innovation, efficiency, and infrastructure. By making major investments now while interest rates are low, we can build a solid foundation for a prosperous, green future full of possibilities.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for . He will remain in our thoughts and prayers as he continues to recover and face other medical interventions in the coming weeks and months. We pray for his full recovery.
We are here to debate the budget, and I have looked carefully at the budget. The reality is that Canadians are waking up to a nightmare of out-of-control spending and no accountability. The government knows what to say, but what it says and what it does are two totally different things.
The media have critiqued the budget. John Ivison said:
Much in the budget appears to be bureaucratic tinkering. A number of Canada's innovation programs are to be “streamlined” into a super-sounding Strategic Innovation Fund, but simply merging the automobile and aerospace funds and giving them a new name is not the cutting edge of innovation.
It is just tinkering.
Andrew Coyne said, “No money, no ideas, but a wealth of bafflegab and buzzwords from the Liberals”.
He went on to say: “But of course it isn’t just that they’ve run out of money: they’ve run out of ideas. Or at least, good ideas.”
Canadians have woken up to the nightmare that the Liberal government, halfway through its term, has not kept its promises and has created a huge mess for Canadians. I am going to focus on the mess the Liberals have created for Canadian seniors.
In the previous Parliament, we had a minister for seniors. I, and in fact the experts, the seniors advocates in our country, the NGOs, have all told the government that people are aging and that we need to prepared for that. Right now in Canada, one in six Canadians is a senior. A year ago we reached the point that there were more seniors in Canada than there were youth.
There is a major shift in the Canadian population. There are more and more Canadian seniors. People are aging, and we need to prepare for that, so we asked the government to please appoint a minister for seniors and begin work on a national seniors strategy. To this point, halfway through its term, there has been nothing. The Liberals have actually refused to appoint a minister for seniors, so it is not surprising to see a budget that continues to ignore seniors. No one is standing up and speaking out within the Liberal cabinet to say, “Wait a minute; we are not properly taking care of seniors.”
What happened in the budget was, again, a little bafflegab, and every once in a while it would mention the word “senior”, but there is nothing new for seniors—well, that is not quite correct: there are a lot of seniors on fixed incomes who ride on public transit, and there had been an arrangement whereby they would pay for 12 months and get two months' credit, so it only cost them 10 months; the Liberal government has now taken that away, and the cost for seniors now in Canada has gone up dramatically, because they have lost that bus pass tax credit.
Why is the government refusing to appoint a minister for seniors? Why is it refusing to listen to seniors and their unique needs? Why is it refusing to prepare for the aging population?
It was a year and a half ago that I introduced at HUMA committee a call for a study on a national seniors strategy. The committee, under the direction of the , refused to do that. He controls everything. We were told we could not study that now.
Conservatives in the committee, along with our NDP colleagues and friends, have continued to ask for a study on a national seniors strategy so that we can get ready to take care of the aging population. Right now, one in six Canadians is a senior. In five and a half years, it will be one in five Canadians, and in 12 years it will be one in four. That is in 12 years. We are not ready for that and we need to get ready for it. Again, the Liberals are totally ignoring their responsibilities in taking care of Canadian seniors.
I had a very good meeting with the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce last week. The president of the chamber, a lawyer, brought to my attention another major problem with this budget. In fact, he wrote a letter to the Canadian Bar Association about it, and I will read it to the House.
He talks about WIP, work in progress. It is one of those little poison pills the Liberals have snuck into this budget, and most Canadians are not aware that the government has done this.
If someone is in a serious car accident and is injured, it may be a number of years before the person gets a settlement for the injuries he or she sustained. The tradition is that the individual would retain a lawyer over the two-year, three-year, five-year process of getting compensation for the injuries. The lawyer would say that he or she would not need to be provided a retainer and would take one-third of the settlement. That is the norm.
The Liberal hungry-for-tax-increases government would tax the work in progress. It would tax the legal firm for every hour that it spends helping the person. The legal office would pay the money up front for MRIs, physiotherapy, or any tests to help the individual and would get paid nothing until the settlement, which may be three, four, or five years down the road. It would be taxed by the Liberal government for WIP, work in progress.
Scott Johnston wrote:
The elimination of the election for billed-based accounting and implementing taxation of work-in-progress will have a deleterious effect on all of our firm's contingency files for personal injury and estate litigation claims. Forcing the payment of tax before a bill is issued and the funds are actually received by the firm causes a colossal cash-flow debacle. Most of our contingency files carry on for years before settlement or judgment meaning that the firm will have to self-finance tax payments on hours recorded for clients over frequently an extended period of duration without actual receipt of the cash to remit such tax payments.
Legal firms across this country are going to have to fund the Liberal government's tax grab.
The letter continues:
This may cause lawyers working under contingency fee agreements generally in the profession to “cherry-pick” cases to select only “quick settlement” files,
—and this is the most important point—
therefore denying access to justice for impecunious litigants with more challenging and protracted matters.
The irony is that the Liberal government has mandated this study on poverty reduction in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which it is studying and working on right now. At the same time, the government is saying that people who need the help of lawyers to help them in their impoverished and difficult situations, particularly in state litigations or vehicle crashes, with this change, lawyers will likely not be able to help them, denying justice to the impoverished.
What the Liberal government says on one hand and what it does on the other are totally different. I hope the government will listen to Canadians and reverse this hard-headed, stubborn plan to tax our poor and desperate people.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Langley—Aldergrove for his good work. He and I served on the city council together in Abbotsford. He knows budgets, and I am so pleased that he pointed out the gaping holes in the Liberals' 2017 budget.
As the member of Parliament for Abbotsford, I have made it my priority to bring the concerns of my constituents to Ottawa and to hold the Liberal government accountable for its actions.
Since the election of the Liberal government in 2015, our Conservative caucus has fought hard to maintain balanced budgets, avoid deficits, lower taxes for Canadians, and support our small businesses. These are the bedrock of a strong and growing economy. Sadly, the recent budget does none of these things. In fact, the Liberals have thoroughly disappointed Canadians by littering their path with reckless spending and broken promise after broken promise.
For the second year in a row, the Liberals have blown past their pledge to limit the deficit to $10 billion per year, running huge deficits of $30 billion, and driving our country further and further into debt. Who has to repay that debt? It is our children and our grandchildren. Effectively, what we are doing is spending recklessly on ourselves today and letting future generations pick up the tab.
As for balanced budgets, good luck with that promise. Remember the promising to balance the budget by 2019? Now the Department of Finance predicts that we will not see balanced budgets until, wait for it, the year 2055. There will be no balanced budgets for 40 years. That is a disgraceful performance.
Let us not forget that our Conservative government under Stephen Harper left the Liberals with a balanced budget in 2015, having carefully shepherded Canada's economy through the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression. That leads me to the obvious question: how can the Liberal government afford all this spending? The answer of course is higher taxes. That is, after all, what tax-and-spend Liberals do.
The Liberals have also completely abandoned our small businesses, which are the key drivers of our economy and create the majority of jobs in Canada. Budget 2017 does absolutely nothing to help those businesses. In fact, the Liberal budget mentions small business only six times. Let us contrast that with the last Conservative budget, in which small businesses were mentioned almost 200 times, and in which we laid out concrete steps the government would take to support their growth and success, including lowering the small business tax rate to 9%. It is surprising just how quickly the Liberal government has made a mess of our tax system and the supports we implemented for small businesses.
Just this week, I met with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which is still demanding that the Liberals make good on their promise to cut the small business tax rate to 9%. With new payroll and CPP taxes on the horizon, small businesses are worried that many of the policies implemented by our former Conservative government will be reversed. Why is this significant? Canadian businesses do not just compete locally, they compete in a North American and increasingly global marketplace. As the former minister of international trade, I know that. I have travelled all around the world. I have seen how Canadians are working hard to try to compete within the global marketplace. The Liberals are undermining that effort. Liberal tax and economic policies are chasing away investors and undermining our competitive advantage in the North American marketplace.
Also, the election of President Trump has really thrown a spanner into the works. The new president has announced that he is reducing the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35% down to 15%, and re-energizing the coal industry to deliver cheaper electricity to manufacturers. In Canada, we are going in the opposite direction, increasing taxes on our businesses and foisting astronomically expensive electricity costs on our job creators in places like Ontario.
Kevin Libin, writing in the National Post last week, commented:
As our G7 competitors have trimmed away at corporate tax rates, Canada’s average rates only grew, moving us from one of the most attractive to one of the least attractive in just a few years. Trump’s tax plan will make us look much, much worse.
That is disgraceful, to take a country that was a leader in competitiveness when it comes to taxes and lose that competitive advantage.
This does not end well. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce implored the federal government to reduce business costs and improve Canada's economic competitiveness. In fact, CEO Perrin Beatty had this to say:
Investment crosses borders like light through glass. If we continue to allow a growing gap between what it costs to do business in Canada and the costs our competitors face, businesses will be forced to locate their activities elsewhere.
Let me repeat: they will “locate their activities elsewhere.”
One organization that reached out to my office is the recently formed Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers of Ontario. They include the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Baking Association of Canada, Food and Beverage Ontario, and a host of mostly mid-sized manufacturers across the province of Ontario.
In speaking about the direction of the government, their founder, Jocelyn Bamford, said that they are standing on a beach with a giant wave called cap and trade barrelling down on them, and the government still doesn't realize that this tsunami will destroy manufacturing and small businesses in Ontario. She said that businesses are terrified of what the federal government is doing. She said that the government is supposed to help businesses, but its policies are causing them to consider moving their growth to other jurisdictions. Let me repeat that they are considering moving their growth to other jurisdictions. That means to other countries.
In the last 10 years, her company has experienced more than a doubling of its energy costs, undermining her company's ability to do business. In her words, “We don't worry about our competition anymore. We fear the government.” That is the Liberal government she is talking about.
For so many manufacturers across Canada, the high cost of energy and the impact of carbon taxes are enough for them to look south to more favourable jurisdictions in which to do business and grow. That is shocking.
What the is doing is dramatically tilting the playing field against Canadians. This is about competitiveness and about the ability of our businesses to compete on a level playing field in North America and within the global marketplace, and the Liberal government is failing on every account.
Is the listening? Canadian businesses cannot afford reckless policies that drive capital and small businesses out of our country.
Will the government reverse its decision to impose a massive carbon tax on Canadians? Will the fulfill his election promise to reduce taxes on our small businesses?
Hard-working middle-class Canadians and their families, and let us not forget those working hard to join them, are also suffering. The Liberals have piled it on by raising taxes on everything from public transit, to Uber, to beer and wine sales. They are even taking away the children's fitness tax credit. It is unbelievable.
Not only that, the is significantly increasing the fees that Canadians pay for a wide variety of federal services, including things such as campsites and fishing licences. If we want to take our grandchildren fishing, the Liberals are jacking up the fees to make it less likely that Canadian families will get a chance to go fishing. They are also jacking up the fees on passport applications.
Here is another little dirty Liberal secret. Remember the massive carbon tax that the wants to force Canadians to pay? Well, he is also planning to have Canadians pay the GST on that carbon tax. Members heard that right: the Liberals want Canadians to pay a tax on a tax. In fact, it is already happening in B.C. where we are being charged a federal GST on the amount of carbon tax being charged by the provincial government. It is insanity.
The bottom line is the government is nickel and diming Canadians to death to pay for the 's out-of-control spending on his own vanity projects, like the $2.65 billion he spent on environmental projects outside of our country when the money could and should have stayed in Canada. There is a whole host of these. Is there any Canadian supervision over how that money is spent? I have asked about it and have been told there is very little supervision, very little monitoring to make sure those billions of dollars being spent abroad actually do what they were intended to do.
The Liberals have failed Canadians miserably. They have saddled us with more debt, more deficits, and more taxes than at any other time in our history. I repeat, this will not end well for us and for future generations. Is the listening?
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am proud to speak today to budget 2017, the next step in our government's ambitious plan to create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities for Canadians. I would like to highlight a few aspects of the budget that I know are important to people in my riding of Oakville. Budget 2017 puts Canada's skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative economy, one that would create middle-class jobs today and tomorrow for all Canadians.
Of particular importance to me, as chair of the Liberal auto caucus and MP for the riding that is home to Ford Canada and the Oakville assembly plant, are investments in the automotive industry to help manufacturers such as Ford Canada commit to long-term growth and development. The automotive sector is a key enabler for good-quality, well-paying middle-class jobs.
I would like to particularly point out that budget 2017 would create a $1.26 billion, five-year strategic innovation fund to consolidate and simplify the strategic aerospace and defence initiative, the technology demonstration program, the automotive innovation fund, and the automotive supplier innovation program. The strategic innovation fund would attract and support new high-quality business investments and would continue to help aerospace and automotive firms while also expanding its support to other dynamic and emerging sectors such as clean technology and agrifood. For example, with the support from AIF of $102 million, the connectivity and innovation centres created across Ontario by Ford Canada, including in my riding of Oakville, would both create 800 jobs and ensure that Canadians are part of creating the connected and energy-efficient vehicles of the future.
I know from round table discussions that the Oakville business community will be pleased to see the budget would establish a venture capital catalyst of up to $400 million over three years to increase late-stage venture capital available to Canadian entrepreneurs.
In addition to helping bridge the gap between innovation and manufacturing, budget 2017 proposes to launch a new procurement program. A portion of funding from federal departments and agencies would be allocated to help Canadian innovators find the first customers to test and validate their technologies.
As I hear from people at their doors in Oakville, the demand for home care services in Canada continues to grow. Approximately 15% of hospital beds are occupied by people who could receive their care at home or in community-based settings. Meanwhile, many families caring for loved ones at home are struggling with the stresses and pressures that come from not having enough home support. In both cases, these people and these families need more help. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $6 billion over 10 years to provide Canadians with improved access to home, community, and palliative care services as well as more support for informal caregivers. This means that more people would get the care they need in their homes and that more families would be getting increased support.
For those who receive care at home, an increased burden is put on family members. Balancing work and family caregiving responsibilities can be a real challenge. Things can be especially difficult when a family member is suffering from a serious illness. To give eligible caregivers a well-deserved break, budget 2017 proposes to create a new employment insurance caregiving benefit, which would give eligible caregivers up to 15 weeks of EI benefits while they are temporarily away from work to support or care for a critically ill or injured family member. Budget 2017 recognizes that people make enormous sacrifices to care for loved ones and would help ease that burden by giving people time to be caregivers.
An overwhelming number of Canadian families are affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. In any given year, one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness. While great strides have been made to improve our understanding of mental illness and its impact on people's lives, wait times to see a mental health specialist in certain regions of our country can range up to 18 months. In Oakville, I have heard from residents about the challenges of accessing mental health services in our community. Our government recognizes that this is not good enough, and that is why the budget proposes to invest $5 billion over 10 years to support mental health services. It would also help approximately half a million young Canadians who are currently unable to receive even the most basic mental health care. Clinical evidence has shown that it is absolutely essential for those struggling with mental illness to have access to timely and appropriate mental health services. Improved access to mental health supports would result in improved health outcomes and shorter wait times for hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
Canada's opioid crisis has led to devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities. The effect of this crisis is being felt in my riding of Oakville. I have met with a number of local health groups, including the Halton Equitable Drug Strategy and ADAPT, a treatment program, about their role in supporting harm-reduction initiatives to save lives. I have heard about the challenges some residents are facing as they try to access the treatment and support they need.
The budget supports the Canadian drug and substances strategy with a total of $100 million over five years for Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. I want the residents of my riding of Oakville and all Canadians to be protected from the opioid crisis and illicit fentanyl distribution. This plan would provide invaluable resources for treatment, prevention, and enforcement measures.
Oakville is a commuter town, and I know just how important it is for residents to have reliable and safe public transit. After a long day spent working hard, we should expect clean, efficient public transit to get us home on time. To support the next phase of public transit projects, our government is investing $20.1 billion to support urban public transit networks and service extensions. This investment would make it possible for Canadian communities like Oakville to build new urban transit networks and service extensions that will transform the way we live, move, and work. It would mean new transit lines, more buses, more reliable services, and fewer cars on the road. To get it right, the government is working closely with provinces and municipalities as reflected in the most recent funding of nearly $5 million for the Oakville transit, thanks to the public transit infrastructure fund.
A clean environment and a strong economy are connected. Canadians know this, and our government agrees. Budget 2017 lays out our government's plan to invest $21.9 billion over 11 years to support green infrastructure. This investment prioritizes projects that reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, help deliver clean air and safe water systems, and promote renewable sources of power.
Oakville clean tech companies have already received over $7 million from our government, underlying the potential for innovation we have in my community and across Canada. Through these investments, Canada has positioned itself as a global leader in clean growth, illustrating to the world that a clean environment and a strong economy can go hand in hand.
Canada's vast expanses of protected natural areas, our magnificent natural scenery, and our wealth of wildlife are a point of pride for all Canadians. The residents of Oakville enjoy their close connection to nature. The natural and cultural heritage we enjoy as Canadians enriches our communities and creates jobs by spurring economic growth through tourism. There is perhaps no better example of Canada's natural beauty than our national parks. Recognized around the world and loved by those who visit and work in them, our 47 national parks and four national marine conservation areas are a source of real pride for Canadians. Our national parks are part of our Canadian identity. They allow more Canadians to learn about the environment and connect directly with nature.
To ensure we are able to enjoy our national parks for years to come, budget 2017 provides up to $364 million to the Parks Canada Agency to protect and preserve our national parks. To make it more affordable for more Canadian families to visit and appreciate the outdoors in Canada's 150th year, admission to all national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites will be free for all of 2017. I am looking forward to using my pass to visit some of these parks with my family.
With a strong focus on innovation, skills, partnerships, and health, budget 2017 takes the next steps in securing a more prosperous future for all Canadians.
Our government's plan is focused on ensuring immediate help to those who need it most and providing everyone with a real and fair chance of success.
Budget 2017 has some great news for Canadians and some great news for the people of my riding of Oakville. I will be supporting it.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating our for delivering on our promises to help the middle class and those trying to join it.
Our first budget appears to have had the desired effect. The new Canada child benefit has helped hundreds of thousands of families improve their standard of living. I recently had coffee with someone who works in poverty reduction in the city of Toronto. She confirmed to me how the CCB has affected so many of the people she serves.
I do not have to go far to find families and children helped by the CCB. I routinely run into people who say that it has changed their way of life. Our office has assisted constituents who needed to file their income tax to qualify for the CCB. They have told us the impact it will have on their lives. The CCB is really a game changer.
I want to share some of the statistics from my riding of . In October 2016, the Canada child benefit helped 17,250 children, in 9,930 families, with an average benefit of $670, totalling close to $6.7 million. Let me remind my colleagues that this is approximately $670 per month tax free. These payments were not made to millionaires but to those who need it, based on their income.
This is the type of program that will help grow our middle class. It will allow young people to engage in things like soccer, hockey, gym, and music. It will provide better housing. It will provide better Internet access. It can help families in any way they need to improve their standard of life.
Building on this and other initiatives from the 2016 budget, our and his team have crafted a budget for 2017 to support Canadians. I am therefore very proud to speak in support of this budget.
I will focus on three aspects of the budget: first, support for caregivers; second, innovation; and third, support for housing.
Last month, at the Malvern Family Resource Centre, our , along with the and my friend, the member for , met with many of my constituents who are the primary caregivers for their loved ones. The Malvern Family Resource Centre is a state-of-the-art facility that supports people of all generations with early years programs through to seniors programs. It has incredible leadership, with Girmalla Persaud, its executive director, at the helm. In 2016 it had 559 volunteers, who worked just under 20,000 hours to help this community.
At this gathering, the was able to speak to caregivers about how the proposed changes would improve, expand, and simplify the current caregiver tax credit system by replacing the existing credit programs with the new Canada caregiver credit. Budget 2017 would replace the current caregiver credit, the infirm dependent credit, and the family caregiver tax credit with one single new credit.
The new Canada caregiver credit would provide support for those who need it the most and would help more families who give care to their loved ones. The new credit would provide $6,883 for the care of dependent relatives with disabilities and $2,150 for the care of a spouse, common-law partner, or minor child. It would provide an additional $310 million in tax relief for Canadians over the next five years. It would be indexed to inflation, and it would be subject to no reduction until the dependent family member was making more than $16,163.
In addition to the Canada caregiver credit in budget 2017, our government announced that we will extend EI benefits for people caring for family members and parents caring for a critically ill child.
Budget 2017 would provide an additional $691.3 million, for five years, to create a new EI caregiver benefit of up 15 weeks. Parents of critically ill children would continue to be able to access up to 35 weeks of coverage, with more flexibility to share the benefit among multiple family members.
These changes will help thousands of families across the country to support one another, and will simplify the everyday lives of many people in my riding.
I want to take a moment to thank all the caregivers in my community, and those around the country, who look after their loved ones. As we know, governments cannot take care of people as well as those close to them. However, governments can and must support those caregivers. This budget is a great start.
Innovation is very important to our government. We have many innovators. In my riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park, we have great examples of businesses that focus on innovation. At the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, we have a program called the hub, which acts as an incubator of new ideas and businesses. When I met with a Parks Canada official last week, she confirmed that the hub is working toward developing an app to navigate the Rouge National Urban Park, which is also in my riding.
We have many more innovators who continue to build an innovation-based economy. For example, last year's Google Demo Day's award winner, Knowledgehook, is from Scarborough—Rouge Park. This company of the future, started by Travis Ratnam and his team, continues to grow and will contribute to the economy of the future.
It is in this context that I am very excited that budget 2017 would serve as a foundation for our future growth. It focuses on one thing, and that is to help people succeed. This budget is a visionary step toward building the economy of the future.
Here are some elements. It proposes to invest an additional $1.8 billion over six years in labour market development agreements with the provinces. For the average Canadian, this would mean more opportunities to upgrade their skills, receive career counselling, start their own business, and gain experience. However, our commitment would go well beyond by expanding eligibility for Canada student grants and loans each year to an additional 10,000 part-time students, and it would expand eligibility even more to students who support their families.
We would launch a pilot project to test new approaches for adult learners who return to school, at a cost of $287.2 million over the next three years.
We would make changes to EI to help those going back to school, investing in skills development, creating more jobs for youth, and increasing the availability of co-op placements for students.
In this budget we propose a new strategic innovation fund to make high-quality investments in businesses that will bring jobs to Canada.
We would create a new $400-million venture capital fund, through the Business Development Bank of Canada, to help Canadian businesses get a leg up and add value to our economy. We would invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs by partnering with great organizations, like Futurpreneur Canada.
Let me turn to social housing. Good housing is a fundamental need for the development of an individual. It is the centre of one's life. The member for and I met with the CEO of Toronto Community Housing on March 28. We went on a tour of six Toronto Community Housing complexes in Scarborough. We were able to see first-hand the need to invest in housing. These complexes, located in my riding and in Scarborough—Agincourt, help thousands of families make ends meet. They provide affordable living and support those who are most vulnerable in our society.
Budget 2017 would make a historic investment of $11.2 billion over 11 years to build, renew, and repair Canada's affordable housing and to ensure that all Canadians have their housing needs met. This would include $5 billion dollars that would go toward our new national housing fund to address housing issues in our cities, including for co-op housing. As members know, there are 12 co-op housing complexes in my riding.
An additional $2.1 billion dollars over the next 11 years would go toward a homelessness prevention strategy, working with communities across the country to combat homelessness and to provide support to mitigate underlying issues that lead to homelessness.
I am very proud of this budget. Budget 2017 provides answers to many of the difficult questions facing our society today. It would invest to support Canadians in adapting to a modern economy. It would look forward by investing in education, training, and businesses. It would support caregivers. This is a forward-looking budget that I think we can all get behind, and I am proud to support it.
Mr. Speaker, budget 2017 can be called a lot of things, including visionless and empty. It is a budget of broken promises.
During the last election, the promised that in 2017 the budget the deficit would be no more than then $10 billion. It turns out that his $10 billion deficit is actually a $30 billion deficit, three times larger than what he promised.
The promised that the budget would be balanced in 2019. It turns out that in 2019, instead of delivering a balanced budget, the Liberals are on track to deliver a deficit of $23.4 billion. It gets worse. According to the Department of Finance, based on the current Liberal plan, the budget not only will not be balanced in 2019, it will not be balanced in 2029, or 2039 or 2049, not until 2055. That means someone who is born this year or was born last year will be nearly 40 years old before the Liberals get around to balancing the budget.
The promised to invest in infrastructure for things like roads and bridges. He has not. The Prime Minister promised to not increase taxes for middle-class Canadians. Again, it is a promise broken. Budget 2017 increases taxes on hard-working middle-class Canadians by nickel and diming middle-class Canadians; nickel and diming middle-class Canadians by eliminating the public transit tax credit; nickel and diming middle-class Canadians by increasing the price of beer and wine; nickel and diming middle-class Canadians by taxing ride-sharing services, like Uber. Whatever it is, the Liberals are nickel and diming middle-class Canadians. Not only is this budget a broken promises budget, but it is also a budget that nickel and dimes middle-class Canadians.
Before I go on, Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the hon. member for . I know my colleague will give a very eloquent speech about why this budget is a bad deal for Canadians.
What is the government's plan when it comes to jobs and growth? It seems like the government's plan is to increase taxes on job creators, on small business owners. Small businesses account for 90% of the companies in Canada. Seventy per cent of the private sector is employed in small businesses. The government is punishing small businesses.
Last year the government punished small businesses by cancelling a small business tax cut. It further punished small businesses when it eliminated a hiring tax credit that would allow small businesses to hire new employees and create jobs. This year the government is punishing small businesses by increasing CPP and EI premiums.
It could not come at a worse time. Right now the U.S. administration is cutting taxes and rolling back red tape. The United States is not only Canada's biggest trading partner, it is also our largest competitor. Increasing taxes on job creators undermines Canada's competitiveness, which in turn undermines Canada's long-term jobs growth and prosperity.
The Liberals just cannot help themselves because they are wedded to a tax-and-spend agenda.
In the last year and a half that the Liberals have been in office, we have seen discretionary spending increased by 12%. That is unheard of. That is unprecedented for non-recessionary times. One might say the Liberals are spending like drunken sailors. However, as President Reagan would say, that would be unfair to drunken sailors.
In my home province of Alberta, while 100,000 Albertans are out of work, the government has virtually turned its back on us. It has turned its back on Alberta by killing pipelines and by attacking the energy sector. The latest attack on Alberta came in budget 2017 when the government eliminated a tax credit for the exploration of new wells. Talk about kicking Albertans when we are down.
For all the spending, for all the deficits, for all the debt, what do the Liberals have to show for it? What they have to show for it is fewer jobs created than projected, less economic growth than projected. The government talks a good game about infrastructure, but what have we seen in infrastructure in terms of new infrastructure funding for things like roads, bridges, airports, ports and railways? How much new funding was provided for in budget 2016? A big fat zero, only to be repeated by a big fat zero for new infrastructure investment in budget 2017.
The government talks about investing in affordable housing, investing $11 billion over 11 years. That number is significant, because the vast majority of the money does not start flowing until 2022, five years from now, and three years after the next federal election. Talk about an empty promise.
With respect to the defence budget, during the last election, the Liberals talked so much about ensuring that the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces would have the tools and equipment they needed to keep Canadians safe. When it comes to delivering for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Liberals have come out short. In fact, while they are spending more, taxing more, blowing the budget and spending like drunken sailors, they have managed to cut $12 billion out of the defence budget.
It seems like the return of the decade of darkness is upon us, except the good news is that the Liberals will not have a decade to shortchange our Canadian Armed Forces, because we will be back in 2019.
Broken promises, wasteful spending, higher taxes, massive deficits, massive debt and a failure to fund priority areas, that pretty much sums up budget 2017. It is a failed budget and it deserves to be defeated out of hand.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for , for his impromptu speech, which really hit the nub of the issue, the fact that this is a tax-and-spend budget and has nothing to do with innovation. Those are the themes I am going to carry on with.
Like all members, I have had the opportunity to speak with many of my constituents and I must say that the government side will not be happy with what my constituents had to say.
The Liberals are fond of calling this the innovation budget. There is really nothing innovative about this budget. It is just good old-fashioned Liberal tax-and-spend. There continues to be no plan for job creation and there continues to be no plan to balance the budget. In fact, the innovation budget, just as my colleague said and as I will underscore, nickels-and-dimes Canadians by recklessly spending billions that the government does not have and saddles future generations, my grandchildren, with that debt.
This budget hikes taxes on the working poor using public transit. It hikes taxes young entrepreneurs when they want to use ride sharing. It hikes taxes on hard-working construction workers simply because they want to enjoy a cold beer at the end of the day. It hikes taxes on struggling parents using child care. It hikes taxes on small business owners, such as farmers, real estate agents, and hairdressers, and the list goes on.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming. After all, the 's first budget took the exact same approach. First he blew up his election promise to run only a modest deficit, a small deficit, and to balance the budget by 2019. Those were election promises. Next he hiked taxes on gasoline and home heating fuel, on savings accounts, on paycheques. He even hiked taxes on kids' soccer and piano lessons.
It is another year, another Liberal tax hike, and another lost opportunity to deliver for Canadian families.
This budget fails to be innovative and it fails to deliver for families. Families need a job plan. Instead they got higher taxes and more debt, which, as I said, will have to be paid off by future generations.
The Liberals are not growing the middle class; they are growing government, and Canadian families are going to foot this bill.
By his own admission, the tells us that $195 million of the funding for child care will actually go toward hiring bureaucrats in Ottawa. What the cannot tell us is how many child care spaces the Liberals are actually going to create. They hope it is 40,000, but they do not have an actual plan. They hope to balance the budget, but they do not have an actual plan. The pattern has developed and continues to develop.
I can tell members that our previous Conservative government took a much different approach. We focused on supporting families, and we had a plan. That is why we implemented initiatives such as the universal child care benefit, the children's fitness tax credit, the children's art tax credit, tax credits for post-secondary education and textbooks, and income splitting for families.
Unfortunately, since taking office, the Liberals have eliminated these initiatives one by one, with the public transit tax credit being the latest to get the axe.
When in government, the Conservative Party understood that in order to keep up in this global economy and create jobs, we needed to push a real innovation agenda. That is why we created a more efficient and effective national digital research infrastructure system by investing in CANARIE, Canada's world-class, high-speed research and education network. We extended Canada's participation in the international space station mission to 2024 to build on Canada's strong legacy of supporting space exploration. We developed the next generation of innovation leaders by supporting graduate-level research and development internships through Mitacs. We made a landmark investment in post-secondary education by creating the Canada first research excellence fund, with $1.5 billion over the next decade. This investment helped to secure Canada's international leadership in science and innovation.
We provided $49 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs grow their firms. We fostered world-leading research by investing $220 million in the TRIUMF physics laboratory to support leading research and launch cutting-edge spinoff companies. We provided $1.5 billion to support the private sector in research and development to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's aerospace sector through the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. We launched the venture capital action plan to increase private sector investments in early-stage risk capital and to support the creation of large-scale venture capital funds. We supported technology innovation by investing $15 million in support of the Institute for Quantum Computing for research and commercialization of quantum technologies, and $3 million to support the creation of the Open Data Institute.
We stood up for the automotive industry by investing $500 million in the automotive innovation fund to support significant new projects in Canada. We also provided over $800 million to support cutting-edge post-secondary research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. These are real, tangible supports for ideas and for entrepreneurs that make innovation happen, as well as real, tangible supports for Canadian families.
That is what is missing from this budget. There are no plans. There are platitudes. There are promises after promises that continue to get broken from the previous budget through this budget. There is nothing innovative about it. It is just good old-fashioned Liberal tax-and-spend.
It reminds me of the area of the country I come from, which is Ontario. I have watched the deterioration of my province, sadly, to the status of a have-not province through years of Liberal budget mismanagement. In the last budget, the current Kathleen Wynne government presented to our province more of the same: tax, spend money they do not have, and take us further into debt. We are already the deepest in debt of any sub-sovereign government across North America.
Here we go again, with the federal Liberals taking a page from the Kathleen Wynne playbook, with the individuals who were the architects now being the architects of what happens in the 's Office in terms of budget and policy creation. It is absolutely disastrous, and will be disastrous, if we do not have a plan to balance our budget, because as Canadians know, we cannot continue to spend money we do not have and continue to pile on the debt for future generations to have to deal with.
The government should know that well. Previous Liberal governments had to deal with it in the 1990s. They had to cut health care by some 30% in trying to get us back to a reasonable fiscal balance in the country. That is exactly where the Liberals are taking us again. It has been done before. It has been experimented with before.
We are watching the results in Ontario. We are watching company after company in my constituency considering the question of moving to a lesser-priced jurisdiction. I can think of two specific meetings I have had with companies that employ well over 400 people that are actually, right now, entertaining the idea of moving to somewhere in the upper U.S. They are considering the New York, Michigan, or Ohio areas to relocate their businesses. It is because the taxes and the ongoing expenses of operating their businesses are making them uncompetitive. These are international companies in the sense that they have international customers. They must compete on a global basis, and they are having a hard time now finding the resources within their operations to cut their costs to be competitive.
In fact, their costs are skyrocketing as a result of mismanagement and policy at the provincial level. That is what we are seeing here. We are seeing more of the same, tax and spend. Canadians know that all too well.
There is no plan for job creation, no plan for balancing the budget for Canadians, no hope that we will see a light at the end of the tunnel, fiscally, in this country. My constituents and many other Canadians have been underwhelmed and uninspired by this budget. That is why I will be voting against it.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to rise today in support of budget 2017, entitled “Building a Strong Middle Class”. Today, I will be highlighting new budget measures that are important to Canadians, British Columbians, and those who make their homes in Surrey Centre. These past few weeks have been busy ones, and I have had the opportunity to speak with many residents of Surrey Centre. We were able to talk about the real impact budget 2017 would have on their lives, positioning them and their families to succeed not only in tomorrow's economy but in today's.
Our government's commitment to innovation, infrastructure, housing, and protecting our oceans and waterways is what makes this budget and this government's agenda so transformational. It is with great pride that I can say that the decisions the government is taking, along with the policies we are putting forward, are having a positive impact on the lives of Canadians. This past weekend alone at an event in Surrey, I was speaking with Ted Singh, a constituent in Surrey Centre, who I had the good fortune of meeting for the very first time, a constituent whose two children will see first hand the investment in post-secondary education in Surrey.
Late last year, the was in Surrey Centre to personally share the good news of a $45 million investment in Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus, an investment that will have an impact not only today but tomorrow and for future generations of people who call Surrey home. This investment will provide supports, resources, and the means for world-class institutions such as Simon Fraser University for the people of Surrey who have aspirations for contributing to making our community and this country a better place.
My constituents are concerned about the ailing infrastructure that surrounds the city, such as the Pattullo Bridge. I am therefore pleased to see the formation of the infrastructure bank, which will help cities and provinces fund great projects and help the constituents of Surrey Centre get to and from work faster, spend more time with their families, and have more money to do the things they enjoy.
I am pleased that the Canada child benefit is continued in this budget, as more than 22,000 children in my riding are benefiting from the support. They are getting over $700 per month per child, on average, tax free. This is real support for middle class families that live and work in Surrey.
It is with great pride and honour that I can stand here today behind the , who leads a government that invests in institutions like Simon Fraser University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University that provide opportunities for young Canadians, young British Columbians, and people around the world who aspire to higher education.
Education and post-secondary institutions are not the only places in which this government is committed to investing. Infrastructure is another important area, and under the leadership of the , I am proud to say that through budget 2017, the planning of Surrey light rail transit will continue. These investments in infrastructure were characterized as a “game-changer” by the metro Vancouver mayors. Approximately $2.2 billion will go toward building rapid transit projects in metro Vancouver. The chair of the metro Vancouver mayors' council said, about budget 2017, “Today’s historic federal investment in transit and transportation is a game-changer for our region and the largest in Metro Vancouver in 20 years”.
We are working with our municipal and provincial partners to deliver the projects they are asking for, because our government understands that municipalities should decide on the best projects for where they are, and only through collaboration and respect will we have success. We can see the product of collaboration and investment right in Surrey. Recently, I had the opportunity to announce a $25-million project that will expand the capacity of the Surrey Central Station to make it and the SkyTrain more accessible for residents and people who use the station to commute on a daily basis.
I would be remiss if I did not highlight the important investments in innovation that budget 2017 lays out. Something that I was really proud of was that in the days following the release of budget 2017, the visited Surrey Centre, specifically Innovation Boulevard. A partnership between the City of Surrey and Simon Fraser University, the boulevard is a one-square-mile centre of health care technology and excellence that is anchored by Surrey Memorial Hospital and SFU Surrey, with the goal of helping to accelerate real-world patient solutions. Surrey's Innovation Boulevard is a product of one of Canada's greatest strengths, our skilled, hard-working, creative, and diverse workforce, and under budget 2017 we would see initiatives like this grow and prosper.
Our investments in innovation include the launch of an ambitious initiative that would see up to 10,000 young Canadians have opportunities in work-integrated learning and co-op placements. This would go a long way in places like Surrey and across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
This government is putting forward a plan that is based on fairness. It provides Canadians with an optimistic view of the future. We are working to ensure that Canada continues to move forward and lead the international community, particularly with our implementation of our bold economic policies that put a focus on growing the middle class to ensure the prosperity of our country.
Whether it is education, infrastructure, or innovation, this government has an ambitious plan to better the middle class and, with that, the entire country. I for one am so proud to rise today and support it.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to the 2017 budget.
I want to first extend my best wishes to all those celebrating Asian Heritage Month. Every year the month of May is a special time to acknowledge the long and rich history of Canadians of Asian descent and their contributions to our great country. It is also a time to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of various Asian cultures. This month I encourage everyone to visit the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto located in my riding of Scarborough North to explore its distinguished art collections and exhibits.
When our government was elected in 2015, we promised Canadians real change to turn our economy around and to get it growing again, recognizing that a strong economy is built on a strong middle class.
Canada's unemployment rate is now dropping because of thousands of new jobs created since our government took office. We are delivering on our promise to Canadians. This year's budget continues to do just that. Through investments that strengthen the middle class, we would grow our economy over the long term and build on real change we have seen over the past year and a half.
I am honoured and humbled to represent the people of the multicultural riding of Scarborough North. During the last election, I too promised real change to my constituents to provide them with hope and opportunities for a better future. I am proud to say that this budget continues to deliver on that promise.
When I speak to residents about the issues that affect them the most, public transit is an issue that almost always comes up. Public transit is the lifeblood of a thriving city. Whether it is commuting back home to Scarborough North after a long day of work in downtown Toronto, or getting to class on time at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, fast, efficient, and reliable public transit is essential. That is why this budget is so important, because it would provide an investment of $20.1 billion for public transit projects over the next 11 years. This is real change that would make a difference in the lives of people in Scarborough North and across our country.
I now turn to another issue that is near and dear to our hearts and that is affordable housing. Last August, I had the honour to participate in Habitat for Humanity's ribbon-cutting ceremony for its historic home build at 140 Pinery Trail. This initiative will construct a record-breaking 50 townhouse units in my riding of Scarborough North. Upon completion, 50 families currently living in unsafe, unhealthy, and overcrowded housing will each have a new and affordable home. This project speaks to the importance of our government's commitment to invest $11.2 billion over the next 11 years to support affordable housing, including the construction of new units. This budget does the right thing by ensuring that Canadians have access to safe, adequate, and affordable places to live.
Scarborough North is home to a number of housing co-operatives. Following the release of this budget, I spoke to a number of representatives of these co-ops. I was pleased to share that this budget would invest $5 billion in a national housing fund, one that would support lending for the construction of new rental units as well as give much needed funds and operational support to social housing providers. This budget would improve the lives of low-income and vulnerable members of our community who rely on social housing for a roof over their heads.
Not only that, this budget would also help improve the lives of new Canadians. Coming to a new country to start a new life is never easy. As a child of immigrant parents, I witnessed first-hand not only the difficulties that new immigrants face, but also just how much the government can do to help new immigrants feel they belong in Canada.
Many of our new immigrants are highly skilled and highly educated. They want to put their talents to use and to contribute to building our great country. Many times, however, highly skilled and educated immigrants face barriers that limit their employment opportunities once they arrive in Canada. Our government recognizes these barriers as a problem and with this budget we are doing something about it.
This budget proposes to allocate $27.5 million over five years starting this year and $5.5 million per year thereafter to support our targeted employment strategy for newcomers. This ambitious program would break down the barriers that bright new immigrants face in fully contributing to our economy. Our plan would improve pre-arrival supports for newcomers so that the process to recognize their foreign credentials can begin before they arrive in Canada.
We would also put in place targeted measures to test innovative approaches to help skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession. One of the main reasons people choose to come to Canada is to seek new opportunities, both for themselves and for future generations. That is why this strategy would do the right thing by helping new Canadians and their families find appropriate work.
When Canadians secure meaningful employment, it grows our economy, which is why this budget is also focused on supporting innovation. I am proud that my riding of Scarborough North is home to many thriving businesses, including Canada Goose, which celebrated a strong IPO last March.
While industries like textiles and manufacturing will continue to play an important role, the global economy is changing. To address the changing nature of our global economic realities and to ensure it continues to thrive for our children and grandchildren, this budget introduces an ambitious innovation and skills plan. This plan includes $2.7 billion over six years for unemployed and underemployed Canadians to receive training and employment supports, an investment that positions Canada as a leader in the changing global economy.
That is not all. This budget would do even more to help our seniors and give them the respect they deserve. I know how important this is for my riding of Scarborough North, which is home to many seniors homes, such as the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, a provider of exceptional care to many seniors in the greater Toronto area. In addition to recognizing the invaluable services that facilities such as Yee Hong provide, our government is recognizing that there are many Canadians who prefer to receive care in a home setting.
Our government is committed to giving patients the care they need in the setting that they choose. This budget would invest $6 billion over the next decade for home care, money that would be used to improve access to home, community, and palliative care services. It would also provide more support to informal caregivers, such as family members working hard to balance full-time careers with caregiving for their loved ones.
Finally, this budget rightfully supports our veterans and their families. Scarborough North is home to many veterans. as well as Royal Canadian Legion Branch 614, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Our veterans have dedicated their lives to defend our country, and they deserve our unwavering support and gratitude.
Last year's budget invested $5.6 billion over six years to give more money to veterans with injuries or illnesses resulting from their military service. Continuing to recognize the sacrifices our veterans have made, this budget focuses on supporting the well-being of our veterans and their families. Our government proposes to help our veterans receive the skills, training, and education they need, as well as the mental health supports they may require.
In conclusion, this budget is one that all Canadians can be proud of. It would create the conditions for a strong and innovative economy that would provide more opportunities, more than ever before, for the middle class and those working hard to join it. Through smart investments and a profound commitment to fairness, our government is proposing a budget that ensures our best days are on the road ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for . I look forward to his impressive speech.
Today I rise to speak to Bill , the budget implementation act. The bill is deeply flawed in my opinion. By the end of my speech, it will be very clear why I will not be supporting the bill. In its 290 pages, it amends over 30 separate acts. Despite all of this, it does very little for the middle and working class.
Once again the Liberals have put the interests of their friends ahead of those of the vast majority of Canadians. On the one hand, they are eliminating the public transit tax credit and on the other, they are facilitating the purchase of public infrastructure by private investors.
Last week I had the honour of having a conversation at a small business in my riding called Townsite Brewing. It is a great microbrewery in Powell River. Its innovation, dedication to the community, and obviously the great beer it makes have been a real builder in their local economy. Sadly, the 2017 budget is not working for it. It has asked me to raise this important issue, and I hope the minister will hear its calls. The federal budget would raise the excise tax for beer, wine, and liquor by 2%. Then it would tie it to the consumer price index. This means that the price will rise for the consumer every year after that. That is simply not good for business.
There are a number of really good reasons for the government to stop this.
There are hundreds of small brewing companies in communities across Canada, employing people, using local ingredients, innovating with new styles of beer, and investing in their business to sell great beer and participate in a very competitive market. This is truly amazing when we look at the history of beer monopolies of the past. Consumers now have more choice. This industry creates great local jobs. For Townsite Brewing, it creates 16 meaningful positions in the community.
Across Canada, small communities have worked very hard to diversify their economies, and this hits these communities particularly hard. Brewing is one of the few remaining industries that is domestic. Eighty-five per cent of the beer sold in Canada is made right in Canada. Not too many food industries can make this claim like the beer industry can. Should the government not support the growth of this share to 90% or 100%, rather than discouraging growth by imposing higher and higher taxes on these products? The entire brewing community and its customers are united in wanting to see the government make the decision to repeal this tax before it becomes law by the end of June.
In my riding of North Island—Powell River, this tax would also impact the wine and liquor industries the riding has.
As I mentioned earlier, the bill would amend more than 30 pieces of legislation. I found it very interesting when a member across the ways said “I don't support omnibus bills” while supporting this omnibus bill. Almost one-third of the changes are nowhere to be found in the budget.
During the last election campaign the Liberals promised to abolish the use of omnibus bills because the practice was undemocratic. The omnibus bill should have been split to allow Parliament to conduct in-depth reviews of the changes affecting the parliamentary budget officer and the creation of the Canadian infrastructure bank. The bill clearly shows that the Liberals put the interests of their friends ahead of those of the vast majority of Canadians. They are totally forgetting that people across the country desperately need infrastructure in their communities. Therefore, by creating the infrastructure bank, the government is giving a green light for privatization of our public infrastructure.
As Mark Hancock, the national president of CUPE said, “If you’re an infrastructure bankroller or a billionaire tax dodger, today is a good day. For working Canadians, not so much”.
Bill is mute with regard to the number of details that would have to be clarified in future legislation. Some provisions suggest that the infrastructure bank will be entitled to use the Access to Information Act to withhold important information from the Attorney General of Canada and the parliamentary budget officer under the guise of sensitive commercial information. Canadians expect accountability. It should therefore be established by the means of a true bill and an exhaustive review by Parliament, not through an omnibus bill.
When it comes to accountability, Canadians can count on the parliamentary budget officer, as he plays a fundamental role in Canadian democracy and his work depends on his neutrality and independence.
However, it appears that the Liberals want to make his job much more difficult. The parliamentary budget officer would be required to produce an annual work plan, which would be approved by the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate, as well as the government member who chairs the finance committee. This is the only officer of Parliament who would be required to seek approval for his work plan.
The PBO analyzed the legislative framework applicable to the parliamentary budget officers in 17 other countries, notably Australia, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, and so on. According to his research, it is most unusual to require political approval for a work plan. Such a procedure would only benefit the government because the PBO could not undertake a study on his own unless it had been included in his annual work plan.
In addition to submitting an annual work plan, the PBO would have to provide his research results to the Speakers of the Senate and the House one business day before it would be made public. How is that accountability?
Furthermore, from now on, only committees and not individual MPs and senators, as is currently the case, would be able to request the PBO to estimate the financial cost of any proposal that related to a matter of which Parliament had jurisdiction. Any request for research from individual MPs or senators would have to relate to a proposal, bill, motion, or amendment they have made. It is this type of individual request that led the PBO to research the cost of the F-35s and the Liberal tax cuts that only benefited the wealthiest. Adopting these changes will reduce my ability to hold the government to account. It will lessen transparency to Canadians.
This budget fundamentally betrays the commitment to creating a more accountable and transparent government.
This bill also has a huge impact on veterans. I am happy to see there is an investment for additional support for veterans' social reintegration and transitioning. I am pleased to see the creation of an education and training benefit, for example. However, I am deeply disappointed there is no mention of re-establishing lifelong pensions for injured veterans, yet another broken promise by the Liberals.
Overall there is little movement and most promises for veterans have had to wait for the next year's budget. Veterans have waited long enough. David Flannigan, Dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion, agrees. He said, “Bottom line, this budget doesn’t do enough for our Veterans and their families...How long do Veterans have to wait?”
This budget did very little for the military as well. Our military has become extremely good at finding efficiency in everything it has done over the last decade. There comes a point when we simply have to feed the people who need it. It is time to invest in our women and men in uniform. The New Democrats believe our troops should have the support, training, and equipment they need to do the difficult and dangerous work they are asked to do every day. Only with a well-trained and well-equipped military can Canada continue to play an independent role in the world in promoting peace and security. This budget did not provide the resources for the military to do this. I know we are all waiting for the national defence review to see if more is coming. Most important, the military is waiting.
Seniors issues are not a central part of the budget. Yesterday's CBC headline was “'We're so far behind': Canada unprepared for housing needs of rising senior population”. This was in reference to the census figures. Canadians need a long-term plan, something in which the government does not seem to want to invest.
There has been an investment of some money for drug costs, but it is still not providing seniors with the real help they need. They are making decisions between eating, buying their medication, or paying their housing costs. That is shameful in a country like this. A national seniors strategy is needed now.
Bill makes our government less accountable and sells public infrastructure that Canadian taxpayers have built to Liberal insiders. When a housing crisis is happening in the country, when our seniors, veterans, and military need help, I can confidently say that the budget bill offers Canadians a series of misguided priorities.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to debate Bill , the budget 2017 implementation bill.
Back in the days when I taught zoology at UBC and comparative anatomy labs at Memorial University, we talked a lot about form and function. Today I would like to begin by talking about the form of this bill and move on to its function, its contents, and what that means in regard to government priorities.
As others have commented, the most obvious thing about this bill is its sheer size. It is almost 300 pages long. It amends more than 30 separate acts and even incorporates Bill within it, which was already on the Order Paper. Many of these components have nothing to do with the implementation of the budget. For instance, the bill includes major changes to the powers of the parliamentary budget officer, which I will talk more about later.
This bill is the very definition of an omnibus bill. Many Canadians will remember quite clearly what the Liberals said about omnibus bills in the previous Parliament. They and the New Democrats pointed out that omnibus bills were clearly designed to pass disparate pieces of legislation without providing opportunity for proper debate or committee study. The Liberals loudly complained that one of the Conservative budget bills was 175 pages long. That was a micro-bill compared to this one.
The Liberals were so outraged by the omnibus bills of the Conservative government that they put clear promises in their 2015 election platform, saying, “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny” and “We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice”, yet they could not resist doing the same thing with budget 2017, and in a very egregious way. The Liberals have broken a growing number of election promises, but this broken promise, one that puts them in the same camp as the Conservatives when it comes to eroding Canadian democracy, must be one of their most disappointing acts for many of their supporters.
Now I would like to move from form to function and some of the consequences of Bill .
One of the main themes of the last federal election was the struggle to reduce income inequality in Canada, an inequality that has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years or more. The NDP has led this battle for years, and in the last election the Liberals agreed with us in principle and said they would, as we have heard so often since, support the middle class and those trying to join it. In the last budget, the Liberals disappointed most Canadians in the middle class by doing absolutely nothing for those making less than $45,000 a year, instead bringing in income tax changes that gave tax relief primarily to those making $150,000 to $200,000 a year.
The Liberals promised that they would plug the loopholes that allowed CEOs to pay taxes at half the rate of middle-class Canadians, but did nothing in last year's budget and, I am sorry to say, did nothing in this budget as well. Bill C-44 has no provisions to close this loophole, which costs the government almost $800 million each year and leaves that money in the pockets of the wealthy Canadians who least need it.
Who do the Liberals choose to squeeze money out of instead? It is transit riders, the middle class and those seeking to join the middle class who take buses and trains to work every day. Under Bill , they would lose their public transit tax credit so that the government could pocket $225 million in savings. Wealthy CEOs get to keep $800 million, while bus riders have to cough up $225 million. Budgets are about choices, and this is the unfortunate choice the Liberals have made.
On top of that, we in the NDP were hoping that the Liberal government would take concrete steps to shut down offshore tax havens, where the wealthiest of Canadians and corporations that have pocketed billions of dollars in tax cuts move their profits to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. However, neither Bill nor any other legislation before us addresses this critical step in reducing income inequality in Canada.
As I mentioned at the start, one of the features of Bill is a section that would change the role and powers of the parliamentary budget officer. This has no place in a budget implementation bill. Maybe the Liberals thought they could slip it in because of the word “budget” in the title of this important office. The parliamentary budget officer must be independent and neutral, but Bill C-44 would degrade that independence in several ways.
First, it requires the parliamentary budget office to submit an annual work plan to both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate. This requirement could only benefit the government, as the PBO would not be able to undertake any study unless it had been approved in the annual work plan.
Second, only committees—committees dominated by government MPs—would be allowed to request that the PBO estimate the cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which Parliament has jurisdiction. At present, individual MPs can request the PBO to undertake these analyses, but if Bill becomes law, they could only request cost analyses on proposals that relate to a bill, a motion, or an amendment that they themselves had made.
Again, this bill would greatly restrict the independence of the PBO and restrict the abilities of individual MPs to study the costs of government proposals. It was this type of independent initiative that exposed the true costs of the F-35 fighter jets to Canadians, and it was this independent action that showed that the so-called middle-class tax cuts of this Liberal government only benefited the wealthy in our country.
Another point of disappointment in the budget is the change that would index the excise duty on wine to the consumer price index beginning in 2018. My riding, I must admit, produces the best wine in Canada, and the wine industry plays a large role in the economy there and in other wine regions of the country.
Canadian wine producers are very concerned that this duty will now rise automatically every year, despite already being almost twice as large as the duties levied by other countries. For instance, the duty is 63¢ per litre in Canada versus 38¢ in the United States, while Germany has no excise tax on wine at all.
This automatic increase will exacerbate those differences and undermine the growth of the wine industry in Canada, impacting the entire economic value chain from farm gate to retail.
I would like to end on a positive note by mentioning a few measures that I am happy to see in the budget.
One is the promise to spend about $40 million to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects. Using wood as a primary material in large buildings is a technology for which Canada is already a world leader. One of the leading companies in Canada in the construction of these buildings is Structurlam in my home town of Penticton. Structurlam sources a lot of wood for its glulam beams and cross-laminated timber panels from the Kalesnikoff mill near Castlegar on the other side of my riding.
Expanding this part of the forest industry in Canada would give it a much-needed boost in these troubled times as mills across this country face trade sanctions through the softwood lumber dispute. We have heard a lot recently about efforts to diversify our foreign markets, but here is an opportunity to build the domestic market as well, and to build it quickly. Unfortunately, this spending is not scheduled to start until next year, when it might come too late.
Another way that the government could move forward on this file is by adopting my private member's bill, Bill , which directs the government to consider the use wood in building projects. Government procurement is a powerful force that would immediately boost the forest industry across this country.
I am pleased that the Liberal government is keeping at least one of its election promises, albeit a year late, which is to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. In 2014, the Pembina Institute estimated that more than $1 billion in fossil fuel subsidies still exist in our tax framework, so I am happy to see that budget 2017 will exclude producing wells from the Canada exploration expenses tax deduction.
In conclusion, I will simply say that budget 2017 represents yet another lost opportunity for the Liberal government to turn the corner on rising inequality in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for the . It will probably be sometime after 3 o'clock today before he gets his chance.
I have been looking forward to the opportunity to speak to budget 2017, because it marks a remarkable new step forward in a lot of communities across Canada, including mine in Fleetwood--Port Kells, my city of Surrey, and Metro Vancouver.
Given our region's role as Canada's western gateway for billions of dollars in trade every year, the investments our government is making at home for me are going to have positive ripple effects at home for every member of the House.
The highlights for our home ridings in budget 2017 are considerable. Our $20.1 billion commitment over 11 years to improve public transit across Canada would deliver a 40% share of the cost of three key rapid transit lines in Metro Vancouver. One is the SkyTrain extension along Vancouver's Broadway corridor that would serve what is now North America's busiest bus route. The other two rapid transit lines budget 2017 would support are in Surrey.
Our regional growth management plan says that we will be home to a good percentage of the 1.2 million new residents expected to arrive in Metro Vancouver by 2041, so better mobility is going to be really important. Plans are for our Fleetwood neighbourhood to have three stations along the Fraser Highway: one at 152nd, one at 160th, and one at 166th; and perhaps even two more, one at 148th and the other at 156th. Revitalization will take place along the new line.
We have seen this sort of thing happen in the Cambie Corridor, along the Millennium Line, etc. We expect this revitalization to truly reshape Fleetwood and bring to reality the hard work of many visionaries over the years, including, and especially, our friend the late Rick Hart.
Budget 2017 would also make a huge difference in the lives of many Surrey families, particularly those people who have come to Canada with the professional skills we urgently need but who face barriers because their credentials are not recognized here. Every day a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, or an engineer is underemployed, these people lose, their families lose, and we lose. Budget 217 would invest $27.5 million over five years, starting this year, to remove those barriers. We would start the process even before the professionals arrived. Once they were here, we would support their efforts to get Canadian accreditation with a loans program to help cover the costs. Finally, a targeted deployment strategy would help them get essential Canadian work experience so they could relaunch their careers.
There are three more highlights from budget 2017 that I would like to mention. I think I can get them in quickly. Each would make a difference in communities across Canada, including mine.
As we all know, housing prices in Metro Vancouver, Toronto, and other cities have pushed home ownership out of reach for far too many families. Our decision to get the federal government back into a national housing strategy responds to the calls for help from the provinces, municipalities, and neighbourhoods. In Surrey, the Guildford neighbourhood, which I share with my colleague the hon. member for , is where our city's main stock of affordable housing can be found. Budget 2017 would provide $11.2 billion over 11 years across Canada to design, build, renew, and repair homes for millions of Canadians working hard to join the middle class.
Another $5-billion national housing fund would better support vulnerable Canadians: the elderly, the disabled, and women seeking refuge from abuse.
Housing costs are a major source of worry and insecurity in many cities across Canada. Our government listened, we heard, and we have made affordable housing a priority.
Another acutely urgent issue in Metro Vancouver is the opioid crisis. No community or neighbourhood is immune from the tragedy of overdose deaths or the gang-related violence that accompanies the drug trade.
In February, our government provided $10 million in emergency support to help British Columbia respond to the crisis. Illicit drugs took 914 lives last year alone, and more than 320 in just the first three months of this year. This funding builds on the $65 million over five years we also announced in February for a strategy for an opioid action plan. Budget 2017 would enhance that with a further $22.7 billion over five years.
This budget would build on scores of other initiatives that matter a great deal in Fleetwood—Port Kells and in every community across the country, important measures like the new Canada caregiver credit that would help those needing care and the families providing that care.
Improvements to our family reunification program are helping families reunite more quickly, something that matters a lot in many homes in Fleetwood—Port Kells. We also cannot underestimate the impact of the first full year of the Canada child benefit, over $22 billion in tax-free support for families that need it the most. It is putting food on kitchen tables in Fleetwood—Port Kells and across Canada, lifting more than 300,000 children out of poverty, and depending on the multiplier one uses, sparking over $200 billion in economic activity.