Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to budget implementation act no. 2, Bill . The second budget implementation bill includes key measures of our government's second budget, which outlines the second phase of our government's plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities for every Canadian to succeed.
Thanks to these smart investments and an overall commitment to equity, our government is ensuring that Canada's best days are still ahead.
Before I get into the budget implementation bill, I want to talk about the measures the government has taken so far to give all Canadians, including those in the middle class and those working hard to join it, the opportunities they need to succeed.
To begin with, we asked the wealthiest 1% to pay a bit more in taxes in order to be able to give the middle class a tax cut. That tax cut for the middle class benefited nine million Canadians, which is something we can be proud of.
Then we brought in the new Canada child benefit, which has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. As a result of our CCB, nine out of 10 Canadian families are getting more in benefits than they did under the previous system. Compared to the previous system of child benefits, the CCB is more generous and better targeted to those who need it the most.
In the fall economic statement released on October 24, the government announced that it would strengthen the Canada child benefit by indexing it to annual increases in the cost of living effective July 2018, which is two years earlier than planned.
What this means, in practical terms, is that for a single parent with two children and income of $35,000 the enhanced Canada child benefit will contribute an additional $560 in the 2019-20 benefit year towards the cost of raising his or her children. That means more money for books, winter coats, and skating lessons, for example. The added confidence that the Canada child benefit brings to families can have a positive impact on economic growth, as we have seen in the past.
Our government has also enhanced the Canada pension plan in order to provide Canadians with financial security when they retire from their hard work life. Enhancing the Canada pension plan ensures that Canadians will have more money in retirement so they are less worried about saving, can focus more on enjoying the good times with their families, and do not have to worry about financial issues.
Starting in 2019, we will be enhancing the working income tax benefit, or WITB, by an additional $500 million per year. This will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers, including families without children and the growing number of single Canadians. The enhancement will be in addition to the increase of about $250 million annually that will also come into effect in 2019 as part of the enhancement of the Canada pension plan.
These two actions alone will boost the total amount the government spends on the WITB by about 65% in 2019, increasing benefits to current recipients and expanding the number of Canadians receiving this support, which is essential for those who need it the most. This extra money could be used for things such as helping to cover the family grocery bill or buying warm clothes for winter. Above all, the improved benefit will help low-income working Canadians make ends meet.
The government is also showing that it is committed to helping small businesses invest, grow, and create jobs by lowering the small business tax rate to 10% effective January 1, 2018, and to 9% effective January 1, 2019. This will provide a small business with up to $7,500 per year in corporate tax savings to reinvest in and grow its business. These kinds of savings are crucial for businesses to grow and prosper.
Lastly, the government intends to make important changes to the tax system that will ensure Canada's low corporate tax rates serve to support businesses, not to provide unfair tax advantages to the wealthiest Canadians.
The steps taken to date are having a real positive impact on our economy and for Canadians. Optimism is on the rise, and with good reason. Job creation is strong, with over 450,000 new jobs created in the last two years—
Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, job creation is strong, with over 450,000 new jobs created in the last two years, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 2008. Youth unemployment is also at a historic low.
Canada is now the fastest growing economy in the G7 by a wide margin, growing at an average rate of 3.7% over the last year, the fastest pace of growth since early 2006. Growth is forecast to be 3.1% in 2017, significantly above expectations at the beginning of the year. The fiscal outlook has improved by more than $6.5 billion annually on average from what was projected in budget 2017 last March. This is why we are here today, to consider and discuss the important measures contained in Bill .
I will describe just a few of the key elements briefly, and I encourage the member opposite to pay close attention.
I will start with our help for the middle class and those striving to join it.
This budget implementation bill supports the middle class and those working hard to join it by protecting the rights of federally regulated workers when they request flexible work arrangements from their employers. Flexible work arrangements include flexible start and finish times, the ability to work from home, and new unpaid leave to help employees manage their family responsibilities.
These work arrangements benefit many women who continue to do the majority of unpaid work in the home. Budget 2017 was the first budget in Canada's history to include a gender statement. It seeks to present a frank and honest analysis of the impact the budgetary measures will have on women.
The government believes that having a meaningful and transparent discussion around gender and other intersecting identities will help us better understand the challenges that are faced, and will help it make informed decisions to advance the goals of gender equality, fairness, and stronger workforce participation.
The government also recognizes that youth today face important challenges when it comes to finding and maintaining good, well-paying jobs. While internships can give young Canadians the hands-on work experience they need to make a successful transition into the workforce, some internships, in particular those that are unpaid, can be unfair and exploitative.
The budget implementation act proposes to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors where the internships are not part of a formal educational program. These changes will also ensure that unpaid interns who are part of an educational program are entitled to labour standard protections, such as on maximum hours of work, weekly days of rest, and general holidays. It is the right thing to do for our young people trying to gain necessary work experience to enter the labour force.
With regard to tax measures, the budget implementation bill begins to implement changes arising from the government's in-depth review of federal tax expenditures in order to make the tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient.
Bill-based accounting was examined as part of the tax expenditure review. Bill-based accounting allows taxpayers to defer taxes by permitting the costs associated with work in progress to be expensed without the matching inclusion of the associated revenue.
In the 1980s, bill-based accounting was eliminated for all professionals except those designated under the law. At the time, these professionals had limited access to the small business deduction. Since those restrictions no longer exist, this measure eliminates the ability of designated professionals to use bill-based accounting.
We are listening to Canadians. In response to feedback and to mitigate the effect this measure will have on taxpayers, the inclusion of work in progress into income for tax purposes will now be phased in over four years rather than just two.
The government is also proposing changes to the principal residence exemption. The current income tax system provides a significant income tax benefit to homeowners disposing of their principal residence, in the form of an exemption from capital gains taxation. The principle residence exemption is available only to Canadian residents, individuals, and trusts.
Families are able to designate only one property as the family's principle residence for any given year. The government is proposing amendments that will improve the integrity of the tax system and ensure improved tax fairness for homeowners. An individual who was not residing in Canada throughout the year and acquired a residence will not be able to claim the exemption for that year. The ability of trusts to designate a property as a principle residence will be limited to improve fairness and integrity by better aligning the rules applying to trusts with the rules that apply when the property is sold directly by an individual.
Finally, more reporting will be required in respect of the disposition of a property for which the principal residence exemption is claimed. The Canada Revenue Agency will be provided with the authority to assess taxpayers beyond the normal assessment limitation period in respect of unreported dispositions.
The government is continuing to propose measures to ensure fairness for all taxpayers.
By developing in a cleaner, more sustainable way, Canada's natural resource sector will be able to keep making significant contributions to the Canadian economy. The success rate of exploratory drilling has grown considerably since the 1990s. In most cases, discovery wells now lead to production. Under the provisions of the bill before us today, consistent with the usual treatment of enduring assets, expenses associated with oil and gas discovery wells will be treated as Canadian development expenses, unless the wells are deemed unsuccessful.
By improving the tax system's neutrality, this measure supports Canada's international commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and indirectly supports the federal sustainable development strategy's measures and goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadians and indigenous peoples deserve to know that their government is doing everything in its power to protect the natural environment while supporting our economy. Our government intends to meet its objective of having a low-carbon economy and this is a step in that direction. This bill includes tangible measures that will move Canada forward as a smart and compassionate country. The government plans to strengthen the middle class and ensure that Canadians have the support, resources, and confidence they need to succeed, create jobs, and keep our economy growing.
Growing the Canadian economy helps the government to improve its record. Canada's financial situation remains solid and the government will see to keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio on its downward trend in order to preserve Canada's financial health and allow us to continue investing in those who contribute to our country's success. Every Canadian deserves to benefit from this economic growth. The government has lowered taxes for middle class Canadians and has committed to ensuring that the tax system does not offer unintended benefits to the wealthiest Canadians, or those with a high income. I urge hon. members of the House to vote for this bill that will benefit all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, “thank you” is the key expression in my speech today. I was in a coffee shop recently. I bought a cup of a coffee, and I said “thank you” to the barista serving it, and she said “thank you” back, and not “you're welcome”. I thought that was particularly bizarre, because we are taught from childhood that the sequence is supposed to be “thank you; you're welcome” and not “thank you; thank you.”
I then realized that this double “thank you” happens all the time when I am buying or selling goods. I finally stumbled upon an explanation, from the economist Steven Horwitz, as to why this double “thank you” occurs. In a free market economy, whenever we buy or sell something, we have something that is worth more to us than what we had before. If I have an apple and want an orange, and someone has an orange and wants an apple, and we trade, we still have an apple and an orange between us, but we are both richer, because we both have something that is worth more to us than what we had before. How do we know that? It is because the exchange was voluntary. Neither of us was forced to trade the apple for the orange. We each did it by volition, because we wanted the product the other person had.
Every exchange in a free market economy, literally every single one, without exception, is based on voluntary exchange: labour for wages, investment for return, payment for product. In each case, the buyer and the seller offer what they have voluntarily. By contrast, every single transaction done by government is done by force, even legitimate, desirable transactions. We all agree that the government should fund an armed forces to keep us all safe. We all understand that if left to themselves, citizens might not voluntarily donate enough money to marshal such a force. Therefore, we believe that the government has a role in compelling taxation to fund what is, in effect, a public good we all require and from which we all benefit.
However, surely we should also agree that the use of that force should be limited to cases where it is absolutely unavoidable and necessary. We should not expand government into areas people can decide upon and act out on their own volition. The government continually gets involved in areas that are easily done through voluntary exchange. In fact, it replaces free choice with force very often.
The Liberal government has done that. It claims that the need for government intervention in the economy is to protect the weak from the strong. That is a strange way of looking at the world. Since when does expanding coercion help the weak? Relationships of force typically favour the strong.
Let me give members a counter-example. An 18-year-old walks into an Apple store to consider buying an iPad. Now, this young man is worth about $1,000. He earned it in his summer job mowing lawns. The company he is dealing with is worth $878 billion, almost a $1 trillion. He is negotiating with the most powerful company in the world, which is almost $1 trillion in size. How could that negotiation ever be fair? The answer is voluntary exchange. Apple cannot get his $1,000 for an iPad unless it proves to him that it is worth more than the money he has to part with to get it. By contrast, he cannot get the iPad unless he can convince Apple that the $1,000 is worth more to the company than the product it has to part with to get it. In other words, this system of voluntary exchange takes the most powerful company in the world and lowers its power to the level of an 18-year-old with barely enough money in his bank account to pay for a tablet.
Now imagine they enter a different universe: government. If Apple decided it wanted a subsidy from government, paid for by the taxes of that young man, I am afraid Apple would have a heck of a lot more power in making that decision come about. The government could use force to collect the money to subsidize the company. In that scenario, Apple could hire an army of lobbyists, make political donations, and influence public opinion, whereas that poor young guy would be too busy mowing lawns to have the same political power.
Therefore, when the government is in control of the economy, the bigger, the stronger, and the more powerful forces always get ahead. They can use money to acquire political power and political power to acquire yet more money. That is why countries with big governments typically have much more poverty and much bigger gaps between rich and poor.
The current government is expanding itself into areas not necessary for governments to be involved in. Let me give some examples.
The said he was going to determine how much Canadians would choose to invest in Bombardier. In the end, he did not give them any choice. He decided for them. He gave $400 million of taxpayers' money to this company that is able to invest a fortune in lobbying. That $400 million was, in part, used to boost the salaries of the billionaire executives by 50% while 14,000 workers were laid off.
There is the infrastructure bank, which will give $15 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees to wealthy investors who are contributing to infrastructure megaprojects. This will ensure that if the project succeeds, the private investor will make money, but if it fails, the taxpayer will take all the loss. Again, this is a financial arrangement that not one of those taxpayers would voluntarily enter into. After all, what do they get? They get a big pile of losses. However, because the powerful interests that lobbied the government at the Shangri-La Hotel, where a summit of private-equity investors was held, were able to convince the government to force taxpayers into that economic relationship, the government is again favouring those who have political power over everyone else.
There is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank we just learned about in this very bill. Five hundred million dollars, half a billion dollars of Canadian tax dollars, would be invested in this new foreign-run infrastructure bank to build infrastructure in faraway, overseas lands. Who in Canada would ever buy shares in a bank that will never pay any dividends and will only ever offer loans and loan guarantees to wealthy investors, who will take advantage of it in the event that their projects go under? However, if those projects make money, and if they profit, those borrowers, again wealthy investors and construction companies on other continents, will get all the profits. They get all the profits; taxpayers get all the loss. Again, no one would voluntarily enter into such a transaction.
There is something called superclusters. The government has a billion-dollar fund it is going to hand out to wealthy high-tech investors, who will then use those subsidies to pay themselves exorbitant salaries. They are not necessarily expected to earn any of the money themselves, because they will be able to get their revenues and their capital from taxpayers, who are not voluntary participants.
In Ontario, we had the Green Energy Act. People were forced to pay 90¢ for a kilowatt hour that was only worth 2.5¢. We know that no free person would decide to pay 90¢ for something that is worth 2.5¢. Who won? Of course, it was the wealthy investors who turned themselves into multi-millionaires with this enormous wealth transfer. Who lost? It was the poor, the working class, the people whose power bills doubled to fund this monstrous wealth transfer from the working class to the super-elite.
In all these cases, the government has used coercion and force to appropriate more and more of the economy and favour those who have the most political power. All of those people are rich. Therefore, when the government claims that it is expanding its power and control over the economy to help the less fortunate, I ask, at the very least, that this House look upon such claims with great skepticism.
Instead, this House should favour the free market, where people are judged on their merit, on their contributions, and on the voluntary exchange of goods and services that requires every single person who wants to get ahead to offer someone else something worth more to him or her than what it costs. That is the free market, that is true empathy, and that is the way we build a just and prosperous society.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few seconds to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. He described the economic system that the Liberal government appears not to grasp in simple terms everyone can understand.
What I take away from my NDP colleague’s remarks about Bill is the word “skepticism”. The Liberal government has lost all credibility in matters of public finance and taxation since it was elected and promised to run very small deficits. Remember that, during the 2015 election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to run very small deficits and to balance the budget by the end of its term in 2019. It also promised that the deficit would never exceed $10 billion.
However, in their first budget, their first opportunity to keep their first important promise, what did the Liberals do? They loosened the purse strings, revved up spending, and forgot their promise. Now, two years after they were elected, they are announcing that they will run a deficit of almost $20 billion this year. That is twice the limit they set for themselves in 2015. They also say they are projecting deficits in excess of $10 billion in the coming years. Skepticism is what we feel when this government talks numbers.
On this side of the House, we believe in responsible government spending, tax breaks, and making life more affordable for all Canadians. We know that it is unacceptable to ask future generations to pay for today’s spending. It is especially unacceptable to ask future generations to pay for the Liberal government’s out-of-control debt, especially when we are talking about tens of billions of dollars. Let us keep in mind that, last December, the Department of Finance found that the federal debt could double, to reach $1.5 trillion. I never thought I would use this number in the House. By 2050, the federal debt could reach $1.5 trillion. That is $1,500 billion that our children and their children will have to pay, because the government is acting totally irresponsibly today.
Even worse, the government says that it will never formally return to a balanced budget. In the fall economic statement, the announced huge deficits for the next six years. Unfortunately, an important section is missing: there is no plan to return to a balanced budget.
The government has announced massive deficits for at least the next six years, and it has no plan to get the country out of its huge tax hole. Why does the government think that Canadians would accept such a situation? That is not what they voted for in 2015; they did not vote for a $1.5-trillion deficit in 2050.
Clearly, when it comes to the deficit, every penny over $10 billion is a promise to Canadians that has been broken. If we count every penny over $10 billion, it comes out to 990 billion broken promises this year, 860 billion broken promises next year, 730 billion broken promises the year after that, and all the way to 2050. Billions of broken promises for every penny over the estimated $10-billion deficit.
These broken promises are just one more item in a long list of disappointments. The list has become extremely long and includes the broken promise of electoral reform, the inadequate protection of the dairy industry, the failure to reach a softwood lumber agreement, Omar Khadr, and ethics issues in the cabinet. I would like to remind you that this is the first time in history that a minister of finance and a prime minister are facing complaints and being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. It is unprecedented that the two most important people in the government are being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
We never get answers to our questions. I remember that we once spent an entire question period asking the for a simple answer to a simple question: how many times had he met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner?
He has not once answered this question. We asked the to acknowledge that he placed himself in a conflict of interest right here in the House, before Canadians and members of Parliament. He never answered.
Yesterday we learned that he paid a $200 fine for having been in a conflict of interest. How can we trust a government that is not even capable of answering members of Parliament, telling the truth and answering simple questions? He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is content to merely pay a fine. To put a lid on the issue and try to get people to forget that he committed an offence, the even had the gall to try to buy Canadians’ and the opposition’s silence by saying that he would donate $5 million to charity. I do not believe anyone on this side of the House can be blamed for being skeptical.
The government always thinks that the answer to its problems is to raise taxes on Canadians. Since it took power, taxes have been rising, affecting health and dental insurance benefits, personal savings, hydroelectricity, gas, heating, farmers, medical treatments that save lives, small and medium-sized businesses, people with type 1 diabetes, etc. The list keeps getting longer. Why?
After learning that the deficit could reach $1.5 trillion over the next four decades, someone undoubtedly asked the Minister of National Revenue to find some money somewhere. For the government, the easiest way to find money is on the backs of those who are most in need, those it has been saying it wants to help since the outset, but that it continues to harm.
According to a report by the Fraser Institute, since 2015, more than 80% of middle-class Canadians, the same people the government claims to want to help, have been paying higher taxes. These are the facts, and they come from the esteemed Fraser Institute, not us.
Charles Lammam and Hugh MacIntyre, co-authors of the report, said of the government’s track record that, as is often the case with Liberal governments, its rhetoric is far removed from the facts on the ground. They say that, despite the government's many claims to the contrary, it has increased personal income tax for the vast majority of middle-class families.
Given all the facts, the Liberal government’s rhetoric, and its promises, it is clear that it says the opposite of what it means, something it has been doing more and more, unfortunately. When it says that it is on the right track, then I think there is real cause for concern. Indeed, they may say we are on the right track, but our children and their children will still have to pay for the Liberals' actions.
Across the aisle, they will say that the economy is doing well and that it continues to grow, but it is important to remember that the economy is growing despite the Liberals’ actions, not because of them. Infrastructure projects and investments have been on the decline, not on the rise. In August, the parliamentary budget officer confirmed that grants and contributions made by Infrastructure Canada to provinces carrying out infrastructure projects were essentially stagnant, with no increases over last year. Not only does this mean that there is less money to improve roads and bridges in our communities, it also shows the government’s lack of commitment and, once again, Canadians’ skepticism.
The Liberal government’s out-of-control and poorly thought out spending and its lack of concern for the growing tax burden it is imposing on Canadians are fundamentally unacceptable. The Canadian economy requires a different approach from the one proposed by the Liberal government, which is forgetting the impact that its out-of-control spending will have on economic security and future generations in our country. For that reason, I will obviously not be supporting Bill .
I ask the government to see reason, answer the opposition’s sensible and simple questions and tell Canadians the truth.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue in the same vein as my Conservative colleagues.
I was not so much surprised as offended when I heard that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner had fined the for breaking the rules by forgetting to declare his villa in France, which he hid in a company. Then again, who among us has not forgotten a villa in France, Spain, or Morocco at some point? Apparently that is the kind of thing that can happen to someone like the Minister of Finance.
He forgot, and he got his knuckles rapped for it. I want to make sure everyone at home understands the penalty this poor man is being forced to pay. He has to pay $200. This is the man who just signed a cheque for $5 million in an attempt to extricate himself from a scandal involving his shares in Morneau Shepell, which benefited from a bill that he himself introduced. No doubt that was a hard lesson for the to learn from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Unfortunately, all that did was feed the public's cynicism toward politicians, the Liberal government, and the Minister of Finance. Those people are completely out of touch with reality.
I want to be sure that I am understood in both official languages. We just learned this week that the was fined because he forgot to officially declare that he possessed a villa in beautiful Provence, France. That is something that probably happens to a lot of people in Canada: “Oh, yes, the villa; sorry about that. I just forgot.”
He got caught, and then received a slap on the hand, a big one. It was a hard lesson for him, I guess. It was $200 for contravening the code of ethics. We are talking about the same minister who just recently said he would write a $5 million cheque to try to get out of a scandal. It was a scandal because the minister tabled legislation, Bill , that directly profits his own company. He made millions of dollars on that. Then, because he got caught, he said, “Okay, I'm a rich man. I can fix that. I'm going to write a cheque for $5 million.” Now, the minister has received a fine of $200. That poor man, it must be a really hard week for him.
I am making a joke about that, but seriously, it is only increasing the cynicism of this country's citizens. During the last campaign, the Liberals said they wanted to reinstate trust in our democratic institutions. They wanted people to stop being cynical about the political class.
Since the Liberals were elected, they have been doing the opposite. They are breaking promises. They are tabling legislation that profits themselves and their friends on Bay Street, the elite of this country. As NDP members, we think this is completely wrong. They are going in the wrong direction. We have to point that out, and say it loudly and clearly.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Alexandre Boulerice: I thank the member from for his support, which has allowed me to have a drink of water.
Today, we must debate the budget implementation bill. There are many things we could talk about. Let me go back to the last election. The Liberals told us that interest rates were low and that it was the right time to borrow money and to run deficits in order to reinvest in our infrastructure. That might make sense. It is the mandate given to them by Canadians.
However, what we are learning is that instead of running a small deficit to build infrastructure, they ran up a large deficit, and we still have no infrastructure.
The deficit is higher than projected, and not because the government spent more money on infrastructure. In fact, it spent less than anticipated. Shovels are not in the ground, projects are not moving forward, and some projects have not even been approved. The money is not making its way to the towns and villages of our communities.
This week, The Canadian Press reported that $2 billion in infrastructure spending had been delayed. However, this is money that should have been invested in our communities this year to help build new infrastructure. The Liberals just keep putting it off.
What is the reason for this deficit if not infrastructure spending? After all, this was the idea flogged to Canadians in the last election.
As the finance critic, I am very concerned about this situation. The government is not investing in our communities as it said it would, and the deficit is much higher than projected.
The economic lever to grow the economy is just not there. Not only are the Liberals breaking their promises, but they are also increasing the public debt much more quickly than they had promised. They are doing exactly the opposite of what they had promised. I have to wonder where they are headed and whether Canada is going to hit a wall at some point. Instead of investing in our communities and in infrastructure, the Liberals are doing nothing and yet still adding significantly to the deficit.
I want to be clear about that.
In the last election the Liberals' platform said that, because interest rates are low, this is the time to get some loans, have a small deficit, and spend money on infrastructure because we have a deficit in infrastructure. That was true then and is still true. That was their logic.
That spending on infrastructure should have helped to increase growth in our country, but what we are seeing right now is that deficits are bigger than expected and there is no spending on infrastructure. Projects are not there. Money is not being spent in our cities, villages, and provinces. We do not know exactly why the money is not being spent but the deficits are higher. Why? What is the logic behind that? It is the complete opposite of what the Liberals said they would do in the last federal campaign. As the finance critic, I am worried about that, because it is not sustainable.
The Liberals are not doing what we need in our communities to help families: create more public transit; build bridges, roads, arenas, and pools, and everything that makes the lives of our citizens easier; increase the possibility of business and trade and help people to get start-ups and have the numeric infrastructure and Internet connections. High speed Internet in some regions is still a big problem. It is not there.
We are worried about the way the Liberals are not doing what they promised to do. They are not spending on infrastructure and they are not creating growth in our economy.
This may surprise the House, but I am also worried about the fact that, in his last economic update, the 's document said that the public debt charges that they were expecting, the interest we are paying on our debt, will increase from $24.2 billion for 2017-18 to $32.8 billion 2022-23. In five years, there will be an increase of $8 billion in the interest on public debt charges. That is a lot of money, and it will probably get worse.
Those numbers, the provision or the prediction, are based on a really low interest rate. The actual interest rate, or the provision, is about a 25-point increase per year or less. However, all the experts say that the interest rates will go higher than that, so those numbers are wrong. The economic situation is that the Bank of Canada will be in a position to increase the basic interest rate much more. Therefore, those figures will get worse, and we will pay much more than that. People who are listening to this should look at those numbers. It is not what experts say will happen.
I want to say it again. It may surprise the House to hear that the NDP finance critic is worried about this, but in the economic update delivered last week, we learned that the projected interest charges are basically unrealistic. Between 2017 and 2018, we will be paying $24.2 billion in interest on the debt. That is a lot of money. In 2022-23, so five years later, we will be paying an estimated $32.8 billion in interest on the debt. That is an increase of over $8 billion in five years in interest alone. That probably will not happen; it could be even worse.
Those forecasts are based on current interest rates and very small yearly increases in interest rates for the next few years. Everyone agrees that, considering the current economic situation, the Bank of Canada will not be able to keep interest rates as low as they are at the moment. Interest rates will likely go up by over 25 basis points per year. The figures presented are unrealistic, and after the next federal election, we will be worse off than the Liberals are claiming today.
With regard to last week's economic update, I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to something that I find very worrisome as a progressive and as someone who believes in public services. It has to do with what is known as direct program spending. The government has allocated $139.1 billion for direct program spending for 2017-18, $140.1 billion for the following year, and then $140.2 billion for the next. The Liberals have basically frozen this spending. They are increasing direct program spending by only $1 billion from 2017-18 to 2018-19. The following year, in 2019-20, that amount will go up by only $100 million, which is next to nothing.
With federal employees' labour contracts and collective agreements, which the government must obviously respect, and with inflation, which means that everything will cost more, we know full well that a spending freeze means cuts. The government cannot give the federal employees who provide services a 1.5% raise while failing to increase direct program spending. That will mean austerity measures and cuts to services for Canadians. That is not what the Liberals were elected for. It does not bode well for the future. Cuts and austerity measures may be imposed on public services, which are already barely meeting their obligations and the needs of Canadians.
The Liberal government tries to come across as progressive and Keynesian, but it is nothing but a facade, and the cracks will start to show in the next few years as the Liberals face a difficult choice: either reduce services, or run an even higher deficit than projected.
I just wanted to draw people's attention to this, because it is something we will have to keep a close eye on.
I want to say this in English as well, in order to bring it to the attention of the people who are listening. In the economic update last week, the direct program expenses outlook for 2017-18 were $139.1 billion. The following year they would be $140.1 billion. The year after that they would be $140.2 billion. It is almost a freeze in the direct spending in program expenses of the Liberal government.
We all know that we have to respect the working contracts of civil servants, people who work for the federal government. Those contracts, that collective bargaining, includes increased wages of at least 1.5%. We also have normal inflation. With the increase of wages and inflation, those numbers mean the Liberal government will have to impose austerity. It will have to impose cuts in public services because it is not sustainable. We cannot increase the wages of public servants, but we all agree it is normal to do. We have to respect those contracts, but those numbers worry the NDP. We do not want a policy of austerity. Even the International Monetary Fund's recent study said that austerity was not working. This is not something we want, not something we propose, and this is not something, a progressive party movement, we want to see from the federal government.
After these warnings, the only thing left to say about the budget implementation bill is that there is not much to it, and what there is is extremely disappointing. It offers no plan for investing in affordable social housing. It does not restore the eco-energy retrofit program as promised. It does not propose a national daycare program, the program that families in Quebec and across Canada would probably find the most useful.
In the NDP's opinion, the budget implementation bill is more important for what it does not address than what it does. It contains no serious measures against tax evasion. The tax loopholes used by CEOs are still completely legal and permitted. There is nothing in the bill against tax havens, which cost us anywhere from $5 billion to $8 billion a year.
Let us keep in mind that interest on the debt could rise by $8 billion over the next five years. However, we could save $8 billion a year if we made the slightest effort to stop doing business with tax havens or renegotiated all of our tax treaties with them.
One strange thing about Bill is the fact that it authorizes the to invest $480 million in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. That is right, the Government of Canada will buy $480 million worth of shares in an infrastructure bank to build infrastructure in Asia. I was under the impression the Liberals wanted to build infrastructure in Canada, but instead of coming up with cash to build what we need here, they are authorizing the Minister of Finance to invest $480 million over there. The Liberal government could end up building more infrastructure in Asia than here at home. How absurd.
We do not understand why the government wants to get involved in the Asian infrastructure bank. What is it hoping to get out of this? Why is it investing money over there? What kind of return will there be? As progressives, we have other concerns. Will this bank promote infrastructure privatization in Asia? Will it respect environmental standards and workers' rights?
Speaking of workers, the Liberals are going to be extremely pleased with themselves for giving leave to people who are victims of family violence. That is one of the measures in Bill . However, that is unpaid leave. As we all know, victims of family violence tend not to be independently wealthy and are, in many cases, dependent on their violent partner.
Instead of saying that it will give unpaid leave to victims of family violence, the government should say that it is doing nothing because that does not exist. The Liberal government is trying to pull the wool over our eyes yet again.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am happy to speak today about our government's budget implementation bill, which is an important step in providing opportunities for Canadians and strengthening our economy. It provides a legislative framework to implement key measures from budget 2017.
Just over a week ago, our government provided its fall economic statement. It shows that our plan to grow the economy is working. The economy has created over 472,000 new jobs since late 2015, and we have seen the unemployment rate drop from 7.2% at the beginning of 2016 to 6.2% in September 2017, the lowest rate since 2008, or in almost 10 years.
I have talked with many young people in my community on their concerns about the youth unemployment rate. While it remains higher than the national average, is it as its lowest rate on record at 10.3%. While I would like to see us keep beating that record and reducing it further, I am happy to see that we have made such improvements.
Budget 2017 is the next step of our government's plan. Our plan is to make smart investments. Like many of my colleagues, I have heard from constituents that they want to see our government invest in the future in smart ways to create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities.
Budget 2017, which follows in the footsteps of budget 2016, offers immediate help to those who need it the most. In my community, at my poverty reduction strategy consultation, in my discussions with the Sisters of St. Joseph, and at the rainy day multi-faith walk along Danforth Avenue in support of the Chew On This campaign of Dignity for All, along with the Danforth Jewish Circle, Eastminster United Church, and Glen Rhodes from that church, the Madinah Masjid Mosque, and the Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation, I heard about the need to address child poverty.
In Toronto, the child poverty rate was 27% in 2016. The Canada child benefit is one direct means our government is using to address this issue by directing it at the families who need it the most. It is non-stigmatizing, portable, and progressive, which means that those people who need it the most will receive a larger benefit. Also, it is non-taxable, and so the amount people receive is what they will get to keep.
I heard some anti-poverty advocates express concern that this program was not indexed. As a result, every year, its assessed value against the cost of living has gone down. In fact, this was raised by Canada Without Poverty in its presentation to the finance committee's pre-budget consultations. The good news is that its advocacy was heard. As of this coming summer, the Canada child benefit will be indexed. This will be an important step in removing child poverty across our country.
On Monday of this week, I had an opportunity to speak at a conference organized by Food Banks Canada. I was able to thank its representatives for their advocacy and work in putting together the annual HungerCount report, which provides important data and insights into food insecurity across Canada. Last year's report recommended an increase in the working income tax benefit, as have the reports and plans of action of Dignity for All.
As part of our government's fall economic statement, we announced that the working income tax benefit would be increased. That tax benefit helps to offset the financial barriers faced by those joining or rejoining the workforce by supplementing the earnings of low-income workers. Starting in 2019, this benefit will be increased by an additional $500 million annually.
Our government's fall economic statement showed how much the economy has grown, with hundreds of thousands of new jobs being created and the lowest youth unemployment rate on record. It included important anti-poverty measures through the indexation of the Canada child benefit and an increase to the working income tax benefit.
All of this good news is why I am happy to speak to our continued work to grow the economy and help provide opportunities to Canadians through the budget implementation act, Bill .
I would like to focus on division 8 of the budget implementation act, which makes changes to the Canada Labour Code that would allow federal employees some greater flexibility in recognition of the family responsibilities that many of them must balance with their work.
My two children are 19 months apart. As any parent knows, particularly a parent of two children who are close in age, the early years of balancing work with family responsibilities can be very chaotic. In my own experience, I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate with my employer some flexibility in my workplace. In my situation, that made all the difference, allowing me to be more efficient at my work while managing my very busy home. Given my experience and having seen how flexibility can work, I am pleased to see flexible work arrangements added to the Canada Labour Code. A federal employee will now have the right to request a flexible work arrangement. The employer's response now has to be based on prescribed reasons for the decision, and there can be no penalty against the employee for having asked for this opportunity. This will remove the fear that some employees might have about the negative impact of making such a request. It is a step forward in recognizing the needs of employees, which can change over time. I should add that this allowance is not just for family responsibilities, but also for federal employees to seek flexible work arrangements based on whatever their circumstances may be. They just must set them out clearly according to certain rules set out in the proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code.
An issue that is important to many federal employees as parents or as carers for elderly family members is how to attend needed doctors' appointments of their family members. I know from my own experience that I have received my share of telephone calls from my day care to tell me that my child was sick and that I needed to leave work to pick the child up. That can be very difficult to manage against my work obligations. Therefore, I can see the need for what is another major change to the Canada Labour Code, the granting of up to three days of leave every calendar year for employees to carry out their responsibilities related to health care or the care of any of their family members. This will provide some extra peace of mind and assistance to federal employees. Because this comes up as we head into parent-teacher interview season, I should add that the three days of leave also applies to employees' responsibilities related to the education of any of their family members who are less than 18 years of age. That can help them attend parent-teacher interviews or to meet other school-related needs.
This year our government announced Canada's first gender-based violence strategy. I am happy to see that, as part of this budget implementation act, it takes into account family violence by making amendments to allow leave for any employee who is a victim of family violence, or is the parent of a child who is a victim of family violence, for up to 10 days. The leave is to enable employees, in respect of such violence, to the following: (a) seek medical attention for themselves or their child in respect of a physical or psychological injury or disability; (b) to obtain services from an organization that provides services to victims of family violence; (c) to obtain psychological or other professional counselling; (d) to relocate temporarily or permanently; or (e) to seek legal or law enforcement assistance, or to prepare for or participate in any civil or criminal legal proceeding. While my wish is that this will become an unused provision as a result of our strategies to eliminate family violence, it gives me quite a bit of peace of mind to see that these changes can provide extra support to survivors of family violence.
People in Toronto—Danforth have reached out to me to ask our government to take the necessary steps to eliminate poverty. The announcements forming part of the fall economic statement that will result in the indexation of the Canada child benefit and an increase to the working income tax benefit are two tangible and important means to reduce poverty. There is much more work being done to address poverty, including our national housing strategy, which will be released shortly; our government's poverty reduction strategy, which is taking into account the feedback that was received through consultations; and the national food policy, which I eagerly await.
I am pleased to support the budget implementation act, which would provide more opportunities to Canadians and would grow our economy. The changes to the Canada Labour Code would bring some of these long-needed changes to bring flexibility into the workplace.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand in the House today to speak on our budget 2017. It is exciting, to be quite honest.
I am the member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, which is on the outskirts of Halifax and Dartmouth.
Nova Scotia has the largest number per capita of veterans and military in the country, and my riding has 23%, the most in the province. A lot of my time is spent learning how we can support them. An important part are town halls and meetings with various legion members and their families. Many of them are also military members or veterans.
I am happy to mention that a couple of months ago I was appointed to the veterans committee. It is very important to me and I am very happy to be taking part in it.
In my riding we have many seniors. We hold a lot of records for the number of veterans and seniors. From 2011 to 2016, we had a 33% increase of seniors, the greatest in the country for those 65 years and older. That identifies the need to support our seniors.
In our riding, while the number of seniors over the last five years has increased, the numbers of youths have decreased by about 5%. That is not a good formula. We have to make things happen. I strongly believe that this budget will allow us to do that.
Also in my riding are a lot of young families with many young kids. We need to create infrastructure to allow us to support those individuals.
It is extremely important to talk about our veterans. Many things are happening, although more needs to be done. This morning I met with the ombudsman of veterans affairs and the ombudsman of the Canadian Armed Forces. We now have an opportunity to drill deeper on some of the issues.
One thing our government has promised, and we will fulfill, is a lifetime pension. The details, as we indicated in the budget, are being worked out. We hope to launch it before the end of the year.
The other piece about veterans is their transition after release. It is probably the most difficult and challenging piece. Our government has already done many good things in this area, but we need to do a lot more. We need to make sure that it is a seamless process for a military member who is being released for whatever reason. Whether it is for medical reasons or not, we must make sure that we do it right.
We are not doing it right. Approximately 10,000 military members are released each year, and 27% of them have challenges transitioning. More importantly, 60% of that 27% are not on medical release. We have a lot of work to do in this area and we will be concentrating a lot of our energies here.
The government has put an educational component in place with respect to the military. When veterans are released after six years they will receive $40,000 for transition and rehabilitation, and after 12 years they will receive $80,000. Those represent investments in creating that transition that is so important, and we have so much more to do.
We have also invested in family resource centres. It is crucial for more interventions in the short term to support our veterans.
The federal government cannot solve it all. The provincial government and the municipal government also have some responsibility. They are on the ground. The family well-being fund brings veterans into the community. This allows different organizations to apply for funding for services in their communities for veterans. That is extremely important.
The other one, of course, is the centre of excellence we have talked about for PTSD and medical issues. We need to do more in that area, and we need to do it quickly. We have committed to that type of centre. What is the centre? It cannot be just bricks and mortar. There have to be services. We have to keep data and have tracking. We have to know what is happening in other countries so that we can take best practices and apply them here.
We just announced the joint suicide prevention initiative, which is another great example of our government taking a horizontal approach to supporting our military and veterans. We have the and the working together to tighten the seamless approach we want.
The second piece I want to talk about is seniors. I spent a lot of time this summer visiting every seniors residence in my riding talking about some of the services and what we are trying to do. We have already changed the retirement age to 65. Some of them are now seniors and are recognized as seniors, whereas under the former government, they were not. We know that is extremely important as well.
We also put in place for seniors compassionate care benefits. Any family member or relation of someone who has a terminal illness can apply for extra weeks of compassionate care benefits. It has gone from six weeks to 26 weeks, which is extremely important.
The accessibility tax credit is another one that is extremely important. If we want people to stay in their homes longer, we may have to make some adjustments. I am sure some members have seen the television ads about the chair that goes upstairs. That is an example. We have to do all kinds of different things structurally to make sure people can stay in their homes longer. The national housing strategy will also greatly help seniors. The investment in the national health care program is another one that will assist in that area.
The third point I want to talk about is youth. As I said before, we have fewer youth in my riding than five years ago. We need to change that trend. Last year I had a youth council, and I will continue that this year. It is an opportunity for them to help us as a government, to help us as MPs, understand some of their needs.
We have put in place the working income tax benefit for those families making low incomes. They can use that money for education. We have created an employment strategy that will help 33,000 youth develop job skills and will create 15,000 green jobs. We have doubled the number of summer jobs in the last two years for young people.
I cannot leave without talking about the CCB. All of us in this chamber, all 338 MPs, have families in their ridings that have received extra funding to use for education, sports, and all kinds of challenges these families have. In my riding alone, Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, the families of more than15,000 kids are receiving money tax-free. That is a major investment. I am hearing that at the door. Nine out of 10 families across this country are receiving more money; 300,000 kids are now out of poverty. That is impressive. That is the type of government we have.
Let me summarize. In the last two years, we have had 450,000 new jobs. We put a national strategy in place, with all the provinces and territories, for the CPP, something the last government could not do, but we did it. We are working on national strategies: a national seniors strategy, a housing strategy, and small business. This government and this budget—
Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to be joining the debate on the budget implementation act, part 2. It is Financial Literary Month. The announced it just yesterday. It was great, because the minister has demonstrated an amazing ability to look after his own personal finances. I definitely know he will not be the one announcing ethical literacy month any time soon.
I have been listening to the debate in the chamber on the tax brackets. Many members have said, “We have lowered taxes on the middle class.” In fact, do member know who the Liberals lowered taxes for the most and who received the greatest benefit? It was that member, and that member, and that member. Who did not get a tax break? It was those people, all the people watching CPAC right now. That is because the so-called new tax bracket to tax the 1% did not tax any of us more. We got the full benefit of the tax break for the middle class. I do not think members of Parliament are part of the middle class, though.
Those are just talking points. It is just spin. Middle-class Canadians did not get a tax break, because what the government gave with one hand, it took away with the other hand with higher carbon taxes, by nickel-and-diming them on different tax credits, and through higher CPP and EI premiums.
I want to spend a little time on the employment numbers the government likes to use. Just this year we saw employment numbers showing that 11 out of 12 jobs were created not in the private sector but in the public sector. That is not sustainable in the long term. We actually have to create jobs in the private sector to pay for jobs in the public sector. That is how it works.
The Liberals promised a $10-billion deficit. It is $20 billion. They are afraid of saying that word. Every single member so far has avoided even mentioning it. There is not even a plan in the budget to return to balance.
Before I continue, Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my very good colleague, the member for . I am sure members are pleased that I will not be able to use the whole 20 minutes to pillory this budget.
On the deficit, we know that they have no plan, because they are not even considering it. They have no intention of ever returning to a balanced budget, which is why they are so happy to spend. That is also why the employment numbers scare me so much. There has been a 2/3 reduction this year in the unemployment numbers. The Liberals crow about this, saying that the unemployment rate is going down. It is because the participation rate is going down. There are fewer people looking for work. Two-thirds are not looking for work anymore. I cannot blame them. They are being nickel-and-dimed on taxes, so why would they? Why would they continue working if they cannot make an honest buck without having the government take the honest buck? It is shameful.
Another part I want to talk about is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The member previously said it is about investment. Well, there is a great Yiddish proverb on this: “On his words no building could be built.” That is exactly the record of the government. It is not going to get infrastructure built. It is actually going to fail at this. It is going to create well-paying middle-class jobs in Pakistan, in Tajikistan, and in China, which leads this infrastructure bank. It is not going to create it here for middle-class Canadians, because every single Canadian company can already bid for work. We did not need to join them and waste half a billion dollars in middle-class taxpayer dollars on this. They could have bid for the work already.
Let us compare that to the government's record in Alberta. Twenty-seven out of 174 infrastructure projects are completed so far. The Liberals are two years into their mandate, and all they have to show for it is 27 projects completed. That is not me saying that. It is on the government's website. The government is saying that.
There are two programs: clean water and waste water funds, and public transit and infrastructure funds. Let us compare that to what the infrastructure bank is paying for. It has loans to 21 projects. This is where it becomes really ridiculous for Albertans.
This infrastructure bank, the one we are going to put half a billion dollars into, is going to finance what? It will finance pipeline projects in other countries. Let us look at this: Bangladesh natural gas infrastructure, an efficiency improvement project, 36 inch pipe, 181 kilometres; Azerbaijan Trans-Anatolian natural gas project, TANAP for short, is going to be financed through this Asian infrastructure bank. Let me get this straight. We will loan money to pipeline projects in Azerbaijan and Bangladesh, but we will not support energy workers in Alberta.
Who are the victims of these types of government decisions on that side? Alberta energy families are the victims of this decision to finance infrastructure projects, pipelines overseas in Asia, helping middle-class Chinese workers and middle-class Bangladeshi workers, instead of Canadian middle-class workers. That is shameful. They are the victims of this type of decision-making.
It goes on. Those are not the only countries. We have to look at it more broadly as well. Speaking of Canada's foreign interests, what kind of interests could we possibly have in financing this bank with half a billion dollars? Let us look at it.
Our ally Japan, with whom we would like to have a better relationship and a free trade agreement, heads up the Asian Development Bank. Do we choose to go there? No, we are going to go to the bank controlled by the biggest shareholder, the Chinese Communist Party, where a 76% vote is necessary to approve a project and where the Chinese government holds the biggest stake. It has been said that it is not a multilateral bank but a vehicle to pursue China's interests. Why are we financing China's foreign policy?
It has been said of the appointment process at the AIIB, which is the acronym for this bank, when compared to the World Bank, when compared to Japan's ADB, the development bank I just spoke of, that China has veto power over the appointment of the AIIB president. That type of influence does not exist at these other multilateral bodies of which Canada is a part.
I have to ask this question. Why are we giving away half a billion dollars of middle-class Canadian taxpayers' dollars? We taxed people in Alberta, people who did not have jobs, energy families, convenience store workers, restaurant workers, to then give the money to middle-class workers in China to literally build a pipeline over there. These projects have been approved over there.
We crow about projects being approved here, but in this budget the government is going after the energy industry again. It is repealing one of the tax credits that the energy industry uses. It is in subclause 19(1) of this budget implementation legislation. The government is phasing out the first $1 million and no longer will the CDE be able to be reclassified into a CEE.
This is another kick in the shins to energy families. It is a kick in the shins to Albertans, who are the victims in all this. They are the ones being targeted by this. These are junior oil and gas companies, which have been taking advantage of this to defray some of the exploration costs involved in drilling wells. They are the ones being targeted by this. At a time when the industry is struggling, the number one employer in Alberta is being targeted with the elimination of a tax credit.
The government is giving the money from Alberta taxpayers to China to build a pipeline in Azerbaijan or maybe future pipelines. However, when it comes to Canada, the government tells us we cannot do that; we have to look at our GHG emissions, look at our communities and what they think, which are all fine points to make, but why is it financing these projects overseas?
Does the government not see the drastic hypocrisy in putting forward such a budget implementation bill? The Liberals expect to raise an extra $145 million on the backs of energy workers and oil and gas entrepreneurs in Alberta, and I find that shameful.
Obviously I cannot support this bill. I cannot support this bill because I do not see anything in it for Alberta's middle class. I do not see anything in it for Canada's middle class. I just see a government project in division 2, this Asian infrastructure bank agreement to transfer half a billion dollars worth of wealth to build pipelines in other countries, among other projects. I ask myself why. Why do Albertans have to pay for all this? Why do middle-class Canadian workers have to pay for this?
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to follow the eloquent speech given by my colleague, the member for .
The bill before us implements the measures announced in the last budget. This gives us a chance to talk about Canada's economic situation, and more specifically the economic update the government tabled last week. I will come back to that.
My speech today will show how badly the government is mismanaging public funds, in the Conservatives' opinion. This government makes choices that beg for close scrutiny, but above all, it makes dubious claims about those choices, which are not yielding the results it was hoping for. This is why we strongly condemn them.
During the last election campaign, one political party had the bad, yet admittedly novel, idea of promising Canadians that it would put the budget back into deficit. That party was the Liberal Party.
The Liberal platform claimed the government would run modest deficits for three years and balance the budget in 2019. The Liberal campaign promise was a tiny deficit, barely $10 billion, and a balanced budget in 2019, which is an election year.
Canadians fell for it. Unfortunately, they now realize that those promises have not been kept. Here we have a budget that projects a $20.2 billion deficit according to the latest numbers from the parliamentary budget officer, who analyzed the data very objectively and concluded that Canada's deficit is double what the Liberals promised Canadians.
The government also promised to balance the budget in 2019. There is nothing in this budget about a timeline for balancing the budget. If memory serves, I do not believe a Canadian government has ever, in times of economic prosperity, perpetuated a deficit without a plan to balance the budget. We have seen that kind of thing during world wars, unfortunately. We have seen it in times of major financial crises, such as when inflation was approaching 10% in the 1970s, but I do not remember another government ever running deficit after deficit with no plan to balance the budget.
In our opinion, not only is this a broken promise, but, even worse, it is very bad news for Canada's youth, our children and grandchildren, because they will be paying for it in the future.
Why are we so worried about deficits? It is because the deficit is growing and, if the government's attitude does not change, it will grow to $1.5 trillion, or $1,000 billion, by 2050. Our children and grandchildren will have to foot the bill. The current government has taken the wrong approach to governing.
The Liberal government's record is as follows: broken promises with respect to small deficits and the return to a balanced budget; a large deficit that is double what was projected; no timeline for balancing the budget.
The government says that it has reduced the tax burden for Canadians, but that is not true. Just one month ago, the Fraser Institute released a study indicating that 80% of families pay $840 more in taxes today due to this government's bad decisions.
Not only will the soon to be implemented carbon tax result in higher taxes for Canadians, but the tax credits introduced by our government were abolished. The first on the government's chopping block were the family tax credits, including credits for children's sports and arts activities. It also eliminated the tax credit for the purchase of textbooks.
It even eliminated a green credit introduced by the Conservatives. The late Hon. Jim Flaherty, a former Conservative finance minister, introduced a tax credit for users of public transit. It was an effective way of encouraging and helping people to use public transit in their community. The Liberals, who continually boast about being environmentally friendly, eliminated the public transit credit.
Over the past few months, we learned that the government wanted to attack the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged among us: the sick. It decided to impose stricter eligibility criteria for the tax credit for people with diabetes or mental illness. It is despicable for a government to go after sick people.
Our government created a tax credit to help people suffering from type 1 diabetes. Earlier, an NDP member was talking about his wife who has diabetes. We know it costs a lot of money, around $15,000 a year. Our government created a tax credit to help those people, give them some breathing room, and ease their suffering. This government is making the eligibility criteria stricter.
When we were in power, 80% of the people who applied for the tax credit got it. Today, under the Liberals, 80% of people who apply for it do not get it. Attacking the sick is unbecoming of a government and that is what the Liberal Party is doing.
These people crow over their lofty principles as they claim to have created the Canada child benefit to help children. The takes the floor every day. Yesterday, it was funny, he was so proud to be providing numbers. He talked about the number of children in the ridings of Richmond—Arthabaska and Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, as if he himself had invented family allowances.
Remember that this government implemented a new system, the Canada child benefit, but they forgot a small detail in the budget: inflation. They forgot to calculate inflation. That meant that in the end, Canadians were going to have less money in their pockets than they had under our program, the universal child care benefit. Each had their own point of view and their own game plan. We supported children.
The rises in the House to say that 23,283 children today receive such and such amount. However, children also benefited from our measures when we were in power. The big difference is that we had a balanced budget, which is not currently the case with the Liberals.
When we run a deficit, we are forcing our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab. Sure, this is a family-friendly measure designed to help children. I hope it helps them, anyway, because they are going to have to pay for it later thanks to a Liberal government that cannot balance the budget. This government may be focused on families and children, but it is also making them foot the bill.
I also remember the Liberals promising to change the tax system and make the rich pay more. They were going to be like Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and redistributing that wealth to the least fortunate among us. That is what the Liberal government said it would do. Two years on, what do we see? The exact opposite has happened.
As we said earlier, 80% of families are paying $840 more to the Liberal government. The richest Canadians were supposed to pay more tax. Our teary-eyed said that wealthy people like himself were going to pay more tax. Two weeks ago, the said that wealthy people like himself were going to pay more tax. The truth is quite the opposite.
The richest Canadians are paying $1 billion less in tax today than they paid under the Conservative government. Those are not my words or the Conservative Party's. That is from the Minister of Finance, who knows exactly what is coming in and what is going out. He calculated that, because of the Liberal government's measures, the wealthiest Canadians are paying $1 billion less in tax each year than they were under the Conservatives. That is the reality.
What is more, those who stand to benefit the most from the tax reform are those who earn between $144,000 and $200,000 annually. They are the ones who win the kitty. However, nothing has changed for those earning $45,000 or less a year. I am sorry to say it, but those who earn $150,000 a year are not part of the middle class. Those who earn $45,000 a year need every penny so that their family can have a decent life, but the government is giving them absolutely nothing. Those earning between $144,000 and $200,000 a year win the kitty. People in the top 1% are getting a $1-billion tax cut. That is the reality of the Liberals' record.
That is why we have to be very careful. This government says one thing, and does another. That is why we think that the bill is no good. We invite all hon. members to vote against it.
Madam Speaker, the name of my riding is quite long, but I am very proud of it because I represent four RCMs, those of Avignon, La Mitis, Matane, and Matapédia. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
As I was saying, I am the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, which was represented by an opposition member for nearly 25 years. During that whole time, it was represented by a Bloc member. It was a particularly difficult period because we did not have the federal government's ear and were not represented at the decision-making table to make sure that important initiatives were carried out. During that time, particularly the 10 years that the Conservatives were in power, my riding went through some really tough economic times.
Jobs were lost and businesses closed their doors in my region, mainly because of the budget cuts within federal departments and agencies. It was a particularly dark period. That is why I decided to get involved in politics. I told myself that I was going to use my experience to work hard so that my region had a place at the decision-making table. Today, the Liberals are in office because our platform was and still is excellent, as reflected in our previous budgets.
I would like to respond to what my colleague said earlier. To us, the important thing is that the debt-to-GDP ratio, which was 32.5% when we came to power, has gradually gotten smaller. Now it is 30.5%, and it will continue to shrink. That was one thing we promised to do. Based on our projections, that ratio will reach its lowest point since the 1970s. We brought it down to that level thanks to a healthy economy and a plan that is working. Revenues are up, and people are confident, so they are investing and consuming goods, which is a huge help to Canada's economy.
Not long ago, Ms. Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said that she hoped Canada's approach would go viral. That is true, and that is what we would like to see because our plan is working.
As I said before, I represent a riding in the Lower St. Lawrence region that straddles the Gaspé and includes 57 exceptionally vibrant municipalities. The residents of those municipalities have been especially proud these past two years because, thanks to our budget and our platform, we have invested $77 million in various projects there. The region has not seen that kind of investment in years.
We are seeing economic growth. Jobs are being created and the economy is booming. Of course there is still work to be done, but in two years' time, we have managed to attract investments totalling $77 million. I also know that this is going to continue, because there are still some excellent projects on the table. I support them, and my government is going to support them. I can assure the House that we are in an excellent and very positive situation.
Here are some specific examples of projects that have come out of the budget measures we implemented. In my riding, in Sainte-Flavie, right next to the Mont-Joli airport, for those who know the Gaspé region, we have the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, an internationally recognized French-language ocean research institute. Last June, I had the immense pleasure of welcoming the to announce a $27 million investment, which will give the institute the research labs and infrastructure it needs to conduct important research and examine what is happening in our oceans in order to predict trends.
On top of this $27-million investment, the minister also announced more jobs. During the 10 years the Conservative government was in power, this institute was on a downward spiral. Jobs and investment were cut, which worried us greatly. Our announcement was a tangible demonstration of how much our government values research.
On a side note, when we came into office, the released a letter to federal public servants saying that we care about them, that we value research, and that we need their research findings to inform our decision making. This letter took a huge weight off their shoulders. The effect was amazing. Now they are truly motivated.
I was present at the institute when my colleague, the , made the announcement. There was a “Stop Harper” sign outside the building. This is an important anecdote, because the institute needed a chance to turn things around. Now it has that chance, thanks to our investments and the measures we implemented in this budget. Investments are being made, and jobs are now being created. I am very proud that those jobs are in the regions.
There is a major regional airport in my riding, Mont-Joli airport, that makes it possible for me to return to my region as often as possible. Scheduling conflicts can make that a challenge at times, but the airport needed to be developed because it is an important infrastructure that allows workers to travel to our region. We are committed to investing in extending the runway at the Mont-Joli airport. We have also allocated funding for decontaminating the land around the airport so that the City of Mont-Joli can acquire the land and sell it for development.
We have also invested in the environment. For example, the banks of the St. Lawrence have eroded over the years. Obviously, climate change has had a significant impact. Some do not think that climate change is having such a serious or direct impact, but back home there is no denying it. The has invested in a project to protect 20 kilometres or so of banks by planting vegetation to shield from the high tides.
Furthermore, we invested in transforming churches into cultural centres. We also invested in our communities. I count myself lucky to have two Mi'kmaq communities in my riding, Listuguj and Gesgapegiag. People in those communities are much happier when we talk to them these days, because the dark days of the Conservative reign are over. I just spent some time with some of them yesterday here in Ottawa. We met with the to talk about some development opportunities. Sizeable investments have been made in their communities, specifically to give them the infrastructure needed for their development.
We also invested in water supply and waste water treatment systems. We also made sizeable investments, in partnership with the Government of Quebec, in our arenas. We have invested in more tourism-oriented projects, such as lookouts, so that when tourists are passing through the Matapédia valley, they can stop and take the time to see the beautiful landscapes along the river. We announced some measures regarding investments in a series of lookouts so that tourists can enjoy the magnificent views in the Matapédia valley.
In Carleton-sur-Mer, thanks to our budget measures, visitors can access the magnificent Mount Saint-Joseph and its beautiful parish church. We are investing several million dollars in this tourist attraction.
In closing, over the past two years, our government has invested a lot of money across Canada. I am particularly proud of our government and our , and this is only the beginning. We continue to implement our amazing platform.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of the budget implementation act to implement the second phase of the plan that the minister and government laid out for Canadians in budget 2017. Two years into our mandate from Canadians, it is abundantly clear that the plan we laid out, which the has been executing, is working. In our riding of St. Catharines, we do not have to look far to see the real impact that our policies are having on our community.
Prior to and since my election, I have had the opportunity to work with many people in great organizations. An example of that is the YWCA Niagara Region, whose representatives I will be meeting later today. I look forward to talking to them about the great work they do in Niagara and across the country. However, prior to my election, they ran an excellent program known as the cardboard house. They set up a cardboard house. We were able to walk through the few rooms in this small house and see the statistics on the poverty levels in Niagara. Prior to my election, one statistic that caught my eye was child poverty in Niagara. That number was 25%. Of the children in the Niagara region, 25% were living in poverty. That is unspeakably and shockingly high.
I was proud to be part of the campaign with our that recognized the plight of child poverty in Canada. During the previous election campaign, we committed ourselves to implementing a policy that would help raise some of those vulnerable Canadian children out of poverty, and in December 2015 we introduced the Canada child benefit as one of our first pieces of legislation as a government. Since July 2016, when the CCB came into effect, it has been helping hundreds of thousands of Canadian children across the country. In St. Catharines alone, as of July 2017, over 15,100 children have received this new and tax-free benefit. In St. Catharines, payments average $600 per month, amounting to more than $5.4 million dedicated to helping some of the most vulnerable and to making life a little easier for middle-class families and those working hard to join them. This is an example of our government listening to Canadians.
This past summer I had an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser run by the YWCA Niagara Region. Prior to that fundraiser, it invited me back to the cardboard house, which was in the Pen Centre, a local mall in St. Catharines. I looked back again through the statistics, and many of them were too high. A lot more work needs to be done. The one statistic that caught my eye was that child poverty in Niagara was no longer 25% but 15%. As I said, that number is still too high, but it is a 40% reduction in child poverty in St. Catharines and the Niagara region within two years. We cannot argue with statistics. It's basic math: the more money we put into the hands of middle-class families and of those who are struggling, the more we reduce poverty. This is the result we get when we listen to Canadians and put in place a plan that is in the best interests of the country.
Reducing poverty and bolstering the middle class was a central tenet of our plan. It was at the core of budget 2016 and continues to be a core guiding principle of budget 2017 and the budget implementation act we are debating today. We do not have to look far to see supportive statements indicating that our plan is working, but I think one supportive statement in particular bears discussion. The Governor of the Bank of Canada is responsible for setting the monetary policy of our central bank. His job is essential to the successful operation of our economy, and his opinion holds enough weight to shift the entire stock market. He is independent, but was appointed on the advice of the former government. During his remarks of July 12, he noted that our economy was strengthening and the economic outlook strong. However, it is interesting to see his reasons for making those remarks. He credited our government's commitment to targeted stimulus spending as the reason for continued growth in our economy. He noted specifically that the Canada child benefit was “highly stimulative”.
We cannot ask for much more validation than that. The Bank of Canada governor, appointed by the previous Conservative prime minister, has credited our plan for growing the economy, which is exactly what we said it would do.
Perhaps the opinion of the Bank of Canada governor is not enough, so let us hear from Greg from St. Catharines.
I ran into Greg on the streets of St. Catharines. He said hello to me and said “Thank you, Chris.” I was perplexed by that and asked why he had said that. He told me that it was because of the Canada child benefit.
Greg's daughter and grandson live with him. While his daughter works, he takes the opportunity to spend a lot of time with his grandson. It is evident the money his daughter receives from the Canada child benefit makes life easier for the entire household. They have more money for groceries, activities, making things just a little easier day by day. These are real constituents benefiting from our plan.
If the governor's comment and Greg's story are not enough, perhaps we should talk about Laura.
Laura is a a single mom in St. Catharines. She works full time, but despite working full time and being a single mom, she gives a lot back to the community. As many parents can attest to, life is hard enough when they have kids. Obviously, as we have talked about on all sides, it is more difficult when there is just one parent. However, for all the single parents out there, life is not always so easy. The CCB helps supplement her income, allowing her to put money where it needs to go, allowing kids to be kids, to play sports, and enjoy outing with friends.
Again, the proof is in the testimonials, and the proof is crystal clear that our plan is working. Bill , which would implement the next phase of budget 2017, will continue to improve the lives of everyday Canadians.
I want to turn for a moment to talk about poverty on a wider scale.
Last week, the tabled the fall economic update, which included further measures to boost the Canada child benefit. This will continue to contribute positive results to the economy.
However, the minister also made note of a new commitment to the working income tax benefit. Addressing poverty on a wide scale requires addressing the core of the problem. While it was announced that 450,000 new jobs were created since late 2015 and we had the strongest economy in the G7, we must dedicate resources to those Canadians who are down on their luck and need help. The working income tax benefit does just that.
Utilized as a refundable tax credit, the working income tax benefit provides important income support, helping supplement the income of low-income earners. By allowing low-income workers to keep more of their paycheques, the benefit encourages people to enter the workforce and allows them to establish a level of stability, decrease their need for social assistance, and to get back on their feet to break the cycle of poverty.
This has been our goal since the election, advancing an agenda that would serve to expand the middle class and make the lives of Canadians families a little easier.
To recap, today we are debating legislation that would implement the next phase. Our CCB has been successful in its intent to reduce poverty of over 300,000 children. We have witnessed the impact it is having on middle-class families and, as such, we have committed to bolstering it further by tying it to inflation a year early, adding an additional $5.6 billion in support over the next six years.
As I mentioned, our economy is first in the G7 with respect to growth, and the Bank of Canada governor has clearly stated that our policies have contributed to the strength of our economy. Over 450,000 jobs have been created since late 2015 and we are expanding the working income tax benefit to help some of our most vulnerable, giving them the opportunity to regroup and get back on their feet, while not sinking them further into poverty.
These are the types of commitments and policies Canadians expect. The people of St. Catharines have had a direct benefit from our policies. I am proud to be part of that plan and carry this forward. I encourage all members to vote in favour of Bill .
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address what is indeed a very large piece of legislation, the government's budget implementation act. I hope to have the opportunity later on in my remarks to talk about the general budgetary policy of the government.
However, as deputy shadow minister for foreign affairs, I want to talk about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in particular, and contextualize that a bit with respect to what we in the official opposition think is a better basis for a relationship with countries in Asia and with China.
Before I do that, I will be splitting my time with the excellent member for .
Those following along at home can find, on page 239, of their copies of the budget implementation bill the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank agreement act. Although the bill is long, this section of the bill is relatively short. I would draw it to the attention of members and those who are interested in this. This is the part of the legislation that has the Government of Canada acceding to or joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a China-based and China-controlled investment vehicle that builds infrastructure throughout Asia, but does so in a way that is aligned with the strategic interests of the People's Republic of China.
A lot of Canadians would wonder why Canada would be getting into this bank, spending a whole bunch of Canadian taxpayer dollars to become part of an investment bank that is designed to advance the strategic interests of another country. As I talk about this, I want to be very clear about what I think our relationship should be with China.
In the official opposition, we support strategic engagement with China that reflects our interests and our values. That does not mean trying to have the best possible relationship, or trying to be part of every club or trying to make the other side feel as good as it possibly can about us. Rather, it is about continually looking for opportunities in the context of that relationship which advance our interests and values. We believe that is the approach we ought to take with respect to our relationship with the People's Republic of China.
This section of the budget implementation act would have Canada joining this investment bank. It would provide for Canada's getting about 1% of the shares. China has over 30% of the shares. We would have very little influence or control in the direction.
Paragraph 5 of the division of the bill dealing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says, “The Governor in Council may, by order, amend the schedule to take into account amendments to the Agreement that are consistent with the purpose and functions of the Bank.” Therefore, this act would provide substantial control to the minister to exercise outside of statutory changes.
Paragraph 7 says:
The Minister of Finance may make payments out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Bank in respect of Canada's initial subscription of shares in an aggregate amount not more than US$ 375,000,000, or any greater amount that is specified in an appropriation Act.
Therefore, this would authorize, as I had said in questions and comments, close to $400 million. I should have specified we are talking about U.S. dollars in that context. We would be spending a lot of taxpayer money to buy shares in this bank that makes investments in Asia in infrastructure and is fundamentally controlled by the People's Republic of China.
There are a lot of problems with that. One problem is simply a basic question of value for taxpayer money. Why would we not be spending that money at home and/or in ways that advance our strategic interests? Why is it somehow necessary for us to have such a good relationship with China that we effectively give it so much money for it to control?
However, this is also a problem because we have major concerns about the transparency of this investment bank and the lack of human rights protections in its activities. These are precisely the concerns that have led our partners, including the United States under the Obama administration, to choose not to participate in this investment bank. Again, this is because they question the value for taxpayer money, and, in particular, they have concerns about transparency and human rights, things that the government talks a great deal about but we do not see much action on.
In that context, I would like to draw the attention of members to this infrastructure bank's engagement in Burma specifically. There has been a great deal of discussion in the House about the human rights abuses happening right now against the Rohingya people, as well as other minorities in Burma. However, Canadian investments in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be used in projects over which we have no direct control, in environments with significant human rights problems, and without the kind of transparency about those projects or protections in place that we would expect. How do we know how Canadian tax dollars will be used in Burma as a result of our membership of this investment bank? We do not have any kind of transparency or protections around how that money would be used.
There are, of course, alternatives. There are international investment vehicles that build infrastructure and encourage economic development that have the kinds of protections we would expect and that are more aligned with the kinds of strategic objectives Canadians would identify with. We are already participating in those kinds of vehicles. However, for us to choose to spend close to $400 million U.S. on chasing the approval of a foreign power using that money to build infrastructure in Asia, very clearly, is not something that Canadians want.
I challenge members of the government, if they think this is a great idea, to take this particular section of the budget implementation act, buried on page 239, to their constituents, put it in their local papers and ask people in their ridings what they think of it. I suspect that even in very traditional Liberal ridings in this country, members of the government would find that voters do not want close to $400 million, and perhaps more in the future, going toward this particular approach. We should be working to create jobs here in Canada and advancing Canada's strategic objectives and values, but this proposal is fundamentally at odds with our strategic objectives to advance our values vis-à-vis human rights, as I have spoken about, and shows a lack of respect for human rights.
Of course, there are many other things in this budget implementation act that I could speak about, such as the continuing failure of the government to live up to its commitments. Yes, it promised deficits, three years of $10-billion deficits followed by a balanced budget. It has more than doubled its deficit projections for each of the first three years and has no plan to ever return to a balanced budget.
This budget implementation act does not let up on the government's attack on small business. Liberals continue to say, for example, that they will make changes with respect to income sprinkling and passive income that will have a negative impact on small business. I want to be very clear on this issue of income sprinkling. Before the election, there was a structure in place that allowed all Canadians to split their income. It was transparently fair and equal. Couples could share their income with each other for tax purposes, however they earned that income. That reflects the reality that couples share their money. The government did away with income splitting and then tried to use the fact that wage-earners cannot split their income as a justification for not allowing people in small businesses to do it. Why do we not just allow income splitting for everyone?
In particular, for the reasons I spoke about in regard to the infrastructure bank, and also more broadly, in regard to the problems with the government's fiscal agenda, Conservatives oppose this legislation.
Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the upper Ottawa Valley riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I take this opportunity to thank my constituents for the trust they have placed in me to represent their interests in the Parliament of Canada. I am here to serve them.
Democracy is under attack in Canada with the tabling of Bill , the omnibus bill before this chamber today. It is under attack by a complicated financial piece of legislation that is 254 pages long. The budget bill before us, Bill C-63, should be split into 10 bills, rather than the single bill that was dumped onto Parliament.
Only by allowing the Conservative government-in-waiting, and all Canadians, the opportunity to properly scrutinize government legislation will Canadians be assured that the federal government deficits are not being used to pad the pockets of party insiders. The omnibus bill requires extensive and proper study. Huge dollar amounts are being spent and taxed in this legislation. Canadians, who are alarmed at the constant erosion of their personal liberties, are being over-regulated and overtaxed, and they see this type of interventionist, budget deficit legislation as the wrong direction for Canada.
This legislation claims it will be “closing loopholes surrounding the capital gains exemption on the sale of a principal residence”. What exactly does that mean for the average, middle-class Canadian, who is so unlike the current ? The controls, through some complicated tax avoidance scheme, a private corporation that owns a villa in the south of France for his personal use and enjoyment, something he conveniently forgot to disclose to the Ethics Commissioner until now. He was forced to confess it after a CBC story outed him, which resulted in his pleading guilty to breaking the law.
For a family struggling to make ends meet and trying to start a business out of their home, does it mean they will lose their personal capital gains exemption? Average, middle-class Canadians cannot afford the cost of setting up complicated tax avoidance schemes using half a dozen numbered companies to hide a French villa, and who knows what else. If their home business fails due to over-regulation and over-taxation, will they get to claim a tax deduction against their high income tax bill?
What will be the dollar value of the tax collections quota that the new tax collectors hired as a result of the most recent economic update are required to shake down from taxpayers? Were they hired to go after home-based businesses or can Canadians expect other tax increases by stealth? For example, there is the decision to go after family owned campgrounds. How many taxes does the Liberal Party intend to collect from closing the so-called personal residence loophole?
Every proposition has a price tag. We know that the government has a figure. Average, middle-class Canadians have a right to know what it is.
What about the line in the bill with respect to beer made from concentrate on the premises where it is consumed? Unlike the , who heads to his private villa in the south of France to pursue his taste for fine French wine, for the average middle-class, working man, Canadian beer is their beverage of choice. That is certainly the case in the upper Ottawa Valley. The Liberal complaint seems to be that someone might otherwise be getting a slight break on the price of a beer. As usual, the Liberals have the wrong approach and they have hired a bunch of new tax collectors to pursue their wrong approach.
Why is wine made from concentrate not a tax target in Bill ? Why is beer only being overtaxed by this finance minister? The Conservative approach to this manufactured excuse to raise taxes on beer is to lower taxes specifically on beer that is already subject to high taxation. In the last few years the upper Ottawa Valley has seen the growth of a vibrant craft brewery trade. Typical of the liberal, deficit-obsessed big government mentality, the success of the craft breweries have made them a Liberal tax target.
A lot of hard work goes into starting a small business, something that is not appreciated by a government that has $212,234 to spend on a glossy front cover for its deficit budget document.
Democracy is under attack in Canada. It is under attack by an arrogant through his refusal to be held accountable during question period in Parliament. It is under attack by his unwillingness to fire his , who has so far admitted that his personal fortune has increased by $14 million since he took office. I say so far, because Canadians are in the dark as to the full extent to which the finance minister's personal financial holdings have increased and continue to increase.
Now that the has admitted to breaking the Conflict of Interest Act by pleading guilty to his convenient lapse of memory regarding his European villa, his removal should be automatic. His continued refusal to disclose the vast holdings in his collection of numbered companies sends a clear message that he is hiding something from Canadians.
Rather than practise open government, the has acquired a Liberal insider from Toronto as his chief of spin, Ben Chin. Who is this Ben Chin who has been hired by the finance minister to spin the truth for him? Chin is a failed Toronto Liberal Party candidate who was rewarded for losing to an NDP candidate with a position as an insider and a fixer alongside Gerald Butts, the current hatchet man, when he was at Queen's Park in Toronto.
Chin's claim to fame happened after he landed a plush patronage job at the Ontario Power Authority at a $247,000 salary, paid for by Ontario's overtaxed electricity ratepayers. One of the schemes he was able to set up was a twisted conservation incentive program called Air Miles for Social Change. Data mining is one of the reasons loyalty programs are set up. The personal information acquired has an attractive resale value to groups like political parties.
The Ontario Power Authority's initial deal with Air Miles was intended to be only from the spring of 2010 until the end of that year, but there was an option for the OPA to extend that relationship. Under Ben Chin's supervision, the program was extended.
One of the beneficiaries of the Ontario Power Authority's new relationship with Air Miles was the charity World Wildlife Fund Canada, then headed by current insider—surprise, surprise—Gerald Butts. The Ontario Power Authority provided the option for participants in designated conservation programs, who were Air Miles collectors, to pledge their Air Miles rewards to—surprise, surprise—the World Wildlife Fund Canada.
In the context of today's discussion regarding omnibus tax-and-spend legislation and who benefits, a powerful statement is being made by the ethically challenged when he turns to someone with a reputation as a Liberal insider like Ben Chin. Chin adds to the finance minister's shattered reputation.
Chin and Butts, since they were associated with the Liberal Party in Toronto, are responsible for energy poverty that is now a fact of life in Ontario: heat or eat.
Rather than address the real reasons for energy poverty in Ontario, this is a government that goes into huge deficits with Bill to send borrowed Canadian dollars to China for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
What about infrastructure in Canada? I know of more than a dozen municipalities that desperately need infrastructure repairs in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. They do not have the luxury of endlessly raising taxes or unlimited borrowing to fix their streets and sewers.
Governments should be concerned about the needs of Canadians first before chasing foreign money schemes that are designed to make the rich richer.
This is what a smart observer had to say about the new spin doctor:
Ben Chin’s electricity career helps to illuminate the real purposes driving those with their hands on the levers of power in Ontario’s electricity system.... Ontario was establishing itself as a massive electricity exporter, selling enough discounted and often free power to neighbouring jurisdictions to power substantial cities.... The conservation PR that Chin was engineering was focused on a different kind of power.
Democracy is under assault in Canada by the federal government's fiscal policies.
Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my friend, the member for .
I will be speaking about the budget implementation act, 2017, no. 2.
First of all, I would like to say how proud I am to represent the people of Gatineau in the House. It is an honour to have been chosen as their spokesperson in this chamber of Canadian democracy. Every day, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and as MP for Gatineau, I try to promote the interests of my constituents within the Government of Canada.
The first thing I would like to say is that this bill is part of a larger movement or trend, part of our government's wider plan to promote greater work-life balance. It will also help ease the burden of young families and our families in general. This is a well represented group in my riding of Gatineau. A recent study found that the population of Gatineau is younger, and that its income and rate of growth is higher than the Quebec average. The riding's people work hard and have helped build Canada through their participation in the federal public service. The people of Gatineau have worked hard in the forestry and resource sectors. They have created wealth. My constituents work, and most importantly, live and raise their families in the riding of Gatineau.
Our government's efforts and policies are appropriate for the people of my riding and have a positive impact on the citizens of Gatineau. It is very difficult to achieve work-life balance today. There are problems with transportation, and there is stress. Even with two incomes, our families' debt levels are higher than the national average. The government must take action.
Our election platform and the bill before us today are meant to ease this burden. I would remind the House that we cut taxes for the middle class. When we talk about the middle class, this includes the people of Gatineau. One of the first things we did was to cut taxes for the middle class. We dropped the retirement age. Mr. Harper wanted to raise the eligibility age for retirement to 67, but we brought it back down to 65.
As the said yesterday, the Canada child benefit and the enhancement we just announced in the fall economic update will help all Canadian families. It will give them room to make some choices, whether regarding child care, registration in cultural activities, leisure activities, and so on. The Canada child benefit is the most important social program of my generation for future generations, for the families and children in Gatineau and across Canada.
We enhanced the Canada pension plan. I applaud the Quebec finance minister' initiative, which will adapt the Canadian reform to Quebec society. The Canada pension plan will get a boost from coast to coast thanks to the federal government's efforts. This means that young workers and young families can rest assured that they will have a better and more secure retirement. What they save now will be returned to them at the end of their working lives.
Of course, there is also the working income tax benefit. Just like everywhere else, some people have trouble getting off social assistance. They find it difficult to choose between getting back into the job market and continuing to receive social assistance. Thanks to measures we just announced, this tax credit will be enhanced, which will make it easier for people to choose to go back to work and contribute more to society because they know they will get a tax credit, they know the government supports them, and they know that, financially, going back to work makes sense.
The bill we are talking about today will make life easier for people working in federally regulated industries. There will be more flexibility around vacation and annual leave. People will have up to 10 days of bereavement leave if they lose a loved one, and they will have an additional three days of unpaid leave to attend to family responsibilities. That is one way we are showing compassion for our workers and for people who are having a hard time balancing work and family responsibilities. Those responsibilities can be toward our parents, our children, or even ourselves. We have introduced important measures.
Our government will continue to make life easier for Canadian families. It will also continue to make it easier to raise a family and to deal with the stress associated with two incomes, the stress caused by personal debt, and the stress caused by job insecurity in our country.
We are well aware of these realities in Gatineau and elsewhere. As the member for Gatineau, I will continue to urge my government to take action and do what is necessary to help families in Gatineau and Quebec find work-life balance.
I will close on a more personal note. Tax measures alone will not allow people in the riding of and the Outaouais region achieve work-life balance. We need to invest more in our roads and infrastructure, including those we share with other levels of government.
We have taken a big step forward with the Rapibus extension that I recently announced with my friends and provincial and municipal counterparts. This will make life easier for many people in Gatineau. We must continue to find solutions for the western part of Gatineau and extend this transit system to the eastern end of the city.
Another initiative that must be undertaken by our government, in co-operation with our friends in Ottawa, Ontario, Quebec, and Gatineau is the construction of a sixth interprovincial bridge, this one in the Gatineau sector. That would allow a young single mother who works in Tunney's Pasture to get to the Cheval-Blanc sector of Gatineau more easily to watch her daughter's soccer game, for example. We need to reduce traffic by improving transportation, something that the programs we will put in place will accomplish. With the help of the federal government, life will be greatly improved for the people of Gatineau.
I am very pleased to be part of this government, this movement, and this trend. I once again thank the people of Gatineau who gave me the honour of representing them.
Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from for his speech.
I am very proud to rise this afternoon to speak on Bill , a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures.
I want to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people.
This is the first time I am actually making a full speech since my good friend and mentor Arnold Chan passed on September 14. I do want to take this opportunity to remember him and to reflect on his enormous contribution to Canada, and express my continued support and love to the Chan-Yip family.
I want to congratulate the on directing such a great job on our economy. I know there is limited time for me to speak before question period, so I want to just have the first part of my speech contextualize the position of our economy today, two years since our government took office.
It is very clear that our policies are indeed working. In the past four quarters alone, the Canadian economy grew at the fastest rate since 2006. The average growth was 3.7% for the past four quarters. The economy created 450,000 jobs since late 2015. That is a remarkable number to reflect on.
The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2008. This economy is projected to continue growing with a forecasted growth of 3.1% annually, the fastest growth rate in any of the G7 countries.
We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 nation. The economy is directly benefiting from our progressive economic policies. Our aim is to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, and build a middle class that will be the engine of this country. We want to ensure that no one is left behind, and, yes, that will mean that those with the ability to pay more ought to pay more.
Members may recall the measures that our government has put in with respect to where the economy has now landed. First, with respect to the middle class, we have lowered taxes on the middle class. We have put more money into the pockets of people who drive the economy. We have cut taxes for nine million Canadians.
The Canada child benefit has been an enormous source of strength to our economy. I look forward to picking up on that and elaborating more on its benefits to my riding.