Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to respond to the government's first budget. I would like to begin by sharing a quotation that a colleague recently sent to me. It goes like this: “[T]he debt and the deficit burden pose much more than an economic challenge. This is a moral issue too. What right do we have to steal opportunity away from our children”?
These words are as true today as they were 22 years ago. It might surprise my colleagues across the aisle to know who spoke those words. Speaking in this House, the former member for LaSalle—Émard struck upon a fundamental truth: borrowed money is not free; it is a debt that will have to be repaid by future generations. These words were spoken by the Right Hon. Paul Martin, a former Liberal prime minister and former finance minister.
While the party that he once led may now question the wisdom of his words, Her Majesty's loyal opposition does not. He knew the importance of having a fiscal anchor, a fiscal discipline, and a clear plan. Only with those do we have the ability to safeguard all of the programs that we need to care for the most vulnerable in our society. How can we have a compassionate government without a strong economy?
As Conservatives, we think that if we are to borrow on the backs of our children and grandchildren, we better have a very good reason to do so. Canadians deserve a plan and they deserve a clear path to prosperity. They deserve to know why the government needs so much more of their hard-earned dollars. Frankly, they expect the government to know what it is doing. Unfortunately, the government's budget fails on all of these counts.
I will be very clear on these three points.
First, the government is borrowing and spending a lot more money than it promised. Second, it is already raising taxes to pay back what it is borrowing and spending, and it will have no choice but to raise them again. Third, even after spending and taxing, the government has no strategy to create jobs or grow our economy.
Let me elaborate on those points.
First, the government is borrowing and spending a lot more money than it promised for no clear economic justification other than a political one.
Second, it is already raising taxes to pay it back, and it will have no choice but to raise them again in the future. Canadians are already overtaxed.
Third, even after spending and taxing, the government has no strategy to create jobs or grow our economy. Expert after expert have said that there is no evidence that any of the spending will create jobs.
On this side of the House, we are all worried about the uncontrollable borrowing. By refusing to live within its means today, the government is endangering growth and prosperity tomorrow and endangering the important programs on which Canadians rely. This is not just a hypothesis. If we remember the last time the Liberals were in power, we saw a 30% reduction to health care transfers. In fact, it is an irrefutable evidence-based fact, one that Canadians of a certain age know all too well.
If we remember the 1970s, the promise of the day was for a modest deficit, which back then was about $12 billion in today's dollars. That ballooned to more than a $70 billion deficit in just a decade. Interest rates then skyrocketed, investment vanished, and jobs disappeared.
By 1984, 20% of the federal budget was being eaten up just by interest payments. That is nearly three times as much as the government spent on defence, and five times more than it spent on health care.
If we fast forward to today, we are now seeing this happen in Ontario, where reckless borrowing has led to massive debt and deficits, and interest payments are now consuming money that should be spent on health and education.
A generation of opportunity was lost, and it was a long, painful journey back. With this budget, I fear the Liberals are taking Canada down the same perilous path.
We have seen it before, but it is back. It is that old, tired 1970s fiscal policy, ideas that do not stimulate any growth or create any jobs.
We were joking the other day that we all love retro, because it is back. We love the retro fashions of the 1970s, even some of the furniture. In fact, I even bought myself a new vinyl record player on eBay. However, one thing I do not like is 1970s fiscal policy.
Canadians are now asking why they should trust the government with more of their hard-earned money. How can they trust the government when the story is constantly changing? After promising modest deficits of no more than $10 billion, it has handed Canadians a bill for three times that amount. It promised to balance the books within four years, and it broke that promise too. Then it said our debt as a share of our economy would fall. That is broken promise number three. In fact, right now, it is not even telling Canadians how much it is spending, when it is spending it, and what exactly it is spending it on. It is almost as if we have to remind the government that the money actually does not belong to it.
I hope Canadians had a chance to hear about the parliamentary budget officer's report last week, which confirms all of these points. In fact, one of the staff in the parliamentary budget office, which is an independent office of Parliament, said in the 15 years he has been reviewing budgets, he cannot remember one that has been so deficient in the information that was provided to the public. In other words, the government is not being transparent with Canadians' tax dollars. Therefore, how can Canadians trust it? How can Canadians, who work so hard for their money, trust the government with their paycheques if it will not, at the most basic level, be transparent?
Canadians are also worried that there is just spending, but no actual plan. The problem is that, when a government borrows and spends without a plan, that little bit that it talked about turns into a lot very quickly. It already has. Therefore, Canadians are now asking when it will stop and how much will be enough.
The eminent Canadian economist, Jack Mintz, wrote on budget day that “Canada’s debt bomb has just gotten a lot bigger”. Why is that? It is because Canadians know borrowed money is not free. We have to pay for the privilege. Also, the more we borrow the more it costs and the less we have when a real crisis comes around the corner, and of course the less we have to pay for the things Canadians need, like health care, retirement income, and pensions.
All this borrowing leads us on this side of the House to another point. How are they going to pay it back? The Conservative opposition knows very well, and so do taxpayers, that today's deficits inevitably become tomorrow's taxes. Canadians know that the Liberals are taking more of their money now just to take more of their money later.
In fact, the government could not even wait until tomorrow. Taxes are already going up. Personal income taxes are up by $1.3 billion this year and will go up nearly twice that much next year to $2.4 billion. The Liberals are so proud of their tax on the so-called one per cent. Why would they be proud of raising anyone's taxes in Canada?
The bottom line is that the budget was not designed to help the middle class, as the had promised during the election campaign. It is instead a betrayal of the middle class. For example, the Liberal government is rolling back tax-free savings accounts, the single most important personal financial vehicle since RRSPs. Millions of Canadians use them. Almost 70% of Canadians who use them are low- and middle-income Canadians, but the Liberals are scaling them back. Why would the government want to do anything to discourage Canadians from investing in their retirement, doing the responsible thing?
On the other side, it is shuffling around child benefits, which have a proven record of success, and leaving thousands of families out in the cold. The universal child care benefit, which the Liberals are eliminating, was universal and it lifted hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty. However, they cancelled it. Tax credits for arts classes and for fitness classes are gone. Families relied on them. These credits gave them a break.
Having said that, probably the biggest betrayal in this budget was to small business owners. Small business owners were promised time and time again during the election campaign by the that small business tax rates would be going down, but the Liberals have abandoned that promise to lower taxes on small businesses and, at the same time, cancelled the small business hiring tax break. In addition to that, payroll taxes are on their way up.
The Liberal government is even increasing taxes for students, children's sports activities, and charitable organizations. That is just the beginning, a preview of what is to come. It is a simple and irrefutable fact that if the Liberals are not willing to control their spending, they will eventually have to raise taxes.
Let us talk about the impact of this budget on young people who are, right now, facing employment challenges. Why would the government add to their debt burden by raising the taxes on textbooks and education? Young people get it. They do not need a 1970s fiscal policy of interventionist big government. Conservatives want everyone to encourage a new economy that flourishes with less government intervention, not more government intervention, and young Canadians understand that. They know that good ideas, solutions, new technologies, and new platforms come from entrepreneurs, from people who are willing to take risks with their new ideas. The government has suppressed that. This is just the beginning. This is just a preview of more to come. It is a simple, irrefutable fact that, if the Liberals are not willing to control their spending, they will eventually have to raise taxes more.
What can Canadians expect for all of this borrowed money and tax hikes? The short answer is that Canadians are not getting what they thought they had paid for. For all of its spending, this budget does little to address the real economic challenges Canada does face, including unemployment in manufacturing and in the natural resource sector. Our economy may be growing, but it is growing unevenly. The oil and gas industry alone has lost 100,000 jobs. Families in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador are struggling. In fact, they are desperate. What Canada needs now is a job plan, but this budget is not it. The Liberals still, after all of these years, have not figured it out.
It is not governments that create jobs; it is the private sector that creates jobs. This idea that growing the size of government is the answer is just wrong. We need the government to grow the size of the private sector, and this budget does nothing to encourage the private sector to invest in the economy and create well-paying, high-quality jobs. The job of the government is to create the environment for the private sector to flourish, and then, frankly, it should step aside and let people succeed.
Yet, the government makes barely any mention of helping the natural resource sector, the industry where our economic problems lie and where solutions are needed today. It is offering no support for the manufacturing sector, which according to the latest job numbers, is where we are seeing very low growth, even with the low dollar. Instead, higher taxes, higher energy and input costs, with the threat of a carbon tax, and uncertainty in the approval process for energy infrastructure are driving investments away from Canada and out of these sectors.
If Canadian farmers are looking for a sign that the government respects the agricultural and agrifood business, they will not find it. There is not one word in the budget. The only new support for agriculture is not going to farmers; it is going to Ottawa bureaucrats. As for the Liberals' promised infrastructure plan—and I do not know if members know this—there is actually no new money for highways, roads, or ports. These are the kinds of trade-enhancing investments that Canada needs today to move our goods to market, and these are the ones that Conservatives funded when we were in government. It was a good idea then, and it is a good idea now.
Most troubling of all is the fact that the Liberals are cutting programs that are important to our national security. They are slashing funding to Canada's military, in a return to the Liberal decade of darkness, and delaying much-needed equipment for the men and women of Canada's military in favour of spending on special-interest projects. As new stories of terror attacks come in from around the world, the Liberal government announced that less than 1% of its $30 billion spending spree would go to public safety.
Make no mistake, the Liberal government is on the brink of causing real, long-term damage to our economy. Our Conservative members are not the only ones saying so. The Liberal government's budget landed with a thud on March 22.
The reaction ranged from disappointment to outright confusion, as Canadians struggled to understand what $30 billion of their tax money had just bought them, from the Ottawa Citizen, which said “Canada under [the new Prime Minister] is going to look a lot like Ontario under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne”, to The Canadian Press, which said that the losers in this budget include small businesses, national defence, and Canadians who want a lower tax burden.
Dan Kelly, the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who represents hundreds of thousands of small business owners, said that budget 2016 is “brutal for small businesses”; and John Ivison, one of our favourite columnists at the National Post said—and I am quoting this because it was so good—“this budget is a broken pipeline of federal tax dollars, gushing money to numerous pet Liberal causes”. I could not have said it better myself.
However, I did. Let me quote myself. I might as well take the liberty of quoting myself. The said, “This Budget is a nightmare...for taxpayers”.
Therefore, what should a responsible government be doing? The fact is that we live in a highly competitive economy. If Canada is not an attractive place to work and invest, opportunities will go elsewhere. In fact, they already are.
What should we be doing? We should be aggressively pursuing free trade. We should be streamlining regulations. We should be cutting taxes, not raising them. We should be approving job-creating projects in a responsible way. That is how we create jobs. This budget does none of that.
By borrowing $10 billion without a credible repayment plan, raising taxes on families, and throwing out barriers to job creation, this government has failed on its most important job: keeping Canada's economy strong. Canadians want true leadership to support the Canadian economy. This budget offers nothing but platitudes and promises.
Worse still, the and his team continue to throw up roadblocks to job-creating pipeline projects and the thousands of new jobs that come with them. In British Columbia, they are sending mixed messages on LNG. During his recent trip to Washington, the did not even bother to bring his along, despite the enormous stake that our energy and forestry industries have in a bilateral relationship.
We on this side of the House know that Canada should be making the private sector a partner, not a target. This will not cost the federal treasury a dollar but would create thousands of jobs. We should be supporting proper infrastructure spending that has a lasting impact, with transparent selection criteria. We should be pursuing free trade deals like the historic trans-Pacific partnership that will lead to $5 billion to $10 billion in long-term GDP growth. We should have an actual commitment to balancing the budget within the next four years. It can be done, because it has been done.
We on this side of the House know that it is possible to be fiscally responsible and create a strong business climate, and it is possible to do that while at the same time being compassionate, since the government has a responsibility to help the most vulnerable in society.
How do we know that? We know that because that is what our Conservative government did for the last decade. We steered Canada through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We did it while lowering taxes to their lowest level in 50 years; creating 1.2 million net new jobs, 90% of which were in the private sector; balancing the budget as promised and leaving a surplus; successfully negotiating free trade agreements with 51 countries, including the European Union and the trans-Pacific partnership; and approving pipelines to the United States and the northern gateway pipeline to get oil to tidal water. We did it while pulling hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty with the universal child care benefit and, thanks to the late and greatly missed Jim Flaherty, doing more for the disabled than any other government in Canadian history.
We also did all of that while at the same time raising health care spending by 70%, raising direct benefits to Canadians to their highest levels in history, and raising transfers to the provinces and territories to their highest levels in history. We also concluded a historic multi-million dollar settlement for thalidomide survivors, and we concluded more first nation specific land claims than any other government in history.
We did it because we had a plan, a clear plan, and provided real economic leadership. Without real economic leadership, there is no means to pay for all of these important social programs that so many Canadians rely on when they need our compassion.
Therefore, as Her Majesty's loyal opposition, we will push the government. We will be loud, and we will encourage the government to do the same as we did, which is to have a plan, to be fiscally responsible, to live within its means, to unleash the private sector. If not, we will not have a strong economy, and without a strong economy, we cannot have a compassionate government.
On that note, I would like to conclude, and I also move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“this House not approve the budgetary policy of the government as it:
A. includes a deficit of at least $29.4 billion;
B. contains wasteful spending;
C. has no plan to balance the books;
D. will fail to boost economic growth or create jobs; and
E. betrays the middle class by raising taxes on families, individuals and small businesses.”
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP to begin the debate on the budget recently tabled by the new Liberal government.
The budget always turns out to be a huge document. We can support some of the measures it contains, because many of the commitments the Liberals made during the election campaign were poached from the NDP's platforms in 2015, 2011, and 2008. Obviously, we can only support those measures.
It also includes other measures, or half-measures, that do not live up to the commitments made during the election campaign or do not meet the needs expressed during and after the election campaign. In that respect, the government should have listened more closely, but it did the opposite. Contrary to what the government members may believe, many aspects of this budget are far from positive.
Let us begin with the good, the positive elements that, for the most part, were taken from our platform. Let us start by talking about income splitting. When the previous Conservative government announced the measure, we immediately pointed out that it was extremely inequitable and would primarily benefit the wealthiest Canadians. In addition, it would decrease women's participation in the workforce. It would effectively be a tax incentive encouraging them to stay at home rather than contribute to society and participate in the workforce. We promised to immediately abolish this measure, and so did the Liberals. This is included here, so we applaud this initiative.
However, some of these measures cause consternation. We support the measures, but the government did not follow through with them to the extent it promised. I am talking about the tax credit for labour-sponsored funds. This has been an ongoing battle ever since the Conservatives announced the phasing out of this tax credit, which is extremely important for labour-sponsored funds, one of the country's biggest sources of venture capital.
This issue is especially important in Quebec, where the FTQ's Fonds de solidarité and the CSN's Fondaction work closely with private venture capital organizations to help businesses that would otherwise be left behind, ignored, or neglected by traditional funding bodies, such as banks. Their work has been recognized. Because of it, Quebec, which is mainly where this happens, ranks third behind Israel and the United States among OECD countries with the highest level of participation in venture capital.
When this tax credit was eliminated in Ontario, there was a significant drop in venture capital investments in Ontario, such that Quebec, which has a smaller population, now has roughly the same level of investment as Ontario when it comes to venture capital.
We promised to keep this tax credit and I personally fought to make it happen. The Liberals then made the same promise, but immediately after being elected, they promised to get rid of the tax credit. As a result, the tax credit is now down to 5%, when it was originally 15%. According to the definition of the word “immediately”, a 15% tax credit should have been in effect during the 2015 fiscal year. However, that 15% credit does not come into effect until 2017. We see that as a step backward. At a time when people were deciding where to put their savings, this created a lot of uncertainty.
Another thing that seems positive to me has to do with recreational and cultural infrastructure. This was an NDP proposal because we could not understand why the infrastructure budgets in the building Canada program did not include projects that not only stir communities into action, but also help stimulate the economies of those very communities.
After completing required upgrades to its waste and water systems and roads, a municipality that made it a priority to improve its citizens' quality of life and strengthen the community through its sports, recreation, and cultural infrastructure could not secure federal government funds because its requests were specifically excluded from the building Canada program.
Municipalities know best what they need and what their priorities are. In our opinion, it makes no sense for the federal government to establish their priorities, as was the case with the former Conservative government.
We support the initiative that will allow municipalities to secure federal funding for sports and cultural infrastructure.
However, there are several other elements to consider. Yes, there are investments for youth, but the amount is half of what was promised during the election campaign.
Yes, there are investments in public transport, and we agree with that. That was also part of our election platform. However, it falls short of what the new Liberal government promised during the election campaign and, again, it could make it difficult for municipalities to meet public transit needs, because a good part of this money is back-ended.
Now, let us get to the bad. I asked the about one of the worst broken promises in this Liberal budget: reducing the tax rate on small and medium-sized businesses from 11% to 9%.
Back in 2008, the NDP recognized that SMEs are job creators and an important driver. We realized this and proposed reducing the tax rate from 11% to 9%. Other NDP governments, such as the Alberta government, have gone even further and completely eliminated taxes on SMEs, bringing the rate to 0%.
The Conservatives ignored this policy for a long time, but finally adopted it in their last budget in 2015. We welcomed this measure, although it was one of the rare times we could agree. We welcomed this initiative and were pleased that they had taken the NDP's idea.
This decrease from 11% to 9% was meant to be gradual, and the rate was set at 10.5% for 2015-16. Once the Liberals finally realized that the NDP and the Conservatives were right, they committed to lowering the SME tax rate from 11% to 9%.
Ms. Hélène Laverdière: It was about time.
Mr. Guy Caron: Mr. Speaker, absolutely. It was about time they did that.
What did we see in the budget? The Liberals broke that promise. They reneged on the formal commitment that was made and put SMEs in an extremely difficult situation because they had planned around that decision, given that the three parties had reached a consensus. By freezing taxes at 10.5%, the government put many SMEs in a tight spot and is taking away their power to invest and hire, which is what they were previously proposing to do.
Another promise that the Liberals broke in this budget was their promise to eliminate the tax loophole for stock options as a method of compensation. This loophole mainly benefits the wealthiest members of our society, particularly CEOs and board members of major corporations.
Ninety per cent of this tax credit is used to finance stock options that are given to these people as compensation or income. However, that compensation is not subject to the Income Tax Act. Instead, it is subject to capital gains taxes when the shares are sold.
The negative impact of this measure is twofold. First, it costs the Canadian treasury nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars a year and, of course, it mainly benefits the wealthy. Second, this measure creates a perverse incentive for companies to take short-term measures to increase the value of their shares and thus allow CEOs, decision-makers, and managers to sell their shares at a higher price.
This negative and unintended consequence is widely recognized by economists and business analysts. The Liberal government followed the NDP's lead and promised to eliminate it, but there is no sign of that in the budget.
Other elements are conspicuously absent, such as credit card transaction fees, a major obstacle to growth and investment in business, particularly small business. A measure to address that would have cost the federal government nothing. Canada has some of the highest fees in the OECD, and businesses have to absorb that cost. The Liberal government has done nothing to address that.
Other countries in the world have actually addressed this question. We have seen movement by different means in Australia and in the European Union on this issue: in Australia the rate is regulated by the central bank, while in the European Union, it is set by regulation. They have recognized that credit card fees are a hindrance for the expansion of businesses, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. There is nothing on this in the budget.
Try as we might, we will not find anything about forestry in this budget. We have major problems right now in forestry. We do not know where our relationship with the United States will go in terms of softwood lumber. We are at the end of the agreement, and there is lots of uncertainty right now.
We have a problem that is akin to the pine beetle in Quebec and in New Brunswick, a parasite that is creating or threatening to create lots of major losses for the industry. There is nothing in this budget for that.
The government is deaf to the demands and needs of this sector, as it has been for the aerospace industry.
During the election campaign, we put forward a concrete strategy to help not just one struggling company but an entire sector that is critical to Canada's economy. The Liberal Party had nothing to say about it during the campaign. Now it is trying to clean up the mess with piecemeal measures for urgent situations like Bombardier's. The government's decisions will be bad for a lot of people, such as Aveos workers, who thought they were being protected but who were suddenly thrown under the bus by the Liberal government for political reasons and incentives.
There is nothing for agriculture either even though there are some major problems right now, such as protecting supply management. We will see what the Liberals do during negotiations. Dairy and cheese producers were promised compensation in connection with the EU treaty, which is not yet in force, as well as the trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP. There is nothing about that in this budget, no mention of the compensation that was promised and that is vital to helping producers adapt to the new normal if the agreement is ratified.
There is also nothing in the budget on diafiltered milk, a serious situation that currently affects all dairy producers and farmers. There is absolutely nothing. The budget is far more than just a series of fiscal measures. This becomes clear when you really look at the entire document. It is also a statement of priorities, similar to a throne speech. The fact that there is no mention of some current issues that are crucial to the future of Canada's agricultural sector is extremely troubling.
Let us talk about employment insurance. Of course, the NDP has traditionally led the charge. I clearly remember my colleague Yvon Godin, who was well known as one of the greatest critics of Liberal and Conservative measures that restricted access to employment insurance. We promised to reverse the misguided reform brought in by the Conservative government in 2012.
The Liberals later realized that that might be a good idea and they said the same thing. In fact, when the was leader of the Liberal Party, during the election campaign, he was quoted in New Brunswick as saying that a Liberal government would reverse the unfair changes the Conservatives had made to the employment insurance system. The Liberals said they believed that the irresponsible changes made to EI punished workers and unfairly targeted seasonal workers.
I agree completely. That is exactly what we have been saying since 2012. What happened, then, in this budget? It contains only half-measures. Of course, certain elements have been reversed, and obviously we agree with that. One such measure forced unemployed workers to accept a job that paid only 70% of what they were earning before, regardless of their qualifications, and finally, we welcome the elimination of the obligation for unemployed workers to accept a job that is up to 100 km away from their home. These measures undermined and reduced accessibility and did a great disservice to rural regions, which obviously have suffered a demographic shock. If there is no work where they live, these people will have to move to where the jobs are.
That is pretty much everything.
One of the main measures in the budget, beside this one, is that 12 regions in the country will be given the possibility of an extension of five weeks in EI benefits. However, this measure existed prior to 2011. It was a pilot project that, depending on the rate of unemployment, allowed workers to have a five-week extension.
This closed what was called, in Quebec especially, the black hole, the period of time between the end of employment insurance benefits and a return to work, which is quite often the case for seasonal workers. Why is the government targeting 12 regions when this program, which was clearly part of the Conservatives' EI reform, was not applied to the whole country?
Atlantic Canada was shafted by this measure; there is no other word.
Quebec was also hurt by this measure. It applies only to northern Ontario and a few specific regions. There are even people in Alberta and Saskatchewan, depending on the community they live in, who are suffering the impact of the economic crisis. They are also being ignored and neglected.
I cannot conclude my speech without talking quickly about first nations.
The Liberals fall short of many of their financial promises to first nations. For education, they spread $2.6 billion over five years instead of what they promised, which was over four years. This means $800 million less for education among first nations. For child welfare, and as Cindy Blackstock has said, the budget is $130 million short of meeting the legal commitment set out by the human rights tribunal ruling that this program racially discriminated against indigenous children. There is a lack of money compared to the promises for post-secondary education.
Therefore, this budget, by and large, falls short of what the Liberals promised during the campaign.
That is why I am moving, seconded by the hon. member for , the following subamendment:
That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the words “because it:” and substituting the following:
“chooses to keep tax loopholes for CEOs and giveaways to profitable corporations over providing immediate help to struggling Canadians, fails to honour the government’s promises to invest in health care, seniors, youth, and First Nations children, does not meaningfully improve access to Employment Insurance or close the black hole for seasonal workers, and lacks transparency; and is of the opinion that the Minister of Finance should amend his budgetary policy so that it actually delivers on the government’s promises, and addresses income inequality in this country.”
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
Although this is not my first time standing in the House, it is the first formal speech I have the honour of delivering. I am very proud to do it in support of budget 2016, “Growing the Middle Class”, our government's plan to deliver real change.
However, before I speak to the budget, I do have some general comments to make and some thanks to extend.
Let me say first what an honour it is to serve in the House. This body brings together so many people who have contributed to the framework of our great country. Over the next four years I look forward to what I know will be a new and more positive tone in the House.
In this vein, we need to work together, both sides of the House, to make those who sent us here proud that they did. Collectively, we need to earn back voters' trust and respect. We need to move away from the nasty habit of judging ideas based simply on who came up with them. We need to engage in meaningful discussions and make sure that ideas are considered on the basis of being good or bad, better or worse. Ideas can be judged right or wrong, but they should never be judged right or left.
Please do not misunderstand me. Like my colleagues in the House, I will not hesitate to speak up when I think an idea is wrong, and I should say at this point that I think the budget is right.
The list of people I need to thank is long, and I am going to miss many who have helped me get here today. Any success I have had in life is due more to the efforts of others than to my own. I need to thank my family, my campaign team, and my office staff, both here in Ottawa and, most importantly, back home in Etobicoke—Lakeshore.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my predecessors who have held this seat before me. They have all played a role in my success, and I would like to thank them.
The Hon. Jean Augustine occupied the Etobicoke—Lakeshore seat from 1993 until 2005. She did so with distinction and continues to be a mentor and role model for me. For some time, actually, she occupied your seat, Mr. Speaker, as deputy speaker, and just to be clear, I do not ever expect to be sitting in your seat.
From 2006 until 2011 the seat was occupied by Michael Ignatieff. He too served with distinction, honour, and integrity. Actually, he sat over there, and for the record, I do not ever want to sit over there.
Finally, during the last Parliament the seat was held by Bernard Trottier. I want to thank him for his service to our community, and although I am sincere in my gratitude and appreciation, I hope that neither he nor anyone else occupies this seat again at any time in the near future.
There is no chance at all that I would be standing here today were it not for my parents. They are the ones who taught me the value of public service and the importance of giving back to the community. They were the best role models a son could have.
My father was a member of the legal profession for over 50 years, first as a lawyer and later as a trial judge. His common sense, wisdom, and sense of fairness left a lasting impression on me. My mother, the late Marian Maloney, dedicated her life to community service and the advancement of women in society. She took her seat down the hall in the Senate chamber in 1999, where she continued her fight on the same issues she had dealt with for her entire life. She was a role model to me and to many women who have sat in the House. My mother, although she would never claim to be a pioneer, fought hard for what she believed in. She started the Judy LaMarsh Fund and ran it for 30 years. This was an organization dedicated to supporting women in politics and ensuring that they were given an equal opportunity to run.
I have a vivid memory of asking her, when I was much younger, why she worked so hard for the advancement of women's issues. She said something like “because it's 1985”. She was clearly ahead of her time.
Of course I have to thank the voters of Etobicoke—Lakeshore for putting their trust in me last October. It is because of them that I stand here today to speak in support of budget 2016. I do so as I believe it sets an agenda for our government, and Canada, that is consistent with the goals and priorities of my community. It sets a course for growing the middle class.
The government promised to lower taxes for those who need it most, a promise that we have now kept. This budget will help the middle class in this country get ahead and make it easier for others to join it.
I have lived in my riding for 40 years. Etobicoke—Lakeshore, like many communities in this country, is very diverse economically, culturally, and socially. It is home to middle-class families and those seeking to join it. It is home to Humber College, one of the great and flourishing post-secondary institutions in Canada. It is home to a significant and thriving manufacturing sector, including such companies as Fiat Chrysler—an industry with a large footprint in our riding—the Campbell's soup company, and the Canadian film industry, which I am very proud to represent.
All of these organizations provide employment and opportunity not only for the residents of Etobicoke—Lakeshore but also for people throughout the greater Toronto area. Ours is a riding with strong local identities in Alderwood, New Toronto, Long Branch, The Kingsway, and Mimico, which I should note is home to four recent Stanley Cups, although I have to point out none of them was won by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Etobicoke—Lakeshore is a vibrant community, but there exists a major infrastructure deficit that needs to be addressed. For a short time, I was a member of Toronto City Council and saw first-hand the challenges faced by this municipality. I would like to pause at this point and voice my condolences to the family of Rob Ford. He was a vocal and principled advocate whom I had a chance to work with, as I mentioned, and he will be missed.
My riding is home to some of the most significant development seen in the past century. In the south part of the riding is the community of Humber Bay Shores. The population of this neighbourhood will reach upwards of 40,000 within the next few years, and 20 years ago it did not exist. Although this community has grown rapidly, the infrastructure has not kept pace. This is why I am so proud to be part of a government that is making an unprecedented commitment to new infrastructure.
Budget 2016 launches our commitment to spend the unprecedented amount of $120 billion in support of such things as public transit and housing infrastructure. This will help communities like Humber Bay Shores reach their potential. When I moved to Toronto 40 years ago, the transit map looked almost identical to what we see now. This is unacceptable. The Humber Bay Shores community is the equivalent of dropping the city of North Bay into a six-block radius without offering any new transit solutions. This is completely unacceptable.
This is why I will remain steadfast as an advocate on transit issues, including a transit hub in this emerging neighbourhood. I am very proud that with budget 2016, this government has made bold infrastructure commitments while also investing in building a stronger, greener, and more prosperous country.
In my riding, housing prices have risen exponentially. Values have risen to 15 or 20 times over what they were 40 years ago. The people living in these houses are not making 15 or 20 times what they were then. The government should always encourage growth, but with a measure of fairness and equality. That is what this government is doing. The government cannot wave a magic wand and fix all the problems, but I believe we are here to give Canadians a break and an opportunity to help them not only to keep up but to get ahead.
One goal I have is to work closely with the other levels of government. My job is to get things done, not take credit for things others have done. In the past few months I have met with and talked to many constituents. I have taken part in pre-budget consultations, town hall meetings, and office drop-ins. Whether it was tax cuts, support for the environment, or the settlement of refugees, without exception they all expressed views that are 100% consistent with this budget.
To conclude, there are many people elected to the House with far more compelling stories than mine. Mine is quite simple. When I was a child, first in Thunder Bay where I was born—and I would like to add that I am very pleased to see two new MPs on this side of the House from Thunder Bay—and later in my current home of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, where I have lived for 40 years, life was much simpler. It was a time when lawyers or politicians were assumed to be honest and honourable members of society. Sadly, I am not sure we can still say that. I say that as a member of both professions.
I come from the legal profession and I have now entered this world. My goal is this: when I leave this place, hopefully many years from now, people will look more favourably on those in this House and this profession because we debated issues based on their merit, not their source. If that happens, I will feel that I have accomplished my goal.
I believe that budget 2016 is a big first step in accomplishing this goal.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to the budget entitled “Growing the Middle Class”.
Let me start with a quote from the himself. He really summed it all up in his opening remarks. He said:
Today, we begin to restore hope for the middle class. Today, we begin to revitalize the economy. Today, we begin a long-term plan that will use smart investments and an unwavering belief that progress is possible to ensure that Canada's best days lie ahead.
As I said, that really sums up what this budget is all about. It sums up the objective of the budget. However, the budget is made all the more difficult by what the previous government has left us, or has left us without. Program after program was cut by the previous government. Earlier, the talked about how the Conservative government had a surplus. No it did not. That was a surplus on a monthly basis, but accounting is usually done over the long term. The Conservatives left this country with $160 billion of added debt imposed on every citizen in this country. Not only did they leave us with debt, as I said, but they also cut programs and services. Even worse, they created disunity in the country.
If we are going to bring Canada ahead as a federation, we need to have a government that is willing to work with the provinces, to work together to grow the economy, to put in programs that we can utilize together to create growth in the economy and jobs for Canadians.
In reality, the budget builds on the measures introduced in December which provided a middle-class tax cut. We are dealing with that now with Bill . Really what that did is bring better balance to the taxation system by giving those in the middle class a tax break and balancing that by taking a little more from those who can afford it. This budget builds on that commitment.
One of the key parts of this budget is looking to the future. That is done with the Canada child benefit, assisting those families in raising their children, giving them better opportunities to spend money where it is needed. The Canada child benefit will replace the current complicated child benefit system.
The Canada child benefit will provide a maximum annual benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 per child for those ages six through 17. Families with less than $30,000 in net income will receive the maximum benefit. Nine out of 10 families will receive more child benefits under this program than under the current system. Specifically in my own province of Prince Edward Island, they will receive $47 million more in child benefits during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 period. That is a benefit to families. It is putting the money where the resources should be put.
Not only are we dealing with families, but we are also dealing with the education of students so that we build for the future down the road. We are making post-secondary education more affordable through this budget. We are enhancing Canada student grants to give young people the opportunity to be able to afford to go to university and college.
Budget 2016 proposes to increase Canada student grants by 50%, from $2,000 to $3,000 per year for students from low-income families, from $800 to $1,200 per year for students from middle-income families, and from $1,200 to $1,800 per year for part-time students. We are not only building on the very young people, but we are building the education system as well for all Canadians.
I know this area is a little controversial, but for all Canadians we are improving the safety net for those who find themselves in difficult times as a result of being out of work. We are improving the employment insurance system after the disastrous way it was handled by the previous government.
We are expanding access to new entrants and re-entrants by dropping the 910 hours' entrance requirement to whatever the regional rate is. We are reducing the two-week waiting period to one week. We are improving the program for working while on claim. That is extremely controversial. It was extremely controversial in my area, because under the previous government's system, a person was penalized for going to work. Even people who were on maternity leave were penalized for going to work and keeping up their skills, especially those who worked in a hospital setting for one day a week while on maternity leave.
I do not mind admitting that there is some controversy around the next point I will make, and that is extending the five-week pilot project to those areas that were hardest hit by the downturn in the economy. I would say there is some controversy in my own region over that because that five weeks was not applied in that particular region, but it is targeted to those areas which have been greatly impacted by the downturn in some of the commodities in the marketplace.
The minister has committed to look at that into the future. The minister has committed to review the employment insurance system and those measures going down the road. I look forward to that review, to ensure that we get fairness and equity throughout the total measures around employment insurance in this country.
We improved the safety net for those finding themselves out of work. I do not have the time available to go into it, but we do look beyond employment insurance and we are investing in skills and training. We are enhancing the investments in training itself, strengthening the union-based apprenticeship training, supporting flexible work arrangements, and improving labour market information for Canadians. We are trying to put that workforce in a place where their skills will be needed in the future and expand on those skills to grow the economy.
However, it is not enough to deal with today's reality. We are looking at the long-term future. During the election campaign we talked a lot about investment in infrastructure. While we are looking at $11.9 billion over five years starting right away, budget 2016 puts this plan into action with an immediate down payment on this plan: $3.4 billion over three years to upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada; $5 billion over five years for investments in water, waste-water, and green infrastructure; $3.4 billion over five years for social infrastructure, including affordable housing, early learning and child care, cultural and recreational infrastructure, and community health care facilities.
We are investing in the future. Specifically in my comments I should make this point: Major transfers to Prince Edward Island will total $582 million in 2016-17, an increase of $29 million from the previous year; $380 million through equalization, an increase of $19 million from last year; $147 million through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $8 million from the previous year; $54 million through the Canada social transfer, an increase of $1.6 million from the previous year.
My point is, my province benefits from this budget in terms of the transfers, in terms of the programs, and Canada as a whole can look to the future with opportunity and excitement because of what this budget does.
It addresses the problems created by the previous government and puts in place investments in families, infrastructure, education, and skills training, which is what Canadians really need to grow, with opportunity and the hope for prosperity in the future. That is what the has done in this budget. I ask everyone in this House to be supportive of that to help build Canada's future.
Mr. Speaker, today I am very pleased to be sharing my time with my friend the member for .
A couple of weeks ago, the was trying on his new shoes for the budget, and I can appreciate the need for new shoes, personally speaking. However, the finance minister did it at the Boys and Girls Club in Toronto, which is a place that is very well known for teaching life lessons and giving kids a good foundation. I felt a sense of irony when the minister chose this spot to talk about his plan for the Liberal budget, because it is a plan that actually commits Canadians to long-term structural deficits, and it is the future generations in that room who will be paying for it. While the Liberals struggle with the notion that, if they borrow money, some day they have to pay it back, kids understand very well that when one lends something, there is an expectation that it will be given back one day.
Before the Liberals took office, taxes in this country were at their lowest point in 50 years. By the end of the Conservative mandate, the average family of four in Milton was saving $7,000 per year, our debt-to-GDP ratio was actually lower than when the Conservatives took office, and it has been confirmed by the good people at Finance Canada that we left the government with a balanced budget and a surplus, to the point of $4.3 billion. However, as with all things, times have changed.
One of the first things the Liberal government did since taking office was actually undo the advances the Conservatives had made over the past 10 years. In doing so, it completely abandoned its election promise to cap its deficit at $10 billion. It decided it was no longer important to aim for a balanced budget, and I am sure that when it is pressed, it will also reverse on the debt-to-GDP ratio.
The Liberal budget, as presented, is very disconcerting, and Canadians cannot actually comprehend what the Liberal government is attempting to do in this plan and how it tries to justify it. The finance minister's last economic outlook actually showed that revenues were holding up better than expected. GDP growth in the last quarter of 2015 was also higher than expected. Canada is not in a recession, yet the Liberal government is on track to borrow millions and billions of dollars in order to solve a recession that is not happening.
Plans for this spending spree confirm what Conservatives have long believed: Liberals are more concerned about optics than they are with helping Canadians. The budget sets out spending that is untargeted, and this spending will actually end up hurting Canadians in the long run in the form of tax increases. The budget is nothing more than a betrayal of the middle class, because Conservatives understand that, if the Liberals are not willing to control spending, taxes will eventually go up to pay for the money that has been borrowed.
It is a betrayal of families, because they understand that their household budgets cannot be sustained on credit. As well, it is a betrayal of small businesses, the 1.2 million Canadian men and women who were promised relief by every party in the election campaign, because that relief leads to job creation and solid economic investments. It was the Liberal government that turned on them. In addition, it is a betrayal of Canadians who trusted the Liberals not only to keep the promise to small business, because that is where 98% of the economy is, but to keep their election promises.
I originally come from Cape Breton Island, where unfortunately I learned a thing or two about unemployment, the long-term effects, and what happens when Liberals try to fix our problems. There are more than 100,000 Canadians out of work today in the oil and gas industry alone. In a recent poll, Canadians across the country said very clearly—46% of them, actually—that they are concerned for either their own jobs or the jobs of others in their households. Those 46% of Canadians live with the weight in their minds and hearts of whether they are going to have jobs.
Families need to see a real plan to ensure that we are creating well-paying jobs. However, what they are seeing instead is small business being saddled with an increase in payroll taxes, as well as the provinces being encouraged to introduce a carbon tax. Both of these are job-killing measures that discourage investment in our economy.
In the last two weeks, we have had the ability to speak with folks in our ridings, and some of us have spoken to folks in their ridings as well. The one question I get is this: “What did they buy with $30 billion of our money?” I cannot blame people for being confused. Canadians are seeing money fly out the door with no assurance that they are going to get value. However, here is the best part. The Liberals call it investments, when we know it is spending.
Canadians are not the only ones who are confused, it would appear. Last week, the parliamentary budget officer released a scathing response, providing proof that the budget is not only overinflated, not only an overestimation, but it is not transparent. Is that not a far cry from what the Liberals offered on the campaign trail? The PBO pointed to a massive hole in the budget and asked this very pertinent question: How is the government going to fill it? The response, just like now, is silence, because there is no response.
It is mind-boggling to Canadians that the government has planned deficits of $115 billion over the next five years and it has yet to decide what it is going to spend it on. Since the campaign, the Liberals have been forced to admit that their math has been wrong. They miscalculated the price of their own tax plan. They miscalculated the size of their own deficits. As well, as if it is not bad enough that Canadians do not have confidence in their math, the Liberals suggest continually, including today, that we should not trust the math prepared by the officials at Finance Canada that shows we left a surplus.
It is no wonder that Canadians are worried. The Liberals have clearly demonstrated that they have an inability to make the hard choices that governing requires. They have demonstrated an even greater inability to provide measures for Canadians that will actually help them.
The Conservatives found themselves in a tough economic situation, the great recession. That is why we had a plan to return to balance, to live within our means. We achieved that in 2015.
I was opposed to a modest $10-billion budget, and I said that during the election campaign. Had the Liberals actually kept that pledge, we would have ensured that every single cent went to encouraging job creation. However, that number was a dream compared to the nightmare scenario we are looking at today.
Uncontrolled spending will inevitably lead to long-term structural deficits that are simply unsustainable. Some economists go as far as to say that it is $150 billion in new debt over the next four years alone. Now the Liberals say that the only thing that matters is debt-to-GDP ratio, but that is not true. The only thing that can be controlled in debt-to-GDP ratio by the government is the debt. It cannot control growth, and it certainly cannot control interest rates.
Why does the government not focus on the things that it can influence? Those are creating proper incentives to stimulate economic growth, watching the debt, and ensuring we are not increasing departmental sizes to the point where they become unsustainable.
I have one final word with respect to the budget, and it is a word that we have difficulty with on our side of the House. However, it is definitely not a difficulty on the other side of the House, and that comes to taxes. As I pointed out already, we strove to reduce taxes because we know that is what we do to spur economic growth and have companies create jobs. The government has set it up so that the Liberals' tax increases have moved a tax rate in Canada above 50%. In some provinces, as in Ontario, people are paying 53.5% in income tax to the government before they get to keep any of their money. However, that is not all. The Liberals broke their promise to small business, 1.2 million Canadians, on their taxes. The Liberals are also encouraging carbon taxes, and employers are going to be left with no choice but to look at their stock of employees and determine who will lose their jobs.
It is in times like this that it is important for us to be responsible, to live within our means, and to have a plan. However, this budget is unconstrained. It is haphazard spending. It is not economic stimulus. Any long-term benefits will be outweighed by the enormous literal costs, and as such it must be firmly opposed.