Mr. Speaker, governing is about priorities, and there is no better indicator of a government's true priorities than its budget choices.
Governing is about priorities and it is really in the budget choices that we see what a government is all about. After having promised to take care of the middle class, the very first budgetary measure brought in by the new Liberal government provided the highest tax break for families earning $200,000 a year and provided exactly zero dollars and zero cents for families earning $45,000 a year. What is interesting is that in many provinces across Canada, $45,000 a year is about the average of what a family earns, so it is a bit mystifying for most people to try to understand how the Liberals claim to have helped the middle class when in fact they were helping the richest.
Budgets are also part of the institutional life of this place. Unlike our American colleagues to the south who have endless additions once a budget is tabled, we have a system where a government's budget is presumed to be adopted. That is why we have a principle of budget secrecy, which is not very well respected by the new government by the way. I remember in particular the standing up and quite excitedly announcing that there was going to be great news for small businesses in the budget, but we learned that in the budget, the government was cutting the tax break that had been scheduled for small businesses which are the job creators in this country.
There is also part of the institutional life of this Parliament which is reflected in the fact that all-party budget consultations have always been a tradition. I was Jack Layton's finance critic for many years and these consultations were very important. I and my colleagues would have a chance to listen to people and groups in different regions of Canada about their priorities and what they were hoping to see in the budget. The fact that it was all-party showed that the budget in and of itself often has to be half a notch above the usual partisanship here because it is going to have to be adopted and we are supposed to be listening to what Canadians' priorities are.
I was surprised, not to say shocked, when in January I heard that the new had taken it upon himself to hold his own budget consultations. It is not bad that a finance minister has consultations, but the tradition is to include the other parties. When that was pointed out to him, he just said that there was not enough time. That was pure bafflegab. That simply was false. He was making that up. He was not respecting tradition. Sunny ways have always promised us that it is going to be better, that the government is going to be more open, more transparent, but all of a sudden, we learned that sunny ways and sunny days also mean that the government does not have to listen to anybody else and it certainly does not have to bring the other recognized parties in Parliament to the consultations.
If we thought that was a one-off, we soon learned that the other budget tradition in the House, which is that the finance minister always addresses a letter to the leaders of the other parties asking them about their priorities, was not respected. We were getting so close to the budget; it was about 72 hours before the budget presentation when I took it upon myself to write that letter with our priorities to the , because he had not respected that parliamentary tradition either.
Both of those events pointed to something quite troubling for me: a new government that talks a good game, but we really have to watch what it actually does. It is not only about promising to help the middle class but instead doing nothing for the middle class and helping the wealthiest, it is also about important parliamentary traditions that allowed us in the past to get together to build budgets.
I took it upon myself to carry out my own tour, from Halifax to Victoria, from southwestern Ontario to northern Saskatchewan. I met with hard-hit resource workers in western Canada who worry that the employment insurance they thought they were going to get is not there. The Liberals will talk, as the did again today, about the changes to employment insurance in the budget, but all that changed was the number of unemployed people who are not eligible for EI from 850,000 to 800,000. Members heard that number right. Eight hundred thousand Canadians who have lost their jobs are not eligible for EI, despite a promise from the Liberals during the election campaign to bring in the 360-hour rule and to get rid of the unfair changes wrought by the Conservatives.
There is nothing in here to help families buried in household debt. Canadians have the highest household debt of the G20. Skyrocketing child care costs are not addressed either. It still costs over $2,000 a month to have an infant in child care in Toronto. That makes no sense, and of course, it is women who pay the price.
I listened attentively when the described himself as a feminist. Well, someone who is a feminist would be trying to put in place programs to help women. It is in fact women who often have to make the tough choices and the sacrifices in their careers when affordable quality child care is not available.
I will never forget Kathleen Wynne chiming in to fight affordable, quality child care during the last election campaign. If she ever again tries to style herself as a progressive, I will be there, front and centre, to remind Ontarians that she fought quality, affordable child care.
That would be the same Kathleen Wynne with the big progressive budget, where she is now proposing to privatize Ontario's Hydro One. She just forgot to mention that when she was selling herself as a progressive during the last campaign.
I also met call centre and airport workers who work their full 40 hours a week and still live in poverty because we do not have a decent federal minimum wage. We wanted to bring the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. I will never forget the current during the campaign saying it does not apply to people in big box stores. No, the federal government does not regulate big box stores, but it does regulate airport workers, call centre workers, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians could have gotten a raise with a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.
I listened to those indigenous communities that suffer boil water advisories, systematically underfunded schools and health, and a mental health crisis few can imagine, and that we will be debating on an emergency basis here in the House tonight. I am so proud of my colleagues who brought that forward so we can finally have a full airing of the issue here.
Many Canadians get a sense that the deck is stacked against them, and they want their government to be there to help them. We in the NDP have always considered that as social democrats our prime responsibility is to reduce inequality in our society. We have always understood that the best way to assure perennity of anything that the government does is to make sure that we have fully funded universal social programs, like child care and pharmacare. We will continue to reduce inequality in our society by proposing that we bring in universal, fair, social programs across the country.
I remember, the signals came very early. The new families minister gave an interview very early and warned people that things were going to have to wait. However, what did not have to wait was for CEOs to keep their stock option tax loophole.
During the campaign, the Liberals many a time mimicked NDP undertakings, so when we said that we simply could not accept that in a country as wealthy as Canada one million children were going to school hungry, and we were going to do away with the $800 million gift we were making to CEOs who do not pay their fair share of taxes because they are allowed to have stock options tax loopholes, the Liberals imitated that promise word for word. They said they were going to do away with it. Then about eight weeks before the budget, they started backing away from it. That is their new theme song, like a truck backing up. We can hear the beep, beep, beep.
There it was. All of a sudden, for what was promised, they said maybe they would do half in this budget. Lo and behold, the budget arrived and there was not a single line on removing the CEO stock option tax loophole.
Canada's economy has grown by 50% in the past 30 years. It was workers who were responsible for this 50% increase in a single generation. However, these workers' incomes are stagnating, and many of their jobs are being outsourced.
Inequality is growing faster in Canada than in any other G20 country. Today, the 100 richest Canadians, at the upper end of the scale, have more wealth than the 10 million Canadians at the lower end of the scale. That is unacceptable.
In Canada, the average CEO earns 200 times more than a worker. The rich are earning more and more, while middle-class workers are losing their good jobs. The number of precarious, part-time, and temporary jobs is on the rise.
I want to get back to the progressive Ontario government, whose members have come up with my favourite euphemisms.
The euphemism factory that is the Kathleen Wynne Ontario Liberal government came up with my favourite. Instead of talking about part-time, precarious, temporary jobs, it calls them CMEs, contemporary mobile employment—what normal people would call lousy jobs. In fact, the CIBC put out a study recently that proved that these are the worst-quality jobs that we have seen in a full generation.
So it has been promise after promise.
Sixty billion dollars in tax giveaways provided nothing to stimulate the economy. Last year the banks made $35 billion in profit and paid their directors $12 billion in bonuses while at the same time shipping thousands of good-paying Canadian jobs out of the country.
The stock option tax loophole should have been gotten rid of. Small businesses should have been given a break because they do create the majority of jobs in this country, but we know that when the Liberals talk about helping workers, they are most often helping the richest.
With respect to employment insurance, the Liberals and Conservatives managed to divert more than $55 billion from the employment insurance fund. Workers and their employers contribute to this fund so that they have access to assistance when the economy is struggling and more people lose their jobs, as is the case right now.
The Liberals called out the Conservatives when they locked the EI fund up tight, but the Liberals are the ones who invented the idea of dipping into the EI fund. Imagine our surprise when the government proposed taking another $7 billion from the fund in this budget. Canadians and first nations communities deserve better.
On the weekend, Cindy Blackstock explained that in light of the Human Rights Tribunal's decision, $230 million was missing from the budget.
That is worth explaining.
We have a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal requiring the government to stop racial discrimination against first nations youth. There is $130 million missing in the budget for child welfare and $230 million missing for education. This is not a question of personal choice. This is not a question of opinion. The courts have ruled this is a case of racial discrimination. When it is a case of racial discrimination, we have to remove the discrimination. The Liberals did not do that. It is shameful.
There is not a single mention of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the budget.
For anybody who thought there might be a little bit of breathing room given when the Liberals promised to reinvest $3 billion in home care, there was not one dollar. That would have taken some pressure off our severely taxed health and social service system—notably, the hospitals across this country.
Only half of the promised money was there for transit. More and more, we are going to see tolls and user fees coming in.
Now I have to spend a minute talking about my favourite broken promise on the part of the Liberals.
Members might recall that I asked the if he was going to respect his personal solemn promise to restore door-to-door mail delivery. I hope members remember his answer, because I will never forget it. He said the seniors, the mobility-reduced seniors living in our downtown cores who believed him when he promised to restore door-to-door mail delivery, should have actually gone online, and if they had consulted the platform of the Liberal Party, they would have noticed that it was slightly different from what he promised when he was standing beside Mayor Coderre of Montreal when he wanted to win some votes.
There is a message there from the , the same person who always laments how cynical it has become in politics. What could be more cynical than looking at that mobility-reduced senior and saying, “Sorry, sucker. You should have read the fine print. You should never have believed a word I said”?
If we took the money needed to pay for the life cycle of one F-35, we could pay the tuition of 100,000 young people.
Members heard that right.
Over the life cycle of each F-35—the ones they cancelled in the middle of the campaign but are sort of not really cancelled anymore—each one is going to cost well over $1 billion. We know how much that is: it is enough to help pay the tuition for 100,000 Canadian youth. We find that is also shameful. The Liberals are spending money on F-35s when we have the greatest student indebtedness ever in the history of Canada.
There is also a total lack of any credible climate change program. It is mind-boggling. I get to sit here in front of the , and her answers on greenhouse gas reductions in Canada are so spectacularly vapid that it defies understanding. She stands day after day and talks about a regulatory approach in which somehow the province is responsible. It was Canada that signed. Remember “Canada is back”? Unfortunately, Canada came back with the Conservatives' timelines and their program.
The Liberals have no plan whatsoever. It is a complete and utter fraud when the Liberals talk about reducing greenhouse gases in Canada. Yes, it is 2016; unfortunately, in 2017 we are going to produce more greenhouse gases, and when it is 2018, we are going to produce even more. We have no plan whatsoever from our federal government to reduce greenhouse gases. Canada is not doing its share to combat global warming.
That is why New Democrats were clear. The only way to judge this budget is not on what the Liberals said but what they have actually done.
Did they take practical steps to reduce inequality in Canada, yes or no? They did nothing.
When the Liberals refuse to ask big banks, profitable corporations, and wealthy CEOs to pay their fair share of taxes, we are left without the fiscal capacity to invest responsibly. As usual in tough economic times, struggling Canadians and the most vulnerable, like first nations youth, are told they have to wait for help, wait for improved employment insurance, wait for a more secure retirement, wait for better health care, and wait for more affordable child care. Canadians have waited long enough.
As the progressive opposition, our New Democrat team will keep fighting to ensure everyone pays their fair share, everyone is taken care of, and no one is left behind.
Thank you. Merci. On continue.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
It is an honour to rise in the House today and speak in favour of budget 2016. During the last election and through extensive pre-budget consultations, I heard personally from many people in Oakville. Oakvillians shared their concerns about jobs and job security. Many felt trapped in poor-quality jobs or had family members who were struggling in a sluggish economy.
Young families expressed concerns about the cost of day care and their struggles to make ends meet. Many seniors and young Canadians said they also were having difficulty making ends meet. The root causes were different, and different solutions will be required, but if we do not act to help, the outcome is the same: people trapped in poverty or people trapped in underemployment.
The Town of Oakville, Halton Region, and many business owners talked about failing infrastructure and problems with road congestion. Owners of small and medium-sized businesses spoke about their concerns with access to trained workforces and support for the innovation and entrepreneurship that has been a staple of the Canadian economy. They are also worried about the slow economy and the need for revitalization and stimulus.
Social agencies expressed concerns about housing, poverty, inadequate shelters from violence, and care for the elderly. Green advocates like the Halton Environmental Network and Oakvillegreen raised concerns about reliance on greenhouse gases and the need to move our economy from a carbon dependency.
Many residents of Oakville were concerned about the loss of federal investments in arts and culture, and particularly the reduction in funding to the CBC.
The reason I am so honoured to rise and speak today is my confidence that this budget will begin to address these myriad concerns and many others that I have not specifically addressed. Let me speak to some of the specific budget provisions.
For young families, budget 2016 would introduce the Canada child benefit. This would provide families with a maximum benefit of up to $6,400 per child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 per child aged six through 17. With the Canada child benefit, more than three million families would receive more benefits than before—on average, $2,300 more per year, tax-free. This would lift almost 300,000 children out of poverty.
For young Canadians, budget 2016 would ensure that students graduating from college or university would not have to start paying back their student loans until they make at least $25,000 in annual income. Budget 2016 would boost grants to low- and middle-income college and university students by as much as $1,000 per year. This measure would put more money in the pockets of 360,000 students a year.
The introduction of a flat-rate student contribution to determine eligibility for Canada student grants and loans would encourage students to work and gain valuable labour market experience while studying. This measure would provide assistance of $268 million over four years. Employment opportunities for youth are also planned through an investment of an additional $165 million in 2016-17 for the youth employment strategy, and $300 million over three years for the Canada summer jobs program to create 35,000 additional youth jobs each year.
When I met with young Canadians who were progressing after post-secondary education with jobs and low debt, many had benefited from co-op placements. Co-op placements provide essential networks and in-year funding to help with educational costs. Support for new co-op placements and work-integrated learning opportunities for young Canadians is planned in the budget through an investment of $73 million over four years for the post-secondary partnership and co-op placement initiative.
To help universities and colleges develop highly skilled workers, to act as engines of discovery and support the growth of innovative firms, budget 2016 would provide up to $2 billion over three years for strategic projects to improve research and innovation infrastructure.
For seniors, the budget would increase the guaranteed income supplement benefit for single seniors up to $947 annually to help lift low-income single seniors out of poverty. This measure represents an investment of $670 million per year and would improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada.
The government would restore the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65, which would put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of Canadians as they become seniors.
Budget 2016 provides infrastructure support for the construction, repair and adaption of affordable housing for seniors through an investment of $201 million over two years to help the many seniors facing challenges in accessing affordable housing.
To improve the retirement income security for all working Canadians, the government has begun discussions with the provinces and territories to enhance the Canada pension plan, a portable, low-cost and defined benefit pension.
To grow the economy and create jobs, phase 1 of the infrastructure plan invests $11.9 billion to build roads, bridges, improve public transit, improve water and waste water facilities, and refurbish affordable housing. This will create tens of thousands of jobs and boost the economy. Specifically, the government will invest $3.4 billion over the next three years to upgrade and improve public transit; $5 billion over five years for investments in water, waste water, and green infrastructure projects; and $3.4 billion over five years for social infrastructure, including affordable housing, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
In addition to the new funding announced in budget 2016, the government will continue to make available approximately $3 billion each year in dedicated funding for municipal infrastructure projects through the gas tax fund and incremental goods and service tax rebates for municipalities.
To help businesses and manufacturers of all sizes, budget 2016 makes available up to $800 million over four years, starting in 2017-18, to support innovation, networks and clusters.
To support an innovative automotive sector, budget 2016 announces the extension of the automotive innovation fund through to the end of 2021. The government will also examine approaches to maximize the impact of federal support offered to the automotive sector, including assessing the terms of the fund.
To assist the transition to lower carbon transportation fuels, budget 2016 provides $62 million over two years to support the deployment of electric vehicles and alternative transportation fuels infrastructure.
Building on Canada's proud history in space and to create employment opportunities for the space industry sector, budget 2016 proposes to provide up to $379 million over eight years for the Canadian Space Agency to extend Canada's participation in the international space station to 2024.
For small and medium-sized enterprises that are receiving advice and project financing through the industrial research assistance program, budget 2016 proposes to provide the program with a further $50 million in 2016-17.
Budget 2016 invests in the Canadian cultural sector to create jobs and ensure that our unique Canadian perspective is shared with the world. Included in this allocation are $1.3 billion in support for long-standing arts and cultural organizations, such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, and the National Film Board.
Canada will also be able to showcase Canadian artists and cultural industries abroad with an investment of $35 million over two years, which will immediately help Canadian foreign missions promote Canadian culture and creativity on the world stage, particularly in the lead-up to the Canada 150 celebrations.
As I said at the outset, I am proud to rise and speak to the benefits of this budget for the people of Oakville, for Canadians and for our economy. This budget specifically addresses the concerns I have heard in my community. It puts us on a course for economic growth, expands opportunities for the middle class, and for those striving to be in the middle class.
Finally, this budget allows the government to reach out with help for those most in need in our communities.
It is a new day for Canadian families, Mr. Speaker, and it is a true privilege to rise in the House to speak in favour of the government's budget. This is a budget that finally gives middle-class families and those working hard to join them a long overdue helping hand.
My riding of Scarborough Centre is a community of hard-working middle-class families. We are a diverse community hailing from all corners of the world, all proud Canadians working hard to provide a better life for our children.
We are not afraid of hard work in Scarborough. We know that to put in an honest day's work to provide for our families is a noble thing. It is the responsibility our parents taught us, and we are working hard to instill that in our children.
For far too long middle-class families have gone without a raise. They have watched their rent go up and groceries get more expensive, while their paycheques never keep up.
We value hope and hard work, but we also believe that hard-working middle-class families deserve a little help from their government. After a decade in the dark, finally middle-class families have a government that is listening.
The first thing this government did was to lower taxes for nine million middle-class families, and budget 2016 builds on that investment in our middle class by introducing the Canada child benefit.
Unlike the program of the previous government, which sent cheques to millionaires who did not need the help, this government's Canada child benefit is targeted to those families that need help the most. Low and middle-income families will receive more benefits under this program and it will not be clawed back when they file their taxes. The program is simpler with families able to count on a single payment every month and it is more generous with eligible families seeing an average annual increase of $2,300.
Families that earn less than $30,000 will receive the maximum benefit and nine out of ten families will see an increase in benefits. Best of all, thanks to this investment, 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty by 2016-17 compared to 2014-15.
For the many families in my riding where both parents are working just to keep up with the cost of living, the Canada child benefit provides much needed relief. Combined with this budget's infrastructure investments in early learning and child care, parents can sleep more soundly at night knowing their children's futures are a little more secure.
Invariably though, our children grow up. As a mother, I unfortunately see this myself. It is sometimes hard to accept my two boys are now teenagers getting ready to go to university. Soon after that they will be entering the workforce. I worry about the opportunities that will be there for them and if they will have the chance to succeed to their potential.
My husband and I have been saving for our sons' education and I am lucky to have a job that will make it a little easier to send them off to school. However, not all families have that opportunity. The cost of post-secondary education has been escalating dramatically for years. We are saddling our children with crippling debt just as they try to begin their adult lives.
I believe there is no better investment a government can make than in our young people. The dollars we invest in post-secondary education will come back to the public coffers many times over as today's confident and dynamic students become tomorrow's innovators and job creators.
First, we need to give our youth a fair chance at success. With budget 2016, we are giving Canada's youth that opportunity. The budget increases the size of Canada's student grants to help students from low and middle-income families cope with the rising costs of post-secondary education. With assistance of $1.53 billion over five years, students from low-income families will now be eligible for non-repayable grants of up to $3,000 annually, an increase of 50%.
The government is also expanding eligibility for the Canada student grants program to help even more students receive non-repayable assistance.
Also, to not unfairly burden recent graduates just beginning their careers or looking for that important first job just out of school, the budget would raise the loan repayment threshold under the Canada student loans program repayment assistance plan to ensure that no student would have to begin repaying their Canada student loans until they earned at least $25,000 per year.
Helping with post-secondary education is only part of the process. Canada has a youth unemployment rate that is stubbornly above the national average. Too many young people are graduating from university and having trouble finding that all-important first job, or indeed any job. They are staying in or returning to their parents' homes longer, and delaying beginning their own families as they struggle to begin their professional lives.
Our government recognizes this challenge, and with budget 2016, we are taking concrete action. We are investing an additional $165.4 million in 2016-17 for the youth employment strategy, and another $105 million over five years in youth services to help young Canadians gain valuable work and life experience.
As well, with the support of $73 million over four years for the post-secondary industry partnership and co-operative placement initiative, more young Canadians will have access to co-op placement and work-integrated learning opportunities to help them land that important first career-oriented job even sooner.
We must give our youth the skills to compete in the economy of the future, but we must also ensure that our economy is built on a solid foundation. That means investing in our infrastructure. Businesses will not grow and invest in Canada and hire Canadians if we do not have the infrastructure to ensure their employees can get to work and their goods can get to the market.
When we talk about deficits, and I know we will in this debate, we cannot forget the infrastructure deficit. This is the delayed investment in our crumbling infrastructure, from highways and transit to ports and sewers, that according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, had reached $123 billion by 2014. We cannot afford to pass this debt on to our future generation. Failing to address it puts our future economic prosperity at risk.
This government is not afraid to act. With budget 2016, our government is tackling this infrastructure deficit with an historic investment of more than $120 billion over 10 years.
The investment includes $3.4 billion to upgrade and improve public transit systems in Canada. My own community of Scarborough is underserved by higher order transit, and this investment will allow my constituents to get to work more quickly and then back home to their families.
With $3.4 billion over five years for social infrastructure, our government is finally moving to address the affordable housing crisis in this country. Too many people in Toronto are seeing most of their paycheques going to rent, leaving them to make hard choices when it comes to putting food on the table and investing in their children's future. Affordable housing must become a priority in this country.
Lastly, but certainly not least, please allow me to talk about Canada's seniors. These are citizens who have worked hard all their lives. They helped to build Canada into one of the greatest countries in the world. We owe it to them to ensure that they have the opportunity to retire with the dignity and security they have earned and deserve.
However, I know too many seniors in my riding for whom that dream of a secure and dignified retirement is just that, a dream. Too many seniors are finding it more and more difficult to cope with the rising cost of living on a fixed income. More and more seniors are living in poverty. This is a shame that should not be acceptable in a country like Canada.
This budget takes immediate action to help our most vulnerable seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for single seniors to up to $947 annually to help lift low-income single seniors out of poverty. This is an investment of some $670 million that will provide improved financial security to about 900,000 single seniors across Canada.<