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 it 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.