moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the House, I would like to start by acknowledging the enormous human and economic challenge in Fort McMurray, and say that all of our government stands at attention, looking to see how we can be of most assistance to people in this time of need.
It is a pleasure for me to rise today in this chamber to speak about the investments that our government will make to keep Canada's economy strong and growing for the long term. We bring a fundamentally new and optimistic approach to managing Canada's economy, one that is focused squarely on the middle class and on those working hard to join it.
The measures in the budget implementation bill will enable us to move forward with the main measures of our very first budget, which I tabled in the House on March 22.
I am particularly proud of this budget. It makes people the priority and sets out investments that will ensure the growth of the middle class and our economy.
This budget takes major steps towards the implementation of a long-term plan that will re-establish hope and ensure economic growth to the benefit of all Canadians.
I can say that our plan for the middle class is resonating with Canadians. Since the day after I tabled budget 2016, I have been travelling across Canada from the Maritimes to Quebec City, Waterloo, and west to Vancouver. Canadians are telling us that we are on the right path to long-term growth. I have also taken our message internationally to Chicago, New York, Paris, London, and Washington. I have met with economists, representatives of the financial sector, and investors. Everywhere I go, people are telling us the same thing, “We really like what you are doing up in Canada”.
Members may have read that the Financial Times called Canada a glimmer of light. The Wall Street Journal called Canada the “poster child” for the International Monetary Fund's global growth strategy, and Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, praised our approach. Our budget earned these endorsements because, I firmly believe, our government is focused on exactly the right things.
The legislation we are debating today would be a significant step in revitalizing the economy by providing better support for the members of the middle class and their families. , includes measures that would give Canadians the opportunity to build better lives for themselves. For some, that would mean being able to afford to send their kids to a quality day care or helping their teenagers with college tuition. For others, it would mean a secure and dignified retirement.
We have chosen to invest in Canadians because they are this country's most precious resource. They are among the most highly skilled and educated people in the world. As a result, we are poised to lead on many fronts, owing to our collective strength and the soundness of the policy direction and decisions outlined in this budget. The responsible way forward is to seize the opportunity in front of us, an opportunity to embrace the future and make targeted investments to grow our economy. We have the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Interest rates are at record lows. This allows the Government of Canada to borrow on favourable terms and boost the economy over the long term.
Canadians can take heart that, much like the turnaround of the country's finances back in the 1990s, our plan of investing in long-term growth is pivotal and transformative. This is a budget that would offer a fresh boost to the core of this economy, Canada's middle class.
The bill we are debating today will help build a strong economy in Canada and will give Canadians in the middle class, and those who are working hard to join it, more money to save, invest, and help grow our economy.
We want to act quickly on as many budget measures as possible, to give immediate support to Canadians and lay the foundation for long-term growth. That is why this bill contains measures that will help seniors retire with dignity, support workers and businesses, and give veterans the benefits they deserve.
The overall health of our country and economy can be gauged by how our middle class is doing. Middle-class people need a government that acts to restore hope and brings opportunities. What they need is more than temporary half measures.
That is why the new Government of Canada introduced the middle-class tax cut as its first order of business last December. Because of this measure, nearly nine million people across the country have seen their tax burden shrink. They are getting a break on each and every paycheque so they can better help themselves and better plan their family's future. In order to help pay for this middle-class tax cut, a new income tax rate of 33% was introduced for the wealthiest Canadians with more than $200,000 in taxable income each year.
In addition to the tax cut, we introduced the new Canada child benefit in budget 2016. This benefit is intended to help parents better support their most precious resource, their children. The Canada child benefit is a simpler, more generous tax-free benefit for Canadians. It is also better targeted to those who need it most than the existing child benefits. It is estimated that about 300,000 fewer children would be living in poverty in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, once the Canada child benefit is in place.
With the passage of this bill, starting this July, families with children under 18 will be provided 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 age six through seventeen. Nine out of ten families will receive more money than they do now. Whether the extra money is used for things such as signing up their children for summer camp, helping cover the family grocery bill, or buying warm coats for the winter, the CCB will help parents with the high costs of raising their children.
By supporting the budget implementation bill, members will be helping more Canadian parents breathe a little easier at month's end, and help them save for their children's future.
The educational opportunities for young Canadians lie at the core of a creative and entrepreneurial economy. Budget 2016 recognizes the costs educators often incur at their own expense for supplies that enrich our children's learning environment. The passage of the bill will implement a new teacher and early childhood educator school supply tax credit, in recognition of out-of-pocket expenses for supplies such as paper, glue, paint, games, puzzles, and supplementary books for their students.
This 15% refundable income tax credit will apply on up to $1,000 of eligible supplies in the 2016 and subsequent tax years. It will provide a benefit worth about $140 million over the 2015-16 to 2020-21 period.
Canada's compassion ought to be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. A crucial part of this is to help our seniors to retire in comfort and dignity. One of the most important social contracts since the mid-20th century in Canada is the ability to enjoy a secure and dignified retirement. Canada's retirement income system has been successful at reducing the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors. However, some seniors continue to be at a heightened risk of living in a low-income situation. In particular, single seniors are nearly three times more likely to live in low-income situations than seniors generally.
The budget will help seniors retire comfortably and with dignity by making significant new investments that support them in their retirement years.
The passage of this bill will cancel the provisions in the Old Age Security Act that increase the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67 and allowance benefits from 60 to 62 over the 2023 to 2029 period.
The passage of the bill will also increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for the most vulnerable single seniors, starting in July 2016. This will help those seniors who rely almost exclusively on old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
This enhancement will more than double the current maximum guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit, and represents a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest income single seniors. This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year, and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada. Over two-thirds of those who will benefit from this increase are women living alone.
, includes measures to facilitate access to venture capital for small and medium-sized businesses and support saving by the middle class. Its passage will restore the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations, or LSVCC, tax credit to 15% for share purchases of provincially registered LSVCCs for 2016 and subsequent tax years. This measure will provide federal tax relief of about $815 million over the 2015-16 to 2020-21 period.
Budget 2016 takes immediate action to enhance the employment insurance benefits program so that out-of-work Canadians have the support they need while they need to look for their next job. After the passage of this legislation, new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market will face the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the region where they live. An estimated 50,000 additional Canadians will become eligible for EI benefits as a result of this measure, which will take effect in July 2016.
The bill will also reduce the EI waiting period from two weeks to one week, starting January 1, 2017, in order to help ease the financial pressure on those individuals who find themselves between jobs.
Passage of the bill will also extend EI regular benefits by five weeks to all eligible claimants in affected regions of the country and provide up to an additional 20 weeks of EI regular benefits to long-tenured workers who have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment in those regions.
We are making significant investments to ensure the financial security and independence of disabled veterans and their families as they make the transition to civilian life. Veterans and their families have earned the deepest respect and gratitude from all Canadians.
Budget 2016 invests to give back to those who have given so much in service to our country. It proposes to restore critical access to services for veterans and ensures the long-term financial security of those who are severely injured, physically or mentally, in the line of duty.
The bill will amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to increase, both retroactively and going forward, the disability award and associated benefits, such as the death benefit, and to adjust the orientation and terminology of the permanent impairment allowance while also increasing the earnings loss benefit to 90%.
Some $1.6 billion over five years will flow directly to veterans and their families in the form of higher direct payments.
Specifically, this bill will be increasing the value of the disability award for injuries and illnesses caused by service to a maximum of $360,000 and ensuring payment of higher benefits retroactively to all veterans who received a disability award since 2006; increasing the earnings loss benefit to replace 90% of an eligible veteran's gross pre-release military salary; and changing the name of the permanent impairment allowance to the career impact allowance, to reflect the intent of the program, consistent with changes announced in the budget to better compensate victims who had their career options limited by a service-related injury or illness.
These enhancements deliver on mandate commitments and respond to recommendations from key stakeholders, including the veterans ombudsman.
Investing in infrastructure creates good well-paying jobs that can help the middle class grow and prosper today. Budget 2016 lays the groundwork for future growth by making immediate investments of $11.9 billion over five years, starting right away, in public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure. Over 10 years, the government will invest more than $120 billion in infrastructure to better meet the needs of Canadians and position Canada's economy for the future.
The passage of the bill will help ensure that government institutions are aligned to best support infrastructure and innovation by transferring responsibility for PPP Canada Inc. from the Minister of Finance to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
In conclusion, our government is committed to openness, transparency, and collaboration. Respect for Parliament is an essential part of this commitment.
That is why our government is restoring Parliament's oversight of the government's borrowing plans: to provide greater accountability and transparency for how the government finances its activities.
I would like to highlight the hard work of former senator Lowell Murray, one of the most distinguished parliamentarians of the last century, and his advocacy over many years on this important measure. I would also like to thank Senator Moore for carrying on that tireless advocacy in the years since his colleague's retirement. He worked with others, like retired senator Tommy Banks and Senator Day, making sure Canadians understood the importance of this issue.
Budget 2016 represents a giant step forward in our plan to put those in the middle class first and to deliver the help they need now, while investing for the years and decades to come. It is about creating the necessary conditions to ensure that hope and hard work will not be wasted but will be rewarded, where our children and our children's children can flourish.
With these investments, inspired by a sense of fairness, we are ensuring that Canada's best days lie ahead. I therefore encourage all members in the House to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, I came across a very telling quote in the National Post
. It said, “election promises are like babies: fun to make, hell to deliver”. It seems that the government is learning this lesson every day in the House.
It is kind of shocking the speed at which the Liberals have actually broken the election promises they made to the electorate during the campaign in August and September. It is almost uncanny to think about. They made a commitment to modest deficits, capping at $10 billion. They said that they would reduce the ratio of debt-to-GDP. They also had that goal of returning to a balanced budget. However, after taking power, they changed their minds.
They have nearly tripled the deficits now. They have admitted that they cannot control debt-to-GDP ratios. Finally, they decided that balancing a budget was a position that should be mocked. Needless to say, we know they probably have no intention on fulfilling that commitment to a balanced budget.
However, throughout all these changes proposed in the budget implementation legislation, the Liberals are deceiving Canadians about what the real facts are.
Yesterday, the took a moment to commemorate his first six months in office, but I am not quite sure what he can celebrate. After all, much of what the Liberals have done since taking office has been nothing more than simply undo the progress that we made as the Conservative government.
It does bear some time to talk about what we accomplished.
When the Liberals took office, taxes on the Canadian public were at their lowest point in 50 years. By the end of our mandate, the average family of four was saving almost $7,000 a year. The Conservatives took a $55 billion deficit, which we entered into on agreement with parties in the House in order to come out of the great recession, and in five years we had a surplus. Even during the global recession, the Conservatives ensured that we moved the economy on by creating 1.3 million net new jobs. The majority of them were in the private sector and full-time.
In fact, Canada was recognized globally as having the best job creation and economic growth records in the G7. What do we have today? Well, we have officials from the Department of Finance, the minister's own department, indicating a surplus has been left, yet the stands every day in the House and denies the reality of a surplus.
The most recent “Fiscal Monitor”, which we continuously try to table as information in the House and are rejected, confirmed that there was a surplus over the first 11 months of the year of $7.5 billion. However, the government wishes to pretend that this does not exist.
The National Post again hit the nail on the head with it said that this “may be the first surplus a finance minister doesn’t want to talk about”. Earlier this week, I asked the finance minister a question on the “Fiscal Monitor” and in frustration perhaps, he said that the Conservatives would do well to get past “this whole balanced budget thing”.
I find it very surprising, and it is almost a bit baffling, that the for our great country can take our economy so lightly in saying those words in this place.
My perspective of the budget is this. It is bad for Canadians and, as such, we must vote against this budget implementation act. Contrary to what the government asserts, this budget would stifle growth in our country. The excess spending that it sets out is not targeted and it will end up hurting Canadians in the long run because it will show up as future tax increases. That will nothing but saddle my kids, my grandkids and my family's kids with debt and deficits.
Even the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was not left alone in this budget. It had been promised small business tax cuts, and the Liberals have now decided to mysteriously defer this.
The parliamentary budget officer has indicated that this is going to cost small business $2.2 billion, which is a significant cost on the backs of hard-working men and women across this country who are trying to help us grow the economy.
This budget is fundamentally a betrayal of Canadians who trusted the Liberal Party to keep the promises they made in a campaign where a Liberal government breaks those promises. It is a betrayal of the middle class. They get it. They know that eventually, with the debt and deficits, they are going to have to pay for it through higher taxes themselves. It is a betrayal of families, because what family in Canada does not understand that they have to live within their means?
Right before the release of his budget, the 's economic outlook showed that revenues were actually holding up better than expected. GDP growth in the last quarter of 2015 was actually higher than what was anticipated. However, here we are still on track with the Liberal government to borrow billions and billions of dollars that it does not need, to fight a recession that we are not in.
Conservatives believe fundamentally that we should always try our best to run the country like we would run our own households: not by living off credit cards, especially when the circumstances do not justify the spending, but living within our means. That is why, when we were in power, we mandated that balanced budgets be the law, not the exception to the rule.
Page 51 of the Liberal budget says, “The Government remains committed to returning to balanced budget”, but on the very next page, the budget says, “The balanced budget legislation enacted under the previous Government is inconsistent with the Government’s plan to return to balanced budgets”.
The budget implementation act not only repeals the Federal Balanced Budget Act, it actually projects deficits extending longer than five years, with no plan to return to balance. This is a very curious quote. It is not just a projection to show another broken promise to Canadians, but it is an uncanny demonstration of the arrogance of the government, assuming that Canadians will re-elect them. That is not going to be an easy task after four years of the fiscal mess that the Liberals are about to plunge us into.
I would like to shine some light on other parts of this bill that set out to change the old age supplement eligibility from 67 to 65. As we know, this measure would have eliminated an estimated $11 billion in annual spending up to the year 2030. The decision was not made lightly, but it was made in keeping with OECD recommendations.
An expert on the issue said this in 2012:
The cost of OAS represents about 2.3% of GDP but the chief actuary for the Canada pension plan forecasts it would have risen to about 3.1% by 2030 had the retirement age not been increased.
That expert was none other than the now Liberal , yet Liberals are now moving to reverse this measure, even though the evidence suggests that it was better to keep it in place.
It is interesting to see what else the has said on the issue of OAS. Prior to becoming the candidate and then the minister, he wrote a book called The Real Retirement. We have given it a good read. Again, some of the things he said were quite interesting. Here is a quote from the book:
If we were to retire three years later than we do now, any concerns about having adequate retirement income would practically vanish. It would also alleviate any shortages in the workforce due to the aging...population.
These are very interesting remarks. He also wrote, “there must be moderate cutbacks in social spending phased in over time”. He also said that phasing in the eligibility age for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67 was a step in that direction. Evidently he disagrees with his own government's budgetary measures, by virtue of what he wrote not more than two years previous to that.
These are just a few examples of the Liberals' refusal to accept expert research, evidence and hard facts. Their platform is based on deception. On behalf of Canadians, I am deeply concerned.
In the budget document that was produced, there is a chart on page 63. The chart is often pointed to as showing examples of why Canadian families would be better off with the Liberals' child benefit, as opposed to the system we had in place under the Conservative government. However, if we read very closely, there is a bit of fine print at the bottom. What the fine print says is that the examples do not take into account the former measures we had, like income splitting, fitness tax credits, education tax credits, and tuition tax credits. These are all of the benefits that would be available in exactly those circumstances, which would then show that maybe not everyone is doing as well as they would under their Canada child benefit. It admits, rather cryptically, that Liberal evidence was being pulled out of thin air.
I have spent a lot of time in my career making sure that women have the opportunity and ability to enter the workplace and achieve great things. I fundamentally believe that if we want to grow our economy, we want to make sure we have great productivity and innovation, we cannot leave an entire part of our population behind. In many places in the budget, while the Liberals talk a good talk in how they are helping women, I fear it is going to be the exact opposite. I asked the finance minister in questions whether there is any hard data on what effects these measures would have on choices that women make in going into the workplace, how long they stay, and what they do there.
One of the areas I find very curious and interesting is the decision the Liberals took in small business that it was a sham set-up to allow people to avoid paying a higher level of personal tax. Why is this a problem? One of the areas I discovered in my time as a minister in the past, and in the workforce, for a lot of time now, is that women want to make different choices on where they work based on flexibility.
It is Mother's Day on Sunday, a day that we all look forward to. Being a mother is possibly the greatest job a woman could ever have, should she choose to do so. However, we also want to be active in our community and in the workplace, because we have great contributions to make. Sometimes a woman may make a choice that opening a small business or becoming an entrepreneur would allow her to balance what she wants to do in life, in terms of raising a family and also contributing to our economy. It is offensive for the government to indicate in its opinion that a lot of these cases are tax loopholes because husbands set their wives up in sham corporations.
More than that, it is a chill. It is saying that we do not really need to have them in the workplace, that we do not believe when they attempt to become small business entrepreneurs that they are doing it with great purpose. The tax cuts that were meant to go to small business, which have been deferred to the future, are another step along that continuum of chill.
It is very difficult, first, to have the courage to start a small business if someone is balancing a couple of kids at home. Second, we never want to make things happen that put the economic prosperity of our family unit in danger. Taxes do matter. It matters how much women make in their business. It matters how much they make in their life.
The reality is that getting through that threshold to take a decision to start a small business can be a very difficult one, for a lot of reasons. Now the Liberals will make it even harder, because that diminishing return will not be there for a lot of women. First they are told it is not a real business, and second they are told they will make it harder for them instead of making it easier.
It is not necessarily women-friendly. Why do I talk so much about small business and about women? It is because that is the area where women are entering the workplace in a disproportionate amount: 50% of small business start-ups are coming from women; two-thirds are from majority-owned women businesses. This is an area in which women can exceed and excel, and the door is being shut on it. They are putting a gloss over it, saying that it is not real work. I find that to be very disturbing, because after all, it is 2016.
One other aspect of the child benefit that I find of concern is one that not a lot of people will be talking about, but I will give it a go.
I grew up on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton is a very unique and special place. I am grateful that the minister went to Sydney so he could see what it is like to be part of Cape Breton. I think it is important for people to see what it is like now, because things are not better on Cape Breton Island, despite enjoying a bit of a bump from the oil patch doing well. We sent a lot of our brothers and cousins and fathers, and a lot of our mothers as well, out there to work.
The reality is that in the eighties, when the steel plant closed, the fisheries closed, the coal mines closed, there was not a lot of work. As a result, and I am one of the examples, families split up and left.
The decision taken at the time by a series of governments was that the best way to deal with Cape Bretoners was to write them a cheque and make it easier for them to get government help. It was perhaps done with great intention, but it did not work, because the reality is that today the unemployment rate in Cape Breton is still atrocious.
Today, the saddest place in the world is Sydney airport. When kids come home from Ontario, Alberta, and B.C., or wherever they ended up, it is the grandmothers waiting for the babies to come off the plane.
I fear that when we set up a program that realistically is there to help, it can become a crutch. It will not be doing great things for women either, with entering into the workplace, taking tough decisions about being single mothers, or having the help from the government become more of a noose around their necks.
I ask the government to do very careful analysis going into the future on what effect the child care benefit will have upon decisions of young women to enter the workplace. Whether it is having an effect, detrimental or positive, I would like to see both. However, anecdotally from my past experience, being paid by the mailbox, as my friend from Saskatchewan has always said, is certainly not as good as being paid by a cheque. That is definitely the better way to deal with people's prosperity.
I appreciate the opportunity to stand in this place to talk about difficult things and the effects that policies may have on people's life choices. I appreciate very much that it is a touchy subject, and I hope that members of the House understand that it is not necessarily coming from a negative place. It is coming from an honest place of what I have experienced in my life and who I am as a result.
The budget implementation act has given a lot of great words and platitudes for Canadians to consider, but at the end of the day, the great concern I have is that Canadians will also be responsible for the billions of dollars in debt.
The did say in his book, and it is very true, that debt prevents us from doing things such as sleeping well at night. Right now, knowing the kind of debt that we will be saddling our kids with, combined with the debt of the provinces across this great country, I fear that not a lot of us will be sleeping very well at night.
Conservatives will not forget the Canadians who voted for responsible fiscal management on election day. We will not forget those who voted Liberal either, because the plan that those people voted for, the plan that they were actually promised, is a far departure from what the Liberals have delivered in this legislation today. We will continue to hold the government accountable. We will continue to ask questions.
We are going to continue to fight for lower taxes. We are going to continue to fight for a balanced budget. We want to see a plan that will keep Canada growing and thriving.
At this point, I would like to move an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the word “that” with
“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-15, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures, since the bill does not support the principles of lower taxes, balanced budgets and job creation, exemplified, by among other things, repealing the Federal Balanced Budget Act.
Mr. Speaker, the first budget implementation bill was really the first test of the new Liberal government in terms of the economy. Of course, there have been some ways and means motions, but, since the budget was tabled on March 22, 2016, this is the first concrete expression of the approach that the Liberal government plans to take.
I am saddened to say that this first test has been a failure. It has been a failure on many counts, especially with regard to the promises that the Liberal Party made during the campaign.
It has been a failure because the Liberal government promised to do things differently. I was a member here during the previous Parliament. Time and time again, twice a year, the Conservatives introduced omnibus bills that included many different elements. The omnibus bills were often 300, 400, or 500 pages long, and the Standing Committee on Finance had to study them within impossibly tight timelines, which prevented the committee from doing its work. In other words, it could not study matters that were extremely important to the social and economic well-being of this country in a careful, rigorous, and analytical manner.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised the following in their platform:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.
[The previous prime minister] has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.
Let us wait and see what happens.
[The previous prime minister] has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
We are still waiting for that.
Let us now talk about the definition of the word “omnibus”. The is denying that this is an omnibus bill. I will go back to the question I asked him. According to O'Brien and Bosc, our parliamentary procedure bible, an omnibus bill “seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts”. That is true of this 179-page bill: it seeks to amend 35 laws, it includes specific laws in their entirety, and it repeals other laws. It affects nine different departments. With that in mind, I think we can agree that Bill is an omnibus bill. It is characterized by the fact that it “is made up of a number of related but separate initiatives”.
The himself said that these measures are related because they are in the budget. Instead of really doing what Canadians expect them to do, which is to take a different, transparent, and more responsible approach, the Liberals have decided to play with words by saying that all these measures are in the budget.
The budget is often 300, 400, or 500 pages long. If the Liberals now want to include all the measures in an omnibus bill by saying that they were in the budget, they are going to start changing the budget to reflect the legislative changes they want to make. That makes no sense.
This makes no sense because the size of the bills and the limited time we have to carefully study them preclude transparency. In order for the committee to do a proper job, it needs time and bills, especially when they are technical, that will allow it to conduct an analysis and present a proper report to Parliament.
It is not the case because there are many highly technical aspects of this bill that should be studied separately.
For example, the bail-in plan in the bill aims to solidify the banking system and reassure Canadians that if there is a failure in the banking system, taxpayers will not be on the hook for it. Often we are between the choices of letting the banks fail and having large consequences for the economy, or bailing them out with taxpayer money. This would bring a third possibility, which is currently being studied through OECD countries.
Why include this 20- to 25-page highly technical bill of its own modification of the Bank Act to be studied with hundreds of other measures that touch things as diverse as the Canadian Wheat Board, veterans, modifications to the GST, and so on?
This creates uncertainty right now among the Canadian population. I am not opposed to the idea of the bill. It should be studied. It actually might be a good way to protect the economy and at the same time protect the taxpayers. It is possible we will go in that direction. However, I am sure the government members, and all of the members of the House, have already received emails and communications from concerned citizens that this might touch their deposits, that the money they have invested in banks could be affected.
It would have been wise for the government to take this part and study it separately to reassure Canadians that this would not be the case, that this would not be like Cyprus, for example. However, the Liberals decided to put everything in this 179-page bill. It does not make sense.
What was the rationale of including a full bill that had been tabled in the House, Bill , which aims at the reinsertion and the compensation for veterans? Honestly, I think we are all in agreement that we need to study this bill carefully. It would have been studied carefully if it had stood as its own bill.
If that had stood on its own as a bill, it would have warranted a study in committee over three or four meetings of two or more hours each, to ensure that the concerns of veterans were heard. What is going to happen now? The Standing Committee on Finance is going to review the provisions of this bill with the very few witnesses we will have for the entire study. To share their concerns and opinions veterans will have to compete with bankers and tax experts who will come to talk about other measures in the bill, including the bail-in regime.
Why draft a bill that we would debate here? We can discuss the details, but I think the House generally agrees that we should at least find a way to provide compensation to the veterans.
Do not tell me that this is not an omnibus bill, when it includes all these measures that could have and should have been studied differently.
Some of the other measures are highly questionable. Once again, they are going to have to share the stage with a myriad of other completely unrelated measures. I am thinking about employment insurance in particular. The government once again misled the House by saying that the EI surplus would be kept separate from the consolidated revenue fund and would not be used to fund government activities. However, we can clearly see in the budget that the EI surplus will be used as part of the consolidated fund.
Although the government may pat itself on the back for introducing measures to partly reverse the Conservatives' 2012 EI reform, those measures do not really meet the needs of workers and do not give them the protection they expect from the EI program.
There are measures to eliminate the discrimination between the different classes of workers, which forced frequent claimants, who are often seasonal workers, to accept jobs at 70% of their salaries and more than 100 kilometres away from their homes. We applaud those measures. We agree with them. We fought for that. Our party was the first to oppose those restrictions. Since I come from a riding where seasonal work is still important and still a major part of the economy, I am certainly in favour of eliminating those two requirements.
However, there are other very important measures that the Conservatives got rid of. I am thinking about what was known as the pilot project, which sought to bridge the gap between the end of EI benefits and the beginning of the working season. That measure was available to all workers in areas of high unemployment. For reasons that I cannot understand, the Liberals decided to restore that program but only for exactly 12 regions of Canada.
I do not take issue with these 12 regions getting an extra five weeks of employment insurance benefits. However, this measure should be available to all workers, as it was before 2012.
When I look at the Liberal members from the Atlantic provinces, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is really the only province to benefit from this extension, I sincerely wonder what they think of these measures. What do their workers in seasonal industries such as the fishery, tourism, and agriculture think of these measures that exclude them from the extended benefits that they were entitled to before 2012, when they had seasonal industry status? The Liberals are turning a deaf ear despite the fact that they currently have all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada. As my party's critic for the Atlantic provinces, rest assured that I will be asking them this question many times.
I still did not get an adequate answer to something else I asked the official opposition finance critic about. Why did the Liberals break their solemn promise to follow the NDP example and then that of the Conservatives who lowered taxes for SMEs? That promise has vanished.
Then they have the nerve to claim through the parliamentary secretary that they did lower the SMEs' tax rate because it has gone from 11% to 10.5%. It was not the Liberals who did that. Those measures were in place in the Conservatives' previous budget. Nonetheless, we would have liked the measure that we supported in the Conservatives' budget to be applied more quickly. It was a gradual reduction from 11% to 9%. The measure to lower the tax rate to 10.5% did not come from the Liberal government. It was a previously made decision.
I find it appalling that the Liberals want to take credit for a measure that has nothing to do with them, and that they are trying to divert attention away from the fact that they cancelled the gradual reduction that would have lowered the tax rate to 9%. This measure will cost $2.2 billion, and was harshly criticized by the small business community. The government has provided no justification whatsoever for failing to adopt that measure. It was one of the most important and most popular measures of the 2015 Liberal election platform.
The Standing Committee on Finance will have to pay particular attention to certain other measures. For instance, some elements are problematic and are causing concern and uncertainty regarding the potential disclosure of personal information to the Canada Revenue Agency. I am not saying whether that is a good or a bad idea. I am saying that, any time we are dealing with such sensitive issues, especially in light of what we have learned over the past few months regarding tax evasion and other problems that seem to abound at CRA, clearly we need to be able to take our time studying these measures. Once again, it is not my intention to block or obstruct the process, but I want to reassure Canadians that these measures are necessary and they will protect their privacy.
The government does not seem to understand that that is what should happen. It would rather bundle everything together in one big package. Then it will ask the Standing Committee on Finance to proceed as quickly as possible so the bill can be passed and we can stop talking about it. That approach flies in the face of the Liberals' commitment to transparency and to restoring the watchdog role to Parliament and committees and giving them the time they need to study and scrutinize bills.
We do not use our names in the House. I am the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. All members of the House are identified by their title or their riding. In committee, we use people's names. Why is that? Because even though our presence is determined according to the number of seats we have, we are not there on behalf of the government, the official opposition, or the third, fourth, or fifth opposition party. We are there to study the government's bills and ensure that they pass the test of legislation that will ensure well-being and progress for Canada, its economy, and its people.
We cannot do this with bills that are 179 pages long. Why is the number of pages important? The answer to this question can be found in another quote, this time from a study by Louis Massicotte published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
It has been computed that between 1994 and 2005, budget implementation bills averaged 73.6 pages, while since 2006 they averaged 308.9—four times longer. But the increase is even more huge than it looks. While during the first period a single budget implementation bill was presented each year (there were none in 2002 and two in 2004), bills of that nature have since then been presented twice a year except in 2008, when there was a single one. The yearly average of budget implementation legislation in recent years is therefore closer to 550 pages—this is seven times longer!
We should note that the period between 1994 and 2005 corresponds to a time when the Liberals held power. That was the last time that the Liberals were in power. Their budget implementation bills were on average 79 pages long. They sought to legislate tax measures affecting income tax, the GST, and excise taxes.
Now, we have just been casually told that a 179-page bill that affects a myriad of other measures, which may have been mentioned in the budget but are still extremely complex and should be examined separately, is not an omnibus bill.
I am not convinced by the explanation given by the . I do not think the House or Canadians are either. They are not being fooled. This government, which promised to be more transparent and more accountable, is failing its first test miserably.
I would like to end my speech by talking about a point that was raised by one of my Conservative colleagues, and that is the fact that this bill repeals an entire law, the Federal Balanced Budget Act. I will admit that we did not particularly like that law, but the way the Liberals have chosen to repeal it is highly reprehensible. They are retroactively repealing an act that is currently in force and that, as of June 1, they will technically be violating.
Apparently that is not a problem for them because they are just going to retroactively repeal the law. It will be like it never existed.
We live in a country governed by the rule of law. The government cannot and must not start changing laws retroactively to exempt themselves from them. However, that is exactly what this government has done twice in three weeks.
The government wants to repeal a law, but as we are debating whether to repeal it, the act may have already been violated and the case could end up before the courts. That is completely at odds with the principles of a country governed by the rule of law and the principles of the rule of law.
For all of those reasons and others that I do not have time to get into, even though I hope to have the opportunity to answer questions from my colleagues, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “since the bill” and substituting the following:
(a) is an omnibus bill that amends or repeals 35 acts and regulations, that retroactively repeals an act of Parliament, and that contains a bill that has already been introduced in the House;
(b) breaks the promise to lower taxes for small businesses;
(c) does not significantly improve access to employment insurance; and
(d) contains significant changes to benefits for veterans, changes to the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, and a new banking regulation without any review or proper parliamentary debate.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in this special place with humility and gratitude.
I rise with humility because I represent the 90,000 people of Winnipeg South Centre who, in the most magical moment of all in our democracy, have transferred their trust to me to represent them in the Parliament of Canada. They represent, really, all that is great about Canada, in all of its diversity across all of its neighbourhoods and with all of its sense of place and pride of place, as all of us in the House feel. We bring that pride of place to something that is greater than our own identities or the places in which we live: to the great country that is ours.
I rise with gratitude because I am here due to the courage of my grandparents. They left Russia in 1906, escaping the pogroms of the czar, Jewish people who were not at home in the Pale of Settlement, who could not exercise freedom, who could not own property, who had no sense of opportunity for their children or grandchildren. They came to Canada, where there was a single relative to welcome them. They came with no English, no money, and really no prospects. What they brought with them was a sense of hope, opportunity and the freedom to be who they were. They were displaced Jews from a foreign country. What they found when they came to Canada was limitless opportunity, if not for themselves, for their children and, in my case, their grandchildren.
In my mother's family, only one of the four children could go to university. Three of them went to work so one could learn. His name was David Golden. David Golden was a prisoner of war, who was captured by the Japanese in Hong Kong on Christmas day of 1941. He came back to Canada weighing 120 pounds in August of 1945. He then picked up his Rhodes scholarship and became the youngest deputy minister in Canadian history at the age of 34. His minister was C.D. Howe.
My uncle was one of a handful of public servants who rebuilt the Canadian economy after the war. What he taught my family was that citizenship in a country such as Canada and the nobility of serving that country was the greatest calling of all. I owe to my grandparents and parents a sense of what it means to serve the people of Canada. I am grateful for that opportunity, and I am humbled by it.
I come from a very special province for many reasons. We all think that our home province is special, but I want to talk about a few things that are particularly appropriate to the budget we are debating. We are all immigrants, with the exception of indigenous peoples who have been here for thousands of years.
I remember when I was president of the Business Council of Manitoba, we held a conference called Pioneers 2000. As an icebreaker, we wanted all of the delegates to see if their ancestors would have been allowed into Canada under the circumstances of today. It was remarkable because former premier Duff Roblin, a Progressive Conservative premier of Manitoba, whom I considered to be a mentor, would not have been allowed into Canada. The ancestors of Gary Doer, who was the premier of Manitoba at the time, would not have been allowed into Canada.
Therefore, I am so proud of what the country has done in accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, with the promise of more. We realize that when we open up our country to those who are fleeing persecution from other places, we provide them the possibility of a lifetime, and that will always be repaid to the generosity of the nation that accepts them. I feel, as a Canadian, so honoured and proud to be part of a nation that understands that, as well as a nation that understands the importance of immigration as a way of building our nation.
We have a sensibility and a sense of generosity, which is really unique in the world. I was struck by the comments of the member for this morning in reflecting on the tragedy in Fort McMurray. He was probably speaking for many of us when he expressed that where else but in Canada would there have been such an outpouring of generosity, understanding, and a sense of the collective that we had a responsibility to help each other.
As a Manitoban, I also grew up with the understanding that our indigenous populations had been marginalized for decades, for generations. Therefore, I was happy to see the budget announce significant investments so children raised in remote communities would have the same opportunities that my children have for a quality education; that they live in places where the water is clean and does not have to be boiled; that they live in communities where schooling is going to prepare them to live out their lives to fulfill their aspirations, the same way my children are experiencing now. We have a historic challenge to offer indigenous communities what all of us aspire to, regardless of our ethnicity, our religion, our place of birth, and our community. I am particularly happy to be part of a government that has recognized this, not only with words but with action.
I am also very happy that within the first few weeks of us taking on this responsibility, we brought back the long form census. We asserted again the importance of evidence-based decisions and of scientific evidence as we looked at forming and informing public policy.
Then, who can forget November 4 when the cabinet was sworn in on one of those absolutely perfect days? The fall foliage was in all its resplendent colours, with not a cloud in the sky, and a gentle breeze. We walked from 24 Sussex to Rideau Hall. When the cabinet was sworn in, we saw a reflection of the nation itself. Many of us were particularly moved when our colleague, now the , was sworn in. An indigenous woman, having just been appointed to be the minister of justice for Canada was in its own way a symbol of how far we had come. Remarkably, it was in 1960 when aboriginal people were given the right to vote in Canada. That is in the lifetime of many of us who sit in the House, certainly in my lifetime. Therefore, to see that the very diversity, the very texture of the country was reflected in the cabinet was very moving.
Very shortly after we were sworn into office, we were given our mandate letters by the . However, it was not just that I was given a copy of the mandate letter, so were you, Mr. Speaker, and 36 million Canadians. In fact, anyone around the world with access to a computer has access to what the Prime Minister has asked us to do as members of the cabinet, which is a remarkable departure from any other government.
As Minister of Natural Resources, the Prime Minister has asked me to do many important things. One of them is to work with the provinces to develop a Canadian energy strategy. I have a particular interest in the subject. In 2009, when the President of the United States came here to meet with the prime minister of the day to talk about a continental energy strategy for North America, a few of us scratched our heads and said, “Well, that's a great idea, but what's the Canadian energy strategy?” There was not one.
We decided that we would put the frame around some principles, which ultimately led to the Council of the Federation publishing a Canadian energy strategy in July 2015, but the Government of Canada was not at the table. Therefore, a great national enterprise was not part of the Government of Canada's attention.
This is not the only example of how, over the last 10 years, the country has lost its sense of building national consensus over great national projects. In fact, the previous prime minister did not meet with the premiers for six years until the current called them to Ottawa to meet, first to prepare for the COP21 meeting in Paris, and then subsequently to begin sketching out a pan-Canadian framework on climate change, which most would agree is one of the great issues facing our time.
The whole nature of nation building by bringing leaders together to talk about those issues that were important to all Canadians had been lost. Well, not anymore. Now we are fully engaged in the business of building Canada from the top down and from the bottom up, as we have seen in the way in which the government has gone about doing its business.
Since taking on my responsibility, I have had the pleasure of representing Canada at the meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris and of representing Canada at the G7 energy ministers' meeting in Japan just last week. My colleague, the , has travelled to China, representing this government on energy and climate issues. Wherever we go there is a tremendous welcoming of Canada re-engaging in the forums of the world to talk about issues that are important not only to Canada, not only to Canadians, but to our partners internationally. This is a responsibility that we take seriously, and it is a responsibility that I discharge with the great humility of knowing that when I am at these places, I speak on behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of Canadians.
This is a government with a different approach, with a different tone, with a different way of going about its business, but also, as we see in this budget, with very precise commitments that give meaning to the promises of the campaign, that give substance to the mandate letters given to ministers by the and part of our commitment to the people of Canada.
I will talk about some of the elements of the budget that bear directly on the portfolio of Natural Resources, particularly on our commitment to facing the greatest challenge of our time, climate change. In many ways, Canadians are showing us the way, and I will give colleagues some examples of how Canadians are doing that.
At the north end of Howe Sound, a Canadian company is pulling carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into a fuel that can replace gasoline. In Okotoks, just south of Calgary, a community is heating its homes by collecting energy from the sun, storing it underground, and drawing on it as needed. In northern Ontario, Whitesand First Nation is looking to biomass to provide its electricity. In my own city of Winnipeg, entrepreneurs are providing streetside solar-powered stations so passersby can charge their cellphones and computers for free.
In these communities, and thousands like them across the country, Canadians are using their ingenuity to solve problems, to better their lives, and bring us to the future. They know our world must phase out its reliance on the fossil fuels of the past and embrace the renewable energy of tomorrow. While that transition may be long, its trajectory is clear.
Our government welcomes this new direction. We recognize that as a nation rich in fossil fuels, we need to find greater ways of extracting those resources. We must also accelerate the use of renewable energy.
Some may see these two imperatives as incompatible. They may, for example, view any investments in oil and gas exploration or infrastructure as reinforcing the past rather than building the future. We disagree. We see opportunity in all forms of energy, and as the has said, the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our goal. Here is why.
While it is exciting to think about the low-carbon economy of the future, we are not there yet. The truth is that even in light of the Paris agreement, the demand for fossil fuels will actually increase for decades to come. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, the world will need a third more energy by 2030, and three-quarters of that energy will come from fossil fuels, nor does it end there.
By 2040, a growing middle class in developing countries will consume 26 million more barrels of oil every day. At the same time, the use of natural gas could increase as a transitional fuel, cleaner than coal or oil and more accessible than many renewables. In short, oil and gas are not going away soon.
As Canadians we have a choice. We can say shut down the oil sands and natural gas production and let others meet this global demand, let others have the jobs and reap the benefits. That certainly is one option, or we can say let us use this period of increasing demand to our advantage. Let us build the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and use the revenues to fund Canada's transition to cleaner forms of energy. In other words, let us leverage the fossil fuel resources we have today to deliver clean energy solutions for tomorrow.
How do we get there? Our government understands that to attract investment and build the infrastructure to move our energy to market, we need to get our environmental house in order and have Canadians behind us. We have to go to work.
The went to Paris with our provincial and territorial colleagues and let the world know that when it came to fighting climate change, Canada would no longer be a bystander. Then he met again with the provinces and territories to craft a new approach to climate change, including the possibility of putting a price on carbon. This budget goes further, providing $50 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.
We are restoring credibility to the environmental assessment process, and as Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde said so well, “Before you build anything...build a respectful relationship”. We agree. All of these measures are aimed at creating environmental assessments that will carry the confidence of both Canadians and investors. That is what this budget does.
The budget also invests more than $1 billion in clean innovation and technologies, technologies that will transform traditional sectors and open up entire new industries, technologies that can strengthen our economy, preserve our planet, and expand the middle class. Worldwide investment in the clean tech sector grew by 16% in 2014 alone. In less than five years it will be a $2-trillion industry. If Canada were to earn just its fair share of that market, we could create a $50-billion industry by 2020.
This budget goes further, investing billions of dollars in clean energy and technology, energy efficiency, charging stations for electric vehicles and refuelling stations for alternative energy, and a low-carbon economy fund that will support provincial and territorial action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
All of the budget initiatives I have talked about today take us closer to our long-term vision for Canada.
I believe that Canadians are ready to embrace that vision. After all, our history is marked by successive generations dreaming big and achieving greatly. We saw that spirit in a railway that spanned a continent, a broadcasting system that connected a country, and an arm that reached into space.
Today, that same spirit animates Canadians in every corner of our country. Like their forebears, they are tackling big challenges with big ideas, creating a future that will be brighter than we can imagine. This budget brings us closer to that future.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22 and other measures.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
A budget is a demonstration of a government's priorities, a reflection of its vision, so to speak. Yet, despite borrowing almost $30 billion this year, budget 2016 is missing a pronounced emphasis on putting in place the conditions that support long-term growth in the wealth and prosperity of all Canadians.
In less than six months, the Liberals have taken Canada from a budget surplus to a massive deficit. The has been asked countless times whether running a deficit three times larger than what he campaigned on is a breach of his contract with Canadians, but the , the , and his parliamentary secretary have simply refused to answer the question.
If the is so proud of this budget and the massive deficit experiment he has taken Canada into, he should be willing to tell Canadians that his campaign promise was not worth the paper it was written on, and why.
Once again Finance Canada confirmed that, from April 2015 to February 2016, the Government of Canada ran a budgetary surplus of $7.5 billion.
It is worth repeating over and over.
The Liberals inherited a balanced budget and an economy that was growing. Thus, the over-$113 billion in additional debt that Canada will incur over the next four years is entirely the choice of the and his . It is their duty to explain this decision to break their promises and the additional debt charges that Canadian taxpayers will have to pay, going forward. The “Canada is back” statement that the likes to pronounce just about everywhere he goes is certainly true. Canada is back—back to the 1970s and the early 1980s where the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau ran deficits, in adjusted dollars, starting in 1975: $27 billion; $28 billion; $41 billion; $46 billion; $43 billion; $41 billion; $29 billion; and, finally, $72 billion in his final budget of 1983.
If deficit spending is indeed the path to long-term economic growth, as the government claims it is, former prime minister Chrétien would not have had to cut transfer payments to my home province of Saskatchewan by 15% in 1995 because 33¢ of every dollar collected had to go to public debt charges, and the government could not afford to do anything else.
While it is true that the budget was finally balanced again in 1997-1998, it took deep cuts in transfers to the provinces to do so. The budget did not balance itself; revenues did not grow at a faster rate than spending.
Bill also represents the return to an activist federal government that believes it has all the solutions; in other words, big government that knows best. The Liberal plan to create jobs is to increase direct payments to individuals and then pay for these transfers by borrowing money. The plan for the struggling sectors of western Canada's economy is to provide a temporary bump in employment insurance, rather than removing barriers to getting resources to market, which would create real new jobs; and the Liberals did not even get that right.
More to the point, western Canadians do not want a government handout. They want a federal government that supports the west because we have a dynamic and innovative economy that is temporarily struggling due to a drop in demand for goods.
The Liberal government could, at the very least, attempt to do no harm to the energy sector, but instead, it plans to impose additional regulatory red tape.
On another front, the government did not even bother to hide its dislike of small business, or any business for that matter, in this budget. In the 's budget speech, the word “government” was mentioned nearly 40 times, while “business” received just six mentions.
The 's actions have, unfortunately, matched his talk. He is reversing a four-year phased decline of the small business tax rate, which will cost small businesses nearly $900 million per year.
The has attempted to justify this tax hike by trying to make the implausible claim that small businesses will benefit from the government's new social programs because, presumably, folks will have more money to spend.
The should know that taxes are an expense that is passed on to the consumer through higher prices. Higher prices make Canadian goods less competitive, should a company try to find new customers outside Canada. More and more, small businesses are competing continentally and internationally, and this tax hike ignores that reality. It makes good sense to give small businesses every chance to succeed at home and abroad by reducing their tax burden.
I know that many Liberal members are excited about their first budget. However, I would caution those members that governments cannot borrow money in perpetuity to pay for their spending sprees. As I noted earlier, over the next four years the Liberals intend to borrow over $110 billion. Over that same period, the Government of Canada will have to pay approximately that same amount in interest on its debt. While this Liberal government likes to say that now is the time to spend money because interest rates are low and Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world, this statement is fraught with problems for a number of reasons.
First, despite Canada having comparably low federal government debt levels compared to other countries, at present nearly 10¢ of every dollar spent by the federal government goes toward paying the interest on our debt, which was largely accrued during the 1970s and 1980s. That 10% of every dollar spent by the federal government going to pay interest on debt is money that does absolutely nothing for Canadians today.
Second, when combined with provincial debt, total government debt in Canada is at $1.2 trillion, or over $34,000 for every man, woman, and child living in Canada.
Third, Canada's population is aging. Every year, more Canadians are retiring than are joining the workforce. In a few short years, as the baby boom generation retires, Canada will face a shortage of taxpayers to support the pensions and benefits of retirees. Consequently, the fact that Canada is in a sound fiscal position is not a reason to step back and return to the 1990s, when The Wall Street Journal called Canada an honorary member of the third world. Rather, we should continue to lessen our debt burden, which will reduce our monthly public debt charges, and then either pass those savings on to Canadians or put that money back into our economy in the form of long-term durable infrastructure without having to raise taxes. Unfortunately, we are seeing the exact opposite.
Bill would make substantive changes to PPP Canada by allowing this crown corporation to sell or otherwise dispose of all or substantially all of its assets. As the government has already moved PPP Canada from Finance Canada to Infrastructure Canada, I can only speculate that the Liberal Party is planning to get rid of this corporation and transfer its funding to Infrastructure Canada. PPP Canada has received $2.4 billion in funding since 2007, and it has disbursed this in an efficient manner for water infrastructure, public transit infrastructure, local road infrastructure, green energy infrastructure, and so on. Funded projects include a new bus depot in Saskatoon, a biosolids energy centre in Victoria, a road expansion in Winnipeg, and a housing renewal project in Vancouver, just to name a few. These are exactly the types of infrastructure projects the Liberals say they support; yet it appears they are about to gut a program that is getting money out the door for good projects, simply because they are not able to dictate which ones will be funded. I hope one of the Liberal members across the way can provide more clarity on the intent of allowing PPP Canada to dispose of all its assets, during our opportunity to question them.
In conclusion, together with my colleagues on this side of the House, I will continue to demand a real plan to create jobs, and fight to keep more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be on extra good behaviour. I have a pair of eyes looking down on me today belonging to an eight-month-old.
Epiphany is on January 6. I only had my epiphany this week. I actually figured it out. I figured out that the balanced budget promises and the small deficits that the Liberals are proposing, and have proposed in the past, are a work of fiction.
The budget is fiscal fiction. I am sure that the intends to submit the 2016 Liberal budget for the Giller Prize, a worthy nominee no doubt. I would like to talk about the Giller Prize. The 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize is for literary works of fiction. The criteria says, “To be eligible, a book must be a first-edition full length novel”, and I think it counts as that, “or short story collection”, if you will, of broken promises, and “written by a Canadian citizen”, of which there is not doubt.
It also says, “No self-published books shall be eligible.” We've covered that. It also says “The decision of the judges as to whether a book is eligible shall be binding.” I think we are on the right track here. The good news is that it can be submitted by September 30, 2016.
If that does not work, the Liberals could also apply for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. This being a political document, of course, it could be submitted. The criteria states, “Publishers should note that the prize is for literary excellence; they should only submit books they deem outstanding in this regard.” By far, the fiction in the budget and the budget implementation act is outstanding fiction.
It continues: “Books that are strictly hagiography or political advocacy or which fail to illuminate political trends or issues are unlikely to be shortlisted.” That might be sad news for this budget document. The other sad news is, “No more than 20% of the manuscript can have previously been published in book form.”
That is good news too, because many of the promises in the Liberal red book are not in the budget. The Liberals have broken pretty much every single fiscal promise they had, which again adds to this new theme that this is fiscal fiction. It just does not add up.
I have another one, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. This is another prize that the Liberals could seek. It would also help to pay down some of the deficits. This may be something that government may want to do, apply to every single literary prize in Canada or the United States to try to pay down the deficit. Again, the sad news is, “No more than 20% of the manuscript can be previously published in book form.” That is very sad to see.
When we talk about a work of fiction, this budget, the budget implementation act, is exactly that. It pretends to be for the middle class when it is actually against the middle class. It does very little for them. What it does do is to saddle future generations with hundreds of billions of dollars of debt.
In this budget, there is absolutely no plan to return to a balanced budget. There is no pretending to return to a balanced budget, hence the fiscal fiction. On one hand, the Liberal government talks about returning someday, potentially, maybe, if it so happens, to a balanced budget. In the actual budget implementation act, there is no such talk. In fact, in the budget document itself, there is no graphic that shows when it intends to return to surplus.
I would like to talk about page 53, “The Path Forward”, where it talks about repealing the Federal Balanced Budget Act. This is one of those fiscal anchors that is quite important to the budget. Instead of amending it in the budget implementation act, the Liberals are completely getting rid of it. Again, it just adds to the fiction. They talk a good game about trying to balance the budget but have no intention to do so in statute. They are actually getting rid of any statute that talks about balancing the budget.
As we talk about this wonderful statute, the Federal Balanced Budget Act, I want to read from the preamble of the act that the government is getting rid of. It says:
Whereas attaining and maintaining a sound fiscal position requires that the Government of Canada achieve annual balanced budgets and reduce debt, other than when a recession or extraordinary situation occurs;
Whereas maintaining balanced budgets and reducing debt helps to keep taxes low, instill confidence in consumers and investors, strengthen Canada’s ability to respond to longer-term economic and fiscal challenges and preserve the sustainability of public services;
And whereas reducing the debt burden will help to ensure fairness for future generations by avoiding future tax increases or reductions in public services;
These are all great things to want to have in the administration of our public finances, but obviously the Liberal government does not think so, which is why it is getting rid of it entirely instead of amending it. This just adds on to the fiscal fiction. I am sure that the judges for the Giller Prize will be most pleased to see that.
When the Minister of Finance was asked about balancing the budget, he brushed it off. He claimed that he did not want to focus on the issue. It was not important to him. In fact, he went on to say that we Conservatives were stuck in this whole balanced budget thing.
I actually understand his position. If one does not care for it, if it is just talk and fiscal fiction, then one would say to those who disagree that they are stuck on it. Obviously, he is not stuck, because he is about to get rid of it in the budget implementation act. He would get rid of the one fiscal anchor, the legislated anchor, that says we must have a balanced budget, for all the great reasons that are in the preamble. He obviously does not like the preamble, so he is getting rid of that too.
The International Monetary Fund did a study that reported 89 countries had implemented some form of statutory debt restraint through the end of 2014. It reported that, “Such laws are useful in showing skeptical bond investors that a nation is serious about kicking old habits of profligacy. They also allow voters to hold politicians to account.”
There is such a thing called an election and Canadians made a choice, and perhaps we disagree with them. However, on the fiscal side, Canadians were promised something. They were promised tiny little deficits and a return to a balanced budget, which is an expectation by Canadians. It is part of the values we share, that we manage our public finances in the way we manage our household finances. One cannot keep spending money on a credit card. Eventually, one has to return to a balance and create a surplus to pay down the debt. That is how it works. In this budget, though, there is no such plan. There is no talk of it, even. There is no such goal. There is no such pretension anymore. Hence, this fiscal fiction is worthy of the Giller Prize.
When we talk about small business, the tax rate was supposed to go down to 9%, but now it will stay at 10.5%. Again, this is another broken promise from the Liberal government. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, that decision will cost small firms $900 million per year, as of 2019.
The parliamentary budget office calculated that it could cost up to $2.2 billion. I asked a question to the on this matter, partially, but also on the matter of small professional corporations and how they are treated as a business entity. Basically, I did not get an answer. There is nothing in the budget implementation act that speaks to it. It is a completely avoided subject. The minister, in fact, avoided answering the question entirely. Therefore, what is there for small business in this budget? Nothing. Again, it is fiscal fiction that the Liberals are going to be helping small businesses across Canada. They have no such plan. They have no such intention.
As I have done before, I love to use Yiddish proverbs, and I have one here: “There's plenty of time to bemoan bad fortune once it arrives.” What is going to happen when the next recession hits? What will happen when there is a major disaster? How will the government pay for it? It is already running tens of billions of dollars of deficit with no plan to return to surplus. What will the Liberals do? Will they simply double the deficits? Will they simply increase the national debt even further?
The Liberal plan runs well beyond 2019, beyond the mandate of a Parliament. They simply have no plan or promise to return to a balanced budget. It is a fiction worthy of the Giller Prize.
The parliamentary budget office has done a substantial amount of work to show that the Liberals inherited a surplus. I hear the talk from the other side that we cannot only look at the first 11 months out of a year. That is not how a business would look at things. However, what a business would look at are cost control measures. Ever since October 19, 2015, all cost control measures are basically gone. Therefore, what the Liberals are going to present to us in the last month of the fiscal year is a massive deficit that they will blame on the Conservatives. However, in truth, they are responsible for it. They have had the reins of power since then, and they have been the ones running this country and running the finances. They are responsible for the debt that has been accumulating. It is nobody else but them.
Indeed, the Liberals consistently refer to defending the interests of the middle class, and that is literary fiction. We see in the summary of the budget implementation document that they are eliminating the education tax credit, the text book tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the family tax cut credit, and the child fitness tax credit. I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that I have a pair of little eyes looking down at me, my eight-month-old. However, there is something in here for teachers. Therefore, we are eliminating everything for middle class families, while introducing something for teachers. Again, this budget was never meant for the middle class; that is entirely fiction.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Trinity—Spadina.
I am very pleased to join the discussion today.
Before I talk about the budget, I want to offer my condolences, and my heart and prayers go out to all of those in Fort McMurray and community who are suffering. I pray for their safety and the safety of the entire community.
Six months ago, I made a promise to the people of Humber River—Black Creek. I promised that a Liberal government would put people first. It is with this promise in mind that I rise to speak to the budget implementation bill.
For the first time in a very long time, I am proud of a budget put forward by a federal government. I say this because in contrast to budgets put forward by previous governments, budget 2016 is both fiscally prudent and socially responsible. It acknowledges that Canada cannot be strong if our families and our households that form our core are not strong. In fact, budget 2016 is an innovative long-term plan that is specifically focused on strengthening the fiscal security and stability of our families living in places like 10 San Romanoway, 7 and 11 Arleta, and in similar working-class homes throughout Canada. The budget contains a range of measures that are intended to grow the economy while helping low-income families, supporting seniors, and expanding affordable housing for those who need it.
When I visit my friends and constituents at Elspeth Heyworth Centre, or at the North Islington seniors group, or at the Jamaican-Canadian Centre, they know that Canada's per capita GDP is important, but that is not what they focus on every day. They struggle to focus on that kind of national number because they are too busy worrying about their next trip to the grocery store, or their next rent payment.
When I spoke to previous budgets over the years, I stressed that national economic prosperity must be felt at the kitchen table, not just the boardroom table. Conservatives would laugh, but the residents along the Jane-Finch corridor in my riding did not laugh. They understood it exactly.
For too long, seniors, students, young families, and those looking for work felt abandoned by their government, but since October 19, my constituents feel more optimistic. This budget is part of that change. Today the people at 3001 Finch, the kids at St. Andre's, and the students at York University can all feel their individual needs are being addressed thoughtfully and compassionately. Canadians gave this government a mandate to help the middle class and those working hard to join it, and that is precisely what we are doing with budget 2016.
Budget 2016 pursues an agenda driven on innovation and investment, which is at the heart of our policies and part of the government's long-term vision for a more inclusive economy. This is in stark contrast to the previous budget of the Conservatives, who not only squandered the $13-billion surplus that was left for them, but also failed to achieve any real sustained economic growth during the course of their 10-year mandate.
As the stated in his budget speech in March, we are seizing the opportunity to invest in people and the economy, and to prepare Canada for a brighter future. This is the kind of positive outward thinking that will drive our economic focus going forward, and it will help to ensure that families living in my riding and others across Canada will have a real shot at the kind of prosperity the previous government so often promised but consistently failed to deliver.
Despite the political rhetoric, the truth is that the Conservatives overspent to the tune of $160 billion, and they did so without any solid plan or any measurable results. While a certain armchair economist in this House thought that out-of-control spending was a good idea, even the most junior economist knows better.
We must not lose sight of our objective to create an economy that is more inclusive and that benefits everyone involved. The budget is setting us out in that direction. Canadians are asking for help and this government is listening. The days of picking the pockets of low-income seniors, young families, starving students, and the unemployed hopefully have come to an end.
Budget 2016 is about establishing a new fiscal foundation, one that includes everyone. For example, given the high poverty rates and low household incomes facing many residents of Humber River—Black Creek, tackling the fiscal crunch that many are facing on a daily basis is critically important to them. Notably, many low-income seniors living in places like 35 Shoreham Drive or 3680 Keele Street are facing a number of financial strains just to make ends meet. The rising cost of living has already erased any hope of saving for the future, so without meaningful support, any hope of a dignified or secure retirement is gone, and that is wrong.
The budget will dramatically improve the quality of life for seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement annually by $947 starting this July. This represents an immediate 10% increase in GIS benefits for low-income seniors.
As well, we will reverse the decision imposed by the previous Conservative government by restoring the eligibility age for old age security from 67 back to 65. That means the hard-working people like those living in the Northwood Apartments will have access to the financial assistance they require to retire with dignity. This was an issue that I fought for while in opposition and I am very happy that our and our government have made the change back to 65, which is where it needs to be.
In addition, the Government of Canada intends on working with its provincial and territorial partners in order to enhance the Canada pension plan with the objective of improving retirement income security for all Canadians. I look forward to the future discussions that will follow on this issue.
No seniors should be forced to decide between paying their monthly bills or going hungry, and the budget goes a long way in helping them achieve a dignified retirement.
The budget will also provide $200.7 million over two years to repair and expand affordable housing units for seniors and others, and $573 million will be directed to tackling repair and energy efficiency issues for the social housing sector. Many of the people at the addresses and units I referred to earlier are struggling tremendously to cope with the cold air coming in and the lack of repairs to many of Toronto's community housing buildings as in many parts of Canada. Anyone who comes and sits in my constituency office for a single day will quickly see that these are areas with a tremendous need.
I am pleased to say that affordable housing is a priority under the $2.4 billion allotted for social infrastructure spending. This will have a positive impact on seniors and others who need an affordable, safe, and respectable place to live.
There will also be $3.4 billion over three years as part of the public transit infrastructure fund that will be of great economic benefit to many communities, particularly those people who are struggling to get to work on time via the Finch bus route in Toronto. This route has been an issue for many years, and I am glad to see it is a priority for our new government.
Just as the seniors of today are struggling, the seniors of tomorrow are feeling the pinch too. We need to address those issues as we run the risk of kicking that can down the road. Canadian families, particularly single parents, are facing mounting personal debt, high living costs, and an inability to pay for their children's education or save for retirement. Our government will make immediate investments to improve the fiscal capacity of families who are planning ahead, as well as those looking for work to support their loved ones.
A key feature of budget 2016 is the launch of the new Canada child benefit, a more simplified program in which families will receive a monthly tax repayment targeted for low-income and middle-income earners. Those who will benefit will see an average increase of almost $2,300. That means nine out of ten families throughout Canada, and especially in ridings like mine, are going to see the benefits of being able to better support their families and their loved ones.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak to this bill today and, in particular, to follow my colleague, the member for , who laid the groundwork for a new urban agenda in Ottawa, after all those years, before the lost 10 years of the last decade, where as a city councillor, support for cities disappeared.
The reason I chose to run federally, to leave city council and join Parliament, was for one reason, and one reason only. Beyond the need for a stronger urban agenda, we needed a new national housing program. This budget is the first time in 25 years, the first time in my political life, I have seen a federal government step back in with the strength, the commitment, and the diversity of programs for housing that our country so badly needs, as we watch thousands of people who night after night go homeless.
Compared with the last budget which had $2.7 billion over 10 years, this year's budget provides for $2.3 billion over two. This includes doubling the money flowing to provinces to a total of $500 million to build, subsidize, and repair public housing. It includes $200 million for senior housing. It includes, importantly, $90 million for people escaping family violence. Taken together, this is the most substantive and the most important investment in affordable and public housing we have seen in a generation. It is this budget that delivers it, and it is the most important reason to support the budget.
Cities have also been spoken to. We have moved away from the one-third funding formulas that defined infrastructure programming over the last 20 years. We have moved to a fair system, a flexible system, a system that gets money into the hands of city councils fast.
The fifty-fifty split defines a new relationship that we have established between the federal government and our municipalities, large and small, rural, highly urbanized, in the south, the north, and coast to coast to coast. This is the most important dynamic in our new relationship. We now recognize that cities are where the majority of Canadians live. If we are to improve the lives of the majority of Canadians, we have to invest heavily in the equity, the stability, and the capacity of cities, not only to provide shelter and services to Canadians, but also to generate economic growth.
One of the other critical steps that has been taken in this budget, which has not been present in the last 25 years, is we now recognize that aging infrastructure, not just new infrastructure, needs support. State of good repair and the recapitalizing of urban infrastructure is a fundamental part of the new infrastructure program. Cities have been crying for this for decades. Finally, we have a party and a government in Ottawa that is prepared to listen.
I sat by as a city councillor and watched the province of Prince Edward Island, in particular, see more money spent on billboards about infrastructure than on the actual infrastructure that was advertised on those billboards.
The previous government was very good at putting up the billboards, very good at cutting ribbons for projects that did not exist, but when it came time to cut the cheque, it was missing in action. While it put up the billboards, spending actually went down. That is unacceptable.
Major cities in this country, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina, Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, St. John's, received zero dollars in the new building Canada fund over the last two years, while citizens in those cities cried out for support. If members talk to the mayors in those very cities, they will find out that is exactly what happened.
The other thing I am proud of is the fact that infrastructure programming goes beyond just transit and housing. It reaches into arts and the social infrastructure which builds stronger neighbourhoods—
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the social and cultural infrastructures this government is investing in, including the universities. It is not good enough just to build housing and transit; we need to build complete neighbourhoods. This infrastructure program does just that.
The spending categories for infrastructure, the social, green and transit, also include something else that is critically important. Much of our housing infrastructure stock is aging. Many of the federal programs built in the 1950s and 1960s were built at a time when energy efficiency and high-quality construction was not a priority in the federal government programs of the day. This budget puts $500 million into the revitalization and the retrofitting of those housing units, which not only become more expensive to operate, but also generate a significant amount of greenhouse gas. We can both repair, restore, and also address some of the climate change needs with the infrastructure spending targeted at low-income Canadians living in aging housing stock. This is the smartest infrastructure program related to housing that is in this budget.
We have also committed and lived up to our promise to sustain the subsidies that keep people in affordable housing. Whether it is seniors in Alberta, or single mothers in Toronto or aboriginal and first nations people living in the Maritimes, those subsidies under section 95 will be restored for two years, while we sit down with the provinces and our housing providers and renegotiate a new housing dynamic for the country that goes well beyond the life of any one government into the future so we have a program of which we can all be proud.
The other thing that is part of this budget and this government's action, which underpins all of that is the need for better data on how, where and why Canadians are choosing to live where they live, is the long form census.
I was part of the city council that had to take the previous government to court to get it to admit that it had deliberately under-measured and under-counted people living in high-rise buildings. It said that it could not get into the building. The reason it was unable to get in was because it was not committed to the census and what the census would give cities and communities as they did long-range planning.
Restoring the long form census, doing a proper census, and getting real data and evidence into the hands of cities allows us to spend the money that is now on the table more effectively to produce better results for Canadians, not just economically but socially. That is part of the approach this government has. It is not just about putting resources on the table. It is getting smarter about how we spend them so we spend them into the economy quickly and fairly, meaning equitably, and at the same time in a flexible manner that realizes and understands that smaller provinces no longer have the capacity necessary to participate in the infrastructure programs constructed as they were three decades ago.
The smaller municipalities do not have the opportunity to get public-private partnerships put together because they are asset-based and the size of the project is not big enough to attract the interests of the private sector partners. We have changed those dynamics because we have listened to cities. Most important, we have listened to people living in those cities.
The transformation that this promises for a majority of Canadians is profound. However, at the same time we have not walked away from other parts of the country that do not define themselves as a “large urban centre”. The broadband investment is about economic development and access to the Internet and the larger world for smaller and more remote communities. It is a critical piece of infrastructure investment that once again will not only build and strengthen remote and smaller communities, but will deliver capacity economically to those places so they too can thrive, grow and become strong metropolises.
Additionally, and this is the most important part of the budget, we have stepped up on aboriginal affairs with $8.4 billion in funding. We have declared that the clean water crisis will come to an end, that equity in education and health care outcomes and investments will be there, that education and distance learning will be invested in and made stronger. We have declared and supported the call for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
I remember sitting here during budget day, looking up into the gallery and seeing the pride, the confidence, and the trust on the face of the chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I remember the particular applause that budget received. We should all be very proud of this. It is one more reason to support this budget.
This budget turns a page on 10 lost years. It projects equity, opportunity, and economic growth into the future for 10 years and beyond, and provides an ability to build a country we can truly be proud of and is truly one that takes care of Canadians no matter where they live, how they live, or why they choose to live the way they do.
It is a critically important time in the history of our country on the aboriginal component alone. However, for cities and municipalities, there has never been a budget that has spoken more directly, more respectfully, and more profoundly to their needs. As someone who comes out of that sector politically, when I talk to mayors across the country, they know that on October 19 the right decision was made. However, more important, they know this budget is the right thing to support as we move forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to participate in the debate on Bill . It is an important debate, because the bill implements a budget that does long-term harm to our country. It sets Canada down a path of reckless spending, over $100 billion in debt, and higher taxes, and leaves a massive burden for future generations.
First, let me address some of the specific items in the bill that are not particularly well thought through. Despite the Liberals' clear promise to small businesses on the campaign trail, this budget hikes taxes on small business owners. That means that hard-working small businesses, the driving force of Canada's economy, are being forced to cough up a staggering $2.2 billion to help pay for the budget spending spree of the .
I did forget at the start of my speech to inform the House I would be sharing my time with the member for , so I'm doing that now.
Bill will further damage the economy because it levels some Canadians with an overall income tax rate of over 50%. Experts across the board predict that this will cause some of our country's most talented people to look elsewhere to pursue their ideas and their businesses.
That is not all. The bill targets charities and ends children's fitness and arts tax credits, but even with all of these ill-considered tax hikes, budget 2016 still leaves Canada with a $30-billion debt. That cuts to the heart of the broader problem of Bill .
Bill implements a reckless budget for this country. It is completely non-transparent and is built on a set of misleading and questionable numbers. The arrived in Ottawa telling Canadians that the books were in worse shape than he had anticipated. He outlined a set of fiscal assumptions that have since been completely debunked, and he used them as the foundation for his budget. He ignored the evidence from his own finance department and from the PBO that both said the budget was in surplus. He repeatedly told members of this House that he inherited a deficit, and he built his budget on that assumption. However, we now know he has inherited a surplus of $7.5 billion.
We also know that he jammed as much new Liberal spending as possible into the last month of the past fiscal year to get rid of that surplus. He has not been transparent about his efforts to spend his way out of surplus, and he has been completely non-transparent about the state of Canada's finances. Then he went against the independent advice of private sector economists and against the advice of his own department and unilaterally downgraded Canada's growth forecast.
He built his budget on economic assumptions made without any explanation. Here again, the was called out by the PBO for his lack of transparency. Then the had to be forced to reveal his five-year budget figures by the PBO, which he was trying to keep hidden from the public. If that is not enough, the 2016 budget is filled with wild assumptions of job creation, all of which have been repudiated by the PBO and other experts.
Fiscal prudence matters. Managing taxpayers' dollars responsibly matters. Being transparent about managing public money matters, but this continues to play games with the budget, hide the numbers, and damage his own credibility.
The Liberals received a mandate from Canadians to go into deficit, but it was a very specific mandate. Canadians were promised that the Liberals would discipline themselves by sticking to three core fiscal anchors: deficits of no more than $10 billion, an annual falling debt-to-GDP ratio, and a balanced budget by 2019. These were all articulated in writing and posted for all Canadians to see in the mandate letter the gave to the . The 2016 federal budget betrays every one of these promises.
Somewhere along the line, the decided that rather than exercising discipline and delivering what he had promised to Canadians, it would be a lot easier to interpret the election results as a mandate to borrow and spend as much money as he wants, for as long as he wants, on whatever he wants.
Let me be very clear, Canadians did not give the a blank cheque to go on such a spending spree.
Budget 2016 will saddle Canadians with $100 billion in new debt, which will have to be paid back through higher taxes. Budget 2016 plans for massive deficits and borrowing indefinitely into the future, with no plan whatsoever to return to balance. The budget barely mentions business. It will not create jobs and it throws away Canada's competitive advantage.
I also come from a riding that has a substantial agricultural component to it. It is about 65% urban, 35% rural. There is not one mention in the budget about enhancements to any of the communities in the small rural centres, and no talk about agriculture at all. These are the people who are heart-blood of many ridings, many communities. They are the ones who, daily, toil so that we can have the benefits of living the bountiful life we do from their agricultural pursuits and their risk-taking.
I can speak as a small business entrepreneur, having owned my own company over 25 years. One of the most important things for governments to do for small businesses is to make sure that they do not have the highest tax rates imposed upon citizens who are creating jobs, like small business owners.
I happened to be in the building industry, an industry that is the bellwether of the Canadian economy. We are talking about businesses that employ more than 800,000 workers in this country. This budget does absolutely nothing to improve and enhance the livelihoods of those small builders in my community who are building maybe five, six, or seven houses. All it is doing is adding to their red tape costs and the costs of their taxes and employee remittances.
These are the people who drive our economy. This budget and this budget implementation bill do nothing to help them out.
I urge all members of the House to vote against this reckless Liberal spending spree.