Mr. Speaker, I stand today in support of Bill the budget implementation act.
I am pleased to discuss the investments that the Government of Canada's first budget makes to strengthen the middle class and to grow our economy. I am proud to honour the trust that Canadians have placed in our government.
We are bringing a renewed sense of optimism with our 2016 budget and with our budget implementation act, which is putting people first. The measures included in this bill will give parents more money to help with the high cost of raising children.
Bill will ensure that out of work Canadians have the support they need while they look for their next job. It will help our seniors to retire in comfort and dignity. It will support our veterans and give back to those who have given so much in service to our country. In short, it is the first step in our long-term plan to restore hope and revitalize the economy for the benefit of all Canadians.
This legislation reflects what Canadians have told us. The and I, as well as many members of our caucus, travelled the country from coast to coast to coast in an unprecedented pre-budget consultation exercise. I personally met with Canadians across Canada, from my home province of Quebec to as far north as Yellowknife.
What we heard from the thousands of Canadians who spoke to us directly shaped the measures contained in today's legislation. In communities across the country, we heard two common messages. First, people would say that we should do something to help them and their family make ends meet. Second, they would say we should invest in things that will make the whole economy grow, so that it creates jobs and wealth, strengthening and growing our middle class, and our communities.
Our government listened. We took action based on what we heard. The result is budget 2016 and the legislation before us today.
Bill builds on the measures that we implemented as soon as we took office, when we lowered taxes for middle-class Canadians across the country. Approximately nine million Canadians now benefit from this tax cut, which took effect on January 1, 2016. This tax break will help them to save, invest, and grow Canada's economy.
Now, with our budget plan designed to grow the middle class, we are taking an even bigger step to help the middle class, and those working hard to join it, keep more money in their pockets through the Canada child benefit.
Compared to the existing system of child benefits, the new Canada child benefit will be simpler, tax-free, more generous, and better targeted to those who need it most. Nine out of 10 families will receive more money from the Canada child benefit than they receive under the current system. Families benefiting will see an average increase in child benefits of almost $2,300 in the 2016-17 benefit year.
This is an important measure to help Canadians make ends meet. This money can be used to buy groceries, pay for soccer camp this summer, or buy clothes for the fall.
Furthermore, the Canada child benefit will not only help us strengthen the middle class, but it will also help us lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. We estimate that about 300,000 fewer children will live in poverty in 2017, compared to 2014.
With this bill, as of July, families with children under 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under the age of six and $5,400 per child aged six through 17.
By supporting the budget implementation bill, all my colleagues will help give more Canadian parents some breathing room at the end of the month and will help them save for their children's future.
Helping families improve their lives is just one aspect of the budget implementation bill. This bill implements measures to help people who are struggling as a result of the troubled global economy.
These measures include targeted support for people who are facing exceptional circumstances. For example, unemployed Canadians in the regions most affected by the slowdown in the commodity sector will have the support the need as they look for a new job.
This bill will provide five extra weeks of EI regular benefits for eligible claimants in the affected regions across the country and will also provide up to 20 additional weeks of EI regular benefits to long-tenured workers who have experienced the highest increase in unemployment in these regions.
The budget identifies 12 economic regions for EI that are eligible for extended benefits as a result of the slowdown in the commodity sector.
Regardless, our government also promised to monitor the economic situation after introducing the budget, and it recently acted on its commitment by announcing that, as a result of its analysis, it would add three more regions to the list. Those three additional regions, along with the 12 initial regions, will be targeted by the passage of the budget implementation bill.
Moreover, for employment insurance recipients in all regions of Canada, this bill will reduce the employment insurance waiting period from two weeks to one as of January 1, 2017.
The goal of this measure is to relieve the financial pressure on those who have recently lost their job and are looking for work. Furthermore, with the passage of these legislative provisions, people who enter or re-enter the labour force will have to comply with the same eligibility criteria as other claimants in their region. This measure, which will come into force in July 2016, will make about 50,000 more Canadians eligible for employment insurance benefits.
Canadians have always understood that the test of a just society is how it treats the most vulnerable among us. Our budget and its legislative provisions bear witness to those values, and not just for people who lose their jobs.
This budget implementation act will help ensure that Canadian seniors can retire with a degree of comfort and dignity through substantial additional support for those most vulnerable. Although Canada's retirement income system has generally been successful in reducing the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors, unfortunately, some seniors continue to be at a heightened risk of living on a low income.
For instance, seniors who live alone are nearly three times more likely to live in low income than other seniors. That is unfair to the people who helped build this country, and we need to fix it. With the passing of this budget implementation act, that injustice will be rectified. This legislation will increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up by up to $947 per year for seniors who live alone, who are the most vulnerable, starting in July 2016.
These measures will also 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 top-up benefit, which represents a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest-income single seniors.
By investing over $670 million per year, we are improving the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada and helping them retire with some security and dignity. In addition, two-thirds of the people who will benefit from this increase are single women.
This bill will repeal 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. Restoring the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 will put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of Canadians as they become seniors and start to retire. These benefits will be particularly helpful to lower-income seniors age 65 and 66, who depend on this support and, without it, face a much higher risk of living in poverty.
As is the case with seniors, it is unfortunately sometimes those who have given the most to our country who face the biggest challenges, and that is just not right. Canada's veterans and their families have earned the deepest respect and gratitude of all Canadians for the sacrifices they have made. With this budget implementation bill, we are giving them the support they deserve for the sacrifices they have made.
Upon passage of the bill, we will make significant investments to ensure the financial security and independence of disabled veterans and their families as they make the transition to civilian life. It proposes to restore critical access to services for veterans and to ensure 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, disability awards 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%.
As a result, $1.6 billion over five years will flow directly to our veterans and their families in the form of higher direct payments. Specifically, the bill will increase the value of the disability award for injuries and illness caused by service to a maximum of $360,000 and will ensure payment of higher benefits retroactively to all veterans who have received a disability award since 2006.
It will increase the earnings loss benefit to replace 90% of an eligible veteran's gross pre-release military salary, and it will change 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 veterans who have their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury.
These amendments deliver on mandate commitments and respond directly to recommendations from key stakeholders, including the Veterans Ombudsman. However, most importantly, they give back to those who have given so much in their service to our country.
Our government, through the budget implementation bill, will also support those who are educating the next generation of Canadians. We know that educators often incur costs 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, puzzles, and supplementary books for their students. This 50% refundable income tax credit will apply to up to $1,000 of eligible supplies in 2016 and subsequent tax years.
In conclusion, taken as a whole, all these measures contained in the bill represent a giant step forward in our plan to put people first and to deliver the help they need now while investing for the years and decades to come.
I am proud to have been involved in its development, and I am proud to lend my voice today to its timely implementation for the benefit of Canadians. By doing so, we will be seizing the opportunity before us as members of Parliament. It is an opportunity to build a better future, through targeted investments, to support our people and grow our economy.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address Bill , the budget implementation act.
I will note that the hon. member opposite indicated in the introduction to his speech that this was part one of budget implementation. Therefore, we look forward to part two of the budget implementation act when that arises.
For many weeks, we in the official opposition have had many opportunities to take a look at the legislation. We have actually had a lot of opportunity to also question the and the government on their fiscal plan. Unfortunately, it appears that the more we ask for clarification the less things become clear for us. That is why I would like to focus today on the aspects surrounding the credibility of the minister in delivering this budget.
This plan, or really the lack thereof, his projections, and his assertions are incredibly important to the veracity of this budget. The is continuing to battle serious questions about his fiscal credibility and his lack of transparency.
We in the opposition would much rather be working with the government to make amendments to the legislation. However, we cannot support a plan for massive borrowing and massive spending when it is based on such flawed assumptions. The fundamentals of the legislation were simply not sound from the beginning.
During the committee of the whole on May 30, the stated the following, “We found ourselves in a low-growth era. That is what we are facing right now.” Indeed, the repeated the concept of the low growth the Liberals were handed. This simply is not the truth.
In a briefing prepared for the , his own department advised him that Canada's real income per capita growth was the strongest of all G7 countries in the 2000s, compared to the weakest growth in the 1990s. It also showed that we had the healthiest middle class of our G7 cohorts. More importantly, it was proven by the OECD that income was evenly distributed during this period of time.
It is indeed concerning that the and his Liberal budget appear to be so out of touch that his budget is based on a false assumption. The history and the current state of the Canadian economy are important factors, and the way in which the Liberals are characterizing it is simply incorrect. Indeed, the excessive spending that is set out in this budget is wholly inappropriate for the actual state of the economy of this country. The facts are very clear that we are not in a recession, yet the government continues to act as though we are.
During the committee of the whole, the also said, “The 'Fiscal Monitor' in 2015 shows clearly in the month of March that in fact the government before us left us in a deficit. That is our starting point.”
Once again the facts do not support this claim. The evidence shows clearly that the minister was actually left with a surplus by the Conservative government and that it really is his own spending decisions that have set it off track. Our government balanced the budget in 2014-15, as we said we would, and there was a $1.9-billion surplus. The parliamentary budget office has confirmed that the 2015-16 budget was left in a surplus by our Conservative government. We have still yet to see the full extent of the 's March madness, but it is clear that in this spending spree he worked really hard to spend away Conservative surpluses, and he refuses to take the responsibility for this reckless spending.
Credibility is key and trust is a key as well. The current government's inability to answer simple questions asks us to question both credibility and trust.
When we look at the budget implementation bill and reflect on the testimony in the committee of the whole, we actually gave the about four hours to answer some pretty basic questions about his plans, but our questions were often met with silence, and that is a very revealing indication of problems with respect to the implementation of this budget.
Revealing, as well, were our questions about the $6-billion contingency fund the minister built into the budget. During this particular exchange, the minister was actually unable to provide any details at all as to what kinds of factors were taken into consideration when determining the size of the fund. I would add that one of the witnesses before the finance committee indicated to the members of the committee that applying this contingency fund was, in essence, projecting oil to be at a price of $20 per barrel, and we know that not to be the fact.
More concerning was the fact that the minister revealed that he already had plans to spend this $6-billion contingency fund. The next day, in question period, the minister doubled down. Again, he committed to spending this $6 billion, regardless of whether it was needed, instead of returning it to taxpayers. This is not responsible and is simply not acceptable.
People could understand it if it were put in simple terms of dealing with their own credit cards. For example, a person asks for a $6,000 credit card increase but has no need and no plan as to what to buy but knows that he or she is going to buy something, the only factor being that every single last cent of that $6,000 will be spent. Even Canadians going to a bank for a loan these days are asked to explain why they need the loan, whether they are students looking to invest in their educations or young families wanting to make improvements to their homes. Any responsible institution would ask why they are applying for the loan.
Canadians also expect that when someone promises to do something, that person will follow through on the promise. The Liberals have made many promises, but those promises lack credibility. The Liberals have broken their election promises, and their out-of-control spending will end up hurting families, small business, and hard-working Canadians, because we know where this ends. It ends in the form of tax increases.
The Liberals were elected on a platform of modest deficits capped at $10 billion. They were elected on a platform of reducing the ratio of debt to GDP, with a goal of returning the budget to balance. However, almost immediately after taking power, they changed their minds. At a time when Canada is not in a recession, they have nearly tripled the deficit, admitted that they cannot control the debt to GDP ratio, and decided that balancing the budget was really not that important after all.
Not only is the minister breaking his promise, but as we know, he is suggesting that Conservatives would do well to get past this whole budget balance thing. However, the Conservatives will not simply get past the whole balanced budget thing, because we know that budgets do not balance themselves. We will continue to voice our concerns, as well as those of Canadians who want to see balanced budgets, not broken electoral promises and out-of-control spending.
We should take a closer look at some of the broken electoral promises. The Liberals have absolutely shattered their promise to small businesses to proceed with a small business tax rate reduction to 9% by 2019. While the Liberals promised to stand by this commitment during the election period, since taking power, it has become clear that small businesses are not the government's priority at all.
Budget 2016 lays out the Liberals' plan to tax small businesses at 10.5%, but they cleverly say that plans for any other small business tax cuts will be deferred. I know what the definition of “deferred” is. For the record, it is “withheld for or until a stated time”.
The indicated, when he appeared before the finance committee, that he actually has no further information about any planned date to restore this tax reduction, as promised. He refuses to own up to the fact that this tax cut has been clearly cancelled.
The president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Dan Kelly, has expressed his disappointment and his shock as well. According to the CFIB, “This decision will cost small firms over $900 million more per year as of 2019”.
The parliamentary budget office, in a report from May 10, “estimates that by 2020-21, Budget 2016 changes to the small business tax rate will reduce real GDP by $300 million”, and this Canadians will really understand, “and the level of employment by about 1,240 jobs”.
Not proceeding with the planned implementation of the tax rate, in fact cancelling it, will have a long-term effect on employment in this country and on our GDP. This will clearly not help grow the Canadian economy.
We know that the Liberals will have to raise taxes to pay for all of this out-of-control spending. However, when we reflect upon it, it really is disconcerting and unfortunate that 700,000 middle-class small business owners, who employ 95% of working Canadians, were the first target of this .
When it increases taxes on job-creating small businesses, the government is discouraging success and discouraging entrepreneurship, and that has an effect on the entire country. It is not helping the middle class. It is absolutely hurting the middle class.
I, along with my constituents and the Conservative Party, have a long list of concerns about this budget. We have the ballooning deficit, with no sign in the future of what the cap will be. The famously gave an interview in the United States, and when he was asked how big the deficit will grow, he said he did not really have a number in mind. That is not prudent management.
We also have concerns about eligibility for old age security being lowered from 67 to 65. I have two points on that. First, it was this country's who indicated no more than three years ago that this was the right thing to do, and now he has done exactly the opposite. Second, when we actually did this in the former Conservative government, we were lauded as having the courage to do the right thing by the Secretary-General of the OECD. We joined a list of 29 out of 38 countries in the OECD proceeding down this road.
I am concerned about the fact that this budget has no plan to create jobs. There is the notion that if the Liberals sprinkle the money out into the economy, it is going to actually take root and there will be growth. The reality is that there are a lot of things that can happen between the sprinkling of the money and the creation of a job. My concern is that there is no plan to actually nurture the creation of jobs.
I am very concerned that there is no plan to promote business investment. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The government's version of promoting investment by private businesses is taxing them more, creating more regulation, and giving far greater uncertainty in decision-making within this country when it comes to the movement of our natural resources.
That does nothing to help our economy. That does nothing to help us with the commodity shock we are feeling right now in this country that is actually putting so many people and Canadians in pain, in several provinces, as a result of something that is completely out of their control.
I am very concerned that the Liberals have repealed the balanced budget legislation. There were provisions within this legislation to take into account in emergency situations. Instead, the Liberals have decided to just remove it, because they do not want to be tied to a fiscal anchor that every Canadian household can completely understand and should absolutely live to attain.
We can look at studies that have been produced by the parliamentary budget office. One that came out in January that was of most importance to me looked at household indebtedness in our country. It may be surprising to note that household indebtedness in our country is projected to rise to about 174% of debt to household income. That is a very large number. It means that Canadians are gathering in more debt. They have higher debt than they did before the recession hit in 2008-09. The government is now getting on that bandwagon and saying that debt is good, and it is going to go into debt now too, as their government. However, it is not doing it on its own behalf; it is doing it in combination with provinces that are doing the exact same thing, going into greater amounts of debt. We have households with increased debt. We have provinces really racking up the debt, especially in my province of Ontario.
By the way, Ontario is the number one sub-national government in the world in terms of the size of the debt. We are number one, Ontario. That is fantastic.
The other aspect of debt is the reality that at the end of the day, this debt actually does matter. It takes away the flexibility of a government to act when things get very difficult with respect to the economy.
The bill also targets tax credits we introduced, as the previous government, that actually helped families. One of the aspects of the fitness and arts credit I appreciated the most was the fact that it was actually recognizing Canadian families for doing something good for their children's health in the future, their mental health by taking arts and their physical health by getting involved in fitness. That incentive has been taken away by the government.
Changes to EI are of great concern.
However, the small business tax cut cancellation will, of course, have a long-term, long-run effect on our Canadian economy.
When people realized that the government had actually increased taxes on higher income earners in our country, a lot thought that should be okay and that it did not really mean a lot, because those people make so much money that it does not matter. I asked the minister's officials at the finance committee whether there had been any studies done to indicate difficulties in having a combined tax rate of over 50% when we are trying to attract to Canada world-class talent for our Canadian companies. Not a single study had been done to determine what the effect would be. That is just another example of rushing to implement parts of a platform without thinking about the total effect.
The only things the government is going to grow in the coming years are two-fold: it is going to grow our debt, and it is absolutely going to grow the size of government. Coming from Cape Breton, I can say that big government is not here to save us. Big government is not something we should be reliant upon. We should be reliant upon ourselves, our families, and our communities to ensure that we live a prosperous life and can contribute to the economy of Canada.
With all of these concerns in mind, Conservatives will not forget that Canadians voted for responsible fiscal management on election day. Those who voted for the Conservatives and NDP in both cases voted for balanced budgets. We will not forget those who voted for the Liberals either, because they voted on the basis of small, moderate deficits that would primarily go to infrastructure. That is far from what the Liberals have delivered so far.
We will hold the government accountable. We will fight for lower taxes, we will fight for a balanced budget, and we will fight to get a plan that will actually keep Canada growing and thriving.
Mr. Speaker, the first thing I want to say at third reading of this bill is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Conservatives introduced omnibus bills that were around 175 pages in length and sometimes 500 or 600 pages. Now, we have a 179-page omnibus bill that amends or eliminates 35 acts.
The Conservative government systematically refused to accept any of the amendments proposed in the Standing Committee on Finance. Now, the Liberal government is systematically refusing to accept any of the amendments proposed in the Standing Committee on Finance. It is just more of the same.
I think this bill clearly shows why Canadians are so cynical about politics. The Liberals promised to do things differently, but they introduced this massive bill. If we had had the time to study it carefully, we could perhaps have gotten through it all and thoroughly analyzed it to identify its shortcomings.
However, we had only two committee meetings to hear from witnesses and examine the Liberals' 179-page budget bill. We were able to hear from only 17 witnesses in committee to discuss the various aspects of the bill. That is only one witness per 10 pages of legislation. I commend the Liberals for this so-called comprehensive study.
Some extremely important aspects of this bill were dealt with in a very cursory manner. I am thinking about the entire chapter on the mechanism for bank recapitalization in the event that our key or systemically important institutions break down.
First of all, I am not fundamentally opposed to that provision. However, it completely changes the way our banking system can get help when it might be in trouble, which we hope will never happen. It changes the way our banking system works.
When we requested a more comprehensive study, the Liberals told us that it was unnecessary because a department official had explained to them how it works. Yes, that is what they said. If we follow that logic, why bother hearing from witnesses in committee at all? Let us just ask department officials to explain the measures on which we have to vote and then just vote on them already.
I see that my colleague does not agree, and I am sorry, but that is the reality. The official in question, Glenn Campbell, did a good job explaining the technical underpinnings of the bill. However, the fact remains that we did not have a chance to hear a single witness talk about this important provision.
The other part of this bill that warranted closer attention is the issue of compensation for veterans. First of all, that should have been in a separate bill, but the Liberals decided to include it in the budget implementation bill. We heard from only one witness on that, the veterans ombudsman. That was it.
If it had been examined more thoroughly, first of all, it would not have been in the Standing Committee on Finance, but rather in the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and second, at least two or three meetings would have been dedicated to examining precisely those points. Ultimately, we heard from only one witness in committee on something that should have been in its own bill.
To sum up, to study Bill , we had two days of debate and a time allocation motion in the House at second reading, before it went to committee. It was so urgent that the committee began examining it before it even passed second reading. Regardless, we still only invited witnesses to two of the six committee meetings. The minister and other officials attended some of the other meetings.
On top of that, the Liberals rejected all the amendments proposed by the opposition. It is not as though we went too far. We proposed 15 substantial amendments to a 179-page bill. The Conservatives proposed three, and I know the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois also proposed some. One of the amendments proposed by the Conservatives came from a member who does not sit on the committee.
I will digress for a moment. Once again, this shows that the Liberals operate much like the Conservatives did before them. They even moved the same motion at a Standing Committee on Finance meeting to force independent MPs from parties not recognized in the House to present their amendments in committee so that they could be discussed for a minute instead of using their rights as independent members to move those amendments in the House. They did exactly what the Conservatives used to do.
We studied the amendments, and the Liberals listened to them. They are perfectly happy to listen to the opposition, but when it comes to really hearing, analyzing, and actually using what the opposition says, forget it.
I mentioned an interesting fact in the question I asked the member for , who is the official opposition finance critic. The Liberal side was totally disorganized during the committee's work. Take, for example, the employment insurance provisions that the government included in the bill. Once again, the Standing Committee on Finance should not have been the one studying that issue. It should have been the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Nevertheless, it was included in the budget bill.
The Liberals decided that only 12 regions in the country would benefit from the extended EI benefits. What is the formula? The formula seems somewhat flexible, but 12 regions are going to be included, mostly in western Canada and Newfoundland. We realize that these regions have been hit especially hard by falling oil and commodity prices. However, the random nature of the criteria that allowed those regions to be included on the list was never really formally explained to us.
In mid-May, the himself announced that three new regions would also qualify for the extension: Southern Saskatchewan, Southern Interior British Columbia, and Edmonton. In committee, we tried to explain that instead of having a random formula, perhaps all regions should be included in the formula. That was declared out of order, so I cannot blame the parties for that. However, I do not think the government would have been very receptive to that measure.
We decided to include only the regions that were benefiting from this five-week extension to fill what is called the black hole before the Conservatives and before 2012. The black hole is the period of time between the end of EI benefits and a return to work, for those who work in seasonal industries. Again, the government was not really listening and this was declared out of order.
Finally, we proposed our third amendment. This one sought to remind the government that it promised to include these three regions. In the House, I cannot explain succinctly the level of confusion that reigned on the Liberal side on this aspect because they seemed to have forgotten that promise. They did not seem to understand that this amendment needed to be added in committee. The Liberal Party made no proposal on the matter. Finally, we ended the clause-by-clause review without any such amendment. The Liberal government was forced to correct its mistake by introducing a motion here at report stage.
I should point out that the committee accepted just one amendment during its study. It was a Liberal amendment to fix a mistake that the Liberal government introduced into this bill. This was nothing new to me, since I saw this kind of thing go on for five years with the Conservatives' omnibus budgets. They would realize after the fact that the bill was poorly thought out and needed to be fixed. Conservative amendments would be accepted, but the opposition's amendments never were.
What we have here is a series of measures. I just talked about veterans and bank recapitalization. These issues should have been dealt with separately. I also talked about employment insurance. In fact, many measures should have been dealt with separately, or there should at least have been a more careful study than just 17 witnesses for 179 pages of text.
Since the start of debate, I have been listening to the government side claim that this is not an omnibus bill since all of the measures were in the budget. Indeed, there are lots of things in the budget, because in a 500-page document, you can have one little line about a forestry program, another line about the TFSA, and another line about a post-secondary education program for indigenous communities.
The government can include pretty much anything in a budget or a budget implementation bill by arguing that it appeared in the previous budget. That is not how things work. The Liberal members who were here during the previous Parliament completely agreed with our definition of an omnibus budget bill. I would like to quote a few of them.
At the beginning of this Parliament, in April 2016, the member for , who is now the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, indicated that the Department of Finance had gotten into the habit of putting a lot of things in a budget bill. He said that his concern was that there could be an area in a bill that really required giving MPs the opportunity to debate that issue in the House, not as part of a budget bill, but as part of a separate bill.
We completely agree with him. That is the whole point of my argument. Let us look at what the member for , who is now the President of the Treasury Board, said in 2015, in the previous Parliament. He said:
|| For years, the Conservatives have crossed the line in what is acceptable in a functioning democracy as a government in the area of respect for Parliament. It is not only how they have now normalized the use of massive omnibus bills, they regularly shut down debate in the House...
Lo and behold, the Liberals cut short debate in the House and introduced massive bills that we were not able to study in detail.
Do members want other examples? The current and member for said:
|| ...the government's use of omnibus legislation has degraded the committee review process and hidden important legal changes from public scrutiny.
That is not all. The and member for said:
|| Liberals will end the abuse of omnibus bills, which result in poorly reviewed laws.
I challenge any Liberal member to state in the House that they kept their promises concerning transparency and are allowing this Parliament and this committee to carry out an exhaustive and thorough review and, ultimately, letting us fulfill our responsibilities as MPs on the committee.
If that is what the Liberal members are interested in doing, I urge them to explain how holding two committee meetings with witnesses qualifies as a comprehensive study of thirty or so acts in this 179-page bill. I urge them to explain why, in June 2015, they said they would put an end to these massive bills because they are not conducive to thorough and transparent study, yet now, they have introduced just such a bill. I challenge any Liberal member to tell me to my face that there was no time allocation, something the Liberals strongly criticized back then.
Today, with this first budget implementation bill, this government is showing what the next four years will look like. It seems to have no remorse for breaking its promises. I am thinking of promises such as reducing the tax from 11% to 9%. The government swore that it would reduce the small business tax. That is not the only broken promise. It also said that it would fix Parliament so that it could do what it should do: analyze legislation and even help the government address deficiencies in these bills. Obviously, the government has its own idea of how things should be, but it may miss some things.
We do not expect the Liberals to accept or adopt all the recommendations or amendments that we propose, but we do expect them to listen carefully, to be able to realize that they may have been wrong or they may have forgotten something and, ultimately, to make changes.
I mentioned three parliamentary secretaries. I have other examples of Liberal members who, in the previous Parliament, said similar things. I think it is a huge shame that the government is acting in a way that it does not even seem to regret or repudiate.
If the government wants to change its tune and introduce omnibus bills to get legislation passed faster, like the Conservatives did, will it at least own that?
Whenever we bring up certain incidents, the government, in defiance of truth and logic, denies them.
Earlier, in response to a question about cutting small business taxes from 11% to 9%, the asked why the government should keep that promise seeing as it kept others. He did not even attempt to answer the question.
He said that nine million Canadians will benefit from the tax cut, but he left out the part about how it will do nothing for 18 million Canadians.
He talked about the Canada child tax benefit even though the question was about small businesses. That benefit does not have much to do with investing in businesses, particularly if the owners of those businesses do not have children.
There is a group mentality, that this is the Liberals' theme and they can do no wrong. That despite what they said during the last electoral campaign, they are in government and totally justified in doing whatever they want, and that the opposition cannot say a word, especially with a majority government. I see some heads shaking no. This was the Liberal Party's thinking in the last Parliament when it was the third party, and now it is no longer good.
When we sit in Parliament, we represent all Canadians. I am proud to represent my riding. How can I go back to my riding and say that all the shiny promises that Parliament will work better and that committees will actually be able to do the work that they are supposed to be doing are no longer any good? I cannot, in good conscience, say that the government is respecting its promises.
The government boasts about all the nice measures in the budget. There are some interesting measures that New Democrats are glad the government is implementing, such as the elimination of the GST on feminine hygiene products, which is something we fought for in the last Parliament. There are some interesting measures, but there are some measures that would have deserved significant study and were not. We are in breach of our responsibilities in this Parliament.
Can any MP in the House explain to me what the 25 pages on bank bail-in provisions actually mean or will entail? I suspect not. Can any Liberal MPs in the House explain to me the mechanisms of the changes in compensation for veterans? Some questions have been asked on that specific point because it is not clear to everyone. It is not clear that it will actually achieve what the Liberal government says it will achieve.
Can anyone explain to me what formula was used to define the 12 regions that will have access to the extension of EI benefits? Before voting yes or no, members should think about what they know in this budget bill. If they do not know a lot, then I suspect members are victims of the group theme mentality of their team telling them to vote in this way or vote blindly, and trusting their team.
In the end, I expect and forecast that there will be some disappointments on the Liberal side. There will be some disappointments because more and more, maybe not right now, maybe not in two months, maybe not next year, people will eventually realize where the government has respected its promises and where it has broken them.
We have seen that this type of attitude toward the fundamental duties that opposition members have in committee and in the House has led to an atmosphere of mistrust, which led to the very tense situation that we witnessed a few weeks ago.
New Democrats are happy that there has been some co-operation on some of the files; namely, the committee on electoral reform, but that cannot be the only instance where there will be such co-operation. We need to work together and ensure that committees will be able to fulfill their duties of examining government bills and keeping government to account. We have not seen that in committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for .
I am happy to rise today in the House to speak again to the 2016 federal budget, Bill .
During the 2015 federal election, I was an unelected candidate, I was consistently down 10 points in the polls, I had to trust my party's platform. My party's platform was my road map and I came to know my road map very well. I came to trust it, I sought to inspire that same trust from the people of Saint John—Rothesay.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would tackle head-on the generational poverty that was gripping Saint John through the enhanced child benefit that would lift 300,000 children out of poverty. I told my constituents that a Liberal government would make investments in affordable housing. I told my constituents that we would increase funding for skills training and social enterprises, finding innovative ways of teaching people who needed the skills to succeed. I said that we would provide better support than previous governments for community-based initiatives like the Saint John community loan fund and the Saint John learning exchange.
I told my constituents that the Liberal Party would take social development seriously and provide better support to the excellent work done by people like Randy Hatfield at the Human Development Council, and provide better resources for the homeless through our local women's shelter Coverdale, our men's shelter Outflow, and our youth shelter Safe Harbour, which after some tough times I hope will be reopening very soon.
I told my constituents that the Liberal Party would make historic investments in necessary and overdue infrastructure upgrades, such as Rothesay waste water, as a long-term plan to grow our economy.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would support major upgrades to economic drivers such as the port of Saint John and the Saint John City Market.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would cut income taxes for nine million Canadians as a way of strengthening the middle class and putting money in the pockets to those who spend and those who drive our economy.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would do more for seniors than previous governments, especially the past government opposite. We would increase the GIS by 10% for seniors living in poverty.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would invest in social infrastructure such as tourist sites like Carleton Martello Tower and recreation facilities like the Saint John field house and the Rothesay Arena.
I told my constituents all these things. Our party platform was my road map and that map did not steer me or the Liberal Party wrong. That map steered me and my constituents toward a new government, a government that rather than cynically catering to a small strategic base, that made and followed a plan that looked out for all Canadians.
Good government governs for the many, not the few, no matter who they are or what party colours they fly. We govern for the homeless, the middle class, veterans, disabled, rich, indigenous, ill. Everyone ended up in a better place because of this map, our party platform of 2015.
How can I prove this? Let us talk about the budget Bill . This budget was endorsed and accepted by the majority of Canadians. Even critics are forced to fall silent when the real judges, the Canadian people, weigh in. The budget has been a resounding success with Canadians. Everything I told my constituents has either been delivered or the way has been paved for delivery in future years and in future budgets of this government's mandate.
With its first budget, the Liberal government delivered on its plan to tackle poverty head-on. I come from Saint John—Rothesay. I am so proud of my riding, but my riding leads the country in child poverty. Our Canada child benefit is transformational. It is a historic, $23 billion investment in Canadians and, most important, Canadians who need it the most. This program will help more Canadian families than any other social program since universal health care.
I am excited about July, and not only because of Canada Day, not only because of summer, which is my favourite season. I am excited this year for the new Canada child benefit and what it will do for disadvantaged people in my riding of Saint John—Rothesay.
Nine out of 10 families will get more help than they do under existing programs. A single mother with one child under the age of six and earning $30,000 a year will receive an annual benefit of $6,400 a year, tax free. Coming from a city with the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, I cannot express how happy I am for the priority wards in Saint John, such as ward 3 where one out of every two children live in poverty, 50%. That is a higher rate of poverty than is experienced by people in many developing countries. This cannot be allowed to continue, and I am proud to be a part of this historic change.
Coupled with our local poverty reduction strategy, I am proud to say that we are finally set to change things for the better in the priority wards of my riding.
It takes an important shift in social policy to move the needle on poverty. I believe this is a historic investment in Canadians, and we will finally move the needle in Saint John—Rothesay. I look forward to seeing how many children we can lift out of poverty across our great nation. This act, the Canada child benefit, is transformational and will make us a greater country.
Also, $112 million will be given to anti-homelessness initiatives across the country, which is good news for our local shelters and our programs. We would love to see what the very successful At Home-Chez Soi program, which helps homeless participants get off the street and into a stable home, can do for those experiencing homelessness in Saint John. We would love to see increased funding to Outflow and Coverdale, our men's and women's homeless shelters, to continue every day to do their excellent work in our community, helping those who need help. We need to give these community leaders all the help we can.
One thing both our men's and women's homeless shelters desperately need is transition housing. This is a crucial step in the process of getting Canadians off the street and into stable homes. Transition housing makes it so that those people who are getting back on their feet can move out of the shelter and into their own room.
As a government, we need to look after all of our people, not just the ones who we think will vote for us.
With this budget, the Liberal government is delivering on infrastructure. This year we will invest $11.9 billion to modernize and rehabilitate public transit, water and waste-water systems, provide affordable housing, and protect infrastructure systems from the effects of climate change.
This is good news for my riding of Saint John—Rothesay. In Saint John, we have 1,400 people on the waiting list for affordable housing, and we have many projects that are shovel ready. This budget is good news for them. Rothesay waste water has applied for necessary funding, along with the Saint John field house. Both projects make a strong case, and I am confident they will move forward.
The Liberal government is also investing $3.4 billion over five years to maintain our national parks, harbours, federal airports, and border infrastructure, and to support the cleanup of federal contaminated sites across the country.
There has been great news recently for Carleton Martello Tower, the first line of defence in guarding Saint John since 1813. Parks Canada has undertaken a massive restoration of one of Canada's most significant historical fortifications. It is the oldest structure in our city. This funding is also great news for Partridge Island, an important and neglected historical site on federal land.
I told my constituents that a Liberal government would implement a middle-class tax cut from 22% to 20.5%. We were able to do this even before the first budget. A strong economy needs a strong middle class.
Seniors make up a large percentage of our population in Saint John—Rothesay. We will help the most vulnerable seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors by up to $947 annually.
In our election campaign, we promised real change. I am proud to stand here today speaking to my constituents, speaking to all Canadians. I am proud to stand here and say that my road map, our party platform of 2015, was a success. I am proud of our government. I am proud of the budget we delivered. It is progressive. It is innovative. It will be a change for our country for the better.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened very attentively to colleagues who have spoken in the House, and I want to thank my colleague from , who is sharing his time with me today, for his speech. He is one of our colleagues who has continued to champion many issues, and certainly the issue of poverty, which he speaks very passionately about.
I also listened attentively to members on the other side. Let me say that I was somewhat disappointed by my colleague from the NDP, the member for . I found the condescending way he spoke somewhat offensive, because to indicate that members on the government side would not be attentive to bills and legislation and fully informed about what we are debating in this House is offensive to all of us as hon. members.
I was very proud of my colleague from , who has offered to have that debate and to do so in Winnipeg. I hope that will happen, because I think it is important to have the facts before the public and real information people can understand.
I want to speak to a few of the things raised here today. First, we talked about transparency and accountability. Our government has led the way on transparency. In fact, we led the way on transparency when we were the third party in the House of Commons. We were among the first MPs in the House of Commons to make transparent a lot of the financial investments we were making within our ridings. New Democrats were one of the groups that did not want to make transparent many of their finances at that time. Members need to be reminded of who started the trend toward transparency and who continues to build and lead on transparency, reform, change, and accountability in the House of Commons. Not only that, we are leading on change and on reform in terms of how we deal with Canadians. I think that has been obvious.
Our government listens to Canadians and understands Canadians and is working hard to meet the goals and objectives they have laid out for us.
I can say for certain that we have responded to great needs in this country in this budget, needs that have been left behind for a very long time. When I hear the former government members speak, I am only reminded of how history continues to try to rewrite itself.
The facts also speak for themselves. We live in a country where, under the former government, many people were left behind. A lot of those people left behind were the very people who sent me here to represent them. That is what I will do.
I am very proud of the budget we have laid out for Canadians, because it not only responds to those who are the loudest or those who may be the most affluent, it responds to the needs of all Canadians, even those who have been left behind and left in poverty.
It responds to the needs of first Canadians, our indigenous peoples. I can read off a whole list of stats with regard to Inuit people, of which I am a descendant. They show that 39% of them live in crowded homes. We have a budget this year, for the first time, that invests in housing for Inuit people. I say to members opposite that they may want to stand in this place and vote against that, but I certainly will not be standing in this place and voting against it, not with those statistics. Compare that with 4% of Canadians who live in crowded housing. It is quite substantially different. However, we do not want anyone in this country living in unsubstantial situations, and that is why we are investing in all aspects.
Let us look at the fact that the unemployment rate for Inuit people in this country is 45%, as opposed to other sectors.
That did not get created in the last seven months, I want to remind hon. members. Those are gaps that had been left there because former governments and members did not address those gaps. These are investments that we have made, putting more money into the assets program and ensuring better targets for employment of people who are left behind. Again, I will continue to say that we are living up to our commitment, and yes we are. We are living up to the commitment and the promises that we have made to Canadians. We have a full mandate to fulfill those promises and commitments, and I can say that this government will do so over the course of that time.
In the last seven months, I have seen a transformation in this country that I have not seen in the last 10 years. I have seen a government that has responded to the very basic needs for infrastructure across communities in this country. Who in this House of Commons wants to vote against that? I have seen the government make historic investments in indigenous communities. I challenge people to stand and vote against that. I have seen this government invest millions more in student jobs. Even in my own riding, this year, I am seeing record numbers of summer jobs, more than I ever have. I am seeing more investments in summer jobs going to both indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
When I look at this budget, I am not only seeing the targets to the middle class and how we are helping raise people up and helping people rise up out of poverty. I am seeing new investments for the first time in our country in housing for northern regions and Inuit people. I am seeing infrastructure investments in highways, transit, and schools, which we have not had for a long time. People cannot forget that we are not going to fix in seven months what was created in decades. However, we are making the greatest attempt to do so and to honour our commitment to the people of this country.
I can say that when I stand to vote on this budget, I will be standing to vote very proudly. For the first time in many years that I have been lobbying, fighting, representing, and challenging governments to do more for people in rural and northern Canada, I am finally seeing some real action. Even more than that, I am seeing action for all my colleagues as well, who come here to lobby hard for the people who sent them, who talk about the growing numbers in the cities across our country and the need for new transit, infrastructure, and co-op housing, and other housing programs. I must say I am very happy to see the investments that are going in those directions.
On the child benefit program, the feedback I have been getting from people in our province of Newfoundland and Labrador is amazing. They like the new child benefit program. It is putting more money into their families and into their pockets. Despite what everyone on the other side may be saying or thinking, they can just read through the comments I get. I am amazed. “I have gained this amount of money”; “My family has gained this amount of money”. Those are the real facts and where we are seeing the real transitions that are being made.
Many people would love to rewrite history. They would love to rewrite the fact that they did not support investments. The New Democrats and the Conservatives campaigned on balancing the budget, and my challenge to them today would be this. Which of those investments would they cut? Would they stop trying to help children out of poverty in this country? Would they cut record and historic funding to indigenous people in this country? Would they not address the problems with transit and overcrowding in our cities? I would challenge the members to tell me today which pieces of this budget in infrastructure and spending and social and economic development they would not support. If Canadians had voted in their direction, they would not be seeing this change, they would not see the investments that are going into their communities.
Again, when one continues to do the same thing, one gets the same result. We are doing things differently, and we are getting a better result.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to discuss Bill today, an act to amend certain provisions of the budget. Today, I would like to discuss two different issues. One thing I will be discussing is old age security and what I think we should be looking at. It is great to join in those kinds of conversations.
As I said, I will be discussing things that are important to Canadians, seniors and youth. I will begin with changes to old age security and eligibility being reversed from 67 back down to 65.
In March 2016, the made the announcement in the United States that the government was going to do this. When the Conservative government made the changes in 2012, it was taking a very complex issue and putting forward a very simple solution. The Prime Minister has now put forward a very simple solution to a very complex issue just by reversing it. These are considerations that we have to look at.
We see countries like the United States, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and a variety of other countries in the industrialized world that have made these increases to age eligibility, and there are many factors in doing so. Last week, I joined the discussion in the House with the about old age security and I was looking for answers. Unfortunately, I did not find them, so I am hoping that today I can find some of the answers as we go forward.
I want to point out some of the facts. When we talk about old age security, we have to look at why it came into existence and how it has moved along.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
Back in the 1960s, when old age security was put forward, it was because the government saw that approximately 40% of seniors were living in poverty. At the time the change was made and the age went from 70 down to 65, there were approximately six workers for every one senior. Today, that ratio has changed to four workers for every senior, and in 20 years, there will be two workers for every senior receiving old age security.
To me or anybody who can do simple math, that is extremely problematic. In a simple pie chart, we can see that if half the group is working and the other half of the group is not working, who is going to be paying for the other half? We have to be aware of those things.
When I come to the House, I come with years of experience from working in a constituency office. Many people believe that they pay into and invest in old age security. We have to remind ourselves that old age security is derived from taxes for that year. It is not money that people put into it, like the Canada pension plan or RRSPs, or even pensions at work. Therefore, we must be aware of that when we are having these discussions.
If we look back to when the changes were made to old age security in the 1960s, the life expectancy for men was about 14 years above retirement age. In the 2011 to 2016 period, our life expectancy has grown. For males, it is 21 years above retirement age and for females, it is 25 years above retirement age. Just in those few decades, we see people living seven years longer and receiving old age security.
This is a big transition and we must recognize that there have been many changes since the 1960s, including the removal of mandatory retirement. If one person out of four is retired now, we must recognize that old age security is going to be drawn on very heavily and will be for a much longer of period of time if people are living longer. In 2011, old age security was an expense to the Government of Canada of approximately $38 billion. In 2030, it is going to be $108 billion.
Let us look at two workers per pensioner. I welcome any solutions. The indicated we went back to a simple solution, but just yesterday, the anti-poverty committee came up with some excellent solutions. Even Mr. Shillington, who appeared at the anti-poverty committee yesterday, indicated the proposal for a gradual shift for old age security eligibility to go up to 67, as proposed by the Conservatives, and to move the age of eligibility for GIS back down to 60. Those are things we are going to look at.
In talking about a very complex issue, let us not just take such an easy solution as the government has done, reduce the age back down to 65 and say we will be fine and then deal with it in 20 years.
Another thing I want to discuss when it comes to this is that many women are very unfortunate. Perhaps they are single or widowed, and I recognize that one in three senior women are living in poverty. That is why we need to look at this complex issue and not just have such a simple approach by reversing the decision.
We must consider that in the future this is truly going to be a greater deficit, with more and more spending, and those middle class families the government says it is going to help are going to be stuck footing the bill when we have not looked at any long-term solutions.
Therefore, I urge the government to look at solutions. We cannot just have short-term solutions. We need to have long-term solutions as well. Those are some of the concerns I have.
One of my biggest concerns is the deficit. We talk about the middle class. This middle class is going to have more deficit and more debt than we can even imagine with all the spending we have here.
I see you would like me to stop, Mr. Speaker.