Madam Speaker, this is the longest budget in Canadian history. As Andrew Coyne pointed out in The Globe and Mail, this budget comes in at 739 pages and 232,903 words. Paul Martin's landmark budget of 1995 was fewer than 200 pages. Michael Wilson's budgets of the late1980s, which put Canada back on fiscal track and had operational surpluses, averaged less than 120 pages.
The longest budget in Canadian history is the biggest disappointment. Never has a budget proposed so little with so many words. There is no plan to tackle the immediate problem Canadians are facing, which is the lack of vaccines. There can be no economic recovery without vaccines.
In Halton region, for example, where part of my riding is, only half the people who could have been vaccinated have been. This is because the federal government has failed to secure vaccines. Last month, in places such as Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Georgetown and Acton, Halton region was only able to vaccinate 90,000 residents. It could have vaccinated 216,000 residents, or 7,200 residents a day, more than double the number of people it actually vaccinated. The reason only half the number of people were vaccinated was because of a lack of vaccines.
I will quote Halton region directly, which stated, “While we have the capacity to book approximately 7,200 appointments per day through our clinics, the availability of consistent vaccine supply continues to constrain the Vaccination Program rollout.”
The budget does nothing to fix this lack of vaccines. As a result, we are experiencing a third wave, unlike countries who were able to secure an adequate supply of vaccines like the United States and the United Kingdom.
This budget has no plan to build back better. It has no plan to create jobs and growth. Instead, it leaves us with a bigger debt, bigger deficits and an avalanche of unfocused spending.
The budget has no plan for regulatory and tax reform to help us in a fiercely competitive global economy. It has no plan to address Canada's chronically low levels of productivity, the only long-term determinant of prosperity. It has no plan for Canada's natural resources sector, which is so important, and the race for critical minerals and the energy transition heats up.
There is no plan to address the overheated housing market, which has put the dream of affordable home ownership out of the reach of millions of Canadian families and saddled them with sky-high levels of indebtedness. There is no plan to achieve budget balance and rein in the skyrocketing debt and deficits that are threatening our children's future.
Members do not need to take it from me. They can take it from the experts. This is what David Dodge, the deputy minister of finance during the Chrétien government of the 1990s and former governor of the Bank of Canada, had to say about the budget in The Globe and Mail. He stated, “My policy criticism of the budget is that it really does not focus on growth”.
Referring to growth and the finance minister, he continues, “over the longer haul, we face a very real challenge. And I don’t think she tried to seriously address that in the budget”.
He went on to say that the vast majority of the extra $100 billion in spending is consumption not investment. He also said the budget does not have a prudent fiscal plan. He stated, “To me, it wouldn’t accord with something that is a reasonably prudent fiscal plan, let me put it that way”.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Canada has incurred the largest deficit among major economies in the last year at 20% of our GDP, yet the IMF estimates that, compared to our economic peers, Canada's economy has contracted more and will recover more slowly. Despite this, the budget does nothing to create jobs and growth.
There is no plan in the budget to balance public finances. The budget itself indicates that in the next five years alone, interest charges on the national debt will double, increasing from about 20 billion dollars a year to about 40 billion dollars a year.
Other experts have also been critical of the budget, as my colleague just said in his most recent remarks in the House. Here is what the 's former policy and budget director, Robert Asselin, had to say about the budget in The Hub.
He said, “The federal budget has no answers on the question of growth”. He went on to say, “it was clear for some time that the government’s decision to spend more than $100 billion in so-called short-term stimulus was a political solution in search of an economic problem.” He concluded by saying, “After doubling our federal debt in only six years, and spending close to a trillion dollars, not moving the needle on long-term growth would be the worst possible legacy of this budget.”
This budget has no plan for growth, no plan to make Canada more competitive on the global stage and no plan to deal with Canada's aging labour force and chronically low levels of business investment. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has noted that a significant amount of the spending in the budget would neither stimulate jobs nor create economic growth. Like many others, he has concluded that a good portion of the spending is not stimulus at all.
Much of the spending in the budget is designed to help get Liberals re-elected. It is clearly a pre-election budget with a shotgun approach to spending. For example, the budget promises a national child care program. They do not mind the fact that it is provincial jurisdiction and some provinces have already set up universal child care programs. They do not mind the fact that the social union framework agreement, which was negotiated in 1999 by a previous Liberal government, requires the government to get the support of the majority of provincial governments to proceed. They do not mind the fact that provinces are rightfully skeptical about a federal government setting up new shared-cost programs in provincial areas of jurisdiction, only to have the federal government reduce funding at a later date, leaving the provinces on the hook to make up the deficit.
This promise of a national child care program is one Canadians have every right to be skeptical about. The Liberals first made this promise in the infamous red book of 1993, some 28 years ago. Over the last 28 years, they have continued to trot it out, and they keep failing to deliver. The government had two years to prepare for this budget. The fact that after two years all they could come out with is a budget soaring in rhetoric, but lacking in substance, is not surprising.
This is a government with an unprecedented gap between its rhetoric and reality. It is a government that said it was about gender equality, yet forced out of its cabinet and caucus the first indigenous female and forced out of its caucus Jane Philpott, someone whose medical expertise we could have desperately used as minister of health during the last year of this pandemic. It is a government that said it was feminist, yet ignored the specific allegation of sexual harassment against the head of the armed forces
It is a government that said it would introduce electoral reform. It is a government headed by a who arrogantly proclaimed to the world in 2015 that Canada was back, and who made it a centrepiece of his foreign policy to secure a seat for Canada on the UN Security Council. However, Canada lost the vote for the Security Council seat with six fewer votes than it received a decade earlier. It is a government that came to office promising to do more for the world's poor, but that has spent 10% less on official development assistance than the previous government. It is a government that came to office promising to do better on climate change, but emissions have risen each and every year it has been in office.
In 2016, the first full year the current government was in office, emissions were 708 megatonnes. Just last month, the government announced emissions for the latest year, 2019, at 730 megatonnes. This is a 22-megatonne increase from its first full year in office, when it stood at 708 megatonnes, and so, too, it is with this budget.
This is a government that says it is focused on the middle class. It says it is focused on jobs and growth and focused on fiscal prudence, yet it presents a budget that is focused on anything but. For all those reasons, I cannot support this budget.
Madam Speaker, I thank colleagues for their patience with my Internet difficulties today. I apologize and I do really appreciate their forbearance.
Small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy and of every main street in Canada. Lockdowns, though necessary, have hit them hardest. To heal the wounds left by COVID, we have to put a small business rescue plan into action as well as a long-term plan to help them grow.
In addition to extending the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support, we also have to make sure that the hardest-hit businesses pivot back to growth and stay on track.
Bill proposes the new Canada recovery hiring program, which will run from June to November and make it easier for businesses to hire back laid-off employees or to hire new workers. We also intend to invest up to $4 billion to help up to 160,000 small and medium-sized businesses buy and adopt the new technologies they need to grow. We will encourage businesses to invest in themselves by allowing for the immediate expensing of up to $1.5 million of eligible investments by Canadian-controlled private corporations in each of the next three years.
Small businesses need access to financing in order to invest in people and innovation and to have the space to operate and grow. That is why Bill enhances the Canada small business financing program through amendments to the Canada Small Business Financing Act. This will mean broader eligibility and increased loan limits.
In 2021, job growth is green growth. This budget sets out an ambitious and realistic plan to help Canada get to net-zero emissions, and it puts in place the funding to achieve our 25% land and marine conservation targets by 2025. At the same time, we will make targeted investments in transformational technologies, helping our business growth and making us more productive and competitive around the world.
The hard and essential work of reconciliation continues. This budget commits to investing $18 billion over the next five years to narrow gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, to support safe, healthy communities and to advance reconciliation. We are committing to investing $6 billion to improve infrastructure in indigenous communities.
Bill earmarks $2.2 billion to flow through the federal gas tax fund, renamed more appropriately the Canada community-building fund, to communities across Canada. Cities and towns have faced steep revenue declines because of COVID. This funding will help them maintain and build the local infrastructure on which Canadians depend.
Collaboration with all levels of government across Canada has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of our team Canada response to this pandemic. Together, we will finish the fight against COVID and together we will come roaring back.
Bill is essential if we are to activate our government's recovery plan as presented in budget 2021. Our people and our businesses cannot do without the support measures in this bill. This bill takes unprecedented steps to stimulate future growth.
This plan is about people. It will make a measurable, positive, tangible difference in the lives of millions of Canadians. It is about making concrete, targeted commitments to heal the wounds of COVID, to get us all back to work and to put us on a long-term path toward growth, prosperity and a clean, green future.
I urge all members to join me in supporting the speedy passage of this essential legislation.
Madam Speaker, that is not what we are hearing on the ground. We are hearing a lot of grumbling about the creation of two classes of seniors and the exclusion of seniors aged 65 to 74. From our point of view, this is not being well received on the ground.
I would like to start by informing the House that the Bloc Québécois will support the principle of the bill. We will make amendments in committee and review our position in subsequent votes.
This implementation bill is mammoth in scope. It has 346 pages, four parts, 37 divisions and four schedules. The summary alone is 10 pages long. It goes without saying that it contains tonnes of measures, like the woolly mammoth, which could weigh up to six tonnes. We obviously support most of the measures, such as the ones aimed at extending support programs like the wage and rent subsidies.
Given the mammoth scope of the bill and the time I am allotted, I will limit myself to a brief overview, stopping to discuss some of its elements.
Part 1 contains a series of highly technical amendments to the Income Tax Act. It limits the stock option deduction for large companies. It increases the basic personal deduction to $15,000. It prohibits bonuses for senior executives in companies receiving the wage subsidy, and introduces anti-avoidance measures. These are some of the measures we support. Part 2 imposes GST on Internet and Airbnb purchases, which is obviously a good thing.
The bill extends the wage subsidy until September 27, gradually reducing the rates from 75% to 20%, and also allows the minister to extend the program by regulation for two more months, until November 30. During these two months, the minister could also make a regulation concerning eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy as well as its calculation.
This provision sounds like an insurance policy in case the House is dissolved for elections, preventing it from enacting a law that would extend the wage subsidy beyond September 27 if necessary. If you read between the lines, the choice of November 30 gives you an idea of when the current government anticipates the House to be back.
The bill creates a new hiring subsidy program for businesses restarting their activities. The hiring subsidy will be in effect from June 6 to November 20. It will be offered to businesses restarting their activities and hiring or rehiring employees. It could cover up to half of new salaries. Businesses will therefore be able to choose between the hiring subsidy and the wage subsidy, depending on which one benefits them most. These are measures that we support.
As I said in my question to the minister, division 5 of part 4 is a serious problem for us. This section involves the centralization of the securities commission, which infringes on Quebec's jurisdiction. With this division, the federal government is trying to strip Quebec of its financial sector.
Bill C-30 renews and significantly increases the budget of the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office to expedite its work. The bill authorizes the government to make payments to the transition office of up to $119,500,000 or any greater amount that may be specified in an appropriation act. The transition office was established in July 2009 to create a single pan-Canadian securities regulator in Toronto.
There have been a number of setbacks before the Supreme Court, which deemed that securities were not under federal jurisdiction. However, Ottawa finally got the green light in 2018—remember it well—to interfere in this jurisdiction provided that it co-operate with the provinces and not act unilaterally. That is what is on paper, so that is the theory. However, as Yogi Berra said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
If the federal government carried out its plan to establish a pan-Canadian securities regulator in Toronto, we would inevitably see a creep of regulation activities outside Quebec. This plan is just bad and must never see the light of day. This is more than just a dispute over jurisdictions or mere squabbling between Quebec and Ottawa or the federal government and the provinces. This is a battle between Bay Street and Quebec.
I would like to remind the House that everyone is against this in Quebec, including all political parties in the Quebec National Assembly, business communities, the financial sector and labour-sponsored funds. Seldom have we seen Quebec's business community come together as one to oppose a government initiative.
In addition to the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly, economic circles unanimously and vehemently oppose it, including the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Finance Montréal, the International Financial Centre corporation, the Desjardins Group, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, as well as most Quebec businesses, like Air Transat, Transcontinental, Canam, Québecor, Metro, La Capitale, Cogeco, Molson, and the list goes on.
A strong Quebec Autorité des marchés financiers means a strong talent pool in support of the financial legal framework, a prerequisite to the sector's development.
When the Toronto Stock Exchange bought the Bourse de Montréal, the Commission des valeurs mobilières, the predecessor to the Autorité des marchés financiers, demanded before authorizing the sale that Montreal retain a stock exchange. We know that it specialized in derivatives, including the carbon exchange.
In Quebec, the financial sector represents 150,000 jobs with a contribution of more than $20 billion, or the equivalent of 6.3% of the GDP. Montreal is the 13th largest global financial centre with nearly 100,000 jobs.
The provisions in division 5 are an attack on our ability to keep our head offices and preserve our businesses. We are talking about the Quebec model. The Task Force on the Protection of Québec Businesses estimates that the 578 head offices in Quebec represent 50,000 jobs with a salary that is twice as high as the Quebec average in addition to 20,000 other jobs at specialized service providers such as accounting, legal, financial or computer services.
Quebec companies tend to favour Quebec suppliers, while foreign companies in Quebec rely more on globalized supply chains and all the impact that can have on our network of SMEs, in the regions in particular. We saw with the pandemic that globalized supply chains are fragile and make us entirely dependent on foreign supply.
Ultimately, businesses tend to concentrate their strategic activities, in particular research and development, where their headquarters are located. There is also a branch plant economy and a less innovative economy. These are threats to Quebec.
A strong financial hub is vital to the functioning of our headquarters and the preservation of our businesses. Keeping the sector's regulator in Quebec ensures that decision-makers are nearby, which in turn enables access to capital markets for businesses, an essential condition to support business investment and growth across Quebec.
The Bloc Québécois wants to eliminate division 5 of Bill , by deleting the clause in question. This would be tantamount to cutting off funding for the centralization of Toronto's financial sector. We are sorry, but we will be standing in Bay Street's way.
I will move on to division 8 of part 4.
Division 8 enacts a new act, the retail payment activities act, which would govern all electronic transactions. It applies not only to online payment activities of federally regulated institutions but also to those of all businesses. Even provincial governments are subject to this law.
At this point, we have serious concerns about division 8. In our view, the activities described are essentially private in nature and fall under civil law. Why is Ottawa sticking its nose in? There is also the possibility that the federal legislation may not apply to a non-federally regulated business in a province that has passed comparable legislation.
The Bloc Québécois and I find this all rather vague. Is this yet another encroachment by Ottawa into the area of financial consumer protection? We have questions. We are going to look into the matter and shed some light on it. Our constituents can count on us.
We all remember a mammoth bill introduced by former minister Morneau that removed the Bay Street financial sector from the Civil Code of Quebec. We managed to get the government to back down and we are ready to do it again, if needed.
I will now move on to division 22.
Here, Bill C-30 amends the Canada Labour Code in an effort to address the issue of contract flipping.
Unfortunately, this contract flipping is still happening in airports. It involves replacing one company with another less expensive one through competitive bidding. What does the new company do? It rehires the same workers to do the same job but with inferior working conditions and wages. That is unacceptable. It is straight out of another century. It is time for that to change.
We welcome that division of the bill. However, it seems that it refers only to pay and not to all of the social benefits and other benefits set out in the collective agreement. In fact, the collective agreement does not seem to be transferred. We will therefore continue to examine that division of the bill and possibly make some improvements.
Next, I want to talk about division 23, which increases minimum wage to $15 an hour. Obviously, we applaud that initiative. The Bloc Québécois is always in favour of improving the quality of life and working conditions of Quebeckers and Canadians. However, members need to be aware that only a minority of workers, or approximately 26,000 Canadians, will be able to get that wage increase, because the Canada Labour Code applies only to federally regulated sectors, so this measure is nothing too spectacular.
Division 25 provides for a payment to Quebec to offset the cost of aligning the Quebec parental insurance plan. For once, Quebec may not have to fight for its share of the funding allocated to a program it opted out of. We hope Ottawa will remember this way of doing things and do it more often. That would be nice sometimes instead of always wasting time haggling over money for social housing, roads and lots of other things, money that takes years to get transferred. We applaud what is being done here.
I will move on to division 32, which is about old age security, but before I talk about old age security, what do we have here in division 32? A $500 cheque for people 75 and over this summer, right before the election. People probably remember how Duplessis gave folks refrigerators so they would not forget which side to vote for. Well done, Liberals. Duplessis used to say that heaven was blue and hell was red. Unfortunately, the Liberals cannot appropriate that particular Duplessis slogan.
As I said earlier, division 32 will increase old age security by 10% for those aged 75 and over, not this summer, but in the summer of 2022. That is $63 more per month. I would remind the House that the Bloc Québécois is asking for an increase of $110 per month for all seniors aged 65 and over, starting immediately. This would bring Canada back in line with the OECD average. Canada would still lag far behind Europe.
On that topic, I would like to quote the economic analyst Gérald Fillion. In a very interesting article he wrote recently in response to the budget, he said, and I quote:
Two questions come to mind. First, why not increase old age security by 10% as of this year? Second, why do these measures apply only to seniors aged 75 and over? Why not those aged 65 and over?
Those are very legitimate questions that we too want to ask the government. The FADOQ network and seniors' groups in Quebec also spoke out against this approach. Gérald Fillion made a number of points. He noted that, in Canada, people's income drops precipitously when they retire. The technical term is net pension replacement rate, which was 50.7% of pre-retirement income in Canada in 2018. That translates into roughly half as much after retirement.
Across the OECD, that rate is seven percentage points higher. In the European Union, it is 63%. The figures are therefore 50%, 57% and 63%. These data are from a study of 49 countries, among which Canada ranks 32nd, well behind countries such as Italy, India, France and Denmark, and just slightly above the United States, where inequality is surging. That is not impressive. These statistics are alarming, so we must take action. Seniors were the first victims of the pandemic, and there was already inequality before the pandemic.
Gérald Fillion concluded his article by saying:
Considering Canada's poor showing in the OECD ranking, it would have made sense for the 10% increase to begin this year and apply as of age 65 and for this issue to be free from electioneering.
Improving old age security starting not this summer, but next summer, is what we are talking about. To reiterate our position, we are proposing $110 a month starting at age 65 to bring us in line with the OECD average. It is hardly a revolutionary proposal.
I will now move on to division 34, which deals with child care services. The government is giving itself the right to compensate a province that wishes to opt out of the federal early learning and child care program. That is obviously what Quebec would like to do.
However, the Bloc Québécois wants guarantees. This spending authority seems to be valid only for the current fiscal year and for a maximum transfer of $3 billion per province.
In the budget, but not the bill, there are different program objectives, and the budget also raises the possibility of an asymmetrical bilateral agreement with Quebec.
As everyone knows, the bill covers only this year. Is that until asymmetrical agreements are signed? Can the government finally guarantee that Quebec will receive full compensation every year, without conditions, for what it has been doing since 1997? That is what we want, and that is what we are asking for.
I would like to remind members that the new pan-Canadian child care program is another federal intrusion. Family policies and all associated programs are the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. It is clearly a good policy, a worthwhile, feminist policy, but it is still an intrusion.
I will now move on to divisions 35 and 36, which grant 12 additional weeks of the Canada recovery benefit, bringing us to September 25 of this year. The total number of weeks is now increased to 50, which is a good thing. For the first four additional weeks, recipients will receive $500 a week. For the other eight weeks, the maximum will be reduced to $300, starting July 18. This division also extends the Canada recovery caregiving benefit by four weeks to a maximum of 42 weeks, providing $500 a week in the event that caregiving options are not sufficiently available. The maximum number of weeks for which the benefit can be paid to people living at the same address is 42.
The bill contains several measures, including extending EI benefits, which may be prescribed by regulation and extended until November 20, if necessary; maintaining EI eligibility at 420 hours; and extending the maximum length of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks starting in the summer. I do not mean this summer, but the one following the election. This measure continues to penalize people who are fighting cancer, for example, and need more weeks of benefits. It does not take into account the order that the House gave the government to extend the benefit period to 50 weeks. Twenty-six weeks is better than 15, but that was not what the House voted for.
I remind members that the Bloc Québécois voted against the budget. Although we believe the budget contains some worthwhile measures, it overlooked the key issues, namely proper funding for health care and proper support for seniors.
The Bloc Québécois also denounces the government's decision to use the budget to set up infrastructure that would enable it to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. The budget provides for frameworks for mental health care, women's health and reproductive health. These are all the exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.
The budget also provides for a framework for extracting the minerals needed for the green transition. Furthermore, as I pointed out earlier, the government is once again talking about a Canadian securities regulator. The budget also talks about a federal office for recognizing foreign credentials, which is not a federal jurisdiction. There is also mention of a Canadian water agency and a federal framework for skills training. Whenever Quebec or the provinces do something good, Ottawa tries to latch on, even though it is not able to take care of its own jurisdictions.
This is all very troubling. All of these measures, frameworks and policies do not represent significant amounts in the budget, but they reflect the government's intention to set up the infrastructure to keep moving in this direction. We will be keeping an eye on the government, that is for sure. The government's vision is to control specific areas that, according to the Constitution, fall under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government has the power to spend, and that enables it to stick its nose into everybody's business, but as a result, we are becoming less and less of a federation with provincial autonomy and more and more of a centralized country where everything happens in Ottawa. The federal government could not care less about the provincial autonomy that Quebec holds so dear. The provinces are being starved. With health care costs rising and Ottawa refusing to co-operate, Quebec and the provinces have no more room to manoeuvre. If they want some breathing room, they need to turn to Ottawa, which will tell them how to do things. That is very troubling.
Madam Speaker, I see you indicating that my time is up. I will—
Madam Speaker, I would like to mention that I am speaking today from the traditional unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation and of the Coast Salish peoples.
I would like to underscore today, sadly. As members know, every day in Parliament I wear the Moose Hide square to commemorate the stolen sisters, missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and two-spirit people. Today is Red Dress Day, when we commemorate their lives and we recommit to fight for accountability, dignity and justice and to say that there will be, one day, no more stolen sisters.
I have only a few minutes to start the debate today, but I would like to set the table talking about a tale of two countries during this pandemic.
During this pandemic, we have seen one country, a country of very ultrawealthy Canadians, billionaires who have seen their wealth increase by $78 billion during this pandemic, an astounding amount. At the same time, we have seen unprecedented supports showered on the banking sector to maintain bank profits, $750 billion in liquidity supports, which has led to, so far in the pandemic and we will have the latest figures in the next few weeks, over $40 billion in profits.
This flies in the face of every other crisis we have come through, where there has been a sense that we are all in this together and that the ultrarich have to pay their fair share. Notably, in the Second World War, an excess profits tax ensured that we had the wherewithal to fight Nazism and fascism and to rebuild, most vigorously, our economy, putting in place record investments in health care, education, housing and transportation in the postwar period. Sadly, that is not the case through this pandemic with the current government, which has allowed the ultrarich to benefit, to profit and to profiteer in an unprecedented way and refuses even to ask them to pay their fair share of taxes.
There is another country in this tale of two countries, and that is regular Canadians who have been struggling through this pandemic. We have seen Canadians losing their jobs. We have seen Canadians who have invested in their family-owned community businesses for years having to take that sad step of closing the door and turning the key for the very last time. We have seen students struggling to pay for their student loan during the course of this pandemic, as if paying back a Canada student loan should be their priority, rather than putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads. We have seen people with disabilities who have struggled and, through this entire pandemic, in about a third of cases with people with disabilities, they have received a $600 one-time stipend.
I contrast that with the land of the billionaires and the banks, with $750 billion in liquidity supports, $78 billion in increased wealth and $42 billion in profits. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen our inequalities exacerbated. We have seen more and more that difference between the ultrawealthy and all the privilege they get from the government, and the struggles that regular Canadian families are having to go through.
I must shout out to our frontline workers, the health care workers and the emergency responders, all of whom have been struggling with all of the financial challenges of this pandemic, often with no supports at all, and at the same time are showing, with great courage, their ability to continue to fight and contribute, fight for people's lives and support Canadians in the health care system, as first responders or as frontline workers. This is the contrast—