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View Michael Ignatieff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, before we start this debate, I have a few words for you. You are at the end of your term as Speaker of the House, and I would like to express how much fondness and respect we all have for you. Your rulings have left their mark on our country's history.
Mr. Speaker, you have taught us all, sometimes with a modest rebuke, sometimes with the sharp sting of focused argument, to understand, to respect and to cherish the rules of Canadian democracy, and for that your citizens will always hold you in highest honour.
This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, the democracy that you, Mr. Speaker, have served so well. I have to inform the House that the official opposition has lost confidence in the government.
The government no longer has the confidence of the official opposition.
Our motion asks the House to agree with the finding in the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented on March 21. This was a historic finding. It was the first time that a parliamentary committee has found the government in contempt.
Today, with this motion, we ask the House to do the same, to find the government in contempt and to withdraw the confidence of the House.
With this motion, we are calling on members of Parliament to condemn the government for its contempt of Parliament and to withdraw the confidence of the House. This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, but it is also an opportunity for us to confirm our commitment to parliamentary democracy and its fundamental principles.
What principles are we talking about? That the government has the obligation to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.
The principle at stake in this debate goes to the heart of parliamentary democracy: the obligation of a government to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.
We are the people's representatives. When the government spends money, the people have a right to know what it is to be spent on. Parliament does not issue blank cheques. For four months, the opposition has asked the government to tell the Canadian people the true cost of its budget plans. For four months, we demanded to know how much Canadian taxpayers were being asked to pay for fighter jets, prisons and corporate tax breaks. For four months. this House and the Canadian people were stonewalled by the government and they are being stonewalled still.
For four months, we have been trying to hold this government accountable. For four months, we demanded to know the real cost of the fighter jets, prisons and tax breaks for major corporations. For four months, we did not get a single answer, aside from the contempt and arrogance of this government. And today, still, we have no answers.
We were shocked, but we were not surprised. After all, this is the same government that shut down Parliament twice, the same government that was forced, by one of your rulings, to hand over documents to do with Afghan prisoners, and we are still waiting for those documents.
In the case of the Afghan documents, the government's excuse for withholding the truth was national security. In the case of the budget documents, it invented something about cabinet confidence, but actually it did not even bother with an excuse at all.
But you, Mr. Speaker, would have none of it. You, Mr. Speaker, held that the rules of our democracy require the government to answer the questions that Parliament wants answered. The matter was sent back to a committee for action and it came back with a finding of contempt. That is why we are where we are today. The House must decide whether the government has broken a basic rule of our democracy and therefore, whether it can remain in office.
For our part on this side of the House, there is no doubt. You, Mr. Speaker, have spoken, the committee has spoken, and now the House must speak with a clear voice. It must say that a government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office.
With one clear voice, the House must declare that a government that does not respect democracy cannot remain in power. We have had enough. If this vote results in an election, the Canadian people will have the opportunity to replace an arrogant government with one that respects democracy.
To those who say an election is unnecessary, we reply that we did not seek an election, but if we need one to replace a government that does not respect democracy with one that does, I cannot think of a more necessary election.
It is not just democracy that the House will be called upon to affirm this afternoon. The House should also affirm Canadians' hunger, nay their longing, for change. It is time to change Canada's direction. It is time to get us on the right path. After five years of Conservative government, it is time to say enough is enough. Enough of the politics of fear. Enough of the politics of division. Enough of the politics of personal destruction.
Enough is enough. We need to look at the government's priorities. It wants to spend 1,000 times more on fighter jets than on helping students in CEGEP and university. We reject the government's priorities. It is offering less to seniors for an entire year than what it spent on one day of the G20. We say no to this kind of waste. The government wants to spend 1,000 times more on prisons than on preventing youth crime. Again, we say no. This government's priorities are not in line with the priorities of Canadian families. We have had it. Enough is enough.
The priorities of the government laid bare in that thin gruel that we saw earlier this week reveal a government out of touch and out of control. There is no credible plan to tackle the deficit because there are no numbers any reasonable person can believe in. There is no vision of how to sustain our health care system. There is not a word about affordable housing, not a word about child care, and nothing for the pressing needs of Canadian families in poverty.
Instead, we get jets, jails and giveaways to oil companies, insurance companies, and banks that are doing just fine, thank you very much.
So we need a change. We need to focus scarce resources where they really matter: early learning and child care; college and university education for all, especially for aboriginal and immigrant Canadians; energy efficiency and green jobs; family care for our loved ones in the home, and security and dignity in retirement. We need all of this plus a clear plan to clean up our country's finances and get us back to balance without adding to the tax burden on Canadian families.
These are the priorities of our people. These are the needs that we must serve. These are the priorities at home. However, let us not forget the priorities abroad. We have so much ground to catch up. We have a government that has lost our place in the world and lost our place at the Security Council of the United Nations.
We need a government that restores our honour, our credit, and our prestige on the international stage, a government that understands the deep and committed internationalism that dwells in the hearts of all Canadian citizens.
We need a government for the people, a government that is accountable to the people and that serves the people and democracy.
I want to conclude by saying a few words about democracy. Some members of this government have been charged with electoral fraud. A member of the Prime Minister's inner circle is accused of influence peddling. Enough is enough. People are fed up.
I return to where I started, to democracy, to the abuse of power. We have a government whose most senior members stand accused of electoral fraud. We have a Prime Minister who appointed, as his top adviser, someone who served prison time for stealing money from his clients, someone who now faces accusations of influence peddling, and is under an RCMP investigation.
Canadians look at that picture and they say, “We have had enough”. This House has had enough, enough of the abuse of power and enough of the bad economic choices.
We have a government with unique distinctions. We have a government with the largest deficit in Canadian history. It is the highest spending government in Canadian history. It is the most wasteful government in Canadian history. Finally, it is the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in this House.
This is a government and a Prime Minister that is out of touch and is out of control. It is time for a change.
Mr. Speaker, I urge all of the members to support our motion.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2011-03-24 10:30 [p.9169]
Mr. Speaker, I forgot. I read the memo from the Prime Minister's Office and I thought that change had taken effect. I apologize. You are quite right. It is not that government. It is the Canadian government, which is something that party over there seems to forget quite frequently.
The Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting $418 million from Agriculture Canada's budget. There is nothing in this budget to compensate farmers for these cuts. The Conservatives are trying to balance their budget on the backs of Canadian farmers.
The Liberal Party has committed to developing a national food policy and to put the flex back into AgriFlex, as farmers have asked for. That is federal funding that can be used for practical programs and investments in the RMP in Ontario and ASRA in Quebec, improved crop insurance or a livestock market price insurance program in the west, and a bi-Atlantic program in the east. We will invest in and support agricultural research. We will support important agricultural events including, of course, the Hants County Exhibition, Canada's oldest agricultural fair. I would be remiss not to mention that. The Liberal Party will support getting more healthy, high-quality, home-grown foods on Canadian tables.
Canadian families are finding it more and more difficult just to make ends meet. With a record youth unemployment rate of 15%, too many young Canadians are losing hope. Canadian families are now facing record levels of personal debt. A typical family in Canada today now owes more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income. In fact, that is not only a record in Canada but it is higher than American families. Canadian families are struggling now with rising food costs, medical costs and higher tuition.
They are barely able to pay the bills now, and they are wondering how they are going to get by when interest rates start to rise.
However, hard-working, low income Canadians, many of whom are juggling more than one part-time job just to pay the bills, do not seem to factor into the Conservatives' vision of Canada. The Conservatives have deliberately excluded low income Canadians from qualifying for measures under this budget, like the family caregiver tax credit and the volunteer firefighters tax credit.
The Conservatives accomplished this exclusion of low-income Canadians from these programs by making the tax credits non-refundable. These tax credits will only help Canadians who have earned enough money that year that they actually pay income taxes.
The Liberal Party would recognize the work of all volunteer firefighters and all family caregivers regardless of their income. This would include Canadians who have left their jobs and have taken unpaid leave to take care of sick relatives, the very people who are most in need of help. These people would not qualify for the Conservatives' family caregiver tax credit.
It seems like the poor just do not exist in the Conservatives' Canada. The Liberal Party sees things very differently, and we would not leave low income Canadians out in the cold to fend for themselves.
We believe government programs should be accessible to all Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians who often need the help most.
Last fall, the Liberals announced a real family care plan with a refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year that would help all low- and middle-income Canadians. We also announced a six-month family care EI benefit to help Canadians who take time off work to care for sick or aging relatives.
However, in this budget, the Conservatives deliberately excluded the poorest caregivers with a paltry $300 in a non-refundable tax credit that is not available to low-income Canadians. Under the Conservatives, a Canadian taxpayer earning $20,000, with a dependant, would not qualify for any help as a caregiver. It is outrageous, it is unfair and it is un-Canadian for the Conservatives to discriminate against low-income Canadians.
As Liberals, we have a fundamentally different view of Canada compared with the Conservatives.
The Conservatives divide Canadians into categories. They tailor their policies toward potential Conservative supporters and they ignore everyone else. If anyone does not support the Conservatives' agenda, he or she is not seen as part of their Canada.
Liberals are nation builders. We reject the Conservative politics of division. Instead, we aim to govern on behalf of and to defend the interests of all Canadians, and that includes low-income Canadians.
Much ink has been spilled on how this budget will affect seniors. The fact is this budget actually cuts federal support for seniors over the next five years. That is right. Transfers to seniors over the next five years are half a billion dollars less than they were in the last fall economic statement and almost $3 billion less than in budget 2010. That is even after we include the paltry increases to the GIS for seniors. The GIS increase works out to about $50.00 a month for seniors who qualify. That is less than a cup a coffee at Tim Hortons every day.
Also, the clawbacks to this measure are punitive and unjust. Under the Conservatives, a senior who earns just $170 per month in his or her pension is considered to be too rich and that this new $50.00 a month GIS supplement would be clawed back. And if they have a pension of $366 a month, they are too wealthy, according to the Conservatives, to receive even a penny of this GIS increase.
The GIS increase is simply Conservative crumbs, especially when we consider that Conservatives are spending 20 times more on tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. Shockingly, unbelievably, the Conservatives want to give 20 times more to the richest corporations in Canada than they want to give to Canada's poorest seniors.
It is very clear that seniors in poverty are not the only ones getting overlooked by the Conservatives in this budget.
Transfers for children's benefits also go down by $1 billion over the next five years under this budget, which means that over the next five years the Conservatives are actually budgeting less support for seniors and children living in poverty.
The budget has no plan for child care or affordable housing. It is completely silent on the most serious challenges facing our country such as, how we are going to pay for rising health care costs. Everybody knows that the demand for health care is rising. As Canadians in the baby boom generation start to retire, they are going to place a greater demand on government services and at the same time we know that the tax base is shrinking as fewer people are working to pay for these services.
Rapid changes in our society will lead to more and more people without jobs, and more and more jobs without people. We need to invest more in learning and in training.
There is no credible plan in the budget to address the reality of rising health care costs in Canada or the absolute essential need to invest significantly in training, retraining and lifelong learning. This is important because we are on the eve of the most important negotiations with the provinces on health care.
Where is the plan to deal with health care costs after the 10-year Liberal health care accord expires in 2014?
We were part of that cabinet back in 2004. At the time, the Martin Liberal government put $41 billion into health care, the largest single investment in health care in the history of Canada in any health care accord. That was at a time when the federal government was in surplus and many provinces were in surplus.
Today, we have a federal government that has racked up a record deficit. We have provinces struggling with deficits. We have health care costs rising and we know we have these negotiations coming up with a deadline for 2014. Yet, nowhere in this budget are these negotiations discussed. Nowhere in this budget is there money being set aside to plan for this important investment that would protect the public health care system in Canada. There is no mention of this negotiation. For the Conservatives, the public health care system in Canada is not really a priority.
The budget does not provide a credible plan to return Canada to balanced budgets. In fact, instead of getting us back to balanced budgets and putting aside money to invest in health care, the Conservatives are deliberately gutting Canada's capacity to invest in health care and education with reckless spending on corporate tax breaks, fighter jets and U.S. style mega prisons. Conservative spending is out of touch and it is out of control.
This budget spends 1,000 times more for fighter jets than for post-secondary students. This is a government that is spending 1,000 times more for prisons than on youth crime prevention. The Conservatives spent more on the G20 in a single day than this budget offers Canada's seniors for an entire year. The Conservatives spent three times as much on self-promoting advertising than this budget has for family care over the next 12 months.
It is clear that the Conservatives view this budget as only a marketing exercise. It is full of spin. It has a few small attractive gimmicks, baubles and trinkets, but it does nothing to address the main priorities of Canadians.
The other day the member for Cape Breton—Canso said that this budget reminded him of a salesman who once tried to sell him a car. The car had a knock in the engine, there was smoke coming out of the tailpipe, the transmission was slipping and it was leaking oil. My friend, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, pointed out these flaws to the salesman. The salesman said: “Yeah, but you gotta listen to the sound system”.
The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians from the waste, the rot and the corruption in their government by creating some noise. The Conservative budget certainly has a lot of noise. It also has a $43 billion black hole.
There is no mention in the budget of the Conservatives' plan to waste billions and billions of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars on schemes that have nothing to do with the priorities of Canadian families. There are no details on their plan to spend a staggering $30 billion on untendered fighter jets. To put that in perspective, that is more money than the government spends on health care in an entire year. It does not tell Canadians in this budget, but the Conservative government plans to send a bill for $1,000 to every man, woman and child in Canada to pay for the fighter jets.
This budget has no details on the Conservative plan to spend $13 billion on U.S. style prisons. That is just the price tag for one of its prison bills. Thank goodness we have the Parliamentary Budget Officer who continues to provide Parliament with some information on the costs of the Conservative agenda. We know that the government refuses to provide Parliament with the real costs.
The Conservative regime still refuses to provide Canadians with detailed information on the cost of 18 of its crime bills. The Conservatives want members of Parliament to vote on legislation without knowing how much it would cost Canadian taxpayers.
This is fundamentally anti-democratic. All members of Parliament, opposition and government members of Parliament, have the same fiduciary responsibility and constitutional obligation to know the cost of the legislation that we are asked to vote on. Canadians are wondering, why the Conservative secrecy?
That is why the Conservative government was found in contempt by a parliamentary committee earlier this week. It is a historic first in Canada. In fact, it is a first in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system for a government to be found in contempt of Parliament. It is not a good first. It is not something that any of us is proud of. In fact, we are embarrassed with the government and how it treats Parliament. At a time when the world needs a Canada that is helping build a more peaceful and stable democratic world, we are not setting a very good example when we have a government that is attacking the democratic institutions that keep us free here in Canada.
This is about more than just Conservatives' contempt for Parliament. It is about their contempt for the citizens who chose this Parliament. It is about their contempt for taxpayers who pay the bills.
The Conservatives continue to hide the real costs of their agenda. With all of the items that are not in this budget the question we must ask ourselves is, can we trust the government to tell us the truth? Can we trust the government to give us the real numbers?
The budget reminded me of the fall 2008 now infamous economic statement. Back then everyone knew that the Conservative government had spent Canada into a deficit even before the recession began. People recognized that the Conservatives had increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, in their first three economic statements. The Conservatives knew that too and that is why they wanted to hide that fact from Parliament and from Canadians, so the finance minister cooked the books and announced the government would sell over $10 billion worth of assets in order to get to a tiny little $100 million surplus. Ontarians will recognize this trick because it is the same trick that the same Conservatives played in Ontario when the same minister used the same trick of false asset sales to try to hide the fact that the Conservatives had put Ontario into deficit.
In reality, in the fall of 2008, there was no real plan to sell assets. In fact, we asked day after day for the list of assets that were to be sold. As a former minister of public works, I can say that there is at least a year between when one has to actually determine what one wants to sell and a process to actually sell it. The government said that it did not have a list, or rather refused to provide us with a list at that time. There was no list. The Conservatives had no information on assets to sell because it was a phony asset sales plan. A year later, the Conservatives quietly cancelled the plan before anything was sold. The Conservatives went on to give Canadians a record $56 billion deficit.
In yesterday's budget the Conservatives announced what they called a strategic and operating review. It is part of their attempt to pretend that they will cut spending and balance the budget, but once again, the budget does not provide any details whatsoever about these cuts or their restraint. No wonder neither the Parliamentary Budget Officer nor the International Monetary Fund believes the government's numbers. Both the PBO and the IMF have shown that the Conservatives' promise to balance the books simply is not credible.
The Conservatives have added nearly $100 billion to the debt since 2008. They have undone all the sacrifices that Canadians have made to pay down the debt. In fact under the Conservatives, the combined federal-provincial debt to GDP ratio has reached 82%. That is higher than the U.K., France, Germany and it is almost as bad as the Americans.
Let us remember, it was the previous Liberal government in the 1990s that took on the deficit and balanced the books for the first time since 1969. Under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, the Liberals delivered nine consecutive balanced budgets, but according to the PBO, the Conservatives will not balance the budget any time soon.
The finance minister likes to say that the government is on track. Let us be clear. The government is on track to add $200 billion to the federal debt by the year 2015-16. The Conservatives are mortgaging our children's future to pay for their ideological schemes, their bad priorities and their reckless spending. They are hiding the true costs of their agenda and they are asking MPs to vote on laws without telling us how much these laws will cost Canadian taxpayers.
In doing this, Conservatives are showing contempt not just for Parliament but for Canadian citizens and taxpayers. They are breaking the rules to hide the facts. They are doing this to cover up their wasteful spending and out of control and out of touch priorities.
As we see from the budget, Conservative spending is out of control and out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. What we see from this budget is more of a government that cannot be trusted to tell us the truth and respect Parliament. It is time to end the Conservative gravy train and to show some respect for taxpayers.
For this reason, I would like to move the following amendment, seconded by the member for Beaches—East York. I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:
the House not approve in general the budgetary policy of the government because the government and its policies are out of touch with the economic needs and priorities of Canadian families.
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McCallum Profile
2011-03-24 12:40 [p.9186]
Madam Speaker, we are talking mainly about today and the future. We are talking about the government's budget. The government's budget in front of us, in black and white, says no money for poor firefighters and for poor caregivers. It slashes aid for poor people in Africa and slashes funding for the poorest in housing. We would not do that in our platform.
In addition, going back to 1993, when the new Liberal government inherited a $42 billion Conservative deficit, we were told that we were about to become an honorary third world country, thanks to actions by a previous Conservative government. I remind the member opposite that when we made the necessary cuts to save the country in the mid-1990s, those Conservatives, those Reform Party people, criticized us for not cutting more. That was their position.
View Siobhan Coady Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a story that I have been thinking about a lot this week concerning the introduction of this very disappointing federal budget.
A number of years ago, after I sold my company and went to study abroad, I met a man from Namibia who asked me, “Where is my Canada?” I was very perplexed and asked him what he meant by the question. He said, “We used to look up to Canada more than any other country in the world. It used to be a model of good governance, economic success and global engagement”, and then he repeated his question, “Where is my Canada?” He said that Canada had lost its way and he hoped that we would find it again.
I reflected on that this week because I really do believe Canadians have been wondering where their Canada is, where the compassionate, progressive and fiscally responsible Canada is, the one we know and love. Where is my Canada?
We are speaking about the budget this morning and what we should be doing in our country and what our direction and vision should be for next year and the years ahead. I again reflect upon what my friend asked, “Where is my Canada?”
The government's limitless spending has generated the biggest deficit in the history of Canada. Under the Conservatives, the size of government has increased 40% in four years and there has been a huge growth in waste. Let me talk about some of the waste because I have been doing a lot of work on that in my responsibilities on Treasury Board.
The Conservatives spent more in advertising in the last year than all the beer companies combined. They have spent 9.35% more per year on what are called professional and special services than ever before. One of the most egregious examples is the Prime Minister's Office, which is spending $9.9 million more. It is an increase of 30%. That shows the kind of leadership in this country. There is 16% more being spent on cabinet, $9 million more of borrowed money, all wasted dollars.
So many people in our country need assistance in finding jobs to help their families who are struggling, and this is the best budget the Conservatives could come up with?
More irresponsible than the waste is the fact that the government still does not even have a plan to get us out of the record deficit of $56 billion last year. The Conservatives continue to tell Canadians they will retire the deficit in five years. However, the Liberals know differently. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has forecast an $11 billion deficit for 2015-16. We know how the government feels about the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but how does it feel about the International Monetary Fund, which also says that the government will continue to be in deficit in five years?
How can a government continue to defy two third-party financial analysts that say we will not be in surplus but in deficit. How can Conservatives turn their heads and say, “No, Canadians, we will be in surplus, not to worry”, especially when they did not give any assumptions in the budget for the cost of their megaprisons and the untendered fighter jets, or costs and analysis of what the corporate tax cuts will do.
While this record spending and waste are going on, our national debt continues to accumulate under the government. Under the Liberal government the national debt declined from 1997 to 2007, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. However, in just three years under the Conservatives, all the hard work and sacrifices that Canadians made in the past decade have been wiped out. Already 13.5% of every taxpayer dollar is going to pay for interest, and it is going to get worse because we are continuing to add to the debt.
Clearly, the priorities of the Conservative government are not the priorities of Canadians. I have spent a lot of time speaking and engaging with constituents in my riding in numerous round tables and town halls and other meetings. The message I hear is that families need help: families need access to child care, families need better health care, and seniors need support to live with the dignity they deserve.
In my riding recently I heard of a 93 year old woman about to be evicted from her apartment, yet the Conservatives have not put in any money for affordable housing in the budget. How can that be?
The Conservative budget offers nothing for child care, nothing more for health care and nothing for affordable housing. For the very poorest seniors, the Conservatives will increase the GIS top up by only $1.64 a day. That would not get a person a coffee in this country. Compare that with the waste I spoke of, the costs that will be associated with these mega-style prisons and the costs associated with corporate tax cuts.
I see a lot of poor choices in the budget. I see $30 billion that we know of in untendered fighter jets. That is a thousand times more than the Conservatives are spending on post-secondary education. There are billions being spent on American-style megaprisons. That is a thousand times more than they are spending on youth crime prevention. There is $6 billion in large corporate tax cuts, yet there are $1.3 billion in cuts to CMHC and affordable housing. They are spending three times more on self-promotional advertising than on their supposed family care plan. It is simply atrocious. Canadians wonder where this will end. We hope we will be able to help that along soon.
There are a lot of issues, even in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador concerning this budget, and I will name three. There are cuts, for example, to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, $3.9 million over three years. ACOA is incredibly important to Atlantic Canada. It is important for our economic generation. It is important for community development. We need to restore the funding to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The budget cuts funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by an astounding $84.8 million over three years. We need more money for science. We cannot cut $84.8 million and expect to have the science required in this country to ensure that we have established stocks.
There is $6.6 million over three years being cut from Marine Atlantic. Marine Atlantic is a lifeline for my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is our national highway. It is what links the island of Newfoundland with the rest of the country. It is just as important for goods and services all across the country as it is for goods and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. We must have a solid link between the island and the rest of the country. Yet there are cuts to Marine Atlantic.
Time is short and I wish I could go on and on. The Conservatives are spending billions upon billions on jails, on jets, on corporate tax cuts, but not on the priorities of Canadians. They waste money on advertising and ministerial offices. I told hon. members earlier about the increases. It is a great paradox, really, when we look at it. They spend more on their own, spend more on self-promotion and they take from Canadians.
It is not just about the waste. It is not just about the deficit. It is not just about the debt. It is not just about the wrong priorities. It is about the judgment of the government, the judgment of these Conservatives when they look at priorities for our country.
I started by saying, “Where is my Canada?” I think every Canadian should ask the same question.
View Greg Kerr Profile
View Greg Kerr Profile
2011-03-24 12:53 [p.9188]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to ask a couple of questions of the member, a fellow Atlantic Canadian. We certainly share some concerns.
I was surprised, though, that she referred to beer advertising, because I think it was her leader who compared beer advertising and the Canadian flag, which probably gave a sense of where the Liberal priorities might be sometimes.
I was also surprised at her comments about the ferries. I would have thought she would be singing from the rooftops about the fact this government provides brand new ferries to Marine Atlantic for Newfoundland, recognizing the incredibly important constitutional obligation to look after transportation connections across the country. That is certainly an obligation that has been honoured. I understand that most Newfoundlanders are very pleased that this Conservative government has put new ferries in place. Maybe the member can clarify that. Maybe I am wrong; maybe the old ferries should have been left in place. I might have misunderstood that.
I would also like the member to comment on the growth of the deficit. I remember the comments from Newfoundland. Even though they supported the stimulus spending, the sense was that we were wasting a lot of money on stimulus spending and wasting too much money on signs about stimulus spending, which I understood just pointed out how many projects there were.
I wonder if the member would want to comment on whether she felt those stimulus projects were in fact a benefit to Newfoundland.
View Kelly Block Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
I would like to make one thing very clear: this budget is a good budget. As a member of Parliament, I take my job very seriously. I represent the wonderful riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and I am honoured to have the important role of ensuring that this government delivers for my riding.
This budget delivers.
Unfortunately, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition has already formed. It has indicated that it will vote against this budget. Let us look at what it is they are voting against.
They are voting against seniors. What is worse, they are voting against the poorest of the seniors. Through the prebudget consultations held in my riding, I heard one thing over and over, that seniors need more assistance.
We listened. There is real affordable help for seniors in this budget, but the NDP, with its Liberal leader, has said no to help for seniors. This is a great shame because the NDP used to stand for something. Its members claim to stand up for the little guy, but when push comes to shove they would rather try to grab power in a coalition government supported by the Bloc Québécois than support measures that make sense for Canadians.
Another common theme raised in the prebudget consultations in my riding is that we need to stay on track, keep taxes low and eliminate the deficit. That is exactly what this budget does.
While the opposition coalition is coming out firmly against the best interests of Canadians and the best interests of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, our Conservative government is delivering to Canadians exactly what it promised, focusing precisely on the priorities of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, this budget would see an increase in transfer payments to Saskatchewan of $1.2 billion. That is $1,182 for every resident of Saskatchewan. I asked the only Liberal member in Saskatchewan, the member for Wascana, how he would explain to his constituents that he voted against this.
This budget provides for tax relief for Canadians. In fact, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition will vote against $60 million in tax relief. It is voting against a family caregiver tax credit, which would provide $2,000 for caregivers, or over $13 million for Saskatchewan families, and against an investment of $3 million toward the development of community-based end of life care. This is something I am particularly proud of as a founding member of the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care.
I ask the following: How can someone claim to support hard-working Canadian families and vote against measures such as this? How can someone who claims to represent the middle class vote against the children's art tax credit, which would provide families a tax credit of $500 per year? That is another $19 million for Saskatchewan that the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition would rather families did not get.
What about our volunteer firefighters? Do they not deserve some credit for putting their lives at risk to help our communities? We have put a $3,000 tax credit for them in the budget, and the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition members just cannot find it in their hearts to support it.
Conservatives know that we cannot go on with deficit spending indefinitely. Our Conservative government knows that fiscal responsibility is important to Canadians. That is why we are staying on track to eliminate the deficit by 2015 without implementing risky and reckless new spending programs that would force us to raise taxes or keep us in a deficit for our children and grandchildren to pay off. That is why we have taken action.
We have already cut the deficit by a third from last year and are on track to balance the budget by 2015. What we are not doing is balancing the budget on the backs of the provinces. We are not cutting transfer payments to Saskatchewan. In fact, we are increasing them.
Our Conservative government knows that health care and education must be properly funded. The Liberals cut funding for health care and for education, but we did not. We know what is important to Canadians and we will keep fighting for their priorities. We know that infrastructure is of vital importance to cities like Saskatoon and rural municipalities like Delisle, Asquith, Biggar, Herschel, and the many others that make up my great riding.
This budget has delivered for municipalities. We are making an annual investment of $2 billion in gas tax funding permanent, so municipalities would be able to forecast accurately the funding for their community.
However, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition voted against that as well. Actions speak louder than words, and it looks like the opposition does not support sustainable and stable infrastructure funding for rural municipalities. We should not be surprised because the Liberals and the NDP have a history of voting against what they claim to support. The Bloc, on the other hand, has always been very clear on its intentions, and that is to vote against the best interests of Canadians because the Bloc only cares about one thing, breaking up this great nation of ours.
I would not want to make these claims without backing them up. We know that today Canadians are still burdened with a costly, wasteful, inefficient, and useless long gun registry because the elected members of Parliament for the NDP broke their promises. They promised and even campaigned on scrapping the long gun registry. When push came to shove, though, the NDP could not be trusted. It pretends to understand rural Canadians, but it does not.
As for the Liberals, it is almost a waste of time to point out the hypocrisy. Everybody knows that the Liberal Party is the party of broken promises. Among them is its promise to remove the GST. That is another of the promises made, promises broken.
Conservatives do not make empty promises. We said we would cut the GST to 5% and we cut the GST to 5%. We promised we would fight to scrap the wasteful long gun registry and we have fought to do so. If the NDP did not flip-flop on campaign promises, the long gun registry would be gone right now.
We promised to work to reform the Senate. We have introduced legislation that would limit senators terms to eight years and provide an opportunity for Canadians to vote for their senators. The NDP claimed to support Senate reform, but when push came to shove, it voted with the Liberals instead of with its constituents.
I call on members opposite who claim to represent their constituents and not their leaders. I call on them to support this budget. Do not vote against Canadians. Do not vote against seniors and families, and jobs and growth.
If members vote against this budget, then they are sending a clear message to Canadians. If Canadians want a member of Parliament who will represent their interests and their priorities, they should elect a Conservative in the next election.
View Irwin Cotler Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Irwin Cotler Profile
2011-03-24 16:30 [p.9222]
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise on behalf of the residents of my wonderful riding of Mount Royal, my remarks anchored in their values and visions, their principles and priorities for the budget, for the riding, for Quebec and for this great country, Canada. A budget is not only a financial statement, it is a statement of values. It is not only a balance sheet, it is a set of priorities. As the Minister of Finance himself put it, it is a matter of balancing the needs, in effect, identifying the priorities and of making choices.
These needs and these priorities were shared with me by my constituents on February 10 of this year on a prebudget consultation and then again at a second town hall meeting on March 17. They spoke to me and shared with me the importance of the needs of health care, to use the Minister of Finance's words, a cross cutting concern across this country, of the needs of early learning and child care, of the needs of access to higher education and of access to justice. They spoke of the concerns of seniors, a disproportionate number of whom inhabit my riding. They spoke of pensions and poverty, of the fact that 700,000 seniors in this country are living in poverty. They spoke of the need of a clean environment, of the need to invest in green technology. They spoke of the need for jobs, for social housing, for social justice, and always is the test of a just society is how it treats the most vulnerable in its midst.
What then do we find when we look at this budget? We find a budget that is disconnected from those needs that I have just shared and that my constituents shared with me. We find a budget of trinkets that has a kind of electoral orientation to it, but without a comprehensive strategy for health care, without a comprehensive strategy for environment protection, without a comprehensive strategy for early learning and child care and without a comprehensive strategy for jobs and for taking care of the poor. It is a budget, in a word, that is out of touch with the needs of not only of my constituents as they shared them with me at a prebudget consultation and which I then conveyed to the Minister of Finance on their behalf, but with the priorities of Canadians, as well as of my constituents.
When we look at the budget, what do we find? We find $30 billion that is part of fiscal planning for an untendered contract for the purchase of F-35 jets. I must say, and it is a matter of interest and note, that at the prebudget consultation on February 10, I then shared with my constituents that the cost at that time, as it was conveyed to us, was $16 billion. I then said that I thought it was much higher, probably $21 billion. We learned last week from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, after an international peer review, that it is $30 billion, confirmed just yesterday out of the Pentagon.
The issue is not whether or not we need fighter jets. I have respect for the needs and the security of this country. The question is whether we should be spending $30 billion and rising in an untendered contract that even the Pentagon has said that the costs are rising and where an international peer review itself suggested that we need an open, competitive contract with respect to this particular budget item.
I have more. Some $15 billion have been set aside for the building of megaprisons at a time that crime is declining. I have to say, as a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, that I, too, was concerned with the question of crime. However, I knew that one of the ways to address the question of crime was to address it in terms of crime prevention. However, at the same time as there are $15 billion for megaprisons, which may be even be more but we do not have the full disclosure of the costs, we find that the budget with regard to crime prevention is declining.
We have $6 billion of corporate tax cuts for the very rich at the very time that we have 700,000 seniors who are living in poverty.
In a word, to borrow the Minister of Finance's own statement in terms of what are the relative needs, what is the basis of comparative need, I put this to the House on behalf of my constituents and Canadian citizens, to look at in terms of the Minister of Finance's prism and ask these questions in terms of comparative need.
This budget spends one thousand times more on fighter jets than it does on post-secondary students; one thousand times more on megaprisons than it does on youth crime prevention; more for a single day of the G20 than in a year for seniors given a paltry sum of $1.20 a day; more on partisan advertising than on family care; and regrettably nothing for child care.
Yet we are asked to support a budget that has $6 billion of tax breaks for the 5% rich. I was part of a government and I sat in a cabinet that reduced corporate taxes from 29% to 21%. I am not saying we do not reduce corporate taxes. I understand the validity. However, we did it at a time when we had eight successive budgetary surpluses. We did it at a time when we bequeathed to the Conservatives, when we were defeated, a budgetary $14 billion surplus. We do not do it at a time when we have the highest budgetary deficit of $56 billion and we do not do it with respect to the very rich 5%, while those in need are in fact given paltry crumbs. That is the point.
We are asked again for a $30 billion fiscal planning in an untendered contract for the jets when, at this point, $30 billion would be an annual cost for health care. We are asked for some $15 billion for megaprisons at the same time when not only is crime declining, but the proposed budget with regard to crime prevention also has been cut. As someone who has served as a former minister of justice and attorney general, these are wrong priorities. These are inverted values. This is disconnected from the needs of our country. This is disconnected from the needs of my constituents.
Moreover, the cost of the government's core spending priorities, these megaprisons and untendered contracts for fighter jets and corporate tax cuts for the very special rich, were not even included in the budget, thereby further undermining the very credibility of it. In fact, it is a stealth budget. It may not be surprising that it is a stealth budget that has $30 billion that we cannot see for F-35 stealth planes. This came the day after a damning parliamentary report that recommended the government be found in contempt of Parliament for hiding this information.
It is not just a matter of not sharing the cost and not making a full disclosure so Canadians can make an assessment of the validity of the costs in the budget. Not to share that information is to show contempt for Parliament, for my constituents and for the Canadian people. That is why a parliamentary committee found the government in contempt, without precedent in that regard.
What we need and what we do not have in the budget is a comprehensive strategy on what Canadians care about, namely health care; a comprehensive strategy on what Canadians care about, namely early learning and child care; a comprehensive strategy with regard to access to higher education; a comprehensive strategy with regard to jobs and combatting poverty; a comprehensive strategy with regard to the needs of Canadians in terms of social justice, affordable housing and the like. We do not have these things in the budget.
I regret that the government had an opportunity to look after the real authentic needs of Canadians. The Minister of Finance spoke about the fact that this was a budget based on needs. However, the tragedy is the authentic needs of Canadians are ignored and it is a budget disconnected from Canadians.
View Russ Hiebert Profile
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to address the budget, our Conservative government's sixth budget since forming office.
I am well aware of the burning desire of the Liberal- NDP-Bloc coalition to plunge this country into an unnecessary election, no matter the cost.
However, the instantaneous rejection of this budget by the three opposition party leaders is nothing short of irresponsible. In a time of continuing global economic uncertainty, especially following the disaster in Japan and the upheaval across much of the Arab world, the economic recovery is still fragile.
The opposition leaders are showing reckless disregard for the Canadian economy by their knee-jerk reactions. I was appalled, in particular, by the Liberal Party's response to our budget. The Liberal Party's focus on the spending for new jets for our Royal Canadian Air Force and on prisons was both shallow and ill-considered.
Of course, there is no spending for new jets in this budget and there will not be until 2016 when we start to receive the new jets. And the cost of purchasing those jets is spread over the lifespan of the jets, which is 20 to 30 years.
I should also note that it was the previous Liberal government that set us on the path to purchasing these jets in the first place by spending $100 million on developing them. The current Liberal leader seems to think we should just throw away the $100 million. I do not think that is a good idea.
With respect to prisons, our government has provided detailed cost estimates to Parliament for housing the expanded prison population that may result from our tougher sentencing legislation.
While Liberals have focused on the modest increased cost for prisons, they have completely and totally ignored the cost to Canadian society of allowing repeat and violent offenders to quickly resume their lives of crime through early release.
They have forgotten the costs to the victims of crime, the property owners, women, children, seniors, and others who will be prey to rapists, murderers, fraudsters, and drug dealers.
The cost to Canadian society of a revolving-door liberal criminal justice system is at least an order of magnitude higher than the cost we will incur by ensuring criminals serve sentences proportionate to their crimes.
It is clear to me that in their blind pursuit of power, the opposition parties have forgotten about listening to Canadians.
We began preparing for this budget many months ago. We listened to thousands of groups and individuals from across Canada. I consulted widely in my community. The finance committee, of which I am a member, held hearings in my riding to hear from local groups and individuals.
Earlier this year I hosted a Canadian first, the first ever live telephone town hall meeting with the finance minister. Thousands of my constituents were able to participate, and provide their feedback and input into our budget.
Our Conservative government has listened to the people of Canada. This budget reflects the needs and concerns of Canadians during this time of economic recovery. We heard some clear messages from Canadians. We heard that despite our solid job creation numbers, over 480,000 new jobs since July 2009, we need to continue with our job creation efforts.
We heard that since our infrastructure spending is winding down, it is now time to get spending down and our budget back in balance. We also heard that some groups in Canadian society, such as low income seniors or families caring for an infirm loved one, need more support.
This budget reflects the comments, suggestions, concerns, and needs we have heard from Canadians over the last several months.
I would like to focus many of my remarks on the positive initiatives we have taken in this budget. As I mentioned earlier, our focus is on jobs and growth. One key to jobs and growth is lower taxes. We are continuing to reduce taxes for families and small businesses in this budget. I am particularly pleased with the incentives we have created for small businesses in my community to hire new workers.
The budget provides for a one time credit of up to $1,000 to small businesses which hire new employees. This new credit will be available to approximately 525,000 employers, reducing their 2011 payroll costs by about $165 million.
My riding has one of the largest populations of seniors in Canada. Canadians from across the country like to retire in the temperate climate of our beautiful west coast community. However, some seniors face financial challenges, and our Conservative government has taken steps in the budget to support them.
Our top-up to the guaranteed income supplement will provide up to an extra $600 a year for low income single seniors, and up to $840 more for low income couples. This measure will support 680,000 lower income seniors across Canada.
I am also pleased with the tax credits for families. The children's arts tax credit will allow parents to claim costs of up to $500 per year related to activities such as piano lessons and art classes. This new tax credit builds on the success of our children's sport tax credit, and I believe it will be popular and be used by millions of families.
Also the new family caregiver tax credit will be available to people who care for infirm, dependent relatives like a spouse and minor children. We have also introduced new measures to help students. In particular, the in-study income exemption will be doubled from $50 per week to $100 per week, allowing approximately 100,000 students to earn this income tax free while pursuing their education.
We are offering help to home owners, with a $400 million extension of the eco-energy program to encourage home renovations that reduce electricity and heating costs, and we are making permanent the $2 billion federal contribution to the gas tax fund, which funds our municipal infrastructure. These are funds that our city governments can count on for repairing our streets and sidewalks.
We have also increased funding for health care. This matters to my constituents in British Columbia. We are providing almost $3.8 billion for health care in B.C., an increase of $216 million over last year.
Finally, because our budget sets us on a path toward the elimination of the deficit and toward a surplus, Canadians can look forward to additional tax relief, hopefully soon. Indeed, my private member's Motion No. M-638 suggests that we make income splitting for families with children a priority as the budget comes back into balance.
The early analysis of people outside Ottawa is positive. The finance minister of British Columbia has endorsed our budget as good for British Columbia. The hon. Kevin Falcon said that he was encouraged by Ottawa's latest plan to reduce the federal deficit by a quarter this year and to continue progress until Canada is back to balanced budgets by 2015-16. He continued that the corporate tax cuts committed to by our Conservative government would combine with provincial rates to give B.C. the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction, not just in Canada but among the G7 industrialized countries by next year. Let me repeat that. In B.C., thanks to our tax cuts and the tax cuts of the provincial government, we will have the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction in the G7 next year. He also said that the investment incentives we had provided in the federal budget would help Ridley Terminals expand its capacity to ship B.C. coal and minerals overseas.
Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said:
If the budget is defeated, it's a real concern for manufacturers.... This two year write-off [for investment in machinery and equipment] comes to an end at the end of this year and that extension is essential if we are going to keep investment going in the sector. It would be nice to have a little bit of certainty that companies would be able to take advantage of that over the next two years.
Craig Alexander, the TD Bank's chief economist, remarked that if we are investing in roads, bridges, et cetera, we want know that the government funding is going to be there and, therefore, that it is actually a very positive thing that the government has decided to make the gas tax transfer to municipalities a permanent transfer.
Further, he stated that:
I think in general it’s a business-friendly budget because of the extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment investment. As an economist, I like it particularly because one of the core challenges facing Canadian businesses is productivity growth.
Craig Wright, RBC's chief economist, says that our projections are conservative and that we can expect to make good on our deficit-cutting projections.
Tom Courchene, an economist at Queen's University, said:
The budget looks after what falls under the federal jurisdiction in an excellent way. It’s a continuation of the action plan and its keeps Canada being in the forefront of nations in terms of the recovery from the financial crisis.
That is what others across Canada are saying, with their messages of confidence about the steady hand we have applied to managing the nation's finances.
I would encourage my fellow MPs to consider whether this sensible and prudent budget is really an issue over which to plunge our nation into an unnecessary election.
View Massimo Pacetti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, as the finance minister tables his budget today I would like to remind the opposition parties and all Canadians of how history has proven over and over again that one cannot trust anything he says.
Since the time when he was the Ontario finance minister for the Harris government, he has done nothing but make false statements about how he left the province deficit free. However, when the Liberal government took power, it discovered an exorbitant deficit of $5.6 billion.
In 2007 he said there would be no recession. A few months later, Canada was hit with one of the worst economic downturns in history.
He said there would be no deficit. But then he plunged Canada into a deficit even before the recession began. All this led us to a historic $100 billion deficit.
He talks about austerity in spending, meanwhile his wastefulness and poor fiscal management has driven up government spending by 18%.
He therefore made his government the biggest spending government in history.
Why would anyone believe a word the finance minister says?
View Jim Flaherty Profile
View Jim Flaherty Profile
2011-03-22 16:04 [p.9121]
That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today our government presents to Canadians the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth.
Since 2006, our government has worked hard to deliver real benefits to Canadians, real support for the challenges of the real world. We cut the GST twice, from 7% to 6% to 5%. We introduced the $1,200 per year universal child care benefit. We established the tax free savings account. We removed more than one million low income Canadians from the tax rolls. The list goes on. We delivered these benefits to support the financial security of Canadian families, while protecting health care and pensions.
In good times and challenging circumstances, our government has made responsible choices. When times were good, we paid down debt. We strengthened our already strong financial sector. We delivered more than 120 tax cuts for Canadian workers, families and job-creating entrepreneurs. We also rejected calls from the opposition to impose a job-killing carbon tax.
Most important, when the global recession hit, Canada was able to meet the challenge head on. Through Canada's economic action plan, we delivered further tax cuts to help stimulate our economy.
We enhanced unemployment benefits and expanded retraining for those hit hardest by the global recession. We also made historic investments in roads, bridges, public transit and higher education—creating jobs across the country, and building the foundation for long-term growth.
As a result, Canada is emerging from the global recession as one of the world's top performing advanced economies. Throughout the recession, the world has looked to Canada as a model and an inspiration, but still there is more to be done. The global economy is still fragile. The U.S. and other trading partners are facing challenges. Compared to other countries, Canada's economy is performing very well, but our continued recovery is by no means assured. Many threats remain.
In this period of global uncertainty, our government is focused on the number one priority of Canadians. We are focused on securing our economic recovery. We are focused on improving the financial security of Canadian workers, seniors and families. We have a plan to achieve these goals—a plan that is working—and we need to stay on track.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan is critically important.
To secure our recovery from the global recession, Canada needs a principled, stable government. Now is not the time for instability. It would make it harder for Canadian businesses to plan and to expand. It would drive investment away to other countries. It would jeopardize the gains we have made.
Our government will provide a steady hand needed to secure our recovery and strengthen the financial security of Canadians. We have a balanced plan to achieve these goals, a low tax plan for jobs and growth.
Today, Parliament faces a choice. It is a choice between stability and uncertainty. It is a choice between principle and opportunism.
Our government is focused on securing our recovery from the global recession. We will keep taxes low. We will undertake additional targeted investments to support jobs and growth. We will control government spending and stay on track to eliminate the deficit.
We will not cut transfer payments for crucial services like health care and education. We will not cut those transfers for health care and education like the previous Liberal government did. We will not give in to opposition demands to impose massive tax increases. This reckless policy would lead to continuing deficits and higher taxes for all Canadians. It would stall our recovery, kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and set families back.
Sustained growth comes from the private sector.
We will help businesses to create jobs. We will not raise taxes on growth. This is a key principle moving forward in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. I encourage all the hon. members of this House to examine in detail the comprehensive plan we are presenting today. For now I will mention just a few highlights.
First is our low tax plan to create jobs.
Since July 2009, the Canadian economy has created more than 480,000 new jobs, more than were lost during the recession. Still we remain concerned about the number of Canadians looking for work. We need to keep protecting and creating jobs now. We need to keep building the foundation for long-term growth. A key part of that foundation is low taxes.
Our government has delivered tax relief for all Canadians. There are cuts to the GST and personal income tax. The average Canadian family of four today is saving more than $3,000 each year. Our tax cuts are also helping employers to invest, grow and create jobs.
Our commitment to low taxes is supported by strong consensus that protecting Canada's tax advantage is key to securing our recovery. It is key to creating jobs now and to ensuring long-term growth. That means greater job security for workers and greater financial security for their families. Our government will preserve this advantage for Canada. We will keep taxes low to keep creating jobs for Canadians.
Even so, in the current global economic climate, many businesses remain hesitant to invest and hire. Now it is time for the private sector to invest again. Our government will take further action to encourage it to expand and create jobs.
To encourage small business to hire new employees, we will provide a new targeted incentive. The hiring credit for small business will provide a one year EI break for some 525,000 Canadian small businesses. This measure will reduce payroll costs for new jobs and encourage hiring.
We will also take further action to help the manufacturing and processing sector to encourage investment and job creation. We will extend the 50% straight-line accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing or processing machinery and equipment by an additional two years This will help businesses and exporters to invest, improve productivity and stay competitive. It will benefit a broad range of industries, including pulp and paper, primary manufacturing, computers and electronics, and the automotive industry.
To support the Canadian forestry industry, we will extend the current forest innovation and market development programs.
In addition, through a consultative process involving the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada and their member firms, we will conduct a comprehensive review of policies and programs to develop a federal policy framework to maximize the competitiveness of Canada's aerospace and space industry.
Beyond this, we will promote new export opportunities for all Canadian businesses. Canada is one of the world's great trading nations. We need to keep expanding our access to foreign markets to create new jobs here at home.
Our government has signed a trade agreement with 8 countries and we have launched negotiations with some 50 other countries, including India and the European Union. To support these expanding trade relationships, we will modernize Canada's customs tariff legislation. This will cut red tape and make it easier for Canadian businesses to compete internationally.
Also, we will extend Export Development Canada's temporary powers to support Canadian businesses in the domestic financing market for an additional year.
We will also enhance Canada's engagement with India through stronger bilateral ties among businesspeople, public servants, researchers and academic institutions.
In the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, our government will also take further action to support families and communities to build a higher quality of life for all Canadians. We will provide greater financial security for Canadians and practical help to help make ends meet.
Canadians work hard, looking after their families and contributing to their communities. Many individuals and families have added responsibilities in caring for infirm parents or relatives. These family caregivers make special sacrifices, often leaving the workforce temporarily and forgoing employment income. One may be caring for her mother, just as her mother once cared for her. Another may be at home full-time to look after her young son, who has a disabling illness. Another may be helping his wife as she faces the challenges of MS. Each family caregiver is unique, but all of them are generous Canadians. They are our neighbours, our friends, our family—and they deserve some extra help.
To recognize and support Canadians caring for infirm loved ones, we will establish a new Family Caregiver Tax Credit. This new tax credit will be on an amount of $2,000 and will benefit more than 500,000 Canadians caring for loved ones. It will include, for the first time, those caring for infirm spouses, common-law partners and minor children.
We will also take action on other fronts to help families make ends meet.
For so many Canadian children, involvement in the arts is a part of growing up. Whether it is dance, music lessons or art camp, it is a great way to make friends and develop their creativity. However, for some families the fees and other costs involved can be beyond their reach. To help parents in providing these important opportunities for their children, we will establish a new children's arts tax credit covering up to $500 per child in qualifying expenses for eligible arts and cultural activities.
In addition, we will further help families make their homes more energy efficient by extending for one year the eco-energy retrofit homes program. This will help families lower their energy bills and support jobs in home renovation.
We will also take action to help low-income seniors. In communities across our country there are seniors struggling to pay their bills each month. Often they are women. Often they are widowed. They worked hard their whole lives for their families and communities but lack any pension income. To provide greater support to seniors most in need, we will provide a top-up benefit to the guaranteed income supplement. This new measure will provide up to $600 extra per year for single seniors and up to $840 per year for senior couples. It will improve the financial security of some 680,000 Canadians who helped build our country to help them live their senior years in dignity.
Our government will also provide additional help to Canadians saving for retirement, including self-employed Canadians, through a new, affordable pension option. We will work with our provincial and territorial partners to implement the pooled registered pension plan as soon as possible.
Federal, provincial and territorial governments are continuing work on options for a modest enhancement to the Canada pension plan. Any changes to the CPP will require a consensus among governments and reflect the need to protect Canada's economic recovery.
As I mentioned earlier, through Canada's economic action plan, we have implemented the largest federal investment in infrastructure in over 60 years.
Going forward, we will work with the provinces, the territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a new long-term plan for public infrastructure. We will also introduce legislation to confirm permanent funding for municipal infrastructure through the gas tax fund. This will ensure a stable and predictable source of revenue for the renewal of local infrastructure, to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns.
Our government will also take action to strengthen rural and remote communities.
The number of doctors and nurses in Canada has increased in recent years, but Canadians in some regions of the country continue to experience a shortage. We will help address this problem by forgiving a portion of federal student loans for new doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who agree to practise in under-served rural or remote areas.
We will provide $52 million over the next two years to support programs for aboriginal communities across the country, including those in the territories. These investments include support to assist first nations to upgrade and replace their essential fuel tanks on reserve.
We will also take action to support volunteer firefighting services in rural communities. Volunteer firefighters sacrifice their time, and some incur expenses, to provide a crucial service. As we were reminded just days ago by the tragic fire in Listowel, Ontario, they are also willing to sacrifice their lives to protect others. We will recognize the importance of this noble, necessary work, and help sustain volunteer fire departments by establishing a new volunteer firefighters tax credit.
In addition to these concrete measures to strengthen communities, our government will keep investing in the knowledge and skills Canadians need to prosper over the long-term in the global economy.
Since 2006 we have made major investments in research and development, in post-secondary education, and skills training. As noted in a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Canada is increasingly attracting top talent from around the world. Canada has gone from “brain drain” to “brain gain”, and the world is taking notice.
In supporting research and development our goal is to promote innovation—and ultimately to create good, new jobs for Canadians. In the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we will build on our successful investments so far.
We will establish additional Canada Excellence Research Chairs. We will invest in world-class research through support for the Perimeter Institute, Brain Canada and the Institut national d'optique. We will extend advanced research funding to students and researchers at Canada's colleges and polytechnics.
We will establish 30 Industrial Research Chairs at colleges and polytechnics across Canada. We will also provide new support for joint commercialization projects between colleges, universities and companies.
Alongside our investments in research and development and in higher education, our government has also made substantial investments in skills training. Our goal is to help Canadian workers reach the next stage of their careers and to seize new opportunities in the years to come.
To foster competitiveness in the digital economy, we will encourage colleges to work with small businesses to accelerate the adoption of information and communication technologies. We will promote student enrolment in post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.
We will also provide tax relief for Canadians who are required to certify their skills in carpentry, in medicine, and other fields by making their exam fees eligible for the tuition tax credit.
To respond to increased demand for help in career transition through post-secondary education, we will enhance the Canada student loans program for part-time students.
To help older workers who may need special help to re-enter the workforce, we will extend the targeted initiative for older workers.
Over the past two years, work-sharing has protected almost 280,000 jobs. Our government will continue helping businesses to retain employees and keep Canadians working. To continue protecting Canadian jobs, we will enhance and extend the work-sharing program.
We will also take further action to support the outstanding Canadians who have served our country in uniform. We will build on our continuing, substantial support for career transition services through Veterans Affairs Canada. In addition, our support for the helmets to hardhats program will help former Canadian military personnel to find work in the construction industry. Our brave Canadian veterans have earned our deepest gratitude and highest respect. This is just one more practical way to provide the support they deserve.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan is designed to build on our actions so far. It is our plan to create jobs now and sustain economic growth for years to come.
Looking ahead, Canada's leading private sector economists project steady growth over the next few years. Still, the plan our government is presenting today is based on a cautious estimate of Canada's economic growth in the near term. It reflects our government's consistent, responsible and balanced approach to the economy.
A key part of that balanced approach is our commitment to sound fiscal policy.
Among other things, sound fiscal policy requires that we protect the integrity of the tax system.
As promised in the Speech from the Throne last year, we will keep taxes low, while taking action to close unfair tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to take advantage of Canadians who pay their fair share.
Beyond this and most of all, sound fiscal policy requires that we return to balanced budgets. Canada’s deficit is much smaller than that of most other advanced countries. We are emerging from the global recession with the lowest net debt to GDP ratio of any G7 economy, by far. Even so, we must not be complacent.
We must ensure that Canada remains financially sound, so that we can continue building a future of hope and opportunity for all Canadians.
The global recession required extraordinary investments to protect Canadians, to stimulate our economy, and to create jobs. Canadians understand that a temporary deficit was necessary to limit the impact of the global recession in Canada and all parties in Parliament agreed.
Going forward, to secure our recovery we must now focus increasingly on controlling government spending. We must complete the transition from providing temporary stimulus to ensuring long-term economic growth.
To that end, we will continue implementing our plan to eliminate the deficit and return to balanced budgets by 2015-16.
First, we will complete our stimulus package, as promised.
Second, we will continue specific measures to restrain the growth of government program spending.
Third, we will complete, within the next year, a comprehensive review of government spending. This strategic and operating review is designed to realize substantial additional savings through greater efficiency and effectiveness. It will place us in a strong position to resume paying down government debt, and to continue investing in priorities and supporting Canadian families.
Our government has laid out the next phase of Canada's economic action plan—a low-tax plan for jobs and growth.
It is based on our extensive consultations with Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It reflects their values and responds to their priorities.
Our plan does not say “yes” to every demand; it does not contain massive new spending—because that's not leadership.
Leadership is about finding a balance between needs. It is about staying focused on our number one priority: securing our economic recovery by creating jobs and growth now and in the years to come.
We believe that the hon. members of the opposition will recognize that our plan addresses practical concerns with responsible solutions. As I said earlier, today Parliament faces a choice, a choice between opportunism or working together to secure our recovery and strengthen the financial security of Canadians.
Our government is focused on providing the principled, stable government our country needs at this challenging but promising time in our history. We will keep taxes low and preserve Canada’s advantage in the global economy to keep creating jobs for Canadians. We will strengthen the financial security of Canadian workers, seniors and families.
By implementing the next phase of Canada’s economic action plan, we can keep building a higher quality of life for our families and communities. By choosing to act in the best interests of our country, we can ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
We invite all hon. members to support our low tax plan for jobs and growth.
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View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2011-03-22 16:38 [p.9124]
Mr. Speaker, with this budget, the finance minister continues his record as the biggest spending, biggest borrowing finance minister in Canadian history.
The Conservatives continue to stonewall Canadians in Parliament. They refuse to tell Canadian taxpayers what they are intent on spending on U.S. style mega-prisons. There is a $43 billion black hole in this budget. There is no mention of the $30 billion for fighter jets. There is no mention of the $13 billion in costs for their U.S. style prison agenda.
The minister speaks about principles. What is so principled about treating Parliament and taxpayers with contempt? What is so principled about spending a thousand more on fighter jets than on post-secondary education? What is so principled about spending a thousand on prisons than investing in youth crime prevention? What is so principled about wasting more on one day on the G8 than a year of investment in seniors?
View Jim Flaherty Profile
View Jim Flaherty Profile
2011-03-22 16:39 [p.9125]
Mr. Speaker, I think there was a question in there somewhere. There may have been a question in there.
This is the same member opposite who voted in favour of the economic action plan. This is the same opposition that supported the economic action plan, that knew that we were in what is now called the great recession, and now we show our way out. Now we follow the plan, we show the way that we reduce the deficit and move to a balanced budget by 2015 and 2016, and we do that in a reasonable, moderate way so that we can sustain economic growth and create more jobs in our country.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2011-03-22 16:49 [p.9126]
Mr. Speaker, over the last four months, the Conservative regime has refused to provide this Parliament and Canadian taxpayers with the real numbers, the true cost of its agenda.
With today's budget, the Conservatives continue to stonewall Canadians and show contempt for Parliament and taxpayers. This budget has a $43 billion black hole. The Conservatives do not mention their $30 billion for fighter jets or their $13 billion-plus in costs for U.S.-style megaprisons.
Mr. Speaker, it appears that even after your ruling, the Conservatives have learned nothing. There is no respect for your ruling in this budget. At first glance what we do know is that this is a budget with out of control spending that is out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families.
The Conservatives are spending a thousand times more on fighter jets than they are investing in students who are struggling to pay for post-secondary education. They are spending a thousand times more on prisons than they are investing in youth crime prevention. The government wasted more on the G8 in a single day than today's announcement on seniors will cost over an entire year.
With this budget, the Conservatives had an opportunity to finally come clean with Canadians, to tell Canadians the truth and to give Canadians the real costs of their agenda. At first glance, there is nothing in this budget that demonstrates that the Conservatives can be trusted to provide Canadians with the truth about the state of Canada's books or the costs of the Conservative agenda.
At this time, I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
View Stockwell Day Profile
View Stockwell Day Profile
2011-02-16 14:40 [p.8229]
Mr. Speaker, there was no beer yesterday because we have changed the former government's policy regarding alcohol at meetings.
Yesterday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer also said that our plan to reduce the deficit is ahead—by $5 billion. That is not necessarily our opinion, but he said that he thought we were further ahead. He can say that because he has the plan, absolutely.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2011-02-08 10:08 [p.7834]
That, in the opinion of the House, the Government’s decision to proceed with cuts to the tax rate for large corporations fails to address the economic needs of Canadian families, and this House urges the Government to reverse these corporate tax cuts and restore the tax rate for large corporations to 2010 levels in the upcoming Budget.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member from Brossard—La Prairie.
The Liberal Party has a history of prudent fiscal management and balanced budgets. Under the previous Liberal government, deficits that had persisted for decades were finally eliminated by Prime Minister Chrétien and finance minister, Paul Martin. The books were balanced and Canada posted nine consecutive surpluses.
The Chrétien and Martin governments put prudent financial measures in place, including the $3 billion annual contingency reserve, otherwise known as the rainy day fund. We made sound investments in public infrastructure, in research and development and in people. The Liberals listened to and worked with the provinces. Historic health and social transfer agreements were reached, giving the provinces long-term, predictable funding that enabled them to make investments and provide the services that Canadian families and our aging population needed.
Within this environment of sound fiscal management, the Liberals cut personal and corporate income taxes. I believe in personal and corporate income tax cuts and so does the Liberal Party. In fact, the Liberals cut the corporate income tax rate from 28% to 21% in four years as part of the largest income tax cut in Canadian history. However, as Liberals we did so sensibly, during times of surplus, never risking the public treasury or the programs that Canadian families depended on.
What a difference five years under the Conservatives has made.
When the Conservatives were elected, they inherited a surplus of $13 billion from the Liberal government. But after increasing spending by 18% in three years—three times higher than the inflation rate—the Conservatives plunged Canada into a deficit before the financial crisis even hit.
They increased the size of government by a whopping 40% in just four years while, at the same time, with their ill-advised, economically stupid tax policy, they gutted the government's capacity to pay for the programs that it was spending on. The Conservatives borrowed and spent their way toward a record $56 billion deficit, the largest in Canadian history.
While the finance minister is now promising to balance the books by 2015-16, the truth is that he has no credible plan to get Canada there. It is no wonder that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the IMF both report that the finance minister will not be able to keep his word and balance the books.
In fact, after five years of the Conservatives' borrow and spend agenda, the IMF and the PBO believe that the Conservatives have given Canada a structural deficit. Structural deficits are bad for business. They create uncertainty. With ballooning debt levels, the public's ability to sustain investments in infrastructure and social programs like health care and education are imperiled. Persistent deficits also create higher taxes for the future as tax bills get deferred and higher interest costs are factored in. The best thing that the government can do to improve the business climate in Canada is to get back to balanced budgets.
We must bring Canada back to a balanced budget.
There is also a moral imperative for the government to prepare for the large demographic shift facing our country and its people. We have a rapidly aging population that will place greater demands on our health care system. At the same time, more and more Canadians are looking to retire, at least those who can afford to, so there will be fewer people in the labour force paying taxes.
Under the Conservatives, we are also seeing both higher unemployment numbers and, at the same time, higher labour shortages. We have jobs without people and people without jobs. The need to invest in learning and training has never been greater.
With record deficits, an aging population, increased demands on health care and education and a shrinking tax base, this is no time for the Conservatives to gut Canada's fiscal capacity with corporate tax cuts on borrowed money, corporate tax cuts we simply cannot afford right now.
As cost-sharing agreements with the provinces get ready to expire in 2014, why are the Conservatives gutting the federal government's fiscal capacity now, right before negotiations are set to start with the provinces on important health care and social transfers?
There is no pressing need to cut corporate taxes further at this time. Canada already has a competitive corporate tax rate. It is 25% lower than the U.S. rate and the second lowest in the G7.
It is also clear that corporate tax cuts are not always the most effective way to create jobs. The Conservatives' own numbers show that when it comes to creating jobs and economic growth over the last two years, a dollar spent on public infrastructure has been eight times more effective than a dollar spent on corporate tax cuts.
Last week, the chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, Philip Cross, described any impact of further corporate tax cuts on Canada's economy as “trivial” and “relatively small”, given the huge flow of money driven by other forces.
With Canada's weakened fiscal position under the Conservatives, coupled with the fact that Canada's corporate tax rate is already comparatively low, it is bad policy for the government to borrow even more money to pay for further corporate tax cuts we do not need and cannot afford at this time. We are calling on the government to restore the corporate tax rates to 2010 levels so that we can balance the budget and invest in the government programs that Canadian families depend on.
Right now, Canadian families are finding it difficult just to make ends meet. Canadian families are paying 29% more for out-of-pocket health care expenses. Over 40% of family care givers are using personal savings just to get by, just to survive.
Under the Conservatives, household debt is at a record high. The typical Canadian family now owes $1.50 for every dollar of disposable income. Personal bankruptcy rates are up by 33%. Students are also facing a personal debt wall as nearly two-thirds of parents think they will not be able to afford post-secondary education for their children, and 16% of low income students already plan to delay their education because of high student debt.
That is why the Liberals would cancel the most recent corporate income tax cut and use that money to reduce the deficit, put us back into surplus and to invest in the priorities of Canadians, helping Canadians with the rising cost of living, family care giving, saving for retirement and access to post-secondary education.
The Conservative finance minister has in the past supported delaying planned corporate tax cuts. In 2002, as an Ontario cabinet minister, the minister voted to delay corporate tax cuts that he himself had announced the year before. He did so because of a financial downturn related to what he referred to as “extraordinary circumstances”.
The Conservatives' record deficits and fiscal mismanagement have once again presented Canada with extraordinary circumstances. That is why I moved the motion, which reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government's decision to proceed with cuts to the tax rate for large corporations fails to address the economic needs of Canadian families, and this House urges the government to reverse these corporate tax cuts and restore the tax rate for large corporations to 2010 levels in the upcoming budget.
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