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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House tonight to speak to this important budget, budget 2019.
As members and Canadians know, the economy has been moving very quickly and successfully. Canadians have created over one million jobs since 2015, and over 110,000 jobs in the last month alone. That is extremely impressive.
We have also seen, with our investment of the Canada child benefit, that we lifted over 300,000 Canadians out of poverty. That is another very important signal of success that we have moved forward on for our economy. As well, we have seen and are seeing the lowest unemployment rate in 45 years. When we took office here, the unemployment rate was at 7.1%. It is now at 5.7% to 5.8%. That is a strong indication of how strong our economy is moving forward. That is because of the budgets and investments we have made over the last four years. This budget is a continuation of that philosophy.
I want to talk about veterans. As members know, I have the largest number of veterans in Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia has the highest number in the country per capita. We have made some big investments over the last three and a half years for veterans, of over $10 billion. Even in this budget, we have again made some major steps forward.
The first budget was on transition. We have been working hard to find a seamless approach with a joint committee between DND and Veterans Affairs. It is in place and we are seeing some very positive steps forward in that area. However, we were only focusing that transition on ill and disabled veterans. Now we have included, in this bill, non-ill veterans, which is another very important factor.
We have enhanced the education and training benefit for veterans, which is $40,000 for six years of service or $80,000 for 12 years. We have now added the reservists to the list of those who can benefit from those programs. Those are very big steps that the veterans community was asking for and that we were able to put forward.
The other investment is the veterans survivor fund. Prior to this budget, the benefits and pensions of veterans who got married after the age of 60 would not be moved over to their spouse or partner. We made sure that we would bring forward investments to correct that as well, which was another important ask from our veterans community.
There are also investments in the Juno Beach Centre. We are celebrating, on June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We want to remember the loss of over 14,000 Canadians during that important time.
That is just a quick run-through of some of the investments in the veterans sector. Let us talk about the young people in this country.
We need to make sure that we are helping those young individuals to move forward and we have included some major steps in this last budget. Regarding student loans, we know that if students get a job they have to make over $25,000. We talked about that in previous budgets. Now we are saying that they will pay a prime rate but will not have to pay the plus 3%, which was a big one. Also we said that there will be no interest on the loan and no payments for the first six months, which is a big change as well.
For first-time homebuyers, we have set up an opportunity for young people. If they are purchasing a home for $400,000, they would have to put 5% down, which would be $20,000, so their loan would be $380,000. However, with the shared-equity strategy that we have put in place, their loan now is $340,000 and that is major. That is a savings of $225 per month. If I run that through for 30 years, it is $81,000 that an individual would save. That is a very important investment, as members can note.
As for student summer jobs, when the Conservatives were in power the number of summer jobs was the lowest that had existed in this country. Now that we are in 2019, there is the greatest number of summer jobs. In my riding alone, there are 255 individuals who are going to or are working in those summer jobs. That is $770,000 invested in that portfolio for students in my riding. As members can see, it is a broad approach that we are bringing forward, a coordinated strategy.
Then, we have brought in some investments in the Canada training program, which is a very important new program. It is tax free and people can save up to $250 a year, $1,000 every four years, for upgrading. That is something that we did not have access to. All members in the House know that young people today will often change jobs. The technology is moving so rapidly that this training is essential. We also have a program where people can draw from EI during the four weeks they are attending upgrading courses, which is extremely important.
We need to talk about seniors. We know that by 2034, seniors will represent about 25% of Canadians. That is a very high number. In the Atlantic provinces, the number is even higher than that. We need to focus on seniors. My riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook in Nova Scotia had the highest increase between 2011 and 2016. The Conservatives were going to move the retirement age to 67 and we said that was unacceptable. Canadians who have worked up to the age of 65, if they so desire to retire, they should be able to retire in dignity. Therefore, we ensured that the age of retirement stayed at 65, which was a crucial investment.
We have made investments to the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement, in two areas. The first one is a big investment of approximately $950, which allowed 700,000 seniors to move above the poverty line. That was very important, as well.
On health care, pharmacare, we are going to move forward. We have had a committee study a national pharmacare program. We should be able to deliver that in the very near future. We have made some investments in the Canadian drug agency to lower the costs. A national dementia strategy is very important. I met with a group in Sackville last week, in my riding. Northwood is trying to open an adult day program for dementia patients. Again, that is very important as well.
I must also include some of the investments on reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We have eliminated over 80-some boil water advisories. We have promised that by 2021 there will be no more boil water advisories. There is an investment for indigenous peoples for entrepreneurship and economic development, and for start-ups and expansion for Métis small businesses. Those are big investments for indigenous people.
I would like to finish off, of course, with the African Nova Scotian community. We have made some major investments there as well. The black community is the oldest black intergenerational community in Canada. It has the biggest Black Cultural Centre in Canada. Two months ago, the Prime Minister was in the Preston area. It was the first time a Prime Minister ever stepped into the Preston area.
There are some very successful initiatives that we are moving forward on. One is the anti-racism strategy investment, which will allow community-based focus groups to come forward with all kinds of different projects. There is also some capital investment, up to $25 million over five years, for projects and capital assistance to help the vibrant black community continue to grow.
I have to close with the trade deals. We have brought three trade deals to the table, successfully. That is 1.5 billion people trading in and out of Canada.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join this important debate on the government's budgetary policy. I will be focusing my remarks on certain areas that I have not had a chance to discuss yet in previous speeches on the government's budgetary policy.
There is an evidence sense of unreality to the discussion coming from government members on this. We hear a lot about what the budget aims to do. The budget aims to do this and it aims to do that. Our complaint is not with the intentions of the budget. Our complaint is with the provisions in the budget. There are many cases in which there is this obvious dissonance between high-minded claims about what the budget aims to do and the substance of the provision. We just heard a good example of that. A member talked about small business in his riding and the important work it did, but then supported a budget that would raise taxes on small business and eliminate the hiring credit for small business. There is this evident dissonance here.
I had an opportunity to question the finance minister in committee of the whole last week. I asked three times, consecutively, if he believed that the government should eventually balance the budget at some point in the future. We did not get an answer to that question.
When the finance minister, who should know better, cannot even answer a direct question about whether it is important for a country to balance its budget at some point in the future, then we have a real problem with the seriousness of the plan. It is not a problem with intentions necessarily, but it is a problem with the seriousness of this so-called fiscal plan.
I want to talk about three specific things today. I want to talk about where economic growth really comes from. I want to talk about the impact of the budget on families. I want to speak about the impact of the budget on indigenous Canadians, specifically in the context of indigenous education.
We hear a lot about economic growth, and this comes back to the good intentions here. We hear the word “growth” used over and over again. Like so many of the words the government uses, especially in the context of budgetary policy, we have not ever heard it clearly defined. We do not hear the Liberals explain what they mean by growth and what exactly they plan to achieving in growth.
Economic growth is produced when there is an increase in the ability of society to provide for itself, when society grows in its economic means to provide for itself in terms of its wants and its need. Therefore, it is very closely linked to the concept of economic productivity, productivity being the rate of output given the input.
We often talk for example about labour productivity. As labour productivity increases, the amount of output that can be produced in a given hour of labour increases. That is really what creates economic growth. Economic growth is about finding ways of more productively using our time and our resources to produce more things that we can use to satisfy our wants and our needs. Fundamentally, foundationally it is about growth in productivity.
When the government thinks about trying to encourage economic growth, it should focus on productivity. The current government talks as if all that is required to increase growth is more government spending. Looking around the world, it is easy to see how there is no linear relationship at all between government spending and economic growth. Some countries do much better than others that have much lower levels of public spending. That is not to say the government does not have a role in identifying areas where productivity growth can occur, but it certainly is not in any sense linear.
From my perspective, there are a number of different things that facilitate increases in productivity, which is important for economic growth. One would be a more educated workforce, specifically though a workforce equipped with job-ready skills, and a marketplace that is well-equipped to commercialize knowledge that is produced.
That was why in 2007 our government came forward with a science and technology strategy that looked at ways of more effectively encouraging commercialization of knowledge. It was why we put an emphasis on encouraging the trades as well, because of the needed to have a workforce that was equipped with job-ready skills. That was important for productivity and economic growth.
Efficient transportation infrastructure is obviously an important part of that as well, both in education and infrastructure. These are areas where government spending can play a positive role. What is disappointing about the budget is the total abuse of the word “infrastructure”. The government redefines infrastructure to mean almost everything.
The minister confirmed in our discussion in committee of the whole that he believed child care was a form of infrastructure. Well, it is certainly not in the sense that economists traditionally define it. Transportation infrastructure obviously has a positive impact on productivity when it is well placed, well designed, and when it helps people get to and from work more quickly.
Productivity growth requires an economic system that provides significant returns on business innovation. Business innovation creates improvements in productivity, and therefore we need a system that creates incentives for that business innovation, things like relatively low business tax rates and benefits accruing to companies that choose to hire more people. That is why this budget would negatively impact productivity by effectively increasing the tax on small business by eliminating the hiring credit. These types of measures are not good for economic growth.
Economic growth requires a stable and predictable economic environment as well. People will invest in an economy that they have a reasonable expectation will do well over the long term. When we have extended periods of large budget deficits and we have the government going into deficit with no plan to get out of it when we are not in the midst of a recession, that clearly damages confidence and reduces the reason for investments in things that produce productivity growth.
We hear a lot about growth from the government, but we do not actually hear any discussion of those foundational constituent parts of growth, things like how we increase the productivity of our economy and how we increase the productivity of labour. These are things that the government should be thinking about in a more serious way, but the Liberals repeat this mantra that more government spending is somehow, absent of any clear connection or specificity in investment, going to lead to economic growth. That is a major concern I have with the plan of the Liberals.
I want to speak as well about the impact of the budget on families.
I believe in a simple principle with regard to family taxation. If two families are earning the same amount of money, then they should pay the same amount of tax. It would seem arbitrary and unreasonable, and therefore unfair, that we would have two families each earning the same family income but happen to pay different amounts of tax, simply by virtue of which people in the family are earning the income. That is why we brought in income splitting. It was an important tax cut, but it was also a measure to ensure tax fairness.
However, the government does not seem to agree with this principle of tax fairness. The Liberals would eliminate income splitting, having the effect of raising taxes on many families, but also now ensuring a system of unequal taxation where we have families that are earning the same income, yet paying different amounts of taxes, simply because of how they decide to divide child care responsibilities. Our view has always been that it should be up to families to make their own child care choices, and families should not face some kind of direct or indirect fiscal penalty because of the financial choices they make.
Of course, the Liberal changes would also remove universality of child care benefits. We think that is a problem. We think a universal taxable benefit made good sense. Of course, a taxable benefit is inherently more progressive because the more money one makes, the more tax one pays on it. It had that built-in progressivity to it, but it was still designed to ensure that everyone had something to benefit from.
I want to speak briefly about the impact of the budget on indigenous Canadians. This budget would spend a significant amount of new money, but it does not come with the kinds of measures that are necessary to ensure the success of those investments, especially as it pertains to education.
We have a core problem when it comes to education in aboriginal communities. Unlike in every province across the country, on-reserve first nations education does not have legislated educational standards and a legislated mandate for core curriculum. It does not require that schools award a recognized provincial diploma. That is a problem. It is a problem when we do not have those structures in place to ensure that there can be a seamless transition between a school on a reserve and a school off a reserve. These are the kinds of measures, the kind of collaborative structuring of the system, improvements to accountability, that would make a real concrete different. We think those kinds of changes should, and could, be accompanied by increased investment. However, the government has put in new money but does not actually have an effective plan to improve the system at all.
Those are a number of reasons, and there are many more I could list, why I am very concerned about this budget, and I will be opposing it.
View David Wilks Profile
View David Wilks Profile
2013-06-03 21:18 [p.17580]
Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight to speak on Bill C-60.
Throughout the past several weeks I have been able to travel throughout my riding of Kootenay—Columbia and discuss economic action plan 2013. Municipal and regional governments have endorsed this budget because it identifies their needs, which are to ensure that ongoing funding is provided for infrastructure that is very important to every community from coast to coast to coast.
The community improvement fund would provide funding in the amount of $32.2 billion over the next 10 years through the new building Canada plan and, most importantly, it would give greater flexibility to a broad range of infrastructure priorities, which would include highways, local and regional airports, short line rail, short sea shipping, disaster mitigation, broadband and connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, culture, tourism, sport and recreation. Coupled with the new building Canada fund and P3 Canada, this funding would represent the largest and longest federal investment in job creation infrastructure in Canadian history.
Having been the mayor of Sparwood, British Columbia, for six years, I appreciate the input that the federal government can provide, but I also understand that the municipalities must do their part to ensure their communities remain vibrant.
I listened with interest this weekend to some of the comments from FCM, where some mayors said that money was not enough. Some called for national strategies. Politicians from all levels of government are great at studying things, but it is at the municipal level where the rubber hits the road. Therefore, I would suggest that communities across Canada have shovel-ready projects in which they will have full participation and quit speculating on what we can do for them.
Kootenay—Columbia is a rural riding that has some of the highest tourism visits in all of Canada due to the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, national parks, skiing and golf opportunities. I am proud of all the amenities that provide for a great visitor experience, but with that there is a great strain on affordable housing. With $1.9 billion over five years to create affordable housing, this is great news for towns like Fernie, Kimberley, Golden, Invermere and Revelstoke. Those who work in the service industry have historically been at the lower end of the pay scale and depend on housing that is reasonably priced. Through this funding, our government will assist the communities that need to sustain housing that is affordable.
The Canada job grant would provide $15,000 or more per person in combined federal, provincial and employer funding. It is something that would benefit any person who is considering a career in the trades. This must be a combined effort by everyone affected by this shortage. A number of companies in the riding of Kootenay—Columbia, including Teck Resources, Canfor and Louisiana-Pacific, welcome this news. Companies from across Canada are in dire need of skilled workers due to an aging workforce and an increased natural resource extraction sector. Our government is doing our part to help in this regard. The provinces recognize their role and, most importantly, industry members knows that they must come to the table. Otherwise, it will deter their ability to grow.
One of the biggest challenges that companies have is the shortage in tradespeople. A significant number of people are pulled away from one company to another via signing bonuses and other financial incentives. The only way for this to stop is by training as many people as we can to ensure companies can keep up with the demand.
In budget 2013, our Conservative government said that we would fix the temporary foreign worker program. Just over one month after release of that budget, our government introduced legislative, regulatory and administrative changes that would, effective immediately, require employers to pay temporary foreign workers at the prevailing wage by removing the existing wage flexibility, temporarily suspend the accelerated labour market opinion process, and increase the government's authority to suspend and revoke work permits and labour market opinions if the program were being misused.
It would add questions to employer LMO applications to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. It would ensure employers who rely upon temporary foreign workers have a firm plan in place to transition to a Canadian worker. It would introduce fees from employers for the processing of labour market opinions and increase the fees for work permits so that taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the costs. It would restrict English and French as the only languages that could be identified as a job requirement.
The results of these changes would strengthen and improve the foreign worker program, support our economic recovery and growth, and ensure that employers make greater efforts to hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers. These reforms would ensure that the temporary foreign worker program, which is an important program to deal with acute skills shortages on a temporary basis, is used only as a last resort.
I am very pleased to see that $9 million is proposed for the first nations land management regime to provide additional first nations with the opportunity to enact their own laws for development, conservation, use and possession of reserve lands. This would add 33 first nations to the regime, including the 8 announced earlier this year. Two of those first nations are in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia. The St. Mary's Band and the Akisqnuk Band were recent uptakes to FNLM. Both of these bands are very progressive and are moving forward with great initiatives.
Further, enhanced health services within first nations are also a top priority.
Just this past weekend, I attended the grand opening of the Three Voices of Healing treatment centre at the Shuswap First Nation. This centre offers 12 beds for 41-day alcohol and drug addiction adult residential treatment programs and 30 beds for 91-day aftercare treatment programs. This aftercare program is the first of its kind in the country and is funded from grants received from various organizations and foundations.
Three Voices of Healing Society has been in operation since 1997. In September 2012, it was able to purchase this new facility in order to offer the new aftercare program. The need for aftercare has been identified through regional and national needs assessments and research in alignment with the objectives of the program renewal initiative of the national native alcohol and drug abuse program.
The aftercare program would address a critical gap in service within the B.C. first nations' continuum of care for addictions. It must be noted that within minutes, and I literally mean minutes, of mass emailing and faxing of the announcement of this new programming to all the bands and the front-line workers in British Columbia and Alberta, the phones lit up continuously and have not slowed down. I have seen first-hand the importance of these facilities. What is so impressive with this aftercare program is the ability for clients to find a skill that they can take with them after treatment.
Our government provides $100 million annually for aboriginal mental health programs and services.
I am honoured to work with the Ktunaxa and Shuswap First Nations in the Kootenay—Columbia, which are both progressive and visionary for their future.
I have given a few examples of how economic action plan 2013 would benefit, not only my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, but all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I look forward to working with my constituents to ensure that we continue to live in the greatest place on Earth.
View Kelly Block Profile
View Kelly Block Profile
2013-06-03 21:46 [p.17584]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak today on Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act.
I would like to begin by thanking the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance for their hard work on behalf of all Canadians.
I have been engaging my constituents in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on what course of action our government needs to take to promote long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Their message is consistent and clear. Canadians are reasonable people; they expect a pragmatic government that is a cautious steward of our economy, a careful caretaker of our natural resources and one that focuses on job creation to ensure that every Canadian can have a job and succeed. They want low taxes and quality services.
As a parent and a grandparent, I want Canada to be the best place to live, work, raise a family and retire. I want every Canadian to be able to take advantage of all our great country has to offer.
Budget 2013 is good news for Saskatchewan and for Canada. The budget would invest in the success of Canadians. It would invest in our infrastructure and it would invest in our strong and resilient communities. It is a plan for a successful and prosperous future. The budget focuses on the priorities of Canadian families, Canada's young people, Canadian students, Canada's job creators and Canada's job seekers.
I would like to highlight how the budget would help Saskatchewan's families, our businesses and our communities. Allow me to state the obvious. Our most valuable asset as a country is our people. As a government, we have a responsibility to make sure every person has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Right now in Canada, there is a clear mismatch between the jobs available and the skills held by job seekers in Canada.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the current skills shortage as the number one obstacle to success for its members. There are too many jobs that go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. If unaddressed, this labour mismatch has the potential to disrupt our economy and our prosperity. In fact, Saskatchewan's economy has been on such a positive expansionary phase that we are now facing labour shortages in many sectors.
I would like to talk about four areas of focus in the budget that would help Saskatchewan get the skilled workers it needs and allow us to fulfill the very potential that our first settlers saw when they came to the Prairies.
The centrepiece of economic action plan 2013 is the Canada job grant. The job grant would transform the way Canadians receive training by providing up to $15,000 per person to help ensure Canadians are able to access the training they need to get jobs in high-demand fields. The Canada job grant would take skills training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong, in the hands of employers with unfilled jobs and Canadians who want to work.
Second, economic action plan 2013 would follow through on budget 2012's commitment to increase women's participation in non-traditional occupations. Women now represent close to half of Canada's workforce, yet as a group they continue to be under-represented in areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, the very same fields in which we are experiencing labour shortages.
Our government, and especially my colleague, the Minister for the Status of Women, has taken a keen interest in this matter as it makes strong economic and business sense to have both men and women equally active in the workforce. It goes without saying that countries with strong labour force participation from both men and women typically have stronger and more durable economies. I am pleased that our government is delivering on our commitment to increase opportunities for women's participation in non-traditional occupations and keep our economy strong.
Third, Canada's young aboriginal population has tremendous potential for long-term success and prosperity, but remains under-represented in both the labour market and in post-secondary institutions. Since 2006, our government has made innovative investments to address these challenges, including efforts to strengthen on-reserve elementary and secondary education and skills training programming for aboriginal people.
Building on these actions, economic action plan 2013 would introduce a number of practical steps. The skills and partnership fund would provide project-specific funding to aboriginal organizations in an effort to improve labour market outcomes for aboriginal people.
The first nations job fund, totalling $109 million over five years, would fund the provision of personalized job training on reserves. Budget 2013 would also invest $10 million over two years for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for more than 2,000 first nations and Inuit students annually. This would be delivered by Indspire, Canada's largest indigenous-led charity, which has a stellar track record of success.
Fourth, this government, under the tireless leadership of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has made significant progress implementing long-overdue reforms to Canada's immigration system, with the focus on attracting talented newcomers with the skills and experience our economy requires. Earlier this year, our government opened up a new skilled trades immigration stream that will facilitate the entry of immigrants who have the skills needed to immediately find a job and begin contributing to our economy.
What I have outlined are just some of the many new steps our government is taking to address the labour mismatch that exists in Canada.
Our government knows that low taxes and a skilled workforce keep our economy growing, but as an exporter nation, we need to continue to work to open up new markets for Canadian companies to sell their goods. For the first time in our history, we are aggressively diversifying our markets and making it easier for business to trade with emerging markets.
Since coming into office, we have signed nine free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, Panama, Korea and Jordan, and we are currently working on free trade agreements with the European Union, Japan and China, just to name a few.
This pro-trade agenda is working for Saskatchewan. Earlier this year Statistics Canada announced that Saskatchewan had become Canada's fourth largest exporter of goods. Saskatchewan exports grew by over 10% last year, to reach $32.6 billion, and have more than tripled over the past decade. My home province's exports were also quite diversified. One-third of exports were agricultural products, one-third were energy products and the remaining were manufacturing and services.
This government is also putting in place the infrastructure Canada needs. For years, provincial and municipal governments, who are responsible for the majority of infrastructure in Canada, have been asking the federal government for a long-term plan to address these needs. This budget would invest over $70 billion in new infrastructure funding over 10 years in support of local and economic infrastructure projects.
This is the longest and largest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history and is something I know every municipality in my riding, from Saskatoon to Sunningdale, would benefit from.
However, this budget is not just about the present. It is also about the future. Budget 2013 would keep Canada on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015. In fact, the deficit has been cut in half over the past two years, and Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7.
We have done so well maintaining and building on critical services. We are also keeping taxes low for Canadians and for Canadian businesses. Canada's federal corporate tax right now sits at 15%, down from 21%, and the federal sales tax now sits at 5%, down from 7% when our government took office.
An average family now pays $3,100 less in taxes than when we took office in 2006, and Canadians now have the lowest tax burden in more than 50 years. That is something that everyone in the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar appreciates.
Our government's plan is working, not only for Saskatchewan but for all of Canada. Our government's goal is to make Canada the best place in the world to live, raise a family, work or start a business.
Bill C-60 would keep Canada on track for long-term prosperity, and I would encourage all members of this House to support it.
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