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View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2019-06-04 13:08 [p.28485]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the 2019 budget. This budget is called “Investing in the Middle Class”. Improving life for middle-class Canadians has been our number one priority since we were elected.
Four years ago, the people of Brampton South elected me to represent them. Since 2015, I have been working in Ottawa to deliver on the promises I made throughout my campaign. Everyone in this House has made a commitment to serve Canadians. This is partly done by investing in initiatives that will boost the quality of life for all Canadians. The budget this year is an example of the opportunities that Canada can provide to Canadians.
Our government's commitment to serve Canadians through investment can be seen in Brampton. In 2016-17, Brampton was given almost $60 million through the gas tax fund, and in 2017-18 we introduced a one-time top-up to the gas tax fund for infrastructure investments. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, Brampton was given over $33 million.
Since November 2015, we have had millions of dollars in federal funding for infrastructure projects that will benefit the city of Brampton. In addition, Brampton will benefit from a federal investment in the GO Transit Metrolinx regional express rail. From the $1.9-billion investment, over $750 million will be invested in the Kitchener corridor to improve commute times for residents of Brampton, Peel, Toronto and Wellington.
People in the middle class deserve a government that recognizes their potential and encourages their growth. I believe that the budget represents our belief in them as it looks toward our promising future. Canadians have put their faith in our government to present new ideas and deliver results. The 2019 budget reflects the needs of families, employees, students and seniors. It is a solid plan to give them a better future.
A better future starts with investing in young people and their education. Students are often kept from pursuing their education because of financial obstacles. The 2019 budget would lower interest rates for students and give them a six-month period to pursue their future plans before gathering interest on loans. The budget also seeks to support students who are parents or have disabilities. It also promotes programs that encourage the enrolment of indigenous students in post-secondary education.
These are just some of the ways in which we advocate for the success of the next generation. Budget 2018 strengthened our economy and ensured a low unemployment rate.
This is also the time to address the climate emergency. Budget 2019 has a strong plan to create eco-friendly solutions while maintaining an affordable lifestyle for Canadians. The budget intends to make zero-emission cars $5,000 cheaper, as well as encouraging their building. The creation of a home retrofit program will lower electricity and energy bills for Canadians.
We have been fighting climate impact since 2015. We have invested $1.5 million in Brampton under Public Safety Canada's national disaster mitigation program for the riverwalk study. We committed $175,000 for an environmental assessment strategic plan and sustainability framework for it as well. We have also committed $10 million for 10 water projects in Brampton and $22 million in funding for erosion protection initiatives in the Toronto, Peel and York regions.
Thinking of the future generations also includes supporting new families. An issue we see come up again and again is the struggle for young families to invest in long-term housing. The 2019 budget introduced the first-time homebuyer incentive, which would encourage home ownership by making housing cheaper. The incentive would help thousands of first-time homebuyers over the next three years. Budget 2019 also makes plans to build 42,000 new rental housing units, as well as to provide $300 million to begin the housing supply challenge. Through these changes, we are promoting happy homes without unnecessary costs.
Access to affordable housing is essential to promote the security and well-being of all Canadians. When Canadians are provided with a comfortable home life, it is easier for them to do well in the workplace. So far, we have been successful.
However, because our workforce and economy are continuously growing, employees can be left without access to training that improves their professional skills in their present and future jobs. The 2019 budget introduced the Canada training benefit program, which would give working Canadians better and more consistent skills training, financial aid to pay for the training, employment insurance support and job security. This is the next phase in our plan to strengthen the middle class.
While the middle class flourishes, there is still a percentage that has been left behind. Without quality health care, Canadians face some of the highest drug prices, leaving them unable to afford the prescriptions they need. No one should have to choose between buying the medicine they need or putting food on their table.
I am proud to be a member of the health committee, where I helped study the development of a national pharmacare program. We then made 18 recommendations to the government through the report “Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for All Canadians”. I am proud to see the government acting on the report.
Budget 2019 aims to make prescriptions more affordable by announcing plans for the Canadian drug agency, which will work to lower prescription costs. The Canadian drug agency will connect all provinces and territories, giving them access to prescriptions. Through this plan, Canadians will save $3 billion each year.
With less time spent worrying about their health, housing and job security, Canadians will have more time to focus on the things they care about. For many, this involves becoming more involved in their communities.
Infrastructure funding is necessary to get ahead with local and municipal governments, which is why we are investing an additional $2.2 billion into infrastructure funding, especially under the circumstances where certain provincial governments have not been doing their part. Budget 2019 recognizes that advances in public transit, housing and community facilities make all the difference.
Local projects and community services are at the heart of Canadian society. Included in these services are locally based projects that encourage seniors to be active members of the community. Seniors have made significant contributions in these areas and are now more than ever capable and interested in participating.
Budget 2019 aims to maintain the guaranteed income supplement to ensure seniors get the most out of their retirement. It also takes direct action to protect their pensions by automatically registering seniors who are 70 or older but have not applied yet to receive their retirement benefits with the Canada pension plan. This will help tens of thousands of seniors across Canada.
Our budget also supports pay transparency, something our government has pushed for relentlessly. These measures will make it easier for our government to look at wage gaps and begin to solve them. This will help improve the status of women further. We know that when women make only 87¢ on the $1 compared to men, something is wrong.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have pay transparency measures. Canada needs to join these countries in making wages available for public view. When we can inspire employers to act on unfair wage gaps, we will improve the status of women all over Canada. This is not only the responsible thing to do, but it is morally right.
Budget 2019 is not just a list of numbers, names and affected demographics. It is a detailed plan of action, which can lead Canada into a better and brighter future. By investing in the middle class, we invest in all Canadians. This budget represents what our nation's focus should be. Informed, careful and planned budgeting is what will lead to Canada's prosperity.
I urge my fellow members to support the budget.
View Romeo Saganash Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House to discuss and debate the issues of the day. I enjoying listening to the opinions of the members opposite, even though I do not always agree with them.
Every time I rise, I get a sense of déjà vu. Here we are, for the umpteenth time, debating an omnibus bill filled with measures that are in no way related to the government's fiscal policy. As with the other bills, our debate is subject to time allocation that was imposed by the government, of course.
The government likes to brag about its accomplishments and achievements, but it does not like to talk too much about its record-setting use of time allocation. Yes, these former Reformers who swept in from the west promising clean, open government and respect for the taxpayer have instead become what they professed to hate the most.
The scandals of the past month have proved this, complete with senators entitled to their entitlements, $90,000 worth of hush money and the Prime Minister doing his best to avoid answering the real questions.
Limiting debate and trying to run away from transparency is disturbing enough when it is done by trustworthy, competent managers, but it is much worse when it is done by a government that has proved itself to be as ethically lacking as this government has.
Once we wade through this massive document, we can see why the Conservatives would try to keep people from knowing what is in the budget. The bill contains many measures that concern many Canadians and have no place in a budget bill. A government that was confident in its ideas would simply introduce these measures as its own stand-alone pieces of legislation, instead of hiding them away in an omnibus bill.
Given that they have a majority in both chambers, we would think the Conservatives would have the confidence already, but a bill like the budget puts even that into question.
What are the Conservatives hiding in these bills?
Let us start with taxes. This budget contains hundreds of tax hikes on everything and anything, including hospital parking, bicycles, baby strollers, credit unions, safety deposit boxes and labour-sponsored investment funds. These increases will cost Canadians almost $8 billion over the next five years. That is a lot of money for Canadians who are having trouble making ends meet. What is even worse is that the Conservatives are trying to hide these tax hikes in a huge bill.
Like many Quebeckers, I am a member of my local credit union. Credit unions provide important services and are active in our communities. Thus, I am personally affected by the changes that the Conservatives are proposing in this budget, which will increase taxes on these organizations and hinder their ability to compete with major banks.
The Conservatives and the Liberals have done enough to help major banks over the years. Every day in the business section of the newspapers, we read that banks are doing well and do not need the Conservatives to prevent credit unions from competing with them.
What else would Bill C-60 do? The bill would introduce changes that would allow the government to require a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by Treasury Board when entering a collective agreement with a union.
The Treasury Board could impose any requirement on a crown corporation respecting the terms and conditions of employment on its employees. No crown corporation that is subject to such a government order would be allowed to enter into a collective agreement without Treasury Board's approval, and the bill would also give power to the Treasury Board, on orders from the government, to fix the terms and conditions of employment for non-unionized employees.
The bill is a direct attack on the right to free collective bargaining, while also infringing on the independent arm's-length operation of these crown corporations.
Crown corporations have this independence for good reason, and the Conservatives know this, but in this case they have decided to simply ignore those reasons. This is a dangerous precedent that should concern Canadians of all walks of life.
In this bill, we also see that the government is continuing to take steps to create a securities commission without the consent of the provinces. Although the provinces of Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have all said that they do not want the commission, the government plans to continue to fund an office whose sole objective is to try to make this happen.
NDP members urged the government to co-operate and to work more closely with the provinces on all types of issues. However, the Conservatives have systematically ignored their suggestion. Instead, they continue to use the “take it or leave it” approach, which has only led to failure in the past. The government must work with the provinces instead of burying such measures in an omnibus budget bill.
Speaking of lack of consultations, let us talk about how the bill would affect aboriginal peoples. We in the NDP have been calling on the Conservatives to make aboriginal issues a priority in this budget. Unfortunately, the budget fails to address the major challenges facing aboriginal peoples in Canada or help move Canadians toward a new relationship with aboriginal peoples.
We have a couple of stark examples of how the budget fails. The budget would provide, for instance, Indspire with $5 million in funding post-secondary scholarships and bursaries. On the surface, that sounds nice, but when we read the fine print of this initiative we see where the other shoe drops. In the budget it states that this money would be for students who are registered as Indians under the Indian Act and for Inuit students.
Indspire offers all aboriginal students funding, yet the government has deliberately left Metis and non-status students out in the cold. This was one of the few places were Metis and non-status students could get some federal government support for their post-secondary education, but the government would take that away.
To its credit, Indspire has stated that it will continue to offer funding to Metis and non-status students out of the money it raises itself, but the fact remains that the Conservative government would put Metis and non-status students at a further disadvantage than they already face.
In this budget, the Conservatives have also allocated funds to build 250 housing units in Nunavut over the next two years. That is a good thing for the people of Nunavut, and I have nothing against that, but there is a problem with this part of the budget.
According to Statistics Canada, overpopulation plagues my Nunavik constituents more than any other group of Canadians. Right now, they need 1,000 housing units. In 2012, over 90 cases of tuberculosis were reported in the region, and the epidemic has not let up. We know that tuberculosis develops in overcrowded dwellings.
Unfortunately, this budget does nothing to help the people of Nunavik. Worse still, when the president of the Makivik Corporation asked for a meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to discuss the situation, his request was denied. The minister's chief of staff sent him a two-line note saying that the minister was very busy and would not be able to meet with him, as though the problem could wait.
Although the people of Nunavut are getting a little of the help they need, I want to emphasize that the people of Nunavik cannot even get a meeting with the minister, let alone any money to address this very serious crisis. This is unacceptable, and it is yet another example of how the government is shying away from the need to create a new relationship with Canada's aboriginals.
I could go on at length about this budget's shortcomings, but I know that my time is almost up. I will therefore conclude by saying that Canadians need to hear that their government is practising good governance. We are part of the G8, and we are a strong democracy that expects a lot from its elected representatives. When the Conservative government passes bad bills, like this omnibus bill, by using time allocation, it insults this country's democratic principles.
It is clear from the people's reactions to scandals associated with this government that these expectations have not gone away. People will not let their government try to hide all of this. These insults to democracy have prompted my colleagues and me to reject this bill because of its contents and the process used to pass it.
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