Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand on behalf of Nanaimo—Ladysmith and the New Democrats to speak about the hits and misses in the 2017 federal budget.
I will be splitting my time with the member of Parliament for Elmwood—Transcona.
On affordable housing, there is a huge built-up demand, a great need, both on pricing and on volume. There is only $20 million in affordable housing for 2017 and, reading the fine print, 90% of the money for housing will not go out the door until after the next election.
On home energy retrofits, we hear repeatedly that voters, homeowners, renovators, and small businesses want incentives to reduce emissions, enable households to save electricity, and get people to work doing these renovations. This is a good, local, sustainable job-creation exercise. The budget does not include any allowance for the home energy retrofit program.
For 15 years in my seat in local government before I was elected here, I have been advocating for federal leadership on abandoned vessels. There was a big announcement by the federal government in November, but there are zero dollars in this budget to deal with abandoned vessels. This weekend I am meeting with community leaders elected on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. They were hoping I would have some good news specifically about how we will be partnering and funding community work to remove the oil spill risks posed by abandoned vessels. There is zero in the budget for them.
The transit tax rebate is another disappointment in my region. It made the daily use of public transit a little more affordable for bus riders, but it also made public transit a little more affordable in ferry-dependent communities, such as the one that I represent, as well as Gabriola Island, where I live. Lots of commuters go back and forth every day. That was a way to help make ends meet and to accommodate the tremendously high, way-beyond-inflation, fare increases that have been brought in under the British Columbia Liberal Party over the last 14 years. Inflation, in some cases, is almost as high as 10%. That transit tax rebate program has been cut in this budget to save $170 million.
We say instead that if the government were really serious about closing tax loopholes, it would have kept its election promise and closed the CEO stock option loophole, which would have provided $750 million in revenue every year. Instead, inexplicably, yesterday in question period, the representative for the finance minister said that this tax rebate was used disproportionately by wealthy people. It boggles the mind, honestly. The transit tax rebate was cut to save $170 million on the backs of working people. It is extremely disappointing. It is not leadership and not walking the talk on either the middle class or climate change.
There was a huge need expressed for home care that I heard daily when knocking on doors throughout the federal election campaign. The Liberals promised $3 billion over four years. Instead, this budget commits $2.25 billion over four years. It is one year late and 25% short, and that again is on the backs of families.
For coastal communities, I really thought, given the government's election promises, that there would be commitments around salmon enhancement and the implementation of the Cohen commission recommendations, every single one of which the government said it would implement. There is nothing in the budget for salmon, which are at the foundation of indigenous communities on the original settlement pattern on the coast and which, in our modern economy, are so much at the root of tourism and commercial and recreational fisheries.
The opioid crisis has hit the community of Nanaimo particularly hard. There were more deaths per capita than anywhere else in British Columbia in the early part of this crisis, I think, because of drug dealers testing out this bad product and using my community as a test market. It is no fault of the community, but the community and our firefighters and first responders sure are taking the brunt of it.
This budget allocates $110 million to the entire drug and substance strategy over the next five years. The Conservatives had planned to spend $556 million on their anti-drug strategy over the same period, and honestly, it is a sad day when the Conservatives are spending more on drug treatment and the opioid emergency than the Liberals are. It is stunning, really.
As well, the budget fails to allocate a single dime in emergency funding for the opioid crisis, as my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, has pointed out. It is unacceptable. To think that the opioid crisis is over is not supported by the evidence. Let us say it that way. The crisis is getting worse, if anything, and there is nothing allocated. There is $14 million this year for the entire drug strategy across the whole country, whereas last year $16 million was spent by the federal government in B.C. and Alberta alone.
Regarding small business, again it is a big disappointment to see the government continuing to dishonour its election promise to lower the small business tax rate. Small businesses are our job generators and are a huge part of the Nanaimo—Ladysmith economy hub.
There is also nothing to reduce the unfair credit card merchant fees that gouge small businesses and raise costs for consumers.
As for people living with disabilities, the Liberals have once again ignored loud and clear calls to make the disability tax credit refundable to ensure that it provides the support that low-income individuals need.
Then we move to the gender budget. There were big headlines on this issue, and a lot of expectations were raised. In fact, the budget named dozens of barriers women face, but it did not actually implement very many solutions for them. The budget mentions the word “women” 274 times, but there is very little action taken.
With regard to murdered and missing indigenous women, no money is allocated in the 2017 budget for implementation of the inquiry's work. As for violence against women, the offer is $20 million a year over the next five years for federal services. This is only a little more than the government is committing to space exploration. NGOs had asked for $500 million a year, and some of that would go to the operators of domestic violence shelters, who, with no support from the current government, are doing very good work on the part of the country to shelter women and children escaping domestic violence.
For addressing pay equity, there are zero dollars. For child care, there are zero dollars last year and this year for any child care spaces. This is quite different from the New Democrat election promise of $1.2 billion in new investments that would have happened this year, which during the election campaign the Liberals said was too little and too slow. It is a head-shaker.
I like the idea of extending parental leave. That is good for families and it is good for women. However, the government did not commit any new dollars, so again only the wealthiest families, those who can afford to live on one-third of their salary, are able to take the full benefit.
Regarding unpaid care work, there is also a good general direction, but many female caregivers will not qualify, because they do not have a high enough income to qualify for this tax break. As well, the Liberals are delivering less than they promised in their platform.
We are also disappointed that the Liberals failed to use the budget opportunity to close the problem that we identified around the Canada pension plan expansion. Doing so would have helped women and people living with disabilities so that they would not be penalized.
Indigenous children, again, are left behind. There is just $155 million, to come into compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Again, it is such a betrayal of the government's promises that it does not specifically allocate money in this budget.
In closing, many Canadians are struggling with part-time and precarious employment, rising costs, and record debt, and they were hoping that this budget would lift them all up. Instead it looks like a tremendous amount of government spending without any effect on people on the ground, in their lives, this year, right now.
I urge the government to reconsider, to make its budget more generous and bring it more in line with its election promises.