Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to budget 2021.
As I always remind my constituents, I am Beauce's representative in Ottawa, not Ottawa's representative in Beauce. That is why I would like to share with the House my many concerns about this budget and the changes that I would like to see made for my constituents and all Canadians.
The fact that the government took two years to announce its budget is unbelievable. One would think that, since the budget took two full years to develop, it would not have so many glaring problems, but it is important to remember that this government is constantly embroiled in scandal and other types of distractions.
Since coming to Ottawa during the last election, I have seen how complicated it is to work in federal politics. Everything moves at a snail's pace. It is extremely discouraging to have such good intentions but to feel as though this government never makes any progress.
As the associate shadow minister for rural economic development, I examined the budget carefully, and there are many things I would like to talk about today.
I would like to start by talking about the labour shortage that is affecting Quebec businesses. Business people across the country have found very creative ways to keep their businesses afloat during these uncertain times. Unfortunately, in rural areas, even before the pandemic, it has always been extremely difficult to fill all the available positions. The government should expand and enhance the existing temporary and seasonal worker programs to help fill the gap for these businesses.
The government also needs to cut the red tape associated with hiring. In some cases, businesses have to deal with three different departments to bring in the workers they themselves recruited in foreign countries. Current departmental wait times are destroying our businesses. The government cannot keep using the pandemic as an excuse. It is time for these ministers to stop gearing up for their next election campaign and start getting to work on these files.
Secondly, I want to talk about something that I have been passionate about for many years and that is public transportation in rural areas. The problem is that the money is simply not there. When the government promises to provide funding to the provinces, most of that funding ends up in major urban centres. With the population aging, keeping seniors in their rural municipalities could be easier with access to a public transportation system that would give them greater autonomy. In the absence of such transportation services, seniors choose to move closer to hospitals and health care centres for a better sense of security.
We see the same thing with newcomers. They also need transportation. In the context of a labour shortage, many businesses are recruiting foreign workers. It is the employer's responsibility to secure transportation to the workplace for employees with temporary work permits. However, these employees have no means of transportation to get to medical appointments, the pharmacy or the grocery store.
Public transportation in rural areas would help these workers and their families better integrate into their host communities. Without public transportation, students have no choice but to own a vehicle, carpool when possible, or live near post-secondary institutions, which are often located in major cities. For rural areas where about 20% of the Canadian population lives, a per capita contribution is not appropriate. Commuting distance should be a criterion for contribution. This approach would support the provision of transportation services in rural areas.
I would now like to quickly address a fairness issue that is not mentioned at all in this budget. It involves the current state of the Income Tax Act when it comes to the transfer of a family business. Currently, the reality for business owners is that it costs them more in taxes to sell their business to a family member than to sell it to a third party.
The current act unjustifiedly disadvantages operators who wish to pass on their family business to their daughter or son, leaving owners to decide whether to keep their life's work in the family or sell it to the highest bidder.
As everyone knows, Beauce is all about small business, and I would like to share an example from my riding. Eddy Berthiaume of Les Escaliers de Beauce in Saint-Elzéar was forced to make the difficult decision I just explained to the House. As the owner of half the business, Eddy is a hard worker who devoted years and years to building his business. When he was ready to retire, he decided to sell his shares in the family business to his children. Unfortunately, he was unfairly forced to pay thousands of dollars in transfer fees.
The worst part is that his business partner sold his half of the business to a third party and had to pay next to nothing in taxes. Why is that unfair? That is just one of many examples of how the government is leaving this country's small businesses out in the cold. We do not need a government that is willing to grant exemptions to some Canadians while penalizing hard-working families like the Berthiaumes.
I therefore hope all parties in the House will support the Conservative Party when it is time to vote on Bill C-208 tomorrow.
I now want to talk about high-speed Internet access and, in particular, the quality of cellular coverage in rural parts of Canada. This is the biggest problem that continues to put rural and remote communities at a disadvantage.
More and more Canadians are required to work and learn from home, so stable and reliable Internet and cellular connections are crucial. The Liberal government has completely bungled this issue, which has lagged for years, through five different programs and three departments.
Fortunately for Quebeckers, our provincial government presented a real plan with dates and objectives to get all homes connected by the end of 2022. The federal plan was so bad that the province implemented its own plan and simply asked the federal government to share the costs. Other parts of Canada are unfortunately quite far behind. We do not need more talk. We need action on this urgent issue.
Budget 2021 does not contain a single initiative to help improve cellular networks in rural areas. In some parts of my riding, people are finally getting access to a decent Internet connection. However, if they walk five minutes down the road, they lose any reliable connection to the cellular network, which makes no sense.
When can we finally hope to have a plan that works from this government to connect all Canadians in rural areas? We need the government to show leadership. It cannot continue to sit on the sidelines and wait for the big telecoms to take the initiative and solve this problem.
Another file that I am very passionate about is our agriculture and agri-food sector, a very important part of Canada's rural economy. This sector has been neglected by the Liberal government for years. To improve the economic development of Canada's rural areas, it is essential that the government help fund not just farmers on the ground, but the entire food chain.
When I was the associate shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food for the Conservative Party, I tried to get the minister to listen to me, but it seems that her hands are tied by a Prime Minister who does not believe in this sector. I still sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which released a complete report on business risk management programs. Unfortunately, nothing has changed.
It is essential to improve the business risk management programs for agricultural producers. The minister proposed a few changes to the program on condition that the provinces and territories share the cost. Unfortunately, some provinces cannot do that right now because of budget constraints. The minister is probably happy to wash her hands of it and say that she tried. However, agriculture and agri-food need to be considered as a real driver of Canada's economic recovery.
In closing, this budget is nothing more than a campaign tool for the Liberals, who are throwing money around without a real plan. I hope that, before the next election, Canadians will clearly see that the Liberals are just trying to buy votes with this budget.