House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House the hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham had the floor. There are four minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, instead of focusing on dollars for prevention, the Conservatives are focusing on more law enforcement and more prisons. This is definitely not what Canadians want. The Conservative approach to crime is clearly one of hang them high and hang them higher.

Residents of my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham are very concerned about environmental issues. After all, my riding contains much of the famous Oak Ridges Moraine. The Oak Ridges Moraine, for those who do not know, is an ecological treasure and a natural habitat, providing a home to numerous species and a system that acts as a powerful filter for the millions of people living within and around its domain.

Nothing in the budget gives Canadians hope that the Conservative government places any importance on Canada's environment or its environmental jewel like the moraine. The budget does nothing to address present environmental concerns. The budget only mentions that $2 billion would be allocated over five years for this made in Canada climate change initiative that is still under construction.

The Conservative budget represents a 93% cut to environmental funding and does nothing to reassure future generations that Canada is a mindful custodian of its environment. The budget represents a 100% cut in funding for climate change ensuring that Canada will be unable to meet its Kyoto commitments.

The Conservative budget is a lot like the Conservative Speech from the Throne. It offers no real vision for the country. The throne speech focused on a few narrow priorities at the expense of other areas that require leadership. The budget focuses on misguided tax cuts, destroying signed child care agreements and lip service to the environment. The budget does not advance Canada in any way and does not offer an overarching plan for Canada's future.

Nonetheless, I am pleased to offer my comments on the budget today and I look forward to debating it further with my colleagues.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely astounded that the member would begin the debate on this beautiful Monday morning by being so shy on facts. The observations that he declared about our budget and throne speech are just the opposite of what is actually contained in those documents.

We had many years of Liberal government where the Liberals had a long list of commitments just to try to persuade Canadians to vote for them. Did they fulfill those commitments? Did they keep those promises? No, they did not.

In contrast, during the campaign, in our throne speech and in the budget, our party focused on the main priorities. It is really so novel. I talked to several people who said that it was unique for a new government to actually, as its first action, implement the things it ran on in the election.

I must challenge the member's statements and invite him to rethink what he said with respect to the evaluation he gave of this government and of the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is assuming too much when he comments that I do not know the facts. If he were to revisit last year's program that the Liberal government delivered, he would see that it was within 14 to 16 months that we delivered the Kyoto agreement, child care and the Kelowna agreement for communities and cities. It only took the Conservations one month to cut all of those programs.

We worked very hard for Canadians to ensure the Kyoto protocol would be enforced within a short time and the new government took only a few days to cut that very program that would have helped Canada and Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I know the member has only been elected for the second time but to suggest that the Liberal government was able to increase emissions under Kyoto by 30% over the target in just 14 months is not true. Everybody knows that Kyoto was signed many years ago and it took the Liberals four or five years to achieve that 30% increase in emissions.

I know it is one of the few areas where we have managed to exceed the United States. The Americans, who did not sign Kyoto, only increased their greenhouse gas emissions about 14%. However, the Liberals, a track record which the member is so proudly defending, increased greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.

It reminds me of the fellow who threw himself for mercy before the court after murdering his parents arguing that he should have mercy because he was an orphan. That is the Liberal approach on the environment. Under the Liberals' watch and after they signed Kyoto we have seen a 30% increase in greenhouse gases and then they stand as the defenders of Kyoto.

Could the member explain that contradiction and how the Liberals were able to create that increase in emissions so quickly?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the contradiction is not on this side of the House. The contradiction is that once the Crown enters into an agreement and another government comes into power within a few weeks or months, the new government can cut the commitments made by the previous government. Canadians can see right through this. They know that this sort of action will not be very good for the future of Canada and Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, now we see that it took a budget document for the Conservatives to finally acknowledge the legacy that they inherited from the Liberal government. If members do not believe me they should listen to the quote from the budget speech on page 15. It states:

--Canadians have reached a level of accomplishment few other countries can rival.... Canadian workers and business people have shown the world what talent and hard work can do.

Unemployment is at a 30 year low. We have low inflation, strong consumer confidence and corporate profits are at record levels.

It says exactly the same thing in French:

Les réalisations des Canadiens font l'envie de nombreux pays.

— les travailleurs et les gens d'affaires du Canada ont montré au monde ce que peuvent apporter le talent et le travail acharné.

— les Canadiens ont plusieurs raisons d'avoir confiance. Le chômage est à son plus bas niveau en 30 ans, notre inflation est faible, les consommateurs sont très confiants et les bénéfices des entreprises battent des records.

Clearly this happy outcome is a result of focused, strategic investment in our economy and in our people by the past Liberal government. On examining the budget, Canadians of course are right to ask, “What does the Conservative plan for the future do to enhance those strategies or improve on the conditions they so heartily applaud in their budget document?”

Not much. The Conservatives' focus on five simplistic priorities is designed to beguile and to deceive, but not for the purpose of national interest. Hence, for them, an increase in the personal tax rate for low and middle income Canadians, from 15% to 15.5%, becomes, are we ready for it, a reduction. So much for accountability.

Let me quote again from page 16 of that same budget document:

--accountability means...the numbers must be presented clearly. It means we have to be frank about where we stand financially.

And the French says:

[Cela] signifie que les chiffres doivent être présentés clairement. [L'imputabilité] signifie que notre situation financière doit être présentée avec franchise.

However, they are not frank in this document.

Yet, awash with cash as a result of Liberal economic management, they choose not to invest but, as my colleague said, to dismantle. They begin with distortion. That is the first step to dishonesty.

So a reduction in investment in post-secondary education from $2.5 billion, under the Liberal plan, to $200 million in this budget plan is touted as something progressive. For those out there who are looking for investment in the future, $200 million is touted as progressive.

How can we build for the future without investing in the creation of a skills and intelligence infrastructure? In an era when 70% of all net new jobs being created will require more than a high school diploma, the Conservatives are oblivious, first, to the need to invest in new, innovative and hence productivity-enhancing technologies, second, to the need to expand on the commercialization of those innovations, and third, to the fact that the early school leaving rate will create a class of permanently underemployed and vulnerably employed Canadians.

If we want to become productive and competitive in the world economy, we must invest in skills development and graduate research and become a nation that can export its talent, innovation and technology, a nation that can attract foreign investment because we have the labour force and the talent to guarantee a good return on that investment.

Instead, the Conservative plan tinkers with tactics and abandons overall strategic investment. Deception, that is the order of the day, whether it is with older workers, immigration, the environment or infrastructure.

With older workers, for example, the government plans to use them to make, and I quote the budget document once again,“Canada more competitive in the global market”. But how? It promises to “undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining”. Can members believe this?

The government will undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining.

It is absolutely laughable, as is the claim that the Conservatives will increase immigration settlement funding by $307 million. In fact, the Liberals had already negotiated with provinces and started to roll out a $1.3 billion amount to invest in the settlement, integration and retention of new Canadians to meet the labour market and demographic needs of the country.

However, with classic bait and switch tactics, with which the Conservatives are familiar, the budget talks about a country “built by people seeking a better life for themselves and their families”. It offers the velvet glove of a reduction in the right of landing fee, to $490, for those who actually get to make it here, but delivers the iron fist of deportation and removal through the Canada Border Services Agency, going so far as to have officers forcibly remove children from classrooms in front of their friends.

It is a classic Conservative approach to demographic challenge and immigration: send them back and keep them out. This ”to heck with you” approach permeates the entire budget document. Gone is the $5 billion investment in environmental strategies and climate change. Hello, $400 million for local programs, still, according to the budget document, “being developed by the Minister...”.

What have the Conservatives been doing for four months? No, I am sorry, what have they been doing for 12 years? They have been aping or copying our strategies. Envious that Liberals could think big, could plan macro, they focus on acting small. They attack us for our infrastructure program, but note that their plans will:

--maintain the...current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives...the existing gas tax funding commitment under the New Deal for Cities and Communities, and the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities.

As well, I might add, they will pass off the highway border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the cities strategic fund, the transit capital trust fund, and the Pacific gateway initiative as new--note that word “new”, although we had already put them in place and funded them--and as theirs. Can hon. members imagine this? After spending two years vilifying Liberals, with all Canadians watching, the Conservatives have now decided to offer Liberals the highest form of flattery. It is called imitation. That is what the budget document, through these programs, tries to do: imitate Liberal initiatives.

Regrettably, now that they have discovered that our government was replete with action, performance and achievement--let us see if we can get this right in German--the Conservatives' approach is now tentative and is identified by, “Let us hurry up and wait”. Except for the increase in personal income tax rates, disguised as a cut, which will come into effect with the passage of the budget, Canadians will have to wait until 2008, no, 2009, no, further, to 2010, to taste tax reductions in small business taxes or corporate taxes.

We might ask why. Surely if we believe in a competitive Canadian business sector, the time to make it so would be to cut taxes when the economy's performance, thanks to Liberal management, is producing unimagined surpluses. Liberals cut $100 billion in taxes when times were tougher, so why the timidity of these tax cut proponents in boom times? The answer is--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Palliser.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are 20 minutes into today's session and, frankly, the level of partisanship is a bit unbelievable. The member, who seeks the leadership of his party, has taken sarcasm to new levels. Perhaps he figures that is the way to push him over the top. I am not sure if members opposite are going to buy into that or not; we will have to wait until December.

The member should realize by now that fearmongering simply does not work, nor do crying or deception. Canadians voted for change on January 23 and change is what they received. They knew what they wanted. They wanted something different. They were sick and tired of 13 years of Liberal corruption and mismanagement, they voted for change, and that is what they received in this budget.

As for the gall of that member and his suggestion about the great state of the country, yes, things are good in Canada right now, with the economy up and the dollar up, absolutely, but we know who deserves the applause for that: we know it is the hard work, the innovation and the competitive spirit of Canadians that deserves the applause. It sure as heck is not the Liberal government of 13 years. That is ridiculous.

The member has to look at the totality of the budget picture. He would realize that yes, taxes are down for all Canadians. That is a fact. He knows that is a fact when we consider the totality and things like the Canada employment credit. Let us go a little further. In terms of lowering the GST, the Liberals did not honour their commitment in 1993.

Here is my question for the member opposite. He talks about accountability. I would like to know from him, the pizza king, if he is not a bit red-faced when he talks about accountability and yet billed $134 for pizza for two. Accountability--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Eglinton--Lawrence.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would have been nice if the member had actually done his research, because on this side of the House, what we did was put in place transparency and accountability measures that allowed people to examine everything that every cabinet minister did. I would be delighted if the member actually were to use an examination of those figures to find out that Canadians can examine what people do with the resources available to them. I am never going to apologize for doing a 100% job in my capacity as political minister for Ontario and in Toronto.

One of the things that the member opposite, who was talking about fearmongering, might want to explain to all Canadians is why the Prime Minister of Canada has no time for the premier of Canada's largest province and most populous province, but he has time to sit with a sleazy Republican strategist who says to dig up dirt, create dirt, deal with people as corruption, because they have actually produced the kinds of conditions that the member says are great for Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his speech. I would have one exception, though. He talked about imitation in this budget, and there is a fair amount of that, and I would characterize it as the missing of a great opportunity based on the economy the Conservative Party inherited. There is one thing the Conservatives did not imitate, or one of many, I should say, and that was in the post-secondary file.

As a former minister of human resources and skills development, my colleague knows well the investments that we made in research and innovation, taking Canada to the top of the G-7 in publicly funded research. In the last couple of years, we moved significantly on student access, which I would suggest is now the big challenge. If our friends in the New Democratic Party had supported the economic update, many low income Canadians would now be getting the benefit of expanded Canada access grants. Economists say that if we want productivity, and that is the challenge, then we should invest in people, not cut the consumption tax.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on how little attention education has received in this budget, particularly post-secondary education, which is so important to our productivity.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The member has 30 seconds for his answer.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Thirty seconds, Mr. Speaker, but I would need about 300 minutes in order to describe the achievements of the Liberal government. We started by creating a culture of lifelong learning. We made investments in the Canada learning bond, with $500 on the birth of a child and $100 every year to establish a fund for education. We talked about a fifty-fifty format, whereby 50% of tuition in a student's first year would be picked up by the federal government, and 50% in the last year, and in between we provided relief for students in debt with access to loans--