House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Read the book. Read the book.

I am looking at this and I am saying that maybe all these other people who have critiqued the budget are also like so many of us: unable to see a vision for this country from that government. It is not there.

We do not know how the government is going to improve the lot of Canadians with that additional $4 billion it is going to raise and the additional $10.6 billion it is going to spend. The Conservatives are going to put us in debt. How are they going to make the country better? Is it on infrastructure?

Take a look at infrastructure. Here we have train derailment after derailment and the Minister of Transport cannot convince the Minister of Finance to put in money for rail safety. He cannot convince the Minister of Finance to put money in the budget for air safety.

We had a witness before the transport committee. I see the chairman here with me; he is a good man. The chairman of that committee heard Judge Moshansky say that the bill would diminish air safety everywhere in the country unless the government puts money into an inspectorate. Where is the money? It is not in this budget.

We have a Minister of Finance who cannot give a hoot about air safety and rail safety, and we have a Minister of Transport who does not have the courage or the influence to get his cabinet colleagues to put money in this budget to make this a better and safer place for Canadians everywhere.

So, what are we doing when we are talking about asking the Canadian public and this party to support a budget that shows no vision, is absolutely down the road away from truth and honesty, and is leading the country back to the dismal position that it had before the Liberals came into government?

The Conservatives are going back down a road of deficits and increasing debt. This thing has to be put away.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence maybe, in his style, had to remind the House of a bit of history, going right back to the Mulroney years when a $42 billion deficit was left that we had to clean up. It took some time to clean up the mess that the Conservatives left. Then we took what the financial experts were saying were third world circumstances and we raised our financial game to the top of the G-8, in fact, in 10 consecutive budgets.

The Conservative government now is the beneficiary of the strongest fiscal position of any new government in the history of Canada and those benefits are going to continue to pay off time and time again.

This member was part of those governments in cabinet ensuring that Canada was able to withstand economic pressures. There was a recession in the U.S. We did not go into a recession. We just kept in mind: do not over promise, but overachieve.

I think the member is cautioning Canadians to watch carefully and I think he should maybe amplify that a bit. Suspiciously, this spend, spend attitude of the Conservatives in their first two budgets now seems to track a little of what Brian Mulroney did back when he was the prime minister. I wonder if the member would care to comment on the damage that it did to Canada for so many years.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will try to expand on that, of course. We look for transparency and honesty in the books, and we do not get them. It struck me that when the Liberal government replaced the Conservative government there was a mantra that developed around the country that Conservative economics were about as phony as a $3 bill along with their NDP allies. Because of that alliance we are again heading in this direction.

My hon. colleague from Mississauga South is absolutely right. Over the course of that 13 year period when the Liberals were in government, there was an increase in the number of jobs being created. There was a total of about 250,000 to 300,000 new jobs being created every single year, so much so that there was a labour shortage all across the country.

That came as a result of real hard facts, very good economic management and fiscal management of the books. We would not have seen this kind of nonsense in Liberal books, but it is back again in the Conservative books.

I am going to suggest to all members opposite that they take a real close look at the vision of the country they are putting forward. One thing that emerges is that the Conservative government wants to wash its hands of all nation building instruments and the financial resources that are associated with those nation building instruments that make this country whole, together and tight. It has decided it wants nothing to do with government, and will let the provinces and the marketplace handle itself on its own. If people are looking for government, they should change the present one.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is excellent because the member leads me right to a very simple example of the $2,000 child tax credit. The member will know that if families do not make enough money to pay taxes, a $2,000 tax credit is not worth a penny to them.

He also knows that in the budget pension income splitting is provided for seniors, but if one earner's income is less than $36,800 a year, splitting that amount of pension does not benefit the families at all because they are already paying the lowest marginal tax rate.

Maybe the member would care to comment on the tax elements. The gimmes and the giveaways are not for those most in need.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right on. As an accountant, he understands who is going to profit by some of the tax measures, some of which are just simply rhetorical. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors as my colleague says from Vancouver, and she is absolutely right. It is mostly smoke but there are some mirrors. Some of the things the government has announced, re-announced, repackaged and re-announced again.

The fact of the matter is that people can say they have been given a $2,000 tax credit, but if they are not earning the money that is required to turn that into revenue, it is not real money. It is a boondoggle yet again. It is an opportunity for the minister to say that the government is taking care of everybody, but there is actually no money flowing.

If the government is not going to give seniors an opportunity for income splitting that actually produces a real result, then it is nothing more than empty rhetoric, which is exactly what the government is doing.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is always great to follow a seasoned veteran like the member opposite.

As I sit here as part of Canada's new government, I find it quite interesting to hear how the Liberals opposite always want to talk about the past. This budget is about the future. It is about the future and how it is going to benefit Canadians.

It is about the future and how Canadian families are going to rise up beyond the shackles of the taxation that the Liberal Party foisted on them in years gone by. It is about how we are going to grow a country. It will be a nation of people working and thinking independently, where there is a freedom of thinking for people so that they can do things for themselves and do not need the government to do it for them.

I want to highlight a few points that impact my constituents, the people of Brandon--Souris, in this particular budget, and I think the members opposite will probably see themselves in some of the reflections that I am going to relate to them.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Tax those income trusts.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Regarding agriculture, one of the largest portions of the economy in my community of Brandon--Souris, in 2006 this government committed to putting half a billion dollars into the agriculture program, and we have put $1.5 billion into it. We saw the need. We saw the hardship put on these farmers over the past several years by the empty promises of a Liberal government and we fulfilled our commitment. We have delivered three times what we promised and agriculture has finally started to see the light. The agriculture industry is looking forward to the opportunities.

Did we stop there? No. In this budget in 2007, we are increasing the amount by another $1 billion.

That is going to go to immediate relief from the suffering they have endured over the last three or four years. We are going to add $600 million to a savings account that is going to be shared with the producers to offset some of the hurt they have in the shortfalls, in those times when depressed markets sometimes impact their ability to earn money. We are going to put in an immediate $100 million to offset some of the costs, particularly the costs that have gone up in the past several months.

Not only that, we are shining a light on the agricultural community, and that has not happened for years in this country with the previous government. I have never seen the optimism that I am seeing now in the communities I represent. With the announcements we made yesterday on renewable fuel production, our producers are fired up. They are optimistic. They are talking about the opportunities they have to become independent, to become part of an ownership team that is going to build and produce ethanol, the fuel of the future. Not only that, they are going to provide the food that feeds the world. They are going to see tremendous opportunities.

We listened to the industry and what they asked us to do and this government has delivered it. I am looking forward to many new announcements in the constituency of Brandon--Souris and across Canada, where producers are stepping up to help themselves, to help their families and to help Canadians.

Shilo is one of our largest employers. We are very proud to have these troops in our community. They represent many of the troops who have served in Afghanistan and who will continue to serve around the world. I would suggest that the men and women I represent from that community are no different from those on any of the other bases across Canada. These are proud men and women. For the first time in many years, they are seeing a government that is actually responding to their needs. For far too long we have sent these people into dangerous situations under-equipped and under-prepared. Now they are saying thanks to the Canadian government and saying that it has delivered.

In this budget, we are delivering $60 million per year to bring the environmental allowances to soldiers. That basically means they are going to be equal to their comrades in the air force and the navy. They are going to get the pay they deserve for the dangerous positions that they put themselves in, not only in fighting for the rights and freedoms of Canadians but in fighting for the rights and freedoms of people around the world. I am very proud of them. I am very proud to be a part of a government that announces a budget that supports them, that hears what they have to say and that listens to their needs.

In dealing with our armed forces in this budget, we also are going to create five military operational stress injury units to deal with the impacts of what these young men and women go through when they have to go across the world to serve. We have to provide for them. This is going to deal with the stress injuries related to their service, but it will also provide support to their families.

We are also providing $19 million this year for the veterans ombudsman's office that is going to be established and $20 million per year after that to enforce and make sure that the veterans bill of rights serves the people that it was designed to serve.

I want to talk about infrastructure. The government has announced $16 billion more in this budget, bringing it to a total of $33 billion to help communities across Canada. The Liberals talked about it, but we delivered.

Communities across Canada are going to see their roads, highways, public transit, bridges, sewer and water systems and the green energy that we all want for Canadian communities and families. We are going to deliver it. This budget is getting it done for Canadians.

I know I have limited time, but I do want to talk a little about families. I think it is important to look at what has been done and what more can be done for families across Canada.

Budget 2007 provides $5.7 billion in relief to families and individuals. The budget will implement a $2,000 child tax credit. This will create $1.5 billion in new tax relief to families. The Liberals talked about it, but we delivered.

The budget announced $550 million for the WITB project, the working income tax benefit that the minister talked about. This project takes the people who are trying to push themselves over the welfare line to a working line without punishing them for doing it. This project helps them to make that step up. I support this.

In the last budget there was a decrease from 7% to 6% in the GST and we provided more than a billion dollars in tax relief to Canadian seniors and pensioners.

How does that impact Manitobans? Under restoring the fiscal balance, it will provide Manitoba with $3.1 billion of relief. I can tell the members opposite that even with a provincial NDP government Manitoba is thrilled with the government's announcement. The province is happy to work with us and happy to see what we are doing for the people of Manitoba. I am proud as well, because not only does it affect the people of Manitoba, but it also impacts the people of Brandon—Souris, whom I represent.

In this budget, we are talking about $1.8 billion in new equalization transfers. We are talking about $350 million in the Canadian social transfer, which includes additional funding for post-secondary education and child care.

We are talking about $83 million for infrastructure. Does anyone realize how much that builds in a province like Manitoba? This is tremendous news.

We are talking about $54 million from the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change.

Things are only getting better for the people of Manitoba, the people of Brandon--Souris and, indeed, people all across Canada.

We have committed $10.8 million over the next three fiscal years to the government of Manitoba to implement a human papillomavirus immunization program, which will combat cervical cancer. This is something that the province of Manitoba has asked this government to do and we are delivering.

The government will contribute $170.5 million to complete the expansion of the Red River Floodway. I want to get into that just briefly. Talk about empty promises from the members opposite: the money pledged was never on the books of the Liberal government. The money was never there. This government found it and delivered it to the people of Manitoba. I am proud to be a part of that. When the members opposite talk about all the false promises that they have made to Canadians, they were just that, false promises.

For Manitobans, the $2,000 child tax credit will save them $54.1 million. These are tremendous savings.

We have pledged $16 million in additional corporate income tax relief from the temporary two year writeoff for manufacturing equipment. That is what manufacturers across Canada asked for. We delivered it.

It only gets better for Canadians. It only gets better for Manitobans. It only gets better for the people of Brandon--Souris.

In closing, I know I have limited time but I do want to talk briefly about what was alluded to by some of the members in almost a joking manner. It is with regard to the share of meal expenses that long haul truck drivers can deduct. In 1995, the Liberal government, in an attempt to slash and cut spending, did so with social transfers in health, and not only there: it did so on the backs of truckers. That government reduced truckers' ability to claim a per diem for their meals.

Many of the largest trucking industries reside in the province of Manitoba. This is something that this industry asked us to do. The trucking industry asked us to look at it. The industry said that truckers had paid their share and had done their duty, done their time, and the industry asked the government to look at it. We did and we delivered on it. The people of Manitoba and the trucking industry across Canada will benefit from this.

If some members opposite think this is trivial, if they think it is a small amount, they should talk to the people involved who are going to receive this benefit. They are happy. Their families are happy. It puts more money in their pockets at the end of the day. That is what a budget is all about.

Everybody wants to talk about what budgets do for people. If we allow people to have the money to make their own financial decisions at the end of the day, that is the sign of a good budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris will have 10 minutes left to conclude his remarks.

The House resumed from March 1 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Aerospace Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, March 1, 2007, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #129

Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:04 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

moved that Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, be read the third time and passed.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is with honour and pride that I speak today to Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, introduced by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard who I am very honoured to have worked with in the past on this issue.

To begin, it is important to understand the context of the Kelowna accord. The Meadow Lake Progress, in its July 23, 2006 editorial, stated it best, “There is no underestimating the importance of the agreement”.

The Kelowna accord represents an historic consensus brought about by the commitment of the previous Liberal government to meaningfully engage and collaborate with first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership, along with the provincial and territorial governments, to address the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and by extension, Canada itself.

This effort, initiated by the member for LaSalle—Émard, was unprecedented. It signified a high-water mark in aboriginal state relations. Never before had the political leadership of our country committed to moving together, setting meaningful benchmarks and stable funding relationships.

This historic consensus remains intact. All first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership as well as the premiers remain steadfastly committed to the Kelowna accord. Only the Conservative government lacks the commitment needed to meet its goals.

The support for the Kelowna accord is also unanimous with the provincial political leadership in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Party, the NDP and the Saskatchewan Liberals are all resolutely in support of the Kelowna accord. In fact, the NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party opposition joined together in March 2006 to pass a unanimous motion in the Saskatchewan legislature, urging the federal Conservative government to fully implement the Kelowna accord. Saskatchewan has committed to the accord because it knows the potential of its aboriginal population and the opportunities it presents.

The first nation and Métis population is the fastest growing segment of the Saskatchewan population. By 2045, the aboriginal population is set to be a majority in the province of Saskatchewan. This emerging population is well poised to become the leaders of a prosperous new Saskatchewan, particularly with baby boomers retiring and the economy in Saskatchewan and the west heating up. However, investments and strategies are needed to be put in place for education, housing, health and economic development.

The Kelowna accord made those investments and allowed communities to design strategies to respond to their own unique challenges, something that is absolutely critical in giving and empowering the communities to come up with the solutions because this is from where the best solutions come. This is exactly what the Kelowna accord was designed to do. Moreover and more important, it set the stage for greater collaboration in the future, setting a road map for moving beyond the goals of Kelowna with a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition.

It is a disappointment that the Conservative government does not seem to understand the full opportunity to strengthen the economy in western Canada and engage first nations, Métis and Inuit people to their fullest capabilities.

The July 23 Meadow Lake Progress editorial also captured the risks of abandoning the accord stating:

The accord should have been honoured by [the Prime Minister's Conservative] government after its January election....If the Kelowna Accord is gone for good, it will be this nation’s aboriginals who will suffer the brunt of that decision.

There’s a lot riding on the Kelowna Accord, including the relationships between aboriginals and nonaboriginals—which will deteriorate if the agreement is not honoured...

To allow that relationship to deteriorate now, after it has been slowly evolving and improving over the last 50 years, would be a terrible betrayal of the progress that been made by the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit of our country who at the table with the prime minister and the premiers of our country.

This relationship has moved from first nations, Métis and Inuit being completely ignored by governments in the past to where they stood tall and demanded recognition, to a phase where mutual respect and collaboration became the norm. The Kelowna accord marked the culmination of this relationship building.

The Conservatives' refusal to implement the Kelowna accord and their inability to form any sort of replacement plan is a huge disappointment, particularly because they promised to honour the goals of it.

Unfortunately, the abandonment of the Kelowna accord is only one aspect of a general larger backward trend of Conservatives choosing to become increasingly confrontational, ignoring their fiduciary duty to first nations, Métis and Inuit people. With respect to being confrontational, the Conservatives have adopted a much more adversarial attitude in treaty negotiations and the recognition of aboriginal rights.

The Prime Minister and the Indian affairs minister made repeated attacks on aboriginal rights during treaty negotiations in British Columbia. These attacks began in July with the Prime Minister's letter to the Calgary Herald, in which he used inflammatory language in opposing so-called “race based” fisheries, which are actually “rights based” fisheries, and refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court's affirmation of aboriginal fishing rights.

This is not a race issue; it is a rights issue. I ask the Prime Minister not to focus on the colour of the skin of my people, but to focus on the rights that they have fought so hard their entire lives to advance in our country. Instead, his focus should be on his government's constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to the first nation, Inuit and Métis people of our country.

The Indian affairs minister has also been very insulting and inflammatory in his comments regarding aboriginal Canadians, showing incredible disrespect and refusing to honour his fiduciary duty to work for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians. The Indian affairs minister has been vocally attacking aboriginal funding levels and has been very misleading about the amount of money the federal government spends on aboriginal Canadians.

The finance minister has readily backed up him up, stating that $9.1 billion is the amount spent directly on aboriginal Canadians, but has failed to admit that a large part of that money is being spent on the administration across several departments. In INAC alone, the Treasury Board estimates that $600 million is spent on administrative costs, and INAC admits only 82% of the grants and contributions actually make it out.

The minister is also mixing up the entire amount going to Métis and Inuit as well as first nations and ignores the cuts that have occurred without consultation or notice. For instance, budget 2006 dedicated only $150 million in new money for “aboriginal investments” as $600 million for housing was already dedicated through Bill C-48 and passed by the previous Liberal government. However, spending cuts, totalling at least $220 million directly, were imposed on aboriginal programs, including health and languages funding. This means that first nations, Métis and Inuit actually lost $70 million in funding last year, not even including the terrible loss that the Kelowna accord represents.

Even more disappointing, the Indian affairs minister has made a bad situation worse by neglecting his fiduciary responsibilities. The Calgary Sun reported that a child and family welfare service executive in Calgary confirmed that INAC had been forced to redirect “non-core funding” such as those budgeted for child welfare to deal with the water crisis on reserves. Yet many communities are still under a boil water advisory and the minister has admitted he has failed in achieving his targets.

These meagre amounts in new spending for this year are an even bigger insult. They do not address population growth or inflation rates. They ignore the scope of housing, water, child welfare and health funding concerns evident in the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They do not make up for literacy and youth employment program cuts that had been made.

This budget is from a finance minister who is on record saying too much health money was being spent on aboriginal Canadians, who are not real people, and from an Indian affairs minister who is on record for saying that they already receive an awful lot of money. This is gutter politics. This time of confrontation has served no one and threatens to have terrible effects on the communities of our country.

The opportunities are still there, though. We encourage the government to respect and implement the Kelowna accord as it passes the House tomorrow night, as I am confident it will. However, regardless of the Conservatives' commitment to the Kelowna accord, the agreement still lives on as a goal and achievement. More than the funding, more than the benchmarks, the Kelowna accord represents a historic time when first nations, Métis and Inuit were respected and empowered to take leadership on behalf of their communities.

Doug Cuthand, a respected columnist for The StarPhoenix, wrote:

The great failure of Indian policy in Canada has been that other people have been making all of the decisions and deciding what is best for us. Politicians, Indian agents, pundits, missionaries and other various do-gooders have all done their share of thinking for us.

Over 30 years ago our leaders stood tall and fought for their rights in various court arenas throughout the country. They fight again today, using the best skills they have at their disposal, to move forward and respect what the Kelowna accord represented.