House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 19 minutes.

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

The Budget
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise again to speak to the budget.

When I left off I was talking about the renewable fuels and what a benefit that will be to our agricultural community, helping our industry diversify. For instance, a company like Eastern Greenway Oils in my riding in the community of Waterville started the production of biodiesel on a small scale and are actually working to help develop that and also do test markets in New Brunswick and beyond.

These renewable fuels initiatives as well as our environmental initiatives will help the forestry industry as well. As stated by Avrim Lazar, the president of Forest Products Association of Canada, the industry has switched to fossil fuels like biomass, a clean and green carbon neutral energy source derived from the industry, which has actually got it to the point where 60% of its production and sector's energy needs is coming from these types of fuels.

I firmly believe that these budget commitments that we have made, both last year and this year, will help to expand that impressive number in years to come.

While we have contributed significantly to the agriculture and forest industries, we are also investing in the backbone of industry and communities in Tobique—Mactaquac, which is namely infrastructure and trucking.

A significant point in fixing the fiscal balance is the recognition that we do have a large infrastructure deficit in Canada. The new long term infrastructure plan outlined in budget 2007 delivers an astounding $33 billion over seven years. Whether it be our large municipalities, small towns, villages or many of the local service districts that dot our province, this funding will serve to maintain and enhance the backbone of our livelihood in Tobique—Mactaquac.

New Brunswick itself will receive $64 million for infrastructure. These dollars will be spent on things to enhance our safety and standard of living, things like roads and the much awaited development of route 8, which runs from just inside the federal riding of Fredericton clear through the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, some 36 kilometres in length.

Infrastructure also means water and waste water, like the project we just announced in the town of Nackawic, in partnership with the province of New Brunswick and the town of Nackawic, and the development of key recreational facilities in other municipalities, such as Grand Falls and Hartland. This commitment is good news for these communities.

With respect to trucking, the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac has one of the highest per capita concentrations of trucking in Canada. Some refer to trucking as the backbone of industry in New Brunswick. My riding exemplifies the movement of this with the movement of agricultural and forestry products, many of which are exported, such as potatoes and lumber, to the U.S. These goods would just not get to market without the trucking industry and its drivers.

For example, when I talked to people at various trucking companies in my riding as part of the pre-budget consultations, three major concerns emerged: the regulatory regimes that companies and truckers have to deal with, the need for them and their equipment to comply with environmental regulations, and the minimal allowances provided to truckers. I am proud to see that our government is beginning to address these concerns.

In addition to our action on regulation and our ecofreight initiatives, we are also helping our truckers.

Meal allowances have been a serious concern for truckers for a long time. This budget will increase allowable deductions for meals from 50% to 80% for this group that plays an important role in our economy.

This respects the fact that these people must be away from their homes for long periods of time and must ensure that the allowance for their travel had better reflect the costs and the need for these folks to be more healthy.

The requirements of a long haul driver have changed over the years. With the increased technical complexity of the equipment and complicated regulation, this job is not just driving a truck. In fact, many of these fine individuals are a company's first line of customer service when delivering products to their customers. It is time we started showing them the respect they deserve.

In fact, Peter Nelson, the executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, said, “This is a positive step forward in recognizing the valuable contribution of our long-haul drivers”. Again, this is good news for a sector of our economy”.

Finally, ordinary New Brunswickers stand to gain in excess of $60 million per year from the tax initiatives proposed in this budget.

I will reiterate that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Cambridge.

There will be $60 million in tax benefits going to New Brunswick. Small business, the lifeblood of our economy, also benefits. In the March 24 edition of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Andreea Bourgeois, the director of provincial affairs for New Brunswick, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, commented on the help the federal budget had provided to small business. She stated:

Looking at the big picture, we got a big victory for our members. The one that I can tell you that members are most happy with is the increase in the capital gains exemption from $500,000 to $750,000.

She also went on to praise the efforts to reduce the tax burden and paper burden by 20% by 2008. It was not just the statement that we would reduce the paper burden, but the commitment to a timeline to get it done.

We are going to do our best to help put the financial life back into small business.

In conclusion, I would like to say that this is a good budget. It is balanced because it takes care of the environment, fills the infrastructure funding gap, addresses the fiscal imbalance, provides tax relief and takes care of our health system.

The common theme in this budget is taking action. A common theme from this government, since it was elected last year, is taking action. I am proud to support the budget and the principles it represents for our country, my province and my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the member's enthusiasm, but taking action sometimes does the wrong thing. Take, for example, the promise of the government that it would never tax income trusts. In fact, on October 31, 2006, the government broke its promise and announced the taxation of income trusts, which led to the loss of the value of the nest eggs of ordinary Canadians, many of whom are seniors, of about $25 billion.

What is worse is the finance minister was called before the finance committee to account. Does the government remember the term “accountability”? The minister refused to lay out the calculation of the so-called tax leakage. In fact, expert witnesses had shown clearly that the methodology was flawed, that the tax leakage was nominal and that the approach used by the government was absolutely draconian and unaccountable. It was telling Canadians that it did not care, that it had to do this for another reason. It has not said what that reason is.

Could I hear the member's words on accountability and on the fraud perpetrated on the Canadian people. According to the Prime Minister, the greatest fraud is to break a promise.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, the biggest fraud I remember is the $40 million that we are still missing from the Liberal Party of Canada.

This is all about tax fairness. We implemented tax fairness and income splitting. I watched the Minister of Finance at the finance committee meeting go into great detail during his PowerPoint presentation. It seems to me that the opposition party does not want to listen. This is for tax fairness. If there were no tax leakage, why are all the ministers of finance and provinces supporting our efforts?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Before I recognize the hon. member for Mississauga South, I would like to note that while he was asking his question, everyone was attentive. Maybe we could have some attention when we get the response also.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us talk more about accountability. In the press today a member of the Conservative Party is challenging his government with regard to the interpretation of accountability provisions under the accountability act.

Accountability is something that the government seems to have abandoned. The committee is of the view that the deputy ministers are accountable for the operations of their departments. They know what the roles of the ministers are and those ministers come and go. However, the deputy ministers and the senior bureaucrats have to be there to administer. They have the control.

Why is the member's party member challenging his government in terms of the definition of accountability?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to accountability, starting January 23, 2006, we started to see accountability. We started to see accountability with this whole budget process. We started to see a budget process where the finance minister went out and consulted across the country. He acted on that.

Regarding the truckers meal allowance, the finance minister said that he could not believe or imagine that the truckers had gone on for 20 years when Liberals raised the allowance and then taxed it all back. That is not accountability. Accountability is when a finance minister reaches out and does the right thing for Canadians just like budget 2007.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to stand on behalf of my riding of Cambridge, North Dumfries. I want the House to know that this budget was written by people like those in Cambridge and North Dumfries, by mayors, councillors, owners of small and large businesses, patients and their doctors, moms and dads, students, singles and seniors.

The finance committee heard from over 500 witnesses. The minister set up an interactive website where he asked Canadians to participate by logging on at home or at the local library and give their concerns and their comments and, more important, their ideas for solutions. There were round tables and lots of meetings.

In the many meetings I attended, I spoke of the concerns that I had heard from my own mayors, problems like ongoing infrastructure and the tremendous traffic congestion, not only in the city of Cambridge, but on the 401. The mayors complained about the need for more money from the provinces, which of course meant the need for better support from the federal government. We spoke of the park and ride program, the long awaited mystery GO train and a simple theatre for our booming and growing community.

I listened to our councillors, who work very hard from all political stripes at the city and regional tables. They spoke of child care. They also spoke of transportation not only to and from the Greater Toronto area, but also around the growing Waterloo region. Mostly they spoke about predictability of funding and sustainability.

I also spoke to many constituents on the phone, at the malls and through emails. They told me of their desperate need for more tax cuts and of the problems with crime and drugs in our neighbourhoods. They spoke of health care, in particular the terrible revocation of a promise by the province of Ontario for funding of our hospital.

This budget matters because it is the product of the greatest consultative process that I can remember. All should support the budget because it has great progress to all those concerned. Of course the new Liberal leader will not allow his caucus to do what is best for Canadians. The Liberals said no long before they even read it. Why did they do that?

Let us look at the history. Last year the Liberals said no to the 2006 budget. They said that it was not broad enough, despite 29 separate tax cuts, $20 billion in tax relief and debt repayment. Remember the GST cut? This year the Liberals say that the budget is too broad. They did not get it done. Now is the their chance to show they can actually get something done.

I urge my colleagues opposite to vote for $16 billion in infrastructure money, a total of $33 billion in two years, like the kind of infrastructure money my mayors spoke about, that the region of Waterloo desperately needs. I urge them to vote for $300 million for a cancer vaccine for young women and girls, MedicAlert bracelets for children, a $2,000 tax credit to help families and a 40% increase in secondary school funding, $800 million for our students?

Let us talk predictability. Our regional municipalities wanted predictable and stable funding. We took the 57% GST rebate available to municipalities and upped it to 100%. That is millions of dollars for my city and my region alone. Also, the Conservatives came out with a gas tax rebate for cities. We did that in the last budget. That alone to the city of the Cambridge means just over $8 million. What is better is that we have extended it. That is millions more. Frankly, if done properly, my city can get that theatre by logging the money it knows is coming into that project.

There is something else. This is a shameful thing and I want to make this point clear. For 11 years firefighters have been coming to the Hill and they do not ask for much. One thing they ask for, not for themselves, is money for hazardous materials training to protect the Canadian people. Big cities can afford that but small cities like Cambridge and North Dumphries cannot afford that. Governments had ignored that request every single year they came to the Hill, until now.

In this budget there is funding for haz mat training to teach our firefighters how to properly protect Canadians against biological, radiological and chemical catastrophes. Why would the Liberals vote against that? Just because they did not get it done does not mean they should vote against it so no one else can get it done. How does that help Canadians?

Another key that members opposite should be ashamed of is the GST on school buses. There was a time when the school boards took the Liberal government to court and won. They felt they should not be paying that much GST on the transportation of their children. Right in the middle of a consent judgment, when some of the cheques had already gone out, the finance minister for the old Liberal government said, “No, I am going to change the law and make it retroactive”. Regrettably, the law has been changed. However, this government respects the court's rulings and in this budget is money for 29 school boards, including those in the ridings of members opposite.

I want to know why the group opposite continues to think that Canadians are happy with words and not actions. The one time Canadians will be happy with words is this time, and that word is yes.

As we roll out our agenda over the next few months, Canadians will see that Canada's new government represents a fundamental shift from the kind of government they knew with the Liberals. It is a clear choice between a government with a record of results and going back to drift, scandal and empty rhetoric. It is a clear choice between a country where individuals are free to make the best of their choices and the most of their opportunities versus a country where the state presumes to know what is best and how to best spend taxpayers' money and raise taxpayers' children. It is a clear choice between a country that takes practical, realistic action on the environment versus a country that sets insincere and unrealistic targets and then sits back and does absolutely nothing to meet those targets. It is a clear choice between a country that values safe streets and safe communities versus a country where the streets are ruled by gangs and guns, and thugs and drugs.

I am so honoured to represent the great riding of Cambridge. My riding will benefit from almost all aspects of this budget: child care, our air, our water, our land, women, farmers, truckers, seniors, students, doctors, patients, businesses, low income earners, married or not, everybody. On their behalf, I will vote absolutely yes to this budget.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the environment. He represents a riding in Ontario.

Given that the Liberal government had an agreement with the province of Ontario, the Canada-Ontario agreement for $6.9 billion in transfers and that was cancelled, how is he going to justify that to his residents? His leader has stated, and it is on paper in a letter, that carbon dioxide is good for us. Does the member agree with that statement and how can he talk about the environment?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, regrettably the member's research is completely inaccurate. I have an extra intern in my office and I would be happy to lend him to the member to do some research.

The fact is that regarding restoring fiscal balance, and perhaps that is what is confusing the member opposite because the Liberals do not agree that there even is a fiscal imbalance, Ontario stands to gain $12.8 billion including $8.1 billion under the Canada health transfer, $3.8 billion under Canada social transfers for post-secondary education and child care. The list goes on and on.

I am not sure what the member is talking about. His record on the environment is pathetic. Frankly we knew he was going to vote against the budget because that is what he was told to do.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just say that the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce said that the government came up short on infrastructure funding and offered no funds to Waterloo region's light rail. As well, it did not reduce the employment insurance surplus. On the whole it is disappointed and notes that the Tories are ramping up spending.

In terms of crime prevention, let me say to the member that in the Waterloo region we have the best crime prevention program in Canada. What he speaks about is totally contrary to what the chief of police in the Waterloo region has to say, what the regional chairman in the Waterloo region has to say, what the school boards in the Waterloo region have to say, and the list goes on.

The region of Waterloo had to spend $5 million extra out of property tax dollars on day care because the government slashed day care. It also had to pick up the cost of the EnerGuide program to do the evaluation because of what has not been done by the government.

What is the member doing to stand up for the people of the Waterloo region, for regional government, for the police on the questions I have raised?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, what a smorgasbord of inaccurate statements. The member opposite should know that the light rail, which is called the rapid transit system, is not even in my riding. The gentleman does not even know the actual name of the thing. As the regional chair mentioned, this is a system that is years away. Clearly, the reason the Liberals brought it up in the Ontario budget this year is that it is an election year for them and that is what the Liberal provincial government does.

I spoke to the regional chair about child care and I am sure the member did not. In fact, we have $10,000 for individual spaces, and in this budget an additional $250 million to address the concerns that the member raised.

The member decided to vote against the budget without even reading it. I might suggest that he read it now because it is definitely worth voting for.

The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the renewable fuels money of $2.2 billion really invests in consumption again. Where we should have seen investment in the budget is in conservation because that really does help Canadians. It lowers their cost of energy.

Why does the member say it is so good for the environment when in reality what we need is a conservation program that helps Canadians as well as the environment?

The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised a good point. However, I would remind him that there are provisions in the budget to protect and conserve our water. For example, there are provisions to decrease the consumption of carbon based fuels by encouraging folks to buy better fuel efficient cars. There is also money in the budget for carbon capture to take this pollution out of the air.

Frankly, with due respect to the member, I think the budget addresses the needs of parents and children and ordinary working people while closing loopholes and tax havens for corporations. The member should be ashamed of himself for not voting for that.