House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Victoria for her question.

She said that the previous Liberal government did nothing for the least fortunate in society. I simply want to say to her that after curbing the deficit, which had reached $43 billion in 1993, we made the most significant income tax cuts this country has ever seen; $100 billion over five years.

In this budget, there are no tax cuts; there are tax hikes. When the Conservative government was elected in 2005, the tax rate for the first bracket was 15%. It was then increased to 15.25%. This year this figure is 15.5% on the first $35,000 of income. The non-taxable portion for individuals has increased as well. Taxes have therefore increased, which is the complete opposite of what we, the Liberals, did.

As far as the hon. member's question on Bill C-257 is concerned, I would like to tell her that I personally voted against it, but I that I did vote in favour of the bill in principle. I voted against the bill because it was incomplete and the essential services were not clearly defined. If we get a bill with the essential services and it is a complete bill, I will very likely change my vote. In my opinion, it is important for bills to be complete when they are passed in this House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this budget is interesting. Some have actually claimed that it is a bit like previous budgets in terms of being a little of this, a little of that, and add up to nothing in the end. One just has to look at some of the Gainsburgers that are out there. I am not sure if it is going to turn us into a nation of coupon clippers, but I have some concerns about that because the Conservatives seem to be thinking they should look at the demographics, give a coupon for something and hand it out.

My question is about new Canadians that the member talked about. We in the NDP have fought, and many other Canadians have joined us, for how to unravel the incredible bureaucracy for new Canadians and their foreign credentials.

In the election last year the government made a grand announcement about how it has it all figured out and unravelled. Now there is a referral desk. It has not really dealt with the fact that when individuals are asked to come to this country, they bring their credentials, they are looking for opportunity, and end up having to put the opportunity aside.

I would like the member to comment on what he sees in this budget for new Canadians. There is money there, but there seems to be no one at the desk and, as a result, no opportunities for new Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, as for credentials, if he is talking about professionals such as engineers and doctors, as a doctor myself I agree with him in the sense that we do not do enough. The Liberal government started to do something about it, but in the current budget there is nothing at all about this.

There is a problem concerning this. In my own province of Quebec this is a provincial jurisdiction and it is quite difficult, but if we do not tackle the problem, we are never going to succeed and the government has failed in this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I am pleased today to speak about “Aspire”, budget 2007. It delivers in every region of the country reflecting the increasing dynamics and breadth of Canada's economic growth and continuing prosperity.

The budget is about making our strong economy even stronger and providing the necessary tools, so Canadians from all walks of life can reach their full potential. It represents the future opportunities of our young people, the future care of our seniors, the future health care services that our citizens will need and demand, the security of the nation, and the future growth of the Canadian economy which is necessary if we are going to realize these and other goals.

The budget delivers for all Canadians and it delivers for the people in my constituency of Oxford in Ontario.

I would like to give some of the numbers that are included in the budget. There is $39 billion dedicated over seven years to restore fiscal balance, 90% of Canadian families will benefit from the new $2,000 child tax credit and 180,000 taxpayers are removed from the tax rolls as a result of a new $2,000 child tax credit.

There is a 40% increase in annual post-secondary funding for the provinces and territories by 2008-09, 1.2 million is the number of low income Canadians who will benefit from the working income tax benefit, $6 million in additional funds for the RCMP to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking, $64 million in new funds to implement a national anti-drug strategy, a 50% increase in the number of environmental officers being hired, $16 billion in new federal funding for infrastructure, and $300 million for an immunization program to protect women and girls against cervical cancer.

Managing Canada's $1.5 trillion economy means making choices and striking the right balance. In budget 2007 we have achieved this by balancing the budget, cutting taxes for working families, investing in priorities like health care, the environment, infrastructure, and restoring fiscal balance by giving provinces the resources they need to deliver their front line services that matter to Canadians.

For the province of Ontario, a $2,000 child tax credit will save Ontario parents $597.5 million. An increase in basic spousal amount will provide an estimated $109.6 million in tax relief to a supporting spouse or single taxpayer supporting a child or relative. The working income tax benefit will benefit workers of Ontario with $221 million in tax relief, and Ontario farmers will receive approximately $240 million under new initiatives in budget 2007. Increasing the RRSP and registered pension plan maturation age will save Ontario taxpayers $56 million.

Municipalities in budget 2007 will have an additional investment of more than $16 billion for infrastructure. Together with budget 2006 this provides $33 billion to provinces, territories and municipalities for infrastructure over the next seven years. This also includes $8 billion to extend the gas tax fund at $2 billion per year for another four years directly benefiting municipalities.

I would also like to point out that the budget will also increase to 100% the return of GST funds back to municipalities. That may not seem like a lot of money on small purchases, but on a piece of fire apparatus or a large piece of road building equipment it is a considerable amount of money.

Truckers in budget 2007 have their share of meal expenses raised from 50% to 80% for tax deduction. A very important aspect of budget 2007 is the delivery on issues for seniors. For example, a single senior earning $20,000 will see a 62% reduction in federal taxes. Furthermore, a two earner senior couple earning $40,000 will see a 40% reduction in federal taxes.

Our government is also enacting the tax fairness plan which delivers over $1 billion in additional tax savings for Canadians, including increasing the age credit amount by $1,000 to $5,066 and pension income splitting for seniors. This allows older workers to stay in the labour market by allowing phased retirement.

More specific, budget 2007 increases the age limit from 69 to 71 for converting a registered retirement savings plan to strengthen initiatives for older Canadians to work and save.

The agriculture sector is vital to my riding of Oxford. Budget 2007 provides $1 billion in commitments to farmers for improvements to national farm income programs, including $600 million to kick-start contributory style producer savings accounts and a direct payment of $400 million to producers to help address high production costs. Farmers in Ontario will receive approximately $240 million under these initiatives due to budget 2007.

We are also increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers and owners of small business from $500,000 to $750,000. I know this affects a great number of people in my riding.

This government supports farmers and this is evident with the budget. We are helping farmers grow and prosper.

Canada's strong economic performance is not an accident. It requires sound economic management and a commitment to ongoing reform. It requires businesses and consumers who are confident about Canada's future. It requires prudent policies that lock in our achievements for future generations. This is what budget 2007 does. The budget is about sharing strong economic management not just with more Canadians, but for all Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who has been a member of Parliament since 2004 and represents his constituency very well.

As members of Parliament, we often wait for the next day. The Minister of Finance comes to this place and delivers a budget and we wonder what our constituents will say the next day. Being on the government side, we wonder if they will accept it, or question it or have certain concerns about it.

Calls into my constituency office have been very positive. Constituents recognize the fact that the budget delivers for farmers. The budget delivers for agriculture with the biofuels initiative, the capital gains increase from $500,000 to $750,000, the changing of the CAIS program and much more.

Most people who have called into my constituency office in Camrose have said that this government gets it. The government understands that Canadians are paying too much tax, and we have taken a major step in providing Canadians with a family-friendly budget.

The member talked a bit about what the budget did for families. It provides a new $2,000 child tax credit, providing up to $310 per child of tax relief to over three million Canadian families with young children.

On Saturdays, I have the opportunity to go to rinks or gymnasiums to watch my son or daughter in different sports. I have had the opportunity to speak with many young families who have told me that this type of initiative is something for which they have asked for a long time.

Could the member comment a bit on how this will help constituents in his riding and how it will help young families?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also attend arenas with some grandchildren and I go to a number of coffee shops across my riding and other places where people congregate. The budget has received unanimous support from everyone with whom I have spoken, particularly from young families who have young children.

One young couple that I spoke with have three young children. Both the husband and wife work. The husband mentioned that this was one of the first times a budget meant anything meaningful to them at the end of the day. As a result of the initiatives taken in budget 2006 and budget 2007, they anticipate somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 will go into their pockets to allow them to purchase things they need.

Another young couple I met with on Saturday has one child. They were very thankful for what they saw as an opportunity to assist them with their young child. The wife is currently not employed so the $100 a month child care money is meaningful to them. They are very pleased with it as they are with all the other initiatives in budget 2007.

Seniors are also very thankful for the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by the member opposite, a member for whom I have high regard.

However, it is passing strange, with the surplus in excess of $13 billion, that there were any groups left out of the minister's budget. The harsh reality is certain sectors have been left out of the budget. I am referring specifically to aboriginals about whom nary a word is mentioned in the budget. Could the member comment about the 1.2 million aboriginals in Canada and why they were essentially excluded from the budget?

Second are the students. I am referring specifically to post-secondary education students, not those in graduates schools. What will the budget do for the typical university student in year one, year two or year three? My reading of the budget is there is nothing whatsoever for those students.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today we heard the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs indicate that $10.2 billion was in the budget for aboriginal programs. I do not think that is any small number. I think the member himself would agree that it is not a small number at all, and it is $1 billion more than has ever been provided in any previous budget in the House to the aboriginal community. I dare say that we have provided a fairly significant amount of money.

I think he would also recognize that post-secondary education is a function of the provinces. I am sure he will appreciate the fact that the government is going to transfer a 40% increase in annual post-secondary funding to the provinces and territories by 2008-09. I suggest that is not a small sum neither.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I draw the member's attention to page 354 of the budget. In it is a graph from the Department of Finance. It shows what we used to have in the country, the CAP, the Canada Assistance Program. We know what happened with that. If we look at that graph, it is very interesting. We know it was eviscerated by the previous government.

In that chart it also is important to know what the CAP meant. It meant we had a program that dealt with things like post-secondary education and health care. The previous government redesigned it, gave it a new envelope, a new name with less money it and said “Do whatever you want with it and we'll call it the social transfer”. What has happened is, we are in this game, this gambit, of handing over money without strings attached and saying we have solved the problem.

We had the disaster with the budget vis-à-vis Mr. Charest in Quebec. He talked about needing to rebuild the services in Quebec. He whined for a very long time about the need for money so he could reinvest in Quebec. Then he threw the money out in terms of a tax cut.

What does the member think about the opportunity the government is giving to rebuild social services in our country?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the member would want to get involved in provincial affairs, directing where the provinces will spend the money they get from the federal government. The members opposite were here when their government obviously directed that change. We have looked at the provinces and feel they are mature and independent bodies.

However, I do not know why the member is going to vote against the budget. I do not know why the NDP would vote against $300 million for an immunization program to protect women and girls against cancer of the cervix.

There are so many good things in the budget and it should receive unanimous support. It is perhaps the best budget we have ever seen in the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. My question deals with much of what his portfolio would include.

I chair the foreign affairs committee and I have had opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. In some places in the world the rule of law is prevalent and in other places it is not so prevalent. When tourists and visitors come to this country, one of the things they appreciate is that Canada is a country that is firm and strong in its values, but it is also a country where the rule of law applies. Canada is respected around the world as being a safe, law-abiding type of society.

The government has a very strong commitment to defence, to the military, but also to policing. As an ex-police chief, could the hon. member tell us a bit more of what this budget does? I know dollars have been allocated for a national drug strategy. We are not only talking about cracking down on crime, on gangs, on drugs. The government is making the dollars available. We have seen a diminishing in numbers of police officers. Could the member tell us what this budget does on home security?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the budget addresses a number of items and the member has already illustrated one of them, the national drug strategy. There is also money for protecting children from sexual exploitation. That is no small feat. If we can accomplish that, the budget in itself is probably worthwhile, but there are many other good things in there.

We will be putting together another team to fight white collar crime and this is something that costs all Canadians a good deal of money and resources. There is money to fight illicit drug use. There will be additional moneys in there for the RCMP. Last year's budget also provided additional money for increased policing.

This budget is a good budget, as was last year's. I am rather surprised they will not all support it.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

In this budget, the government appropriated all the right catchwords about working people but did very little to address the prosperity gap that even it does not deny exists. This budget, in fact, tries to buy Canadian votes with little handouts but it does nothing to make life more fair for middle class or working people.

Under the pretext of delineating roles and responsibilities and focusing on core federal responsibilities, the federal government abdicates its responsibility to build social equity and social cohesion in Canada. It is a vision for Canada that sees Canadians as taxpayers only instead of as citizens. It encourages us to care not about our neighbours but only about our tax bill. Social equity is not even a footnote.

The Conservatives say that this is our Canada. Well, it is not my Canada. It is not the vision of Canada held by the majority of my constituents in Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich.

In Victoria, people look for decisions that are based on a triple bottom line, where environmental, social and economic factors are equally considered. They look for government to be a responsible steward of the economy, for sure, but they know that the economy is not an end in itself, that the GDP is not the key statistic that reflects quality of life as this budget suggests. GDP factors in how much money was made from car accidents or oil spills but not the human toll, the waste or the pollution.

Our health, literacy rates, air and water quality, affordable housing, civic involvement and the value of unpaid work are the factors that reflect quality of life and that quality of life is compromised by the prosperity gap. Even the Conservatives have not denied that this exists.

However, the prosperity gap is not reduced with a couple hundred dollars off our taxes and that is why I oppose this budget.

It was summed up well by my hometown newspaper, whose editorial concluded:

There's a striking disconnect between this week's budget and the issues seen as critical in the capital region.

They are issues that the almighty market has not, and will not, fix on its own.

I would like to speak to the issue of homelessness.

Recently, the Victoria branch of the Urban Development Institute gathered 15 representatives from the community who decided, among other things, to call the homeless “our homeless” and to acknowledge their membership in our society and our collective responsibility to them. The sentiment that is entirely lacking in this budget and in the Conservatives' vision for Canada is that we are in this together. Homelessness has been called an epidemic in Victoria.

I could hardly believe it but I searched the 2007 budget plan and the word “homeless” does not appear.

The natural resources minister is from the riding next door. On a talk show last week, he was asked why there was no funding for housing and he responded that it was a question of priorities.

In B.C.'s capital region, we have made homelessness a priority. Regional and municipal governments, community groups and agencies are working together to tackle the problem of homelessness but the federal government remains absent from the table. Meanwhile, almost 1.5 million Canadian households are in desperate need of decent, affordable housing, even though Canada has one of the most vibrant economies in the world. This is inexcusable and reason enough to oppose the Conservative budget.

Another reason is this budget's inadequate anti-drug strategy. At best, there is $300,000 in new resources for the whole capital region, which is nowhere near enough to make a dent in this problem. It is reflective of the Conservatives' tough on crime package that has been thick with punitive legislation and thin on any preventative measures.

Child care is yet another reason to oppose the 2007 budget. It continues the Conservatives' narrow ideological intransigence on child care.

A study released a couple of days ago estimates that the cost of behavioural and mental health problems triggered by problems in early childhood was at least $30 billion. According to the researchers, this could be cut in half with a more comprehensive early child care education system.

Currently, we are dead last among developed nations in spending for early childhood education, giving us “a chaotic mess” of programs. That is what we have in Canada, a chaotic mess of programs. We spend 0.25% of our GDP on early childhood education, less than the U.S. and a fraction of other developed nations.

I also want to speak to post-secondary education. This budget's shortcomings are especially clear in its half-hearted approach to the accessibility to public post-secondary education in Canada.

Obviously, we are pleased with the long-overdue funding increase for basic transportation, but if the government thinks that is enough and that the matter is now closed, then it is irresponsible and short-sighted.

Students in Canada are not asking to be spoiled. They are asking for affordable tuition and modern resources and equipment. They are asking the government to help lighten their debt burden. Their stories are heartbreaking. After five years of studies, they are $52,000 in debt, they have a job or two, they go without food and sometimes even heat, and they cannot even begin to think of starting a family. That is no way to manage a dynamic economy with a strong and flexible workforce. It is completely unfair.

The Canadian Council on Learning stated very clearly that we need a national post-secondary education strategy, a strategy that includes shared standards and goals. The federal government is not providing the leadership we need to ensure that students in all provinces and all communities have fair access to similar quality education. This goal was dropped even though there is a $9 billion surplus, the tenth enormous surplus in a row. Nevertheless, the government is refusing to invest in young people.

Moreover, the climate is changing. Conservatives have heard what Canadians have to say, but they have not listened. The environmental sector agrees that subsidies have to be directed to clean energy rather than dirty energy. They are making plans for seven years from now, but the time to act is right now. For example, we should develop a clean auto industry in Canada instead of giving $2,000 to foreign automobile manufacturers.

The point is best expressed by Genevieve, a 10-year-old citizen from Victoria. She wants the Prime Minister to take climate change seriously, not just to talk about it. In her letter to the Prime Minister, which she copied me on, she says, “Please don't send me another picture of yourself. I'd rather you put my words into action”.

I have to say that this budget has completely ruined the word “aspire” for me. To aspire is precisely the opposite of what this budget does. It does not aim high. It aims decidedly low. It could have aspired to so much: to end homelessness and child poverty in Canada; to ensure equitable access to post-secondary education, training and other learning opportunities, like a solid literacy program; to ensure full participation in a workforce full of quality jobs; and to confront climate change by putting into place extensive programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government may use the words “caring society” but in practice it appears that it believes the only thing Canadians care about are tax cuts.

I oppose this budget because, as my local paper said, the Conservatives' choices are badly out of step with the needs of Victoria.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Victoria on her excellent presentation on the budget. It was a pleasure to listen to her talk about the issues that are important in Victoria and many of those issues are the same ones that are incredibly important in my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam.

For instance, we now have homeless people living on the banks of the Fraser River. It is incredible. People are now living underneath the SkyTrain stations. I never thought I would see times like these in British Columbia.

The issue of child care is also an important issue in our community where parents have actually been getting together and having regional meetings to demand action by the government.

My question has to do with flood control. Numerous reports have been done, going back a number of years, on the potential of big floods along the Fraser River. In fact, when the Fraser River flooded in 1948 it devastated all the communities along its banks. Since that time there has been an incredible build up of communities and homes and people are living and working along the banks of the Fraser who were never there. In those days it was mostly agricultural land.

If we were to have a flood today on the Fraser River anywhere near what happened in 1948, the conservative estimates are $6 billion in flood damage. The previous Liberal government pulled out of any support for debris control along the Fraser River and we have seen no action by the present Conservative government, although it has put money into other regions of the country for waterworks, to do anything for British Columbia and the Fraser River. I would ask my friend for her opinion on that.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government's contribution to major infrastructure is clearly lacking. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has soundly criticized this budget for its lack of support to build strong communities and to offer them the types of sustainable and long term plans to address these serious infrastructure issues to which my colleague refers.