House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 18, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, you may find unanimous consent to suspend the House until 12 o'clock.

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is there unanimous consent?

Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Suspension of sitting
Persons with Disabilities
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

We will suspend until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:43 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

April 16th, 2007 / noon

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning I am pleased to speak about the bill to implement the budget, particularly because this is my first time addressing the House as the Bloc Québécois' new finance critic. The member for Joliette was appointed leader of the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons, succeeding the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, whom I would like to thank for his competence and experience in helping me learn more about the work of parliamentarians over the past few years. The member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean passed on a lot of knowledge and know-how, and I wish him every success in his chosen pursuits. I also have complete confidence in the member for Joliette's ability to fulfill the leadership role the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has entrusted to him. I would also like to thank the leader of the Bloc for entrusting the finance critic portfolio to me.

I am therefore happy to rise today to speak on the budget implementation bill. I would just like to say that this appointment comes at an especially good time, seeing as the budget process is just starting. Consultations for the next budget will begin in the coming weeks and months, even if the budget is not tabled until next year. I plan to make sure I have solid support in my riding and to hold a consultation. Then, I will speak for the Bloc and listen to all the people who want to have their say about the next budget, in order to get the same results the member for Joliette helped us get in this budget.

We need to remember that the bill before us today follows on the passage of the budget. We agree on the principles of this budget and on the government's proposed funding mechanisms. Other bills will be needed to effect legislative change as needed and implement individual measures.

The Bloc Québécois has fought very hard on the issue of the fiscal imbalance for a number of years. It believes that the government has made significant progress on spending and that this will at least give the Government of Quebec additional fiscal flexibility. The fight will continue, and, in light of past experience, we hope that the arguments we have made about the principle of the fiscal imbalance will lead to measures that go beyond strictly financial promises. In the near future, the current government must take real steps to correct the fiscal imbalance permanently. This means tax point transfers and possibly also GST transfers, but the solution must be enshrined in legislation and must not come about simply because the federal government's finances are healthy enough that it can afford to pay Quebec more money without changing how things are done.

The Conservative government itself admitted this was the situation. In advertisements criticizing the leader of the Liberal Party, it said that if the Liberal Party regained power, decisions could be reversed and the money could end up no longer allocated to Quebec. We have it from the government itself that there is a contradiction between the position of the Minister of Finance when he says that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected, and the Conservative government advertisements saying that the Liberals could undo all this.

The Bloc Québécois wants a permanent solution to this problem so that Quebec and the provinces, which need money in order to be able to provide services, will be able to go ahead and provide those services with confidence, knowing that the money will be available over a period of several years and they can do some sort of financial planning. Right in the middle of the last election campaign in Quebec, we saw how a federal budget dictated the money available for Quebec in a last minute kind of way. This situation will have to be resolved at some point, and I am sure a lot of time will be spent on doing so in the coming weeks and months.

The bill before us deals with the implementation of certain provisions of the budget. It covers five main areas. First, this is a bill that implements various personal and corporate tax measures. I will discuss this later on. Second, it amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, to introduce the new equalization formula as well as a per capita distribution mechanism for Canada health and social transfers.

It also includes an annual escalator of 3% for social programs, through to 2014. This is the second focus of the bill.

Third, the bill creates three new trusts and authorizes the Minister of Finance to contribute amounts set out in the bill according to guidelines he deems acceptable. He will be able to contribute these sums from the 2006-07 surplus if he thinks that is appropriate. In other words, legislation is needed to allow the federal government's surpluses to be allocated to foundations that have specific objectives.

We must also ensure that these foundations are accountable for the way in which they manage the money. We have to make sure the Auditor General has all the necessary information. When it comes to the environment, we think it is important for this to be included in the bill.

Furthermore, the bill establishes a legal framework to ensure that all the savings from paying down the debt are translated into tax cuts. This other aspect of the bill will allow that to happen when the bill is passed. This is one of the things the Bloc Québécois took into account.

The fiscal imbalance is the cornerstone of this budget. Quebec has been very supportive of the Bloc's decision. Instead of triggering an election on the eve of the budget, which would have prevented money from being paid to Quebec, there was no election and Quebec will get its money.

The Bloc Québécois did the responsible thing. In the current context of a minority government, this is a significant insurance policy for Quebeckers and the Bloc. It allows us to ensure that the Conservative government's decisions are supported by the Bloc before being accepted. In my view, this model has been somewhat effective. It may even partially explain the election results in Quebec. During this provincial election, Quebeckers felt that a minority government could also lead to something positive for Quebec. I am not saying I was pleased with the results, but this is nonetheless a consequence.

These are the measures under five broad headings. There are personal and corporate tax measures.The budget implementation bill includes 500 categories of tax measures announced on March 19.

First of all, there is the tax fairness plan, along with some tax relief and continued GST refunds for conferences and tours. I would remind the House that the Minister of Finance had announced an ad hoc plan to eliminate the GST-HST visitor rebate. This sudden decision was criticized by the entire tourism industry in Quebec and in Canada. The Bloc Québécois spoke out on behalf of those individuals. As industry critic, and together with the finance critic of the day, I personally wrote to the minister. Now, the new budget remedies the situation.

I also recall the opposition expressed by the Quebec Outfitter Federation, for example. As a direct result of the Conservative government's misguided policy, that organization was losing an important tool for attracting tourists. With this bill, that measure is at least partially corrected and the Bloc Québécois is pleased with the results.

This issue must be closely monitored to ensure that tourists who do not come as part of an organized tour are not penalized. At least one important benefit results from the action taken. At the outset, the government was entirely opposed to the idea of any corrections to the bill. In the end, there have been some corrections.

The Bloc Québécois is very pleased to have so constructively and effectively represented an industry that very much relies on government measures to help it—and not the reverse—and to have achieved the results we did.

In the area of tax measures, there have also been some changes to the rules regarding RRSPs and RESPs. An RRSP allows individuals to save for their retirement. More detailed changes will be outlined later. An RESP allows parents to set aside some money, to which is added a contribution from the government, for their children's future. It was also important to make improvements to this area.

Finally, there is a surtax on inefficient vehicles, even though the government told us that that the environment was not a major problem in Quebec and Canada. In recent years, Quebeckers and Canadians, as well as all manner of experts, have been pointing out that there is a real, far-reaching and significant environmental problem that everyone on this planet should be worried about. By hammering the message home, we are beginning to see the introduction of measures such as the surtax on inefficient vehicles.

This is merely one aspect that the federal government should be addressing to achieve a quality environment. In my opinion, it should start by recognizing the Kyoto accord. We are not there yet but at least some measures have been put forward as a result of pressure by the opposition parties and the environmental movement. Furthermore, I would say that the general public is more aware of the gravity of the environmental situation than the government, which is now coming up to speed. Let us hope that, at the end of the day, we will achieve tangible and global results.

There are four tax fairness measures in the part of the bill dealing with taxation. There is a $1,000 increase in the age credit, which will further reduce taxes for older individuals. This is a worthwhile measure. Matters pertaining to seniors must be studied in more detail. It is often said that their pension is indexed to the cost of living. I believe that their basket of goods and services—the market basket for seniors—is not necessarily appropriate. Seniors often need certain types of equipment, for example a handrail to help them get in and out of the bathtub.

Furthermore, with respect to prescription drug costs and other additional expenses, the cost of some items is rising much faster than the general rate of inflation. There should be a special basket of goods for seniors that takes into account the rate of inflation for their cost of living. That said, today's measure—increasing the age credit by $1,000—is a step in the right direction, albeit a rather weak one. It is like using just one crutch, not the pair. We have to resolve the underlying issues to ensure that seniors are completely and truly protected with respect to the cost of living, especially women living alone who have to absorb extra costs, particularly when their spouse dies and they transition from life as a couple, in a house or apartment, to single life. The government still has to improve the Canada pension plan.

Next, there is the implementation of spousal income splitting, which came into effect January 1, 2007. I would note that taxpayers will not feel the impact of these measures until they complete their 2007 tax returns. Unfortunately, this will not show up in this year's tax return, but eventually, this measure will ensure better income distribution.

Beginning January 1, 2011, the tax fairness plan will reduce corporate income tax by 0.5%. The Bloc Québécois made recommendations in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to offer incentives such as accelerated capital cost allowance. We are very pleased that the government decided to act on that recommendation. However, the government must ensure that it is in companies' best interest to go ahead and use these tax measures. We think this is a better way to go than reducing corporate income taxes across the board. In my opinion, the government has done the bare minimum to satisfy industry lobbyists who made representations. I think that there is more to be gained from encouraging businesses to invest in their own productivity than from simply lowering taxes.

Lastly, the government is implementing the new income trust tax regime. Everyone knows that the Minister of Finance did not follow the script on that one. In-depth studies and a better solution to the problem are needed so that small investors do not get hurt. Perhaps this work should go on during the new round of consultations for the next budget.

Second, there are two tax measures providing tax savings for families. A child tax credit for $2,000 was introduced, which will enable families to save up to $310 per child per year. In addition the government is increasing various basic personal amounts, providing up to $209 in annual savings for a supporting spouse or a single person supporting a child or relative.

Following pressure from the Bloc, the government decided to rethink its decision to abolish GST refunds for conferences and organized tours. I spoke about this earlier. I think that all tourism sectors are very happy with this decision.

The fourth area, which we already talked about, deals with the retirement and education savings plans. Then, there are measures for the fiscal arrangements with the provinces.

The equalization payment formula has been changed. More money will now be available. However, this does not address Quebec's historic demands. For example, the equalization formula does not take into account all of the revenues from natural resources—which is a step backwards—and it contains loopholes that favour provinces producing fossil fuels, by allowing them to remove natural resources revenues from the distribution formula. The 2007 budget does not set a termination date for the underwater oil agreements in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.

More work is needed on these issues. Quebeckers can count on the Bloc Québécois to ensure that budgets are as reasonable as possible and meet Quebeckers' needs. I believe that that is one of the reasons why Quebeckers formed a political party like the Bloc Québécois, which has accounted for most of the members from Quebec in the past five elections. The federal system in Canada may not be perfect, but with the Bloc Québécois, Quebec can at least make its voice heard and get results in the end.

I would like to continue talking about trusts and new funds and draw members' attention to the ecotrusts. Thanks to this bill, the government can use up to $1.519 billion of the 2006-07 surplus to create ecotrusts. The money will be divided among Quebec and the provinces according to their demographic weight and will help improve environmental management.

The government is providing $614 million to fund post-secondary education in some provinces. The distribution method will be set out in the trust indenture. We will see how things work.

Speaking of trusts, the government will also invest in human papillomavirus immunization by creating a $300 million trust to provide Quebec and provinces with money to support HPV immunization.

The bill also covers a wait times guarantee, payments that will be made directly to the provinces for child care spaces, payments to the territories and payments to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Canada Health Infoway.

As the former industry critic, I take a special interest in one provision of the bill, and that is the money for CANARIE Inc., which is spearheading work on the next-generation Internet in Canada. We have to continue making this sort of investments if Quebec and Canada are to increase their productivity in this sector. I believe it is important that we move forward.

The measures in this bill will allow us to move forward, especially on the fiscal imbalance and other issues, which is why the Bloc Québécois supported this budget.

Nevertheless, we find these improvements insufficient, because we still need to see a definitive solution to the fiscal imbalance issue, one that involves the transfer of tax points. This bill—the budget—does not provide such a solution.

In closing, the Conservative government has an obligation to govern and an obligation to follow through on its commitment to correct the fiscal imbalance. It has demonstrated this through financial commitments. However, it must now take concrete action that will translate into a true resolution of the fiscal imbalance issue, through the transfer of tax points.

A lot of work remains to be done. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to have supported the budget because we believe that this is what Quebeckers wanted and that it is in their best interest. However, this in no way means that we are giving up on obtaining real equity, particularly in terms of the fiscal imbalance. I can assure this House that, in the new phase that is beginning and with next year's budget in mind, the Bloc Québécois will remain equally committed to achieving better wealth distribution and creation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and take part in the debate on the budget implementation act. It is obviously one of the most important legislation that comes before the House every year.

When I thought what I might talk about today there were a number of things. I have to bypass the easy way, which is to only talk about the Atlantic accord that is resonating throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. I might touch on the subject of the Atlantic accord, but I want to talk more generally about the budget and how I think it has divided Canadians. It is a very cynical budget.

There is a lot about which we can talk. With the amount of money spent on this budget, the richest budget ever, Canadians would be right to have assumed that everybody should have had Christmas Day on budget day. In fact, it was far from festive for most Canadians. The budget could have done a great many things if it had been focused on helping those who needed help the most, or maybe if it had focused on innovation, the productivity gap, aboriginal Canadians, the environment and other things.

I suspect the response to the budget across the country has not been what the government wants or what the Minister of Finance wants. We can go to the minister's website and see the online poll he has done. He asks Canadians if they have benefited from the budget and 93% of the respondents have said no. That is a pretty significant number.

It is not only the minister's website. A number of other people have done some very open-minded and objective evaluations of the budget. One of the institutes that I go to quite frequently is the Caledon Institute. It does great research and work on a number of issues. I notice that its evaluation of the budget was, as usual, very thorough and effective.

I will read a few quotes by the Caledon Institute. It calls it “Mixed Brew for the 'Coffee Shop' Budget”. It says, among other things:

The ‘new’ child tax credit—in reality an obsolete program resurrected from the 1980s—tops this list. The funds for this inequitable scheme could have been far better spent on increasing the existing progressive Canada Child Tax Benefit or creating additional child care spaces. These...investments would have been much more helpful to ordinary Canadian families than a child tax credit that gives $310 to millionaires who do not need it and nothing to the poorest who do.

That is quite indicting.

Another quote says:

Ottawa has chosen instead to introduce a bundle of tax carrots that will serve a variety of particular groups but will provide little or no benefit to the broader population of low- and modest-income Canadians. The Budget could well have been named “Opportunities Lost.” With a $19 billion price tag, never has so much been spent with so little result.

It seems to me that the leader of our party has said very similar things to that. I agree with him and I agree with the Caledon Institute.

The institute also refers to specifically “The “New” Child Tax Credit: a policy zombie resurrected”. It says:

All non-poor families will receive $310, including the very rich; some low-income families with a low tax liability will receive a smaller amount, while the poorest will get nothing at all because they do not owe income tax.

The poorest families will get nothing. This measure will make income inequality among families worse, not better.

It refers to last year's universal child care benefit and says:

—this Budget’s non-refundable child tax credit are inequitable, wasteful programs that deliver benefits to upper-income families for whom the payments are a meaningless drop in their income bucket, while depriving low- and middle-income families...

The institute goes on in a lot of different ways. For example, it talks about aboriginal Canadians who are noticeably absent from the budget. It says:

The Kelowna Accord was a solemn agreement signed by the provinces, territories, First Nations and Aboriginal organizations, and the previous Canadian government.

It talks about the new federal government rejecting the Kelowna accord and says:

Now it becomes apparent that Canada’s New Government has no plan at all, unless doing as little as possible can be characterized as a plan.

That is a reasoned, thought out, analytical view of what the budget has done. It is not only the Caledon Institute that says this. I suspect if Kelowna is a socialist plot, then the government would think that the Caledon Institute is probably a socialist organization to the government side.

It is a long time since I have heard Andrew Coyne called a socialist. The National Post suggests:

—with this budget. [the Minister of Finance] becomes officially the biggest spending Finance Minister in the history of Canada. That's after inflation and population growth is taken into account. They've now increased under this Conservative government...spending by $25 billion in two years. Is this what Conservative voters wanted? No sense of priorities, not a nickel in real, honest to God tax cuts of any kind. There's a lot of spending programs disguised as tax credits for children...which may be fine programs, but they're programs, not tax cuts.

Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Chamber of Commerce, another well known socialist, suggests:

I don't think there's anything new there. [He] actually told us at the time of his income trust announcement in October that he would adjust the tax cuts corporate tax cuts in the future...instead, we saw small little targeted breaks for everybody from lacrosse fans to truckdrivers.

In general, this is an unfocused budget. Most Canadians know that if we really wanted to increase productivity and benefit Canadians, particularly those who might be able to use a bit of a break, we would lower personal income taxes, perhaps to the level the Liberals did in the economic update of November 2005.

What else got mentioned in the budget but got very little action? How about the environment? John Bennett, senior policy analyst for the Sierra Club of Canada, says:

This government has abandoned its obligations to the Kyoto protocol and abandoned its moral responsibility to keep our international commitments...This government has no intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has every intention of trying to sound like it does, but has no intention to actually do it.

That is consistent throughout the budget. The government sounds like it can do something without actually having to do it.

On social programs, Monica Lysack of the Child Care Advocacy Association says:

For a government that identified childcare as one of their priorities, this is an admission of failure.

There was an editorial in the Toronto Star. There are a number of things I could say, but let me quote this. It says:

What is left, then, is not a crafty pre-election budget, but a financial document that is unfocused, that is devoid of a national strategy to tackle any of the major social issues facing this country, and that does little to help the poorest of the poor.

Aboriginal Canadians are perhaps the most targeted group in the budget by their exclusion. Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says:

We're extremely disappointed, frustrated because it's obvious that those that did well today are those that are considered important to this government. Those that are viewed as unimportant did badly, and we did badly.

An awful lot of issues in the budget have not been addressed.

There are a couple more issues in the development area, both regional development and international development. For the second budget in a row under the Conservative government there is no mention of regional development programs like ACOA.

Previous governments had a big plan for ACOA, which in the last number of years has done some amazing work in Atlantic Canada and has invested in research and innovation. The Atlantic innovation fund has driven university research and has helped Atlantic Canada's strong but generally smaller universities to compete and provide innovative solutions and also commercialization of products. There is no mention in the budget.

The minister suggests there have been no cuts to ACOA, and we hear that all the time, but consistently the estimates indicate not only cuts to regional development across the board but to ACOA. The money is shifted from here to there, but there is never any evidence of what is actually happening with the spending. Regional development is a big issue.

On international development, I will tell the House a story about a trip I took to Kenya with three other members of the House, three friends, the Conservative member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, the member for Halifax and the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, who sponsored the great private member's Bill C-293, the overseas development assistance act, to make poverty the focus of international development.

There is so much that Canada can do in the world. It does not all have to be centred on Afghanistan. In fact, we see everyday in countries like Kenya the needs of the developing world and so many ways that Canada can help. Canada has helped and I hope it will continue to help.

When the four of us went to Kenya, we saw some amazing things and amazing people. We met Beatrice, who lost all seven of her children and their partners in less than two years to HIV related issues. She was a grandmother. She was a street beggar. She had 12 grandchildren. What was she going to do? She thought she would have to poison her grandchildren because she could not take care of them. Instead, she got up one day and decided she would do something about it. She borrowed $15 U.S. from a micro credit in the slums of Nairobi, and today she runs three businesses in the slums.

This is the kind of resilience that exists in third world. These are the kinds of people who can make a huge difference.

Susan is a woman who we met in Eldoret in western Kenya. I remember my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood was particularly touched by her. She worked in a microcredit in a big, open, empty warehouse with some sewing machines and people making bags. We went over to talk to Susan. She looked up at us happy and smiling and said, “Thank you, God” for the blessings he had given her. She is HIV positive and was given up for dead. Now she is living and working because of a microcredit. She makes lovely cloth bags with beads on them. We asked her how many she could make in a day. She said that she could make five bags in a day. How much does she get paid for each bag? Eight Kenyan shillings. She makes forty Kenyan shillings a day, which is the equivalent of 65¢ or 70¢ Canadian in a day.

We all know about the terrible rates of poverty, disease and the lack of sanitation in which people exist throughout the world. Working full time, she makes less than $1 Canadian a day and she considers herself fortunate.

What the people of Kenya can do with little should be such a spur to countries like Canada to invest in making their lives better. We can do so much. We should hit our millennium target of 0.7% of GNI to international aid. I felt that on the government side. We can do this.

In countries like Kenya and other African countries in sub-Saharan Africa there is a resilience, a strength, an entrepreneurial savvy among the people who simply have nothing, but make do. Not only do they make do, but they thank God for what he or she has given them. It is an inspiration.

Canada can do a lot more. I would like to see more mention of international development. I would like to see Canada commit to reaching 0.7%. At the very least I would like to see us ensure that we maintain the work we have done in places like Kenya where CIDA has been active. Its funding may be threatened over the next few years for the work it does on tuberculosis.

Kenya is a country about the size of Canada. Three hundred Kenyans a day die of tuberculosis. How many people in Canada even think tuberculosis is still a disease about which to worry? Five hundred people a day die of HIV. Millions of young African children die of malaria. We can do so much more. The area of international development is lacking in the budget as well.

I want to turn for a second to the issue of the Atlantic accord. This is an issue that has absolutely dominated discussion in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland and Labrador. We hear about it from Premier Danny Williams and a bit about it from Rodney MacDonald. This is the dominant issue in Atlantic Canada. We can listen to what the premiers have said about it.

We have all heard what Danny Williams has had to say. He has stood up and he has fought for his province. He wants to keep what he fought for. He says:

A promise was made. We expected that promise to be kept by the Prime Minister and, indeed, his government....Even though he is claiming that they are excluding 100% of non-renewable natural resource revenues [they are not]....There is a sense of betrayal, a sense of disappointment.

That just about says it all.

Rodney MacDonald, the Premier of Nova Scotia is not the most fiery of speakers. He is concerned about the accord, though. On March 19, he said:

It's almost as if they want to continue giving handouts to Nova Scotians rather than us keeping our offshore accord and that to me is fundamentally unfair.

A lot of people in Canada do not fully understand this. When we debated it in the House of Commons, people on the other side stood up and asked foolish questions. It does not matter to them. They get briefing notes from some hack in the Department of Finance or a backroom Conservative who hauls it out and says “Go fight the battle”. They have no idea what this actually means.

Let me just educate members a bit on the Atlantic accord. This is the agreement that was reached between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia on offshore revenues on Valentine's Day 2005. It says:

—the Government of Canada intends to provide additional offset payments to the province in respect of offshore-related Equalization reductions, effectively allowing it to retain the benefit of 100 per cent of its offshore resource revenues.

Then it says:

The amount of additional offset payment for a year shall be calculated as the difference between the Equalization payment that would be received by the province under the Equalization formula as it exists at the time...

Very simply, this means that offshore revenues are excluded from equalization. If equalization goes up, the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would get the improved equalization plus they would keep their offshore revenues. A choice has allegedly been offered to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador which would have the old equalization with the old formula or the new equalization that some in the rest of Canada will benefit from. We should have both. It should not be one or the other.

The former Prime Minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, the member for Halifax West, who was regional minister, and the then minister of finance and now our House leader, did a great job on that for the people of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

If anybody thinks the offshore is just politics, I would like to read a few headlines. I will not go into details. Marilla Stephenson said in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald dated the week of the budget:

Note to Rodney: Stephen played you big time. The Prime Minister has played you like a fiddle. If any theme rang through the Prime Minister's budget delivered on Monday night, it was that the have-nots are to remain, well, have-nots. The Prime Minister stoops to conquer. Jeering from the sidelines were the budget's unlucky trio of obvious losers: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan. All are now victims of a calculated insult--

David Rodenhiser in the Halifax Daily News said:

Nova Scotians are left asking themselves: Who's standing up for us? Right now, the answer is no one. Certainly not our federal cabinet minister, the member for Central Nova, who's defending Ottawa rather than Nova Scotia on this. And not MacDonald, who's content to pursue process rather than take action. MacDonald repeatedly stated yesterday that provincial finance officials are gathering information and requesting meetings--

Here is a headline entitled: “Atlantic Tories running for cover; Cabinet representatives urged to stand up for region's rights”. Another one says it all. The headline in the Chronicle-Herald reads: “Federal Conservatives shaft province, once again”. There is not much more to be said about that.

Now the topic has even changed a bit because for a while we heard that the provinces did not really get a bad deal because they had a choice of two deals. That lasted about a week.

In the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Saturday it stated, “It appears that Ottawa and Nova Scotia are now working on an accord deal. Plans said to be a compromise on the scrapped 2005 Atlantic accord agreement”.

There is not much question that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were betrayed by their cabinet representatives and by their Conservative members with the dismantling of the Atlantic accord, a deal which provided such hope for the people of Nova Scotia and for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Apparently, other provinces feel the same way. Having spent two weeks back home, I can tell the House that this is not an issue likely to fade anytime soon.

ACOA, international development, the Atlantic accord, the failure on child care, and leaving the poorest of the poor vulnerable are not acceptable. Some things were not even mentioned in the budget that have come to pass.

Last Friday, members of the Coast Guard in my own community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour were called to a meeting and were told there were going to be new Coast Guard vessels. They would be made in Canada. They were also told that their jobs would be moved from Dartmouth, where they have been for years, to St. John's, Newfoundland, which happens to be the riding of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the minister responsible for the Coast Guard. There was no explanation, no business plan, or no idea of where this came from. There was no explanation given to the workers about what was going on. We do not even know if there is a dock in St. John's that could handle them. That is an insult to the people of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. They are rightly concerned about this issue.

This budget is designed very clearly for the next election, not the next generation. It is political arithmetic, add a few votes here, appeal to a few votes there, pander, troll for votes in bunches where they can be found. If people do not vote Conservative and likely never will, or they contribute too small of a voting block, too bad. There is nothing for them. Aboriginal Canadians, sorry. Low income families, sorry. Atlantic Canada, sorry.

The budget is a cynical concoction of winners and losers. Guess who the real losers are? The real losers are the people who need help the most.

We have benefited as a nation from governments, mainly Liberal but also PC, that have built the social infrastructure of Canada. We are now witnessing a government that is ignoring the needs of the vulnerable and is spending billions of dollars trying to buy the next election. It is not the way good governance is done. It is not the way to inspire a nation. It is wrong and it needs to be fixed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's comments. I had the opportunity to serve briefly on the finance committee with the hon. member. We had an opportunity to tour communities across the country. We know that while often we get into regional debates with the budget, we have to look at the effects of the budget on the entire country and the benefits to all Canadians that are provided in the budget.

I want to ask the hon. member about two very specific issues, ones that I know are very important to him: first, the 40% increase in post-secondary education, and we spoke at length about Dalhousie University and some of the challenges it was facing; and second, the additional measure that was taken to vaccinate for the human papillomavirus that will prevent cervical cancer in almost 80% of the cases which is in addition to the $260 million that was invested in the Canadian Cancer Society strategy last year. I would like to hear the member's position on those specific measures.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did enjoy working with my colleague in the finance committee. He knows of my passion. I argued for the HP virus vaccine to be put in the budget and he supported that. It was in the budget recommendations and I think it is a positive thing for Canada.

On the increase in post-secondary education, the government in effect has said that we are going to go to some kind of a dedicated transfer in post-secondary education. It is nowhere near enough and it is not in any way targeted. We do not know what the criteria is for that.

That does not do anything for Canadians. It does nothing for students and particularly students most in need. That is who we should be targeting: low income families; aboriginal Canadians; persons with disabilities through things like the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which I hope will be renewed; and Canada access grants. That is the way we need to go.

The member talked about taking a regional approach. We have to take a look at Canada as a whole. When I talk about Atlantic Canada, I am elected by the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour to represent them here and not to represent here to them. They sent me here with a message. They do not want me going back home with speaking points. They want me to go back and talk to them and bring their message here.

They were betrayed by this budget. If it is any consolation to the member, the rest of Canada got a bad deal too, but ours was the worse.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech, and noted particularly the way in which he defends his home region.

Had the Bloc Québécois voted the same way as the Liberals on the budget, we would be in the midst of an election campaign today and Quebec would not have the additional monies promised in the budget. No one wanted an election.

In my opinion, we have a very different view of the budget. I do not know the statistics for the Maritimes, but I do know that there is significant support for the budget in Quebec because it was felt that, in the circumstances, we had to follow through.

I have a more specific question for my colleague. Does he not believe that the next step for the Conservative government should be to provide a practical framework for the federal spending power?

Under Mr. Trudeau, the Liberals formed a very centralizing government. Mr. Chrétien had the same approach. Is it not possible now for the federal government to put some limits on its spending authority so that it stops interfering in areas that do not fall under its jurisdiction and which, in the past, resulted in significant deficits?

Last of all, if the general rule applied to the fiscal imbalance was that there would be transfers of tax points, the provinces—and Quebec in particular—could use the money transferred to put in place their social policies, which may be different from those found in the rest of Canada. It is not unusual for different societies to make different choices.

We could push not only for additional money, as we did this year, but also for structural changes in order to ensure that the fiscal imbalance is resolved once and for all, including the issue of spending power. Is that not the way to go?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, if any members understand the importance of defending and advocating for their region specifically when we come to the House, it would be our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois. They are very concerned about the fiscal imbalance.

Let me tell the House what the fiscal imbalance is that matters in the province of Nova Scotia. It is the imbalance between the rich province and the poor province. It is the imbalance between the rich Canadian and the poor Canadian.

I believe that the national government actually has a role in evening that out. The budget makes it worse, not only because it rips the Atlantic accord out of the hands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Nova Scotians but because the way that money is going to go from the federal government to the provinces in the future is going to further penalize the poorer provinces.

We have always believed that a strong national government has a role to play. Constitutionally, there are differences between the federal government, provincial governments and municipal governments. We have always felt that areas like ACOA and investing in those most in need is a strong and reasonable role for the federal government to play. In the budget we see some of that being dismantled and we are concerned about it in Atlantic Canada.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, last summer I had the honour of going to a number of communities in my riding to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Treaty No. 9. After about the third community I must confess that there was not much to celebrate in the fact that we have signed treaties and ripped them up the minute they were signed.

The federal government went into those communities and basically lied to the people and had no intention of living up to signed agreements. Unfortunately, we see that sad history with almost any signed agreement with first nations. So many of them have been ignored and ripped up.

In my community we have a signed agreement between the Government of Canada and the people of Kashechewan to move them off the squalid flood plain they are on and move them onto high ground, yet in the budget there is no money for first nations and nothing for education. We can buy tanks to send anywhere we want in the world, but we are going to leave Canadian citizens on a third world flood plain and there is no money, nothing for them.

I would like to ask the hon. member what he thinks about that, looking at the budget and the amount of money in the federal coffers but nothing being put forward for the most desperate people we have in our country?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my comments, the biggest gap in the budget is with aboriginal Canadians. We believe that aboriginal Canadians have been the victims of poor development over the years and in many cases the government has not had an inspired look at how aboriginal Canadians can play a role within Confederation.

The Kelowna accord was an agreement that the Government of Canada made. It has been put into the dustbin of history, and that is shameful, in the same way the Atlantic accord for Atlantic Canadians has been shelved.

I agree with the Caledon Institute that the biggest missing piece in this budget is: what are we going to do at a time of great affluence to ensure that aboriginal Canadians take their rightful place in Canada and have the opportunities that the rest of Canadians have? I think it is particularly shameful.