House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was development.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The Minister of Finance has the floor and we need to be able to hear the speech.

The hon. Minister of Finance.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

February 26th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Our government is also committed to making Canada a great place to create and expand a business. As international competition increases, steps must be taken to encourage investment and sharpen our competitive edge.

That is why we have abolished the federal capital tax and provided a financial incentive to encourage provinces to eliminate their capital taxes as quickly as possible.

That is why last fall we set out a long term plan to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% by 2012. This bold initiative will give Canada the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G-7 by 2010 and the lowest statutory tax rate in the G-7 by 2012.

That is why we are calling on the provinces to reduce their corporate income taxes. Our goal is to achieve a combined federal-provincial tax rate of 25% by 2012. This will not only give a lift to our traditional industries, but will make our competitive business taxes a powerful brand globally. Some, like British Columbia, have already taken significant steps in this direction.

Our tax relief measures are working now for the benefit of all Canadians. Actions taken by the Government since 2006 are providing $21 billion in incremental tax relief to Canadians and Canadian businesses this year. This is a significant and substantial economic stimulus, equivalent to 1.4% of Canada’s GDP.

A year ago, we could see that Canadian manufacturers and processors were facing very challenging times. That’s why, in budget 2007, we brought in a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This initiative allows manufacturing businesses to fully write off investments in machinery and equipment over a two-year period.

By 2009–10, this measure alone will benefit the manufacturing and processing sector to the tune of $1.3 billion. It is helping Canadian manufacturers make the investments needed to build modern facilities here at home and still take on the world.

Today, our government is going even further. We are extending the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for three years on a declining basis. This will provide the manufacturing and processing sector with an additional $1 billion in tax relief.

We are also investing in research and development to strengthen our economy and stimulate innovation and discovery.

The auto sector has been a major driver of the Canadian economy. Automotive engineers, assembly workers and parts manufacturers are the foundation of many communities like my riding of Whitby–Oshawa. Our government knows how important it is for our auto sector to get out in front of the competition and stay there. Technology is quickly evolving and we must be relentless in our pursuit of new breakthroughs.

As a result, we are providing $250 million for an automotive innovation fund. This money will fuel the development of greener and more fuel efficient vehicles. This will help preserve the environment. It will also help preserve and create high quality jobs. This is the kind of investment promised in our 2007 science and technology strategy.

Today, we are providing an additional $440 million in this and the next two years to secure Canada’s leadership in the global marketplace through research and innovation. This includes $80 million annually for university research to meet the innovation needs of Canada’s automotive, manufacturing, forestry and fishing industries, to address health priorities and to advance social and economic development in the north.

As the economy slows, Canada’s communities need help too.

Our $1 billion community development trust is providing vulnerable communities facing major downturns with much needed financial assistance. It supports workers in areas where the entire region is struggling by funding job training, community transition plans that create new jobs, and infrastructure and other initiatives that stimulate economic diversification.

Today, we are also providing additional support for older workers who have been laid off. We are extending the targeted initiative for older workers through to 2010. This is a new $90 million investment in capable, experienced workers aged 55 to 64. It will allow them to remain productive participants in the workforce and help alleviate labour shortages.

The employment insurance program is a safety net for struggling Canadian workers. To strengthen the EI account, our government is creating the Canada employment insurance financing board. Starting in 2009, this new, independent crown corporation will be responsible for implementing a new EI premium rate-setting mechanism and maintaining a cash reserve of $2 billion provided by the government. With this reform, Canadian workers and communities can be confident that EI will be managed on a truly break-even basis.

Even in good economic times, there are those at risk of being left behind. But Canadians are guided by the values of compassion, kindness and generosity. That is why the Mental Health Commission was struck last year. Under the leadership of the Hon. Michael Kirby, the commission has recommended the government proceed with five pilot projects across the country. These will help increase our knowledge of those who are homeless and suffering from mental illness.

Today, we are providing $110 million to establish demonstration projects in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton. These initiatives will allow us to establish best practices in addressing the needs of these vulnerable people as we go forward. This is an important step toward dealing with this problem.

To support our communities and ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian economy, Canada needs access to modern infrastructure. Our government is making the largest single federal investment in public infrastructure since World War II through our building Canada plan. This is a total of $33 billion over seven years for roads, bridges, water systems, public transit and international gateways.

To help us maximize this investment, we have created a new crown corporation called PPP Canada Inc. It will be the first public-private partnership office of its kind at the federal level in Canada. By increasing our use of P3s and taking into account contributions by other levels of government, we should be able to leverage a $100 billion investment in infrastructure.

Another key component of our building Canada plan is the federal gas tax fund. This is direct funding to our cities, towns and communities for essential infrastructure. In budget 2007, our government extended this funding to 2014.

Today, we are announcing the permanent extension of gas tax funding, which will reach $2 billion per year in 2009-10. Municipalities large and small, from coast to coast, will be able to plan and finance their infrastructure needs with this additional funding, every year, forever.

Public transit is one of the keys to achieving a cleaner and healthier environment. That is why our government has been making significant investments to provide alternative transportation options. In order to entice people out of their cars and onto public transit, we have provided $1.3 billion in support for public transit capital investments and the tax credit for public transit passes.

In addition, today we are providing $500 million to make further investments in public transit capital infrastructure. This funding will be dedicated to several specific projects, including: the Evergreen Light Rapid Transit System in Vancouver; the re-establishment of the rail link between the city of Peterborough and Toronto’s Union Station following the existing right of way; and new equipment and upgrades to dedicated rapid transit routes for the Aéroports de Montréal.

Investing in modern public transit is about preserving our environment. It is about reducing traffic congestion so goods can get to market on time. It is about creating a seamless, modern, safe and secure transportation system for the benefit of all Canadians.

In these challenging times, we are focusing on our core responsibilities.

The federal government has long helped Canadian students finance their education. Today, this historic role has taken on even greater importance. We must ensure that the next generation of Canadians has the opportunity to excel in this increasingly competitive world.

To that end, our government is investing in a new consolidated post-secondary Canada student grant program. It will be a single focused program that fully respects provincial jurisdiction. It will also provide more effective support to more students for more years of study.

As the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation winds down, the government will provide $350 million for the Canada student grant program in 2009-10, growing to $430 million in 2012-13. In comparison to the predecessor programs, this funding will reach an estimated 245,000 students. This is over 100,000 more students from low and middle income families than the current system.

My colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, will be consulting with students and the provinces and territories to finalize specifics of the program.

To develop and attract the next generation of world-class researchers, our government is creating a new class of doctoral scholarships named in honour of former Governor General Georges Vanier.

Governor General Vanier was a true statesman and a hero. He was a soldier who fought in the first world war and was one of the founders of the Royal 22nd Regiment. He was also renowned for his promotion of excellence in youth.

Our government will provide $100 million over five years beginning in 2008-09 for the Vanier scholarships. These will attract the best doctoral students from here and around the world to study in Canada. The Vanier scholarships will build on Canada’s existing strength in graduate education and help build the skilled workforce needed to face the challenges of the future.

To strengthen the ability of Canadian universities to attract and retain the world’s top scientific leaders, our government will provide $21 million to establish Canada global excellence research chairs.

These prestigious research chairs will be offered in the four priority areas identified in the government’s science and technology strategy: the environment; natural resources and energy; health; and information and communication technologies.

This funding will allow each chair to assemble outstanding research teams and undertake cutting edge research in areas of strategic importance to Canada.

Canada also needs to do a better job of bringing aboriginal Canadians into the skilled workforce, another core responsibility.

During my prebudget consultations, Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos First Nation in British Columbia pointed out that there is a large number of aboriginal Canadians willing to work who just need a chance. He suggested that the government’s focus needs to shift from social services to economic development and skills training.

Our government could not agree more. Today we are providing $70 million over the next two years to establish a new framework for aboriginal economic development. This new framework will allow us to better match the skills and training of aboriginal Canadians with labour market demands.

In addition, we are providing $70 million over two years to support tripartite agreements with willing first nations and provinces to develop more effective approaches to first nations education.

We are also making important new investments in immigration. In budget 2007, we made significant progress in this area by streamlining the temporary foreign worker program, enabling employers to bring in workers more quickly. We also changed the rules allowing skilled workers and foreign students to remain in Canada as permanent residents, people this country needs.

Today we are going even further. We are changing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to improve and speed up the application process. It is not fair for prospective immigrants to wait for years before their applications are considered.

In addition, we are providing $22 million in new funding to support immigration initiatives over the next two years. This funding will improve the responsiveness of our immigration system and better align it with our labour market needs.

Focusing on our core responsibilities also means preserving and protecting the environment. Canadians demand and expect that action is being taken to reduce harmful emissions and to crack down on polluters.

Since 2006, our government has announced numerous initiatives to support cleaner energy, clean transportation alternatives, cleaner air and water, and the development of green technology.

Our government has committed to reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions 60% to 70% by 2050. This is an ambitious and achievable goal.

Today we are taking action to fulfill our commitment to a cleaner, healthier environment.

Our government is committing $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects.

Our government is also providing $66 million over two years to lay the foundation for market based mechanisms that will establish a price for carbon and support the development of carbon trading in Canada.

Our government is also providing $21 million over two years for resources to better enforce our environmental laws.

Our government is also providing $13 million over two years to accelerate access to cleaner renewable fuels for cars and trucks, and our government is further expanding tax incentives for clean energy generation.

Canadians want a healthy environment. They also want healthy, safe communities. Today our government is taking another step toward building safer communities and putting criminals out of business.

We are putting more police officers on our streets. We are providing $400 million to hire 2,500 new front line police officers over the next five years. This money will be available to provinces and territories that have publicly committed to new recruitment programs.

Our government is also delivering additional support for our brave men and women in the Canadian Forces and their families.

In this budget, we are providing stable, predictable funding with annual increases in defence spending of 2% starting in 2011–12.

We are also helping survivors of veterans with $282 million over this and the next two years to expand the veterans independence program.

Since taking office, our government has been vigilant in focusing and reviewing government spending. We want to ensure Canadians receive full value for the money they pay in taxes.

The government has introduced a new expenditure management system with a greater focus on results. Under this new approach, the President of the Treasury Board is leading strategic reviews of all departmental spending. These reviews are about better management and ensuring that all government spending is aligned with the priorities of Canadians.

In this initial review year, 17 organizations participated in strategic reviews, examining department spending amounting to $13.6 billion, or 15% of total direct program spending. As a result, they are streamlining operations, realigning their activities and transforming their organizations in order to deliver better results.

All savings from these reviews are being directed to new initiatives in these departments and other priorities in this budget.

Focusing on our core responsibilities also means strengthening Canada's economic union.

Nowhere is this ambition of a stronger economic union more important than in the domain of capital markets. That is why our government put forward a plan to create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets, a plan that will benefit Canadian enterprises seeking capital and Canadian investors looking for investment opportunities for their savings.

I have appointed an expert panel on securities regulation. It will advise me and provincial-territorial ministers on the content, structure and enforcement of securities regulation, including a model common securities act. The expert panel will report by the end of this year.

Canada has had a strong year. We are well positioned to weather any sudden economic storms. Our government has taken care to strengthen our economic fundamentals.

The economy grew faster than expected a year ago when I presented budget 2007. The extra federal revenues we received have been used in a balanced way.

In the fall economic statement, we announced lower taxes, some of them retroactive to the beginning of 2007.

This year, we are providing substantial economic stimulus: $21 billion in incremental tax relief to Canadians and Canadian businesses. This is equivalent to 1.4% of Canada’s GDP.

Including measures announced today, we are providing $1.1 billion in one-time efforts to help workers and communities that are already feeling the effects of the slowing economy.

Finally, we are reducing the debt by $10.2 billion this fiscal year, bringing our cumulative debt reduction since coming to office to more than $37 billion.

There are challenges on the horizon. We are seeing increased global uncertainty, but we are prepared. We have a long term economic plan, Advantage Canada, and we are building on that plan.

Today's budget is prudent, disciplined and realistic. It is focused on preparing Canada and Canadians for the challenges ahead.

It lets Canadians save tax free with tax-free savings accounts.

It helps students, seniors and workers, especially older and displaced workers.

It focuses federal spending on core responsibilities.

It strengthens the integrity of the EI account to ensure it will be managed on a truly break-even basis.

It tackles the consequences of mental illness and homelessness, adds new funds for more police, and sets aside stable, dependable funding for Canadian municipalities and the Canadian Forces.

Today’s budget provides a further boost to Canadian businesses, especially manufacturers, and strengthens the economic union.

Canadians do not want our economy to slide back to high spending, high debt and higher taxes. Prudent management, focus and discipline will serve us well as we face the challenges ahead.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. Questions and comments.

I wish to warn members that I expect that none of the questions or answers will exceed one and a half minutes, so we can get at least three questions in, one from each of the three opposition parties in the 10 minutes that is allotted for questions and comments. So, one and a half minutes max and if they are shorter that is fine, then we might get a fourth question.

We will begin with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, whenever this minister uses the words “prudent” or “frugal”, Canadians should know that what he really means is that he has broken the bank.

Having inherited record surpluses two years ago, he proceeded to spend like crazy, earning the title “highest spender since Confederation” from Andrew Coyne, who is himself hardly a Liberal.

So the consequence today is that the fiscal cupboard is largely bare and the minister has just announced a projected surplus two years from now of $1.3 billion before any contingency reserve. Anyone who knows anything about finance knows that that is a nanosecond from deficit financing.

My question is this. Why did this fiscally incompetent minister so squander his massive Liberal fiscal inheritance when he is on the verge of returning to that territory so familiar to Conservatives, non-stop, year after year, deficit financing by every Conservative prime minister from R.B. Bennett to Kim Campbell? That is where he is heading.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy getting a lecture on spending from a Liberal.

When the Liberals were in government, and we can go back to the time of Jean Chrétien or the member for LaSalle—Émard, what was their spending like? Over five years spending increases averaged 8.2%. In one year alone, in 2004-05, they increased spending 14.8%.

There may be an explanation. I think that was the year they did three budgets in one year with the help of the New Democratic Party. It may be understandable that they were even more out of control that year than they were in the preceding five years.

We do not need any lessons from the big spenders, the big taxers, the people that create big debt in Canada. That is the Liberal Party that ruled this country for 13 years driving up debt.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind this House that on June 28, 2005, the Prime Minister, then the official opposition leader, told Joyce Carter in a written letter, in a promise, that all widows of World War II and Korean veterans would be covered by VIP, all of them, not some of them. Then Joyce Carter of Cape Breton came here and in June of last the Prime Minister told her to her face that all widows of all the veterans of World War II and Korea would be covered.

Now we get a document that says only some of them will be covered. Only those in financial need or eligible for disability tax credits need apply. The documents at Veterans Affairs say that at least $333 million per year is needed to provide all of them simply with groundskeeping and housekeeping services.

Why did the minister deliberately mislead the widows of the brave heroes of our country?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to announce a few minutes ago that we are helping survivors of veterans with $282 million over this year and the next two years to expand the veterans independence program.

I would remind the member who posed the question that, when he reviews the merits of the program, the foundation of this program is a disability program.

I would also remind the member that in this House every time a provision has come forward in recent years to support veterans or to support dependents has he stood up? Yes, he has stood up and has voted against.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I know I speak for all members in the House in congratulating the Finance Minister on his third consecutive balanced budget.

This is a budget that builds on our record of almost $200 billion in tax cuts with the groundbreaking new tax-free savings account. On behalf of overtaxed Canadians, I thank the minister for this landmark achievement that will benefit Canadians permanently.

Could the Minister of Finance please share with the House how my constituents and how all Canadians will benefit from this tax free savings account?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his tireless work for his constituents. He is, without a doubt, the finest MP the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell have had in a very long time.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Finance has the floor and everyone wants to hear his answer.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the new landmark tax-free savings plan is one we are doing it. This is a remarkable new plan. It is the most important savings plan in modern Canadian history, the most important plan since 1957 when the RRSP plan was introduced.

This new plan would give all Canadians, from seniors to those with low and modest incomes, the opportunity to earn tax-free savings income with maximum flexibility.

In 20 years, it is estimated that these plans will permit over 90% of Canadians to hold all of their financial assets in tax efficient savings vehicles.

This is not a small program. As these tax-free savings accounts mature over time, the cost will move up to about $3 billion over the course of the next 20 years.

I encourage Canadians to check the tax-free savings calculator on the website at www.budget.gc.ca to see how much tax they can save.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could examine several points, but since my time is limited, I will focus on just two.

For over two years, the government has been saying that it would hire 2,500 police officers and so far it has done nothing. Now it has announced $400 million to hire these police officers. I hope this will not take 10 years, because people need action now.

Also, it could be said that this government has abandoned the cultural community. There is nothing for the feature film fund or the television fund. But the Conservatives are making announcements all over Quebec. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing for culture and even less for Quebec.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are continuing the $30 million funding for the Canada Council that was announced previously.

I am very proud of this budget. I thank the Secretary of State for Sport for her strong support for the Olympics. We are providing additional support for the torch relay for the Olympics and for the Paralymlpics all across Canada. We are also supporting the summer Olympics with $24 million over two years to help our summer athletes become as expert and successful as we know our winter athletes will be at Whistler.

We also have a large program, as I am sure the hon. member knows, announced in the budget to support our four major national museums. They are capital programs in Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak again. Perhaps I could very briefly speak as an economist and a student of Canadian history with regard to the answer of the finance minister. These are facts.

When Mr. Chrétien, whom he mentioned, came to power, he inherited a $42 billion Conservative deficit. Within four years he had put that deficit into a surplus, balanced the books and then ran eight consecutive years of surplus. That is the happy situation the minister inherited from Mr. Chrétien's Liberal successor. Those are the facts.

I have also examined growth rates of program spending by government and I am happy to share them with the minister in a non-political fashion. If we take the whole Liberal period from 1993 to 2005, the growth rate was less than half of the growth rate under his two years of government. Those are facts and I do not want to enhance them with political histrionics.

I will go on very briefly to say that this is a budget that is mile wide and an inch deep. It is a shotgun approach which has no focus at all. To the extent there is any merit in this budget, it consists of the fact that the government has taken Liberal ideas and applied those ideas to its budget, generally speaking, in a watered down fashion.

Let me end by just giving a few examples of these borrowed or stolen Liberal ideas.

Here is the first example: permanently transfer the gas tax, as we promised in February 2007.

Here is a second example: provide direct support to the automotive sector, as we requested in January 2008.

Here is a third example: create jobs and improve public transit by making new investments in infrastructure, as we recommended in February 2008.

Here is a fourth example: set aside funds to hire additional police officers, as we promised in March 2007.

I could go on with all the examples of Liberal commitments and ideas that have been borrowed and then implemented in a highly unsatisfactory, watered down way but I will not go on because I will have the opportunity to speak at greater length tomorrow.

Therefore, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

(Motion agreed to)