House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are two things I want to comment on.

My colleague opposite speaks of the GST. I would say to him that he is reinventing a reality when he says that members on this side of the House have any intention of raising the GST. I do want to ask him why, when he cites economists, he does not cite those economists who said that the GST was the worst possible tax cut the government could employ, that in fact it should have been looking at income taxes?

When he speaks about government spending, I particularly want him to comment on the fact that with the Liberal government, from 1992-93 to 2005-06, program spending was 2.3% and Liberal government spending, after balancing the budget from 1997 to 2005-06, was 5.5%. With the Conservative government from 2005-07 it was 6.4% and the direct federal spending by the Conservative government was 8.6%. That is higher than any previous Liberal government since 1992.

How does he reconcile his remarks with these figures?

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, on the GST, the GST was in fact reduced to 6% last year and to 5%, which is where it is right now. We welcomed members opposite to support us in that decision, but if I recall, they voted against that. They were against reducing the GST. I assume from that they would have preferred to keep it where it was. That is the root of my comments.

On the other question, this government in the last two years has reduced debt by $37 billion. The debt is now down to $457 billion, the lowest it has been in some 25 years. At the same time, we have liberated the taxes on Canadians by some $190 billion. We have done that and we have continued to make sure that investments are in the right place.

Yes, we are investing in things like supporting our men and women in the armed forces. These are important priorities, the kinds of things that we promised we would do also.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill: Bill C-41, An Act respecting payments to a trust established to provide provinces and territories with funding for community development.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, with respect to my colleague's comments, we are very concerned around the change in the corporate tax rates in this country. The change in the rates will affect primarily businesses and corporations that have profits. One of the clear winners is the banks. The banks and the financial institutions have about 35% of pre-tax profit in this country. If we calculate those figures, what this means to the banks is about $4 billion a year by 2012 in the banks' pockets.

How does this fit with building our economy? How does this make our economy work better?

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

The short answer to the question, Mr. Speaker, is we are on track to get the corporate taxes down to 15% and we advanced the small business tax to 11% even one year quicker than we originally intended to. This puts us at the lowest corporate tax rates of all of the G-7 and the right kind of taxes to attract a competitive and dynamic environment where businesses will want to invest in Canada and create jobs.

Finally, with regard to the banks, I do not want to be an apologist at all for the banking community, but one must remember that many Canadians have investments, stocks and mutual funds invested in these kinds of corporations. Those are investments and profits that actually help their own retirement incomes as well.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak during this prebudget debate. In the coming weeks we are expecting to see a budget from the government, a government that so far has let down Canadians across the country and has particularly let down the people of Manitoba and of Winnipeg.

Two years ago the government inherited a sound fiscal record left by the previous Liberal government, a government that worked for nearly 13 years to bring our country out of deficit, a deficit, I might add, that we inherited from the former Conservative government, a pattern not uncommon to Conservative governments.

It was a Liberal government that produced eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canada had the best fiscal record of all the G-7 economies when the Liberals left office.

Times were good when the government took office and now our fervent wish and top priority is that the Conservative government now stay out of deficit. As hard times are upon us, the fiscal cupboard is almost empty. We have seen a government that cares more about posturing and power, a government that politicizes the affairs of the country, a government that often misspeaks.

The government has introduced two budgets and an economic statement. We saw a spending spree when times were good, and I would say, irresponsible tax cuts aimed to attract the voter rather than sound fiscal management.

It also managed to cut in areas that would make us more productive, such as research and innovation, or in areas that were in desperate need, such as literacy and poverty.

I want to touch on a number of issues that are of concern to the people of Manitoba and those issues that aboriginal Canadians face today that must be addressed by the government in its upcoming budget. We see a trend from the government and its fiscal record, a trend that entails mismanagement, hypocrisy, vindictiveness, and as I said before, much misspeak. There is misspeak on lowering income taxes while in fact increasing them, misspeak on program formats while in fact the government cut funds and narrowed the criteria.

When the government decided to break its promise on income trusts, it destroyed $25 billion of Canadians' hard-earned savings. This was a direct hit to the pockets of every Canadian. The income trusts policy, I would say, was based on a false premise. The Conservatives have not been able to prove the notion that income trusts give rise to substantial tax leakage and tax unfairness. It is completely false. It has been discredited by many experts.

What there has not been enough public discussion on, and my colleague raised it earlier in question period, is how indeed this income trusts debacle is affecting both the CPP and other public and private pension programs. That is something that requires further study.

I also want to note that while holidaying far away, I was stopped on the street by a resident of my constituency, whom I do not know, who complained about income trusts and the horrendous impact it had on his family's finances.

It is also troubling to hear the Prime Minister and his finance minister say that the federal government has no role to play in urban communities. We know that last November the Federation of Canadian Municipalities came out with a report entitled, “Danger Ahead: The Coming Collapse of Canada's Municipal Infrastructure”. The report outlines a, what is said to be underestimated, $123 billion infrastructure deficit that Canadian municipalities now face. The report called for a national plan to eliminate this deficit and prepare the groundwork for effective management of our infrastructure.

The shell game the government is playing with infrastructure money is really an insult to Canadians. The reality is that Liberal programs are the backbone of that funding. The reality is that of the new money the government says it is putting forward, four programs are not accessible to municipalities.

The real Conservative building Canada fund is $8.8 million, and even that is suspect, and now may be as little as $1.3 billion over seven years. That is disgraceful and duplicitous.

In Manitoba we are anxious to know that funding for the floodway will come out of the old Liberal national strategic infrastructure program, not out of provincial allocations. Bridges, roads and water are very important to Manitobans.

The environment is a priority for everyone. We have an obligation to address this issue now and for the future.

Unfortunately, we are seeing no leadership from the members opposite. The Prime Minister was quoted in the Toronto Star in June 2004 as saying, “Carbon dioxide does not cause or contribute to smog, and the Kyoto treaty would do nothing to reduce or prevent smog”. Perhaps that is another misspeak.

The government claims it has taken action on the environment, but again it is empty rhetoric and an empty plan. We have a plan. I am not going to go into any details, but we know that the carbon budget would make a difference.

The government has restricted access to the home energy retrofit program for those who need it most. There is less money in the program, narrower criteria, and those who are poor cannot access it.

We hear it over and over again from every pulpit and every podium that children are our future. Well, the government must show it and invest in children and invest in post-secondary education.

The official opposition is committed to working with the provinces to bring forth an effective, high quality child care early learning program for families, something each and every child has a right to. We have not seen the promised 125,000 spaces. We have not seen the 32,000 spaces the minister says he has created.

In my riding of Winnipeg South Centre day cares have waiting lists of 300 children. Parents are forced to leave their employment. Many are not achieving their goals of further education because they do not have the necessary supports for their children.

On September 27, the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press read, “Tories say they made child care boo-boo”. It was a big boo-boo and Canadians are paying for it.

I recently visited the aboriginal head start program in Winnipeg where the evaluations are showing they are changing the realities and opportunities for academic success for children and their families who participate in the program. I urge the government to look at this seriously.

In terms of post-secondary education, money must be available to students and universities for the direct and indirect costs of research. The government must go further than it did in budget 2007. Yes, there was money for 4,000 graduate students, and I appreciate that, and I am sure they appreciate that as well, but what about the undergraduate students? What about the students struggling to make ends meet? What about those young Canadians who cannot even access post-secondary education?

The millennium scholarship fund must be renewed. Countless Manitoba students have had their debt load reduced through this program and it has enabled them to go on to further education.

I cannot stand here and not talk about aboriginal Canadians. Members opposite treated the Kelowna accord, which dealt with the issues of poverty, education, housing, health, governance on reserve and off, with what I would call disgusting disrespect for this initiative. For 18 months it was a consultative process and all parties came up with a solution. It is a priority if we are going to close the gap.

We have seen how the Conservative government operates: income trusts; investment tax deductibility; squandering of fiscal prudence; raised income taxes for the poorest versus a regressive GST cut that benefits the rich; a relief package for workers that does too little, too late; mounting job losses; a rising dollar; a struggling U.S. economy; and a number of our own key sectors in trouble.

Even the current finance minister has not excused himself with tremendous credibility on the financial management front. I speak not just of squandered fiscal prudence and income trust debacles, but the simple management of his own office and the disregard for his own government's guidelines.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know how hard the hon. member has worked on a variety of issues, whether we talk about child care or women's issues. I have attended many meetings with the hon. member and know of her intense interest in the issues surrounding the aboriginal community.

It has been two years since the Kelowna accord was taken apart and destroyed. Has there been any progress at all in dealing with the aboriginal files?

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of ACOA on a point of order. I think I may know what he is grieving.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

I think you may, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member is an experienced politician in the House. She should be well aware that when we ask questions or present points in the House, we are supposed to be in our own seats.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member raising that point. I was just double checking. I will allow the hon. member for Malpeque to ask a question, while the hon. member for York West finds her normal seat.

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg South Centre made a lot of good points, but I know she did not have time in her remarks to make them all.

My question for her relates to the Canadian Wheat Board, which I know is centred in her city. The Wheat Board and others have done an analysis that the moves by the government will take about $800 million net out of the collective economy of farmers. It was admitted by an official of the Department of Agriculture, before the federal court on an appeal, that the Government of Canada, in terms of its Wheat Board change, had not done any economic analysis, either pro or con, on its moves.

Does the member really believe it is a responsible government when it does not do any economic analysis and, in the whole process, puts at risk jobs in her city and certainly goes against the democratic desires of farmers in the west?

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. I did not have time in my remarks to speak to the issue of the Wheat Board, which is of grave concern for Manitobans. It is of grave concern to those farmers who have been railroaded and not respected in their choice and their will on the Canadian Wheat Board.

However, a study has been done. The impact on the city of Winnipeg is profound. What is also profound is the deafening silence from members opposite, not speaking up for the impact on the city of Winnipeg and the farmers. What is the point of electing them if they cannot speak up on behalf of their constituents?

My colleague is right. Thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be lost. Many producers will be affected. It will have a profound impact on Portage and Main. Head companies will leave Manitoba. There is no speaking up on that side—

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Yellowhead.

Prebudget Consultations
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the hon. member across the way go through her discussion and her speech with regard to the prebudget consultation, I was struck by a couple of things.

First, I will ask a short question. Does the hon. member understand the agricultural community very well? Sectors in the agricultural community have never seen better times than we have had in the last couple of years. The future looks even better than we have ever seen in the oil and grain sectors. The hog and beef sectors are the only ones going through a difficult time and the present time.