House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Saint Boniface.

I rise today to speak to a budget which impacts many Canadians and my constituents of Brampton--Springdale.

It is striking how little attention has been paid in this budget to Canada's most vulnerable citizens. Listening to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister trumpet the principles of fiscal prudence has truly been an exercise in the art of deception considering that the Conservative government's own measures have put our nation on the verge of a deficit.

Governing is really about choices, and last week's budget clearly demonstrates that irresponsible economics over the past couple of years has created a budget that has left millions of Canadians out in the cold, including many of my constituents in Brampton.

On February 21, just days before the delivery of the budget speech, Statistics Canada reported that Canadian corporations earned record high operating profits of $262.5 billion in 2007. Yet, systematic corporate tax cuts over the past two years have ensured that these record profits are not going to benefit the country as a whole, but rather a select group of shareholders whose financial portfolios probably do not need much assistance from the government.

It is clear that this budget has continued to ignore those who truly need the resources, the skills and the tools in our nation to succeed.

As the critic for social development, I am also acutely aware of the extreme void that exists for many Canadians who live at the lower end of the economic spectrum. We only have to look at the statistics which show that 11% of Canadians, or almost 3.4 million people, actually fall below Statistics Canada's low income cutoff.

There are 800,000 children living in poverty. It is a shame that this budget does nothing about raising the minimum wage, about creating a better plan for child care in this nation, or helping the most vulnerable.

The Conservative government has been systematically dishonest with regard to its so-called fiscal prudence over the past couple of years. Take for example the first budget that was delivered by the Minister of Finance in 2006, when a tax increase was described falsely as a tax cut.

Then there was last year's budget, which one well known Conservative columnist called “uncontrolled, unfocused, and above all, unconservative”. This is in addition to the mini budget that was delivered this past November where the finance minister spoke glowingly about $60 billion worth of tax cuts. Of course, for low income earners the tax savings resulted in a meagre 39¢ a day for a single individual and 25¢ for single parents. This is how the government has picked winners and losers when it comes to responsible fiscal management.

Now in 2008, after years of offering corporations and the richest tax brakes, the most favourable tax rates, and raising spending to record levels, the Minister of Finance is almost feeling his own crunch and is speaking again deceptively about fiscal restraint.

We all know that the tiny surpluses that have been predicted over the next two years are certainly not responsible and certainly not prudent when it comes to ensuring Canadians are able to maintain their economic security for the future.

Many segments of the Canadian national housing and homelessness programs are due to expire in the fiscal year 2007. We all know these critical issues have been ignored by the government and the budget.

Canada is one of the only industrialized countries in the world without a national housing program. Over 125,000 families in my home province of Ontario remain on the waiting list for affordable housing, and one in five children continues to live in poverty in this nation. There was absolutely no commitment by the federal government to renew those programs within the next 12 months.

If the government does not renew these programs, it is going to be leaving thousands of people who are living on sidewalks out in the cold. The government is going to be letting down the thousands of people who are relying on affordable housing programs.

In the budget, $110 million was set aside for demonstration projects about homelessness and mental illness, indicating that the government clearly believes that this phenomenon is somehow in question. However, one only needs to talk to the stakeholders, the advocates, the activists, and the organizations across the country who are helping the most vulnerable to realize that we have a crisis when it comes to homelessness and when it comes to affordable housing.

If the housing minister had bothered to show up at the first national summit of provincial and territorial housing ministers in Vancouver last month, the first since the Conservatives were elected, he would have heard about the Vancouver police study which showed that a shocking one-third of all calls coming into its organization related to mental illness and that police officers were having to serve as mental health councillors, something that is truly unjust.

He also would have heard about the report by the Wellesley Institute where over 1.5 million households, or almost 4.2 million men, women and children, were in a core housing need. Perhaps he would have heard about the 300,000 Canadians who will experience homelessness over the course of this year.

Housing insecurity has a large personal cost which has led directly to increased illness and premature death. One recent study estimated that homelessness costs Canadians between $4.5 billion and $6 billion annually. Our country is in a crisis when it comes to these areas. Despite our economic surpluses and our economic prosperity, we have ignored the most vulnerable. This budget does absolutely nothing to help and reach out to them.

Nothing is in this budget to create child care spaces that families across this country so desperately need. There is absolutely nothing in this budget to address the growing crisis of poverty.

The budget provides dozens of new tax breaks, virtually all for corporations and investors, but does nothing to benefit our working Canadians. When we look at the tax-free savings account, which was supposed to be one of the highlights of the budget, we see that it is, once again, a tax measure for those who have the $5,000 and therefore have the opportunity to invest the $5,000. This will benefit people who are already making their maximum RRSP contribution. This tax-free savings account will do nothing to benefit low income families or single mothers in my constituency of Brampton—Springdale.

For the average person with moderate savings in a bank account or GIC, the tax saving on interest income will be minimal. However, high earners in a top tax bracket who are able to save $5,000 year after year will be able to reinvest. The budget contains nothing for low income families in Canada.

Let us look at the manufacturing sector. In my riding of Brampton—Springdale, over 1,100 families and individuals have been impacted by layoffs. The budget's promise of a one-year extension in the tax break for investments for new equipment and machinery, followed by two more years of smaller tax breaks, will do nothing to benefit those families and those individuals who have lost their jobs.

We have seen almost 300,000 factory jobs disappear in Canada in the last few years. The money that has been promised to trickle down over the coming years falls very short of a comprehensive strategy and leadership that is needed to support those families, to support Canada's most vulnerable.

We could talk about the fact that this budget has ignored low income and vulnerable Canadians but one thing we can conclude is that the budget has clearly chosen winners and losers. It has clearly put a divide between the rich and those who are poor.

The government, unfortunately, has not provided the leadership or the vision, nor has it taken the actions necessary to ensure that people who are not as well off in our society have the opportunities, the resources, the skills and the tools they need to succeed: the women, the single mothers, the families who are not making much and young children.

We had hoped that in this budget there would have been investments of ensuring that we as a country continue to succeed for many years to come.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech but she is being less than genuine with people at home. As she well knows, budget 2007 contributed $3.8 billion in new money to the Province of Ontario, which is money from the fiscal balance transfer that this government made and which the Government of Ontario is providing directly to people in need.

We also increased funding for health care and post-secondary school. We are providing more opportunity for poor individuals, people from non-wealthy backgrounds, the common people to attend university and get the skills and the trades they need. We are supporting them each and every day.

We are behind manufacturing. We have provided accelerated capital cost allowances to manufacturing. We have provided more jobs. We have created almost 700,000 jobs since coming to government. The statistics that the hon. member states for the loss of manufacturing jobs, most of that occurred under the Liberal government.

The hon. member needs to read this budget and the last budget because she clearly does not know what was in them.

I would like the hon. member to respond as to whether she is aware that the Government of Ontario received $3.8 billion just in the fiscal balance transfer, money that her government refused to give.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for the member, if the Conservatives truly cared about Ontario and Ontarians, we would not have that Minister of Finance launching an attack on the province on a daily basis and saying that Ontario is the last place that any single business would ever want to invest. We would have that Minister of Finance and that Conservative government showing some leadership and sticking up and standing side by side with Ontarians.

I would just remind the hon. member what the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said in regard to this budget. It said, “...the new measure concerning accelerated depreciation...” will not do. It went on to say that manufacturers were under the gun to innovate and that this measure, basically, would take the manufacturing industry back to where it started.

There has not been enough investment to help those Canadians who have lost their jobs.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with my colleague when she says that there is nothing in this budget for the most vulnerable, for the poor, for day care and for women. There is no new money for affordable social housing or for renovating or retrofitting existing homes, nor is there a strategy to reduce homelessness. There are no tax incentives to build new rental housing. The only new money is for five pilot projects to study this very serious issue even further.

The member seems to be in violent disagreement with the Conservatives and yet the Liberals have indicated that they will vote for it. I do not understand the contradiction there and I was wondering if she could enlighten me.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is right when she says that this budget delivered absolutely nothing for the most vulnerable in our society. She mentions the three programs that have provided a tremendous amount of assistance to thousands of stakeholders and organizations: the affordable housing program, the homelessness partnership initiative and the residential rehabilitation assistance program. These programs are all due to expire at the end of fiscal 2007 but this budget has no commitment to renewing that funding.

As Liberals and as Canadians, we want to ensure that, as we go into an election campaign, we can continue to champion a particular issue. As Liberals, we will continue to fight for those issues and we will ensure that as a minority Parliament we will work to compromise, to collaborate, to fight and to advocate those issues that are important to Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 3rd, 2008 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been here for 14 years and I have listened to these kinds of speeches delivered very eloquently, but then, in every case in the past, members certainly would not support the bill because of the way they spoke. I would assume from her speech that she dislikes this budget so much that she will be voting against it. That is, after all, the indication.

Will the member be voting against this budget or will this be a typical Liberal speech--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Brampton—Springdale has 20 seconds left.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say is that there is absolutely no price to my vote. I hope the Conservatives are not putting a price to the vote of the Liberal Party because we will never have a price on our votes. We will do what is right for Canadians in building a richer, fairer and greener Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here today and to speak to the budget which affects all Canadians. The budget contained some good things because the five major initiatives that were actually good came out of the Liberal handbook.

I know the Conservatives love to quote and, in particular, the Minister of the Environment, so I figured I would do the same thing to support my arguments.

The first major initiative, which I think is important, is making the gas tax for municipalities permanent. We brought that in under the leadership of the former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard. If we were to speak with people from the municipalities, I think they would say that is probably the one thing that has allowed them to plan long term. Making it permanent was the next step.

I would like to quote from the speech by the leader of the official opposition given in Toronto on February 27. He states:

I will make the $2 billion per year gas tax transfer to municipalities permanent, through legislation.

We are very pleased that the Conservatives were listening to our leader at that time.

The second issue is on help for the auto sector. Weeks before the budget, the Minister of Finance said that he would not help the auto sector or any other industry for that matter, any manufacturing industry. He thought that we could let the market take its course and things would weed themselves out type of thing.

In the budget, all of a sudden the Conservatives announced some funding for the auto sector. Again I would like to quote the speech given by the Leader of the Opposition in Hamilton on January 18. He said:

--a Liberal Government will create the $1 billion Advance Manufacturing Prosperity Fund--the AMP Fund. This fund will support major investments in manufacturing and R&D facilities that will serve as an anchor for clusters of economic activity.

Here we go again, the Conservatives were listening. They have nobody looking at this stuff or planning this stuff but it is nice to see that they at least are listening to the Liberals.

On the third issue, they stole our issue on the idea for job creation through infrastructure. I will go right to the quote.

On February 15, 2008 in Ottawa, the leader of the official opposition said:

We would make this investment through the Gas Tax Transfer agreements for sustainable municipal infrastructure. Public transit, water treatment, waste management, and cleaning up contaminated sites are the most pressing needs.

That was another Liberal Party platform issue that was taken out of our handbook by the current government that is void of all ideas.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

He didn't get it done.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Remember the red book?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, please, a little order.

Number four: Providing funding to hire more police. On March 14, 2007, the Leader of the Opposition said:

We will provide funds to provinces to hire more municipal police officers, starting immediately. The Conservatives promised 2,500 more police in our cities - then didn't do it.

Police officers told us that. They came to lobby us here in Ottawa and told us exactly that.

The quote continues:

We will give the RCMP an extra $200 million for an extra 400 officers as part of a new rapid enforcement team, that will be mandated to provide immediate help to local police departments to combat guns and gang activity, as well as organized crime and drug trafficking.

Of course we never did it. We are not in power. The Conservatives are the ones in power. We were committed to doing this but they stole our idea. The government, which is void of ideas, has been listening to the Liberal Party.

The last major initiative is the investment in R and D and reversing the previous cuts. I think that R and D is probably the future of Canada. We have all seen what has been going with jobs being shopped overseas, so we must really focus on research and development. That was done under the last Liberal government but when the Conservatives came into power they cut everything when it comes to research and development. When it comes to innovation, they are like dinosaurs.

On January 18 in Hamilton, the leader of the official opposition said:

...a Liberal Government will make the SR&ED Tax Credit partially refundable. That means that companies will be able to take advantage of the credit, even if they are not profitable in the short-term. We want every company that puts money into R&D to be rewarded for innovating.

There are a lot of things that are not in the budget that should be there.

The first one is health care. Health care is still number one, two or three on the minds of most Canadians. There is nothing in the budget to reduce wait times. Provinces are still not being held accountable for wait times. Some $41 billion approximately was given to the provinces over a period of several years with certain conditions respecting wait times. There is absolutely no accountability. The government transfers the money to the provinces and lets them worry about the results.

On the environment, Canada continues to be seen as a laggard on the environment. We would have thought the government had been embarrassed in Bali. It was probably the worst pony show we could imagine. Our minister was cruising around attending little cocktail parties, while other countries were discussing serious issues. Our international reputation has been sullied probably for a long time. The foreign affairs minister for one of our allies, France, indicated that France no longer recognized Canada. This is the kind of reputation we are starting to get overseas.

On affordable housing and homelessness, when I do my round tables in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg, it is probably one of the issues that comes up most. We bring in immigrants, as we should. However, 30, 40 or 50 families come to Winnipeg every month, but they have no place to stay. We have invested absolutely nothing in affordable housing, which is ridiculous. Something has to be done about that.

In the aboriginal community in Winnipeg, it is a huge issue. Members from Winnipeg, Manitoba or Saskatchewan will know it is a huge social issue for us. Eight out of the ten kids in Agassiz Youth Centre are from the aboriginal community. That does not make any sense. Sure, we have a crime issue, but we also have a social problem. Those are the things we should address. In Stoney Mountain, our maximum capacity prison, 32% of prisoners have fetal alcohol syndrome. There is an issue. Why do we not deal with the fetal alcohol syndrome issue?

On child care, the Conservatives have promised to deliver 125,000 spaces. We have asked them to table a report showing where they have set up these spaces. Show me 10 or 20 spaces. In Manitoba they could not show me 10 new spaces created by the government. There is a demand right now on that.

Personally, I think that the worst part is their treatment of official languages. They made commitments, they talked to francophones across the country, they held consultations for months and months, they made promises, and they told francophones living in minority communities that they would come up with a new plan, a better plan specifically designed for communities.

But the budget came, and there was no plan. What does that mean? I think official language communities are very disappointed in their government's lack of commitment. This is just like the elimination of the court challenges program. It shows the same vision and the same lack of respect for our minority communities.

My time is running out, which is unfortunate because I am having a lot of fun. The last thing I want to mention is the disastrous fiscal record of the government. I have mentioned it before. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the House do not believe this. The last time the Conservatives had a surplus, prior to inheriting the surpluses from the Liberal Party, was 1912. That is a fact.

The Conservatives have been trying to spin that they are good fiscal managers, that they can manage a downturn in the economy. They are creating the downturn in the economy. The Conservatives have been in government for two years. They create instability in the marketplace and all of a sudden we are back in deficit, and here we go again. The Liberals will have to come back in to clean up the mess. That is a fact of life. Hon. members do not have to take my word for it, they should look at the record. It says 1912. That is a long time. I would put my money on the Liberals. We will be back eventually and we will have to clean up this mess once again.

Overall, it took 13 years to build a solid economic structure in Canada. It took the Conservatives two years to destroy it.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I notice there is a lot of interest in the speech so there will be a lot of questions and comments. Therefore, perhaps the questions of members can be very succinct.

The hon. member for Wild Rose.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be very quick. The member gave four points on some goods things in the budget. These are in the budget mainly because the Liberals never got any of it done. Then he gave about 20 some reasons why the budget was no good. Because there are four goods things out of some twenty things in the budget, I assume he will vote no on it.

If he does not vote no, could he please explain why? After all, he said that it was not a good budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, I probably identified about five things that were good. Obviously, Liberals did not put them in place. We are the opposition and the Conservatives are the government. It is their responsibility to get it done. Liberals are here to keep an eye on those guys. It is the responsibility of the Conservatives to get things done.