House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to ask a question of the member for Yukon. I know that one of the things he is very concerned about is the situation of first nation communities in Canada.

This budget purports to spend about $1.4 billion in first nation communities. The Assembly of First Nations, in its prebudget submission, suggested that a $3 billion stimulus package was necessary for first nation communities. The member knows as well that the last Liberal government proposed the Kelowna accord, which proposed about $5 billion worth of spending in first nations and aboriginal communities in Canada. So we are falling far short of what the first nation communities themselves identified, what his own party identified as was necessary.

Specifically, we see that this budget talks about $20 million over two years for partnerships to improve child and family services when the Indian and Northern Affairs Department itself says that this is underfunded by about $109 million a year. This budget only proposes $400 million for on-reserve housing, when the department again has estimated that in 2005 $5 billion was needed in housing alone to bring aboriginal housing on and off-reserve up to Canadian standards. This budget talks about $515 million for urgent infrastructure. That would only build 10 schools when 89 schools are needed across the country in first nation communities.

I wonder, given that incredible shortfall in funding to first nations, how this member is able to support this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member has done excellent work protecting the first nations in his area. He certainly will not get any quarrel from me that for a long time there has been insufficient funding to change the disparity between first nations and the rest of Canadians. He is absolutely correct that we put in the Kelowna accord, when those funds were available, the biggest attempt in history to reduce those discrepancies. So I, too, am very disappointed.

Even the items he has lobbied for, and I notice that schools for instance are in the budget to some extent, may be an improvement over what there was in the past. However, these things should have been done long ago, and more money for water systems. Could members imagine if we had not acted immediately and it were not on some distant reserve, and if our water had those types of problems? These are things for which we have constantly pushed.

There are some steps in the right direction in the budget but as the member said succinctly, there needs to be much more. We will constantly, as we have in the past, push even more to reduce these disparities.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate, again, the member for bringing forward these issues that have been raised by his constituents. It seems to me, and I hope it seems to the House, that here we have a budget that has some funds and programs that would reach the objectives that we want to see with respect to the development of the north. The member has spoken about these. He has spoken about where he would like to see changes. However, he has also spoken about the process of accountability, monitoring the accountability, and how effectively those funds would be used and those programs would be utilized.

When these quarterly reports come forward, from his perspective of being able to respond on behalf of his residents and northern development, does the member see these reports being streamed into the relevant committee and then the committee recommending particular action? Is that the kind of responsive mechanism that he sees would be in the interests of regions across this country, in terms of extracting the very best of this budget, and doing the things that the budget intends to do and thereby improving it where that might be possible?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member has less than a minute to answer that question.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, because of the short time I will not get into the details. I think that is an excellent suggestion. I think what is important is exactly what the member said. We need to know what is being spent because in the past small-town mayors have told us that they had not received any infrastructure from the building Canada fund that had been advertised year after year. So, if we have an official analysis where it is on paper, we can look at it

Second, as the member said, we could find out what is working, how many jobs are actually being created, and what is not working, and then all of us, working together in this House, could adjust the program so it is working better and target the investments so they are working as a better stimulus.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, in the history of a nation there are defining moments, moments that we mark with pride, moments that we mark with disillusionment, moments that fundamentally change the way we think about our country. The United States of America recently had a defining moment marked with pride and hope, a beacon for the future, the setting of a new course, a direction mapped with vision and leadership. We have not been so fortunate in this country.

It took the Conservative government too long to acknowledge the serious problems in the economy. The Conservative government took too lightly its request to close the House of Commons. Its inaction saw 100,000 Canadian jobs lost, futures made uncertain, lives disrupted, hope lost. When the Conservative government finally got down to business, catching up with the rest of the industrialized world and offering a stimulus package, while the nation waited for leadership, while a country held its breath in the hope of some positive direction, what the Conservatives did was tear apart the foundation of a federation. They sent a message that fairness does not exist, that vindictiveness outpaces vision, that bold initiatives are displaced by bad direction.

I listened intently to the Minister of Finance deliver his budget. I listened, read, reviewed and found very deep beneath his glowing words the ugly truth of how the Conservatives treat provinces in this federation.

A few short weeks ago I stood in this House and spoke with pride about how it felt to be a first generation Canadian and an eighth generation Newfoundlander and Labradorian working to build a great nation. I stand today with no less passion.

In what is touted to be a stimulus budget, in a time when governments around the world work to ensure that the success of their countries is secure, the Conservative government attacks certain members of its federation, penalizes them, retaliates against them and cuts them to the core.

Thankfully, Newfoundland and Labrador, through prudent and careful planning, is no longer receiving equalization. While the province has the highest per capita debt and many challenges to overcome, it is indeed making progress. However, this budget contains previously undisclosed changes to the equalization formula which have major impacts on the Atlantic accord.

The Atlantic accord sets the rules for the sharing of revenues with Ottawa of the offshore energy industry. Let me tell the Conservative government that by unilaterally changing the O'Brien formula for equalization, and penalizing--not stimulating, but penalizing--taking money away from Newfoundland and Labrador, $1.5 billion--$400 million in 2009, $600 million in 2010 and $500 million in 2011--is reprehensible, unconscionable and difficult to swallow.

This is no way to build a federation. It breeds an atmosphere of mistrust that will cause problems in the future. The provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are the targets of the Conservative government today. Who will it be tomorrow? That is the question all provincial governments have to ask themselves.

In this House we often speak of huge numbers. We talk about millions and billions of dollars in expenditures. What does $1.5 billion mean to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? It will likely mean the province will have less funding to help in health care and education. It will mean that some of the lowest paid nurses in this country will not necessarily get the wage increases they deserve. It will mean that health care facilities may not be able to recruit health care professionals. Care to patients may suffer. It means municipalities in the province that are trying to take advantage of some of the infrastructure programs in the budget may not be able to do so because they cannot come up with matching funds to put in place the kind of infrastructure they need to provide safe drinking water for the people in small communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These are real impacts on real people.

By making this budget change, the Conservative government is sending a message loud and clear to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am sure my friends in Quebec and other provinces impacted by the same change heard the same message. The message this budget sends with the penalizing of some provinces is that under a Conservative government we do not stand as equals, that trust is absent and in the face of adversity we do not share equally in the benefits of the federation, that doing what is right--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. I recognize the President of the Treasury Board on a point of order.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize for interrupting the member on her eloquent presentation.

I believe the House leaders have knowledge of this. This morning when I tabled the supplementary estimates I was inadvertently provided with the wrong document, signed by the hand of Her Excellency the Governor General. I wish to sincerely apologize to the House for the error.

At this time I wish to provide the Speaker with a message from Her Excellency the Governor General signed by her own hand transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the financial year ending March 31, 2009 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Acting Speaker (Ms. Savoie) to the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that the House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

January 29th, 2009 / 1 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, the message this budget sends with the penalizing of some provinces is that under a Conservative government we do not stand as equals, that trust is absent, that in the face of adversity we do not share equally in the benefits of the federation, that doing what is right is replaced by doing the most to hurt.

Let me tell the Conservative government that it will take a lot more than the Conservative government to knock a Newfoundlander and a Labradorian. We have weathered over 500 years of storms. We have faced every adversity. We have stared in the face of injustice and we have grown stronger.

Now is not the time to play politics. Now is the time to do what is right. Doing what is right means understanding that this change very deep in the budget has grave impacts. Doing what is right means rethinking and discussing the challenges with those impacted. Doing what is right means the minister rising in the House to give assurances that would be the case.

This is a defining moment in the country's history of defining moments.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador. She just gave an eloquent speech, reminding us just how unacceptable this budget is for the people in her province, the people of Quebec, as well as tens of thousands of Canadians all over the country who in no way benefit from this budget. My colleague used these expressions: “reprehensible, unconscionable, difficult to swallow; real impact on real people”.

How can any representative of a constituency, a riding of 80,000 voters, rise in this House and say that the budget just presented is not good for their constituents, that it deprives them of things they so desperately need, and at the same time, despite how bad it is, say that they are going to support that budget on behalf of their constituents?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, these are extremely difficult times in our country. The issues we are facing today in Newfoundland and Labrador are exactly as I have outlined. The change proposed in the budget is absolutely going to harm Newfoundland and Labrador. The change in this budget has a very big impact on the province.

I have received many calls and many contributions from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on this very issue. We are listening to their concerns. The sharing of the offshore oil and gas industry revenues of $1.5 billion is not acceptable to Newfoundland and Labrador. I would think it would not be acceptable to this country to treat a member of our federation in this manner.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member on her speech and I look forward to serving with her on the industry committee.

In her speech she used words like “ugly truth” and talked about catching up with the rest of the world. Obviously we have heard that same political language for strategic Liberal purposes over the course of their speeches today.

I want to clarify a few things. I have mentioned this quote from London's Daily Telegraph before, but it is a great quote about our Prime Minister in comparison with other G8 leaders:

Of all the leaders, only...the Canadian Prime Minister is able to point to a popular and successful record in office.

Some will regard it as alarming that, in current times, world leadership should rest with Canada. But the Canadian Tories are a model of how to behave during a downturn.

They have kept spending in check and reduced taxes....

It goes on to say at the end:

If the rest of the world had comported itself with similar modesty and prudence, we might not be in this mess.

Organizations like the OECD, the IMF and the World Economic Forum have ranked Canada as a world leader in terms of our ability to come out of the recession and the stability of our banking system.

I would like to give the hon. member a chance to articulate some of the things that she likes about the budget since I anticipate she might be voting in favour of it. I know her party is going to anyway.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, thank you to the hon. member for the question. I look forward to serving with you on the very important Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. The future of our country is to look at investments in terms of jobs of the future, investments in terms of what we should be doing in genomics and some of the other very important areas of science. Ocean technology is very important in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I welcome your question. I lived through the 1990s as a business person in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have been on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I have contributed to the business community of this country. Thank goodness for the Liberal government at the time for setting the parameters in place that allowed for the economic circumstance we had until recent times. If it were not for the previous minister of finance and the previous prime minister of this country, we would not be in such economic good fortunes.

You consider, sir, that over the last while we have now faced one of the largest deficits in our history.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I would ask all members to address their remarks through the Chair.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Barrie.