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

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, there is assistance for communities. Amounts are yet to be calculated, but the economic statement refers to per capita assistance for communities in trouble. The communities most in need are those dependent on forestry and manufacturing industries, particularly in Quebec, but also in Ontario. However, it came to light that, on a per capita basis, Alberta would receive more for every job lost than would Quebec. That is why we can say that the budget as well as the former economic statement favour western Canada.

We could also talk about tax measures and the tax cuts always given to major oil companies. The Bloc Québécois had asked that this assistance be reduced or even completely abolished. Big oil companies absolutely do not need tax cuts in these turbulent economic times. However, this government refused to touch the tax breaks given to help its friends in western Canada and its friends the oil companies.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you. I would like to say that Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands are a beautiful area and would be pleased to welcome you.

First I would like to congratulate the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for his speech and I would like to hear from him about the Quebec nationalist members, as they call themselves, of the Conservative Party. I am thinking in particular of the member from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, who is now a minister. They are forgetting about employment insurance and the forestry issue in Quebec. I would like to hear from the member for Richmond—Arthabaska in this regard.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague will see what happens when we vote on the amendment to the amendment. At 6:30 this evening, the Bloc Québécois will present the unanimous motion of the National Assembly of Quebec. All Quebec members in this House should vote for this subamendment. We shall see who truly defends the interests of Quebec when we vote this evening.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant has the floor, but I would like to point out that I will probably have to interrupt her.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part today in the ways and means debate, particularly as we enter into a recession.

In its budget, the government announced several measures to set the economy back on the path to prosperity. In my opinion, Quebec is not getting all the benefits of these measures that the neighbouring provinces are. What is more, the Conservatives would have done well to heed the people of Quebec and the needs they expressed.

This budget is a long way from meeting the needs unanimously expressed by the Quebec National Assembly. Unfortunately, the leader of the Conservatives chose instead to heed the demands of Ontario and the west, to the detriment of Quebec.

For example, the government is offering measures aimed mainly at Ontario, to a total of close to $4 billion. The forestry and manufacturing sectors in Quebec, on the other hand, will receive a mere few millions—a pittance.

While some of the measures announced in the budget might be of benefit to the industrial sector, nevertheless it is still a fact that there is no aid directly targeting the manufacturing sector in Quebec. Yet the Bloc proposed some far more generous measures within its recovery plan, measures that could have helped companies no longer making a profit because of the crisis. The government turned a deaf ear and opted for a variety of measures to reduce corporate taxes.

Yet everyone understands that a manufacturing or forestry company that is not recording any profit is already paying little or no taxes. So who exactly is really benefiting from these tax cuts? The answer is obvious.

I would, however, like to address the economic aspect of the situation. Clearly, a recession is an economic phenomenon that requires an economic stimulus package, and a whole speech could have been devoted to that. A recession, however, is not just about business and taxation.

In fact, there is another aspect of the recession that I prefer to talk about: the impact on people's lives, particularly the most disadvantaged. In this connection, I note a remarkable consistency in the Conservatives: to always ignore the same categories of the disadvantaged—the most vulnerable members of our society—or to once again attack the same sectors that, according to their ideology, will not be profitable.

When I took part in the debates on last November's throne speech, I raised the point that there were some glaring omissions including women, people with inadequate housing, older workers, the unemployed, the cultural industry, and seniors. Once again, the same categories of people are ignored by this budget.

I would like to focus on what is happening to seniors living below the poverty line. These seniors are among the poorest, most vulnerable members of our society. Seniors receiving the guaranteed income supplement will not be getting any more help anytime soon. The Conservatives have provided a $1,000 age-related tax credit, which is all well and good, but it will not help the poorest of our seniors.

That leads me to question this measure, because this is just like the problem with business tax credits: how is a tax credit supposed to help people who may be living below the poverty line and who pay little or no tax?

The increase to $6,048 might help seniors who are working for various reasons, but we must put things in perspective. It looks like seniors could save up to $961 in taxes, depending on their income. However, this is a tax measure that individuals will notice just once a year after they file their tax returns. This is not the kind of direct assistance that people need during hard times. And that does not even account for the fact that the amount saved will vary depending on the senior's income.

With respect to the poorest seniors, FADOQ, a network that protects the interests of Quebec seniors, has highlighted an important fact: seniors who have no income other than old age security and the guaranteed income supplement live below the poverty line.

In Quebec alone, 500,000 people collect varying amounts through the guaranteed income supplement. That means that half a million people will not receive any direct assistance because the government is refusing to improve the guaranteed income supplement.

The Bloc Québécois has once again made specific requests for this budget: an incremental increase in the seniors' supplement and graduated retroactivity for those eligible for the guaranteed income supplement who were swindled by the government. Taken together, these measures would have cost $2.5 billion over two years.

Of course, we are still asking for automatic enrollment for seniors who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement. This is what all seniors' advocacy groups want, and their demands cannot be ignored.

I would like to say a few words about social housing, which is a critical need in my community. The Bloc Québécois said that it wanted the federal government's budget to invest $2 billion additional dollars each year for construction, renovation and conversion of affordable social housing. But the government is proposing $2 billion over two years, or half of what we requested.

Of this amount, $400 million will go towards constructing social housing for low-income seniors and $75 million will go towards construction of social housing for the disabled, which is not nearly enough in these times.

The budget makes no mention of social housing for the poorest families, for example, two- or three-bedroom units.

In Châteauguay alone, a city in my riding, the municipal housing bureau told me that 143 households were still waiting for affordable social housing. Half of these households are made up of single mothers and the other half are seniors. And that is just one medium-sized city in Quebec.

The reality is that a significant number of Quebec families cannot afford to buy a house, which is the case for these 143 households that I mentioned. The lack of a true policy for constructing affordable housing remains a serious flaw in this budget.

I will finish by saying that the Bloc Québécois and I will assume our responsibilities and will vote, without hesitation, against this unfair budget that does not respond to Quebeckers' priorities.

It is also clear to me that the proposed budgetary measures will help the wealthiest in our society more so than the poorest who are hard hit by this recession.

Voting in favour of the budget or allowing it to pass in one way or another would be to abandon Quebec and the poor in our society, when those are two causes that I represent and defend fervently. It would go against my political beliefs and my reason for being here.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, yesterday during oral questions the member's colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert asked questions of the government relating to arts and cultural funding in this budget. She expressed her disappointment that the government had not backtracked on its decision to cut funding for the promotion of Canadian culture overseas which ended the PromArt program and other travelling cultural programs. I wonder if the member would comment on that.

My riding of Burnaby—Douglas is home to much of the film, video and television production in Canada. Workers in the film and television industry are disappointed that the budget also failed to maximize the potential of that industry in terms of economic stimulation in Canada. It did not give a long-term commitment to important institutions like the Canadian Television Fund and Telefilm Canada. We need that long-term commitment to these important programs given the work they provide for Canadians and the opportunity for cultural expression they afford Canadians. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant may take one minute to respond. She will have three minutes after question period to continue her speech.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

The budget we have seen does not provide the funds needed for culture in Quebec. Everyone knows how important that industry is for us and how important it is for Quebec to disseminate our culture around the world.

As my hon. colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert said, it is strange that funding is being cut for our artists touring abroad, while funding is given for productions and artists from other countries.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

France Bonsant

This is completely backwards.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

I agree; it really is completely backward, as my colleague from Compton—Stanstead said.

This shows a complete lack of respect for the Quebec nation, which was recognized by this House. Its culture is not being recognized and attempts are being made to impede its development. By impairing its culture in this way, its economic development is also being impaired, since the cultural industry as a whole is so important to our economic success.

Bryce Keller Memorial Bursary
Statements By Members

January 29th, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to commend one of my constituents, Sarah Keller, a member of the Canadian Forces, who has created a bursary at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

On August 3, 2006, Corporal Bryce Keller, Sarah's husband, was killed in a firefight in Kandahar. He was awarded the Medal of Military Valour for his actions. I am honoured to inform the House that the Corporal Bryce Keller Medal of Military Valour Memorial Bursary will annually allow a student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to pursue his or her dream of higher education.

I ask the House to recognize the great sacrifices the Kellers have made on behalf of all Canadians.

Sri Lanka
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week the members of Toronto's 200,000 Sri Lankan community held a week-long hunger strike to draw attention to the atrocities currently taking place in Sri Lanka. Hundreds of people across the greater Toronto area expressed their demand for immediate action by fasting.

Today I would like to draw the attention of the government and all members to the fact that another 300 lives were lost this week alone regardless of “safe zones”. For more than 20 years the Sri Lankan people have been victims of a civil war that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since 1983.

Canada is home to the largest Sri Lankan community outside of Asia. I strongly call on all members of the House to join me in pressing for an immediate and peaceful resolution.

Yves Langlois
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to a resident of Saint-Armand, in the riding of Brome—Missisquoi, Mr. Yves Langlois. He won the award for the best full-length documentary at the Breaking Down Barriers film festival in Moscow, Russia, for his film Le dernier envol.

In 2005, Mr. Langlois, who is a well-known author, editor and director, won the Judith Jasmin award, which honours excellence in journalism, for his film L'envol du monarque.

With no funding available in Canada because of the Conservatives' cuts to culture, Mr. Langlois' trip to Russia had to be funded by the American embassy.

The Bloc Québécois is proud to recognize the outstanding work of this artist in this House, and I would like to take this opportunity to once again condemn the Conservatives' cuts to funding that enables our artists to have an impact abroad.

Employment Insurance
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, with an ever growing unemployment rate of 6.6% and with monthly job losses in the thousands, now is the time to expand the employment insurance program. Unfortunately, in Tuesday's budget the government only offered half measures and not one additional worker will become eligible for EI benefits.

Canada's social safety net is supposed to help families when they fall. Sadly, too many of them are falling through the growing cracks.

For the sake of workers in Nickel Belt and across the country, it is imperative that the government make sweeping changes to employment insurance. The two-week waiting period should be eliminated. The number of hours required to qualify for benefits should be reduced. Benefits should be improved.

The government has missed its opportunity to protect working families affected by the recession and the Leader of the Opposition has decided to sell out the jobless in exchange for propping up the government.

Gary Tinker Federation for the Disabled
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to tell you about a remarkable resident in my constituency, Mr. Gary Tinker of Pinehouse Lake, Saskatchewan.

Nearly 20 years ago Mr. Tinker, who suffers from cerebral palsy, completed a 650 kilometre walk from La Ronge to Regina on crutches. This inspired the formation of the Gary Tinker Federation for the Disabled.

This federation is a non-profit career services and advocacy group. It has a proud record of 19 years of continued success and positive impact on the lives of individuals living with a disability in northern Saskatchewan, their families and communities. The federation is dedicated to levelling the playing field of services and employability for the disabled in northern Saskatchewan.

Gary Tinker is an inspiration to us all. It is an honour to pay tribute to him today for his continuing and tireless efforts on behalf of the disabled and to congratulate him on the 20th anniversary of his famous walk to raise awareness for the unmet needs of the disabled in northern Saskatchewan. Mr. Tinker invites everyone to join him this September in celebrating this milestone event, the next chapter of his ongoing mission.