House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Supplementary Estimates
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government’s supplementary estimates propose ideological cuts of more than $160 million in a dozen departments and agencies. The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself admitted that he is unable to identify all the cuts that have been made and are to come, including $60 million in the Department of Human Resources and $7 million in the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec.

Can the Prime Minister tell us where he is going to slash and guarantee, particularly to the unemployed and businesses in Quebec, that they will not be the ones who suffer from these secret cuts?

Supplementary Estimates
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are obviously seeking to ensure that every dollar of taxpayer money is spent wisely. We think it is tremendously important that we return to balanced budgets, so that we do not get into the same situation that Greece, Italy and Spain find themselves in. Step by step, we will get it done and protect the core competencies that people depend on, whether it is health care, education or supports for our seniors.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, as reported without amendment from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP calls for increased stimulus spending and yet it voted against the stimulus package when it was introduced. It is clear what the opposition plan is for Canada. We only need look at Ontario from 1990 to 1995 for a sneak preview. The NDP's failed tax and spend philosophy continues today with demands for more freewheeling deficit spending and higher taxes that would kill jobs.

Budget 2011 is the right plan for the right time. This government has taken all the right steps and we must build on that advantage, the Canadian advantage. While our plan is working, the opposition suggests that we need to raise taxes and increase spending.

I listened with great interest recently to the member for Toronto Centre when he addressed the Economic Club of Canada. I can tell members that we have seen this movie before and it does not end pretty. The member for Toronto Centre wants to take us back to the future. As we all know, when that member became premier of Ontario, he inherited a $20 billion deficit. When he left office it was $60 billion. His first budget had a $670 million shortfall, his second $1 billion and his third $1.6 billion. From his time as the NDP premier of Ontario, Canadians know about his government's dreadful economic record: higher debt, higher taxes and higher unemployment. By the time he left office, he had raised taxes for every income bracket. People making more than $67,000 faced the highest marginal tax rates in North America and the rating agencies had downgraded Ontario's credit worthiness.

This is exactly what we could expect from an NDP government. Clearly, it is not fit to govern. We cannot afford to listen to the opposition, the “nattering nabobs of negativism”. We would rather listen to those who have some experience with such matters, such as the IMF, Forbes, the World Economic Forum, the OECD, the Economic Intelligence Unit and the G20 Young Entrepreneurs' Alliance, all of whom recognize that Canada possesses something that many countries around the world today consider a precious and rare commodity, stability.

I call on the opposition to do the right thing for Canada and support this budget.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the negative nabob caucus, I will ask a question, and God forbid I delve into the world of negativism.

I want to ask about the tax credits that the member has been talking about. When the Conservatives talk about these non-refundable tax credits, they talk about them in the sense that they will benefit all Canadians, when, as our leader, the member for Toronto Centre, the one who the member picked on, quite rightly pointed out that many of the vulnerable members of our society will not be able to benefit from this credit because it will be non-refundable.

Why can the government not make these non-refundable tax credits to caregivers, firefighters and so forth, refundable? It is a specific question. It is just about that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am on the finance committee and we had just finished pre-budget consultations and we travelled across the country. From firefighters to child care providers to business groups, they all supported our government's economic action plan to create jobs with a low tax plan.

It is clear that the member's party is totally out of touch. The speech that his leader gave last week would clearly taking us back to the future. The people of Ontario have the dreaded experience of living under that kind of leadership once and he wants to bring to Canada what he brought to Ontario.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was also on the finance committee with the member and it is not true that everyone agreed that the way the government was going forward was the right way. The proposed tax credits would not benefit everyone. They would not benefit people who do not have enough money to actually benefit from a tax credit. Many people and many organizations ask that the tax credits be made refundable.

Would my hon. colleague just confirm whether he believes that everyone really agrees with what was proposed?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend has done an absolutely fine job as vice-chair of the finance committee.

On May 2, the people of Canada gave us a very strong mandate. We ran on a plan and the people of Canada accepted that plan and gave us a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government to implement it. Tax credits were part of that whole plan. The people of Canada spoke and gave us the opportunity implement that plan.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question because we have had so many questions on these tax credits.

We have the workers' tax benefit, often called WITB, introduced by the Minister of Finance. We have also raised the personal exemption multiple times to ensure that lower income people do not pay any tax. We have tried to do the best we can to target those initiatives to lower income people.

There was never a tax credit in previous governments for physical fitness or for the arts and now we are offering that.

Combined with these other benefits, would the member not agree that these cover the whole gamut and that all of our initiatives, collectively, are moving forward, not only to address issues of middle-class families but also of lower income families, with different programs?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, my hon. friend is absolutely right. We looked at the whole budget in its totality and people. We stand with average Canadian families who have kids or who have grandparents they need to look after and these tax credits would help in that effort.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures.

This bill does not give us what we need. When the Standing Committee on Finance travelled and heard from witnesses, we saw that this bill is out of touch with reality.

For example, last month, we lost 72,000 jobs. The government continues to say that everything is fine.

This bill came out a long time ago. It does not take into account everything that is going on now. It does not take into account that 1,400,000 people are currently unemployed. If we include people who are discouraged and who have stopped looking for work, that number is nearly 2 million. That is huge.

Yet the government says that everything is fine, that it is carrying on as planned and that it will not make any changes to what it put forward, even though some economists have suggested investing in infrastructure and helping seniors by increasing their pensions. The government is still doing none of that.

Last summer the youth unemployment rate was 17.2%. That is much higher than before the recession, when it was 14%.

Once again, the government is not really looking at the numbers or at reality. It is completely out of touch with reality and with the people. And that is what we are seeing with those who are outraged as well as with the Occupy Montreal and Occupy Ottawa movements. People do not understand why this government is not listening to them. They protest, yet the government is still not listening.

And when it comes to household debt, for every dollar earned, a person owes $1.49. That is a ratio of 150%. How can the average family find a way out?

And what is the government's solution? It lowers taxes on big business. We have seen that lowering taxes on big business does not help those without an income.

Instead of moving in that direction, the government should listen to certain economists and even the Conference Board of Canada, who are saying that the gap between rich and poor is growing. And we have seen it.

Quebec's consumer protection bureau is also saying that lowering taxes on big business is contributing to this wealth gap. The government is sticking its head in the sand and refusing to budge.

If we look at the OECD figures, economic growth over the past 20 years has benefited the rich more than the poor. Bill C-13 is inadequate.

We want leadership and a vision for the economy. Why not invest in a green economy that is geared toward the future?

We can offer projects and research and development programs that could help Canada get ready for the future, for an economy that will not only bring us wealth and economic growth, but also provide wealth for our children and protect the environment.

The government has nothing for that.

We want concrete results.

To get back to the bill and the amendments we are proposing, the government tends not to want to debate or discuss the issues. We see that in the case of Bill C-10, and as far as Bill C-13 is concerned, everything is mixed together. All sorts of things are combined and we are told to just deal with it.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, and we got an explanation for Bill C-13 while we were on a pre-budget tour. This illustrates the government's bad faith.

In this bill, one part addresses the $2 per vote subsidy.

Part 18 of the bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to phase out quarterly allowances to registered parties.

At a time when the government is completely out of touch with reality and people no longer trust certain politicians—especially on the other side of the House—the government is now eliminating a tool linked to the fact that people vote. It is an important tool. The reason why we are in the House today is because people voted for us. If we do not belong to a big political party, or if we have ideas but not the financial backing, things can be very difficult. We know that those on the other side of the House who stand for election already have a great deal of money because they are in government. They have their friends. There is a lot of payback.

The reason for the $2 per vote allowance was to prevent big business from funding election campaigns. It was to create a separation and give a voice to the people. This government is doing the opposite.

The $2 per vote allowance is an important equalizer that gives all parties, regardless of their presence in Parliament, a fair chance at equal participation in a general election and campaign. It is also a tool that rolls back the power of big money in influencing the outcome of elections and the policy agenda. It reflects also the support of voters and increases their motivation to vote. What we are doing right now is going against that. It rewards parties for convincing people to vote for them, therefore ensuring that parties have a message that is meaningful to all voters. It is also a way of facilitating a campaign donation.

The government says that if people have money and believe in the party, then give money to that party. Not everyone has money, but everyone has a right to vote and their vote should count. If people are poor or unable to pay their bills at the end of the month, they do not think of sending contributions to a political party. However, if they go out and vote and they know their vote helps the party, even though it does not win, even though it is not in government or even not sitting in the House, at least people feel it is something they have done and it helps someone else, without having to take the money out of their wallet, if they do not have any, and having to help the party.

Again, the Conservatives are successful in raising money because they are in government, so it is helping their friends and their friends helping them. That is why there is a policy right now. With this budget, the Conservatives are helping the big corporations, which are already profitable, by giving big corporate tax cuts.

There is a lack of understanding of what is happening with the population. There is a disconnect between the government and the population. For people who want their voice to be heard, the government is shutting them down and telling them their vote does not really count.

One thing is really disturbing. I stood for election in 2008. People told me that they voted for me. It was important to them that their vote count. It was also important to them that this advance democracy in some way. Now, this government is making us take a step backward.

With the votes that I garnered I was able to continue. It helped my party and moved things forward. This bill is anti-democratic for people with new ideas who do not yet have a party. This government's bill is a setback for democracy. For that reason, I will be voting against the bill.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and regrettably he has it wrong. When it comes to the economy, Canada is doing better relative to other nations.

What I found particularly interesting were his comments on the per vote subsidy. People are forced to make this subsidy. The government is getting rid of that subsidy because people should voluntarily choose which party they want to support financially.

The member does not seem to understand that the taxpayers pay for the subsidy, and the taxpayers are all Canadians. Canadians are forced to support parties they do not want to support.

The fact is the Conservative Party will be hit the hardest, because we get the most votes of any party, but we are doing it on principle.

Will the member realize that people should not be paid or go to the ballot box for money reasons? The member has suggested that people vote to get money for a party? People should vote because it is the right thing to do. They should vote because people have made tremendous sacrifice, including with their own lives, so that we have the right to vote. People should vote because they believe in policy issues.

Will the member change his opinion on the per vote subsidy?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his question. I disagree with his position that Canada must pay and that, here, this is unfair.

Tax credits for donations to political parties are another way to subsidize.

It is a subsidy. If the government gives a tax credit for donations, it is the same thing. Canadians are also paying for that.

We are saying it is important for people who do not have money, for the poor, who actually want to contribute and who know that their vote will help the party and the person for whom they vote. That is worth defending. We are saying it is democratic. This helps democracy move forward.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, whom I would like to thank for his very interesting speech. I also found the $2 per vote issue very interesting. I think that perhaps the minister of state does not understand the system. In fact, as the member for Brossard—La Prairie said, corporate donations were replaced by a simple public process with funding allocated based on the number of votes at the polls.

This system is exactly based on the voter choosing where the $2 goes, whereas the larger amount of tax dollars that the government does not seem to want to touch come from all of us. Whether we like or not, if someone donates $400 to a political party, we as taxpayers will give them back $300.

I would like the hon. member's thoughts on how we can persuade the government that it is removing the exact part of the system that works best and is keeping tax dollars going to political parties that are far less democratic.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

We are trying to convince the government. We have pushed for an amendment to the bill. We have explained to the government why it is important.

I totally agree with my hon. colleague in terms of the $2 per vote subsidy helping the party. It is more democratic, it helps in terms of money and it costs less than all the tax credits.

Basically, it is very important for our democracy. It is very important for us who are here and who are elected that the votes we get are translated into something that makes Canada move forward.