House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, when I meet with Canadians and I ask them what they are looking for from us in Ottawa, their answer is clear. They want a government they can trust. Canadians work hard and they play by the rules. They want a government that respects the rules and follows the law. They want a government that does not waste Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.

Marie, the other day, told me that she wants a government that “is working hard for me, not trying to sell itself to me with my own tax dollars”.

Canadians tell me they want a government that will clean up the books and provide a credible plan to get Canada out of deficit, a government that will make real investments to protect the programs that have helped make this country strong—programs like our national health care system.

Canadians want a government that will invest in families and the jobs of tomorrow. They want a government that is there for them when they need it, whether they are struggling to provide for their children, taking care of a sick relative at home or just trying to make ends meet on a fixed income. However, instead of listening to Canadians, the Conservative regime has put forth a budget with more out-of-control spending that is out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. It continues to show contempt for Canadian taxpayers by hiding the true costs of its agenda.

The Conservatives have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on partisan advertising. They treat tax dollars as if it were their own money. They wasted $1.3 billion of taxpayer money on a 72-hour photo op at the G20. Of course, we all remember the fake lake, the gazebos, the bug spray and sunscreen, luxury furniture, glow sticks and $70,000 on mini-bar snacks.

The Conservatives are borrowing $6 billion and digging Canada even deeper into debt in order to pay for corporate tax breaks for the top 5% wealthiest corporations in Canada. This is despite the fact that the chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada said recently that the effect of corporate tax cuts on job creation is “trivial”.

Meanwhile, in January, the Conservatives raised job-killing payroll taxes for all Canadian businesses when they increased EI premiums. This Conservative tax hike hurts Canadian small businesses in particular—the very employers that are responsible for creating the most jobs in Canada.

While the Conservatives boast about a technical recovery, they are out of touch with the deep human recession that many Canadian families are facing. The fact is that there are over 100,000 fewer full-time jobs in Canada today compared to the fall of 2008. Most of the jobs that have been created have been part time, a fact that the Conservatives conveniently leave out when they are discussing their budget.

In my own riding of Kings—Hants there have been losses of jobs at Fundy Gypsum, Eastern Protein, Canard poultry and the Larsen's plant. A lot of people are losing good full-time jobs and seeing these full-time jobs replaced by part-time work. The Conservatives are boasting about the number of jobs and yet ignoring the plight that families are facing. When good full-time jobs are replaced by part-time work, Canadian families find it even tougher to make ends meet.

I would like to talk a bit about agriculture. My riding of Kings—Hants is an important centre for agriculture and farmers in my riding, in fact farmers across Canada, face real challenges. This is a difficult time in many agricultural sectors. Canada's food producers are a cornerstone of Canada's economy. Canada's farmers in our agrifood sector provide one out of every eight jobs in Canada and generates $42 billion in economic activity each year. Food is a vital link between rural and urban Canadians and the Harper Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting—

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I want to remind all hon. members not to use the given names of other hon. members.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I forgot. I read the memo from the Prime Minister's Office and I thought that change had taken effect. I apologize. You are quite right. It is not that government. It is the Canadian government, which is something that party over there seems to forget quite frequently.

The Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting $418 million from Agriculture Canada's budget. There is nothing in this budget to compensate farmers for these cuts. The Conservatives are trying to balance their budget on the backs of Canadian farmers.

The Liberal Party has committed to developing a national food policy and to put the flex back into AgriFlex, as farmers have asked for. That is federal funding that can be used for practical programs and investments in the RMP in Ontario and ASRA in Quebec, improved crop insurance or a livestock market price insurance program in the west, and a bi-Atlantic program in the east. We will invest in and support agricultural research. We will support important agricultural events including, of course, the Hants County Exhibition, Canada's oldest agricultural fair. I would be remiss not to mention that. The Liberal Party will support getting more healthy, high-quality, home-grown foods on Canadian tables.

Canadian families are finding it more and more difficult just to make ends meet. With a record youth unemployment rate of 15%, too many young Canadians are losing hope. Canadian families are now facing record levels of personal debt. A typical family in Canada today now owes more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income. In fact, that is not only a record in Canada but it is higher than American families. Canadian families are struggling now with rising food costs, medical costs and higher tuition.

They are barely able to pay the bills now, and they are wondering how they are going to get by when interest rates start to rise.

However, hard-working, low income Canadians, many of whom are juggling more than one part-time job just to pay the bills, do not seem to factor into the Conservatives' vision of Canada. The Conservatives have deliberately excluded low income Canadians from qualifying for measures under this budget, like the family caregiver tax credit and the volunteer firefighters tax credit.

The Conservatives accomplished this exclusion of low-income Canadians from these programs by making the tax credits non-refundable. These tax credits will only help Canadians who have earned enough money that year that they actually pay income taxes.

The Liberal Party would recognize the work of all volunteer firefighters and all family caregivers regardless of their income. This would include Canadians who have left their jobs and have taken unpaid leave to take care of sick relatives, the very people who are most in need of help. These people would not qualify for the Conservatives' family caregiver tax credit.

It seems like the poor just do not exist in the Conservatives' Canada. The Liberal Party sees things very differently, and we would not leave low income Canadians out in the cold to fend for themselves.

We believe government programs should be accessible to all Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians who often need the help most.

Last fall, the Liberals announced a real family care plan with a refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year that would help all low- and middle-income Canadians. We also announced a six-month family care EI benefit to help Canadians who take time off work to care for sick or aging relatives.

However, in this budget, the Conservatives deliberately excluded the poorest caregivers with a paltry $300 in a non-refundable tax credit that is not available to low-income Canadians. Under the Conservatives, a Canadian taxpayer earning $20,000, with a dependant, would not qualify for any help as a caregiver. It is outrageous, it is unfair and it is un-Canadian for the Conservatives to discriminate against low-income Canadians.

As Liberals, we have a fundamentally different view of Canada compared with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives divide Canadians into categories. They tailor their policies toward potential Conservative supporters and they ignore everyone else. If anyone does not support the Conservatives' agenda, he or she is not seen as part of their Canada.

Liberals are nation builders. We reject the Conservative politics of division. Instead, we aim to govern on behalf of and to defend the interests of all Canadians, and that includes low-income Canadians.

Much ink has been spilled on how this budget will affect seniors. The fact is this budget actually cuts federal support for seniors over the next five years. That is right. Transfers to seniors over the next five years are half a billion dollars less than they were in the last fall economic statement and almost $3 billion less than in budget 2010. That is even after we include the paltry increases to the GIS for seniors. The GIS increase works out to about $50.00 a month for seniors who qualify. That is less than a cup a coffee at Tim Hortons every day.

Also, the clawbacks to this measure are punitive and unjust. Under the Conservatives, a senior who earns just $170 per month in his or her pension is considered to be too rich and that this new $50.00 a month GIS supplement would be clawed back. And if they have a pension of $366 a month, they are too wealthy, according to the Conservatives, to receive even a penny of this GIS increase.

The GIS increase is simply Conservative crumbs, especially when we consider that Conservatives are spending 20 times more on tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. Shockingly, unbelievably, the Conservatives want to give 20 times more to the richest corporations in Canada than they want to give to Canada's poorest seniors.

It is very clear that seniors in poverty are not the only ones getting overlooked by the Conservatives in this budget.

Transfers for children's benefits also go down by $1 billion over the next five years under this budget, which means that over the next five years the Conservatives are actually budgeting less support for seniors and children living in poverty.

The budget has no plan for child care or affordable housing. It is completely silent on the most serious challenges facing our country such as, how we are going to pay for rising health care costs. Everybody knows that the demand for health care is rising. As Canadians in the baby boom generation start to retire, they are going to place a greater demand on government services and at the same time we know that the tax base is shrinking as fewer people are working to pay for these services.

Rapid changes in our society will lead to more and more people without jobs, and more and more jobs without people. We need to invest more in learning and in training.

There is no credible plan in the budget to address the reality of rising health care costs in Canada or the absolute essential need to invest significantly in training, retraining and lifelong learning. This is important because we are on the eve of the most important negotiations with the provinces on health care.

Where is the plan to deal with health care costs after the 10-year Liberal health care accord expires in 2014?

We were part of that cabinet back in 2004. At the time, the Martin Liberal government put $41 billion into health care, the largest single investment in health care in the history of Canada in any health care accord. That was at a time when the federal government was in surplus and many provinces were in surplus.

Today, we have a federal government that has racked up a record deficit. We have provinces struggling with deficits. We have health care costs rising and we know we have these negotiations coming up with a deadline for 2014. Yet, nowhere in this budget are these negotiations discussed. Nowhere in this budget is there money being set aside to plan for this important investment that would protect the public health care system in Canada. There is no mention of this negotiation. For the Conservatives, the public health care system in Canada is not really a priority.

The budget does not provide a credible plan to return Canada to balanced budgets. In fact, instead of getting us back to balanced budgets and putting aside money to invest in health care, the Conservatives are deliberately gutting Canada's capacity to invest in health care and education with reckless spending on corporate tax breaks, fighter jets and U.S. style mega prisons. Conservative spending is out of touch and it is out of control.

This budget spends 1,000 times more for fighter jets than for post-secondary students. This is a government that is spending 1,000 times more for prisons than on youth crime prevention. The Conservatives spent more on the G20 in a single day than this budget offers Canada's seniors for an entire year. The Conservatives spent three times as much on self-promoting advertising than this budget has for family care over the next 12 months.

It is clear that the Conservatives view this budget as only a marketing exercise. It is full of spin. It has a few small attractive gimmicks, baubles and trinkets, but it does nothing to address the main priorities of Canadians.

The other day the member for Cape Breton—Canso said that this budget reminded him of a salesman who once tried to sell him a car. The car had a knock in the engine, there was smoke coming out of the tailpipe, the transmission was slipping and it was leaking oil. My friend, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, pointed out these flaws to the salesman. The salesman said: “Yeah, but you gotta listen to the sound system”.

The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians from the waste, the rot and the corruption in their government by creating some noise. The Conservative budget certainly has a lot of noise. It also has a $43 billion black hole.

There is no mention in the budget of the Conservatives' plan to waste billions and billions of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars on schemes that have nothing to do with the priorities of Canadian families. There are no details on their plan to spend a staggering $30 billion on untendered fighter jets. To put that in perspective, that is more money than the government spends on health care in an entire year. It does not tell Canadians in this budget, but the Conservative government plans to send a bill for $1,000 to every man, woman and child in Canada to pay for the fighter jets.

This budget has no details on the Conservative plan to spend $13 billion on U.S. style prisons. That is just the price tag for one of its prison bills. Thank goodness we have the Parliamentary Budget Officer who continues to provide Parliament with some information on the costs of the Conservative agenda. We know that the government refuses to provide Parliament with the real costs.

The Conservative regime still refuses to provide Canadians with detailed information on the cost of 18 of its crime bills. The Conservatives want members of Parliament to vote on legislation without knowing how much it would cost Canadian taxpayers.

This is fundamentally anti-democratic. All members of Parliament, opposition and government members of Parliament, have the same fiduciary responsibility and constitutional obligation to know the cost of the legislation that we are asked to vote on. Canadians are wondering, why the Conservative secrecy?

That is why the Conservative government was found in contempt by a parliamentary committee earlier this week. It is a historic first in Canada. In fact, it is a first in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system for a government to be found in contempt of Parliament. It is not a good first. It is not something that any of us is proud of. In fact, we are embarrassed with the government and how it treats Parliament. At a time when the world needs a Canada that is helping build a more peaceful and stable democratic world, we are not setting a very good example when we have a government that is attacking the democratic institutions that keep us free here in Canada.

This is about more than just Conservatives' contempt for Parliament. It is about their contempt for the citizens who chose this Parliament. It is about their contempt for taxpayers who pay the bills.

The Conservatives continue to hide the real costs of their agenda. With all of the items that are not in this budget the question we must ask ourselves is, can we trust the government to tell us the truth? Can we trust the government to give us the real numbers?

The budget reminded me of the fall 2008 now infamous economic statement. Back then everyone knew that the Conservative government had spent Canada into a deficit even before the recession began. People recognized that the Conservatives had increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, in their first three economic statements. The Conservatives knew that too and that is why they wanted to hide that fact from Parliament and from Canadians, so the finance minister cooked the books and announced the government would sell over $10 billion worth of assets in order to get to a tiny little $100 million surplus. Ontarians will recognize this trick because it is the same trick that the same Conservatives played in Ontario when the same minister used the same trick of false asset sales to try to hide the fact that the Conservatives had put Ontario into deficit.

In reality, in the fall of 2008, there was no real plan to sell assets. In fact, we asked day after day for the list of assets that were to be sold. As a former minister of public works, I can say that there is at least a year between when one has to actually determine what one wants to sell and a process to actually sell it. The government said that it did not have a list, or rather refused to provide us with a list at that time. There was no list. The Conservatives had no information on assets to sell because it was a phony asset sales plan. A year later, the Conservatives quietly cancelled the plan before anything was sold. The Conservatives went on to give Canadians a record $56 billion deficit.

In yesterday's budget the Conservatives announced what they called a strategic and operating review. It is part of their attempt to pretend that they will cut spending and balance the budget, but once again, the budget does not provide any details whatsoever about these cuts or their restraint. No wonder neither the Parliamentary Budget Officer nor the International Monetary Fund believes the government's numbers. Both the PBO and the IMF have shown that the Conservatives' promise to balance the books simply is not credible.

The Conservatives have added nearly $100 billion to the debt since 2008. They have undone all the sacrifices that Canadians have made to pay down the debt. In fact under the Conservatives, the combined federal-provincial debt to GDP ratio has reached 82%. That is higher than the U.K., France, Germany and it is almost as bad as the Americans.

Let us remember, it was the previous Liberal government in the 1990s that took on the deficit and balanced the books for the first time since 1969. Under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, the Liberals delivered nine consecutive balanced budgets, but according to the PBO, the Conservatives will not balance the budget any time soon.

The finance minister likes to say that the government is on track. Let us be clear. The government is on track to add $200 billion to the federal debt by the year 2015-16. The Conservatives are mortgaging our children's future to pay for their ideological schemes, their bad priorities and their reckless spending. They are hiding the true costs of their agenda and they are asking MPs to vote on laws without telling us how much these laws will cost Canadian taxpayers.

In doing this, Conservatives are showing contempt not just for Parliament but for Canadian citizens and taxpayers. They are breaking the rules to hide the facts. They are doing this to cover up their wasteful spending and out of control and out of touch priorities.

As we see from the budget, Conservative spending is out of control and out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. What we see from this budget is more of a government that cannot be trusted to tell us the truth and respect Parliament. It is time to end the Conservative gravy train and to show some respect for taxpayers.

For this reason, I would like to move the following amendment, seconded by the member for Beaches—East York. I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:

the House not approve in general the budgetary policy of the government because the government and its policies are out of touch with the economic needs and priorities of Canadian families.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Kings—Hants has moved an amendment.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Peterborough.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and it seems his memory is not very good, so I will remind him of a couple of things.

It was $2 million that then justice minister Allan Rock claimed the gun registry would cost and $2 billion is what the Liberals spent on it, but they never told Canadians and hid it. That is 1,000 times, not 1,000%, over budget. The amount was $1 billion that disappeared in the HRSDC boondoggle when Liberals were in government. There was $363 million stolen through the ad scam. That is what the Liberal government did.

The member stood and defended ad scam in the House. I do not think he was really fulsome in his answers because he never said which ridings got the money. If he wants to stand on ethics, he can stand in the House right now, come clean with Canadians and tell them which ridings got the stolen money.

Where is the more than $40 million that is still missing? If the Liberals want to run on the bandwagon of being as clean and pure as the white driven snow, then they can start today with a little bit of honesty in the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was actually very proud to be part of a government that had the guts and courage to appoint Justice Gomery and support his work in getting to the bottom of this and to have a judicial inquiry. The Liberal government was not afraid to get to the truth, to achieve justice on behalf of Canadians, and to do the right thing for Canadian taxpayers.

That is very much unlike the Conservative government today, which did not listen to Elections Canada when it told the Conservative government that its party was breaking the law. The Conservative government will appeal and continue to appeal, and refuse to take the judgment of Elections Canada seriously or to listen to the courts that say the Conservatives are guilty of breaking Canada's election laws.

There are two Conservative senators potentially facing jail time. The government continues to defend the indefensible in the in and out scandal. The Prime Minister does not respect the law, the courts or Parliament, and does not believe in or understand the importance of these democratic institutions in keeping us free.

With the most recent Bruce Carson issue and $80 million being funnelled to his fiancé from the Government of Canada, money that should have gone toward water purification, to the Elections Canada scandal, and the potential jail time for Conservative senators, the government is in it up to its neck in corruption and rot. It will not do what Liberal governments did, get to the truth for Canadians and do the right thing.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Papineau there are desperate needs. Seniors, single mothers, youth and immigrant families have great difficulty finding a little bit of stability. They were stunned to learn that there is not one cent in the budget for affordable housing: nothing for low income housing; nothing to establish housing stability for people in need. I would like to ask the hon. member to comment on the irresponsible omission of affordable housing from the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member. The government should have made investing in affordable housing a priority, but there is nothing in this budget for this priority because it is not a Conservative priority. The Conservatives' proposal to increase seniors' pensions by $50 is insulting to them. It is ridiculous for the Conservatives to say that the pension increase is a great thing. It is insulting. This is not help for the less fortunate. It is an insult.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague about the health care provisions that are really very minimal in this budget from the government.

One of the things in this corner that New Democrats were looking for was a commitment to new health care professionals, new doctors and nurses, who would help Canadian families. There are five million Canadian families without a family physician, and yet there is nothing in the budget that would increase the number of doctors and nurses in Canada.

The Conservatives came through with this funny proposal to shift doctors from cities to rural areas by forgiving student loans, which does not increase the number of family doctors available to Canadians. It also does not really address the incredible debt of students who are coming out of post-secondary education with huge student loan debt. It does not address either of those important situations.

I wonder if the member might comment on what the Conservatives are not doing in those areas.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Please stop the clock. It is my understanding that there was no translation for the question from the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas. If he could quickly and concisely repeat his question, that would be appreciated.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question was about the lack of commitment on health care in this budget, of providing new family physicians to the five million Canadians who are without one; the problems of the proposal from the Conservatives to forgive the student loan debt of health care professionals who are prepared to move to rural areas and what that does to the need for doctors in urban areas; and, also, how it does not address the mounting student debts of Canadians who are seeking post-secondary education.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and for his service to Canadians. I understand he has chosen not to run again. I can tell him that his courage in defending rights and in setting an example in the way he lives and works have been an inspiration to me and for this House. We thank him for his service.

In terms of the under-served community proposal, the rural proposal, to attract and retain health care professionals in rural Canada, I actually believe that proposals to attract and retain doctors in under-serviced communities makes sense. I have some difficulties with the design of the Conservative plan, but the Liberal Party launched last spring a plan to help relieve student debt levels for nurses, doctors, and nurse practitioners who choose to serve in under-serviced communities.

It is not limited exclusively to rural because there are under-served communities in urban Canada as well, but it is a disproportionate challenge in rural and small-town Canada in places I represent in Kings—Hants.

On the post-secondary education side, it is notable that the Conservative government intends to spend a thousand times more on fighter jets than it is proposing in this budget for post-secondary education.

My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a great advocate for post-secondary education and students, pointed out to me that this will amount to $34 per year for every Canadian student going to university or college. For $34 per year, one cannot even buy a textbook for goodness' sake. It is a paltry sum designed to buy a few votes with trinkets and baubles, but it does nothing really to help Canadians who need the help the most.