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

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely unacceptable for a member to violate the rules of the House. You asked him to correct his mistake. I hope that it was a mistake, but since he has said it twice, it was not a mistake. Since he has not followed the rules of the House, I encourage you to have the member removed until he is ready to act honourably here in the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member from Mississauga South is rising on the same point of order.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke is absolutely right. It is unparliamentary language to refer to any hon. member as being a liar. The practice is for the offending words to be withdrawn and, if the member refuses, the Speaker will need to consider further action.

I encourage the member simply to withdraw that word and we will move on.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before the hon. member for Hochelaga rises, perhaps I was not clear in my first comment. The Chair is requesting the hon. member for Hochelaga to withdraw his remark.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I was not clear. I am doubly sorry and withdraw my remarks.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I consider the issue resolved.

Resuming debate. The hon. leader of the NDP.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Outremont.

This week the Prime Minister had a choice to make. He knew very clearly where the New Democrats stood.

Canadians know that it is not particularly natural for us to work with the Conservatives. It is hard to work with a government that consistently puts the interests of Bay Street, the banks and the multinational oil companies ahead of middle-class Canadians but, putting that aside, we were willing to try to make it work because a budget is an opportunity to get results right now for Canadians.

The Prime Minister could have introduced practical and affordable measures to help families make ends meet each month. He could have responded to the serious shortage of family doctors and nurses.

He could have strengthened retirement security for hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Instead, under a cloud of scandal, the Prime Minister showed that he is, unfortunately, incapable of working with others on behalf of Canadians. He has proven himself incapable of putting the needs of our families today ahead of well-connected Conservative insiders.

During the recession, Canadians were looking for leadership from Parliament. They wanted practical solutions to help overcome the challenges they were facing. They were looking for the kind of solutions that were put forward by the NDP. However, what they got was proof that Ottawa no longer works.

Instead, Canadians got was more proof that Ottawa is broken and more evidence that the Prime Minister, sadly, cannot be trusted.

I proposed a road map for strengthening the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan so that Canadians could retire securely and with dignity. These are the people who built our country and they have every right to live in security and with dignity.

I presented a practical proposal to use this budget as an opportunity to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty. One-quarter of a million senior Canadians now struggle just to get by. It is unacceptable and seniors are looking to Ottawa for help.

There are seniors like Cliff Stafford from Oshawa, who, after 50 years of hard work as a mechanic, has to rely on food banks to feed himself. That is wrong. He lost his wife nine years ago. He still has a mortgage to pay and he is grappling with an illness. He watches every penny he spends but the CPP cheque just does not stretch far enough. This budget will not help him at all.

I asked the government to train more doctors and nurses in order to help the millions of Canadians who do not have a family doctor. These millions of Canadians have no one to turn to when they get sick. Parents and seniors need to make a difficult decision—drive for hours to find a doctor or sit in an overcrowded waiting room. This budget does not help them.

We put forward a practical measure to deal with the affordability crisis that people face today, to ease the burden of already stretched family budgets. It was an opportunity to help families by removing the federal tax off home heating. Canada is a cold place. We have to heat our homes.

It would have been an opportunity to take that tax off that necessity of family life, a practical way that Parliament could have helped make life a little more affordable in these difficult times. For families struggling to pay for skyrocketing heating costs, the budget is not going to help them either.

The Prime Minister has had five years to fix what is wrong in Ottawa. He has had five years to deliver on a promise to make life more affordable. He has had five years to clean up the scandals in Ottawa, once and for all. He has five years to do something about health care, about which he has done nothing. Instead he has made things worse.

New Democrats know we can do better.

We can do better. Canadians deserve better. They deserve a trustworthy prime minister who will stand up for families.

I believe Canadians deserve a prime minister they can trust, a prime minister who will focus on the priorities of today's families, each and every day while we work in this place, a prime minister ready to roll up both sleeves and put partisanship aside and work with others to get the job done. That is Canadian leadership and that is what we need.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's speech. I want to take this opportunity to mention some things that I believe are missing from the budget, and the member should feel free to comment on any of them.

We want the northern health accord, which is very important to the north, extended for five years. Last year it was only extended for two years. There is nothing new this year.

One of our biggest needs is affordable housing and shelter. There is virtually nothing substantial for seniors or students, as the member mentioned. There is embarrassingly little in the budget for aboriginal people. The MAP program has not been restored, the money that was cut from museums. The 15 arts programs that were cut have not been restored, including travelling museum exhibits, which are very important for the north.

The dental therapy school has been closed, which is very important for the north. The Canadian Environmental Network is not funded again. It does great work across Canada. The friendship centres have not received a cost of living increase. Also missing is the great CAIRS project in the Yukon for healing. There is nothing for and search and rescue for the north, which I have been pushing for five years. Apparently the Senate has just confirmed its support for me on that. There are tourism cuts to the Canadian Tourism Commission. Of course there is nothing for child care.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the Yukon for his comments about what is missing from the budget.

There is no question that when it comes to housing and shelter, for example, that we are a country that should be able to provide affordable housing and a roof over everybody's head, typified by the legislation brought forward by my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, calling for a national housing program. We saw no steps forward in the budget to deal with the housing crisis.

When it comes to the situation facing aboriginal people, when we look at how young children in aboriginal communities, by the thousands, cannot even get access to drinking water or water to clean themselves without burning themselves with the chlorine, if they are lucky enough to even have a plant that will generate clean water with chlorine, it is outrageous. What do we see but a scandalous effort to try to scam these communities and abscond with the funds that rightly belong to them to give them that basic necessity of life? The AFN was right to condemn the budget as inadequate.

The comments on child care, the environment and many other issues are all very valid points.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are the items the NDP has been asking for over the course of budget consultations: enhance the GIS for low-income seniors; employment insurance; pilot project extensions; extension of work-share enhancements; a one-year extension of the eco-energy retrofit program; renewal of the clean air agenda; support for key sectors, agriculture, forestry, mining; continued openness to CPP expansion; helmets to hard hats; forgive loans for medical professionals in rural and remote areas; and close several tax loopholes used by corporations. We have delivered on all of these.

There has been much talk about the coalition. Will the leader of the fourth party be forming a coalition should the result of an election be a minority government?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember there was a proposal to form a coalition. The leader the second party at the time, the now Prime Minister, invited me to a meeting in his office after the election in 2004. He said that he wanted to introduce me to the member from Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc Québécois. He said that they had a plan because they did not think Mr. Martin necessarily had the right to take control of Parliament, even though he had the most seats.

I am hearing the hollering and the bellowing of the very member who asked me a question. He claims to want to hear the answer. Perhaps he can speak that loudly at the same time as he listens. That is multi-tasking Conservative heckler style.

I was the one who said that there was no way I would help make Stephen Harper prime minister. In fact, I said that I would work to ensure he did not—

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would ask all hon. members to refrain from referring to other members by their given names.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Outremont.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with some specifics, then move on to generalities.

My goal is to describe the two items in this budget that bother us the most, first, to identify which inadequacies in this budget make it absolutely impossible for us to support it and, second, to expose the government's real intention, which was to have its budget defeated and trigger an election. Then I will examine this in the broader context of this government's budget policies over the past five years and explain why, during the upcoming election, which the government wants, voters will be faced with two conflicting visions of the future. Ours is one of sustainable development.

Let us look at the two examples I mentioned. During my meeting with the Minister of Finance and our party leader's meeting with the Prime Minister, we made it clear that one of our top priorities is taking care of seniors living in poverty. We believe it is absolutely unacceptable that in a G7 country, one of the richest in the world, here in Canada we still have hundreds of thousands of seniors living in poverty. This is not an abstract definition; this is a formal definition as set out in Canadian legislation. We have a poverty line, a low-income cut-off, below which the state recognizes that people are not making ends meet. Gas prices have skyrocketed this year, for instance, and people living in this situation are going to see a significant increase in the cost of heating fuel, and quite simply, they will no longer be able to get by. That is why there are more and more seniors having to turn off their heat, because they just cannot afford it. And it is minus 15 degrees Celsius again here today.

So, we put that on the table. It would have cost $790 million. The Prime Minister is trying to fool everyone by saying he made an effort to accommodate our request and put $300 million into the budget. That still leaves hundreds of thousands of seniors in poverty and it is shameful.

Compare that to the money allocated for the next tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. In fact, there have been a number of such cuts over the past few years, which at the end of the day add up to a grand total of $60 billion. This year alone, there was a new tax cut to the tune of $3 billion. Look at the banks. There are other sectors, but it is mostly the banks and the oil industry that are benefiting from these cuts.

The six largest chartered banks in Canada made a record $22 billion in profit last year. They handed out half those profits, or $11 billion, as bonuses for their executives. The government is allocating $300 million to poor seniors, leaving hundreds of thousands of them in poverty, but it is giving $3 billion in new tax cuts for these same banks and oil companies. For every dollar the government was able to find for poor seniors, it found $10 for new gifts, from the national tax base, for the banks and the oil companies. This is unacceptable. The Conservatives knew exactly what they were doing by allocating that amount: they were triggering an election.

Add the cost of the election to their proposed allocation and we would almost have enough money to help all seniors living below the poverty line. But that hardly matters. They wanted this election and they knew what they were doing.

The same argument holds true for the $2.2 billion in my second example, the object of the Bloc Québécois subamendment. One only needed to look at the premier of Quebec last night to understand that we were right when we said that the matter was settled. It was very obvious. They knew very well that, if they put that money in the budget, the Bloc would vote for the budget. It was the last thing they wanted. They would not have had their election. Taking advantage of the weakness of the official opposition and its leader, the Prime Minister, always the calculating strategist, said to himself that he would take the plunge while he was there.

And what about that $2.2 billion? I will tell you right away. It was very obvious from last night's interventions that this announcement will be made during the election campaign. I believe they have miscalculated, and that it could come back to haunt them. People are not stupid. They can see the sheer cynicism and they will not be bought with their own money. All the better if the matter is settled, because that money has been owed to Quebec for a long time. For two and a half years we have been asking questions in this House, and for two and a half years they have responded with empty rhetoric. It is becoming clear that the Conservatives were keeping this one for an election announcement.

With these two specific examples as our starting point, we can now look at all of the government's budget policies for an explanation as to why the Conservatives did in fact want an election they said they were trying to avoid. When I said that the tax reductions favour the wealthiest corporations, the Conservatives' response was often to say that the tax breaks applied to all companies. However, in reality, a manufacturing company that is no longer making ends meet and that is not making any profit is clearly not paying any taxes. So, a tax reduction would not be of any benefit whatsoever. Who was receiving all this money? The wealthiest corporations. Simply put, the Conservatives' policy was to subsidize the wealthiest corporations that did not need assistance, leaving the companies that needed help the most to die on the vine. They have no strategic vision. They completely destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built since the second world war, destroying the manufacturing sector with the high value of the loonie. This rise in the value of the dollar resulted from the fact that we were importing an artificially high quantity of American money because the Conservatives have never factored in the environmental costs of the oil sands.

No one says that we should not develop the oil sands. We merely say that we should not develop them in this manner. Right now, because of the Conservatives' choices, we are saddling future generations with the biggest environmental, economic and social debt in our history. Environmental, because the Conservatives are saying that we will take care of today and you can clean up our mess tomorrow. Behind the longest dams in the world, there are inland seas full of toxins that are seeping inexorably toward the water table and into other surfaces. This will have devastating effects on future generations—on human beings and their health, as well as on our ecosystems.

In the last two years, our economy has seen the largest deficits in our history—another debt that will be bequeathed to future generations. Our society is suffering from what economics textbooks refer to as the Dutch disease, that is, an influx of foreign currency to purchase a raw material that we do not even have the intelligence to process or add value to here. We are exporting tens of thousands of jobs. We are destroying the manufacturing sector. Since 2000, we have lost over 600,000 jobs. Since the Conservatives took power, we have lost nearly 400,000 well-paid jobs, jobs that enable workers to support their families and qualify for a pension. They are being replaced by part-time jobs, most of the time, especially in the service industry, which do not provide a sufficient income to support a family and do not offer any pensions. That is also a debt—a social debt, this time—that we are leaving to our future generations, who will be forced to find ways to take care of all these people who will reach retirement age and will not have the means to take care of themselves.

For all these reasons, based on both the current budget and this government's overall policy over the past five years, we believe that the time has come to contrast a tired vision that does not respect future generations with a social-democratic vision that is firmly focused on the future, that will respect our obligation to implement a real, equitable and sustainable development system, that will eliminate social inequalities and that will be the way of the future. This is what the NDP has been advocating since it was founded 50 years ago.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the leader of the NDP told a popular talk show host in Alberta that he was open to participating in a coalition government with the Liberals and the Bloc.

Since the member for Outremont not so subtly covets the leadership of the fourth party, I was curious if he shares his current leader's desire to participate in a coalition government.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the member from Alberta were to come to my riding today, he would see a large number of signs already up that say, “Travaillons ensemble”. I know he is listening to the translation so he knows that means “let us work together”.

This is the first time in Canadian history that we have had three consecutive minority governments, so there are some of us who believe we have to adapt to that reality. We have to become acquainted with it and work within it. That is why we have always been the party offering to work with others. That is why we were the party that said we were going to sit down and read the budget, unlike the Bloc and the Liberals who said they were going to vote against it in advance. And we did just that.

On the other hand, it takes two to tango. If the government claims that it was actually listening and is willing to work with others, we should not make the mistake of believing it. In fact, the $300 million put in place would have left hundreds of thousands of poor seniors to live in poverty, and in one of the richest countries in the world that is simply not acceptable.