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

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

I agree, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, I tabled a number of requests, particularly on this issue. I also moved a motion about combatting poverty and our efforts on behalf of the most disadvantaged in our community.

I agree. Fighting poverty must be one of our priorities.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Minister of State (Seniors)

Mr. Speaker, as the most recent arrival in this honourable place, I have been listening to the opposition very intently and I am beginning to believe it is the opposition's position that the Conservative Party probably also sunk the Titanic.

I will be splitting my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

It is good to have the opportunity to speak today about the budget. The global economy is emerging from the deepest and most synchronized financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. In particular, I would like to talk about the significant improvements this budget would make in the lives of Canadian seniors.

Canada's seniors have made many sacrifices and contributions to our country, for which we are forever grateful. That is why we are committed to doing everything we can to improve their quality of life.

Our budget lays out a low tax plan for jobs and growth. As part of the plan, we will keep taxes low. We will undertake additional targeted investments to support jobs and growth. We will control government spending and stay on track to eliminate the deficit. We will not do what the previous Liberal government did when it cut $25 billion from transfer payments to crucial services like health care and education. Nor will we impose massive tax increases or tax our way to recovery because we know that increasing the tax burden is not the way to build a robust economy.

We remain focused on securing our economic recovery. We are focused on improving the financial security of Canadian workers and families and especially helping seniors. Canada's seniors represent a generation of Canadians who helped us build a country and a quality of life of which we can all be proud.

Our government recognizes the need of seniors in communities across our great country. We are committed to ensuring that seniors have the opportunity to enjoy their retirements in comfort. This is part of a strong record of supporting seniors, their safety, security and quality of life.

Indeed, since taking office in 2006, our government has provided unprecedented support to Canadian seniors and pensioners. We have provided over $2 billion in annual tax relief for seniors and pensioners. We completely removed 85,000 from the tax rolls. We raised the guaranteed income supplement exemptions from $500 to $3,500 and introduced pension income splitting. We introduced an automatic renewal of the guaranteed income supplement, meaning seniors no longer have to reapply each year. Our government has made significant investments in affordable housing for low-income seniors. We raised the age credit amount twice and doubled the pension income credit.

Since being elected a few months ago, I have met with hundreds, if not thousands, of seniors across the land. They have told me as recently as today that they are certainly in support of what we are endeavouring to do. Those seniors need to be heard. They told me about the hardships they faced. Many of them were never married or their spouses have passed away and they live alone on very low incomes. I heard loud and clear that we need to do more to help these vulnerable seniors.

I passed this message on to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance and it is the message that is embodied in the budget submissions that have gone forward. It has been taken to heart. We listened to seniors and we responded.

This budget proposes enhancing the guaranteed income supplement by providing an additional $600 per year to single seniors and $840 to couples who are below the income threshold. Some people have trivialized this amount. According to the seniors I have spoken to, this is very meaningful and they are grateful.

These new measures are expected to help improve the quality of life for more than 680,000 of the most vulnerable seniors across Canada and this represents a significant commitment. In fact, the changes to the guaranteed income supplement proposed in this budget represent an investment of more than $300 million per year. However, we believe that it is the right thing to do at this time.

We are dedicated to improving the lives of Canadian seniors. After living lives dedicated to their communities and families, low income seniors deserve the same quality of life as everyone else. Passing this budget would go a long way toward ensuring they receive the support they need and justly deserve. While important, this is only one of several measures in this budget that would benefit Canadian seniors.

This budget proposes providing $10 million, over two years, to the new horizons for seniors program. This extremely successful program provides funding to support local community-based projects across Canada. These projects enable seniors to participate in social activities and contribute to their community. New horizons also funds programs to raise awareness of elder abuse and to give front line workers the training they need to recognize the signs of abuse, and know what to do when they suspect it. It is an important program that allows our seniors to live more active lives and helps protect them from exploitation and abuse.

This budget also proposes two very important measures for seniors and near-seniors who want to keep working.

First, it proposes extending the targeted initiative for older workers for the next three years. The economic downturn was especially hard on older workers. While it is never easy to lose one's job, it is particularly hard for an older worker who has worked at the same job for many years. Thanks to our government's economic action plan, Canada has recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession. Since the beginning of our economic recovery, we have created 480,000 net new jobs.

However, there are still older workers who need our help, with training and support, to help them find new jobs.

The targeted initiative for older workers ensures older workers have access to training and employment programs that help them find new careers. It also opens training and employment programs to displaced older workers. This ensures that these workers have the support they need to find new jobs. It is a good program that is helping people in real need. I hope that everyone in this House will join us in voting to extend it.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan also proposes to make an important legislative change. It is a change that would benefit those Canadians who decide that they want to keep on working longer. Canadians are living longer, more active lives than ever before. Seniors who want to remain active in the workforce should have the freedom to make that choice. It should not be forced upon them. That is why we are proposing to introduce amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit federally-regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age. This would apply unless there is an occupational requirement for a mandatory retirement age.

Banning mandatory retirement would allow Canadians the freedom to choose how long they remain active in the workforce. This budget builds on the progress that we made through the economic action plan.

It is a responsible low tax plan that does not threaten the economic recovery by raising taxes. Instead, it lays out a path to a balanced budget by 2015-16, while making certain key investments. It does so while providing real, tangible support for Canadian seniors.

I urge members to listen to all of the people across our country who are looking to us to support our most vulnerable seniors. It is time to put politics aside and think of those vulnerable seniors who are looking to us for the help they need, for the help they so badly need.

If members want to support them, I ask simply that members do the right thing and support this budget, so that we can collectively continue to improve the quality of life of the very people who sent us here.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague when he says that seniors, or golden-agers as we call them back home, must be helped. When you meet with them, you realize that these folks are isolated because they do not have enough money for a decent quality of life.

I would like to ask my colleague the following question. Does he think that $1.20 a day is sufficient to pull these folks out of their isolation when it is not even enough to buy a coffee at Tim Hortons or a bus ticket to go somewhere? Does he really think that $1.20 will be enough to help these folks?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look at this from the point of view of what the seniors tell me, not what we perceive in this place. It truly is a significant amount. With utilities rising, another impact that seniors are facing today, it is a very significant amount. I pity anybody who trivializes that amount as not being very helpful and generous at a time of difficult circumstances in this country.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Minister of State for Seniors speak favourably about seniors, as one would expect.

I would like to ask him what he thinks about his party’s budget, which allocates $30 billion for the purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets, when one considers the fact that the money spent on just one of these aircraft would be enough to subsidize 6,400 social housing units. I live in Laval, where over 1,000 people are waiting for social housing. The government chose to purchase military aircraft rather than invest in housing. Furthermore, it has invested $40 million in new holding cells quite close to the neighbourhood in which I live.

I would like to know what this government’s priorities are regarding seniors, given that billions of dollars are being spent on arms and on the excessive punishment of criminals.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to what I think has been a great misconception. I try to analyze things in a realistic and practical way. All the things that we are doing are not mutually exclusive. They are necessary and critical. Were it not so, these things would not come forward. Serious considerations are given.

Giving our military men and women the tools they need to do the job we are asking them to do is a responsible approach to what needs to be done.

Regarding prisons, I have been in law enforcement for some 48 years and I have put a lot of people in prison. I hate to think that we are now suggesting that we do not need to ensure that we have proper facilities to prevent people from continuing their life of crime and to protect victims. If we are looking for a crime prevention strategy that really does work, keep the recidivist criminals in jail and look after victims. Believe me, it does work.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very eloquent defence of our budget. It is a budget that is absolutely critical. When I look across the aisle here at the opposition parties, the coalition trying to bring down our government when this budget is so critical, I would ask my colleague about the kinds of impacts which failure to pass this budget will have on our economic prosperity and on our reputation as leading the world in emerging from the economic recession?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose the best way to look at that is to draw on our progress so far. This is a work in progress. We will continue to have a lot of work for years to come, no doubt.

Our government is committed to supporting low income seniors. We are proud of the fact that our actions have played a part in cutting the low income rate among Canada's seniors from 21% in 1980 to 5.8% in 2008. This most recent submission in the budget will reduce by 680,000 the number of seniors who would otherwise be adversely affected if we allow it to continue as we have.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to address the budget, our Conservative government's sixth budget since forming office.

I am well aware of the burning desire of the Liberal- NDP-Bloc coalition to plunge this country into an unnecessary election, no matter the cost.

However, the instantaneous rejection of this budget by the three opposition party leaders is nothing short of irresponsible. In a time of continuing global economic uncertainty, especially following the disaster in Japan and the upheaval across much of the Arab world, the economic recovery is still fragile.

The opposition leaders are showing reckless disregard for the Canadian economy by their knee-jerk reactions. I was appalled, in particular, by the Liberal Party's response to our budget. The Liberal Party's focus on the spending for new jets for our Royal Canadian Air Force and on prisons was both shallow and ill-considered.

Of course, there is no spending for new jets in this budget and there will not be until 2016 when we start to receive the new jets. And the cost of purchasing those jets is spread over the lifespan of the jets, which is 20 to 30 years.

I should also note that it was the previous Liberal government that set us on the path to purchasing these jets in the first place by spending $100 million on developing them. The current Liberal leader seems to think we should just throw away the $100 million. I do not think that is a good idea.

With respect to prisons, our government has provided detailed cost estimates to Parliament for housing the expanded prison population that may result from our tougher sentencing legislation.

While Liberals have focused on the modest increased cost for prisons, they have completely and totally ignored the cost to Canadian society of allowing repeat and violent offenders to quickly resume their lives of crime through early release.

They have forgotten the costs to the victims of crime, the property owners, women, children, seniors, and others who will be prey to rapists, murderers, fraudsters, and drug dealers.

The cost to Canadian society of a revolving-door liberal criminal justice system is at least an order of magnitude higher than the cost we will incur by ensuring criminals serve sentences proportionate to their crimes.

It is clear to me that in their blind pursuit of power, the opposition parties have forgotten about listening to Canadians.

We began preparing for this budget many months ago. We listened to thousands of groups and individuals from across Canada. I consulted widely in my community. The finance committee, of which I am a member, held hearings in my riding to hear from local groups and individuals.

Earlier this year I hosted a Canadian first, the first ever live telephone town hall meeting with the finance minister. Thousands of my constituents were able to participate, and provide their feedback and input into our budget.

Our Conservative government has listened to the people of Canada. This budget reflects the needs and concerns of Canadians during this time of economic recovery. We heard some clear messages from Canadians. We heard that despite our solid job creation numbers, over 480,000 new jobs since July 2009, we need to continue with our job creation efforts.

We heard that since our infrastructure spending is winding down, it is now time to get spending down and our budget back in balance. We also heard that some groups in Canadian society, such as low income seniors or families caring for an infirm loved one, need more support.

This budget reflects the comments, suggestions, concerns, and needs we have heard from Canadians over the last several months.

I would like to focus many of my remarks on the positive initiatives we have taken in this budget. As I mentioned earlier, our focus is on jobs and growth. One key to jobs and growth is lower taxes. We are continuing to reduce taxes for families and small businesses in this budget. I am particularly pleased with the incentives we have created for small businesses in my community to hire new workers.

The budget provides for a one time credit of up to $1,000 to small businesses which hire new employees. This new credit will be available to approximately 525,000 employers, reducing their 2011 payroll costs by about $165 million.

My riding has one of the largest populations of seniors in Canada. Canadians from across the country like to retire in the temperate climate of our beautiful west coast community. However, some seniors face financial challenges, and our Conservative government has taken steps in the budget to support them.

Our top-up to the guaranteed income supplement will provide up to an extra $600 a year for low income single seniors, and up to $840 more for low income couples. This measure will support 680,000 lower income seniors across Canada.

I am also pleased with the tax credits for families. The children's arts tax credit will allow parents to claim costs of up to $500 per year related to activities such as piano lessons and art classes. This new tax credit builds on the success of our children's sport tax credit, and I believe it will be popular and be used by millions of families.

Also the new family caregiver tax credit will be available to people who care for infirm, dependent relatives like a spouse and minor children. We have also introduced new measures to help students. In particular, the in-study income exemption will be doubled from $50 per week to $100 per week, allowing approximately 100,000 students to earn this income tax free while pursuing their education.

We are offering help to home owners, with a $400 million extension of the eco-energy program to encourage home renovations that reduce electricity and heating costs, and we are making permanent the $2 billion federal contribution to the gas tax fund, which funds our municipal infrastructure. These are funds that our city governments can count on for repairing our streets and sidewalks.

We have also increased funding for health care. This matters to my constituents in British Columbia. We are providing almost $3.8 billion for health care in B.C., an increase of $216 million over last year.

Finally, because our budget sets us on a path toward the elimination of the deficit and toward a surplus, Canadians can look forward to additional tax relief, hopefully soon. Indeed, my private member's Motion No. M-638 suggests that we make income splitting for families with children a priority as the budget comes back into balance.

The early analysis of people outside Ottawa is positive. The finance minister of British Columbia has endorsed our budget as good for British Columbia. The hon. Kevin Falcon said that he was encouraged by Ottawa's latest plan to reduce the federal deficit by a quarter this year and to continue progress until Canada is back to balanced budgets by 2015-16. He continued that the corporate tax cuts committed to by our Conservative government would combine with provincial rates to give B.C. the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction, not just in Canada but among the G7 industrialized countries by next year. Let me repeat that. In B.C., thanks to our tax cuts and the tax cuts of the provincial government, we will have the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction in the G7 next year. He also said that the investment incentives we had provided in the federal budget would help Ridley Terminals expand its capacity to ship B.C. coal and minerals overseas.

Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said:

If the budget is defeated, it's a real concern for manufacturers.... This two year write-off [for investment in machinery and equipment] comes to an end at the end of this year and that extension is essential if we are going to keep investment going in the sector. It would be nice to have a little bit of certainty that companies would be able to take advantage of that over the next two years.

Craig Alexander, the TD Bank's chief economist, remarked that if we are investing in roads, bridges, et cetera, we want know that the government funding is going to be there and, therefore, that it is actually a very positive thing that the government has decided to make the gas tax transfer to municipalities a permanent transfer.

Further, he stated that:

I think in general it’s a business-friendly budget because of the extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment investment. As an economist, I like it particularly because one of the core challenges facing Canadian businesses is productivity growth.

Craig Wright, RBC's chief economist, says that our projections are conservative and that we can expect to make good on our deficit-cutting projections.

Tom Courchene, an economist at Queen's University, said:

The budget looks after what falls under the federal jurisdiction in an excellent way. It’s a continuation of the action plan and its keeps Canada being in the forefront of nations in terms of the recovery from the financial crisis.

That is what others across Canada are saying, with their messages of confidence about the steady hand we have applied to managing the nation's finances.

I would encourage my fellow MPs to consider whether this sensible and prudent budget is really an issue over which to plunge our nation into an unnecessary election.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the priorities of Canadians and the residents of Davenport are to invest in a real family care plan and strong public pensions based on the Canada pension plan, brought in by a Liberal government, and support for learning and training, health care, housing, the arts and a universal child care program. Their priorities are not to pour $30 billion into buying fighter jets and borrowing $6 billion for corporate tax cuts.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that statement, because I think it speaks to the priorities of Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating that the opposition is focusing on the fighter jets issue. As I mentioned in my comments, it was the Liberal Party that invested $100 million in this project in 2005, a project that we are now proceeding with. That party is now thinking that we should throw that $100 million away and proceed with who knows what. The opposition does not provide any solutions to that question.

It is clear that our forces need upgraded jets. The current fighter jets are beyond the life expectancy of their use and we need to proceed with something more.

Further, as my colleague notes, the opposition had supported the purchase of those jets just two years ago.

The member also talks about tax cuts, corporate tax cuts in particular. As a member of the finance committee, I found it fascinating to hear from so many experts who came to speak to us that corporate tax cuts are really transferred to individual Canadians. If taxes go up, those increased taxes are passed along to Canadians. If taxes go down, generally those taxes are reduced for Canadians.

I am not sure why he is opposed to tax cuts for Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the remarks made by the previous member and by the Minister of National Revenue were a little ridiculous, in my opinion. He said that the government had created and will create a lot of jobs, as a result of the budget. He also spoke about seniors.

Whole areas have been opened up on the north shore primarily thanks to the forestry industry. The mining and fishing industries obviously had something to do with this, too. What does the previous member think about the folks who lost their jobs at the Rivière-Pentecôte sawmill, the Kruger sawmill in Ragueneau, the Rivière-Saint-Jean sawmill and the Baie-Trinité sawmill? They lost their jobs because the federal government set aside a paltry $60 million in the budget for 2011-12, whereas last year, in Ontario alone, the government allocated $10 billion to the auto sector.

The north shore forestry sector needs loan guarantees from the government in order to reopen these sawmills and put people back to work at the pulp and paper mills. The government needs to give the forestry sector funding to modernize, so that plants and sawmills can remain competitive.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for raising the issue of the forestry, because it is a big part of the British Columbia economy.

I will tell him what our Conservative government has done in support of the forestry sector, because he is apparently not aware of it after all his years in Parliament.

Our Conservative government has provided significant support to aid the forestry industry to meet today's challenges. For example, by 2012 we will have lowered business taxes to 15%. We have provided $1 billion for the pulp and paper green transformation program; $170 million to support market diversification and innovation; nearly $130 million for the forest industry long-term competitiveness initiative; $100 million to support the development, commercialization and implementation of advanced green energy technologies in the forestry sector; nearly $46 billion in financing for forestry companies through Export Development Canada and nearly $430 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada.

We are doing a lot for that sector.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that my colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale touched on the whole issue of taxes. It turns out that other countries around the world see us as the lighthouse and the standard now for lowering corporate taxes. We just heard that Great Britain wants to lower taxes to perhaps even lower levels than in Canada.

I would ask my colleague to explain why it is so important that our business sector, the small, medium and large businesses, have a competitive tax rate that attracts investment into Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, taxes have the biggest impact on the bottom line of small businesses. If their taxes are lowered, they are left with more income to hire more workers and to become more productive by purchasing more equipment and machinery. We are dealing with an environment where capital flows from one country to another very quickly, and the more competitive we can be the more capital we will attract.