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

12:25 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I heard the member mention many of the initiatives that we are undertaking for seniors and many of the investments that we are making in innovation and research.

However, one of the things that he did not comment on, and I wonder if he could expand on, is the initiative that this government has put forward on tax credits for the arts. As a person who studied music all my life and has seen the benefit of it in my own family, I wonder if the member could comment on what this means to the families of Burlington.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was a very good question for me. I am a big supporter of the arts. I have been working since 1999 on getting a performing arts centre for the city of Burlington, which is under construction as we speak with the support of federal money.

As a father with daughters, I have taken advantage of the credit for activity in sports. I have very active, sports-oriented children.

However, the community of Burlington has a tremendous arts community for young people taking dance and music. We have the Teen Tour Band, a world renowned band of 200 young people performing in their red coats all around the world. They will be travelling to commemorate Pearl Harbour and will be the only Canadian representatives there.

This tax credit will make a big difference to the families of Burlington in ensuring their children are able to participate in the arts, which makes culture, not only in Burlington but across the country, an important aspect of everyday life.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I will give three reasons why the Conservative budget so richly deserves to die and why Canadians deserve much better.

The first reason is the budget makes bad choices. Because they go so far as to commit $6 billion to corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary Canadian families that are struggling to make ends meet. Canadians deserve better than that.

Second, there is no fiscal accountability, as I will explain in a minute. When the Liberals made cuts, we itemized every line item in the budget that would be cut. The Conservatives give no information and therefore have no credibility on the savings that they propose in the budget. Once again, Canadians deserve better than that in terms of fiscal accountability.

Third, the government seeks to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. Canadians are a caring, generous people. They will not go for this. Again, Canadians deserve better.

On my first point, that the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary struggling families, given their commitment on corporate tax cuts, let me give two examples.

The first of these is to compare the Liberal home care program and the Conservative home care program. There are three reasons why theirs is just a pale shadow, a totally inadequate shadow of our plan.

First, the maximum amount of money that the caregiver will receive is $300 under the Conservative program. It is $1,350 under our program.

However, it is worse than that. Our credit, the $1,350, is refundable, which means if people are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get the money. If they are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get zero under the Conservative program, even though they have offered only a paltry $300.

Finally, our program, in addition to those grants, offers an additional six months employment insurance relief for caregivers.

The Conservative plan is pathetic because the government is saddled with this $6 billion in corporate tax cuts so there is no more money in the bank to provide meaningful help to families.

The second example is with respect to post-secondary education. The Conservatives are providing $34 million in additional help for students. That might sound like a significant amount of money, but it is about $1 per Canadian. It is about $34 per student. Nowadays students desperately need government support. The unemployment rate for young people is way up, so it is harder for them to get jobs. Often their families are hard-pressed and less able to support the education of their children.

The Conservatives are offering a meaningless, paltry $34 per student. Our Liberal program has not yet been announced, but our leader is passionate about support for learning and for post-secondary education. Unlike the Conservatives' program, our program will be meaningful, more in the order of magnitude, greater than their program. That is because we think very strongly that post-secondary education is crucial, not only to provide equality of opportunity but also to promote a strong economy and higher productivity through well-educated Canadians.

Through those two examples, and I could go on but I have limited time, I am making the point that the Conservatives put up window dressing as if they are supporting Canadian families, but the amounts of money are so small that they are virtually meaningless. Canadians will see, once the election campaign gets under way, that Liberal support for Canadian families is real. Conservative support is paltry to non-existent.

That is one of the reasons why I say Canadians deserve better.

This government makes bad choices. This government does not have any money to seriously support families because it insists on giving tax breaks to large corporations. Canadians deserve better. Canadians will see, over the course of the election campaign, that they will receive more from the Liberal platform.

The second point is fiscal accountability.

When we were in government in 2005, we saved $11 billion over five years. In the 2005 budget, line by line, and that information still exists, it said which programs would be cut, by which amounts, over how many years.

The Conservatives similarly claim that they will find savings of $11 billion over seven years, but they tell us nothing about where that money will come from.

I can give one example. On page 203 of the budget, we have alleged savings of something on the order of $500 million for one department, Human Resources and Skills Development. What are the sources of the savings? Let me read it:

Improve alignment of program funding with actual needs

Find efficiencies through improved program management and use of technology

Improve use of internal resources and administrative efficiency

Align program activities with core mandate

Refocus programming to benefit all Canadians

That is all the Conservatives tell us. It is gobbledygook. Those are weasel words. They mean nothing at all. There is no accountability, no transparency and therefore no credibility in any of these projected Conservative savings.

I come now to my final point, and that is the question of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.

As I said at the outset, Canadians are generous. Yes, they want to balance the budget, but they do not want to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society.

My point is the Conservatives are balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable, both internationally and at home.

Internationally, last year, fully one-quarter of the savings were through freezing foreign aid, through freezing the CIDA budget. Therefore, one-quarter of the money to reduce the deficit was on the backs of the poorest people in the world. That was in sharp contrast to Britain, which favoured foreign aid. Even though everywhere else was getting draconian cuts, foreign aid was spared the cuts because of British commitment to poor countries. Canada is the opposite. Last year, the Conservative government got a quarter of the savings on the backs of the poorest in the world, and this from a starting point where Canada's foreign aid relative to GDP is embarrassingly low.

Not only that, but the finance ministe committed to me personally that he would have something for microcredit in his budget. We had a unanimous resolution to that effect. He agreed that microcredit was important for the poorest on the plant. There was zero in the budget for it.

It is not as if this balancing the books at the expense of the poor is only international. It is also here at home.

Consider the non-refundable tax credits for firefighters. A poor firefighter gets nothing. A well-off firefighter gets something, not much but something. A poor caregiver with income not high enough to pay taxes gets nothing to look after an aging parent. A richer caregiver, even though it is not very much, at least gets something.

Again, it is at the expense of the poorest and the most vulnerable. The fact is if a person is a poor firefighter or a poor caregiver, he or she gets nothing.

Finally, let us consider housing. Who is more vulnerable than aboriginals living on reserves in poor housing and other Canadians in poor housing?

The Conservatives singled out housing to receive no extension, whereas every other infrastructure program did. Hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared from the budget in support for affordable housing on reserve and repairs to social housing. There are no Canadians more vulnerable than those people.

As examples, poor firefighters, poor caregivers, poor people living in substandard housing are bearing the brunt of the Conservatives' efforts to balance the books.

Canadians are a generous people. We want to balance the books, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country and abroad.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it quite interesting that my hon. colleague across the floor talks about what the Liberals would do if they were in government. However, he needs to be reminded of what the Liberals actually did do when they were in government.

In 1995 the Liberals cut $25 billion for the most vulnerable people in Canada, the people in hospitals, the people on social services and the people in post-secondary education. They have a history of doing those kinds of things. Therefore, it is not a matter of suggesting the Liberals will do something different. We know what they will do.

I was a part of a provincial government when those cuts came through and everybody in the whole province suffered because of it. Health care and post-secondary education suffered.

He talks about their needing restructuring and rebuilding. Who starved them of all the money at the time they actually needed it? The Liberal government. It had 13 years. He talks about difficult situations on Indian reservations. For 13 years, it accumulated against them. Today he stands with a solution for everything.

Is it the Liberal plan to go back to the days of the 1990s and cut and slash health care, education, post-secondary and social services? Is that how he plans on balancing the books?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, we are talking mainly about today and the future. We are talking about the government's budget. The government's budget in front of us, in black and white, says no money for poor firefighters and for poor caregivers. It slashes aid for poor people in Africa and slashes funding for the poorest in housing. We would not do that in our platform.

In addition, going back to 1993, when the new Liberal government inherited a $42 billion Conservative deficit, we were told that we were about to become an honorary third world country, thanks to actions by a previous Conservative government. I remind the member opposite that when we made the necessary cuts to save the country in the mid-1990s, those Conservatives, those Reform Party people, criticized us for not cutting more. That was their position.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member will know that there are many lost opportunities in the budget. He was in Winnipeg recently and he knows we are about to open a new airport facility there. However, unfortunately last year alone over 50,000 Manitobans were fleeing across the U.S. border to fly out of Grand Forks because of high Canadian taxes. The same is true for British Columbia and points in Ontario, where people cross the border to fly out of the United States. The fact is our airport taxes, as at the last budget, are the highest now in the world.

Why has the government missed the opportunity to address what is a growing problem and deal with having Canadians fly out of Canadian airports rather than American airports?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague that there is an important issue of those taxes being high and people from Toronto, for instance, going to Buffalo and similar other points across the country.

One of the reasons for this, and an important and recent reason, is the new charge the government has imposed for security. None of us will oppose security. We all think it is essential. However, the security charges in the United States are much lower than in Canada. We believe the government has charged more to airlines and to customers for security than it spends on security. It is a tax grab.

It is too late now as we are almost into an election. However, when the government had power, it should have been more moderate in its security charges so as to alleviate the kind of problem to which the hon. member referred.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a story that I have been thinking about a lot this week concerning the introduction of this very disappointing federal budget.

A number of years ago, after I sold my company and went to study abroad, I met a man from Namibia who asked me, “Where is my Canada?” I was very perplexed and asked him what he meant by the question. He said, “We used to look up to Canada more than any other country in the world. It used to be a model of good governance, economic success and global engagement”, and then he repeated his question, “Where is my Canada?” He said that Canada had lost its way and he hoped that we would find it again.

I reflected on that this week because I really do believe Canadians have been wondering where their Canada is, where the compassionate, progressive and fiscally responsible Canada is, the one we know and love. Where is my Canada?

We are speaking about the budget this morning and what we should be doing in our country and what our direction and vision should be for next year and the years ahead. I again reflect upon what my friend asked, “Where is my Canada?”

The government's limitless spending has generated the biggest deficit in the history of Canada. Under the Conservatives, the size of government has increased 40% in four years and there has been a huge growth in waste. Let me talk about some of the waste because I have been doing a lot of work on that in my responsibilities on Treasury Board.

The Conservatives spent more in advertising in the last year than all the beer companies combined. They have spent 9.35% more per year on what are called professional and special services than ever before. One of the most egregious examples is the Prime Minister's Office, which is spending $9.9 million more. It is an increase of 30%. That shows the kind of leadership in this country. There is 16% more being spent on cabinet, $9 million more of borrowed money, all wasted dollars.

So many people in our country need assistance in finding jobs to help their families who are struggling, and this is the best budget the Conservatives could come up with?

More irresponsible than the waste is the fact that the government still does not even have a plan to get us out of the record deficit of $56 billion last year. The Conservatives continue to tell Canadians they will retire the deficit in five years. However, the Liberals know differently. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has forecast an $11 billion deficit for 2015-16. We know how the government feels about the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but how does it feel about the International Monetary Fund, which also says that the government will continue to be in deficit in five years?

How can a government continue to defy two third-party financial analysts that say we will not be in surplus but in deficit. How can Conservatives turn their heads and say, “No, Canadians, we will be in surplus, not to worry”, especially when they did not give any assumptions in the budget for the cost of their megaprisons and the untendered fighter jets, or costs and analysis of what the corporate tax cuts will do.

While this record spending and waste are going on, our national debt continues to accumulate under the government. Under the Liberal government the national debt declined from 1997 to 2007, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. However, in just three years under the Conservatives, all the hard work and sacrifices that Canadians made in the past decade have been wiped out. Already 13.5% of every taxpayer dollar is going to pay for interest, and it is going to get worse because we are continuing to add to the debt.

Clearly, the priorities of the Conservative government are not the priorities of Canadians. I have spent a lot of time speaking and engaging with constituents in my riding in numerous round tables and town halls and other meetings. The message I hear is that families need help: families need access to child care, families need better health care, and seniors need support to live with the dignity they deserve.

In my riding recently I heard of a 93 year old woman about to be evicted from her apartment, yet the Conservatives have not put in any money for affordable housing in the budget. How can that be?

The Conservative budget offers nothing for child care, nothing more for health care and nothing for affordable housing. For the very poorest seniors, the Conservatives will increase the GIS top up by only $1.64 a day. That would not get a person a coffee in this country. Compare that with the waste I spoke of, the costs that will be associated with these mega-style prisons and the costs associated with corporate tax cuts.

I see a lot of poor choices in the budget. I see $30 billion that we know of in untendered fighter jets. That is a thousand times more than the Conservatives are spending on post-secondary education. There are billions being spent on American-style megaprisons. That is a thousand times more than they are spending on youth crime prevention. There is $6 billion in large corporate tax cuts, yet there are $1.3 billion in cuts to CMHC and affordable housing. They are spending three times more on self-promotional advertising than on their supposed family care plan. It is simply atrocious. Canadians wonder where this will end. We hope we will be able to help that along soon.

There are a lot of issues, even in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador concerning this budget, and I will name three. There are cuts, for example, to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, $3.9 million over three years. ACOA is incredibly important to Atlantic Canada. It is important for our economic generation. It is important for community development. We need to restore the funding to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The budget cuts funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by an astounding $84.8 million over three years. We need more money for science. We cannot cut $84.8 million and expect to have the science required in this country to ensure that we have established stocks.

There is $6.6 million over three years being cut from Marine Atlantic. Marine Atlantic is a lifeline for my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is our national highway. It is what links the island of Newfoundland with the rest of the country. It is just as important for goods and services all across the country as it is for goods and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. We must have a solid link between the island and the rest of the country. Yet there are cuts to Marine Atlantic.

Time is short and I wish I could go on and on. The Conservatives are spending billions upon billions on jails, on jets, on corporate tax cuts, but not on the priorities of Canadians. They waste money on advertising and ministerial offices. I told hon. members earlier about the increases. It is a great paradox, really, when we look at it. They spend more on their own, spend more on self-promotion and they take from Canadians.

It is not just about the waste. It is not just about the deficit. It is not just about the debt. It is not just about the wrong priorities. It is about the judgment of the government, the judgment of these Conservatives when they look at priorities for our country.

I started by saying, “Where is my Canada?” I think every Canadian should ask the same question.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Greg Kerr Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to ask a couple of questions of the member, a fellow Atlantic Canadian. We certainly share some concerns.

I was surprised, though, that she referred to beer advertising, because I think it was her leader who compared beer advertising and the Canadian flag, which probably gave a sense of where the Liberal priorities might be sometimes.

I was also surprised at her comments about the ferries. I would have thought she would be singing from the rooftops about the fact this government provides brand new ferries to Marine Atlantic for Newfoundland, recognizing the incredibly important constitutional obligation to look after transportation connections across the country. That is certainly an obligation that has been honoured. I understand that most Newfoundlanders are very pleased that this Conservative government has put new ferries in place. Maybe the member can clarify that. Maybe I am wrong; maybe the old ferries should have been left in place. I might have misunderstood that.

I would also like the member to comment on the growth of the deficit. I remember the comments from Newfoundland. Even though they supported the stimulus spending, the sense was that we were wasting a lot of money on stimulus spending and wasting too much money on signs about stimulus spending, which I understood just pointed out how many projects there were.

I wonder if the member would want to comment on whether she felt those stimulus projects were in fact a benefit to Newfoundland.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I was encouraged to hear that my hon. colleague shares some concerns.

As I said, Marine Atlantic is vital not only to the island of Newfoundland and the link between the island of Newfoundland and the country but also to the goods and services from the rest of our country coming to Newfoundland. I think that is critically important. This is not just something for the province of Newfoundland but for the whole country.

Absolutely, we needed a solid plan. It is a capital investment to ensure that we have the ferries to meet the constitutional obligations.

However, under the Liberal government there was a plan to purchase ferries. It was a different plan than what the Conservatives eventually went with, and we all know how that is turning out in Newfoundland and Labrador. We know some of the concerns. We have seen some of those things.

Yes, investments in Marine Atlantic are critically important. In this budget we are now seeing the Conservatives actually making some cutbacks, not to the capital side but to the actual operational side.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member would know that our total debt at the moment is around $543 billion and that the government is just coming off adding another $56 billion to that. This year it will be another $43 billion, and the next year it should be a $34 billion deficit. This is at a time when interest rates are actually low. What is the government going to do when interest rates start moving up, which must happen over the next couple of years, and interest payments start going up astronomically?

The government is doing all of this at a time when corporations are getting tax reductions and ones like the Royal Bank of Canada are paying their president $44 million a year.

Does any of this make sense to the hon. member?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I did point out in my speech that I am quite concerned about this accumulating debt.

I pointed out that between 1997 and 2007 Canadians sacrificed. We put a lot of effort into paying down our debt. We did not want to burden future generations. We did not want to borrow from our children.

Now, in three short years, the Conservatives have added to that, taking us right back to the point where we were 10 years ago. It does concern me greatly that we are continuing to add to that debt.

If the Conservatives need some assistance in identifying some of the waste within the government and how that waste could be recovered to ensure that we do not have a deficit, I would be happy to help them out. I was pointing out waste all throughout the fall.

There are choices in our country. I think that is what my hon. colleague is pointing out. We are certainly hearing that interest rates will rise, and as they rise the fiscal capacity of our country is going to be limited. At a time when the government is choosing to spend on untendered fighter jets and corporate tax cuts, that will not allow it any money for other priorities in the country.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on budget 2011. I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Labour.

I want to encourage all parliamentarians to support this excellent budget. I want to encourage all Canadians, in fact, to read this budget in detail because it includes a number of measures that are certainly worthy of support.

In general, this budget supports job creation by helping businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.

It keeps taxes low, invests in projects of national importance and it maintains Canada's brand as one of the best places to invest in the world. It supports families and communities so that all Canadians can enjoy a high standard of living and our communities can stay vibrant and safe.

It invests in innovation, education and training to promote research and leading-edge technologies, and to provide Canadians with the opportunity and incentives to acquire the skills needed for jobs in today's labour market.

It also preserves our fiscal advantage in order to be able to invest in the priorities of Canadians, to keep Canada's economy growing strongly and to maintain our low interest rates.

Particularly, I want to address the benefits in this budget for my province, the province of Alberta.

Under our Conservative government in 2011-12, Alberta will see record federal transfers totalling nearly $3.4 billion; an increase of $1.1 billion from the former Liberal government.

Alberta will see growing transfer support for health care, which is a 29% jump from the Liberal government, or $2.1 billion; and for social services, which is a jump of nearly $1.3 billion, or 114% over the former government.

This increased support will help hospitals, doctors, nurses, schools, teachers and other critical services in my province.

A permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund would be legislated, which was the number one priority outlined to me by the mayors of Edmonton, Leduc and Devon in terms of making this a predictable, stable, long-term funding for municipalities that they can count on into the future.

A one-time credit of $1,000 against the small employer's increase in 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010, which was called for by small businesses from across Canada and by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I want to thank them for putting that idea forward.

The budget also provides assistance to the manufacturing and processing sector. I want to compliment the work of people like Larry Kaumeyer from Almita Piling Inc. and Lori Schmidt who works with Productivity Alberta, another investment that we made through western diversification in terms of making these manufacturers and processors even more efficient.

I want to compliment the Minister of Finance on extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing, which was something that was unanimously supported in the 2007 industry committee report.

There is also help for farmers, especially those in rural areas, in terms of a $50 million initiative for agricultural innovation.

There is an additional support of $10 million for work sharing. This was raised by companies like Argus Manufacturing and Nisku. It would allow these companies to retain employees by having the government cover part of the cost of the employee. For those industries that have periods of boom and bust, it would allow them to retain employees during those tough times so that they would be there when the market and services pick up.

I would like to recognize the work done by both the current and former ministers in terms of the Red Tape Reduction Commission and also extending the BizPaL service across the country.

As well, I would like to recognize the extension of the energy retrofit housing program.

In my riding in the area of Devon where we have the research centre that deals with a lot of the tailings technology for the oil sands, Sustainable Development Technology Canada is very active in terms of supporting companies like Titanium with some very new technologies. This budget provides $40 million over two years in SDTC and that is why they have come out in support of this budget very strongly.

I want to talk about innovation and investments in R and D. This budget provides $80 million in new funding over three years for the industrial research assistance program, IRAP. Small- and medium-size businesses across this country would all point to IRAP as an effective program that works and our government has funded this to the tune of $80 million over three years.

There is an additional $37 million per year to support three federal research granting councils, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, which had asked for increased funding. We are prioritizing during times when we have to reach a balanced budget by 2015-16.

We are investing in key areas like innovation and research at universities and colleges, which is why the universities and the colleges have come out and strongly supported this budget.

Just before Christmas, this Parliament adopted a motion I introduced with respect to Alzheimer's. I am very proud to say that this budget allocates $100 million to help establish a Canada brain research fund. It will support the very best Canadian neuroscience and accelerate discoveries to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.

The motion was adopted unanimously by this House of Commons. Members of Parliament from the four parties spoke in favour of the motion and it is now in the federal budget. The point that the Prime Minister is making in his statement this week to the other parties and to Canadians is that a lot of the initiatives in the budget were in fact ideas that were presented by all four parties and by Canadians from all walks of life. The motion made its way into the budget and this is why the budget does deserve support.

There is some other funding in terms of investment and research and development. Over $50 million over five years is provided to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

There is an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its work. This was certainly called for by all four parties as well.

Another $50 million over five years is provided to the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, which is doing outstanding work in that region.

Another $60 million over three years is provided to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.

I do want to address the issue of seniors because many seniors in my riding have come forward, especially in the province of Alberta where the inflation rate has been higher than the national average. Obviously, having an economy that typically grows above a national average overall is a good thing, but it does place some constraints certainly on seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, in terms of dealing with rising costs. The budget enhances the guaranteed income supplement for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and their GIS payments. It puts an additional $300 million into this program, which is $600 for single seniors and $840 for a couple. This investment will help 680,000 seniors across this country.

As the House knows, this was asked for by other parties. It was certainly supported strongly by members of the Conservative caucus. This is an initiative worthy of support and I ask all parties to therefore support it.

With respect to the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees, we in fact are changing the federal rules with respect to this and the targeted initiative for older workers, which was in fact another request made by opposition parties.

I want to review some of the initiatives that this government has already taken with respect to seniors.

Since 2006, our government has increased the age amount, first by $1,000 in 2006, and then by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting. We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSP plans to 71 from 69 years of age, something that was done by the former government. It had put it down to 69 from 71. We have reversed that policy change. This means that in 2011, a single senior can earn at least $19,000 and a senior couple at least $38,000, before having to pay any federal income tax.

In the time remaining in my speech, I would like to quote from a number of organizations which have come out in strong support of this budget. Chambers of commerce from across the country have applauded it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauds a low-tax budget.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network have been very active in the corporate income tax debate over the last few months and our message has been heard:

--Canada’s low tax plan has created a healthy economic environment for business investment and we applaud the government for staying the course.

It is not only endorsed by those organizations representing all businesses. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, also came out and endorsed this budget as well. It endorsed the EI hiring tax credit:

CFIB is extremely pleased to see its top budget priority- an EI Hiring Credit for Small Business--announced in the 2011 budget. As this budget forecasts rising EI premiums in each of the next three years, this credit will be a major help to small firms in growing their workforce.

In terms of red tape, the CFIB as well commends this government for its action taken in terms of improving taxpayer fairness under the Canada Revenue Agency, which I know my colleague will follow up on in his speech later this afternoon.

In terms of retirement income, the CFIB strongly endorses the government's action with respect to the ongoing work to introduce pooled registered pension plans to really help those Canadians who do not have a public pension plan or do not have a private pension plan.

I see that my time is up--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a smile on my face and the member for Edmonton—Leduc will probably be doing the same thing.

We have worked very well in the past. I also want to compliment the member on his fine work, not just on industry but on the Standing Committee on Finance. It is encouraging to see that we have members in this House who are uniting forces and able to make people in this Parliament work so well. We look forward to his good works after the next election.

The member would find my question predictable because it is clearly something I had waited for in what appears to be the last budget of this Parliament. That is, the promise made by his party with respect to reducing the fuel burden on our truckers and on industry.

In the last election, the Conservatives campaigned on a 2¢ per litre reduction in diesel taxes. That election is almost finished and we are coming to another election. The term of the government is almost there. I wonder if the hon. member remembers that promise made by his government. We are dealing with high fuel prices and high food prices. The time would be now. Why is it not in the budget?