House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, by proceeding in this way, the government will surely increase the burden on the taxpayers, requiring more from the provinces and particularly from the municipalities, which can already barely meet people's needs. That is not the role that the federal government should play. What we are asking the government to do is very simple, and that is to fill in the gaps rather than making them bigger. Greater investments in community infrastructure would make it possible to both create jobs and improve the lives of Canadians. Rather than doing this, the Conservatives preferred to give $15 billion in tax giveaways to companies that did not need them.

Why should big business and oil companies profit from the economic recession while the middle class goes deeper into debt? Is it to pay for the government's wrongdoing and mismanagement? Who does this budget really benefit? One thing is clear: it does not benefit middle-class families or the less fortunate.

How can we believe in the budget forecasts of this government when, at the first sign of the economic recession, it promised that Canada would not go into debt and, in the end, it led us into the largest deficit in the history of the country? Each time the government promises to balance the budget but instead it continues to add billions of dollars to the national debt. We have reason to be concerned about this budget, even more so when we analyze its logic.

The Prime Minister said that there would not be a recession or a deficit. He was wrong on both counts. And if he continues on the same track, as the saying goes, things come in threes. I am in favour of economic recovery but please let it be a sustainable economic recovery. In order to achieve this goal, we need a new way of thinking. We can no longer wait to create wealth before distributing it.

Sociologist Paul Bernard said that we need to redistribute wealth in order to create it. That is true. Look at where we are now, over 50 years after implementing universal public education and health care. This would not have been possible had we not made these investments.

I would like to read a quote from an article by Camil Bouchard that appeared in last Friday's edition of Québec Science, in which he indicated that OECD studies on this subject are clear. He said:

...it is not so much rising employment that decreases poverty. Rather, this happens when countries invest a considerable proportion of their gross domestic product in social programs or policies.

For example, although the United States and Norway have very high labour force participation rates, the U.S. invests half as much of its GDP in social programs as Norway does. The result is that poverty is five times higher in the United States than in Norway. And that is just one example.

Studies of poor children over many years show that the use of high-quality, educational daycare centres produces healthier, better educated citizens who are better integrated into their community and more active in the labour force and require fewer costly government support services. This strengthens economic productivity and increases government revenue. Given the unprecedented zeal to shrink government, this bears repeating.

I cannot ignore the $57 million in cuts being made to maritime search and rescue centres, which will directly affect the Quebec City rescue centre. Once again, the Conservatives are on the wrong track with this strategy. By wanting to close service points and decrease administrative costs, the government will instead increase operating costs considerably, since each rescue will become more and more costly. The goal is to maximize response time in order to save lives. It is certain that not only will the government not save money with these cuts, but it will also put lives in danger.

In addition to being responsible for this country's worst economic debt, this government is leaving us the worst social and environmental debt we have ever seen.

My question is this: who will benefit from this budget?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Minister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to welcome a new member to the House and we appreciate her comments.

I would warn the hon. member that we keep records of everything that is said in here, so I would suggest that she be very careful what she says in her speech. I do not see an awful lot of Liberals here today, which I should not reflect on, but in actuality in 1997 the Liberal government, under then Prime Minister Martin, had a debt in today's dollars of $729 billion. Just to be clear, it was neither her party nor mine that ran up that kind of a debt.

When I reflect on what previous budgets have put forward, we have taken one million low-income Canadians right off the tax roll. We continue to do that by reducing taxes. That is important to my constituents and I am sure it is important to the member's constituents.

The fact is that we are providing forgiveness to doctors and nurses to go to rural communities. I would encourage the hon. member to answer the following question. Is that not a good thing for rural communities?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am worried. I heard a member on the other side of the House say that tax cuts equal job creation. I am not so sure about that. I do not think that creating part-time jobs—and the majority of jobs created have been part-time positions—is exactly a good solution and a good way of doing things. I doubt that and would like to make that point.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I heard the Conservative member ask my colleague a question about the government's budgets and such. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts.

The Conservative government is willing to cut taxes for big business, including banks that are making $20 billion in profits. Bank presidents—important people, of course—are being paid bonuses totalling $11 billion. Would it not be better to put money into communities, into municipal and town infrastructure, and create jobs locally, instead of giving it to bank presidents and watching them laugh all the way to the bank?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague. If that is where all of the cuts are made, if part-time jobs are created and if big business gets favours, jobs risk being uprooted. I also heard my colleague say that things are not going well for Electrolux. We heard that in 2010, Electrolux uprooted jobs after receiving a subsidy from the federal government. And that is what I am saying—this approach concerns me.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, speaking of the budget, I did not see where the government made any changes to employment insurance. We are talking about poverty. Some 1.4 million children in Canada do not have enough to eat.

The government is asking us to vote for its budget, but would this not have been the appropriate place to make changes to help those in need? Are there really any practical measures to help workers who have lost their jobs? If they are not eligible for employment insurance, who suffers? Their entire family suffers.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with what my colleague is saying.

On another note, I would like to add that if the government really wanted to make cuts—since it strongly favours cuts to balance the budget—at this time, it could have chosen not to cut subsidies to political parties and instead made cuts to the Senate. The Senate costs so much more and the government could have really saved a lot of money, which is what it wanted.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am truly delighted to be speaking to this budget. I will be splitting my time with the member for Brant.

As this is only my second time to speak in the House since I was elected, I want to take the opportunity to thank the constituents of Vegreville—Wainwright for their tremendous show of support in this past election. There were 80% of the people from my constituency who supported me and that truly is humbling. It played a very important part in giving this side a very stable Conservative government and I am delighted to be a part of that.

I would also like to thank my many volunteers. There were over 300 volunteers who played a very active role in the election process. Many do not only work during election campaigns, but they do a lot of work month to month, year to year, to support a cause that is important to them. In my case, that is the Conservative cause and that is what they and others across the country supported, which led to this very strong majority government. I sincerely thank them for that.

I want to speak a little about agriculture and this budget. Of course, there were things in this budget dealing with agriculture. For example, there was money allocated to have consultations and develop a new growing forward 2 package to replace the current growing forward program. This would allow farmers, people in the agriculture business and those people interested across this country to help develop the next stabilization package.

The package we have has worked pretty well and will form a strong base for the second growing forward package. However, there is always room for improvement and we would get the best results if we have people who are concerned and interested in agriculture taking part in this consultation process. I encourage anyone who would like to see change to get involved in the process which starts almost immediately. I am looking forward to having some input into that process as it goes along.

As well, budget 2011 focuses on supporting innovation as a way to make agriculture more profitable. I think that is a very wise expenditure of taxpayers' money and we have seen some excellent results in recent years. When we look at taxpayers' money that has been leveraged, often with a vast majority of the money coming from the private sector, we have seen results. This allows Canadian farmers to compete with the world very favourably.

More than that, in many cases we have seen Canadian business, farmers and others export these new ideas and products around the world. That is an important part of developing innovation. Not only are agriculture products produced more efficiently as a result of innovation, but exporting innovation around the world is something that certainly broadens agriculture in Canada.

Much of what our government will do in the area of agriculture over the next year really will not show up in this budget, but that does not mean it is any less important. In fact, if we were to look at one area of work that our government is doing that is more important to farmers than any other area, I have no doubt that would be the area of expanding trade in agriculture products around the world.

We have seen our agriculture minister, trade minister and our Prime Minister take a very hands-on and active approach to help develop new markets for our agriculture products. We have seen remarkable results from that. Unfortunately, the agreements have been signed, but the actual passing of some of these trade agreements in Parliament have been slowed down by opposition, in fact, mostly by the NDP.

I strongly encourage members of the NDP who care about farmers and care about agriculture to work with this government from now on and help pass these trade agreements in Parliament so the benefits can be reaped by farmers as soon as possible. That is something I am looking forward to. Nothing done by this government in the area of agriculture is more important than developing those new markets around the world.

There are far more benefits to be gained. We are looking at negotiating pretty broad agreements with the European Union, which is important. We are always looking at how we can get better access to China, to India, to other places. These bilateral agreements will continue to be important. I would argue they will become even more important in the years to come. That is an extremely important area.

There are other areas involving trade that do not only look at exporting Canadian products to other countries, but rather look at importing inputs that farmers use to grow crops, to raise livestock, all of that kind of thing. This would allow those inputs more freely into Canada so they can be less expensive and so that we can have access to brand new technology, brand new herbicides, pesticides, veterinary products here in Canada at the same time our American, European and Australian competitors have access to these products. That is another aspect of improving trade that is extremely important.

Maybe it is not talked about as much, but we saw benefits from the own use program. That program helped farmers bring in herbicides, pesticides, veterinary products from the United States, which allowed them to lower their costs of producing animals and crops substantially. That program helped in a very real and substantial way. We have a lot of room to expand that well beyond what it is now. Part of that too is coordination. It has been worked on for many years but much is still to be done on coordinating the approval process for new pesticides, herbicides and veterinary products.

That coordination of the approval process between Canada, the United States, Europe and other like countries that have good processes in place now would mean that our farmers would get access to these products that will help them in a very real way. They will have access much sooner. I am looking forward to our government continuing to work on that.

As well, there are other things in the budget that would help farmers. They are not aimed specifically at farmers, but they would help them.

For example, our program to forgive up to $40,000 in student loans for doctors who will practise in a rural area would help to give our farmers much better access to a family doctor closer to home. That is a huge problem we face right now. We have done a lot of work in the immigration area. The immigration minister has done some really good things to help speed up the process to get doctors into Canada. Many of those doctors do come to rural areas, but it seems all too often in a few years down the road they move off to cities. We have to try to attract some Canadian trained doctors to rural areas by helping to assist them pay off their loans. We would also pay up to $20,000 in student loans for nurses.

In my minute remaining I want to let farmers know that now is not the time to sit back and become disengaged from the political process. Now is the ideal time to get involved with our government, with their rural MPs. We actually have most of the rural MPs in the country in our caucus. I would ask our farmers to get involved with their rural MPs to help move some of these things forward. Together we truly can do a lot that would make things better for our farmers and for agriculture. I am looking forward to that in the next four and a half years, which is the guaranteed mandate of this government.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, bad weather is often one of the main problems facing farmers. The second problem is the stress caused by bad weather. That is what we are dealing with right now in Montérégie and what we have faced in the past. Farmers in Montérégie were not able to sow their fields in time this year. These farmers have lost some of the grain that could have been used to feed animals, which translates into a huge financial loss.

Since the hon. member and the government want to do so much for farmers, can the government tell us what it plans to do to help our farmers in the Montérégie region?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member. Her question is an important one. I have watched on television and heard about the flooding throughout Quebec and Manitoba and my heart goes out to farmers who have had their season of crops destroyed. They simply will not have crops in many areas this year.

That is why I was very pleased when the agriculture minister a couple of years ago added the agrirecovery portion to our stabilization program. That allows the provinces, farmers and municipalities to approach the federal government when they need help because of the flooding and have the government work with them on it. That has worked very well with the flooding in eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and in the severe drought in Alberta over the past couple of years. I am confident it will work well for the farmers in the member's riding as well.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to hear there may be an option for farmers to have a choice for the sale of grain in the future. Could my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright further explain how this will benefit farmers in his area?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the thing about these various programs and the things our government has done in agriculture is they help farmers right across the country. I speak to farmers almost every day. When I am back in my constituency, I speak to farmers about things that are important to them and they have had an awful lot of good things to say about how this government has worked with them over the past several years.

If trade deals could be negotiated and implemented more quickly in the House, they would play an extremely important role to improve the incomes of farmers in my area. Farmers talk about it and bring it to my attention. They say how much they appreciate what the agriculture minister and trade minister have done. They say what we are doing has been working and they have asked us to do more. We will do more and we will also work on the input side to try to reduce the costs to farmers, to make their costs a little more in line with the Americans, for example, by allowing the inputs to come into Canada so they can use them a bit sooner. It makes a very real difference.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, has the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright shared some of the conversations with farmers that I have experienced?

I was surprised to hear him say that the number one priority of farmers was expanding trade opportunities. What I hear quite often from farmers is a concern that there is redundant trade. They grow produce locally in Canada and ship it by highway to the U.S. At the same time, trucks from the states bring produce from California back to our stores, while we send good, healthy, local produce to the states.

I also quite often hear from farmers that they are concerned that local food production is being continually undermined by a lack of infrastructure, slaughterhouses and canneries. In other words, there is a lack of support for local food. There is a conflict between the increased globalization of food supply and the public demand for safe, local, healthy food and supporting family farmers in Canada. I would appreciate the member's response.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member may be listening to people mostly in cities. I also heard a concern about moving organic and specialized products in particular into Canadian markets. On the other hand, I have heard success stories from an awful lot of people who had done the work with companies to have their products carried in stores. Quite frankly, many were successful.

However, in my area, I certainly did not hear the concerns she is expressing about opening up the world to more Canadian agriculture products. In fact, most of the constituents I have heard from are asking for that.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, as this is the very first time I rise in the House, I, too, would like to thank the good people of Brant for returning me to the House.

When we come to this place, we are in awe of the history that has gone before us and we are charged with the duty of ensuring we lead the country forward in a fashion that would be prosperous for all Canadians.

Today I will deal with some of the economic realities, globally and locally.

The global economic reality is that Canada stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity in a world of uncertainty. Throughout the last couple of years, our banks did not fail, our finances are currently in order and our economy has grown for the last seven quarters.

Just last week we received more good news. There were 22,000 new jobs in May, which has taken us up to 560,000 new jobs since July 2009. In this context, however, we are well aware that our government is mindful of the fact that many dangers remain in the global economy and that our economic recovery in Canada is still very fragile.

We know that lower taxes on job creators, through new investments in new business and the expanding of enterprises, creates high paying full-time jobs. That is the case in my community. Corporate tax reductions will produce growth and revenue to the government. It is the simple principle of sowing abundantly and reaping abundantly. By expanding our economy with new industry and new jobs, we will have more prosperity, more people paying taxes and more revenue. We know that corporations, in reality, do not pay taxes; they pass them along to consumers.

As a small businessman myself prior to coming to Parliament and being part of a chamber of commerce and knowing a lot of people who do business, businesses have fixed costs. Those fixed costs are translated into the price of the products and services they provide. Therefore, in reality, high taxes end up on the price of goods and services that consumers pay at the end of the day.

By implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, Canada will be a business-friendly location. To illustrate the point I was previously making, if the grocer is paying 40% tax on his business, when they check out, the consumers pay that 40%. If the grocer's tax is 25%, it is Canadian families that will save and Canadian workers who will benefit.

I invite members to reconsider their position against these taxes and join us in creating what many believe will be a tsunami of investment and opportunity in Canada.

I have seen locally in my community, in the city of Brantford, the benefits of low taxes in creating jobs. A company, Brant Screen Craft, wrote to a local newspaper to explain why it decided to stay in Canada after investigating many other jurisdictions, including primarily Michigan in the United States. The vice-president of the company stated that it was the low tax plans and programs of our government, the ones we had already created, and that the company was planning for in its business plan that kept it in my community of Brantford. It helped the company locate to a new, larger facility and hire 50 new employees. This was last year. It is a story of how our low tax plan has worked and will continue to work to make our Canadian economy the most attractive destination for job creators.

There are other items in our budget that are tremendously beneficial, especially to small businesses. There is the $1,000 hiring tax credit for a small business. In my case, a businessman who hired and employed 20 to 30 employees, $1,000 to hire a new employee is a big item, and it will be big for many people in small business.

I have also heard from constituents who are business owners. They have said that the accelerated capital cost allowance is a large item for them because they need to invest in new equipment, new tooling and new machinery in order to take their business to a higher level, get more customers, have more jobs available and grow their businesses.

The work-sharing program has been significant as well. Over 48 local companies identified themselves as participants in the last round of the work-sharing program. I am not talking about a few jobs here. I am talking about thousands of jobs. Our budget extends this program so companies not only can survive, but can again get their business back on the footing it needs to grow and prosper further.

This budget deals with the ineffectiveness of having to overcome red tape in government and the things that slow people down in business, by having to add to their overhead by the policies and regulation they need to submit when they are in small business.

The children's arts tax credit, a new family caregivers tax credit, the extension of the eco-energy program and the enhancements to the GIS for support for seniors are all items in our budget that are helping families in Canada right across the country.

For a moment, I would like to talk about a personal friend who is the Brant County fire chief, Paul Boissonneault. He has strongly advocated for the volunteer firefighters' tax credit. Today, we could deliver to him and his colleagues, the brave men and women who risk their lives fighting for life and safety. We have delivered for the volunteer firefighters.

In education and training we have already invested over $10 billion for students, including $3 billion in transfers to the provinces for post-secondary and over $7 billion in support for students and their families. We are moving forward with a textbook tax credit. We are moving forward to continue to build post-secondary in communities like ours, which has a satellite campus and is growing by leaps and bounds and needs help to increase the enrolment and be more open to allow more students to come.

Also, we talk in the budget about the in-study income exemption increasing to $100 a week from $50 a week. In effect, this will help 100,000 students. That is why the Association of Universities and Colleges endorses our budget. I will quote from its statement. It says:

This budget represents tremendous progress for the university sector: more funding for the research councils, promotion of international educational marketing, additional support for students, and a range of measures to foster innovation and research.

Through this budget, our government is preserving Canada's fiscal advantage. Today, Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7 by far. In the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we will keep Canada on track to balance the federal budget. We are delivering savings from our 2010 strategic reviews, closing tax loopholes and launching a one year government-wide strategic and operating review.

As I have said, Canada's economy is fast becoming the envy of the world and our Conservative government is focused on keeping that progress on track. Our plan has worked to help Canada emerge from the global recession and it has worked to support our local economy in my riding.

I would like to extend an invitation to entrepreneurs worldwide to call me. I will give them a personal tour of our beautiful industrial parks in Brant, where we have plenty of fully serviced land, access to utilities and transport routes and a hard-working labour force ready to go to work.