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

1:40 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I always listen with great interest when my friend starts criticizing us.

I want to make sure that I heard him correctly and would like to get his permission to quote him. He actually commended the government, this from the opposition. Can I quote him and say that the Liberals have actually commended the government for the firefighters tax credit? Recognizing the fact that more than half of his caucus voted against it in the last budget, it is important for me to get his permission so that we can quote a key Liberal member of Parliament commending this government for this tax credit.

Do I have his permission?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, does he need unanimous consent for that?

Just as a point of clarity, when those members of our caucus who are still with us voted against the last provision, it was specifically because the private members' measure did not include everyone. It was a non-refundable tax credit. Therefore, it was about this group of committed volunteers, this group of firefighters, who took the same risks and did the same job but were to be treated them differently. That is why the opposition was there.

Some might argue that the provision was only for the honorariums received through firefighting. Whether it was for that or for general revenues, it does not matter. It did not level the field. It was not fair to all firefighters and that is where we had a problem.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, sometimes I think the Conservatives view Canadian taxpayers the way P.T. Barnum used to view circus-goers, because there has been a bait and switch in this budget. There has been a sleight of hand. It is like pulling a sedated bunny out of some tattered old top hat and trying to convince Canadians there is something good and new and magic about this.

In fact, the bait and switch came with a series of little rinky-dink populist tax breaks that very few people will avail themselves of, certainly not those in need, and not the 52% of children in my riding who live below the poverty line. Not a single one of them will play hockey because of the rinky-dink, little tax credits.

The really big ticket items, the really expensive items, in this budget are the billions of dollars of jets and billions of dollars of prisons and billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts. All of their little accumulative, minor tax credits pale in comparison to the one big corporate tax cut, which, frankly, will do nothing to elevate the citizens of my riding out of poverty.

Would he not agree with me there is something P.T. Barnum-like about the Conservatives with their sedated bunnies and their tattered top hats?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, we will stay away from Hugh Hefner and sedated bunnies.

The member for Winnipeg Centre, I think, hits it right on. What we have seen is not a focus on changing behaviours; what we have seen is a contrived and very deliberate political approach to try to curry favour with various segments of the population.

The tax deduction for sports registration is an obvious one. If the Conservatives want to help those who are making a decision on a financial basis whether or not to get involved in amateur sport, would that money not be better invested into programs like KidSport Canada? It is an organization that helps young Canadians get involved in entry-level programs.

Is the tax deduction for the arts not trying to curry that same political favour with a particular portion of the population? I believe it is.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to extend a more proper thank you to the people of Ottawa—Vanier for putting their faith in me for a seventh time during the last election. I can assure them that I remain committed to their well-being and to fighting for their interests here in this House.

That said, I would like to begin my critique of the budget by talking about the regional concerns surrounding the future of the public servants in our community.

The government is committed to balancing the budget. That is something the government should achieve and Liberals will certainly be supportive in that objective. The question is how it will attain it.

The government has said that it will not cut certain areas, such as transfers to the provinces and individuals. Therefore, essentially it has limited the universe in which it can effect cuts to about an $80 billion discretionary envelope. The cuts over the next four years will not be in the order of 5%, as some people have said. In terms of absolute numbers, it will be in the order of $1 billion in 2012-13, $2 billion the year after and $4 billion in each of the two succeeding years, for a total of $13 billion. Out of an $80 billion envelope, that represents cuts of almost 14%. Therein lies the rub.

Conservatives said during the campaign, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs repeated it ad nauseam during the campaign, that there would be no cuts to the public service and it would only be done through attrition. The average number of public servants who leave the government through attrition every year is about 10,000 and that represents a saving of about $1 billion on the basis that none of them would be replaced, which cannot be done.

The best guesstimates are that about a third need to be replaced, otherwise the delivery of programs would be crippled. The savings from attrition at most is $750 million a year. That is a far cry from $4 billion. Therefore, there will be cuts and the government has acknowledged that, after the election of course.

We are looking at serious numbers. Some have hinted at as many as 80,000 public servants, 40,000 by attrition if none are replaced, which cannot be done as I have mentioned, plus another 40,000. Depending on how and where it is done, it will have an incredible impact on certain local economies, this one in particular. The national capital region will probably be the worst affected. The individuals let go will have some serious fiscal problems of their own if they are not treated properly.

There has been nothing from the government in terms of how it will approach it, except that it put the President of the Treasury Board in charge, and I will say a bit more on that in a minute. We do not know the governing principles and we do not know what kinds of packages will be offered to public servants who will be let go, so on and so forth.

Right now in this area and other parts of the country where there is a higher concentration of public servants there are serious concerns. That is all I heard about over the weekend. People are wondering and are a little concerned about what is going to happen to their futures. The government has to be very transparent with its own employees, something it has not learned how to do in the last five years. Hopefully, now that it feels more comfortable with its majority, it will treat its employees a bit better than it has in the past. We will see.

Speaking of treatment, the basic fundamentals mean the government has to be transparent with its employees and has to treat them respectfully. We still have, despite the efforts of the government at times, one of the best public services in the world and employees deserve no less than professional treatment, transparency, honesty and forthrightness. I hope the President of the Treasury Board, as he embarks on this exercise, will be guided by such principles.

I go back to the President of the Treasury Board. It is rather ironic that he would be the one asked to do this after the Auditor General's report that was tabled in the House last week. What we have found out is appalling. Parliament has been misled by the government in terms of its expenditures and there has been a misuse of funds. An approved envelope meant for one thing was used for something else entirely. There has been an abuse of ministerial authority in determining how money is spent, without any documentary evidence whatsoever.

Talk about padding one's own host. The $50 million that were to be used to improve the flow of goods and people across the borders between Canada and the United States were used 300 kilometres away in the minister's riding, at his discretion. The Conservatives have the gall to put him in charge of cutting $11 billion over the next four years. We will have to see how that goes.

There are a few other matters that should be noted.

One of those matters is political party funding. I do not want the hon. members to worry about me personally, so I will say that it does not matter to me if the subsidies are eliminated or not. I have never received the subsidy and have never wanted to. Things are taken care of in my riding and there are no issues. But the irony runs deeper. We are facing an intellectual challenge: individuals who wish to contribute to a political party are limited to contributing $1,100 a year, while a third party can legally sneak in, get involved in campaigns in every riding and spend $3,000. Why the double standard?

It has not been an issue until now because the per-vote subsidy levelled the playing field. When the subsidy is eliminated, it is crucial that Parliament review political party financing legislation to ensure that fairness is a governing principle. It is not right that one person can spend $3,000 in a riding and that another is limited to $1,100 in political contributions. Political parties are registered by law with Elections Canada to protect the interests of the various political groups represented here in the House. Since this subsidy is being eliminated, Parliament must address the issue.

We do need greater literacy in fiscal matters in our country. On that front, the government had created a body that looked at that and made some serious recommendations. One would hope the government would follow up on those recommendations. It is important that it does.

The level of individual indebtedness in our country is way too high. It brings about a risk factor that we could attenuate. Currently in some cities the housing prices are untenable and if for whatever reason, oil prices, worsening international climates or investments were to dry up, we would see a dramatic drop of up to 10%, 20% in some cases, of the value of real estate and the concomitant disaster in some personal finances because of the high level of indebtedness. We need to address that as a country and I do not see the efforts to do just that in the budget.

Those are two things to which I would hope the government would pay attention and that we would see better efforts to ensure that the financial situations of individual Canadians would be looked after.

We will be coming back to the whole issue of crime. The government's approach to this issue is completely backwards. The exact opposite is what is needed. We need to reduce crime, rather than throw people in prison for even longer periods and at increasingly exorbitant costs. We will come back to this, since an omnibus bill on crime is coming down the pipe. We will definitely be talking about this issue again.

Lastly, I would like to talk about post-budget questions. What worries me about the government's attitude is that it has said nothing about any investment in education, health care or the needs of Canadians once the budget is balanced. Instead, it talks about increasing the number of tax havens for the wealthy, when it should be doing the opposite. Therein lies the main difference between the Conservative philosophy and the Liberal philosophy. We Liberals try to strike a balance between the needs of Canadians and the need to create enough wealth to support one another.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments.

It strikes me as a bit odd that the member would talk about not being open with Canadians about the tough decisions that need to be made when a government is running a deficit. I remember when the member's party was in government. I do not remember members of that party going before Canadians in that election and telling them that they would have to make the very difficult decision of cutting provincial transfers for things like health care, or when they made the difficult decision to cut education transfers, driving up the cost of education for every Canadian student. They cut science and technology. I do not remember them saying that they would cut a great many things that really were not in their jurisdiction. They were responsibilities to be transferred to the provinces.

Maybe the member would like to talk about the lack of transparency of that Liberal government and why he now believes he is seated where he is.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will let the last comment slip by. If I have learned one thing from the Conservatives, it is that defeats are not permanent.

The member should do his homework. I ran for the House for this first time in 1995 in a byelection. That was at the time of the budget. The budget, the toughest budget, that the Liberals presented at the time gave a recipe for what would come in terms of transfer cuts and in terms of our own government cuts. That is what I ran on in this city.

The member should go back and do his homework because I have been through that. It is only because we were transparent, put facts on the table and said exactly what we would do that people felt they could trust us. We did exactly what we said we would do. We cleaned up the mess—

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. When the House returns to this matter, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier will have three minutes remaining in questions and comments.

Nipissing--Timiskaming
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and distinct privilege for me to rise in this House for the first time. I wish to congratulate you in your new role as well as the members of the House for their election successes.

I would like to express my profound appreciation to my constituents in the great riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming for the trust they have bestowed upon me. I would also like to express a heartfelt thanks to my wife Joanne, my son David and my daughter Katie for their strength and support, and to all the members of my campaign team, my sincere gratitude.

I represent a beautiful region which is truly a microcosm of Canada. It is blessed with breathtaking lakes, two of which are namesakes for the riding, Nipissing and Timiskaming. It is also known for its mighty rivers and beautiful forests. It is truly a land of productive, innovative and creative people, and I am humbled to serve them.

Terrebonne—Blainville
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House for the first time on behalf of the people of Terrebonne—Blainville. As a new member of Parliament, I would first like to thank them for having confidence in me. I am very much looking forward to representing them here in Ottawa.

It is time to get to work to advance the priorities of the people of Terrebonne—Blainville: helping small and medium-sized businesses, helping families make ends meet and getting serious about our environment.

The people of Terrebonne—Blainville have still not recovered from the 2002 closure of GM, which cost many jobs in my riding, and there are concerns about the closure of Electrolux, which will affect 1,300 people in the Lanaudière region.

I will do everything I can to ensure that the people of Terrebonne—Blainville are heard in Parliament.

Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by sincerely thanking the people of Kitchener—Waterloo for re-electing me as their member of Parliament.

I am truly honoured to continue to serve and represent this dynamic community. My riding is well-known for its innovative and entrepreneurial culture, and one of the key drivers of our success is the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has played an important role in the development of our region, providing support for local enterprises, and fostering collaborative relationships between business owners and the wider community.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce. I congratulate its members on this significant milestone, thank them for their service to our community, and wish them continued success in the years to come.

Cultural Scholarships
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a young man from the first nations Mi'kmaq community of Conne River in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

Mise'l Jeddore was awarded the 2011 cultural scholarship for St. Anne's School in Conne River. Despite his young age, Mise'l is proving to be an outstanding ambassador for the aboriginal culture. As part of the drumming group for his school, Mise'l has represented the school at events as far away as Japan.

Currently, Mise'l is attending Memorial University in St. John's Newfoundland, where he continues to actively promote the Mi'kmaq culture.

I ask all members to join me in saluting this exceptional young man.

Sports
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize some great achievements by young Barrie athletes in the past few weeks.

The Barrie Spirit under-13 girls soccer team was in our nation's capital to compete in the Ottawa IceBreaker Soccer Tournament against a strong field of 24 teams. The girls won their first five games, outscoring the opposition 14 to 2, and faced the Ottawa Puri in the final with a winning goal after two sudden-death penalty kicks.

The Barrie Kempettes Gymnastics Club travelled to Newmarket to compete in the Shenderey Gymnastics Club's invitational meet. Our local athletes had an amazing competition, bringing home 28 medals. All Barrie gymnasts finished in the top 10 in their respective categories.

Our high school athletes competed in the OFSAA championships in Sudbury. Barrie again had an incredible showing, taking gold in many disciplines. Innisdale's senior girls' team won the school's first OFSAA banner in track and field in over 20 years.

Barrie's athletes and coaches are doing our community proud. I applaud their hard work and dedication, and congratulate them on such a strong showing.

The Budget
Statements By Members

June 13th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Sana Hassainia Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my supporters, the people of Verchères—Les Patriotes who, on May 2, expressed their will to have me represent them in the House.

I humbly accept this mandate and commit to serving them and to protecting their interests throughout my time here.

I would also like to thank my family, my friends and my husband for their daily support.

I also want to say that I am proud to be the first Tunisian woman to sit as a member of the Canadian Parliament.

On Monday the government presented its budget and there were certain positive aspects to it.

However, what is the government doing to help young graduates who are starting their professional lives with an average student debt of $25,000? Or to help families that have a huge debt load and are being crushed by astronomical credit card interest rates? Or to help the 5 million Canadians who still do not have a family doctor and have to go to emergency? What is the government doing to meet the real needs of Canadians?

By granting subsidies to the country's privileged, the government has made its priorities clear. And those priorities are unacceptable.

Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I join my colleagues in the 41st Parliament. We are here with a clear mandate, after a historic election, a humbling and gratifying prospect.

I would like to thank the residents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for providing me with this great honour once again. Saskatchewan, the land of living skies, is a wonderful place to live, to work, and to raise a family, largely because of the very friendly and supportive communities found there.

I recognize that it is through their faith and the hard work of many volunteers that I have the opportunity to serve my wonderful constituency and this great country over the next four years. For this I am profoundly grateful and eager to work on their behalf.