House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about health care. We recognize the importance of health care in Canada and the importance of a health care accord. This is something which we in the Liberal Party of Canada believe the government should be acting on today, that the negotiations and discussions among the different provinces should be happening today in order for us to achieve the ideal health care accord.

Could the member speak about how she feels with regard to the health care accord and the importance of it being discussed today as opposed to being put off, as the Conservative Party seems to be doing?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind the House and all Canadians that it is the NDP that fought for the health care system we have in Canada today and that so many of us take for granted. It is the NDP that truly understands the need for good quality health care and that health care should be fair and accessible to all Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by welcoming the new member for Scarborough—Rouge River and congratulating her on the eloquence and content of her speech.

However, I always wonder a little bit when we talk about health care in Ottawa since this is an area of provincial jurisdiction, and we know just how sacred this jurisdiction is to Quebec. There are 10,000 public servants in Ottawa but they do not manage a single hospital. As a result, it seems to me that, in her speech, the hon. member should have been careful to add that these demands should be met in a way that respects provincial jurisdictions, namely by making financial transfers or giving tax points to the provinces so that they can meet the objectives that she just mentioned.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, health care is a provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government is responsible for the Canada Health Act and sets up the guidelines and tone as to the importance of health care. Also, the federal government directs the transfer payments to the provincial level for the administration of the health care, which is in the hands of the provinces to deliver.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on what I suppose is her maiden speech. It was very nice with lots of passion.

She talked very movingly about health care, so I want to ask her a question about it. In fact, it follows up on the last colleague's question on health care. We know it is a position, as we have heard enough times, of the government of the day to start to exchange cash for tax points in transfers. What is the member's position on replacing cash with tax points in transfers?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments about my maiden speech. Yes, it was my maiden speech and I am very excited and proud to have been able to give such a passionate deliverance as my inaugural speech in the House.

About the trade she is speaking of, as a new member I do not feel confident to speak on that matter right now and I will look into it. If the member would like to have a conversation in a couple of days, I will be able to give her a more thorough answer.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as I rise for the first time in the House, I would like to thank my constituents, the voters of Calgary Centre-North, who not only brought me into the House but also delivered a strong, stable Conservative majority government to our country.

My colleague spoke to the issue of post-secondary education and investment in the post-secondary education sector. It is very important to note our government's commitment to ensuring transfer payments are sustainable over the next six years. We have that laid out in our budget and it is a commitment we have made.

I also note that in our budget we have several items which speak to post-secondary education, including enhancing and expanding eligibility for Canada's student loans and grants for part-time and full-time post-secondary students, investing $9 million over two years to expand adult basic education and providing up to $10 million a year in tax relief.

Will the member support this budget and these important measures?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, post-secondary education is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and I congratulate the member for her election to the House.

The budget does not really propose much for post-secondary education. Sure, there are some allowances for loans for students and it makes it easier for students to qualify for loans, but that is not real investment in post-secondary education.

The NDP has been proposing for many years to create a Canada post-secondary education act that would ensure the principles of accessibility and affordability of post-secondary educations would be enshrined in legislation.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating all members of the House for their election to this chamber and congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment to your post.

I want to say how honoured and humbled I am to be the member of Parliament for York South—Weston. I must thank all of my campaign volunteers who helped me talk to thousands of residents in every corner of my riding.

I intend to be a strong advocate for all 114,000 residents of York South—Weston. It is where I live. It is my community. Let me tell hon. members a bit about it.

York South—Weston is a working class riding in the northwest of the city of Toronto, an area of declining manufacturing. York South—Weston is the second poorest riding in Ontario. Over a quarter, maybe 32,000 men, women and children in the riding, live below the poverty line. Nearly a third lack a basic high school diploma. Nearly half the population rent; they do not own their homes. Over 57,000 people are visible minorities. Many constituent are disabled and, as deputy critic for disabilities, I hope to make their lives easier and more affordable. One in seven residents is a senior. Many are living in poverty too.

I live in the riding and have raised a family there. Unfortunately, I have watched as the jobs have left, which has added more stress to the community. It was not always this way. York South—Weston is the former home of manufacturers such as CCM, Moffat Stove, Massey-Harris, MacMillan Bloedel, Dominion Bridge, Ferranti-Packard and Kodak, and the list goes on and on. They have all left. Tens of thousands of jobs are gone.

The people who worked here earned family-supporting wages, lived in modest, comfortable homes and shopped locally, building the local economy; but now with the jobs all gone, unemployment is the major concern in my community. The unemployment rate in York South—Weston is habitually 25% higher than the national norm. Youth unemployment is even higher still, and the few jobs that remain tend to be low-wage, precarious service sector jobs.

When the Conservative government took office in April 2006, Toronto's unemployment rate was 6.4%. Now, after five years of whatever the government has provided, it is 8.4%, or almost 25% higher. The unemployment rate of York South—Weston is higher still. Thus, the economic action plan has clearly not worked. Actually, it is better called the economic fraction plan because it will only help a small fraction of Canadians.

Decent jobs with decent family-supporting wages and benefits and permanence are the top priority for me and my community, but even those who do find jobs must find them outside the riding and must use public transit, which, in my riding, is city buses, to get to work. Some have told me at the door that they spend as many as four hours every day commuting, which is time taken away from their families. That is why I am so disappointed by the government's budget. It does so little to meet the needs of these people.

The government's budget, the economic fraction plan, part two, does not improve the financial security of the residents of York South—Weston, as the finance minister claimed in his budget speech. Previous tax cuts for wealthy corporations have done nothing for my riding. The next wave of tax cuts for these big corporations will not help us here. Manufacturers have continued to close and no new jobs have been created.

The government's previous efforts in fighting the effects of the global recession had little impact in York South—Weston. Its vaunted infrastructure renewal did not touch York South—Weston at all, but passed by. Today, the budget leaves it even further behind.

However, if one travels north a couple of hours to the riding of Parry Sound—Muskoka, one will be able to smell the pork on the barbecues there, where the average income is $75,000 a year and $50 million was spent on border protection. I do not think it is anywhere near the border. Yes, I suspect that part of the economic fraction plan did what the government intended, but it did not help us in York South—Weston.

We in the NDP proposed and recommended to the government a job creation plan to would provide strategic investment in small business, not the giveaways to profitable corporations that this budget favours.

We in the NDP proposed a national infrastructure renewal strategy to draw investment and jobs into our communities. Instead, the government is closing down its infrastructure program.

We in the NDP proposed investing in education and training for high-tech, clean energy and conservation jobs for the workforce that we need in the 21st century economy. This is a missed opportunity in this budget. Residents in my riding want to create a green centre of excellence on the 53 acre former Kodak site, for good jobs in the 21st century economy. However, without a federal job creation strategy, without federal investment and a clear environmental plan, we will probably get the planned shopping centre and parking lot, which we need like a hole in the head.

We in the NDP proposed a national public transit strategy that would maintain and expand public transit across the country with a clear mechanism for sustainable, predictable long-term funding. Such a strategy would create jobs, increase productivity, clean the air and give working people more time with their families.

Instead, we get an elite business class train to the airport with fares of $50 being talked about. It seems the business elite do not want to have to rub shoulders with ordinary York South—Weston residents going to work.

This budget does little to help the average Canadian family deal with the cost of living. We in the NDP believe that Canadian families should get a break from the HST on home heating and hydro costs. However, the government's budget fails to do that.

I spoke to one senior during the campaign who had just received her heating bill for the month of March. It was $600 for one month, and tears were flowing because she could not pay it. A lot of that bill was the HST, and some of her tears were tears of anger over the unnecessary tax grab.

I heard the finance minister say yesterday that the HST was the province's problem. So I suppose he would have no issue with foregoing the 5% federal portion of her bill.

We in the NDP believe that seniors should not have to live in poverty. We proposed pension reform and significant increases to the guaranteed income supplement, but the government's budget measures fail to achieve these goals.

Seniors in York South—Weston are suffering the double whammy of pensions that do not rise and skyrocketing fuel and food costs. The rise in their pensions was $3 last year. How do they pay a $600 heating bill when their pensions go up by $3, or even $53 with the $50 the government is proposing that they get?

We in the NDP want to meet the needs of Canadian families by providing funding for more family doctors and nurses, by proposing measures to make prescription drugs and home care more affordable. The government budget does not meet these goals.

Many residents of York South—Weston do not have family doctors and use the over-crowded emergency room instead, and there is only one, as the previous provincial Conservative government closed the other hospital as its legacy to York South—Weston.

The token gestures to families with kids in arts or sports programs do not help the parents who cannot afford to enrol them in the first place, and the thousands who cannot find affordable daycare have no help whatsoever in the government's budget.

We in the NDP want to work with the provinces and territories to establish and fund a Canada-wide child care program and an early learning program that would create new child care spaces, improve community infrastructure to support the growth in child care and promote a one-stop shop approach for family services.

When their kids get out of daycare and want to go to university or college, the burdens of skyrocketing tuition and crushing debt loads are making that impossible. We in the NDP proposed a special education transfer to help ease the burden, particularly on low income families, but the government's budget is silent on that.

While there are many things we in the NDP would do differently in the budget, I see the government has taken our family caregiver tax benefit proposal. This will help families caring for people with disabilities, a subject that I have a personal interest in. However, we must do more. We should be implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accompanied by strategies for providing disabilities supports, poverty alleviation, labour market participation and access and inclusion. I hope all members of this House will support this initiative.

We in the NDP are asking the government to rethink its priorities in the budget. As York South—Weston residents will clearly attest, the budget is of little or no help on the real issues facing tens of thousands who live in poverty in Canada's richest city. The budget will not create jobs here, will not provide more daycare, will not lift our seniors out of poverty, will not make higher education affordable and will not make ordinary living more affordable.

The government makes quite gleeful pronouncements about its majority. Whatever the government, it should be concerned about all Canadians, not merely the wealthy in Parry Sound—Muskoka, but even the folks in York South—Weston.

Its economic fraction plan aims at only a fraction of Canadians, and certainly not those living in poverty.

I urge the government to rethink its priorities and establish priorities that can assist all Canadians, not merely a small fraction of the population.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have known my friend from York South—Weston for about 25 years, although he may not want to admit it is that many.

One of the phrases that I do not like to hear but that is used quite often in this place is, “They just don't get it”. Sometimes that is about the only phrase that applies.

I know we have some good people across the way. However, it baffles me that when the banks made $22 billion last year and gave $11 million in bonuses to their executives, seniors in this country are eating cat food. How do they square that circle?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, I have known the member way too long.

It is clear that the government's priorities of favouring banks and large corporations over seniors, who feel they should be respected and treated with dignity, do not square in this budget.

Clearly, the idea of seniors continuing to live in poverty because of lack of government support is not one favoured by this side of the House, the NDP in particular. We should do everything in our power to insist that in this budget, at least seniors come out of poverty.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to welcome my new colleague to this House.

As I listened to his maiden speech, I did take a special interest in his comments regarding seniors, because although I have only been here for two and a half years, time and time again I have heard the NDP talk about wanting to support seniors and raise them out of poverty. Yet every time we put forward a measure to help seniors, the NDP votes against it. Here I would mention measures like pension income splitting, which actually helped us remove over 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls; and measures like increasing the age credit amount by $2,000 and doubling the pension income credit to $2,000.

I would ask the member why on earth he is standing up now and claiming to be fighting for seniors, but with a party that continually votes against helping our seniors?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the member does not get what we are about.

The NDP is suggesting very strongly to the government that the quarter measures it is proposing or the half measures it is proposing in its economic fraction plan are not enough to raise seniors out of poverty. That is the issue before us today.

The issue before us today is not whether banks or corporations should have a lot more money, but whether or not seniors who have contributed all their lives and are now trying to retire with dignity should have an income that is large enough to allow them to live in dignity. That is what we are talking about. The government's proposal is only a fraction of that amount.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member would know, the administration of health care is done by the provinces. In my history with the province of Manitoba, there have been many issues, such as hallway medicine and issues with emergency care, including lineups and wait times, regarding the public not receiving the types of services they want to see.

What role does he believe the federal government has to play with regard to that whole administrative aspect the provinces are responsible for?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP believes that one of the problems facing many Canadians now in the health care system is the lack of access to family doctors, which is crucial. That is facing many Canadians, and many in my riding of York South—Weston do not only not have access to family doctors but have access to only one emergency facility, which will be closing in the near future.

It is that which the NDP has tried to focus on with its proposals: to make sure that the government creates a mechanism whereby family doctors become available to each and every Canadian across this country.