House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from March 29 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I should warn my colleagues that I will go on at length about yesterday's budget. To begin, I will discuss some of the reactions from across the country to the budget that was tabled in the House yesterday.

I will read some of the emails that we have received. I will also share some other emails, tweets and reactions from the public.

I will be talking for some time, so NDP members are inviting members of the public to take a look at the budget and send their NDP MP—or a nearby NDP MP if they do not have one of their own—their thoughts about and reactions to all aspects of the budget that the government tabled yesterday, such as the cuts to old age security—we hope that Canadians understand that people will have to work two years longer—and the cuts to services, because the government announced cuts to services in several different areas.

We also invite Canadians to contact us through local NDP members, by phone, fax, or email, and on Twitter and Facebook. We would like to hear what the Canadian public has to say. We invite everyone to take part in this very important debate.

We saw yesterday's budget and we have had a chance to read it. As my colleagues know, the budget is so ideologically motivated that the NDP will be voting against it when the time comes. Of course, we will propose amendments, in the enduring spirit of Jack Layton, our former leader, and in the spirit of our new leader, the hon. member for Outremont, who have both always maintained that Canadian families' priorities must come first. That is what we will do. We will propose amendments. We will vote against the budget as tabled, because of all the negative repercussions it will have on the Canadian public.

Today we are inviting Canadians to participate in this budget debate. We are asking them to contact their NDP MPs directly, if they are lucky enough to have an NDP MP. If they do not have an NDP MP yet, and hopefully that will change in 2015, then we are asking them to contact an NDP MP in their region. They can do that by fax, email, Twitter, Facebook, or the old-fashioned way, by phone.

Given what we have seen in this budget, such as a forced additional two years of working for those who can work, by raising the retirement age from age 65 to 67, and the service cuts taking place in a wide range of areas, in food safety, transportation safety or environmental assessment, clearly we think Canadians should have the last word. We encourage Canadians to participate in this debate.

I know that our NDP MPs are hard-working, amazing MPs, many from the class of 2011 and one from the class of 2008. I must say that, pound for pound, woman for woman, man for man, the NDP class of 2011 is the strongest class of members of Parliament ever to come into this House of Commons. They show this every day.

I want to read some of the feedback. I will be doing more of this later. I will talk about Canadians' initial reaction to the budget that was tabled yesterday. We certainly have the Minister of Finance's spin on all of this, but how do Canadians feel?

I would like to read from this document called “Initial Reaction”. “Re: The public service cuts. The increase in hiring since the last cuts was because we needed the positions filled in order to provide service effectively to Canadians. The 19,200 cuts, and it is cuts regardless of what the government says because the positions will not be refilled, those jobs are needed to provide the services required. I know personally of many, many public servants already working overtime without compensation in order to get the job done. Now with further positions gone, services will be in crisis as will the remaining public servants. Burnout is already present in several departments and any satisfaction in the work we are doing is diminished by this government. All of this does not bode well for services to Canadians.”

Second, from my community of Burnaby, Mr. Walker writes regarding the draconian cuts that we are seeing to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He says:

I oppose severe cuts to the CBC. We need good public media to keep Canada connected. The proposed cut of $110 million represents the majority of the cost of providing CBC radio, and much more than the current budget for all of CBC’s digital programming. This dramatic cut...will damage our news, our culture and our digital economy.

I have an email from Alberta about the issue around the fisheries. I will get to the significant and draconian cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada later. This individual is from a Conservative riding in Alberta. Hopefully we will get that to change in the next election. The individual writes:

The government is rumoured to be considering amending section 35 of the Act which prohibits any works or undertakings that could harm fish habitat.... This is problematic because the draft legislation would remove all references to fish habitat, which is vital to fish survival. Protecting fish themselves is of little value if they have no habitat in which to live and thrive.

The individual, a Canadian, goes on to talk about the draconian cuts to Fisheries and Oceans. I can say, from the open-line programs I participated in last night in British Columbia, that is a real concern right across the west coast.

In British Columbia we are already under-resourced. We had a near collapse of the salmon fishery three years out of four. British Columbians have been clearly calling for substantial improvements in investments in fisheries and oceans, and for salmon enhancement and fish monitoring. We are very concerned about the collapse of the salmon fishery in British Columbia. Yet, as this Canadian from Alberta has pointed out, what we are seeing instead is the wrong-headed approach, as the government is moving to slash Fisheries and Oceans. That is simply unacceptable.

I would like to read a third one. This is from an individual in Ontario, again not from an NDP riding yet. Obviously we are hoping to change that. This person writes, “The federal government doesn't need to slash and burn the jobs and hopes of its citizens to balance its budget. What's at stake is the future of our young people, and of course the ability of our government to help preserve the environment of our planet.”

We are receiving emails and comments as a wide variety of Canadians are reacting to the budget immediately. We encourage them to write. We will make sure that their comments are known. Whether they are tweeting, putting it on Facebook, emailing, or using the old fashioned telephone, we are certainly there for them.

To preface my comments on the budget, we need to talk about how the government has thus far managed the economy. I think my Conservative colleagues will be quite disappointed when they see what StatsCan and other reputable organizations are saying about the Canadian economy.

We have dubbed the budget “the penny-wise and pound foolish budget”. It does get rid of the penny, which is something the member for Winnipeg Centre has been asking for from the NDP caucus for some time. That is good news. I have big jars I will be taking out of the closet. However, we call it “pound foolish” because of what it does to Canadian families, Canadian seniors, Canadian services and Canadian institutions.

It is a penny-wise and pound foolish budget. However, the government has tried to say that the budget is somehow designed to produce jobs, growth and prosperity. Therefore, we really need to start the discussion about the budget with how the government has done thus far. If the government is promising that the budget in some way is actually going to address issues around the loss of jobs and the profound malaise in which we find ourselves in terms of growth, then we have to look at the government's record to date.

I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it is important to note again today. In this extensive budget of 500 pages, there is a very key page that actually points to the government's admission that as a result of this budget, unemployment is actually going to go up. It is quite astounding that the government would put jobs on the front page of a budget that it knows is actually going to promote unemployment. The unemployment rate from 2011 will go up in 2012.

We know about the 19,000 jobs that it is cutting. I mentioned earlier one of the Canadian citizens who wrote to us expressing her concern about how seriously these public services are going to deteriorate. Also, for each job that we lose in the public service we lose another one in the private sector as well. Therefore, we are actually talking about nearly 40,000 jobs that would be lost in a very short time frame over the next little while.

How a government that is actively pushing a higher unemployment rate and actively throwing thousands and thousands of public sector and private sector workers out of work could possibly pretend that this is somehow a jobs budget is beyond me.

I will now go to the government's record. I am sure the Conservatives on the other side are waiting with bated breath. I should signal right away that this will not be the talking points from the Prime Minister's Office. This will be something I know folks on the other side of the House fear because they have certainly done massive cutbacks to Statistics Canada. I will be giving real facts, and that is important. We are not talking about the fiction of the PMO talking points. We are talking about the actual facts of the state of the nation as this budget pushes for nearly 40,000 more lost jobs, plus whatever multiplier effect that may have, which means 40,000 Canadian families losing a bread winner and a higher unemployment rate.

How does the budget mesh with the Conservatives' record to date? I will just mention 10 particular economic indicators that are important to look at as we look at the budget as a whole.

The first indicator is the issue of the merchandise trade deficit. Under the Conservative government, Canada now has a record merchandise trade deficit. We used to have a trade deficit with offshore countries that was offset by a merchandise trade surplus with the United States. The opposite has now happened. We are now seeing a deficit in the United States as well.

We had a merchandise trade deficit in 2009, 2010 right through to 2011 that is now a record deficit on merchandise. What does that mean? It means something that members are well aware of. The member for Outremont raised it in his first question in the House of Commons as the new leader. It means that the government has gutted our merchandise sector and manufacturing in the country. There is no other way to put it. When we look at the number of manufacturing jobs that have been lost and the fact that we are in a record merchandise deficit, we can see that the government, far from looking at best practices, is actually looking at worst practices. I would say that Canadian families deserve better and we should be looking at best practices.

The Conservatives would say that they have gutted manufacturing, that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in manufacturing but that we need to look at the overall export situation. We are exporting raw logs, raw bitumen and raw minerals. The government would say that we cannot look at the merchandise deficit, that it has done the worst of any government in Canadian history on that, but that we need look at the raw materials that are being exported.

I wonder why that has never appeared in the PMO's talking points. Unfortunately, under the Conservatives, we now have the worst current account deficit on balance of payments in our nation's history. We have the worst merchandise deficit and worst current account deficit on balance of payments. What does that mean? It means that even with the raw materials that we are exporting, we are in a substantial hole with the rest of the world.

The minister's speech yesterday talked about signing trade agreements. Later on, I will go into what those trade agreements have actually produced, because it is quite enlightening when we actually look at the export figures from each of the countries with which we have signed a free trade agreement. In Canada's case, it is very interesting to see that Canada has tanked pretty well every time that we have signed these agreements. Although imports from those markets go up, in most cases exports from Canada often go down.

When we look at the current account deficit on balance of payments, we see a complete and utter failure in terms of export industries, whether we are talking about shipping raw resources and jobs out of the country or the collapse of the manufacturing sector. I will put these two facts together. We have the worst merchandise deficit and the worst current account deficit on balance of payments for overall exports in our nation's history.

I will talk about how that has evolved. In 2006, when the Conservative government took over, the deficit in trade was about $14 billion. In 2007, after a year of the Conservatives being in office, it went from $14 billion to $18 billion. They went even farther in 2008 when it went from $18 billion to $21 billion. It will be no surprise that we have gone from there to $22 billion or $23 billion, a record current account deficit on balance of payments.

When we are having the worst deficits in terms of merchandise, manufacturing exports and the worse deficit in terms of our overall exports in our nation's history, I do not think anyone in this House would stand and pretend that the government is doing a good job. It simply is not.

The government does some ribbon cuttings and it signs a trade template that is one of the oldest and most rickety in the world. It dates back to the 1980s. Other countries have modernized and made much more progressive fair trade agreements. Canada is still back in the era of Reagan and Mulroney.

The point is that, regardless of how bad the approach is, how bad the trade template is, how little the government has provided in terms of any sort of robust export support, it has the worst deficit in merchandise and the worst deficit in current account on balance of payments in our nation's history for exports, and Canadian families deserve better.

I will go on to another key indicator. I will take a little bit of time with this. I see my Conservatives colleagues are enthralled, and that is good. I hope they put up with me because I will be speaking for a while.

I want to talk to about manufacturing jobs. Back in 1976, I was still in high school. I am not sure where you were, Mr. Speaker. You are older than your years. You may even have been a child prodigy, I do not know. However, back in 1976, I was wearing bell-bottom trousers and Saturday Night Live was big. Back in 1976, we put in the labour force survey and started tracking manufacturing employment.

In 2011, after five years of the Conservatives being in power, we see how they have done on manufacturing. Unbelievably, despite the fact that the country's population has almost doubled over that same timeframe, the number of manufacturing jobs today is actually lower than it was back in 1976 when we first started keeping statistics. That is an appalling record.

On Monday, the Leader of the Opposition raised in this House the fact that 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost on the government's watch. The reality is that we have never had lower levels of manufacturing employment since we started keeping statistics. Therefore, one could say that in our statistical history, dating back to 1976, it has never been lower, even though the population and the economy have grown.

We have seen devastation in our manufacturing sector. I will mention some of the jobs that have been lost over the course of the last few months. In every case, strong NDP MPs have raised this in the House and brought this forward. Certainly nobody on the Conservative side could say that he or she was not aware of this because we have been raising it day after day in the House of Commons.

The member for London—Fanshawe and a number of other NDP members raised the issue of the Electro-Motive and Caterpillar closures in London, Ontario. There were 465 jobs lost in February 2012. It was something we felt particularly strong about because the Prime Minister had used the backdrop of those workers for a photo op. It is incredible that he would use those workers as a photo op in an election campaign. Canadian taxpayer money went into supporting that enterprise and then it pulled out and the government did absolutely nothing. I have to say shame on it.

More recently, we had the Aveos workers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga, 2,600 strong. Those workers have been impacted by a shutdown that is illegal. There is nothing more we can say than that. The Air Canada Public Participation Act mandates or requires that Air Canada maintains those overhaul centres. In fact, I would like to pay tribute to the strong B.C. members of Parliament who are part of the 102-strong NDP official opposition caucus because B.C. members of Parliament have tabled a bill to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act to include Vancouver as an overhaul centre that must be maintained by Air Canada.

Despite the fact that Vancouver is not yet part of that, the government has made no move at all to protect the workers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga, the 2,600 jobs lost. The government has the ability and has bragged in the past about having the ability to stop the massive layoffs, because Air Canada has to be held to keep its obligations, and yet the government has done absolutely nothing for those workers. On this side, we say that Canadian families deserve better.

I will go on to other factory closures. Hundreds of jobs were lost at the Ocean Choice International fish plant in Marystown and Port Union, Newfoundland in January 2012. With regard to Maple Leaf Foods, the areas affected included Moncton, New Brunswick; Burlington, Ontario; and Kitchener, Ontario. I live in Burnaby—New Westminster, British Columbia and right next to New Westminster is the city of Coquitlam where jobs have been lost as well. We are talking about 1,550 jobs that are being cut over the course of the next little while. We are not talking about three jobs lost here and five jobs lost there. We are talking about thousands of jobs as each of these add up, one after the other, all announced in the span of the last few months.

At AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical research company in Montreal, 132 jobs were lost. They evaporated. The jobs at Bick's Pickles in Dunnville, Ontario were moved to the U.S.A. in 2011, with 150 jobs lost as a result. At XL Foods' beef processing plant in Calgary, 500 employees were laid off in May 2011. There were 102 jobs lost at the Sonoco packaging plant in Winnipeg, and that was just as we entered the fall of 2011. There is the Navistar truck manufacturing plant in Chatham, Ontario, where another 350 jobs were lost last summer. There were 1,100 jobs lost at the Ford assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, again back in the fall. At the NewPage Port Hawkesbury mill, Nova Scotia, there were 1,000 jobs lost. Of course, the Mabe factory in Montreal is closing in the next little while. There we are talking about 700 jobs.

As for La Malbaie, we have some strong members, NDP members from the Montreal region, who rose every day in this House calling on the government to do something to save those jobs, because we truly believe that Canadian families deserve better than this.

That is only a partial list of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost across the country on this government's watch. We are now at a stage since we first started keeping statistics, and here it is not too much of an exaggeration to say since the dawn of recorded time, meaning in this case back in 1976, where we have never had lower manufacturing job figures.

This is the third indication of a profound failure by the government to stimulate the economy, to develop a healthy Canadian economy and provide the kind of action that is needed so that Canada can be a leader in economic development and in terms of its citizens' prosperity. I table that as a third indication.

It may begin sound a little bit like we are putting the government on trial, and in a way we are. We feel that the budget tabled yesterday was irresponsible in cutting services, particularly as the government had promised Canadians before May 2 that it would not be cutting services. The Conservatives promised Canadians that they would not be making cuts to retirement security. They promised as well that they would not be making cuts to health care transfers.

These are solemn commitments. When a person is running for prime minister, like the current Prime Minister, and makes those solemn commitments to Canadians, we expect him to keep them. Canadians expect him to keep those commitments. He said that they would not cut health care transfers, and then we saw what transpired back in December in Victoria, British Columbia.

I was at that meeting. I was with those provincial finance ministers, speaking with them shortly after the bomb was dropped on them when the Minister of Finance showed up and made his announcement without any regard for provincial health care budgets, without any regard for the pressures that those health care programs are feeling.

There are demographic pressures for sure, but there are also pressures from the lack of innovation by the federal government. It should be working with the provinces to develop the bulk purchasing of medication, like our former leader, Jack Layton, was such an active proponent of doing. With home care, for example, it should be looking at new ways to actually reduce the cost of acute health care, which is something that all provinces and people feel can make a big difference. When we provide a home care platform, we reduce the cost of acute care. Instead of providing any proposals and being thoughtful about what needed to be done to improve our health care system to make sure the services are there, and instead of working to make it effective so that the Canadian taxpayers are getting the maximum bang for our buck, the Minister of Finance simply said that they would start cutting back on health care transfers in a few years' time.

I spoke with those finance ministers. They were enraged. Of course they were angry, because they can see what that meant further down the road. It will mean a lower ability to actually provide the health care services Canadian families depend on.

It will be tough in Nova Scotia. It will be tough right across the country, the prairies, Ontario and Quebec. It will be tough in British Columbia. The finance minister for British Columbia admitted that it would put a huge strain on the B.C. health care system.

Rather than proceeding in a responsible way, he just dumped that in the middle of the provinces and took off, in direct contradiction to what he had promised prior to May 2.

Then yesterday we saw the other two promises. It is not as if the Conservatives made a lot of promises, but we do expect them to keep the ones they made. He had promised not to gut retirement security, and we will be going into that a little while later on. He has done exactly the contrary; he has gutted retirement security. He had promised not to cut services to Canadian families. We have seen that broken promise as well.

The reality is this, and I want to make this clear. If the government had campaigned on what it really intended to do, it would have said that it would be cutting health care transfers; that it was going to force people to work two more years, regardless of people's ability to do that at that late age; that it was going to cut services, food and transportation safety and environmental assessments; that it was going to cut Canadian institutions like the CBC; and that it was going to cut the Auditor General so that the auditor could not check up on the government to see if it were using its money effectively, because it does not like the Auditor General because he or she questions its questionable purchases like the F-35s that go from $9 billion to $40 billion. If the government had actually said all of those things, members are as aware as I am that since Canadian families deserve much better, it would be the NDP on that side of the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I thank my colleagues for their enthusiastic reception. One would not think that all of them had just gone through a very busy and intense leadership convention over the course of the last weekend, when we elected the member for Outremont as our new leader and the leader of the official opposition.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Robert Chisholm

We are not tired, we are invigorated. We are ready to rock their world, as Charlie would say.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I thank my colleagues for that, particularly my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. That was very kind of him.

The government did not say it was going to break all those commitments and did not make it clear what its real agenda was. For that reason then, yes, the government is on trial and that is what we are going to be using this budget debate for, to put the government on trial for broken promises. When we look at the F-35s and the prison agenda in terms of fiscal mismanagement and when we look at the facts as I am rolling them out now, we have only come to the first three key economic indicators but the government is also on trial for economic mismanagement. We are going to hold it to that.

Let us look at the job situation over the last few months, since the government has gutted the manufacturing sector. Look at the last quarter of 2011 and look at the first couple of months in 2012. That time frame is prior to the budget, which kills 40,000 jobs, roughly, if we believe the government's figures. I am a bit skeptical because austerity budgets or draconian budget cuts tend to have a multiplier effect, but let us give the government the benefit of the doubt and say it is killing 40,000 jobs with this budget. Prior to its killing 40,000 jobs, both in the public sector and from the multiplier effect in the private sector, 50,000 full-time jobs were lost in the last quarter of 2011. We saw that in October, November and December. We saw that in January and February as well.

All of us on the NDP side of the House are acutely aware of what that means. That means fathers or mothers are going to work and getting a pink slip, feeling a deep and sickening feeling in their stomachs that their jobs are no more, that the jobs they worked on for years or decades have disappeared, that the jobs they got so good at doing and the companies they devoted their lives to, by coming in on weekends and evenings and juggling family responsibilities, as we all do, and gave their heart and soul and sinew to, are no more. They get the sickening feeling that all of those years of dedication are no more.

Coupled with the sickening feeling of that sense of loss is the economic reality. Far too many of those who become unemployed do not even have access to employment insurance because of the changes that the government has made. The Canadian Labour Congress estimates that most unemployed workers do not have access to employment insurance. Some do, but even those who do are facing a tremendous financial challenge. They then have to drive home and tell their family. Maybe it is their parents who need the family's help to buy medication. Maybe it is their kids who want to enrol in a special program, or they want to go to summer camp, or they want to buy a computer, or they want to get involved in sports, all of which costs money. Then that family, because of that pink slip and because of that devastation, has to make tough decisions about who has to give up what and what they have to do if they want to keep a roof over their heads.

It is not about statistics. It is about the impact on each one of those families across the country, the 50,000 who went through that over the course of the fall, and the 40,000 who will be going through that because of this budget. It is the impact on the families that we are most concerned about. We say profoundly that Canadian families deserve better than a government that throws their breadwinners out of work. We say Canadian families should come first with the government.

That is the fourth indicator.

The government would say, “Well, okay. We did a lousy job this fall. We did a lousy job early in the year.” At least I think that is what the government members would probably say. I certainly hope they would come clean, be honest and say they did a lousy job.

However, the government has this statement which the finance minister sometimes rolls out, “We did a good job before. Remember? After the recession, we did a good job.” It throws out a figure which I am very skeptical about. The government has had a history of a certain amount of fake stuff. We recall the fake lake and the $1 billion it spent on the big conference in Muskoka. There were the fake new citizens at the fake citizenship ceremony. Those fake job figures are part of that trend.

If we go back to May 2008, we have to look at the job figures as we were going into a recession. May 2008, members will recall, is the time when the economy went into a downturn. It started right there. That has to be the reference point.

From May 2008 right through to the summer of 2011, which is our reference point, before the 50,000 jobs which the government lost over the course of the fall and the winter, and the 40,000 jobs that it announced that it is really cutting, if we are being realistic and straightforward with the public, before all that, there were 200,000 jobs created in this country from May 2008 right through to the fall of 2011. It is not the number that the government tries to use. It is not even close. The government's numbers are, quite frankly, bogus. One might say that at least there was some job creation going on.

Here is the problem, and this is something which the government has never acknowledged. Statistics Canada is aware of it. Perhaps it is because it has come clean on what is actually happening in the Canadian economy that it is taking a big hit in this budget. The science of studying what is really going on in the Canadian economy is something that Conservatives seem to fear, so Statistics Canada is taking a big hit.

Let us look at what Statistics Canada says. The labour force grew by about 480,000 over that same timeframe. We are talking about people who finish school and then get work. Parents, fathers and mothers, who finish raising their children can go back into the workforce. There are a wide variety of factors why the labour force, because of our population growth as well, grows considerably. Over that same period 480,000 job seekers hit the sidewalks and went into the labour market. How many of them found jobs? Two hundred thousand.

That is the problem. It is not the bogus numbers that the government puts out; it is the difference between the vapid spin and reality. The reality is there are more than one-quarter of a million Canadians who came onto the job market who are still looking for work, hitting the pavement, going door to door. They have that sickening feeling every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, keep a roof over their head and provide for their family. Every single one of them has been abandoned by the Conservative government.

If we look at a net shortfall of one-quarter of a million jobs, add to that the 50,000 jobs lost over the course of the fall and early winter, and then the job loss budget, the end of prosperity budget, the end of growth budget that puts another 40,000 breadwinners out on the street, that is the real problem with the Conservative government's approach on the economy.

That is the fifth statistical indices I want to raise today as we put the Conservative government on trial for what has been its real economic performance, not the fake one, not the bogus one, but its real economic performance.

I will now turn to the quality of jobs. We have talked about manufacturing job losses and how the government in the last few months has done appallingly badly, but even since May 2008, it has not done well at all. What about the quality of those 200,000 net new jobs? Two hundred thousand net new jobs is the real figure. It is what the government has to go with. It is what Statistics Canada actually backs up. How many of them are part-time and how many are full-time? This is something else that is not part of the Prime Minister's talking points, but nonetheless, it is vitally important. Eighty per cent of those 200,000 net new jobs, and we needed nearly half a million, are part-time.

We are talking about part-time workers who earn less than full-time workers. The average wage for part-time workers, as members well know, is $16 an hour, which is not enough to keep a roof over one's head or pay for shoes for the kids. At $16 an hour, one is perilously close to the poverty line. Full-time jobs pay much more, an average of $25 an hour. When part-time workers are looking for full-time work and cannot find it, there is a fundamental problem in our economy.

There is another point I want to raise on the 200,000 net new jobs over the last three years, almost all of them part-time, and I will come to that in a moment, if not before question period then hopefully after. I want to talk about how Canadian families are faring under this budget.

I am sure my colleagues would like me to talk about the issue of wages. The member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has just said that Canadians have a right to know and I certainly agree with her on that.

Wages are not keeping pace with inflation. Part-time workers saw their wages grow 1.4% over the past year. Full-time workers saw their wages grow almost at the rate of inflation. In both cases neither part-time nor full-time wages are keeping pace with the rate of inflation, but for part-time workers it is much lower. It is much worse and a much greater problem.

This is a fundamental issue which, as Canadians, we certainly have to wrestle with. When we see only 200,000 net new jobs since May 2008, when we see that the vast majority of those jobs are part-time, and when we see the wages for those part-time jobs are falling further and further behind at $16 an hour on average and far below the rate of inflation, we are setting up a permanent situation of insecurity for Canadian workers. It is undeniable. We are seeing with so many Canadian families a sense of insecurity because they do not feel the government is doing a good job.

Even though I have not completed the statistical analysis of where the government has failed on the economy, it is important to go over again what I mentioned regarding the economic failures of the government. In fairness, the government will say two things. It will use a bogus job number, not 200,000 which is what Statistics Canada says is the real number. The Conservatives chose another number. I do not know where they found it. Maybe it was written on the back of a napkin and it looked good. The number probably sounded as promising prior to May 2 that health care transfers would be maintained, that retirement security would not be touched, and that the services Canadian families depend on would be maintained. The Conservatives will say that the number is not 200,000, that it is another number.

The Conservatives' other argument to pretend in some way that they are managing the economy effectively is that Forbes magazine likes them. That magazine is owned by a billionaire. They listen to that and say it is a good thing.

On this side of the House we have a different way of looking at things. It is fine that a magazine likes them. However, we feel that the people we should be listening to are Canadian families. The people we should be listening to are Canadian seniors. The people we should be listening to are Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are struggling under record debt loads, who are seeing their wages degraded, who are living under profound economic uncertainty because of the actions of the government.

It is a government that chooses not to help them, not to provide additional services, not to provide the supports that Canadians need. It is a government that says when it comes to health care, in a few years Canadians will be on their own. It is not going to be funding health care the way it ought to.

The government says on retirement security that Canadians are on their own. It is going to force Canadians to work two more years rather than take the responsible Canadian approach for those seniors who have laboured all their lives and contributed to their families, their community, their region, their province, their country.

We say that because those seniors paid into those pension plans and made contributions to our country we need to take care of them. That is our approach. It is different. We listen to Canadian families. We listen to seniors. We want to make sure we are building the kind of Canada where everyone matters and where nobody is left behind.

I am going to be speaking after question period as well, but I would certainly appreciate getting a sense from you, Mr. Speaker, of when I have one minute to go.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

It is 11 o'clock, so it is a good time to go to statements by members. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster can conclude his remarks immediately following routine proceedings.

Health
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, doctors have identified rising obesity rates among our children as a national epidemic. This is a problem which leads to diabetes, cardiovascular and other problems. On the economic side, one consequence is unsustainable health care costs.

Three years ago, with the support of members of all parties, I started the parliamentary fitness initiative to encourage MPs and senators to live healthier lives through walking, running and swimming together. When we do this, we are role models for increasing the health and fitness of all Canadians.

A natural progression would be a national day, recognized at the local level, which would provide opportunities for Canadians to discover healthier habits and to celebrate the potential in all of us for positive change.

I rise today and congratulate all 12 local governments in the riding I represent for dedicating June 2 as National Health and Fitness Day, opening their recreational facilities at a lowered cost to increase participation. Let us ensure we have the healthiest nation on Earth and that we are all fit to govern.

Persons with Disabilities
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 9, we learned that, since 2007, 85% of the money available for persons with disabilities through the enabling accessibility fund has gone to Conservative ridings. In my riding, the town of Saint-Valentin tried desperately to obtain funding to make its municipal building accessible. However, on March 20, the town learned that its application for funding had been denied because of a small technicality: a date was missing on a letter of support.

Rather than pointing this out and allowing the town to submit its application on time, the department waited until the deadline had passed and then denied the town funding on that pretext. This shameful tactic clearly shows this government's appalling bad faith. Even people with disabilities are not immune to its infamous partisanship.

National Parks
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, budget 2012 contains excellent news for all of us who are working toward Canada's newest national park in the greater Toronto area.

As promised by the Conservatives in last May's election and reconfirmed in the Speech from the Throne last June, yesterday's budget reaffirmed the Government of Canada's commitment to establish this new national park in the Rouge Valley.

The Rouge Park Alliance has been the body responsible for this initiative over the last 15 years and has worked tirelessly toward the establishment of this park. I want to thank and recognize the members of the alliance whose hard work and commitment to the environment has made this happen.

This new national park will be easily accessible by more than a quarter of Canada's population. For the more than eight million Canadians, many of them new Canadians, who live in the Golden Horseshoe, it will be a wonderful opportunity to experience the great outdoors and connect for the first time with Canada's national park system.

Brain Awareness Month
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, March was national Brain Awareness Month. The brain is the body's most critical organ and if it does not work properly, every aspect of life is compromised.

In Canada 5.5 million people live with a chronic neurological condition. Most of these conditions are progressive and degenerative, with no known cause or cure. While therapies exist for some conditions, in most cases there is no way to stop or even slow progression.

As the Canadian population ages, the impact of brain disease, disorders and injuries will be staggering. Within the next 20 years, neurological conditions will become the leading cause of death and disability in Canada.

We need a national brain strategy in Canada, including income security measures for those with chronic neurological conditions, support for caregivers, laws to prevent genetic discrimination and education programs for the Canadian public and front-line health workers.

The Budget
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon the Minister of Finance stood in the House to deliver his seventh consecutive Conservative budget. This balanced pragmatic and visionary plan is the right plan for Canadians and the plan that was asked for by Peace Country residents.

Peace Country residents asked for a plan that cuts government waste and leads to balanced budgets and prosperity, and the minister delivered. Peace Country employers asked for measures to make it easier to find qualified employees to fill labour shortages, and the minister again delivered. Peace Country residents asked for a long-term plan that would drive innovation and reduce red tape for entrepreneurs, and again the minister delivered.

Peace Country residents can be proud that they have a government that understands their priorities and ambitions. We in the Peace Country are committed to building a stronger and more prosperous future now and for future generations, and this budget will assist us in doing just that.

Telecommunications
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Maskinongé RCM want the CRTC to change its decision to allow telephone competition in rural areas.

At least 150 residents shared their concerns at a recent meeting in Saint-Paulin. The Association des compagnies de téléphone du Québec is worried that service will not be maintained in remote rural areas because it will not be profitable. Customers in remote areas would then find themselves with no telephone, cable or Internet services. The association is circulating a petition.

Right now, the companies that have a monopoly in these sectors are obligated to provide telephone service. The CRTC wants to open the markets covered by small telephone companies to the major players in the industry without imposing the same regulations on them, which creates unfair competition.

We have to make the right choice in order to improve the accessibility, price and quality of telephone service in rural areas.

The Budget
Statements by Members

March 30th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is much to be excited about in yesterday's budget for my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla. In particular, budget 2012 invests heavily in innovation and research.

In my riding a partnership with industry and the Pacific Agri-Food research centre has resulted in a new shipping technology that can greatly extend the shipping life of fresh produce. This technology means that more economical shipping options can be accessed. With our new free trade deals, this opens up a world of new markets to Okanagan farmers.

In the community of Okanagan Falls, private industry is working with support from our government, which has resulted in a new building technology known as cross-lam construction.

Cross-lam structural wood products are as strong as concrete but four to five times lighter. Cross-lam requires less energy to produce, can be made from less valuable timber, is easier to ship and is very earthquake resilient.

Most important, it has created jobs today in a community that lost a lumber mill.

In both instances, our government's investments in innovation are paying off in creating value-added jobs. I am excited that budget 2012 will continue to support R and D and innovation.