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

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. members for their comments. I considered them very respectfully, but in my opinion this is a point of debate and these issues can be raised during debate.

I will return to the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues from Laurier—Sainte-Marie and from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for raising those points and I thank you, Madam Speaker, for your eminently wise counsel in that regard. I also thank Canadians.

Let us move on to another economic index. I know it is a bit depressing for us to go over the Conservative economic record. It is even more depressing for the families that are experiencing the economic lack of action and the incompetence of the government. It is important to get all the facts on the table.

What we have seen is a failure in every major indices around the economy, not just for Canadian families but worldwide. We will come later to the whole issue of research and development. Canada has an appallingly poor track record on research and development, which is not addressed at all in this budget. When we compare it to other industrialized countries, and we look at all of these indices, we see a failure of the government. However, it keeps coming back to an inflated job figure as if that makes everything okay.

The ultimate statistic that shows the failure of the government, even on employment, is Canada's position relative to other industrialized countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development from 2008 to 2011. As I mentioned earlier, in terms of economic growth, we are not first, or fifth or tenth; we are fourteenth. In terms of per capita GDP, we are not first, fifth, tenth or even fifteenth; we are seventeenth.

The final statistical fact that we need to put forward is the change in employment rate for OECD countries for 2008 to 2011. I will turn to my colleagues again and ask if anyone thinks we finished in the top three. People seem fairly skeptical about that. Does anybody think that we were the top 10? Unfortunately, we were not in the top 10. Is anybody for the top 15? No. Canada finished 17th for the change in employment rate, and this again is the kicker.

As I mentioned earlier with real per capita GDP, it has actually been in decline. What we have seen for the change in employment rate is exactly the same thing. Whereas other countries have a positive change in employment rate from 2008 to 2011, Canada, in 17th place, has a negative change in employment rate of 1.2%. Our employment rate actually declined under the government over the last three years.

We have had a chance to talk a bit about what is the appallingly poor economic record of the government.

Let us look for a moment, before we go into specifics of the impacts of the cuts, at where the government seems to want to invest the resources that we hold collectively as Canadians. As Canadians, we live in a democracy and we elect our government, which makes certain commitments, and we expect it to follow up on those commitments. That is the Canadian way. A Canadian way is a handshake. We look people in the eye, make a deal and keep it.

Prior to May 2, the Prime Minister looked in the eyes of the Canadian public and said that his priorities would be to invest in health care and maintain the health care transfers. As well, he said that he would maintain retirement security, that he would not gut OAS or change, wildly, retirement ages.

The Prime Minister said as well that he would maintain services. Those were the commitments he made and Canadians expected him to keep them. Also in December in Victoria, the issue of the health care transfers was thrown up, and I will come back to that a little later.

Instead of the issue around OAS, which the Prime Minister committed to keep but has now gutted in this budget, and instead of maintaining the services that Canadian families depended upon, this is what the Prime Minister and the government seem intent on doing. We have heard this for weeks and have had strong questioning from the NDP opposition around one of the pet projects, which is the F-35s.

We have pressed the government to come clean on that issue, but it has never responded and continues to want to spend the money of Canadians on the F-35s. I want to read into the record exactly what many people think about the F-35's lack of tendering process and the cost overruns, which have gone from about $9 billion to replace the CF-18s to now somewhere up to $40 billion, but no one really knows. We have asked questions persistently, but have never received a response. According to the Parliamentary Budgetary Officer, it was $30 billion, and that was before the latest cost overruns. Is it $40 billion or is it more? Nobody knows. However, it is a question of choices in a budget.

The government says that it has to cut back on old age security, on the programs and services that Canadian families depend, gut health care transfers in the long term and cut back on health care so it will no longer be there when Canadians need it. When government makes those choices, it has to explain why it invests in other things. Despite our questioning, despite the fact that we have raised this issue again and again on the floor of the House of Commons, the Conservative government has never explained how much the F-35s would cost and why it is so intent on purchasing them.

I want to read into the record an issue in The Waterloo Region Record that comes from Geoffrey Stevens. It says, “Ditch jets to sweeten sour budget”.

The author says that the Minister of Finance will unveil a budget that will cause weeping and gnashing of teeth. He certainly foresaw that. He talks about the cuts in services and government offices being closed. The author suggests that to sweeten that sour budget, the government should announce that it has decided not to spend the billions of dollars to purchase the F-35s from Lockheed Martin in the United States and instead has decided to invest that money in pension improvement for Canadian seniors. That seems to be a very thoughtful and sensible suggestion. Why not invest in pensions, re-tender the contract for the CF-18 replacements and ditch the F-35s? That would make a lot of sense.

He talks about what the Conservatives have done: He says:

It did not hold a competition to determine which aircraft on the market best suited Canada's requirement; if it had, it might, with a view to the safety of patrols in the north, have chosen a plane with two engines, rather than the single-engine F-35. It did not stop at the question of whether Canada's role in the world really requires a “sharp end of the stick aircraft” capable of escaping radar detection while taking out enemy air defences.

It did not even call for tenders from aircraft manufacturers to try to make sure it was getting the best price. Nor did it take into account that by ordering an aircraft that is still in the development stage two things are bound to occur: the price will rise and the planes will never roll off the assembly line on schedule. Both of those things are occurring.

Governments never likes to admit mistakes. “I was wrong”, are the toughest three words for any [Conservative] politician to utter. But [the Prime Minister] would not actually have to admit his government had been wrong. He could have noted that things had changed; cost overruns and production delays, plus the F-35s' failure to meet performance expectations...From this distance, the F-35 looks increasingly like the Edsel of the air.

Given those circumstances, [the Prime Minister] could ask Canadians: would it not be more prudent for Ottawa rethink the F-35 and [re-tender the contract?]

It was Geoffrey Stevens who wrote that in The Waterloo Region Record.

People are certainly paying attention. People are very concerned. They see the link between the cuts in pensions that ordinary families are getting and the bloated costs of the F-35, the cost overruns, the performance problems and delays.

I just wanted to reiterate some of the problems that have occurred around the F-35, and that “Lockheed has said that U.S. plans to slow down production will hamper its efforts to lower the cost of the plane.”

The brief rundown on what is happening in some of the other countries is the following:

Britain...said in a 2010 defence review that it would cut its planned order of 138 F-35 fighter jets and decided to pull out of the short-takeoff variant completely. Last week, a U.K. official said the government would not decide until 2015 how many F-35s it will buy.... Turkey has already halved its initial order of four planes and Australia is rethinking when to buy the next 12 of its initial order...given the U.S. delays.... Italy, the only other buyer of the short-takeoff version of the F-35, has hinted at possible “significant” reductions in its overall buy of 131 planes....Norway’s parliament approved the purchase of four F-35 training jets last summer and is slated to decide this year on plans to buy up to 52 more planes.

The purchase of the F-35s is obviously a fiasco. That is the only way to put it.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

We need to find a replacement for the CF-18s.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Exactly.

We are saying one has to keep careful cost accounting on the initial cost of $9 billion. That is what we are suggesting here.

Seniors in Canada and future seniors have to give up their OAS and their benefits. Canadian families have to give up on their services.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

CARP has said the next generation will be punished.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

As the Canadian Association of Retired Persons has said, and the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has repeated very eloquently: we are punishing future generations in an effort to spend tens of billions of dollars on an over cost fiasco. We are saying Canadian families deserve better than that.

That was the F-35s. I am now going to address the issue of prisons, which are the second part of what we are discussing today, because these are the government's two priorities.

We already know that there are going to be budget cuts, cuts to old age security. We have already seen how this government is attacking ordinary families across the country. Middle-class families and the poorest Canadians are being affected by cuts to services. In this budget, the government claims that the bills it is proposing, for example, the crime bill, will not cost any money.

First, I must point out that, right now, there is a low crime rate. The number of crimes being committed in Canada is decreasing. At the same time, the government made major cuts to programs to prevent and combat crime across the country. We know full well that every penny or dollar spent on a crime prevention program will save us six times that amount—6¢ or $6—down the road in other parts of the judicial system, whether it be costs related to police, criminal courts or, of course, prisons. However, this government has cut funding for programs to prevent and combat crime.

Then, instead of presenting an agenda that we could agree with, the government presented its prison agenda. In the budget, the government says that this will not cost anything. Frankly, we do not believe it. In the studies that were conducted, the government never divulged the real cost of its programs and bills. It never made any estimates or calculations. As a former financial administrator, I am wondering how anyone could go ahead with a bill without doing any calculations at all to determine how much it will cost.

In this case, the government has not done any calculations or made any estimates. It has no idea of the cost. Even in the budget, the government clearly stated that we do not need prisons. Provinces all over the country know full well that the hodgepodge bills that the government has been introducing one after another will cost taxpayers a lot of money. The provinces will have to build prisons, and we also know how much that will cost us.

The Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques did a study that took all these factors into account. It is too bad that the government did not try to do the same. I know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer provided a good estimate of some aspects of the programs, but the only valid estimate, the only valid and complete calculation of the cost of these programs comes from the Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques, which said:

Don Head, the Commissioner of Correctional Services Canada [he did his own calculations], later said that he estimated that federal prisoner numbers would increase by 3,400, requiring 2,700 new spaces, at a cost of $2 billion to support that increase.

The increase will result from the bills this government has introduced without calculating the costs associated with them. This will also have an impact on the provinces.

The study also states:

Although passed by the federal government, many of the bills introduced will have a significant impact on the provinces and their public finances. According to some estimates...for Bill C-25, the provinces will be forced to bear most of the cost of funding the new prison system. The PBO predicts that, for the Truth in Sentencing Act alone, which came into effect on February 22, 2012, provincial and territorial responsibility for funding the prison system will increase from 49% to 56% compared to the federal level. The provinces will have to bear 78% of the cost of building these new cells, that is, $12.655 billion. Quebec's share alone will be $2.6702 billion. There is nothing to indicate that future legislation will reverse this trend.

As for all of the construction-related calculations, not to mention the annual costs associated with these bills, the eminent researchers with the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques, very reputable people, reported the following:

This socio-economic report has demonstrated the misleading nature of the Canadian government's statements regarding its crime-fighting policies. The changes made by Bill C-25 and Bill C-10 are very unlikely to have any impact on Canada's crime rate. As recent experience has shown, an approach that focuses more on offender reintegration and rehabilitation is more likely to effectively reduce the number of crimes committed. What this report adds to the file is that not only are the government's measures likely to be ineffective, but they will also be very costly for taxpayers.

This is a very important point.

They will require investments of at least $18.802 billion in prison infrastructure and engender ongoing costs of $1.616 billion for the federal government and $2.222 billion for the provinces. In addition to the federal investment, the changes will force Quebec to invest $3.057 billion in its own infrastructure. Bill C-25 will also cost the province an extra $407 million per year, and Bill C-10 will cost an extra $82 million per year. The government of Quebec allocated $379 million for prison operations in 2011-12. These additional annual costs will increase that budget by 129%.

Since the justice minister...promised that, “This is just the beginning of our efforts in this regard. We'll introduce other legislation as well," we feel it is important to point out other solutions. Focusing on reintegration and rehabilitation, which are proven solutions, would enable the government to spend much less on prisons, giving it more flexibility to invest in social policy.

This is extremely important. We are talking about two programs. One would probably cost about $40 billion and the other $19 billion, with additional annual costs of $1 billion to $2 billion.

We find all these priorities to be unbelievable. The government has no credibility since it is telling us that there are cuts coming for seniors and ordinary families, but then it is willing to spend whatever it takes on its pet projects.

We are saying that Canadian families deserve better.

I can honestly say that the NDP caucus, which is made up of dynamic and energetic individuals, is really the best in the world.

One would never imagine that we came from a convention over the weekend during which nobody slept and right into the budget deliberations. We have our new leader in place, the member for Outremont. Everybody in the NDP is still full of vim, vigour and energy. It is a wonderful thing to see. What a fantastic, amazing group. One can just imagine how much more energy we are going to have on October 20, 2015, when the first NDP government is formed.

It will not be a government that is going to spend $40 billion on a fighter jet whose costs have simply exploded. We are going to be tightly monitoring budgets so that kind of thing does not happen. If a project goes off the rails, we will cancel it. We are not going to spend $19 billion on prisons when the crime rate is actually going down. We think we should be investing in crime prevention programs. We think we should be investing in bringing the crime rate down even further. We should be investing in addiction programs.

We will be doing something for our police officers and firefighters as well. It is important to mention this. Five years ago the Conservatives voted for the NDP motion to establish a public safety officer compensation fund to ensure that when firefighters and police officers pass away in the line of duty, their families are taken care of. We have been waiting and firefighters and police officers have been waiting now for six years for the Conservative government to bring that in and the Conservatives have not done it. They have left those police officers and firefighters out in the cold. When an NDP government is elected, one of the first things we are going to bring in is a public safety officer compensation fund.

Ultimately, that is what we are all about in the NDP. We take care of Canadian families. We take care of Canadians. We are folks who work very hard. NDP MPs have the reputation of being very strong constituency advocates. We work very hard. We can see the energy people have been putting in, even over the course of the last hour, which is remarkable, given the last few weeks with everybody working double and triple shifts every day of the week.

We do that because our energy comes from Canadian families. We represent them because we truly believe that our place in the House of Commons is to stand up for those Canadian families, to represent them, to be their voice in the House of Commons.

The many emails and faxes, the postings we are getting on Facebook and the tweets that are coming in on Twitter all attest to the fact that the majority of Canadians out there are concerned about the direction this country is taking. They are concerned about the kind of country we are seeing increasingly, with a small minority of people who seem to have most of the pie and where families are increasingly left out in the cold. They are concerned about the fact that they see families struggling more and more to make ends meet as their wages go gradually, but on an ongoing basis, lower and lower. They are concerned about seeing families in their neighbourhoods lose a breadwinner because of plant closures. I prefaced my remarks this morning by talking about the dozens of plants and factories that have closed in this country only in the last few months. They are concerned about what they see as a meanspirited government, a government that does not respect democracy, a government that does not respect input, a government that says seniors and future seniors have to pay the price for its misguided priorities of prisons and fighter jets before future seniors and services that Canadian families depend on.

That is what is happening with more and more Canadian families. The majority of Canadian families are very concerned.

The Conservative government was elected on May 2 on the promise to maintain health care funding, on the promise to maintain retirement security, on the promise to maintain services for Canadian families.

This budget is a betrayal. It is a betrayal of those promises that were solemnly made by the Prime Minister. He looked Canadians right in the eye, shook their hands and said, “I will not touch health care transfers. I will not touch retirement security. I will not touch the services your family depends upon.” This is a betrayal--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.