House of Commons Hansard #105 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

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

These are very wise colleagues I have here. How about the top 15?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau

Yes.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Yes, and the member for Berthier—Maskinongé wins the prize. We are 17th in terms of change in real per capita GDP, on the Conservative government's watch from 2007 to 2011, among industrialized countries. That is a pathetic record. The Conservatives would say that is better than our 152nd place in terms of worldwide economic growth. However, it is not much better, and as it is a smaller pool, we are still as bad off proportionately speaking. Given the small number of industrialized countries, 17th place is nothing at all. However, here is the more important thing. While we are in 17th place, our real per capita GDP actually declined in this period under the Conservatives by minus 1.4%. Our per capita GDP has not gone up, but has gone down under these Conservatives. If that is not a more complete analysis of just what a failure the government has been, I do not know what is. We are well behind virtually every industrialized country and we are in negative real per capita GDP growth, at minus 1.4%.

Let us now look at the changes in the employment rate. For the same period and again among the industrialized countries, do my colleagues believe that we are in the top three? No? They are not sure? Are we in the top 5? No? Perhaps in the top 10? No, not at all? We would hope, but such is not the case. Are we in the top 12? How about the top 15?

Unfortunately, it is the same thing. Canada is in 17th place. On the Conservative government's watch, from 2008 to 2011, Canada ranked 17th among the few industrialized countries. Once again, the important thing to note is that the growth in Canada's employment rate was -1.2%. We are in the red on this, too. It is not just that we are in 17th place but that the growth in our employment rate was -1.2%. That means that the employment situation in Canada has gotten worse as a result of Conservative policies. The Conservatives have led us into increased poverty, and we are in 152nd place in worldwide economic growth for 2012. And that was before the budget.

Now, we have just learned that the government plans to irresponsibly eliminate 60,000 jobs in Canada, 26,000—

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour on a point of order.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have been very interested and somewhat stimulated by the debate of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but I want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, that the motion we are debating is that the House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government. I refer to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, particularly page 898, where it states, “The general nature of the budget motion allows for a wide-ranging debate, during which the rules of relevance are generally relaxed”.

I understand that. However, of late, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been talking about jobs and economic development, and I do not see anything within the jobs, growth and long term prosperity budget that talks about either of those things, jobs or economic growth.

While I understand that the member has been given some considerable latitude, I think we need to focus a little more closely on some of the items that are actually in the budget, and certainly jobs and economic growth are not there.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his intervention and his reference to an article of the Standing Orders. He is of course correct, but as he cited in his very own argument, members are afforded lots of freedom to explore different ideas that relate to the budget, as is normally the case for most debates in the House.

I have heard nothing in the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster's remarks that I would say are not relevant to the question before the House, and we will let him continue.

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that ruling and I thank my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I hope he does not find this speech too stimulating.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I am just trying to focus you.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I appreciate that, and the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is right: there is absolutely nothing on jobs in the fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget that was brought forward last Thursday. In fact, this budget is the antithesis of jobs. It is the exact opposite of what one would do if one were to create a jobs strategy. The budget contains exactly what the government should not be doing.

It is perfectly relevant for us to raise the fact that this is an anti-jobs, fewer jobs, less growth and less prosperity budget, which is what we have been saying all along. Hopefully that has been part of the narrative that we have been establishing, including for example by a former Conservative voter from Surrey, British Columbia, who wrote in to say that through this debate he was becoming disillusioned with his Conservative government and did not think that he would be voting Conservative any more.

The reason we are bringing all of this to bear in our narrative is that Canadians need to know that this budget destroys jobs. We have been saying all along that Canadian families deserve better than that; they need a government that is actually creating jobs.

I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and all of the members who are showing such great support in the House today. It is a terrific team that we have in the NDP caucus, as it has been in all of the classes, in 2004, 2006, 2008, and the very dynamic class of 2011 in particular, whose new members are doing a phenomenal job.

As I promised to do yesterday, I will start reading into the record the details of the slashing and cutting that will take place. I have just explained our first evaluation of what this budget actually means in terms of job losses, explaining that we are talking about over 60,000 lost jobs across the country. We now know what regions those job losses will come in, which is very important for Canadians to know.

I would like to detail the service cuts that we are seeing in each of the ministries. I will start with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Our former leader, the member of Parliament for Hull—Aylmer, went with the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay up to the community of Attawapiskat in James Bay. We saw the appalling state of funding and the appalling state of housing in the area of Attawapiskat. I heard from so many people in my constituency who were profoundly concerned about what they saw, that Canadians were being treated as second-class citizens. Although there is some renewal in the budget of previous programs that were cut and there is some lip service paid to issues around first nation education in funding, here is what is being cut from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

In 2012-13, we are seeing total cuts of $26.9 million. We know how deep the needs are. The government is cutting $26.9 million out of the budget for Aboriginal Affairs. In 2013-14, the amount rises to $60 million. In 2014-15, $165.6 million will be cut out of Aboriginal Affairs.

We have an educational funding crisis among aboriginal communities. We have a housing crisis among aboriginal communities. We have an infrastructure crisis. There are communities that do not have running water. There are communities that do not have access to safe water. There are communities that do not have sewer systems.

What the government is doing is gutting Aboriginal Affairs. In the long term, on an ongoing basis, $165.6 million will be cut.

It does not just stop there. When we look at these departmental estimations of the massive cuts that are taking place, there is the First Nations Statistical Institute. The First Nations Statistical Institute provides facts, the understanding of what is actually happening with aboriginal communities, what is happening with first nations communities and Canadians.

We see here that in the budget itself, First Nations Statistical Institute will see $2.5 million cut from its budget this year and in 2013-14, the guillotine will be applied. First Nations Statistical Institute, $5 million, will be cut completely. There will no longer be that development of facts which is so vitally important for an understanding of how, as Canadians together we address what is an ongoing crisis among aboriginal communities, the lack of infrastructure, lack of services, lack of housing, lack of educational opportunities. This is a national shame.

The government is hacking, slashing and gutting the services that need more funding. We need to provide it in very effective ways. To cut $165 million a year out of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development portfolio is simply irresponsible. First nations Canadians, aboriginal Canadians deserve better than those massive cutbacks.

Let us move on to the agents of Parliament.

As we know, the government has been willing to invest whatever it takes on the F-35s. That was a $9 billion budget that has bloated up to, according to the PBO, $30 billion. That was before the latest cost overruns, which put us somewhere and nobody really knows, between $30 billion and $40 billion.

I detailed yesterday the government's misguided prisons agenda at a time when the crime rate is falling. The Conservatives want to put more non-violent criminals away for longer. It wants to take away the rehabilitation programs, the addiction programs, the crime prevention programs. It wants to take away all the programs that actually work in the criminal justice system and replace them with prisons.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Flying in the face of facts.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

That flies in the face of facts, Mr. Speaker, but then there seem to be fewer and fewer facts available to the government.

It wants to cut back on crime prevention when we know that if we spend a dollar on crime prevention, we save six dollars later on, on policing costs, on criminal justice costs and on prison costs. The government gutted crime prevention programs. It gutted addiction programs. It gutted rehabilitation programs. It gutted all those programs that actually save money, and came forward with this wacky and irresponsible prisons program at a time when the crime rate is falling.

The government has never come clean on how much it costs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer made some estimations that are quite different from what the government says. The only valid analysis that has been done of the prisons agenda is a $19 billion cost to the taxpayers to build those prisons.

My point is we are talking about $30 billion to $40 billion for the F-35 fighter jets, $19 billion and $3 billion or $4 billion a year more in maintenance costs for these new prisons that are needed when the crime rate is falling. That is where the government wants to invest.

We have just talked about the sorry situation in so many aboriginal communities, and there the government is hacking and slashing. We are saying our priorities are different. We believe Canadians' priorities are different.

We believe that what Canadians want to do is build the kind of country where there is prosperity right across the country, where there is real, solid investment in job creation, where there is real investment in dealing with our infrastructure problems. When 300,000 Canadians are sleeping on the main streets and in the parks of our nation, we need to reinvest in social housing. I know it was cut by the Liberals, but the Conservatives should have restored those social housing investments.

We believe that how we move this country forward is by investing in job creation through infrastructure and social housing, providing for Canadians, making sure that our pension system is working effectively, keeping citizens out of poverty. By doing that we actually build the kind of Canada which the vast majority of Canadians want to see, not by throwing away tens of billions of dollars on prisons or F-35 fighter jets, but by prudent and effective financial management and putting the money where Canadians' priorities are.

Canadians really want to see this country grow and prosper. They do not want to see Canadians out on the street. They do not want to see Canadians hungry. They do not want to see senior citizens working in blueberry fields as one constituent mentioned. Canadians want to see the kind of Canada they deserve, which is a Canada where everyone matters and where no one is left behind.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleagues share with their energy and enthusiasm that vision of tomorrow.

What has the government done instead of that vision, instead of investing in those kinds of things that Canadians need and want? It has thrown away tens of billions of dollars on the F-35s and on prisons. Here is where it is cutting. I mentioned Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but let us move on to the agents of Parliament.

The Auditor General of Canada is a position that has so much respect across the county. The Auditor General is the person who actually identifies when there is misspending and protects the taxpayers' interest, protects Canadians' interest. To do that, the Auditor General needs the resources to undertake the audits that auditors do.

I mentioned on Friday that before I was elected to Parliament I ran a social enterprise. We won a couple of business excellence awards; I am very proud of that. In running that enterprise, making sure that we were making payroll for over 50 employees, we made sure that we had careful auditing of all of our expenditures. We were providing services to the deaf and hard of hearing communities. We were providing a full range of goods as well. We had a store across the province and a virtual store as well. We were selling equipment. We were providing services. All of it was on a fee-for-service basis. I am very proud of that. I am very proud of the record of that social enterprise.

We made sure that as we balanced that budget and as we moved forward we paid down some debts as well. We were debt free by the time I finished there, before I was elected to Parliament. We made sure that we had auditors carefully evaluating every single step of the way. That is how it is done. I am a financial administrator. That is my background. There has to be those impartial auditors looking over things, making sure there is a maximization of the effectiveness of the investments.

The Auditor General does that for the nation. The NDP has always said that the Auditor General needs more resources to audit effectively more of the expenses of government. If the government had been listening to the Auditor General, it never would have gotten into the F-35 fiasco in the first place. It would not have blown tens of billions of dollars on the F-35s.

If the government had done that careful evaluation with the Auditor General, it never would have gotten into this misguided prisons agenda. The Auditor General would have said, “Hold on, you do not have the budget. You do not know how much it is going to cost. You have to be a little more rigorous in your cost accounting on the prisons. You cannot just throw legislation before the House of Commons and do it in such an irresponsible way”.

If the Conservatives had done that with the Auditor General, they would not have seen what they have seen over the last few months, which has been a steady erosion in public confidence in the government's ability to handle money.

What the Conservatives should do is learn from the New Democrats. I have mentioned a couple of times the annual fiscal returns that are done by the federal Ministry of Finance, and there are not a lot of NDP members hanging out there. Annually for 20 years the federal Ministry of Finance has done an evaluation of NDP governments compared to Conservative governments, Liberal governments and governments of other parties. The NDP governments, for 20 years running, year after year, have come out number one in terms of balancing budgets, managing money and paying down debt, number one in the nation every year.

We are number one in the nation. The Liberals are not even close. I think they are fifth. They are worse than the Social Credit Party and the Parti Québécois. The Conservatives simply are not as good as the NDP, because the Conservatives erode the public institutions that are supposed to do the monitoring. As I said, when I ran my social enterprise, the auditors have to be involved at every stage to make sure that we are maximizing those investments.

What has the government done with respect to the Auditor General of Canada? If what the government really intends to do is to try to save some money, but if it is being spent effectively, one would assume we would see an increase in the budget for the Auditor General of Canada. That just makes common sense. The government should not cut back on its monitoring agency. It should do the opposite and invest more, because that monitoring agency can help save the government further money down the road.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Unless it has something to hide.