House of Commons Hansard #106 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

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government has its priorities backwards. It should be investing in the green economy. It should be doing what other countries do and committing to and investing in this economy that could be profitable and create green jobs in Canada. But that is not what the government is doing.

I think that my colleague also understands that this government is not going in the right direction and that its priorities do not reflect those of Canadians.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

April 4th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned the impacts of Katimavik. Anyone growing up in the 1970s and 1980s would realize that sometimes there have been tensions in this country between groups, between French and English. I had the privilege of being with a family in a park in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce at one time. The father had participated in Katimavik and we had a friendly conversation.

Does my colleague think that the elimination of this program will create tensions and reduce understanding between groups in this country?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the testimonials I received, many people indicated that they were really happy to have had the opportunity to learn Canada's other official language, whether it be English or French, and to immerse themselves in the other culture by staying with host families who spoke another language.

So yes. It is extremely important for building our country.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, he budget aims to remove the deficit created by the Conservative government through cuts totalling $5.2 billion over three years; cuts to services critical to Canadians, to the detriment of our environment and to future generations.

The budget purportedly is a western advantage budget. I am afraid that is not the view I am hearing expressed by my constituents and many other Albertans.

Alberta is bearing the brunt of the impacts and the costs associated with the reckless, fast-tracked, so-called streamlined approvals for oil sands and pipelines. The government brags about how the oil sands are fueling the national economy, so where are the associated benefits to Albertans?

While crime rates are generally reported down across the country, which is a good thing, violent crimes, unfortunately, seem to be on the rise in Edmonton. Many, including the police, have associated this is in a large way to a boom town having increased drug trade which attracts crime. Meanwhile, Alberta taxpayers are being downloaded with the bulk of the cost to build the government's desired new prisons.

Where are the benefits to Alberta of the impacts of the oil sands?

According to the Edmonton Social Planning Council and elder and disability advocates, John and Carol Wodack, particularly hard hit by the budget will be those living on low to moderate incomes in Alberta. The new OAS rules will hurt the poorest of seniors. On a phased-in basis to 2023, access to the OAS will be delayed until age 67. This will hurt those seniors struggling to meet their basic expenses, including rising electricity prices, thanks to deregulation.

We heard today a government member faulting the Government of Ontario for investing in clean renewable power as being the cause for rising electricity prices. I welcome any one of those members, including the Alberta members, to stand in the House and reveal what has been going on in Alberta with deregulated, major league, coal-fired power electricity and with expanded power lines to export coal-fired power to the United States.

There will be no new dollars for infrastructure. While Edmonton services the oil fields, bringing wealth to Canadians, the government has not seen fit to offer gratitude by providing dollars to repair crumbling infrastructure and expand the long awaited LRT in Edmonton to serve our growing population, which is being attracted to our province because of the booming oil and gas sector. What about money to build the passenger train between Edmonton and Calgary, which would be welcomed by all the residents of Edmonton and Calgary?

All federal housing programs, including CMHC, will be cut by $131 million, on top of deeper cuts in the last budget, despite the fact there has been a call in our city for increased investment in affordable housing, particularly for the growing aboriginal population moving to our capital city.

A once burgeoning energy efficient sector has been cut short by the abject refusal of the government, despite the demands and the calls by Canadians, to provide long-term support to homeowners and small businesses seeking assistance to employ local contractors to do energy retrofits. The nonsensical return of the money for one year was not enough of an incentive to re-establish the businesses that have shut down in my riding.

The narrow job strategy of the government remains, pulling youth out of high school and sending them to Fort McMurray. Many youth in my own community who had expressed a desire to get into the energy efficiency business gave up and left the province.

The cuts to the environment are absolutely reprehensible. I am proud to say that I come from one of the cities in Alberta where people support protecting the environment. They are absolutely astounded at the government's decision to further streamline reviews and to remove the most important trigger of assessment of major projects, which is the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act.

What is most reprehensible is the Conservatives' decision, as they did in the last two budgets, to put these kinds of measures through a budget, and we are anticipating measures in the budget implementation bill. It is completely undemocratic and counter to the solid foundation of environmental law in which I feel privileged to have participated over the last four years. However, in one fell swoop, in order to save a few dimes and short-circuit by a few weeks or maybe a few months some of these major projects, the Conservatives are throwing away one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in this country.

In addition, one of the most important and previously growing employment sectors in this country was the environment sector. If the Conservatives had sought the advice of their own round table on environment, they would have determined that the market analyses showed that it was the single largest growing sector for employment, potentially, in this country.

What is in the budget for aboriginal Canadians? In her last report, the former auditor general, Sheila Fraser, called for a radical fix to address the deep-seated structural impediments leading to inequities for first nations and for action to bring greater government accountability, not accountability by the first nation peoples and their government, but greater accountability by the federal government.

She stated that there was a lack of clarity about service levels to ensure comparability of services, a lack of legislative base and a lack of timely delivery. She stated, “What is truly shocking is the lack of improvement over the last decade”. She also stated, “In a wealthy country like Canada, this gap is simply unacceptable”.

She called for a legislative base for delivery of key services, not just education , but also for housing, for health and for child and family services for aboriginal communities. She called for greater accountability and delivery of federal responsibilities. It was not only the former auditor general but it was also a series of panels struck by the government that called for major investments right now in all of these needs.

To its credit, the government did listen to one of those needs and has come forward with some dollars to improve access to education. What is not clear is whether the dollars being delivered will actually accord to aboriginal children equal access to education as all other Canadian children receive.

The government has committed to begin drafting legislation to provide a legislative framework for education with willing partners. It is not sure what that kind of language is supposed to mean.

The first nations have been very clear. They totally oppose a one size fits all. Therefore, it will be absolutely incumbent on the government to directly consult with all of the first nations in this country to ensure they are on side with the legislation that is being developed and that it actually meets their needs, including their cultural needs.

The commitment of $275 million spread over the next three years to support education and build schools has been welcomed. It is not clear if this is additional to the moneys committed in the main or if this is the replacement. Given the Assembly of First Nations' estimate that $500 million are needed just to provide equal education, this may fall short of what its own panel recommended. As 40 new schools are needed at a cost of $12 million each, this dollar figure falls far short.

Sadly, there is no new money for housing for first nations despite the need for 85,000 more housing units. The First Nations Statistical Institute was killed. Why would the Conservatives kill this institute? It was actually formed to provide data and to help inform economic development on first nations communities, which is what the government is saying that it supports.

The most important thing the government can do is, first, to finally commit to the expeditious finalization of the negotiations of specific claims and comprehensive claims, and second, to deliver on the honour of the Crown and deliver its duties and responsibilities and the dollars necessary for the first nations to begin to have self-government and participate in the economy.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I also represent an Alberta riding and I and many of my constituents are not ashamed of the responsible development of our energy sector because it provides the resources to support many of our social programs that all Canadians benefit from, not just our constituents but constituents across the country. It employs over 500,000 people and, over the next 25 years, it is expected to contribute over $2.1 trillion to the Canadian economy, which is a huge amount.

In 2010 alone, the energy sector contributed $1.3 billion to aboriginal companies and it employs more than 1,700 aboriginal people right now.

Will my colleague opposite finally come out and support the energy sector, because I have never once heard that from her?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is necessary to have more of a cheering squad on this side because there is such a resounding cheering squad on that side of the House for one sector of our entire Canadian economy. What I would like to hear from that side is just a tiny semblance of an appreciation that the rest of the world, including our major trading partner, the United States, is moving in the direction of a cleaner energy economy. Jobs can also be created in other sectors.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the cuts to the environment are negligent and reprehensible as they destroy 50 years of safeguards. The budget eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. It was originally established to advise the Prime Minister but it regularly produced reports that challenged the environmental policies of the government, particularly around climate change. The budget also commits $8 million over the next two years to help the Canada Revenue Agency target registered charities that the government believes are overly political.

I wonder if the hon. member thinks that the national round table is being silenced to eliminate dissent, and that charities, which are environmental critics, are being targeted.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's support for trying to bring attention to the desecration by the government of 40 years of development of environmental law and policy in this country. Absolutely, it is reprehensible.

However, we cannot just look at the round table. We need to look at it through successive budgets. First the Conservatives killed the Canadian environmental network which provided support to all the small local organizations, including hunters and fishermen, so they could have a voice in Ottawa. Obviously, they want to get rid of the round table because it does credible, scientific, well-founded analysis, which they are not interested in.

What can we say? One by one, the Conservatives are destroying the very foundations upon which a credible regulatory process in this country was established and which I was proud to take overseas and market. Now we will not have that credible system.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, when we discuss the energy industry in Alberta and we discuss what is happening there right now, we should go back to 2007 when the industry itself was proposing to increase the upgrading in Alberta to three million barrels a day. That was the projection. What did the Prime Minister say in the 2008 election? He said that he would stop the export of raw bitumen out of this country.

We have a Conservative government in Alberta and a Conservative government in Ottawa. They had the right path to take three years ago. What happened to those guys? Why did they abandon good jobs for Canadians and the opportunity to upgrade the industry? What kind of managers of the system are those people turning out to be?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is truly a strong advocate for moving in the direction of renewable energy, particularly for the far north. I appreciate his contributions. I only wish the government would listen to his sage advice.

Indeed we did hear the Prime Minister say during the election in 2008 that he would under no circumstances allow the export of raw bitumen to a nation that has lesser standards than Canada. We heard the Prime Minister many times stand and remonstrate against China and say, “Why would we take action on climate change when we have China, the bad actor?” However, here the Conservatives are spending our public resources, taxpayer dollars, to fast-track a system that will send our raw bitumen and our jobs down a pipeline to China.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be the last person to stand on this particular budget 2012, which is our plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Before I start into some technical parts of the budget, I have to make an observation about what has happened over the last few days. I have to note that the NDP official opposition only had one member who could even speak to this budget for three days. I have to appreciate his stamina, but reading tweets and emails for hour after hour leads me to believe that the NDP really did not have all that much to say against the budget.

We often hear concerns about time allocation because the opposition has so many people who need to speak to the issues. But again, I did find it very strange to watch that approach to this budget.

I have to look at the response by the Liberals. They had many opportunities to suggest an amendment that would be important to Canadians. What did they do? They chose to focus on the Prime Minister's retiring allowance. Soon after they actually made that amendment, they had to apologize when they realized their own party was responsible for the implementation of the policy.

In actual fact I think it is very telling that the debate over the last few days has really just been about tweets and minor amendments. It must mean we have this budget right.

What we need to do is understand how we plan to return to a balanced budget without raising taxes. It is important to start, first all, with reflecting on some of the extraordinary challenges we have faced in the last few years.

Between 2006 and 2008, we paid down $38 billion in national debt and reduced the tax burden to the lowest level in 50 years.

I did have to look at budget 2009, because I think it is an absolute critical piece to understanding where we are. This was when we were entering an extraordinary recession, called the great recession. Across the world, people were very concerned.

Our Minister of Finance, in budget 2009, said the following: “We are in the midst of an extraordinary global economic slowdown.... We will spend what is necessary to stimulate our economy to protect our future prosperity through Canada's economic action plan.... We will be spending for the purpose of stimulating the economy and to make many long-term investments that we would have had to make at any rate”.

He said we would not fall into permanent deficit, but lay out a plan to move out of deficit and back to surplus within five years.

Again, this was as we were heading into the recession. He had extraordinary insight in terms of what we needed to do to deal with it and move forward. He said that our stimulus spending was temporary and confined

I am so proud of the government. If we look at our current plan and look at the stimulus and how it really was confined to those two years, we did what we needed to do and we moved forward. The next thing he said was that we anticipated the budget balance would improve sharply, starting in 2011-12.

What have we seen? Dramatic improvements.

He said, “Once the economy recovers, we will ensure deficits incurred over the next five years are repaid and the debt burden is firmly on the downward track.... To accomplish this, we will set rigid spending targets, keeping program spending on average below the rate of nominal GDP growth.... We will do what is right and necessary for the good of our country, without placing the burden on our children and grandchildren”.

That was 2009. Again, I think we can see there was a plan, and that plan is working.

People look at this document we have in front of us, and some people wonder how it came about. It is important to recognize that this is not something that is crafted in offices. This is crafted through consultation across the country.

As members of the finance committee, we travelled from coast to coast to coast. We listened to Canadians. We put forward suggestions. Most members of Parliament met with their constituents. They had round tables, crafted and put in proposals. There are a couple in here that I would reflect upon that come from riding in Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

When I was first elected, Manny Jules, who was from the first nations land management, met with me and talked about economic prosperity. He talked about the ability for first nations property rights.

We announced that the government intends to move forward with legislation that would allow interested first nations to consider private property ownership within the current reserve boundaries.

It was interesting. The finance committee met with Mr. Jules and it met with four chiefs in Kamloops. We talked about how we could help them create economic prosperity.

Mr. Jules said very clearly that this is not something that is for everyone. It needs to be voluntary. However, again this was something that came from constituents. It came from chiefs in my riding. We believe we can create a future for our communities with something like this, so we saw that into the budget. It could be part of some transformation for the Indian bands, the first nations communities that choose this as an option.

Another simple story I like to look at involves the red tape reduction commission. In Kamloops, again, we heard from a business owner who said, “It was Christmas. I hired a temporary worker for a couple of weeks. I missed doing a report to Revenue Canada. The penalty that I was hit with was extraordinary. It was inappropriate”. They were really concerned about what they deemed a very unfair penalty assessed by CRA.

I note that in this budget we have a new policy to ensure these penalties are charged in a manner that is both fair and reasonable. When a business is unable to comply in a timely manner with a reporting obligation related to certain information returns, such as T4s, reduced penalties will be applied when the number of late returns is small.

So, that is one example of something significantly altering for a lot of people and a small example of an irritant, but these are examples of Canadians' input being reflected in the budget.

In summary, I am very proud to be part of a government that actually set out a path to see us through the global recession in 2009. We came out of the recession in better shape than most countries. We now have a path forward, in terms of doing exactly what we said we would do; that is to get back to a balanced budget and to create growth, jobs and long-term prosperity.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the ways and means Motion No. 7.

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

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

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

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.