House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

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The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand in the House today to speak to the budget implementation act and Canada's economic action plan 2012.

I am proud that Canada is slowly emerging from the recent economic recession and atop all other G7 countries. This is something that we should all be proud of. We should remain committed to continued prosperity for years to come. I am positive that the budget will do just that. It will stimulate the economy through jobs and growth while helping to ensure long-term prosperity for Canada.

I would like to start by looking at the basics of economics. It is easy for those in government to lose track of the simple things. These simple rules ensure we are doing not only what is best but what is possible.

It is easy to say that we can provide many services to everyone but we also have to be reasonable. We have to be realistic and realize that there is only so much that government can or should do. The ability to work with what we have and deliver reasonable services within the budget is what makes good government.

When it comes to economics and operating a fiscally responsible government, there are certain things that we must all remember that are vital to remaining economically sound.

I would like to present five key points that cover some of the basics of economics. First, we cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. Second, what one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. Third, a government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not take from somebody else first. Fourth, we cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. Fifth, when half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and also when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they worked for, it is the beginning of the end of any nation.

All we have to do to realize this reality is to look at a number of European countries that are now in grave economic trouble.

These five points clearly outline the basic philosophy of how to succeed economically. The budget is very much in line with these points.

One of the main economic issues facing Canada in the past couple of years has been the deficit. No one enjoys paying down debt, but the hard truth is that it must be done. I am happy that economic action plan 2012 will address the need to reduce the national deficit and aim for a balanced budget by 2014.

To understand the importance of reducing this deficit, we can look to a simple example of managing and maintaining one's own house. There may come a time when the roof of a house needs replacing. It cannot be ignored, it has to be repaired. While the funds for this may not be immediately available, it is possible to take out a mortgage or loan so that this task may be completed. However once the roof is repaired there comes a time when that debt must be paid back.

Today, Canada has worked through the recent recession. With the aid of stimulus funding we were able to build a new roof for our country and we find ourselves reasonably economically sound.

However now that we have somewhat of an economic stability it is time to pay back what we owe. The 2012 budget addresses this by reducing the deficit in 2011-12 to be $8.5 billion lower than it was in 2010-11. Furthermore the budget would continue to lower the deficit in years to come. This is something we should be proud of.

As the member for Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound I represent a rural riding. I am happy about the commitment in economic action plan 2012 to support rural communities. There are strong programs and provisions in the budget that will ensure the stability and prosperity of economic growth in rural areas. One of these provisions would forgive portions of Canada's student loans for new family physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners who practise in rural areas. This would make rural areas, such as my riding, a more attractive place for up and coming doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. This would certainly help in ensuring that rural residents in Canada have the quality health care that they need and deserve.

In addition to advancing the medical field in rural areas, the budget also promotes economic growth in rural areas by providing $225 million to Industry Canada over three years. This funding would be used to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband coverage to a number of rural communities. Anyone with a rural riding, and there are many across the country, knows there are still gaps in the ridings where that service is not there. This will help to address a lot of that. The new and improved Internet access for rural areas would ensure economic opportunities and would also provide access to valuable services that are needed to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

I was also very happy to see that the budget includes funding for Canada's port system. The budget calls for $27.3 million over two years to support regional port facilities and the continued operation and maintenance of federally owned ports. This funding would be very important in ensuring that Canada maintains a strong port system, which is a vital part of our national transportation system. For example, I have a number of ports in my riding and this funding has a potential benefit for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

This budget would continue to provide tax credits for hard-working Canadians, while at the same time reducing the deficit and creating long-term prosperity for Canada. Our government has implemented many tax credits that put money back into the pockets of Canadians.

One of these tax credits is the very popular volunteer firefighters tax credit. Volunteer firefighters are a vital part of Canada's emergency response system. They provide volunteer service to their communities and willingly put themselves in danger to protect their communities. In 2011, our government recognized the contributions made by volunteer firefighters in Canada by introducing the volunteer firefighters tax credit. This credit is based on an amount of $3,000 to volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service.

Another tax credit that our government introduced is the family caregiver tax credit. This tax credit gives support to those who take care of their families, whether they are dealing with cancer, MS or a number of medical issues. This is a very popular tax credit as well. There are many Canadians who are forced to stay home to support their loved ones, and our government recognizes their hard work through this tax credit. The credit is based on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of ill dependants.

I am also pleased that economic action plan 2012 combines the ability to deplete the deficit, while at the same time providing beneficial tax credits, such as the volunteer firefighters and caregiver tax credit for hard-working, and certainly deserving, Canadians.

Along with the many tax credits we have provided are the tax cuts that the government has made to put money back in the pockets of Canadians. Our government has cut taxes over 140 times since 2006, and has also reduced GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. This will put nearly $1,000 back into the pocket of an average Canadian family.

It is very clear, Mr. Speaker, that this budget is on the right track for Canada. As I stated earlier, paying off our deficit is a top priority for Canada if we wish to continue to remain atop the world economic leaders. The budget would ensure that we start getting our deficit paid off while at the same time providing those tax credits I mentioned and tax cuts that would allow Canadians to keep their hard-earned money. The budget supports growth all over Canada, including supporting many rural areas by providing funding that would ensure economic prosperity in these regions.

I am very pleased with the budget and its commitment to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but also to debt reduction and creating a realistic plan for Canada. Just today, new job recovery numbers came out just as I was leaving my office. It was great news and certainly went beyond expectations. It is just another sign that this budget is taking us on the right track.

I urge all members in the House to really think about what the budget can do. It is realistic. It is not a fancy, dressed-up budget, it is just plain realistic, and I urge all members to support it.

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the speech and for mentioning MS during MS awareness month.

I have some major concerns about the budget, particularly the fact that it would destroy 50 years of environmental safeguards. The repeal of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would affect regulatory decision making and the risk of project specific and cumulative environmental impacts. I would like to know what analysis has been undertaken to ensure the adequacy of the environmental assessment process in each province, and what are the projected costs of changes to the act for the provinces and territories?

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. member across the way, MS has affected my family. I have a sister with MS. I certainly appreciate the member's hard work on getting the government to do what it can for MS.

To her question, I am certainly glad to hear that she is supporting our changes to the environment and the like, something that will definitely get rid of the delay tactics. There is a lot of fear-mongering out there as to what is involved in this.

I am very happy that these issues are in the budget. With respect to our rural caucus, approximately six years ago, the one thing we constantly heard across the country was what effect the Fisheries Act was having outside its boundaries on farmers' drains and ditches. We heard of a case in Manitoba last year where the banks of a river flooded and fish got onto a farmer's field. He was expected to get rid of those fish at his cost. This bill will address ridiculous issues like that. I am very happy those reforms are in there.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate there may be good news. I have not seen the numbers yet, but I will take my colleague's word that there has been job growth in Canada this month.

However, I am wondering what this budget does for urban ridings. I come from an urban riding in the city of Toronto where for about 30 years we have had growing poverty and no investment in housing or transit. There is a growing legion of working poor because the quality of jobs being created in this country is going down. We have lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs in and around the city of Toronto.

Would the member tell us what exactly this budget does to help urban ridings in this country?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a huge influx of jobs that have just been created that we heard about this morning. Urban ridings tend to be more populated, so I would think that this member's riding should benefit as much as anybody's from these jobs that have been created.

The member talks about housing, transit, and those kinds of issues. This government has made great investments in those over the years. I know that my own riding has benefited, not so much from the transit side but from the housing side. I know his has as well. I thank him for supporting those moves.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague also chairs the agriculture committee. He has been doing a great job in that area. I know the committee is reviewing some of the programs that have worked in the past and looking at what to put forward for the future.

I also know recently there was an announcement to encourage young people to get back into the field of agriculture. Would my hon. colleague elaborate on that please?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the constituents of the riding of Brandon—Souris are very fortunate to have a member like my colleague who understands agricultural issues.

He is right. As members know, one of the big obstacles in agriculture is high land prices and the ability of interested young farmers to purchase land. The changes that we have made relate to low-interest loans that will allow young people and new farmers, no matter what age, to purchase land with reasonable loans and reasonable payback conditions. We have had a lot of positive feedback on that.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address Bill C-38, the 2012 budget implementation act. This is a very important bill for all Canadians as it is a real plan for jobs, growth and prosperity for the near and long term.

We could take the easy road. We could sit back and say that everything is okay and just keep ragging the puck. We could continue to brag about Canada being a world leader in job growth, financial stability and strong presence in the world. We could kick the can down the road and say that looming issues are someone else's problem. We could but we are not.

Budgets are about choices. Just like families in my riding that make choices about how to spend their money, how to save and invest for the future and how to care for themselves and others, so, too, must government. In fact, I would argue that government must lead by example and, through budget 2012, we are doing just that.

However, we must remember the record. Through responsible management, our government has helped the Canadian economy create over 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009, most of which are full-time positions. Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. Our unemployment rate is well below that of the United States. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Canada continues to have a solid AAA credit rating.

Building on this success, economic action plan 2012 provides $1.1 billion over five years to support research and development and $500 million for venture capital. We know that prudent investments and partnerships with the private sector will continue to create good jobs for Canadians in the future.

The budget also improves support for advanced research through granting councils, such as Genome Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Mississauga—Streetsville is home to many research and development companies in life sciences, pharmaceutical, high technology and niche manufacturing that will benefit from these programs.

Canada is a very rich country in terms of its resources. Whether it be oil, natural gas, forestry or mining, Canada has a unique natural advantage over most other countries in the world. That is why this budget bill focuses on responsible resource development by ensuring that major resource projects are not bogged down by duplicative regulations and that one project receives only one thorough review.

The city of Mississauga is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We have residents from hundreds of countries of origin who call Mississauga their home, and we are happy to have them. What is even more exciting is that many of these people work in companies that do business around the world, rely on strong trade relationships and do import and export services worldwide. That is why I am so pleased that our government has the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history.

We know that free, fair and open trade is good for Canadian business. We know that Canadians can compete with the best in the world and we can win. We know that signing free trade agreements with countries around the globe give Canadians fair and better access to international markets.

As well, the bill would reduce red tape that often frustrates business and acts as a disincentive to invest. It would reduce the tax compliance burden for small businesses and make a number of significant administrative improvements at the Canada Revenue Agency.

I am also pleased to report that Bill C-38 would extend the hiring credit for small business for another year, providing up to $1,000 for one year to encourage the hiring of new employees. This budget would also provide $50 million to the youth employment strategy and $6 billion to expand the successful ThirdQuarter project to help employers find experienced workers over 50 who want to keep using their skills in the workforce. There also are $150 million for investing in small public infrastructure to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. This would build upon the very successful infrastructure stimulus program that brought together the provinces, territories and municipalities in the most co-operative program in Canadian history.

Like every Canadian family, the federal government, too, much re-look at how it spends hard-earned taxpayer money and constantly ensure both value for money and spending on the most important priorities. The budget focuses on eliminating waste in the internal operations of government and making government leaner and more efficient, totally $5.2 billion in ongoing savings. This represents just 2% of total program spending in 2016-17 and, with this and other initiatives, I am pleased to report that we will remain on track to balance the budget over the medium term as we promised.

To continue to help families, we are improving the registered disability savings plan, increasing the travellers exemption, continuing support for Participaction and enhancing the victims fund. No government in recent memory has done more to support Canadian seniors than this one. I was pleased in the first budget, on which I was able to vote as a member of Parliament, that we brought in the largest one-time increase in the guaranteed income supplement in over 25 years. We have significantly increased funding to the new horizons program, and I am delighted to report that the Hindu heritage seniors group in my riding has just received one of these grants.

Further, our government continues to provide support to the old age security program for existing recipients and those near retirement at current levels with no reductions or changes whatsoever. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the OAS system is protected for future generations and not simply pass the buck to some government down the road. That is why we are moving forward with a prudent, responsible and proactive change to the OAS by raising the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 by 2029.

I just marked my first year of being elected to this place. It has been an exhilarating experience and an honour of a lifetime. I knew that part of my responsibility as a member of Parliament was to do my very best to make this a better country for everyone but I also knew that tough and maybe unpopular decisions would need to be made to make this happen. As one member of Parliament in this place, it would be completely irresponsible for me to sit here and pretend that the OAS will be sustainable for my generation. I cannot even imagine the MP who will replace me one day in the future having to deal with this issue a decade or so from now if we do not act today. Why on earth would I saddle a future government, a future Parliament or a future MP for Mississauga—Streetsville with this issue in the future when I know we can act responsibly now?

The number of Canadians over 65 will increase from 4.7 million today to 9.3 million in 2030. The cost of OAS will rise from $36 billion to $108 billion. Meanwhile, the number of taxpayers that pay for OAS will go from 4 today to 20 in 20 years. With statistics like this, how can we possibly close our eyes? Even though this decision may not be popular, it is simply the right thing to do.

At the beginning of my remarks today I said that we could take the easy road. We could sit back and soak it all in. We could say that we are better than most and rest on our laurels. However, that is not leadership for the future and that is not helping the next generation. We must move ahead.

I encourage all members to support this excellent budget.

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May 11th, 2012 / 10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech given by the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

I wonder if the hon. member is aware of what has been said about this enormous 425 page budget bill by people like Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne, who talks about the length of it, the fact that it amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environment Assessment Act.

He wrote:

It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration...to telecommunications...to land codes on native reservations.... So this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name.

He goes on to say:

Moreover, it utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?

I wonder if the hon. member would like to answer Mr. Coyne's question.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, like all journalists, Mr. Coyne is certainly welcome to his opinion. I read him thoroughly and there are days I agree with him and days I do not.

If the hon. member had been listening, he would know that I spoke about timely leadership in difficult times. That is why we have brought forward a budget that is comprehensive. It does a lot of things, no doubt. However, we will have the longest debate we have seen in 20 years on this budget bill. Members of Parliament have a lot of time to have input on a wide variety of issues that are covered under this budget bill.

The bill is about moving Canada forward in a responsible way in the near, medium and long-term. I think the hon. member should get on board and support the initiatives.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville does a fantastic job of representing his constituents in a neighbouring riding to mine. I would like to ask him about seniors who he is speaking to in his riding and what they are saying about OAS, particularly the sustainability of the program for future generations.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, during our last two week break I actually held a half-day seniors' forum. We talked about a whole variety of issues. I was pleased to do that for my constituents in order to update them on things that were going on.

It is interesting that when one sits down and talks to seniors today about the proposed changes that will start 11 years from now and one explains the numbers and demographic changes, it is amazing how they get it. They understand. They want the OAS system to be there so their children and their grandchildren will be able to collect it, just like they are collecting it today.

Generally speaking, in talking with constituents, I find they understand the challenge we have with respect to the long-term viability of the old age security system and that they generally support the direction in which we are trying to go.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville's speech, but unfortunately, I have not reached the same conclusions as he.

Certain facts cannot be denied. Canada is in an enviable position compared to other countries, but that is in spite of the government, not thanks to it.

I remember an election campaign a few years back just before the crisis hit. The Prime Minister accused those who saw the crisis coming of being defeatist and enemies of Canada. Today we see the same thing happening. It is all well and good to boast about how strong our banking system is, but it is worth pointing out that our banking system is strong because it is better regulated than those of other countries.

In the long term, if we continue down this path, we are headed for chaos. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words.

We only need look at the actions of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance during the worst worldwide economic recession in my lifetime and compare Canada's results to the world's. We are the envy of the world in how Canada reacted to that crisis and the work that our Minister of Finance continues to do. There is no question that we have lots to be thankful for in Canada because of that leadership.

We have lots more to do, and that is why Bill C-38 needs to be passed by this House. We need to get on with the job.