Mr. Speaker, Bill C-49 implements many details of the December budget. It was a budget of missed opportunities and failed to address many important problems facing Canadians.
The implementation bill contains five or six key aspects of the budget. A major change has been made in the last eight weeks in the way part of the budget is organized, namely the infrastructure program and the Africa fund.
Last week the budget went through the House and there was no whimper, no scuttlebutt, no talk whatsoever about making a major change in the administration of a major part of the budget. I speak about the infrastructure fund that was supposed to be administered at arm's length from the cabinet, from the federal government, from the politicians. It was to be run like an arm's length foundation.
I also have some concerns about the terms of accountability to parliament. The attitude of the government has changed 180 degrees. It has decided that the infrastructure fund will be under the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister.
There is a danger of it becoming a politically targeted infrastructure fund for the Liberal Party of Canada if it comes under political direction. The temptation is there, some $2 billion. There would be a real temptation to put some of that money into more politically sensitive projects than if the fund were administered totally at arm's length from the Government of Canada.
The other big change was the $500 million Africa fund. Again, the fund was to be administered at arm's length from the federal government but there was a change and it too is under the political responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.
I wonder whether or not the finance minister has lost a little tug of war within the cabinet. The Prime Minister seems to be favouring the Deputy Prime Minister as his successor as leader of the Liberal Party. He tried with Mr. Brian Tobin who was the Minister of Industry but that did not work out. That fizzled and failed. He has made the former foreign affairs minister the Deputy Prime Minister. He has given him a lot more responsibility and a lot of political clout in terms of doing favours for all kinds of government members. That is a real concern to me and many other members of the House of Commons.
The implementation bill, in addition to what I have already mentioned, brings in a number of other aspects of the budget. It establishes the new Canadian air transport security authority, because of what happened on September 11. The new authority will be responsible for security at the airports. It will have the full power of a crown corporation and will be run by 11 government appointees. I would bet dollars to donuts that most of those 11 government appointees will be people who are very active in the Liberal Party of Canada. Another 11 people will be put in patronage positions.
From the way the legislation is written and from the briefings we received, I do not think regular travellers will see much of a change at the airports as they go through security screening. I think the same or similar private sector contractors will be running airport security.
It is interesting to note that a public opinion poll was taken and 70% of Canadians wanted the security services at the airports to be under the authority of federal officials. Only 20% wanted to have private contractors responsible for screening at Canada's airports. I predict that the screening will continue to be provided by private contractors and I do not think that is the way the general public wants to go.
I am also concerned about the rights of workers who are already there. Many of them are members of the United Steelworkers of America union, which represents many of the people who work in airport security. I am concerned about what kinds of rights they will have as we go through this changeover and phasing out of the present system into the new.
The other thing we should be noting is that last year the Toronto airport authority gave the federal Liberal Party a contribution of $7,500, and I think that when we have this new crown agency its 11 government appointees will be looking at political considerations, not necessarily solely the safety considerations for the people of our country.
Second, I would like to mention something new in the bill, the implementation of the air traveller security charge as of April 1, 2002, to fund the air security enhancements at airports in the country. This will be a charge of $12 a flight, $24 per round trip, plus the GST. It does not matter in most cases how long the trip will be. Whether it is a long haul flight from Vancouver to Halifax or a short haul flight from Ottawa to Toronto or Regina to Winnipeg, there will be a charge of $24 plus GST. Meanwhile in the United States the equivalent fee that the Americans will be charging is $2.50 U.S. a flight. Let us say that is $4 Canadian a flight. Our government is charging $24 Canadian a flight, fully $20 Canadian more for a flight in this country than is being charged in the United States. According to some of the research that has been done, only about $2 of that new fee will go to fund the new agency, the Canadian air transport security agency, and $10 from that flight will go into general government revenues or coffers. In other words it is just a new tax grab. It is a fee. We get tax reductions on one side and fee increases on the other side and the ordinary person will pay through the nose once again.
We are concerned about this. It is something we will fight against in the committee. I am sure the Canadian people will be on our side in terms of mobilizing against this new airport tax, most of which will not be for airport security but will go into government revenues for other purposes.
There is one more point I would like to mention and it is one thing that I certainly agree with in the budget implementation bill, because we should not forget that a bill like this is an omnibus bill. It has the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly is the airport tax. There are a lot of bad things in the bill but there are some good things as well.
One of the good things is the deferral of taxes for six months for the small business people of the country. The federal government will be deferring tax instalments for January, February and March of 2002 for up to six months to assist small businesses in their cashflow. This is $2 billion. It is not a tax writeoff. It is a tax deferral. Because of the slowdown in the economy, the recession or near recession in the economy, and because of what happened on September 11, there is a deferral of taxes for up to six months for small businesses that want to exercise that deferral right. We support that, because small businesses in the country employ about half the Canadian population and now create about 80% of the new jobs in Canada.
When I talk about small businesses, I mean really small business. In fact, 80% of small businesses in the country have sales of less than $1 million a year. Eighty per cent of the new jobs are in small business. Sales for 80% of those small businesses are less than $1 million a year. They employ from one to twenty people, maybe up to thirty or so. Many of these small businesses are single person operations. Many people operate these companies out of their own homes or have a small retail operation such as a hair salon. These businesses create about 80% of the new jobs in the country.
This is a sector we should be looking at in terms of creating jobs, creating wealth, helping Canadian people and putting Canadian people to work. This deferral is one small way of helping people who are employed by small business or who indeed are owners of small businesses. I remind the House that the majority of small business owners and those who work in small businesses in the country now are women, not men. This is an area that needs a lot more assistance in the future.
Another positive thing in the bill is a new provision to allow an apprentice vehicle mechanic to deduct a portion of the cost of new tools acquired after 2001. Mechanics, men and women, who bought tools for their businesses could not deduct them as an expense. They buy these tools to work. People in a business operation who have a legitimate business expense can deduct it on their taxes, people such as doctors, dentists and many other professionals, including consultants. Consultants who have home businesses can deduct a portion of home expenses on their taxes. They can claim 20% of their home expenses or whatever amount it is and telephone costs and a certain amount for utilities. They are deducted as legitimate expenses. Yet we had mechanics, young people in the country starting out, who were spending thousands of dollars on tools but could not deduct them as a legitimate expense.
In 1999, I introduced a private member's bill in the House, Bill C-338, calling for the deduction of costs of mechanics' tools from income tax. I did that after circulating a petition throughout my riding and parts of Saskatchewan, getting signatures from hundreds of mechanics who were saying they wanted fair treatment, justice and equality in the tax laws. I have raised this issue time and time again at the finance committee. The government has not gone as far in the budget as mechanics want it to go, but at least this is a start. It is going in the right direction and it will allow the deduction of some of the cost of purchasing tools. I will keep pushing to make sure that we get the full deduction of the cost of tools for mechanics in the years that lie ahead.
Another part of the budget in terms of the implementation is the change for companies that want to donate securities to public charities. In our country when people have capital gains they are taxed on 50% of the capital gains. The 1997 change to the law for companies making donations to charities was that instead of having 50% of that income taxable, the government put it down to 37.5%. This budget brings it down to only 25%.
In the United States and the United Kingdom there is no tax whatsoever when securities are contributed to charitable organizations. What we have done in this country is strike a note halfway between what happens in the U.K. and the United States and what we used to have here. I certainly support that provision as well. I support making it easier for companies to donate to charities. There has been a lot of lobbying on that in the finance committee over the last while. Indeed, many members of the finance committee would like to see the capital gains tax eliminated altogether for securities donated to charities by companies in our country. I have not gone that far and the Minister of Finance has not gone that far, but at least there is some progress in that direction.
There is another thing I wanted to mention again. I started to say at the outset of my remarks that a big thing that is happening is the $2 billion Canada infrastructure fund, which will provide assistance for infrastructure in the country. We need a massive infrastructure program in Canada. This is one of the ways to create jobs. It is one of the ways to build the country, to build the economy. We need a vision of building our country and our economy, a vision of building the roads, highways and water systems and cleaning up the environment. What we get in the budget is a $2 billion fund over six years.
In the United States over the equivalent period of time, the Americans have committed $217 billion in transportation infrastructure alone. In our country we have some $2 billion to cover all infrastructure over a period of six years. If we were to have an equivalent measure of investment into infrastructure, comparing our population to that of the United States, we would need at least $18 billion more than we are seeing in this budget implementation bill.
These are some parts of the bill that will be debated in committee. Some of them are negative, some of them are positive and some of them are really bad, like the airport tax that everybody will have to pay.
Another part of the bill is the African development fund to reduce poverty, provide education and set the African people on the path to a more sustainable development of their societies and their lives. This is a promise that was made by the Prime Minister to Nelson Mandela many years ago. It is $500 million over six years.
Despite this, we are now spending only .25% of our GDP on foreign aid. The goal for many years has been .7% of our GDP. We are spending just a bit over a third of what we should be spending to help countries in the third world. It is a sad commentary on our country. In Canada we should be strong advocates of a world economic development agency that has a vision of a new development plan, a modern day Marshall Plan that would develop places like Africa, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world. That should be one of the things that we advocate as a Canadian parliament and as a Canadian government.
We need to solve some of the problems of world poverty, world despair and world hunger. People are dying of starvation as we speak in the House of Commons today. Hundreds of people in the world are literally dying from a lack of food, yet we have the means in this country and in this world to produce a great deal of food. We have the means for international development in the world. If we do not solve some of these problems we will have more tragedies like those of September 11 and more calamities that will haunt us in the years that lie ahead. We have the means.
About three years ago, parliament passed a private member's motion I introduced, stating that we endorsed in principle the idea of the Tobin tax, a tax on the speculation in currency around the world. This is a tax that was suggested by an American professor named James Tobin whereby we would put a very small tax of about .1% or .2% on speculation in currency. In the world today over $1 trillion is traded in currency every single day, mostly by big banks. With this small tax we could raise hundreds of billions of dollars for international development and environmental cleanup. Much of it could be spent in countries around the world to develop social programs, to help eliminate poverty and to help reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. We have the means in the world to have these kinds of funds developed to help all Canadians and help all peoples of the world, whether is it a Tobin tax or some other means of funding some of these initiatives.
I conclude by saying that the budget brought down by the Minister of Finance was a budget of missed opportunities. It was a budget that did not tackle some of the real problems that we have today. It was a budget that failed to address the real issues of the economy and unemployment. Back in December the unemployment rate rose to 7.5%.
Today, the national unemployment rate if 8%. This is the highest rate in years. In the forecasts the finance minister issued two months ago, there was nothing regarding job creation for Canadians.
We have to create jobs and we do that by investing in infrastructure, by putting money into affordable housing, into cleaning up the environment and into water treatment facilities across the country.
We also do it by making sure that we have a fair deal for the farmers of Canada. The farmers of Canada are in a real crisis, largely because of massive government subsidies for farmers in the United States and Europe. There is now a bill before the American congress, supported already by the house of representatives, I think, and going to the senate. It was agreed to by the president of the United States. It will inject into the American economy over $170 billion American in additional money in terms of farm subsidies to support the farmers of the United States of America. We should think about the impact that will have on Canadian farmers. Yet the government brought down a budget with absolutely nothing in it for the farmers of our country. Canadian farmers need a fair shake and a fair deal. The foundation of the country is agriculture and when the farmers are better off we are all better off. There would be job creation in the towns and cities from coast to coast to coast. We need more assistance for our farmers. We have missed the opportunity. The Minister of Finance should be changing some of those things instead of the changes he made in terms of infrastructure and the African fund.
Since the government took power, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. We have a part time, high unemployment, low wage society and that is what must be changed.