Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget.
I listened to the member for St. Catharines talk about how the Conservative government is setting up the new seniors council. After the Conservative government talked about not having patronage appointments, what it has done is it has disbanded the National Council on Aging, an organization that had been set up by our Liberal government, and has started a new seniors council. The council basically has the same mandate and the same terms of reference, but there is one noticeable difference: it is stacked with Conservative appointees. This is not strictly a budget matter, but I had to comment on it.
This budget lacks vision. It lacks a direction for Canada. It is a collection of some sundry items, but it has no cohesion. There is a large amount of spending, spending in the wrong areas and spending that is going to be inflationary. In fact, we are already finding that it is inflationary because of the intended actions of the Bank of Canada to deal with it. We knew it would be inflationary. If the spending had been put in the right places, it would not have been as inflationary and might have had some benefit. The spending is in the wrong areas. Let me give an example.
Of course we know the Conservative government wants to reduce the GST, but in doing so, it increased personal income taxes, which any self-respecting economist will say is not good economic policy.
The government has also reneged on the Kelowna accord, which was providing many benefits to our aboriginal people in terms of housing, schools, clean water and many of the basic needs that aboriginal Canadians in this country need. The government has reneged on that.
The Conservatives have failed to deliver the funding required to implement the early childhood development agreements that had been negotiated in good faith by our Liberal government. They set up this phony child care program which does not really provide any spaces for child care in Canada.
The finance minister stood in this House, and I will never forget this, and said that the acrimony with the provinces and territories had been resolved, it had been fixed. He said that the so-called fiscal imbalance had been dealt with. I remember thinking how naive can a finance minister get. Certainly that came home to roost in spades when Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and many of the provinces said that this budget fails to deliver on equalization, that it reneges on the promise with respect to the Atlantic accord.
Income trusts are another good example. The Conservatives campaigned on the idea that they were not ever going to tax income trusts. What did they do? They broke that promise. They have come in now and taxed income trusts with hardly an apology. They wrote off about $25 billion to $30 billion in capitalized value of Canadians who counted on the word of the Conservative government not to tax income trusts. That promise was broken.
Many of us in the House would agree that the income trust question needed to be dealt with, but there were ways to deal with it in a much smarter and a much more fair way for all Canadians. In fact, the grandfathering that the government chose was not fair. It could have been done in a much more equitable fashion. In fact, I think there was an argument to be made to go back to the original raison d'être of income trusts, which was to help with the capitalization of energy companies and with property management companies. What did the government do? It brought in this measure which really hurt many Canadians who were saving for their retirement.
The government through the finance minister has come out with provisions with respect to the non-deductibility of interest expense. What the Conservatives tried to do was deal with some tax evasion measures, in other words, where income by companies is put into low tax or no tax jurisdictions and the interest expense is put into the jurisdiction of Canada and treated as an interest expense.
Yes, there was some abuse of that, but what the government has done is taken the measure to a ridiculous extreme. It has created the unintended consequence, or maybe the intended consequence, I am not sure how clearly the government thought this through, that companies in Canada will be put at a disadvantage when trying to acquire companies abroad.
The income trust decision of the government and the interest non-deductibility measures mean that Canadian companies are going to be targets of more takeovers, more takeovers than we have seen already. The list goes on of Canadian icons such as Inco, Falconbridge, Hudson's Bay and many other companies that have been taken over by non-Canadian interests. Takeovers of energy companies are going to increase, given the income trust decision, and also of companies in general, given the non-deductibility of interest measures.
What does the government do? The industry minister sits on his hands while the world goes by. He argues that the markets will solve everything and that the government should not be an interventionist. The government is finally going to respond and is proposing to make some changes to the Investment Canada Act, but I suspect it will be too little, too late.
There is one aspect of the budget that I think is particularly devastating. The budget provides no real initiative to enhance Canada's productivity, nor to enhance the rate of innovation in Canada. We have some productivity challenges, especially with respect to our neighbours to the south, our major trading partner, and this budget does nothing with respect to innovation or research and development.
We look back to the mid-1990s. Our government inherited a $42 billion deficit in 1993. In three short years, with the cooperation and the commitment of all Canadians, that deficit was eliminated and our government began on the path of reinvesting in research and innovation.
We created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the CIHR, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. We set up research chairs across Canada. We also provided some funding for the indirect costs of research overheads. We changed the brain drain to a brain gain.
When a number of my Liberal colleagues and I visited the MaRS project in downtown Toronto recently and we went to the Hospital for Sick Children, I was saddened to learn that some of that brain gain is in jeopardy. We met researchers from all over the United States who had come back to Canada based on the research environment here, but they were thinking that maybe the research environment here in Canada was not so wonderful after all.
There was a lack of commitment to funding for the CIHR in this budget. There was a paltry increase. The CIHR also has some serious challenges with respect to continuity of funding. If a researcher who is an expert in his or her field cannot set up the team that he or she needs and set up a research program over a number of years, then that research is in jeopardy. That is what is happening.
There is also a significant problem with respect to the indirect costs of overheads. Our Liberal government took some measures in that area, but more needs to be done to ensure that the research environment continues here in Canada.
I will talk briefly about crime and safe streets. In our 2006 election platform, the Liberal Party promised a complete ban on handguns. In fact, the then prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, came to my riding of Etobicoke North and committed our party, if elected to government, to a complete ban on handguns.
Just this weekend, again in my riding of Etobicoke North, there was another murder, a drive-by shooting. It was a senseless cowardly act. One person is dead and three are injured. This happened because of the proliferation of handguns.
It is true that handguns are coming across the border from the United States, and that is why our government made more commitments at our border to stem the flow of guns coming from the United States into Canada. More needs to be done on that front. However, the reality is that many handguns are stolen from collectors
Instead of backing away from the gun registry, which is what the Conservatives are planning to do, they should be investing in the gun registry. They should be banning handguns.
We know that putting $1 billion into arming our border guards will have no deterrent effect on the people in Chicago, Boston or wherever, who run guns or drugs into Canada. These people are not sitting around thinking that now that Canada has armed border guards they had better not run the guns or drugs into Canada. Instead of using $1 billion to arm our border guards, that money could be put into much more useful endeavours.
This budget fails on a number of accounts and I will be voting against it for sure.