Mr. Speaker, an interesting occurrence happened about an hour ago. I made a call to a friend in Hamilton and he asked me why my party was literally hammering the Conservatives on this budget update. He had not been watching the headlines closely, but he had seen from time to time various members of the NDP caucus on their feet, particularly from Hamilton and today from Ottawa, who talked about our major concerns with the economic update.
Simply put, and as I expressed to my friend, the update is taking us in the wrong direction. It is not balanced. We have an unprecedented opportunity to make some changes for the good of our country.
As we know, we have a manufacturing crisis. More people are living in poverty than ever before. As a result of that, looking at the update statement, Bill C-28, it is abundantly clear that there is nothing for ordinary, hard-working Canadians, nothing at all.
The Conservatives have been following a well set pattern, a pattern set by the Liberal Party, of corporate welfare giveaways. We all know that in 2005 the leader of the NDP Party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, was able to get the Liberal Party to set aside some corporate tax cuts, but we are still in a position where there is almost a fond reverence for offering tax cuts to corporations by both sides in this place. These breaks will reduce our budget by over $12 billion, and those are moneys crucial to Canada.
In fact, I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for the amendment he has proposed today, which would completely remove clause 181 from the agreement. We hear from Canadians across our country. They are very concerned with the loss of fiscal capacity contained in the budgets brought forward with huge corporate tax breaks in quick succession.
Different members in the House have on many occasions expressed there concerns about the huge infrastructure problems facing Canada. Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities were in town recently. The report they released, which has been referred to repeatedly here, and justifiably so, tells us there is a shortfall of $123 billion, putting our fiscal capacity at risk. They have said that those moneys need to be invested now and if they are not, then the situation will clearly worsen.
Within that document, there were $40 billion for communities and recreation. Being the sports critic, I have a particular awareness of that part of the report. Communities like Hamilton, where I am from and am pleased to represent, have been forced year after year to turn to the province of Ontario for assistance with their municipal budgets. They usually face a shortfall in the area of $20 million and that is just to contend with day to day operations.
A lot of that came about in the 1990s when the Liberal government of the day started offloading responsibilities to the provinces, along with tax collection. Under Mike Harris, the who does what committee, if I recall the name appropriately, said that his government should keep social services and leave education funding within the mandate of municipalities. What did it do? It reversed that.
Education is predictable and allows us to plan ahead. We know how many children are born and when they are born. When it comes to social concerns and downturns, we do not know how many people will lose their jobs. In fact, 11,000 jobs were lost last year in Hamilton. Everyone will hear me say that later. Because of that unpredictability, it made those moves to protect itself at the provincial level.
There was another more insidious thing at work, which was offloading from income, where people could afford to pay property taxes and many on fixed incomes could not afford the adjustments necessary to deal with such things. The province of Ontario has also made it clear to Hamilton that it cannot sustain the $20 million transfer and it will have to go back to the province regularly.
I also expect, from what I am hearing, that many major cities across the country have significant infrastructure problems similar to Hamilton.
Hamilton has to renew its sewer system soon. This is one of the older cities in Canada and every year a significant number of water mains break and other failures of infrastructure are very evident. We have unique challenges in Hamilton.
As the House knows new immigrants who come to this country travel to Vancouver first, or Toronto or Montreal. They find, after being there a short period of time, that they are unable to afford the cost of living. Many of them choose Hamilton as their second destination, but federal dollars go to those first communities where the immigrants arrive. So, there is a particular burden that befalls our city and I am sure other ones across Canada as well as a result of the fact that federal dollars are not spread as evenly as they could be.
Clearly, much could have been done by the Conservative government in its update before cutting taxes. I spoke in the House about the fact that Canadians are a people with a lot of common sense. I have also advised the House of the significant concerns I am hearing back in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
My constituents are quick to point out to me their surprise that a government with the massive surplus in the tens of billions of dollars does not seem, in their eyes anyway, to be approaching its fiscal management with the same common sense that ordinary Canadians apply in their day to day living.
Canadians are quick to say that they know when one is doing well, it is time to invest. They will invest their money in repairs and upgrades to their homes. Canada needs to repair its home, its infrastructure.
Canadians will also put a little money aside for an eventual downturn which we well know follows in quick succession. I would argue that is happening at the present time and if we have surplus monies this is the time to address those needs.
Also, when ordinary Canadians do have good times, they do not head off to the bank to pay off their mortgage. They would not do that because they understand that keeping a reasonable debt is fiscally responsible in order to sustain their cashflow.
Canadians know that if their house foundation is rotten, that soon that house will fall. The foundations of Canadian cities are literally rotting across this country.
The other evening when I spoke about this fiscal update, I pointed to the fact that in conversations with my constituents at our local Timmy's, and that is our gathering point, there is a lot of sage advice given in those places.
I also found in the last couple of visits that the seniors who were there were very angry. They have come to know that due to an error by the federal government that they were underpaid some $500 a year in their old age security. They are patiently waiting for the taxman to send them their money. I should add their patience is wearing thin.
I strongly advise the Conservative government to get on with the job and send Canadians the monies that they are owed.
The seniors are busily swapping opinions on the matter and most are quick to point to their personal experience. They have had experiences with the taxman over the years where they have owed some money and guess what, the letter comes with the demand for money or at times there might even be someone knocking on their door.
The House has heard from Hamilton members over and over of the terrible situation in our manufacturing sector. That is another area where we have to have a strategic plan. We have to invest. It is not just corporate taxes and not just a trickle down that is going to fix that problem.
The House has heard from the Hamilton members as well as the rest of our caucus that Hamilton is one of the hardest hit in the manufacturing crisis that is happening. I use that word “crisis” very clearly.
As I have said before repeatedly, 11,000 of my friends and neighbours have lost their jobs in Hamilton in the last year. Those taxpayers who have lost their jobs should rightfully expect changes to EI to help them adjust to their loss.
Turning to a damaged EI system, gutted by the former Liberal government, is not going to be that helpful when in fact the national average for accessing EI is only 40% and in urban areas 22% to 30%, which would include Hamilton.
In the eyes of many Canadians the EI fund, instead of being an insurance against job layoffs, has become nothing but a pool for the government. I would say to the government that it should choose Canadians over corporate Canada. It has chosen corporate Canada over Canadians in crisis. That is something that we all regret.