House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


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4:10 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the federal budget on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Durham. The budget covers a wide range of issues, however, it does not provide real benefits in the short term and does not provide concrete steps for the delivery of value for my constituents' taxpayer dollars.

Compared with the Americans, Canadian productivity accounts for an income gap of $6,078 per person. This means that a family of four in Durham has some $24,000 a year less income to spend than the same family in the U.S.A. The tax relief in the budget of only $16 for the typical taxpayer will certainly not help Durham taxpayers who are increasingly challenged to stretch their hard earned dollars. As average Canadians, they have seen their real take home pay increase by only 3.6% over the past 15 years. However, must be noted that over the same period government revenue increases soared by 40% and the cost of government bureaucracy has increased by 77%. Yet in Durham we have seen little improvement in government services or efficiencies.

As the small and medium sized businesses in my community discussed with our leader, Stephen Harper, in Port Perry, they want to see deeper cuts in business taxes and the elimination of the capital tax now, not delayed for years. They want a reduction in the cost of regulation and in unnecessary and duplicate paperwork. This would enhance their ability to thrive and introduce more jobs into Durham.

Although the increase in the guaranteed income supplement for low income seniors is most welcome, it does not amount to very much for Durham seniors. In Ontario the GIS is integrated with the provincial guaranteed annual income system for seniors or GAINS. If the GIS goes up by $1, GAINS goes down by 50¢. The largest increase in the GIS that a senior would be eligible for is less than $18 per month. We must work to ensure that these types of clawbacks on the supports given to seniors are eliminated. Those on fixed and low incomes must be able to meet the rising costs of their senior years, stay in their homes longer and enjoy the rewards of a life of hard work.

With most of the money for child care, climate control and the gas tax transfer delayed until the end of the decade, with no plans in place as to how exactly this money will be spent, the question remains: How will my constituents see benefits from this budget?

The budget has driven a local politician to state, “From Ontario's point of view, from Durham's point of view...I was very disappointed. Our two big concerns are healthcare and transportation and transit. There's virtually nothing to address those issues”. And I agree.

There are no effective plans to address the acute doctor shortage across Canada and in Durham. The loss of one doctor closed the local surgery program for an entire community. A growing community like Durham needs increased health care services, not decreased.

It needs transit and infrastructure improvements to meet the day to day needs of getting to work, school and recreational activities. Yet we still await details on any plans or concrete commitments to our municipalities on the gas tax transfers.

Right now the Durham regional government and local municipalities in my riding have more questions than answers. A local mayor rightly observed that “the funding has too many strings attached. It's another example of the same old paternalistic attitude that municipalities really don't know what to spend our money on and the federal government does”.

We see this same attitude reflected in the government's approach to institutional state-run child care centres. In Durham we have 6 child care centres, 3 nursery schools and another 160 centres supported locally. According to the region's social services department, more and more parents are applying for subsidies given the rising cost of licensed day care. For these families, for those who want options as to how to meet their day care needs and those who choose to raise their children at home, there is nothing in the budget for them. Of the $5 billion promised for child care, only $700 million will be put into a trust fund for this upcoming year. With no agreement with the provincial governments, Durham families have no idea of how they will benefit from the promise of a Canadian child care program

I would like to inform you at this point, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time.

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

That is fine, but may I remind the member that she is not to mention names of members of the House, but rather by title.

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4:15 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Durham farmers will get no more cash from the budget. The farmers in my riding are incurring more and more debt as each month passes. Agriculture Canada is forecasting another year of negative total net income.

We now know that the U.S. border will not be opened any time soon. Only six weeks before planting begins, the budget provides only $130 million for an industry facing losses of up to $6 billion. The $26 million a year in cash advances for livestock production does not even come into effect until the 2006 production year. Durham farmers will not be satisfied with the $100 million in recycled and re-announced promises, not for farmers but for industry initiatives.

The environment is very important to those in Durham. However, they are astounded that there is not a definitive plan to meet the Kyoto protocol now in its implementation period. Since 1997, $3.7 billion has been set aside for environmental initiatives. Some $658 million has not even been allocated, while $1.2 billion remains unspent sitting in a bank account.

For the military, only $500 million will flow in year one and $600 million in year two of a total $12.8 billion announced. Here again $5.8 billion is not new money but recycled money from old promises not yet fulfilled.

Although we may welcome some of the initiatives announced, my constituent and I have little confidence the promised benefits will flow to Durham and its residents in the near future. Last week in my riding I was constantly asked these questions. How much of the budget money announced would really flow in this budget year. How would they know that their municipalities of Clarington, Scugog and Uxbridge would see real dollars? What are the plans behind much of the money promised? Will the government fulfill the promises made on February 23?

I believe that more work must be done to answer these questions and to benefit all Canadians. We have shown that in a minority government much can be accomplished. Some of the opposition's agenda items have been initiated in the budget, initiatives we have been fighting for each day in the House, initiatives such as tax relief for low and middle income Canadians, reduction of corporate taxes, funding of national defence, an increase in RRSP limits, care giver tax credits, removal of the CAIS cash deposit requirement for farmers and more stable funding for the arts and cultural communities. However, many of these measures do not go far enough or fast enough.

We will continue to hold the government to account, set the agenda and call for focused, responsible plans. I will continue to work with my colleagues on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Durham.

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4:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. Like her, I wish more was done for the agricultural sector. I am in a good position to talk about this: my riding is very dependent on agriculture.

However, the budget provides $17.1 billion for the ruminant slaughter loan loss reserve program, precisely to increase our slaughter capacity. This is a very important issue, especially in a region under supply management, one where quotas are important.

Second, the hon. member raised the issue of the CAIS program. In fact, I believe she praised the government in this regard. The provinces' consent will be necessary, of course.

Third, while more help is necessary—I agree—one should not suggest, however, that no assistance was provided in the past little while. For example, the dairy producers saw a rise in milk prices, which was supported by the government, the dairy caucus, of which I am a member, and many others, precisely because cull has lost a great deal of value. I wonder if the hon. member might have a few unbiased points to add.

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4:20 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question gives me an opportunity to speak to the agricultural sector. As I have told the House on many occasions, I have a large agricultural sector in the rural area I represent. It is made up of not only dairy farmers, but a feather industry, crops and grain, as well as the cattle industry.

He asked a question about the $17.1 million for slaughter. We all know a program was put forward but we also know that it takes time to build those processing plants in order to make sure they are up to speed.

We saw the introduction of a processing plant in Kitchener and it has yet to go into full production. It is getting close to that but there are some questions around the testing of it, et cetera. That is not to say that some work has not been done, but we certainly have not been able to meet the needs with the speed that the agricultural community requires.

With regard the CAIS program, we are pleased to hear that following a motion put by our opposition party to eliminate the cash deposit requirement, the government has included that in the budget. However it will not happen immediately.

As was said earlier today, we all know the CAIS program, essentially, does not work. The CAIS program does not immediately put the money at the gates of the farms where it is needed. The CAIS program needs to be improved. It needs to be less onerous on the farmers. We also have to make sure that those cheques arrive when they are needed, not months later. We found last year that people were still waiting. We were discussing 2004 needs but people were still waiting for 2003 cheques to arrive. With that kind of delay, that is not addressing an immediate crisis, an immediate need at the farm gates where families are feeling the challenges of increasing debts.

The dairy farmers, as the hon. member has mentioned, have seen some redress. However, to raise the price of milk, we still have the cull cows on the farm. They are still in the field. How will we address that for the dairy farmers as well?

As we have said, for the farmers and the agricultural community, it just seems to be compounding and we are still waiting for the government to deliver cash to the people who need it now. We can have the building of slaughter capacity and programs that will come into place in 2006 and beyond, but what will happen in this budget year 2005-06?

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4:25 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to compliment my colleague from Durham for her comments and note that the way she handled the question on agriculture certainly shows the depth of not only her knowledge on this issue but the depth of her concern for the producers in her riding and others all across the nation.

I could not agree more with the thrust of what she was saying. I expressed my frustration in a member's statement this afternoon prior to question period. What I heard in her remarks was her frustration and the frustration we in the Conservative Party of Canada have because of the government's inability or inattention to the critical issues of agriculture in our country.

In the limited time that I have to respond to the Liberal budget this afternoon, I want to touch on several issues. I would first like to state that it is somewhat gratifying to say that we in the Conservative Party of Canada were right when we told Canadians during the June 2004 election that they were being misled by the federal Liberal government about the state of our country's finances. We knew the Liberals were awash in tax dollars skimmed from Canadian workers and yet during the election the Liberal government cried poor. It said that there was no money to spend on the Canadian Forces, on health care and on our crumbling infrastructure. It said that there was certainly no money to offer Canadians tax relief.

However, as we have known now for some months and as was confirmed in the budget, there is a massive surplus. I cannot say this enough. What Liberals call a surplus, Conservatives consider overtaxation. However this budget has ensured the continued overtaxation of Canadians. Much of the substantive investment needed to provide for the future security and prosperity of our country will not happen until some time in the future.

Our military, for example, as my colleagues have remarked, will continue to wait as it has for the past 11 and a half years that the Liberals have been in power. This is more a budget for the year 2008 than it is for 2005.

Unfortunately, the money taps are set to flow for the Liberal non-plan for the environment, to which my colleague from Red Deer just finished speaking at length, and its grand scheme for institutionalized state run child care. With scant detail or any sort of plan for these grandiose programs, the stage is being set for more government boondoggles and spending scandals.

I have a great deal more to discuss in terms of this budget's deficiencies but I would like to take a moment or two to address the adoption tax credit which was included in budget 2005.

It is no secret that I believe recognition for adoption and adoptive parents under Canadian tax laws is long overdue. I fought the government over the past four years to achieve this recognition through my private member's bill, which was most recently designated Bill C-246. Just last April, the same finance minister who has now included this tax provision for adoptive parents in his budget, sent his parliamentary secretary to the chamber to refuse government support for my proposal to offer tax relief to adoptive parents.

The Liberals changed their minds and I can tell the House that I am very happy for the Canadians who are currently set to undergo the emotionally and financially rigorous adoptive process, but the credit should not and does not go to the government. The credit goes to the hard work and dedication of the people in this country's adoptive community. They refused to give up. They wrote, e-mailed, faxed and called Liberal backbench MPs and cabinet ministers. They refused to go away. I am proud of their efforts and their success.

Ironically, it is those very same parents who are now being shut out by the government. My private member's bill would have offered tax relief retroactive to two years. The budgetary measure just announced is not retroactive. It applies to adoptions finalized in the 2005 taxation year and beyond.

What would two years retroactively have cost the government, the same government that is awash in our tax dollars? It would have cost $10 million maximum. My excitement over this achievement for adoptive families has been greatly dampened.

I am also disappointed that the tax relief will amount to a maximum of $1,600 per family. That is not much when one considers that domestic adoptions can cost more than $15,000 and international adoptions can total $30,000 or more. We are still hopeful that there may be further relief offered through provincial personal tax credits. We have no way of knowing that at the moment. Adoptive parents have been able to obtain so few details on this adoption tax credit beyond what is in the budget documents.

Were the provinces consulted before the federal government announced this measure? Will the tax credit apply to each adopted child or each adoption order which can include more than one child?

It now appears obvious that this was a very last minute decision by the government and Canadians have been asked to be patient. The information on this tax credit should be readily available now since information on other tax measures introduced in the budget can already be accessed. The government says that there is no rush because tax returns will not be filed for this taxation year until next spring but prospective adoptive parents are making decisions today about their lives and their families.

Before I move on to other matters in the budget, I would like to commend the people in this strong and vibrant adoptive community and thank them for demonstrating to this seasoned politician that people can make a real difference.

Speaking of real differences, I wish there were more of them in this budget.

I would like to draw attention to seniors. This is one group we have heard from in our ridings over the years, and certainly Prince George--Peace River is no exception. I have heard from seniors on fixed incomes who are struggling to make ends meet. The price of their home heating fuel, for example, keeps going up as do the costs of other things. They cannot meet those increasing costs because they do not have the corresponding increase in revenue that perhaps other Canadians might enjoy.

When I look at page 90 of the budget plan 2005, I find that it proposes to increase the maximum monthly GIS for seniors, which is the guaranteed income supplement, by $36 for a single senior. Half of this increase would only take effect on January 1, 2006, which is almost a year away. The remaining installment would take effect on January 1, 2007. What are we talking about here? Despite billions of dollars in overtaxation, when it comes to the most needy, our poor seniors, we are talking about $18 a month, and even that does not kick in until 2006. There is nothing for this year.

Let us move on to page 148, the tax relief that the government brags about. What we find is that it will raise the personal tax exemption, something which our party has talked about doing for years. We must applaud the government for this tiny step it is taking but then the devil is in the details, as always. When we read the details, what do we find? On page 149 of the budget plan it states that the basic personal amount will be increased over a five year period, as follows: $100 in 2006; an additional $100 in 2007; then it jumps to $400 in 2008; and $600 in 2009. As we have seen with almost everything to do with this budget, it is back-end loaded. It is some time in the future. People would have to wait again.

What else should we look at? On page 258 we see the federal tax revenues. Let us have a look at how much the government will realize. It is absolutely frightening what we see here. The table on page 258 of the budget plan shows that budgetary revenues would grow from the current year of roughly $196 billion to $237.8 billion by 2009-10.

Where will most of that money come from? That is a good question. I can tell members that despite the claims to the contrary, when we look at page 261 and the chart there, it will come from personal income tax. The revenue flowing to the government in the 2004-05 fiscal year, according to the numbers here, will be almost $90 billion and it will grow to $120 billion. That is the money that the government will suck out of Canadians' pockets in the way of personal income tax. The money will just flow into the coffers to be spent on the government's grand plans, rather than returned to Canadians in the form of tax relief.

What we have found is there is almost no reference to the agricultural crisis, as has been indicated. There is no reference to the softwood lumber crisis. There is no reference to the mountain pine beetle epidemic which is ravaging the forests of British Columbia.

In summary, this is a typical Liberal budget which tries to have a little for everyone but continues to overspend and overtax. However, as our leader has already made clear, we have chosen to act responsibly. Even though we cannot support the budget, we will ensure the survival of Parliament because we also believe that it is in the best interests of Canadians to ensure that this Parliament continues. They are not prepared to spend another $300 million on another election at this point in time. However, the government should not necessarily breathe easy. What we have seen in the budget plan is a pretty failed attempt to redress so many of the wrongs that it has perpetrated on Canadian people in the past.

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4:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member, and he has raised a number of very important points. Much of it has to do with extending out the programs in the budget. We understand that we could not implement programs fully in one year. Some obviously do take a period of time, and I would think many of the military projects will take more than a year. I think he would concede that.

However, I want to dialogue with the member with regard to the tax side. The member probably is aware that there are something like 14 million taxpayers who file tax returns and pay taxes. A hundred dollars in their pockets is $1.4 billion in expenses or reduced tax revenue each and every year. To have a much larger increase in the annual tax savings of Canadians obviously becomes a very significant amount of money when we consider the number of taxpayers.

I want to address the point he has raised that personal income tax revenue will increase from some $90 billion to $120 billion from now until 2009. That also is reflective of the fact that there is a growing economy anticipated with more people working and paying their share of taxes, not that taxes are going up by that amount. I just want to be sure that he would reaffirm to the House that he is not suggesting that somehow income taxation has gone up. With the indexation that was put into the Income Tax Act, the tax burden of Canadians over that same period will go down.

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4:35 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Liberal member's point of view. However, I think he is missing two relevant points. First, it is not the government's money. There is a fundamental difference in how we view this money. I heard one of my colleague's say while the member was speaking that it was not the government's money. This is taxpayer money. That is a fundamental issue. It is supposed to be viewed as a sacred trust.

That is why I said in my speech that a surplus that Liberals dream to spend is overtaxation to a Conservative. We have this strong philosophical difference on how we look at a surplus. The Liberals call it a surplus and they dream up different ways to spend it. We look at it as, despite the wildest spending the government could dream up over the last year or two, it still has not spent everything that it took away from Canadians. It still has not managed to blow it out the door.

We say that money belongs to the taxpayers. It should be returned to them. Yes, we understand very clearly that even a small tax cut, a small amount of tax relief, amounts to a billions of dollars when we spread it over every working Canadian. However, we have to start from the fact that it was their money.

Second, ten minutes is just simply not enough to address every issue that we would like to raise. However, the member mentioned military spending, and I want to talk about that. I used to be the defence critic for our party, and it is an issue that is near and dear to me.

One thing I looked for in the budget was an issue that I have raised for over a year now, with petition after petition from across the country. It deals with on base military housing, how it is deplorable and how it is substandard. These people put their lives on the line for our nation. These people today are serving in Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the globe. These people we house in some of the worst housing in the nation. I would have hoped that it would have been addressed in the budget and that the government could have at least indicated it would freeze the rents of our on base housing. However, no, it keeps raising the rents on deplorable housing that in many cases is absolutely substandard.

Another thing I wish to note is this. The government has bragged about how much money it will put into our military over the next five years. When we look at page 222 of the budget plan, the reality is that it does not start to kick in until 2008 and 2009. For the last couple of years of the government's five year plan, $10 billion of the $12.8 billion will be spent in the last two years. The next three years will be about $2 billion in all its programs.

It is a shell game. We all understand that. We can all see through it. Every Canadian can get a copy of the budget plan 2005. They can read it for themselves. They know that it is a shell game. It is a fantasy of the government and Canadians will not fall for it.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, Health; the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni, Justice; the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean, Government Programs.

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4:40 p.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt Ontario


Jim Karygiannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the impact of the 2005 budget on Canada's transportation needs.

At the outset, I want to congratulate the Minister of Finance for bringing down a budget that delivers on the important commitments the government has made to Canadians on key social and economic priorities. This is a budget that responds to a very wide range of public policy issues. It is a budget that provides tax relief and a budget that invests in social policy. It is a budget that supports our military and a budget that will help build the competitiveness of Canada's economy.

The budget affects transportation issues in many different ways. In Canada transportation is a key of so many different agendas. We cannot think about international trade without looking at the role of transportation. We cannot think of urban infrastructure without thinking about transportation. We cannot think about climate change without considering the importance of transportation. We cannot think about security issues without highlighting transportation. The budget addresses many of these broad issues and in doing so, it has an impact on Canada's transportation policy.

Let me begin with transborder issues. Under the Canada-U.S. smart border declaration signed in 2001, Canada is committed to improving the border infrastructure. The federal and provincial governments, along with other partners, have announced more than $1 billion in improvements to our border to date. From the federal government, investments of $513 million have been announced through the border infrastructure fund and strategic highway infrastructure program in the past four years. The focus has been on the busiest commercial border crossings where 78% of our tracked traffic crosses the borders. Let me give an example.

The Government of Canada is contributing $90 million toward a package of road investments in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. These projects are expected to improve the flow of traffic to and from the region's border crossing to the United States.

The border infrastructure fund was initiated in 2001 with $600 million. It is one of several important infrastructure programs. In 2000 we launched the $600 million strategic highway infrastructure program that would invest heavily in our national highway system and intelligent transportation systems. In 2001 and again in 2004 the government launched the $4 billion Canada strategic infrastructure fund for large scale projects including highway improvements and urban transit expansions. In 2003 we launched the municipal infrastructure fund which has a strong emphasis on green infrastructure.

This budget confirms that these infrastructure programs will be renewed as required. This is good news for the municipal and provincial governments that have been partnering with us to improve their infrastructure.

In Quebec, for example, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund is contributing toward the completion of Highway 30 which will help reduce congestion on the Island of Montreal. In Toronto some $103 million of the Canada strategic infrastructure fund will help the Toronto Transit Commission modernize and expand bus, street car and subway services. In Saskatchewan the Canada strategic infrastructure fund and the strategic highway infrastructure program are contributing toward the twinning of the major east-west highways. In the Northwest Territories the Canada strategic infrastructure fund is investing $65 million to build the infrastructure that will support oil and gas development and diamond mining.

These are the kinds of projects that build a competitive economy in Canada. These are the kinds of investments that the budget highlights.

The budget will have a major impact on Canada's transportation networks as a result of new moneys available to municipalities. The gas tax sharing, the rebate of the GST and the green municipal funds will provide Canadian communities with more than $9 billion over the next five years. These are revenues that cities can use to upgrade their transportation infrastructures.

Clearly, this budget is a green budget. It includes significant new funds for the environment, particularly climate change. The government committed to improve energy efficiency and our efforts to do so in the area of motor vehicles is extremely important. Transport Canada's advanced technology vehicles program and the motor vehicle fuel consumption program, which is a cornerstone of our voluntary agreements with the auto industry, are an integral part of sustainable transportation. Both have been successful and have produced solid results at a reasonable cost to the public.

As a result of the work done with the advanced technology vehicles program, vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz smart car have made their North American debuts in Canada.

There are still many opportunities to continue to improve both programs and to enhance the environmental sustainability of light duty vehicles sold in Canada. I look forward to the continued growth of these programs as we address our Kyoto commitments.

Perhaps the most significant impact this budget will have on transportation will be the contribution to Canada's security. In the war against terrorism, Canada's infrastructure cannot be vulnerable. That is why, following the September 11 attacks, Canada has upgraded its security measures. This budget has dedicated $1 billion to support key national security initiatives, including a total of $326 million over five years to further enhance transportation security.

In the past, many of the high profile security measures involved airport security. The budget provides $16 million over five years for assessment and development of systems to collect information about air travellers for national security purposes. This includes $14 million allocated to Transport Canada as part of the department's commitment to the Public Safety Act, 2002.

As the House is aware, the Department of Finance initiated an air travellers security charge to cover the cost of increased security measures. I was pleased to see that air passenger traffic has grown faster than expected in the wake of the terrorist attacks. As a result, more revenues have been raised by the security charge than anticipated. I applaud the Minister of Finance's decision to lower the charge accordingly. We hope that the reduction in the security charge will stimulate further demand for air services.

One of the most important areas where Canada requires a secure transportation infrastructure is in the marine transportation mode. In fact, since 2001 the government has dedicated $629.5 million for projects to help improve Canada's marine security. These projects include measures to protect marine infrastructure, increased surveillance of maritime traffic, and measures to improve our ability to respond to emergencies.

This budget provides an additional $222 million to further enhance the security of Canada's marine transportation system. The details of the initiatives will be announced shortly, but the budget documents make several of the priorities clear. Funds will go toward such measures as new mid-shore patrol vessels for the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, as well as new emergency response teams for these waterways. There will be funds as well for additional regulatory inspections of ships and port facilities.

This budget also provides $88 million over five years for Canada to work with our American partners on their container security initiative program. This U.S. initiative enables their customs officials to work with officials in other countries, share information and verify inspections. We will improve the partnership by making our intelligence surveillance systems more compatible. We will be able to share information on high risk cargo destined for North America. We will make our marine transportation safer and more secure.

I have outlined some of the ways in which this budget will have a positive impact on Canada's transportation system. Transportation issues lie close to the heart of Canada's economic competitiveness, our social well-being, and our safety and security. I urge this House to join me in supporting this budget.

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4:50 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to address my question to the Minister of National Defence, but he left before I was able to ask it.

The hon. member, in his opening comments, mentioned that he and his government supports the military. Last week I saw a parent and a step-parent. One of these people has a young man who is serving overseas and the other has a young man who is about to serve overseas, and who will be going over within three months. Both parents asked what was in the budget for their children. One parent said that the government is sending his child overseas to serve and protect this country with equipment that is older than his son. The son is 33 years old. The father said that in the event that his son does not come home, his blood will be on the government's hands.

I would like the minister, who said that the government supports the military, to explain it to the father whom I am sure will be watching.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

May I remind the hon. member that there is an order that keeps us from saying who is or is not in the House.

Second, we are now in a question and comment period following the speech from the hon. parliamentary secretary, so your questions and comments are addressed to the parliamentary secretary.

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4:55 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take the question with interest. As an individual who has travelled very widely and has visited our forces, going back 16 or 17 years ago when I was first elected, in Cyprus, Afghanistan and other parts of the troubled world, I would like to assure the hon. member that our forces have the best equipment. They are well respected. The will of the government is to work with all of the stakeholders, especially our partners. We are there to provide not only security, but the much needed respect that the Canadian Forces bring is paramount.

Let me share something with my hon. colleague across the way. A few years ago, when we decided to send our forces to Afghanistan, the Conservative Party members were jumping up and down, raising the roof and hollering at the top of their lungs that the Canadian Forces did not have the best equipment because they did not have brown fatigues. The following year I was in Afghanistan when it was Canada's turn to take control. Not only were the Canadians still wearing the green fatigues, but all the other forces were in green fatigues because they wanted to be mistaken for Canadians. This is the respect that our Canadians have abroad.

By standing in his place and saying that the government does not provide for our men and women in the armed forces, the hon. member is misleading the House.

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4:55 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, five years ago government program spending was $120 billion. Since the government likes to take the long term perspective, it projected that program spending would be $230 billion in five years. That would be an increase from $120 billion to $230 billion in the space of 10 years. That is a virtual doubling of government spending. It is entirely out of control.

I know that the member for Scarborough—Agincourt has many hardworking families in his community who are not happy to see their taxes funding that kind of out of control spending. In fact, we made a strong call for tax cuts. I stood in my place and called for tax cuts in the prebudget debate. The Liberals say they are acting on it, but like so many things in the budget, the action is not really there. In this budget year there is not one penny of tax cuts for hardworking families. The Liberals have made much of the tax cuts that are coming in the future and they are right. It will be $16 next year.

I would like to know if the member for Scarborough—Agincourt could tell us what he is telling families to do. How much time do they have to plan? What should they do in that year? How will they spend that $16 tax cut? Will it really provide them with support?

I remind the House again of my constituents who write to me saying that they make good money, if you want to call it--

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member has to realize that we are running out of time. The parliamentary secretary, very briefly please.

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4:55 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will just reiterate what I said in my speech. The air traveller security charge has been lowered. There are many more people travelling. We realized that we needed to lower the charge and we have done so. To my hon. colleague across the way who unfortunately is not paying much attention, I would point out that we did lower taxes.

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5 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate briefly in this debate and lend my contribution and support to this budget of the Canadian government. And I can tell you I am not the only one.

I have a press release issued on the day of the budget from David Stewart-Patterson of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. He said:

I am encouraged that the government has recognized the importance of a competitive tax regime, and in particular of keeping Canadian corporate income tax rates significantly below those in the United States--

This was the corporate executive telling us how advantageous our tax regime is for job creation in Canada.

I have a press release from the Canadian Trucking Alliance congratulating the government. I am glad I am following the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport who will know of this as well. It says:

CTA applauds budget funding to increase efficiency at key border points.

It is very important. I know the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, who represents the riding beside mine and is right on the border, would be pleased in this element of the budget as well.

We have on one side big business and truckers saying they like this budget. Now we have an ecological group, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and here is the title of its press release:

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters applauds invasive species, sea lamprey and Great Lakes funding in federal budget

So now groups defending the environment like the budget. Everybody likes the budget.

Fasken Martineau Canada Report is entitled “Liberal government minority budget--a balanced balancing act”. In other words, the Minister of Finance has exactly hit the mark with this budget. These are not my words, they are the words of Fasken Martineau Canada Report, one of the most prestigious law firms in Canada, as the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry obviously recognizes.

I have just come from a wonderful event right here on Parliament Hill where the Canadian Diabetic Association was host to MPs from all parties. It was not asking us for anything. It was thanking us for what was in the budget. I see many faces here who were in that room and some of them are still there having a cocktail with these people who are here representing people who are suffering from diabetes and who thank not only the government but indeed all members of Parliament for their successful lobby in obtaining funding that recognizes this disease. This is from a medical group.

Therefore, we have medical groups, prestigious law firms, ecological groups, the trucking industry and the business council all recognizing the delicate balancing act that the government has engaged in with this very successful budget.

We also have every reason to be pleased at the community level. For example, I am glad of the infrastructure program and its municipal rural infrastructure fund, which is very important for the riding I have the honour and privilege to represent.

Another very important measure is a $10 million investment in the eastern Ontario development fund. This is a very popular program with the 16 CFDCs in the ridings of eastern Ontario. I know the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry did not agree with this program when it was set up last year in response to a request made by mayors. Today, he signs letters of support for groups who request them. I know how much he has changed, especially since he has been supporting this initiative, and I appreciate that.

The budget provides a $17 million increase for the loan loss reserve program for ruminant slaughter plants. Certainly, we should do more to help the farm community. It is important to increase this slaughter capacity, because there is no other solution for the cull cows problem. Maybe it was just too easy in the past, because there was an almost endless market with a very elastic demand for each cull cow that we had to eliminate. Obviously, this market was in the United States. Our slaughter capacity has all but disappeared, at least in my region, because of the more stringent standards of recent years. It seemed the American demand would last forever. Unfortunately, the border was closed to our cattle a little over two years ago.

When the border first closed, it was possible perhaps to understand the initial step taken by the Americans to ensure food safety and all the rest. However, after the World Health Organization said that Canadian beef was as safe as American beef, the approach adopted by the United States is no longer unreasonable. Last week's decision by the district court judge in Montana to grant an injunction to a group of dissident American cattle producers and to ensure that the border does not reopen today to young cattle exports for slaughter, is totally unacceptable.

In terms of agriculture, there was also—it must be said—an increase in the price of milk. I was a member of my caucus' dairy committee just before Christmas. Canadian milk producers came to see us and asked for our support because they wanted to ask for the increase. They wanted to go forward with it. They had our support. It was unconditional. We knew that consumers would complain a bit and they did. However, after the initial reaction, we knew that consumers would be prepared to accept that we all had to support Canadian milk producers. And they did.

In regard to the CAIS program, I very much welcome the initiative of the minister in doing away with the premiums. This is subject of course to negotiations with the provinces because this program is 60% federal and 40% provincial. That program was subject to an agreement signed on behalf of all parties by the then minister of agriculture, Lyle Vanclief. The program is still too slow. I will be the first to say that we need to increase the rapidity of the delivery of the service to Canadians. We need to remove the premiums which were offensive to a number of people. Both of these things will go some distance in helping the agricultural industry.

Crops is one area where supplementary help will be needed sometime this year. As it stands now, it looks as though we are going to have terrible crop prices this year and that will be very difficult for my constituents to manage.

In closing, I want to thank the Minister of Finance for the $2.7 billion increase over five years for the New Horizons program for seniors. This program is very popular in my riding and now it will be even better.

There is also the ten-year plan to strengthen health care, for some $805 million. Once again, this is one sector where we can never do too much.

In conclusion, I want to thank the government for its seventh consecutive balanced budget. The best thing we can do for Canadian consumers is assure them that the government is not going into debt and that, consequently, it will not compete with them on monetary markets. This helps to keep interest rates low. This is probably the best thing we can do for consumers: ensure that they are able to get a mortgage or a car loan at lower interest rates. Thanks to good management, we can provide real assistance, and I congratulate the minister and his predecessors.

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March 7th, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to take exception to some of the comments made by the hon. member in his speech on the budget. He said, “everybody likes the budget”, but he failed to mention that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is very disappointed with the budget. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Grain Growers of Canada were very mute in the prospect of what is left in agriculture with this budget.

The member even mentioned that he is concerned about what is in the budget for the crop sector. The crop sector has gone through some devastating years. There has been drought after drought in Canada. There are now terrible prices in commodities for all grains and oilseeds. Farmers do not have the money in their pockets today to put the crop in the ground.

The member mentioned that the minister was making headway in removing the premiums in the CAIS program. Unfortunately, the federal and provincial ministers at their meeting which was held just this past week in Ottawa decided to leave the premiums in place. I was hoping the minister would follow through on the promise made, but it is a promise not kept in eliminating the CAIS premiums. All they are doing is delaying the time to put premiums in and that is unacceptable in the farming industry today.

I am a farmer and a cattle producer. The reality is that the border is still shut. We do not know when it will open. Although President Bush and Secretary Johanns are onside with us and want the border opened, the U.S. Senate is not. We have very little input on how the rule making process will be handled in the U.S. Senate and Congress in making it a reality that the border will open some day. In the interim, we have to continue making an investment in the agriculture industry.

The loan loss reserve program has not been used yet. It cannot be used because there is no agreement in place between the lending institutions and the government. The Canadian Bankers Association said just two weeks ago at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food that the agreements are not in place. If the program does not exist, how can we use it to benefit anybody in the industry? We have to expand plants, build new plants, and deal with the mature animals and it has to happen today. It should have happened months ago. We are 22 months into this problem, and we still do not have adequate capacity to deal with the problems.

I would like to know how the government is going to carry through on the promises that are laid out in the plan. Like the member said, the Canadian Diabetes Association is applauding the government this year. Last year it was pointing the finger and saying that the government had promised back in 1999 that it was going to give it support and it never did. Now the association is saying it is in the budget.

How is the government going to ensure that it carries through on its plans not just for the Canadian Diabetes Association but for agriculture as well?

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5:10 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, on the issue of the premiums, of course I am not a party to how the minister will resolve the issue if the provinces will not back down from their position of not agreeing to reduce them. I have my own suggestion. I suppose the minister could probably reimburse the federal portion thereof, but of course that would not reimburse the provincial portion.

Is it too quick to do something like that? I think so. We still need some time in order for everyone, including the farmers, to convince the provinces to back down and to do what the federal government is doing, which is to remove the premiums overall. I think that would work far better. Anyway, it would put more money in the pockets of farmers.

In the end, if the provinces will not do it, perhaps one good way of pressuring them would be to remove the federal portion only. It would put some pressure on the provinces if they have to be embarrassed into doing it, but hopefully not.

On the vote in the U.S. Senate, that is regrettable. The United States federal legislature, the Congress, is composed of two portions. The U.S. Senate has a very rural part to it and is much more protectionist than the House of Representatives. Most independent observers claim that a similar vote in the House of Representatives would get nowhere because the consumer groups would be able to put a lot more pressure in that regard.

All that being said, there is only one good long term solution, which is to reopen the border. Nothing else will be as good as reopening the Canada-U.S. border.

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5:15 p.m.


Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou.

We have before us a government that has presented a budget that is totally unacceptable, to Quebec in particular, since some of its orientations run counter to the consensus that exists in Quebec. There is consensus on a number of issues, and I will try to provide an accurate picture of the situation.

One of these is the consensus in Quebec on equalization payments and fiscal imbalance. In this budget there is no measure to correct fiscal imbalance in any way whatsoever. More serious still, we are dealing with a Minister of Finance who, as recently as last week, was still giving us evidence of his arrogance in a speech to the Quebec City chamber of commerce.

The Minister of Finance said that fiscal imbalance did not exist, because the federal government invests heavily in areas of Quebec jurisdiction. That is precisely where the problem lies. Rather than looking after its own areas of jurisdiction, it is constantly invading those of the provinces and of Quebec, thereby creating fiscal imbalance.

We had evidence of this—and I am going back more or less to 1995 here—when the federal government pulled out of cost-shared programs. So who got left holding the bill? The public. The Government of Quebec provides a number of programs and services to its citizens, and that is totally normal. As soon as one level of government opts out, Quebec has to try to take up the slack. That is more or less what fiscal imbalance is all about.

The Minister of Finance showed a great deal of arrogance in claiming that there was no such thing, and that he preferred to invade provincial areas of jurisdiction. It is outrageous. We have another example of the government's arrogance when its transport minister dares to say that a reasonable unemployed person will find this budget acceptable.

Last week, the Minister of Transport was in Jonquière. He did not meet with any jobless people, understandably. If he was looking for reasonable ones, I am sure he would not have found any. The way this government is managing employment insurance is a total disaster.

This is unfortunate, because we had indications to the effect that this government was getting ready to propose a number of reforms that might have been interesting. We will recall that last December a unanimous report containing eight recommendations was agreed to unanimously by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities. Unanimous means of course that the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of these eight recommendations, as did the Conservative Party, the NDP and the Liberal members on this committee.

Three weeks ago, the same committee put forward once again about 20 proposals to improve the employment insurance system in Quebec and in Canada. They were not agreed to unanimously; this time, our Conservative colleagues preferred to vote against them. However, once again, members of the government party voted in favour of these proposals.

Along comes the budget and so much for the committee vote.

Concerning a comprehensive reform of the employment insurance system, the Minister of Transport, second in command in Quebec, clearly told us that the reform is over. What does this mean? It means that we have to forget about an independent fund. The most outrageous thing in all this is that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has recognized this, quite unwillingly, I am sure. She said that an independent actuary will now determine the level of premiums to ensure that it does not exceed a certain amount of what is needed for the system to work.

What she is recognizing essentially is that the level of premiums was much too high. Instead of serving adequately people in need, people who lost their job, who have to wait a minimum of two weeks before receiving an employment insurance cheque, who must live through the black hole, who work in seasonal industries and who suddenly find themselves without any income, they do something else.

They made the decision to divert $46 billion from the EI fund for other uses that are of no benefit to contributors. It is outrageous.

The budget provides $300 billion to help seasonal workers. First, this kind of money is not adequate. Second, this help will apply just in areas where the unemployment rate is over 10%. The minister is proud to tell us that those eligible will get benefits for five more weeks. I would like to clarify this. Unless I am mistaken, it is “up to five more weeks”. It is quite different.

Something particularly outrageous—and it is one of the major problems with this EI plan—is that only 45% of all contributors are eligible for EI benefits, which means that 55% are not.

Just imagine what it would be like if this was an insurance company, and if 55% of the claims of the insured customers were denied. It would be outrageous. But the minister is satisfied with this and she does not do anything to correct the situation. How arrogant. It is just another example of this government's arrogance.

If there is one thing on which all Quebeckers can agree, it is the need for a new Program for Older Worker Adjustment, a new POWA. There is nothing about it in this budget. Instead, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance confirmed in a CPAC broadcast, “No, the old folks are so happy they ought to be dancing in the streets”. In terms of the Guaranteed Income Supplement, it will mean an extra $36, five years from now. There is no reason for older workers to be dancing in the streets. I am ashamed to hear a fellow member of Parliament saying such things.

There is nothing for the self-employed. There is nothing for immigrant workers who are not eligible for benefits. This government's management of employment insurance—and the budget—is simply scandalous.

With regard to agriculture, there is not much. The cull cattle problem which affects Quebec has been overlooked. They talk about $17 million spread across Canada. It is not fresh money; it is money taken from other budgets and rearranged. There is nothing for Quebec's farmers.

There is nothing about Kyoto. It is the same thing. Money is allocated for Kyoto, but there is no mandatory plan for industry. Instead, subsidies to oil companies and the auto industry continue, while there could have been very simple measures in the budget, such as income tax credits for public transit passes. But that is not in the budget.

An effort could have been made toward wind power. Moreover, there is no tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. And yet, these are relatively simple measures to apply, at least they seem so to me. This aspect has been completely overlooked in the budget.

I think it is not only sad but scandalous. It is not as if this government did not have the means. In fact, all the serious analyses tell us that over the next three years, the government's surpluses will not be $15 million, but $34.6 billion. It has often been said in this House that the Conference Board of Canada—and God knows it is not a den of separatists—estimates the federal government's accumulated surpluses over the next 10 years will amount to $166 billion.

During that time, it is not solving the problems of employment insurance, the fiscal imbalance, equalization, agriculture, nor older people. It is a complete failure; it is lamentable and scandalous.

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5:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to make a comment about surpluses and ask the member a specific question relating to EI. I know he is very knowledgeable on that side and maybe he will be able to answer.

Often in debate it has been said that, to the extent that surpluses exist, it reflects the overtaxation of Canadians. I would simply like to point out to members that to the extent that there is a surplus, which is determined about six months after a year is completed, which is how long it takes before the financial statements of the Government of Canada are finalized, that under the Financial Administration Act the amount of the surplus goes toward paying down the debt.

Therefore, to the extent that a surplus exists, it is still applied to the reduction of debt which, since 1997, actually has resulted in annual savings to Canadians of about $3 billion of interest expense.

It is important that we continue to keep our eye on the debt. We used to pay about 42¢ on the dollar for debt servicing. It is now down to something like 22¢, which is important to keep in mind. The debt does have to be serviced and Canadians want us to not only not go into deficit but to in fact create surpluses to pay down a little of the debt as we go along.

I know the member has raised this issue before, which is the issue of the percentage of people who pay EI premiums who are not entitled to benefits. The member is aware that the program is built on the basis that people must put in a certain number of hours to qualify for any benefits. Obviously someone who only works for one day cannot automatically collect full benefits. What percentage would the member expect not to qualify for benefits with a reasonable waiting period before one would qualify?

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5:25 p.m.


Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, I sincerely think that the government should take steps to allow as many people as possible to receive employment insurance benefits when they lose their jobs.

Previously, a new entrant to the labour force could have to wait for up to two years before he or she could apply, because a minimum of 910 hours of work were required. Granted, the government has taken a baby step by reducing the requirement to 840 hours. But that is clearly not enough. Why not have a uniform requirement? Why not set it at 600 hours or 400 hours?

The whole idea is for workers to contribute to the employment insurance program so that, when they need it, they can continue to have an income. They are not asking for handouts; it is just a matter of allowing recipients to continue paying their mortgages, feeding their children and having a decent living. As many people as reasonably possible should have access to benefits. Ideal conditions have to be put in place for that to happen.

My hon. colleague opposite talked about paying down the debt. We are not against paying down the debt. But we do object to this House not being able to debate the matter. The Minister of Finance said he wanted to have a contingency reserve, a reserve for economic prudence, a reserve to allay anxiety and that, if he did not need this money, he will put it toward debt repayment. Should he decide to put $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion or $5 billion toward paying down the debt, the Minister of Finance should have the courage to make it an item in his budget. Such is democracy. This way, we could have a debate about it in this House.

Instead, what does the government do? It creates budget items to be used for other things. It puts money into foundations. This year, some $7.7 billion invested in foundations has yet to be spent. That is $7.7 billion that escapes the scrutiny of parliamentarians. Even the Auditor General cannot check how this money is used.

The government must take steps to promote the distribution of wealth and to help those who need help. That is what is important.

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5:30 p.m.


Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to address this important issue, namely the budget.

A government's budget is an extremely important political speech. Beyond the rhetoric, the election promises and the meaningless statements, a government's budget spells out what a government will do or will not do. It clearly shows the government's degree of compassion and, for example, how it understands the situation of the provinces or of the poor. This is shown by the budget, depending on whether or not moneys are allocated.

I want to talk more specifically about social housing. I think that this issue clearly shows the cynicism of this government and how it reneged on its commitments and promises.

Today, some government members used a beautiful slogan to depict the situation. They said, “Promise made, promise kept”. In the area of social housing and as regards the unemployed, including older workers and the issue of assistance to refugees, where the government could have funded an appeal court and allow refugees to integrate, the promises were not kept. We have older workers, tenants and unemployed people who were all misled by this government, which had promised them a lot but delivered very little and, in some cases, did not deliver at all.

In the case of social housing, there is nothing, nada, rien. Not a cent, not one red penny, for social housing. Promises were made. In the last election, $1 billion to $1.5 billion over five years was promised for affordable housing, for help for the homeless, for housing renovations. That commitment was repeated in the throne speech.

Even without any figures being included, the throne speech did repeat the government's intentions. So that makes two mentions before the budget, which is where it really counted. Despite the enormous pressure from the public and despite the needy households of Canada and Quebec, nothing was forthcoming.

Instead, what we find is up to $12.8 billion—close to $13 billion—in increased military spending. Yet there is nothing whatsoever for the 1.7 million Canadian households spending more than 30% of their income on housing. More than 600,000 of that number pay more than 50% of their income. And then there are the 150,000 homeless in this country. What is there for them? Nothing, nada, rien. This is immoral and scandalous.

The content of these budgets, rather than the PM's campaign promises—and rather than his rather vague smile, which leaves one wondering whether or not he has any clue about the realities of Quebeckers or Canadians—and the actions of his government, are what lead us to clearly understand that he is not clued in to other people's realities, that he has never been out of a job. I must admit that we had wished for that to happen on the political level.

It is obvious that all of them, including the minister responsible for this portfolio, have never had to suffer. They have never been in a tight spot, with debts to pay, wondering how they would pay for medicine or food. When those people, who are swimming in a surplus of numerous billions of dollars, have a budget to prepare, they do not even feel obliged to meet their own commitments, to provide even the barest minimum, which is still far from meeting needs.

At times like these, people are justified in being cynical, not about politics but about a government that is incapable of even being consistent with its own statements, with the values it claims to espouse. Obviously those values are only an act, since they can be forgotten when it comes to budget time and those most in need are forgotten. This is why we feel it is scandalous.

I am not the only one saying this. There is nothing in this budget for the homeless and the prevention of homelessness. If a society can be judged for anything, it is how it treats the children and most vulnerable citizens. Judging by this, the government is not worth much.

Pierre Maheux, of the Réseau Solidarité Itinérance du Québec, said he was “scandalized by the lack of funding for homelessness initiatives and social housing in the federal budget.... With, by Ottawa's own admission, 150,000 homeless people in Canada, it is unacceptable that the federal government is not funding homelessness initiatives”.

He also repeats that this contradicts the commitments made. These groups believed those promises.

Today, I got a call from Micheline Deschênes, of Hébergement urgence Lanaudière.

I think that my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville knows her; she has one such resources in one of the main municipalities in her riding. This woman was at her wits' end: on April 1 in Joliette, if nothing is done, she will have to cut the number of available beds from 14 to 6 for people in dire need, in addition to having to lay off four staff members. This is something concrete in the ridings.

She had hoped that a budget announcement would ensure, by next year, the continuation of the SCPI 3 program. That way the service could have once again been maintained. It must be said that these people work miracles each year to make ends meet. But no, she is left with nothing. There is no hope for the people of Lanaudière.

We could say that again. I have here the comments of people throughout Quebec. I have just returned from a tour on housing with many of my colleagues. We heard these sad stories everywhere: buses for the homeless unable to operate, due to a lack of gas and resources; shelters being built, but which no longer receive funding for the resources to accept and provide support to people.

Is fighting poverty not the greatest challenge that a society can meet? This government is good at giving candies to some and at spending ineffectively, as it does regarding climate change.

Unfortunately, this government is also great at smothering the provinces, the unemployed and the poor. This is most unfortunate. I hope it will be judged very severely for making these choices which, in my opinion, are truly immoral.

I have here a note from a spokesperson for the Sherbrooke tenants association, Normand Couture, who says:

It is shameful. There is nothing for social housing. In the previous budget speech, the minister had not even mentioned the word “housing”. This time, he said it once, but it had nothing to do with social housing.

Indeed, the minister talked a bit about housing in this budget, saying that everything was fine, that there were no longer any problems and that many housing units were being built in Canada. The minister even denies that there is a poverty issue and a lack of housing units.

This government is rolling in surpluses. I listened to the Liberal member, who said it was wonderful that the government was generating surpluses and reducing the debt. However, this is done without any debate. Moreover, he said things that were totally inaccurate. This government would not have to automatically use these surpluses to reduce the debt if it had decided by March 1


—and this is from the Auditor General—how it will use this money. In fact, it does so to some extent in this budget.

But there is no debate. The government uses the surpluses to reduce the debt and it smothers the provinces. This type of surplus, which is always hidden, was accumulated at the expense of the unemployed. If I am not mistaken, the government took $46 billion or $47 billion from the employment insurance fund, at the expense of those who need housing units. This is outrageous.

Meanwhile, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a $3 billion surplus in its coffers. That is, $3 billion in profit. Nowhere in its mandate does it say that this corporation will make a profit, instead of fulfilling its mission to house Canadians and Quebeckers at a better price and make housing accessible. Nowhere does it say that this corporation will make a profit at the expense of the most needy. That is not the plan, but that is what happens in reality, and it is immoral.

If nothing is done, this corporation, on its own, will have accumulated a surplus that many governments, people, corporations and provinces throughout the world can only dream of having. This crown corporation, whose mandate is to provide housing to the people at a better price, will have generated a $6.1 billion profit by 2008, if we let it get away with the fund. This government could have funded its promises from these general surpluses. But no, it prefers to put money into military spending, to please the Americans, to make them swallow its decision not to join in the missile defence shield project.

I can readily imagine a private chat between the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour and Housing, in which the former tells the latter not to worry, that he is taking the money from him to invest in the military sector, that he might get it back later and that they need only tell the people that there is still a little money in the other budget. In that way, the public will once again be deceived and led astray. But the people are beginning to understand this government. It is not possible to keep fooling all of the people all of the time, year after year.

They are going to learn a costly lesson. The storm has already begun and is not over yet.

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5:40 p.m.


David Smith Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of my colleague opposite. This is a fine speech full of hot air by a good old Quebec whiner, but unfortunately, it is without merit.

In Quebec, housing is the Quebec government's responsibility. The Société d'habitation du Québec works in cooperation with the federal government. They are partners. It is so nice to work in cooperation and to respect the jurisdictions of the provinces.

We, on this side, work in cooperation with our colleagues in Quebec City to ensure that we can cooperate and develop the needs of our beautiful province, which is Quebec, in my case.

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5:40 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Go back to school and study your history.