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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had 12 minutes remaining to complete his remarks. He may now resume his speech, to be followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we left off, before statements by members and oral question period, I had started to list the reasons we oppose the budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.

The first reason is the bogus consultation by the Minister of Finance of the opposition parties' critics. He claimed he was open to including the various priorities of the opposition parties in the budget. During our over 60-minute meeting with him, he seemed quite sensitive to each of our proposals. However, here we are, several weeks later, with a budget that makes absolutely no mention of the priorities we had identified to him. Among those priorities is the whole issue of resolving the fiscal imbalance.

I had the opportunity, in my seven-minute presentation, to explain the negative impact of this imbalance and what we expected to see in the budget to at least begin to fix the fiscal imbalance.

I want to repeat that the government has ample means to resolve this issue. Even given the health accord of last September, the equalization agreement and even the special agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and with Nova Scotia, we know that, over the next six years and under the current federal tax system, the government will have over $100 billion in surplus funds. And that is a conservative estimate.

While the federal government pockets the excess taxes paid by Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, the governments of the provinces and Quebec are having a hard time and are barely achieving their objectives and fulfilling their responsibilities, such as providing front-line services to people.

There was the health agreement. It is obvious that the governments of the provinces and Quebec cheered the amounts that were freed up last year. They have been bled dry, in any case, since 1997 by the former finance minister, who is now the Prime Minister, and they lack funds. So any additional $100 million to meet the needs of an aging population is very welcome. But it is clearly not enough.

I will use the example of Quebec because it is the one I know best. The agreement last September which provided more than $500 million for health will only produce enough funding to run the Quebec health system for nine days. This amount seems enormous, but the needs are very great as well. As I was saying, when the Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut the Canada social transfer, the transfers for health, education and assistance for the most disadvantaged families. So we find ourselves in a situation in which there is a lack of funds for the governments of the provinces and Quebec.

First, there is not even a hint of recognition of the fiscal imbalance, and second, there is no sign of any attempt to resolve it.

We also thought that the federal government would be better disposed toward the equalization issue. As we know, the bogus agreement reached last October between the provinces and the federal government only takes the amounts that the federal government paid in 2001-02 for equalization, caps them at $10 billion, which was the amount of the transfer for the recipient provinces at the time, and indexes this amount at 3.5% a year.

Such an agreement makes a travesty of the basic, prime objective of equalization. As for the two other agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, we will return to them in a moment.

Equalization is there to even out the fiscal capacity of all the provinces so that they can provide a variety of services of equal or nearly equal quality from east to west across Canada.

In order to achieve this, the true fiscal capacity, in other words, the capacity of the governments or a province to collect taxes from their taxpayers, needs to be determined. This is no longer done. The federal government simply takes the amount paid in 2001-02 and adjusts it for inflation without taking into account any change in the provinces' wealth.

In a given year, a province might receive an equalization payment because of a major setback. For example, if the price of oil dropped considerably, some provinces would perhaps experience some difficulties and might be entitled to equalization. Others could see an increase in cash flow another year, in which case they would not be entitled to equalization.

Taking the $10 billion amount from three years ago and simply indexing it without taking into account the change in the situation, is nonsense. This is a travesty of the equalization formula devised in 1947 by the Rowell-Sirois Commission.

The agreement reached with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia is an example of this, but worse. We have nothing against Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. On the contrary, we have friends throughout Canada, in the Maritimes and in the west, in particular. I realized this during the work of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance. We have friends from east to west in Canada, from coast to coast.

However, to properly measure a province's fiscal potential, none of its sources of revenue can be eliminated. Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil revenues, for example, cannot be excluded from the calculation of these provinces' ability to earn revenues from natural resources, property taxes, personal taxes, goods and services taxes.There cannot be a different treatment in another province that cannot have a special agreement like that. Nothing gets measured if a source of revenue is excluded. But this is what is happening with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, which benefited from a $2.8 billion agreement over 10 years, with the first $2 billion paid already from the surplus of the last fiscal year.

Let us consider the amount allocated to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia per capita under the agreement with Ottawa. If the agreement were applied to the residents of Quebec, the province would get a lump sum payment of $38 billion tomorrow morning. That is a lot of money. Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Sorbara of the Ontario government, whom I had the honour to meet three weeks ago in subcommittee proceedings, were disconcerted by this agreement. It means that the per capita fiscal potential of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia exceeds not only that of Quebec, but also that of Ontario. This is how they skewed the system.

Equalization is the only program in the Constitution, the aim of which, as I was saying, is to try to standardize provincial tax capacities so that Canadians are served well across the country. However, this objective has been totally ignored. Equalization would no longer exist but would simply be called a $10 billion subsidy indexed to inflation and it would change absolutely nothing.

There is one other problem, employment insurance. When I met with the minister, he was all ears and all heart when he spoke of the 60% of unemployed people who are excluded from the EI program. He said this was unfortunate, and was full of compassion at our meeting. Yet there is nothing in the budget to ensure better access and better coverage. There are just a bunch of very limited pilot projects for areas of high unemployment.

What kind of government do we have? Not only is its morality open to question now, it has already been questioned because of past actions. It has slashed EI, treated the unemployed as fraud artists, and excluded people who had paid 100% of the contributions to the EI fund when they were working. Yet now 60% of them, or 6 out of 10 workers, cannot benefit from EI. Is that moral? Is this not immorality?

Since this government has been in power, that is since 1993, it has done a number of immoral things. When I use that word, I am not referring to the sponsorship scandal, which is just one more thing to add to the dubious immorality of the present Liberal government. There is nothing for the unemployed.

I have met with agricultural producers and I am sure my western and Quebec colleagues do as well, every day in their respective ridings. These people are the victims of a disaster caused by one sick cow in Alberta and a ban imposed by the Americans. As a result, there is a total disaster as far as our farmers are concerned.

In addition, farmers in Quebec and across the rest of Canada have had negative net incomes for three straight years. Do members know what that means? It means that these producers work 365 days a year or close to it—they do not take vacations because the animals cannot wait—and have nothing to show for it. They do not have one red cent to put in their pockets, even if they have dozens of animals and tonnes of grain to sell. They have been going through this for three straight years.

How does the federal government respond to the mad cow crisis, for example, or the grain crisis caused by an increase in American subsidies for wheat in particular? It responds by providing $1 billion, which it was very pleased to announce last week. Farmers have been going through an unprecedented catastrophe for 25 or 30 years now. What does this figure mean for a beef producer? It amounts to $20 a head. For two years, these people have been losing $800, $900 or $1,000 a head, and now they are offered $20, while the government claims that it has done all it can, that it tried to persuade the Americans and develop a coherent policy. Well, these people are all starving.

So this is the federal government's response, despite its ability to collect a $100 billion surplus out of our pockets over the next six years. It could have done more to help farmers escape the catastrophe that they are currently going through.

In my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and in the rural ridings of most of my colleagues in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, farmers are expressing their dismay, even after the fabulous announcement last week.

Nothing is provided for social housing, even though people have been waiting for a long time. All that the government has done since 1991 is invest in maintaining the existing social housing, while nothing is provided for new construction. Many families currently spend more than 50% of their incomes on rent. It is said that when people spend more than 25%, they are living in poverty. When they spend twice that, they are living doubly in poverty. But there is no answer to this in the budget.

I will leave it to my colleagues who will follow, including the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, to speak about the environmental question.

In conclusion, those are the reasons why we oppose this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey LiberalMinister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in support of the 2005 budget implementation act. The theme of the bill before us today is “delivering on commitments” and that is exactly what this year's budget will achieve.

These commitments have been designed not only to face the challenges within our nation's borders but to meet global pressures and support the ever increasing ambition of our nation and our people.

As the only G-7 country to post total government surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation expected to continue to be in surplus again in 2005 and 2006, the government's sound fiscal management model offers the rock solid basis upon which these and future commitments can be delivered.

Canadians expect nothing less, and we have decided to respond to such high expectations with an ambitious program promoting a marked increase in our overall quality of life and based on five mutually reinforcing commitments: healthy fiscal management, promoting a productive and growing economy, reinforcing Canada's social foundations, enhancing the sustainability of the environment and our communities, and reinforcing Canada's role abroad.

The proposals contained in this bill take major steps to deliver on all these commitments. What my opposition colleagues miss however is that this budget is an inter-related road map for sustained improvements to Canadians' quality of life, not some à la carte menu with no relationship between one item and another.

The days when the fiscal, social and foreign challenges facing Canada could be addressed by our government in isolation are over. The approach underlining this budget reflects this new reality. Unfortunately, our friends across from us, as they have been on so many occasions, are clearly stuck in the past.

I want to give an example taken from my own sector of responsibility, as Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities.

During the election last summer, barely nine months ago, this government committed to implementing the new deal for Canada's cities and communities. Canadians elected us so we could fulfill that promise, among others.

In particular, mayors and municipal councillors across this country held forth the hope that the government would be capable of providing them with two equally important benefits that no other government had been capable of finding a way to provide to them before: first, long term, stable and predictable financing; second, development of new working relationships between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government with a view to developing better long term strategies for improving the economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability of the places Canadians live.

How do I know this? When the Prime Minister first created the infrastructure and communities portfolio, what were we hearing from our municipal friends across the country? We were hearing that there was an infrastructure gap rapidly reaching an unsustainable level, that our cities, the face of Canada to the world, did not have enough institutional fora to express their views to the federal government, that fresh thinking was needed on how best to ensure our rural communities could remain viable and strong, and that new partnerships were needed between all three levels of government to begin to think about how best to move forward together.

Of course, while no one order of government can be responsible for meeting these challenges alone, what has the government been able to deliver as a response in less than 18 months?

In budget 2004, a GST rebate went to every municipality in this country. It was worth a total of $7 billion over 10 years. This source of funding will grow with the economy and can be used by municipalities for any priority they wish, namely, stable, long term, predictable financing.

Budget 2005 was the fulfillment of our pledge made during the last election to provide 5¢ of gas tax revenues over five years with $600 million coming as part of this bill, rising to a running rate of $2 billion a year in year five and every year thereafter, targeted at environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure such as public transit, water and waste water treatment, and community energy systems.

We also committed to renewing existing infrastructure programs as necessary, programs which have combined to flow over $12 billion to municipalities over the past 12 years and have leveraged over $30 billion in total investment by all partners. Moreover, we more than doubled our contribution to the green municipal funds administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to a total of $300 million for projects designed to deliver cleaner air, water, soil and climate protection.

All this means that the government has crafted a strategy for helping municipalities gain stable, predictable and long term funding to the tune of $22 billion over 10 years.

However, it is not just about money. The funding must be accompanied by new partnerships and a long-term vision enabling the transformation of these financial resources into a concrete reality that Canadians want and need. It is a matter of respect.

That is why the Prime Minister met with mayors from some of Canada's largest cities at 24 Sussex last fall and gave them a literal seat at the national table. That is why the finance minister and I met with another group of mayors from across Canada in formal prebudget consultations. That is why I met with each of my provincial and territorial ministerial counterparts in November. That is why I have and will continue to meet with elected and other municipal stakeholders from communities across Canada large and small as their advocate at the cabinet table. All this of course being entirely respectful of provincial jurisdiction.

If some politically motivated marriage of convenience between opposition parties would choose to prevent the fulfillment of these commitments by seeking to modify or defeat this bill, let me remind them of some of the reactions shortly after the budget was delivered, which they would surely pay the price for rescinding.

The president of the FCM said, “We have been waiting for this. The new deal is now a real deal. It is a good deal for our communities and for Canadians and also a commitment to a long term partnership”. The mayor of Toronto said, “Groundbreaking: the federal government has delivered respect”. The mayor of London, Ontario said, “Fantastic for municipalities”.

The mayor of Saguenay considers it a real godsend.

However, perhaps the denial of stable, long-term funding, and certainly intellectual focus, should not be too surprising coming from our Conservative colleagues. After all, that is the party that ran in the last election on a platform that was almost the opposite of what municipal leaders and Canadians in every province and territory were crying out for.

Their commitments were as follows: shut down Infrastructure Canada, the focal point for thinking on municipal issues in government and the open door municipalities need for getting their voices heard in Ottawa; cancel all infrastructure programs but one, programs designed to meet the specific needs of both large and small municipalities; and flow less gas tax without any thought given to the longer term partnerships needed between all three levels of government for making it truly work.

Perhaps the Conservatives could be forgiven for not having really thought through at that time, what with the focus of the election going in other places. However, the fact that at the inaugural Conservative convention members of that party decided to vote against sharing any gas tax with municipalities is surely not a good sign. They voted against it in their policy convention.

In fact, who knows where they could come out next, whether it is a further commitment to reducing the fiscal tools and productive relationships our municipalities need or a flip-flop, but the reality is that a lot of mayors are counting on the gas tax and infrastructure programs that are crucial for enhancing the places Canadians live, and the government has been resolute in its commitment to get the job done.

Finally, by adopting Bill C-43, we will be saying yes, not only to a complete and integrated strategy by which to implement this new deal, but also to achieving our social, economic and international objectives.

I encourage all forward-thinking MPs in the House to support this bill and to support the mayors, councillors and places where Canadians live.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Canadians and particularly those in my riding of Durham, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act, Bill C-43. I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre-North.

It is imperative that all Canadians have a clear picture of the budget and how the government plans to implement its promises or not. A government's budget requires legislation to enable it to implement the promises made in the budget, promises made to the people of Canada on how their tax dollars will be collected, how they will be spent and, most important, when those promises will be acted upon.

To address the when, most of the budget promises will not be realized until later in this decade, if that. Only 7% of the total budget announced will be expended in the budget year 2005-06. Of the $42 billion announced, only $3 billion will go into programs and initiatives to serve Canadians this year. This is in spite of the fact that over $10 billion was collected in surpluses last year and some $6.1 billion is being forecasted as this year's surplus. These forecasts are almost double those forecasted by the government only six weeks ago in the budget.

What is the need to back end load so many budget promises with these kinds of surpluses? This type of deception or lack of clarity is the government's way of governing and it has Canadians losing their faith in government. The residents in my riding of Durham are tired of struggling to make ends meet when they see continuous waste and mismanagement of their hard earned dollars.

In part 1 of Bill C-43, income tax cut benefits are actually delayed for four years. The real benefit for this year is only $16 per average taxpayer. With the rising costs of hydro, gas, provincial and municipal taxes, government fees, for example passports, taxpayers ask, “Where is the benefit?” My constituents want a deeper cut this year, not in the year 2009.

Over the past 15 years the government's income has soared by 40%, while the real take home pay of Canadians has increased by only 3.6%. On top of that, we have seen a 77% increase in the cost of government bureaucracy since 1996-97.

In the last election, the Liberal Party criticized our party of committing to $58 billion in new spending and tax reductions over five years. This budget has made $55 billion of commitments in new programs with very little tax cuts.

Canadians are no longer satisfied with the government's idea of sound fiscal management. Sound fiscal management is more than sound bytes or quotes for the media. Canadians deserve better.

The government announced its budget in February. Today we are debating the budget implementation act, but Bill C-43 reveals that not everything announced is exactly as it was portrayed in February.

Two examples of this kind of shenanigans are, first, the budget stated that the amount of the share of the gas tax would rise to $2 billion annually until 2009-10. Bill C-43 authorizes payments for one year only. That really shows this government's commitment to long-term funding for municipalities that the hon. member was just speaking about.

Second, for seniors in subsidized nursing homes, the total amount of the increase in one's guaranteed income supplement, GIS, will not be paid to the seniors, but to the nursing home operator or to the province. In Ontario any increase in the GIS will be clawed back to a half. The largest increase in GIS that a senior in my riding will be eligible for is less than $18 per month. For many of these seniors, their fixed income is a decreasing income.

These seniors, as do all taxpayers in my riding, expect their government to be working on their behalf to assure them of a quality of life and a standard of living for which they are willing to work hard. They are not satisfied with so much arrogance and such deception that they can no longer trust anything being put forward to them by the government.

When they see how the government has manipulated the budget process by introducing other controversial elements into Bill C-43, they are appalled, controversial elements the government does not have the confidence to introduce under separate legislation to be debated and voted upon in the House on their own. This reflects the continuous manipulation by the government of the Canadian people, the lack of integrity in its dealings with the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and its real inability to bring forth bills that it is confident will serve Canadians well.

By including parts 13, 14 and 15 in Bill C-43 to deal with environmental issues and parts 12 and 24 to deal with the commitments to the two Atlantic provinces, demonstrates the games the Liberals are playing and have played on the people of Canada for over a decade. By linking Atlantic accord provisions into the implementation act, is the government again telling the people of Atlantic Canada that the Prime Minister's word cannot be trusted?

The budget does not reflect serious concern for the overall economy of Canada. Compared with the Americans, Canadian productivity accounts for an income gap of $6,078 per person. Compared with the Americans, that means a family of four living in my riding of Durham has some $24,000 a year less income to spend than the same family in the U.S.A. Canada must increase its productivity with measures that will be effective and redress this productivity gap.

I am compelled to point out that to promise only $130 million in the February budget for the entire agricultural community and the crisis that it faces is inexcusable, only to see the government once again play its games and make a $1 billion announcement shortly after the budget speech. Is this bad planning, disregard for the needs of the agricultural community or an “Oops, we forgot to put it into the budget?” The people of Canada will not and cannot continually be manipulated in this way.

The budget should go forward on its own for debate and follow the necessary procedural process to ensure that the programs announced can move forward. As part of the official opposition in the House, along with my colleagues I will continue to work in committee to strengthen the bill so that those in Durham and across Canada can once again regain their faith in government. In committee we will be ensuring that the dollars to be spent are spent responsibly with transparency and accountability.

The people of Durham are all proud to be Canadians. They recognize that we live in a great country and a province which has some of the best that Canada has to offer. They are willing to do their share. However, they are increasingly challenged to meet their own daily responsibilities financially. They will contribute to Canada's well-being, but are not willing to stand by and watch their tax dollars being wasted and mismanaged. Most of all, they want a government that does not play games and that can be held to the highest level of accountability and integrity. They want to be able to once again trust those elected to represent them and their interests and believe they are doing so, not only in the interests of one segment or one party.

On their behalf, I want to conclude by saying that the official opposition will continue to work in the best interests of all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I speak today on behalf of the citizens of Calgary Centre-North, my constituents.

In addressing this budget implementation act, I wish to address the House with respect to the necessity of personal income relief and personal income tax cuts in particular.

My constituents believe that the personal income tax measures contained in the budget are insufficient, They are back-end loaded, certainly, but moreover, they are insufficient and they are inadequate. Frankly, I would say that they are disrespectful to the many everyday Canadians who essentially carry the Government of Canada on their backs in a financial sense.

What we need to do in this country is fashion a Canadian fiscal vision. Part of that needs to be a vision that speaks to everyday Canadians in terms of tax relief.

A Conservative government would be very clear. We would provide immediate and long term broad based income tax relief. We would reduce personal income taxes. We would substantially raise both the basic personal exemption and the spousal exemption.

We would reduce personal income taxes and increase the take home pay and raise the standard of everyday Canadians and do it in a way which earns the trust and respect of everyday Canadians in terms of the handling of the public finances of Canada. We would treat their money with respect, something we do not see from this Liberal administration.

Within eight years Canada will have achieved some progress in the gradual reduction of its debt, perhaps not the progress that we wish, but we hope that within eight years Canada would be somewhere near a 25% debt to gross domestic product ratio. Yet at the same time that productivity is stalled, tax cuts are stalled and Canadian real disposable income has slipped, overall tax levels are increasing.

We need lower personal income taxes in this country. One measure of how we have slipped as a nation is the measurement which I believe the Fraser Institute calls tax freedom day in Canada. Tax freedom day in Canada has actually worsened under this Liberal administration, from a date of June 10 to a date of approximately July 1.

Each year, tax freedom day in Canada under this Liberal government now occurs on July 1. How do we compare to other industrial democracies? By comparison, in the United States of America, tax freedom day is on April 11, this week, a significant departure from Canada. In the United Kingdom, tax freedom day is May 30, again significantly better than the situation in our country.

In contrast, the Liberals have put forward a budget which proposes no meaningful tax reduction whatsoever. There is an immediate consequence of the budget, and I refer to it often as the pizza budget or the burger budget, because the consequence for a regular Canadian family is $16 for the next year, which is just about the same amount of money that one would need to take one's children out to a burger place or to a local pizza joint.

Sixteen dollars is an insult and an affront to Canadians. It is an affront to the constituents of Calgary Centre-North. On their behalf, I call the government on this today and say it is unacceptable.

Even the full implementation of this budget through to 2009 contemplates income tax relief of $192 for regular Canadians. That is paltry and unacceptable.

What we require in this country of ours is smart fiscal policy. This is our key to prosperity and our key to our future together.

My comments today are offered within a framework of that objective. Our objective as Canadians should be to achieve a high, sustainable rate of economic growth, economic growth for this reason: so as to finance a high quality of life in terms of both private income and public goods.

The public goods of which I speak are things like public health care, public education and the quality of our environment, which is indeed also a public good. Stated simply, that takes money. It takes a prosperous economy to generate a high quality of life.

I would observe in passing that this government has lost its way on the key characteristics of other successful economies. The so-called tiger economies provide a useful example. They come to mind. These are economies that share some of the characteristics of Canada: small population, proximity and access to affluent export markets, a skilled and educated labour force, good infrastructure for communications and transportation, and finally and most important, smart fiscal policy.

Canada has the potential to be a leader in these respects. Canada has the potential to meet all of the requirements to have a burgeoning economy based on this approach.

The key to smart fiscal policy is lower taxes. Taxes must be kept determinedly low to encourage expansion. Regrettably that is not the case in this tax and spend Liberal budget, which does not share that objective.

In regard to our country, there is still a discrepancy between personal income tax rates Canadians pay and the personal income tax rates taxpayers in the United States pay. In contrast, marginal tax rates in our country remain high. For example, in Alberta they are at their lowest at 39%. Ontario's are at 46.4% and Quebec's at a whopping 48.2%. The Canadian average is 44%.

A number of economic circumstances in Canada are positive. We have low inflation. Our economy is growing. There is positive economic growth. Employment is rising.

Yet the take home pay of middle class everyday Canadians in ridings like Calgary Centre-North is not increasing. Take home pay has stagnated under the Liberal government and has been stagnating for the past 15 years.

Economic output in our country has increased 25% in the time between 1990 and 2004, yet the after tax income of everyday Canadians has increased by only 9.3%. This is the consequence of shameless tax and spend Liberalism.

I would like to draw to the attention of the House the consequences of the last election and the Liberals' election promises. In that election, the Liberals promised that if they were elected they would spend $28.3 billion over five years: $8 billion on health care, $5 billion on child care, $4 billion on gas taxes to the provinces and $3 billion on peace and nation building initiatives. That is a total of $28.3 billion. Yet in this budget, less than a year after the government was elected on those very promises, it has put forward a budget which totals $75.7 billion in expenditures over five years, compared to the $28 billion the Liberals promised Canadian taxpayers.

I would remind the House that in the context of that election the Conservative campaign commitments were only $57.8 billion. Subsequent events have proven that those commitments were affordable and were well within the budget targets and the economic performance of the government.

Liberalism is out of control with this budget. The 2003 expenditures, for example, mark the largest expenditures in modern times. Frankly, since 2003 the rate of increase in government expenditures has been mammoth. There has been a marked increase of expenditures in the budget. If we had simply constrained government spending in this country since 2000 by a rate of inflation adjustment, let us say 3%, we could justify or substantiate enormously significant tax cuts in the country. If we had done that, the expenditures of the government would be some $30 billion less than they are today. This would more than permit us to have very significant tax relief for everyday Canadians.

That is what I hear from my constituents. That is what I hear in Calgary Centre-North. People want tax relief. They want the level of their taxes reduced through exactly the sorts of measures which a Conservative government would propose.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to my colleagues for briefly interrupting the debate.

Discussions have taken place among all parties, Mr. Speaker, and I think if you were to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion you would receive it. I move:

That during today's debate on Government Business No. 10, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Chair.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

April 12th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, while I profoundly disagree with some of the conclusions in the member's speech, I do appreciate his focus on economic issues as they relate to the budget, because this is, after all, a budget debate.

I had trouble following the hon. member's logic. We are in a low interest environment. Interest rates are at historic lows and, I would argue, as a direct consequence of appropriate fiscal management by this government over the last number of years.

We are at historically low inflation rates. We have a band of 1% to 3% and we stay within that band.

The government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. We have paid down well over $60 billion in national debt.

The member makes the comparison that personal income tax rates in the United States are lower than they are in Canada, but I will put this to him. Does he want the triple-whammy deficits that the United States has?

Our government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. The last time there was a surplus budget in the United States was some three or four years ago under the previous administration. It is looking at $500 billion plus in terms of its budgetary deficit.

The United States continues to run a current account deficit which is just enormous. It is to the point where all finance ministers anywhere are seriously concerned about the ability of the United States to remain a viable economy.

The United States has a pension system that is no longer viable, whereas our pension system is viable and fiscally sound through to the year 2075.

We have a debt to GDP that has gone from somewhere in the order of 62% down to 38% and is on its way to 25%. Our expenditures are within a band of a little less than 12% of GDP. Our revenues have come down from 17% to a little under 15% of GDP.

I put it to the hon. member that this is a very well run fiscal economy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to debate the American budget with the hon. member on some other occasion, but I am here today to debate this Liberal budget, which I call a tax and spend Liberal budget.

I do not disagree that a 25% debt to GDP ratio is something that we should work toward in this country. Where I disagree with my friend is the fact that credit for the progress we have made in this nation toward reducing debt and to having some fiscal flexibility cannot go to the government. Credit for that goes to the everyday Canadians, the middle class Canadians who have been paying their income tax and living by the rules.

Those people have earned Canada's fiscal flexibility. It is not the Liberal government that has achieved this. It is everyday Canadians who pay their taxes who have achieved it. What I find reprehensible about this budget is the fact that if it goes through we as a nation will be turning our backs on those citizens.

It is time for tax relief. They have been paying their taxes. Over the past 20 years this generation of Canadians has been the most heavily taxed and least serviced generation of Canadians. We have the flexibility for meaningful tax relief. It is something we should be pursuing right now and this budget does not do it.

I will give the House the example of seniors. I have many seniors in my riding of Calgary Centre-North. This budget offers no meaningful tax relief for senior citizens. There is a small benefit in the budget, again equivalent to the cost of a pizza, in terms of the supplement if one qualifies for the supplement, but for regular senior citizens the budget does nothing in terms of their quality of life or accessing health care or letting them live in their homes longer. There is no meaningful tax relief for seniors. I think that is reprehensible. It is something that a Conservative government would address.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity during the budget debate to put in context the most productive year of a Prime Minister in Canadian history.

I went through this to some degree earlier when the budget first came out many weeks ago. I want to reiterate the tremendous accomplishments of this Prime Minister and this government in its first year. It is unparalleled in history. I put a challenge out previously to the national press and the opposition to come up with a comparable record.

I want to start out with the largest problem facing Canadians at the time when this Prime Minister came into government. Seldom does a Prime Minister in his first year have the confidence of Parliament and the provinces, which is always a great negotiating discussion and feat, to deal with the largest problem on the minds of people in the provinces and that was health care. The Prime Minister came up with a record $41.3 billion to deal with health care over 10 years.

This is particularly appropriate for my area and the north. The budget has a tremendous number of programs and assistance dollars for the north, particularly in relation to health care. Over and above the largest increase in health care in history, the other increase for the people of the north, understanding the special circumstances under which they work, is the additional money for aboriginal people who have their own challenges.

After this tremendous achievement, which in itself would put the Prime Minister and the government as a leading government in its first year, there was a second great accomplishment shortly thereafter related to what is the essence of Canada as a nation separate from other nations, and that is related to equalization.

Our country, being a generous federal state, helps other regions on the understanding and the compassion for regions of the country that are experiencing a time of being less fortunate. The whole equalization regime needed repair and updating. The Prime Minister convened the 13 jurisdictions in the country and, remarkably, through difficult negotiations and the balancing of funds he came up with an historic deal of $33 billion and a whole new way of looking at modernizing equalization so that it would work to preserve the intrinsic values that make us Canadian.

After the budget deliberations and in the budget implementation act are special provisions for a part of the country and that is the need to boost the revenues for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador with special extra revenues.

I think the genius of this whole approach and these successes, which prime ministers in the past could only have dreamed of, was the fact that individual provinces, as they were when they came into Confederation, were treated individually according to their needs. I believe this is the essence in the federalism of a caring state.

The present Prime Minister and our caucus also wanted to re-engage and reinforce the great Canadian vision and our place in the world. Canadians believe ourselves to be fortunate and that we can play a major role in helping those in the world who are less fortunate. We have done that in a number of ways over the year. Over Christmas, Canada was lauded around the world for the $42 million in emergency relief and in our efforts with the United Nations to eradicate polio in the world.

We have created the Canada Corps which will help extend Canada's values around the world. Canadians are very proud of the values and the visions that they have of their nation and they like to use that to help other nations. What is better than doing that with our youth and the Canada Corps?

Another urgent situation was in Darfur where many Canadians, myself included, and many Canadians in my riding, Bill Klassen being one, were very upset about the situation there. Canada has played a leading role. We started with an initial contribution of, I think, $20 million, with military advisers and support. I think just recently there was an announcement for another $90 million.

We also contributed $100 million toward purchasing the drugs necessary for the treatment of AIDS. There is an increase of $70 million to the global fund to deal with diseases in the poorest parts of the world, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

I am sure everyone is aware of our efforts in Haiti and of the efforts of the wonderful people in our armed forces who are in Haiti; of our efforts in Afghanistan where I visited our troops who are doing a tremendous job; of our efforts in Africa; of our leading support for the tsunami victims; and of the funds we are providing to Iraq.

The Prime Minister has come up with something unique again in international world contributions and that is the whole concept of having the responsibility to protect. This idea protects nations that are unstable or not completely in control of situations and are unable or unwilling to risk their citizens' lives. It will be the responsibility of those in the world who can protect them. This is a whole new concept. For a Prime Minister in his first year to be able to get support for such a concept on the world stage is remarkable.

Of course, even before he was Prime Minister he made great progress in the essence of the G-20 and other international groups based on function, not on process. Any international group, whether it is the United Nations, NATO or the G-20, that can get a job done in today's modern, complex world, the Prime Minister has made great strides in leadership in the world on that.

Let us now look to students. Originally we will remember that the government chose not to put bricks and mortar as our millennium contribution. We decided to invest in people, particularly young people and students. We put into place the largest scholarship program in Canadian history, the Canadian millennium fund. Many students in my riding, which I am sure is the same for all members of Parliament, are very thankful for that help with their post-secondary education. Things have constantly been added to improve the financing, such as the new learning bond for low income students and ceilings have been increased for student loans.

What I found particularly gratifying, which I lobbied for but did not have to, was that the vision the Prime Minister enunciated when he first came to the leadership was carried through into the election platform, which was then carried through with credibility and integrity into the throne speech. A throne speech is nice but if it is not funded it does not go anywhere. It would take the highest integrity to carry that from the throne speech into the budget and that is exactly what has been done for all the major items that were in the election platform.

One of the huge initiatives that was talked about and has been building over recent years through the desire of Canadians is a national child care and early learning system. That was in the throne speech and the budget of $5 billion was carried through. As Parliament knows, there have been remarkable meetings with the provinces and the minister. They have come together on the quad principles that the whole system will operate under.

There are of course a number of programs and initiatives for seniors. Throughout my life I have taken a special interest in seniors because there are times in our lives, that being one, where we have less ability to help ourselves.

I was delighted to see that the government brought back the new horizons program funding. It was very popular in my area. It has been increased in this budget for coming years.

Increasing the old age income supplement is a very important concept in our nation. It speaks to what we are as a nation: one that is defined not by the tax treatment we give to those of us who can afford it and the things we give to those who can care for themselves, but to those of us who are most in need. Those seniors who are most in need are the ones who require the old age income supplement. I am delighted they are the first people we have helped and the first we have paid attention to. I hope we will continue to do that in the future.

We are talking about huge areas in the first year of the mandate, huge accomplishments in the whole spectrum of areas that are of concern to Canadians, one being the environment. One of the big items in the throne speech and carried on into the budget was the quadrupling of our efforts toward wind energy per riding, which is renewable energy that will reduce the greenhouse gases in Canada that have had such a dramatic effect on my riding of Yukon. We are always seeing dramatic effects on the economy when the roads, which people need to get places, become icy and then melt. There is also a tremendous negative impact on biology and on various species.

That is not the only environmental money that is being put in. We continue to support ethanol. We continue to support natural gas over other hydrocarbons that would produce higher levels of greenhouse gases. We continue our support for the modernization of solar energy and for increasing the technology so it will become competitive. We are continuing our long history in supporting atomic energy and the huge reductions in greenhouse gases that it provides, especially in China, where we have a CANDU reactor, which is using coal that is producing many greenhouse gases that affects us so much in North America.

Another list is the many major accomplishments in the first year that were achieved by the fiscal constraints put in place by the Prime Minister when he was finance minister to get rid of the deficit so we could invest in all these areas: health care, seniors, renewable energy and the environment.

The next area of great accomplishment, and an area in which people wanted to invest but could not until the dividends of this careful, fiscal management came through, was to increase the funds for the military. The House will remember that the previous budget increased funds for equipment and a number of new equipment purchases are under way. Under this budget, National Defence will see an increase of 5,000 more troops and 3,000 more reserves.

It is hard to imagine all these things and it is still the first year of a new Prime Minister and a new government mandate, but it redefines the whole relationship in a nation between orders of government. As people know, there are four orders of government in Canada. To redefine the relationship between the federal government and two of those other four orders is a tremendous accomplishment in the operations of this country.

The two orders of government are the first nations, the aboriginal peoples, and the municipalities.

The first one I will talk about are the municipalities. This is a whole new relationship in an evolving country where people are migrating in large numbers to the urban areas. Municipal governments have been maturing in their capabilities and in their needs in Confederation. Since 1994 the federal government has put the amazing amount of $12 billion into infrastructure.

In my area that money has gone into every single community. It has also gone to the smallest areas and right across the nation, and has had a major effect on the quality of life in Canada.

There was the $7 billion in GST rebates to municipalities. I am sure all members of Parliament have received the thanks for that rebate to the communities in their ridings.

Over and above all the old infrastructure funds that were so successful, the new rural municipal infrastructure fund was exceedingly exciting for me because all my communities are rural. In this particular budget not only was the new rural fund there but the paying out of the money was accelerated. It was original announced over a 10 year period and now we have accelerated it over five years, so that our communities can spend that money twice as quickly for sustainable projects, clean water, clean sewage, reducing greenhouse gases, and the infrastructure that is needed for the high quality of life.

The huge announcement in the budget was the gas tax rebate to the municipal governments for renewable projects to improve the quality of life in cities, towns, villages and aboriginal communities.

Over and above these huge amounts of funds to build the quality of life, which was provided because of the earlier fiscal restraints and getting the finances of the nation in order, is the new relationship with that order of government. When we have orders of government working together, it is the type of recipe we need to make the nation work as the best nation in the world to live in.

I have already talked about the major investment in the environment. It came after the previous budget that had the largest environmental program in the history of any government in Canada of $3.5 billion for the cleanup of federal environmental sites. The good thing for me was that 60% of those funds would go to the north.

Over and above that the 2005 budget had a number of items for reducing greenhouse gases and climate change which is so front and centre on the minds of Canadians, especially in the north where it is already having such dramatic changes that we have to adapt to. There has been $3.7 billion since 1997. There is $100 million to increase emission efficiencies in the auto industry. As the House knows there has recently been a history making voluntary agreement with the auto companies to reduce emissions and there is $1 billion for new technologies to reduce greenhouse gases. There is a renewable energy program to support other types of renewable energy.

I am obviously not going to get through everything that I wanted to say, so I will briefly list the points I would have talked about if I had time: the relationship with aboriginal people, the new land claim self-government agreements, the national historic aboriginal round table, and over $1 billion for agriculture, including what we have just announced.

The whole democratic reform, with this side of the House having more free votes than ever in history, has transformed the House. There is the whole northern strategy and northern sovereignty for my area. There are the largest tax cuts in history of $100 billion. There is $10 billion a year for children in poverty.

There are a number of initiatives I would have talked about that we have put forward for people with disabilities. This economy of hope and these unparalleled accomplishments of the Prime Minister are some of the things of which I am very proud. They affect all aspects of Canadian life: health care, the economy, social programs to help the disabled, the poor and those most in need. For that I am very proud, and I will be happy to stand and fight for that any day.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly it is not a budget of hope; it is a budget of despair and it creates an economy of despair. When we look across the country, we see homelessness numbers growing day by day. We see increasing child poverty which is shameful after 12 years of Liberal government. There are 1.1 million children in the country who live in poverty. That is 40% of aboriginal children and 30% who are children with disabilities.

We are seeing across the country increasing despair, poverty, homelessness, and longer and longer food bank lines. Rather than addressing any of the issues such as housing and the increasing despair on the main streets across the country, the budget injects nearly $5 billion in corporate tax gifts to Bay Street.

We have so much poverty, homelessness and despair across the country. There is a fall in real wages, fewer full time jobs, and more families having to make do with part time or temporary work. Why does the member feel it is appropriate to give billions of dollars to Bay Street when our main streets are suffering?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as the member confirmed, the items he was talking about are items that are very important to the government as evidenced by the programs that it has put forward. I am delighted with the chance to talk about some of the progress.

There is no one in the House who would not like to eliminate child poverty. As long as there is one child in poverty we are all going to work toward removing that and we have different solutions. There has been some progress. It was at 16.7% in 1996. It was reduced to 11.4% in 2001.

How did some of the improvements and reduction in child poverty occur? It was the national child benefit, which was the most important social program in history since medicare. Based on its successes so far in reducing child poverty, the government added another $965 million so that by 2007 it will be a $10 billion program. It keeps over 50,000 children a year out of poverty.

Since 1999 there has been $753 million put toward homelessness and in 2003 another $405 million was put in over three years. There was $1 billion in total for affordable housing. It started out at $680 million and in 2003 there was another $320 million added. We are moving on some exciting projects in my riding on that.

We also put money into renovations, a program for low income people and seniors. That is very popular in my riding and very helpful for those most in need for housing. It will be between $1 billion to $1.5 billion over the next five years. Once again, it is another program that helps the poorest of the poor, especially in the housing area. Child care will help single mothers go to work and help reduce child poverty.

In total, there is $11 billion a year that goes toward children. We must continue to increase that as our resources become available through our prudent fiscal management and move in the direction that I am sure that everyone in the House would like us to move.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor West and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill.

I would like to start by flagging what is obvious to all of us. The games that were being played around this budget implementation bill have certainly changed in the few weeks since it was introduced. A few weeks ago we were being told that this bill had to be voted on and adopted by Parliament. If not, Liberals threatened to bring us into an election campaign.

We have seen with Gomery that things have changed quite markedly and that threat from Liberal members to bring down the House or to call an election has changed quite a bit now that we have seen the revelations of the continued misuse of public funds by the Liberal Party. As a result of that, it is very clear that the Liberals are approaching this whole question of the budget implementation bill a lot differently now than they were a few weeks ago.

I would like to talk a bit about the situation in Canada. The budget and budget implementation bill do not address the major issues that are out there on main streets across this country.

I would like to talk about 12 years of Liberal government and what that has meant to poverty and homelessness in this country. We have seen in the lower mainland of British Columbia, the area I am from, that homelessness has tripled over the past three years under policies of the federal Liberal Party and also policies of the B.C. Liberal party.

In my constituency of Burnaby—New Westminster we have seen more than 1,000 people a week having to rely on food banks. Food bank lineups are growing across the country as the crisis of poverty and homelessness increases.

We also know that 40% of aboriginal children live in poverty, 30% of children with disabilities now live in poverty, and that there are over 1.1 million poor children in this country. Fifteen years ago the member for Ottawa Centre actually brought forward a motion that was adopted by the House to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Here we are in 2005 and over 1.1 million poor children attest to the fact that this government has done absolutely nothing to address child poverty.

We also have a crisis in credit card health care. We have seen, with the increasing privatization of health care, Canadians increasingly pay out of pocket for health care. That should be a right that the CCF and the NDP pushed forward as fundamental to building Canadian society. We have seen that nothing has been done about that as well.

In terms of post-secondary education, we know that average young adults going into post-secondary education receive a $20,000 debt, a mortgage on their future, when they come out of post-secondary studies. That does not count the thousands of young Canadians who decide that they will not go into post-secondary studies because they simply cannot afford the cost. From the campaign last June, having knocked on over 6,000 doors in Burnaby and New Westminster, there were literally dozens of young people who told me that they could not afford to go to school. Their family could not afford it; they could not afford it. Their dreams and their future were cut off because of a lack of action by the government in the post-secondary sector.

There is also the environment. We had a plan 12 years ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions. We now find, even though the plan called for a cut of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions, in 2005 that we have actually seen an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The budget does very little to address that.

We have seen the number of people with disabilities living in poverty growing. Many people with disabilities have no access to employment programs in order to further enrich their lives.

We talked this week about the situation in Canada and also talked about our fiscal projections. The IMF mentioned just a few weeks ago in its study that we were the least accurate of any of the major countries in the western world. The IMF study showed that Canadian fiscal projections were so far off under the Liberal government that they were the least accurate of any of the western countries studied.

We also have this week a crisis in rural Canada. We have communities struggling across the country due to the lack of support by the government to the agricultural sector and the lack of action by the government in reducing or trying to address some of the crises we face in getting our cattle or our softwood lumber across the border.

Rather than taking a strong line with the Americans to try to address, in tough negotiations, those issues, we have taken a very soft line that has led absolutely nowhere and has led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs as a result of the lack of access of our cattle industry. In British Columbia where I come from, 20,000 jobs in the softwood lumber industry have been lost because of this inaction.

We also see a crisis in our cities. We have seen more boil water alerts. We have seen the underfunding of cities that has led to the lack of renewal of our infrastructure that is so important to the future of our country. We see increasing difficulties for our senior citizens.

We have seen cutbacks to home care in many provinces. For example, in British Columbia home care has been severely slashed and many senior citizens who would love to live independent lives with some support are forced to go into nursing homes, which costs more for the taxpayer and leaves them with a lower quality of life. If we had a home care program and that were effective, those seniors could continue to live independent, quality lives at home.

We also have seen increasing concerns about big box child care. We have had repeated promises over 12 years for a national child care system. What we have seen so far from the government is absolutely no response to the concern and fear about big box companies. Rather than have the money go to quality child care in our neighbourhoods, it will go to profits for big box foreign operators coming into the country.

With jobs, we have also seen a 60¢ loss in real wages per hour for the average Canadian worker over the last 10 years and fewer jobs with benefits and pensions. It used to be most jobs had pensions. The Statistics Canada study that came out in January showed less than 40%.

The government has encouraged more and more outsourcing. I recall getting off the plane in Washington to lobby members of Congress to support quality Canadian products. I was given a T-shirt by the government made in Mexico and a Canadian flag pin made in the People's Republic of China. I was supposed to take these to the members of Congress to say that we did good quality work. Outsourcing has been encouraged by the government and nothing in the budget addresses that.

What we have is a lower and lower quality of life for 90% of Canadians. That is the reality this week, when we look at the budget.

What did we get? The Leader of the Opposition certainly got what he wanted. He said that the major priorities in the budget implementation bill were Conservative priorities. We know the Leader of the Opposition got what he wanted in the budget, despite the fact that the Liberals campaigned saying that NDP values were close to Liberal values. The Liberal budget is a Conservative budget. What that means is the fat cats in the corporate sector got almost $5 billion in corporate tax gifts, a corporate sector that is at its most profitable level in its history.

We see that the wealthy got additional tax cuts of half a billion dollars.

There is nothing in the budget that addresses poverty, homelessness, post-secondary education and the crisis for seniors except for a buck a day that is given to address eroding pensions. There is nothing in it to deal substantially with the environment. The budget does nothing to address the substantive issues that people are having to deal with across the country.

This budget is billions for Bay Street and pennies for Main Streets across the country. For that reason and for so many others, we will vote against it.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all chief whips and there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), that the recorded divisions scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 on Bill C-236, Bill C-263 and Bill S-3 take place at 3 p.m. rather than at the beginning of private members' business.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I was a bit shocked to hear my colleague proudly say that he would vote against the budget bill.

I understand that in some sort of an ideal world we would be able to do everything for everybody every year, but that simply is not the case. If ever there were a budget that did its best to reach out to people, this budget is it. Some of the media have said that this is the greenest budget there has ever been, yet he will vote against the environment.

The child care measure alone is a first step. It is a huge amount of money. We are moving forward and that is the sort of thing a federal government should be doing.

The member also mentioned seniors. I know seniors deserve more, but improvements have been included in the budget for the seniors' secretariat and seniors programs like New Horizons, et cetera.

The Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador accord are also in the budget. The member will be voting against that.

The budget also includes a new deal for cities and small communities like mine, Asphodel-Norwood and the village of Lakefield. They will benefit from the gas tax rate.

The northern strategy, which my neighbour from Yukon mentioned earlier, is also included in the budget.

The NDP will be voting against all these things.

I would like to ask my colleague some questions with respect to his remarks about post-secondary education. We know this is a provincial jurisdiction. The province with the lowest tuition in the country, all to its credit, is the province of Quebec. In recent years the province of Quebec has moved to not only having the lowest university tuition in Canada, but to providing two free years of college. That is an extraordinary thing. That is something which is within the provincial mandate.

My colleague mentioned high tuition costs in the rest of the country, and they are truly shocking. However, this is not a result of the actions of the federal government. This federal government, and I say this unequivocally, has put more into post-secondary education than any federal government since Confederation. If the federal contributions to higher education were to be added up, we would find them approaching the sum of all provincial contributions.

I am really pleased with the budget. We are starting to move away from the emphasis on the student loan program toward grants. The student loan program is very good, but it does have its limitations. Grants are available in every year of undergraduate studies for disabled students. Grants are available for first year studies for low income students. The millennium scholarships were grants. This surely is a step forward.

The Canada learning bond is deliberately meant for low income children and for families to build up equity in the education of their children. They receive $500 at birth and $100 every year until the child is 15 years old. All the accumulated interest on that money is put into an RESP account. If the family were to put in, for example, $100, the federal government would match that by $40. This also is a grant.

Does my colleague have any suggestions for controlling what the provinces do with the money that the federal government transfers to them for post-secondary education instead of them just taking the money and raising tuition?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about an ideal world. It is very clear that the ideal world is an ivory tower right now within the Liberal caucus.

We are talking about $5 billion that was given out to the corporate sector to reduce even further the corporation tax rates, and they are already much lower than in the United States. That was the priority, to shovel money out the door to the corporate sector rather than address these key issues.

There is no plan on child care. There is no plan on Kyoto. We are still waiting. Every week or so we hear, “Yes, tomorrow”, “it was yesterday”, “it was last week”. We keep hearing that eventually there will be some plan brought forward. We know that the last time the Liberal government brought forward a plan, the plan called for a reduction of 20%. It missed the mark by increasing greenhouse emissions by 20%.

The problem is the contradiction in the Liberal world between the rhetoric and the reality. It is certainly not by saying that eventually there will be a plan put forward, that eventually there will be some investment, while it shovels money out to the corporate sector, that we will address these problems. These are serious issues.

Longer food bank lineups is a serious issue. More and more homelessness is a serious issue. More and more child poverty is a serious issue. The serious issues are not being addressed by the budget nor by the government.

I would like to come back to post-secondary education because the hon. member mentioned that as well. The two provinces that are working the hardest at addressing issues of making post-secondary education affordable are Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Very clearly, NDP provinces have a very clear addressing of the issue of post-secondary education and the lack of accessibility.

The government has to show some leadership. The government has to step forward. Rather than spending billions of dollars for Bay Street, the government has to invest in communities across the country. This is not happening and it is a shame.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act, 2005.

If I may start with the previous discussion on post-secondary education, I will be pleased to forward today's Hansard to my provincial member of Parliament who has said that the federal government has shirked its responsibility and needs to do more for the province of Ontario. We have some of the most crippling student debt and costs related to post-secondary education.

The federal government's Liberal cousins seem to feel it is the federal Liberals who have shortchanged them. It is the federal Liberals, their cousins, who have created a funding gap. The responsibility has been shirked onto them unfairly by the federal government.

I will make sure that the debate is forwarded to them. That provincial member was at a meeting that we had locally at St. Clair College and said that Premier Dalton McGuinty actually supported post-secondary education, but the federal government which has a surplus is where the real problem is. The federal government is the one that has the recipe to solve the problems.

I am going to focus my comments regarding Bill C-43 on a couple of topics. This is a very wide-ranging bill. Bill C-43 disappoints me because it does not lead to the prosperity that is needed for the long term in economic policy.

We in the New Democratic Party will not be supporting the budge because it is a betrayal of Canadian voters who wanted progressive change. The country has to move past the malaise that has dominated this decade of Liberal rule. The NDP is fighting for a responsible rebuilding of the nation that made a difference in the world as a leader, not a follower, and offered a strong social identity to develop and foster economic prosperity that will raise the standard of living for all Canadians, not just a select few.

Although this Liberal minority budget is an improvement over the past majority budgets, it fails the test of breaking the troubling pattern of Liberal budgets that leave mainstream Canadians behind for the benefit of a few. The most glaring example of this injustice is the fanatical drive to continue to empty the public purse through corporate tax cuts which do nothing to ensure employment wages and standards, or job security.

Indeed, the Prime Minister's election ploy to vote Liberal to keep the Conservatives at bay because the Liberals have values similar to the NDP is fraudulent and insulting at best.

At a time when ordinary Canadians are struggling more than ever to feed their families, to send their children to college or university, and to pay off their debts, the Liberals are prepared to hand over more of the taxpayers' money to Bay Street. Canadian corporations earned record operating profits last year of $204.5 billion, which is up nearly 19%. At a time when corporations have reached record operating profits and after a decade of billions of dollars in tax cuts, at a time when we have massive infrastructure deficits, when Canadians are struggling the most and corporations are benefiting the most, the government has decided to shovel more money to the corporations, nearly $5 billion.

While mainstream Canadians are being asked to put personal goals and financial security aside, the government is emptying the coffers, at a time when we need to seize the industrial opportunities that will protect the environment, raise living standards and position our labour market in the world.

This glaring example demonstrates the gap of rhetoric of Liberal promises and final capitulation to Conservative policy goals. At the end of the day, they do not represent Canadian values and thus the budget fails to deserve the support of the NDP.

Despite all the rhetoric, it fails to address a national auto strategy, an aerospace strategy, shipbuilding or agricultural realities. Indeed, the budget does very little for those who build Canadian cars, airplanes or feed our country and the world.

Ask those Canadians if their insurance companies which realized record profits from increased premiums and reduced coverage deserve another tax break. They are getting it. In 2002 the insurance industry brought in $350 million in profits. In 2003 it brought in $2.6 billion in profits. In 2004 it has now brought in $4.2 billion in profits, yet the Liberals are giving them another break.

It is not right. I know that in my constituency young people struggle to pay premiums on their cars. In fact, some pay more for auto insurance than they do for leasing the vehicles.

It is not acceptable. It hinders our economy. It hinders the success of our young people. Those companies certainly do not deserve a reward.

Ask Canadians who watch the banks rake in record profits, close branch locations, raise fees, play fast and loose with our personal privacy and charge predatory interest rates on credit cards if the banks deserve a break.

Do Canadian values reside in this budgetary accomplishment? Apparently Liberals think so. If they cannot give the public money to their friends or back to the Liberal Party as the Gomery testimony indicates, they will reward the corporate sector at the expense of ordinary Canadians. They did not even have the decency to at least isolate areas where we might stop that from happening, areas that do not deserve money back and do not deserve the public trust with their dollars. They should be paying their responsible share.

The argument that policies of free trade, deregulation, privatization and tax cuts would trickle down to create investment has not borne fruit. Recent economic data demonstrates that this strategy has not resulted in new quality jobs. Rather, this failed government policy has required an ad hoc intervention policy in sectors like auto, air, textiles and agriculture to protect the status quo.

Overall Canadian productivity has stalled since 2002, coupled with a significant decline in capital investment as a percentage of the GDP. Why would we continue to reinforce this economic model that will not generate more investment, prosperity and quality jobs for Canadians? In fact, many corporations and businesses no longer profess the tax cut as a tonic for their survival or growth.

Take the auto industry, for example. It would rather see infrastructure items like the Windsor-Detroit corridor as budgetary priorities to ship and receive their goods and services along the U.S.-Canada border. This tax cut will not provide the infrastructure required, nor the staffing and security measures being demanded by the U.S. The duplicity of promise and action is best represented in this particular example.

In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance said:

Part of the productivity solution is also investing in public infrastructure, including in our cities and at crucial border crossings such as Windsor-Detroit--probably the most valuable transborder shipping point in the world--

Yet there is no funding for this infrastructure, despite the Prime Minister's call that he would provide cold hard cash.

In fact, industry, chambers of commerce, citizens and the labour movement have all called for the government to provide the proper infrastructure in the Windsor-Detroit corridor, the right costing for staffing and resources, the right oversight, the investment necessary to move the goods and services through an area that has approximately $1 billion a day in trade. The government has yet to act on unanimous support of a city council and county council report to improve the conditions of that corridor.

More important, a signal was sent to the United States that we are going to address our most damaging infrastructure deficiency which is stagnating and has created lost opportunities of investment in Ontario and other areas. We have lost that opportunity. The signal that was sent in this budget was that we have no plan, that we have no commitment.

We have a Liberal promise that the government might renew a project for border infrastructure funds later on, but we know what the public thinks about Liberal promises. We know what the record is on Liberal promises. At the end of the day the promises do not provide the confidence nor the commitment that will subsequently come from those who want to invest and have to move goods and services through that corridor. As opposed to Liberal promises, what is needed is a commitment of resources and the application of those resources to make sure the investment, prosperity and jobs that will result will be managed as a priority.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise to anyone in Canada that budget promises are seldom met by governments, and particularly this one since 1993.

This would be about the 12th budget that I have gone through. There is virtual disappointment from the region which I represent which is Abbotsford in British Columbia.

I was just wondering how my colleague would reconcile how a government would set priorities. He talked about the Detroit-Windsor corridor upgrading which I do not doubt for a minute needs it, but I will talk for a moment about Highway 1 on the lower mainland of British Columbia which is nothing short of a cow path in comparison to most highways these days. We have a gridlock in the lower mainland of British Columbia. We are trying to get funds as well.

I wonder how my colleague would reconcile who would get the money first, who would make the decisions, how it would be prioritized. Is the Windsor corridor more of a cow path than the one that I drive on from Abbotsford to Vancouver? How do we get those people to rationalize and make better choices than the choices they make?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of the volume of traffic in Abbotsford, but I know in the Windsor-Detroit corridor there are 14,000 trucks per day. It is the single most busiest border in North America and probably the world, and it is very deficient.

I do not think we should have to make choices. The member brings forward a valid point in terms of the congestion that Abbotsford might be facing right now.

We have watched the government delay and dither, despite the warning signs and resolutions from local councils. I was on city council and I have been here since 2002. It is not just about people in the local area who are impacted by the pollution, degradation and unsafe conditions that they have to face, because trucks are backed up basically in people's yards and in front of their businesses. It is also about the economic barrier we face as goods and services for other communities cannot get across the border in a timely fashion. Decisions on expansion of plants and services are not being followed through on because of the backups are a problem.

I would argue quite frankly that the corporate tax cut is an obscene element of the budget. That money should be going into infrastructure. I am a strong proponent of infrastructure. It creates jobs. It creates lasting facilities which create economic prosperity for all of us. It is also what the private sector is clamouring for, not only in Ontario but right across the country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Might I suggest, Mr. Speaker, there is another way to make priorities. If we could convince the government to take the revenues it has and spend them in the right places and not feed political parties for a change, that might be a good way to do it. I would like to ask my colleague whether he thinks maybe the government's priorities are just a little bit wrong.