House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I would like to lend my voice to the support of Bill C-48. This bill reflects not only my personal philosophies but those of this government and I believe those of Canadians.

We as Canadians sometimes forget how fortunate we are to live in this country. We hear a lot of bickering and complaining in the media and indeed in the House, more so recently, about this government policy or that government proposal.

When it comes right down to it, though, Canadians are proud of who they are and where their country is going. I believe Bill C-48 builds on that feeling of pride Canadians have, that diversity and compassion, and that belief that we are stronger when we help those who are weak and we are better together than we are apart.

Let us look at the areas to which this bill targets funding. One is $1.6 billion for affordable housing. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be in my riding when we announced cooperation with the province of Nova Scotia on some very important initiatives. One in particular in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour was with Affirmative Industries, a project that will help mental health consumers and not only give them a place to live but allow them to build up a bit of equity and increase their dignity.

In my own province of Nova Scotia, a lot of money from the federal government has not been used; it has not been matched by the province. We are taking steps right now to make this more flexible so that the province can in fact build those houses.

There is $900 million for the environment and $1.5 billion for post-secondary education following the massive investment of the federal government on research in universities, Madam Speaker, which I know you are familiar with. We are now the highest public investor in research in the G-8.

There is also a $500 million increase in foreign aid.

How can one argue with those initiatives, initiatives that build on the priorities that are already in the budget?

I do want to address one issue, though. People say the budget is no longer our budget. The enhancement of certain measures as a result of the agreement with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party was the right thing to do in this Parliament, because Canadians want to see this Parliament work for all Canadians.

Let me be clear. The minister's budget as introduced in February was an excellent budget by any measure, a budget that is widely supported by Canadians and by the many stakeholder groups. In fact, the budget was immediately supported by the Leader of the Opposition, who said there was nothing in this budget that would necessitate a second election within a year. Shortly after that, the member for Central Nova said that “Canadians want to see Parliament work”, an interesting comment.

One of the key items in this bill calls for an increase in foreign aid, a particularly important issue for Canada. We are respected around the world and well known for our generosity when it comes to helping the less fortunate. It is to this portion of the bill that I would like to direct my comments this evening.

In recent years, the Government of Canada has significantly increased the amount of assistance that we provide to developing countries. Budget 2005 builds upon previous increases in aid by providing an additional $3.4 billion in international assistance over the next five years.

With these commitments, Canada is well on its way to meeting its goal of doubling its international assistance budget by 2010-11 and supporting the ambitious poverty reduction agenda of the United Nations millennium development goals. Clearly we are moving in the right direction.

There is no question that there is more we can do. On a personal level, I think we need to reach the Pearson goal of 0.7% as soon as we possibly can. It is our duty to the citizens of the world who need our help. I have spoken to that issue in the House before and I suspect I may again, but we are making great strides.

Canada's efforts are very much centred on helping the poorest countries, particularly those in Africa. This budget, in addition to increasing international assistance over the next five years, provides an additional $342 million for African health issues. This funding is helping to eradicate polio worldwide and to reduce AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Furthermore, the budget commits Canada to double our assistance to Africa by 2008-09 from our 2003-04 levels.

International assistance also involves helping countries and regions affected by conflict and humanitarian crises. Afghanistan and Haiti are examples. Stability and the absence of conflict are necessary for effective development cooperation. Accordingly, budget 2005 announced $500 million over the next five years to focus on promoting global peace and security.

Let us not forget the countries affected by the tsunami just after Christmas. Canadians were deeply affected by this tragedy and, in true Canadian style, responded generously with personal donations of approximately $200 million to help the victims begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

Immigrant communities in Canada were also galvanized into action. I had an opportunity to meet with the Sri Lankan community in Dartmouth a few weeks ago and talked to people whose relatives had been washed away in the tsunami. This money has been remitted to relatives and friends in the region and has played an important role in early efforts to build new homes, schools and businesses.

For its part, the Government of Canada recognized that these recovery efforts required both immediate and long term commitment of resources and responded with disaster relief and rehabilitation assistance. I am proud to say that Canada was also the first country to offer an immediate moratorium on debt payments owed by these countries.

Speaking of debt relief, Canada will continue to provide leadership on this issue. Our Prime Minister has a long record of international acclaim for his role as finance minister.

Most recently, on February 2, 2005, Canada announced a debt relief proposal that aims for donors to provide 100% debt service relief on all payments owed by up to 56 low income countries to the International Development Association of the World Bank and the African Development Fund until 2015.

Canada has committed to provide $172 million over the next five years to implement our share of this proposal. Our new proposal builds on a legacy of Canadian action on debt, such as the Canadian debt initiative. Under this initiative, Canada has gone beyond the international consensus and has put in place a debt moratorium on all payments owed to Canada by eligible poor countries.

In total, 13 countries have received over $600 million in bilateral debt relief and a further $600 million will be forgiven once the initiative is fully implemented. This past April, for example, the Minister of Finance announced the cancellation of all debt owed to Canada by Zambia, Honduras and Rwanda.

If I may, I will say a few words about the Minister of International Cooperation. She has led her department with but one overarching purpose: to help people in the developing world. I can think of few others as committed to the cause of justice as this minister.

The proposal in Bill C-48 authorizes the government to spend an additional $500 million on foreign aid. Canada is making its contribution as part of the global community. Passage of this bill will allow us to do even more.

The Minister of Finance has said that too many resources in developing nations are being soaked up to pay for yesterday's debts. That is true. Would it not be better for these countries to be able to invest in social and economic initiatives today so they can have a better quality of life tomorrow? The government has shown its commitment to help developing countries overcome the terrible burden of debt so they can reinvest in their own growth. Bill C-48 is a great step in that direction.

The bill is about making Parliament work and about making Canada better. It is the fiscal dividend of an economy that has been solidly managed over the past 12 years. The bill builds on a budget that reinvests in Canadian priorities, because we are now strong enough to do so and because it is the right thing to do.

This morning I was present when the Prime Minister and the premier of my province, Dr. Hamm, signed the Nova Scotia child care deal, part of our national child care strategy. The woman who acted as MC for this event is a long time child care champion from Dartmouth, with over 20 years of providing care to children, who runs a centre for those who are most in need. She spoke to the federal budget and said it is the most significant advancement that she has seen. She is not a partisan person by any means, but she said that this budget must be passed and she was right.

The federal budget is the most important investment in Canadian social and international priorities in recent times. Bill C-48 builds on that success and reflects the values and the beliefs of Canadians.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Yvon Lévesque Bloc Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, with respect to the opening remarks of our colleague opposite, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, I can understand to some extent his mixed feelings when he said he “would like to” support this budget.

When we look at what was granted to the NDP in the supplementary budget, the revised budget, even if this was supposed to be a good budget, we see that there is $1.6 billion for social housing. If this budget was as good as it was said to be, why did it take pressure from the NDP and a vote in the House of Commons to get a supplementary budget providing funding assistance for social housing, when representations were made to the Minister of Finance before this budget was even tabled?

There is also $900 million for the environment. One billion was already earmarked for assistance to oil companies in western Canada. When $900 million is added, again the money goes in part to Ontario and to western Canada. Members of Parliament should drive hybrid cars. That would help our economy and minimize atmospheric emissions. Did the government ever consider helping consumers buy hybrid cars in Canada? It prefers to help the oil companies. I am not speaking for my own personal gain. I am talking about the credibility of the NDP, which claims that this is a good budget.

Can the Prime Minister give the NDP the assurance that the additional promises made and the proposed amendments will apply as of the first year of the budget?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, the member raised a lot of questions. I will try to go from memory and pick them off one by one.

The member spoke about affordable housing. He asked why we needed to have the NDP to bring that money into the budget. We in this government have done a lot in affordable housing in Canada in the last few years; last year we campaigned on it. One of the problems we have had is that some provinces, including my own province of Nova Scotia, would not match the money. There was $13 million put aside for Nova Scotia that was not matched by the provincial government.

The federal government identified this as a priority. We said we would actually make it easier for the provinces to match those moneys. We said we would increase the flexibility; so perhaps rent supplements are a way to go. We are going in that direction. I mentioned the announcement we made in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for people who cannot not afford housing, who do not have access to decent housing, and who are mental health consumers. We have now reached a deal with the province of Nova Scotia to address that.

In terms of the environment, this was already called the greenest budget in Canadian history, with huge investments in the environment: retrofitting, energy efficiency and a whole slate of initiatives. I think anyone on this side of the House would be pleased to debate the environment with anyone else in the House.

If we do go into an election soon I will certainly take the budget with me. I will be going with the environment, with affordable housing and with international development, and I will be saying that we have a record: we have made promises, we have kept them, and Bill C-48 only makes it that much better.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I genuinely thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his enthusiastic support of Bill C-48. He was pretty straightforward in saying that this bill, in terms of his budget priorities, reflects both his personal philosophy and that of Canadians.

I have to say, without any disrespect, that the member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, who enthusiastically supports Bill C-48, must have been profoundly disappointed in the budget that was brought in by his own party. Even though Canadians saw that these were the priorities that made sense and that he personally felt that, his party clearly did not. It was not until there was incredible political pressure brought to bear that these priorities emerged.

I want to speak to the question raised by the member from Abitibi. He is not the only one who has asked this question today or on previous occasions. He wants to know why the NDP would be so trusting or naive to think that the government would actually deliver on the priorities that are now contained within the NDP enhanced budget.

I would raise the following question and ask the member to address it. Should Canadians not think about the fact that it took 19 New Democrats to work with the government to say that we are responsible to make this work and we got these kinds of changes? However the combined forces of the 153 members sitting on the opposition benches from the no longer progressive conservative party and the Bloc were not sufficient to actually make a difference in shifting the priorities of this budget.

How will the member explain why he is asking people to vote for him in the next election, instead of Anne-Marie Foote or Peter Mancini, whose party also supports these priorities, in addition to Canadians personally supporting these priorities?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, what the member is suggesting is that these initiatives are brand new and were never touched upon by the Liberals until the NDP suddenly came along and said that the government had better do something in affordable house or post-secondary education.

One of the four key initiatives was affordable housing. We have put $2 billion a year into affordable housing that we want the provinces to match.

We put in $9 billion for the environment, in what was already the greenest budget in the history of this country. The $1.5 billion for post-secondary education after we had put $11 billion into research and post-secondary institutions in Canada.

I will go to the people in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour against whomever I may be up against and I will say very proudly that this is a Liberal budget.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 6:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)