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House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member for Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre. He said that members of Parliament did not have a chance to discuss the budget, or the revised budget, but of course what we are doing here today is debating this budget bill.

For the record, I would also like to clarify something he said. He said that the Conservatives initially supported the government's budget, and so they should have, I believe, because it is a good budget, but then he implied that because of all the evidence coming out of the Gomery inquiry they felt they just had to take action and try to defeat the government.

Of course the reality is that they were reading all the polls, in which Canadians were justifiably angry about some of the testimony, which has not been corroborated yet or has not been fully analyzed by Justice Gomery and his commission, so then they decided not to support the budget. That is the reality of what happened. Of course we want to keep this Parliament working so we formed an alliance with the NDP and we actually have a good budget.

I have a question for the member, who talked about cherry-picking a budget. He seemed to imply that we should not really cherry-pick a budget, that a budget should stand together. I know that some of his colleagues, and in fact his leader, I think, have said that we should take the budget bill and separate out the part that deals with amending the equalization formula for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. I know why they want to do that: because some of the members of his own caucus in Atlantic Canada would love to be able to pass that part and would maybe not be so bullish about other parts of the budget.

Does the member opposite agree that this would be a form of cherry-picking as well? Would he still apply the same criteria to that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, the Atlantic accord should not have been included in the budget to begin with. It should have been a stand-alone piece of legislation--

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Why?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Because the members opposite have said that they want to get money to the Atlantic provinces quickly.

We were the ones, if members recall, who were for years pressuring the government to do this. It was only because of a political commitment the Prime Minister made during the heat of last year's election that this ever came to fruition. Then, after the election, for several months the government tried to renege on its promise.

We pressured the government. Premier Danny Williams from Newfoundland and Labrador pressured the government to the point that the Liberals had to admit it and say, “All right. We will come forward with our election promises”. But if they were truly sincere in a desire to get the money to the Atlantic provinces quickly, there was no need to put it in the budget. It could have been a stand-alone piece of legislation.

We have asked for it to be taken out of the budget. Members of this House could pass that if we wished. If there were unanimous consent in the House for all three readings we could get the money that is desperately needed in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to them quickly, but this government refuses to do so.

The member asks whether that is cherry-picking. Those members have already set the standards for that. We already know what cherry-picking is and we see it in Bill C-48. The Atlantic accord should not have been included in the budget to begin with. That was our position at the time. That is our position today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for a well thought out and well researched debate on the budget. I am not sure which budget we are talking about, the first or the second one, but I would like to ask the member two questions.

First, would he acknowledge that in fact the NDP has recently announced that it too supports separating out the Atlantic accord so that we can do the right thing for Atlantic Canada? That is unlike what the Liberals want to do, which is to tie it up into the first budget, which has 24 parts. We were quite willing to negotiate out each of those individual parts to make them better for Canada, unlike the Liberal Party. Was the member aware of that?

Second, how does he feel about this second budget, which appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility that the government will fall, a reaction out of a desperation to hang onto power? A knee-jerk reaction led to the conclusion that brought us the gun registry. Also, when the Liberal government heard of children sniffing gasoline, the knee-jerk reaction was to move them to another place and ultimately the problem went with them at a cost of $400,000 per person. Therefore, how does the member feel about knee-jerk reactions?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Cambridge had two very good questions. I will take them in order.

We have advocated for many months that we should be separating the Atlantic Accord from the budget. If the NDP supported that position, we would be in total agreement. Let us get it done. Let us get money to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia as quickly as we can.

I find it very interesting that the members opposite, in their unholy alliance with the NDP, would not support their partners in crime on this one. If they are truly sincere in wanting to get money to the Atlantic provinces quickly, why do they not join with us and let us get it done?

The Liberals do not. Why do they not? For one reason and one reason only. Politically, they want to try to put the blame on the opposition. That is the only reason they are doing this. They are trying to make it a political issue. Once again, they are playing with the lives of people for their own political purpose.

Any time we have a knee-jerk reaction to something as serious as the budget, we will have problems. We have seen $2 billion unnecessarily wasted on the gun registry. We see examples like the sponsorship scandal, designed exactly for the same purpose, which was to try to buy votes for Canadians in Quebec, the biggest criminal and corrupt scandal in Canadian parliamentary history. We should not support Bill C-48 because it has all of the elements of the same problems.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government and the Prime Minister have to be commended for this budget. It speaks to the volumes of Canadians who want priorities.

In particular, the budget has substantial investments in health care. It has substantial investments in the areas of child care and the environment. For the first time I think in Canadian history, or as long as we can remember, there are substantial investments in our defence system.

In addition, a topic that I am personally passionate about, and I think as are many Canadians across the country, is that of international development and foreign aid. It is excellent to see that the budget provides substantial investments and a commitment in regard to the millennium development goals, an ambitious agenda to ensure that global poverty is reduced in half by 2015.

The increases provided in the budget would allow Canada's recent international policy statement, which would provide for an important new platform for Canadians, to play more of an important and effective role in relieving the plight of the world's poorest people.

The debate we are having today and the substantial commitment and investment that has been made in the Liberal budget in regard to foreign aid and international development presents an opportune time for us to reflect on Canada's role in the world. How can Canada and how can we as Canadians contribute to global poverty reduction and best help others to help themselves? Why do we as a nation want to do this?

There are two reasons in particular. We must contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world. I think this truly reflects the values of many Canadians. It truly reflects our idealism and our interests. Our country's principles and values, our culture, are rooted in a commitment to tolerance, democracy, equality and human rights, to a peaceful resolution of differences, to opportunities to address the challenges we face in the marketplace, to social justice and development and to easing poverty.

Canadians wish for these values to be reflected and advanced internationally. Canadians care deeply about helping others. We always have and I think we always will. It is simply the right thing for us to do as a nation.

This was evident in an unprecedented country-wide response during the unfortunate tsunami disaster. During the tsunami disaster thousands of Canadians had an outpouring of spontaneous generosity to ensure that we as a nation and as individuals helped to rebuild the lives of individuals who were affected by the tsunami disaster, that we helped to rebuild not only their lives, but also their families and communities.

Building a better world is also in Canada's best interest. Canada recognizes that what happens in the rest of the world and at a global level truly affects us here at home. The time is gone when each country or each continent can look after its own security. We must work in collaboration. All nations must work together as a team to ensure that we have a more prosperous and productive global economy and global society.

In response to the recent United Nations threats, challenges and change report, Kofi Annan said, “The threats that we face are threats to all of us and they are all linked to each other”. To address these many threats to human well-being and security, the world needs to share the benefits of trade. It needs to ensure that we collectively end the debt crisis and promote more efficient and effective aid.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognize that Canada has done much to respond to these threats, but we as a country must do better.

The millennium development goals to cut global poverty in half help Canada focus on this monumental but doable task, and 2005 is an important year for us to move forward on this important agenda.

In September the heads of state and government will gather at the UN for a five year review of progress to achieving these millennium development goals. This summit will provide Canada with a unique opportunity to inject new vision and to ensure that we have new energy embodied in the millennium declaration.

We must ask ourselves this. What exactly is Canada doing to contribute to making a better world for all, to building a better society for all people and for Canadians?

Canada, especially in this budget, is renewing its commitment to advancing Canadian values of global citizenship as well as Canadian interests regarding security, prosperity and governance. Canada is working hard to focus and to ensure that we reduce global poverty through an approach that matches the Canadian experience and expertise with developing country needs in coordination with other donors.

Since 2002, when CIDA, Canadian International Development Agency, launched its strengthening aid effectiveness policy, there has been a tremendous amount of work to refocus some of the activities. This entails building government-wide consensus on key elements of Canada's role in the world. It also means that we as a nation have coherent domestic and international policies, country-led development, areas where we are focusing on sectors of expertise, on a results based approach, on good governance and on building of a good, engaged civil society. The proposed increases reflected in the budget to official development assistance will contribute to these much needed projects and initiatives that are currently under way.

Canada is better coordinating efforts with other donors and other developing nations and it will continue to do so to ensure that we continue play a leading role internationally.

Canada is always thinking and reflecting very carefully about ways in which our country can add value. Canada knows its strengths. We have strengths in the area of health care. We have strengths in the area of the private sector development, in terms of education. We have strengths in our environment and in our governance policies. It only makes sense that Canada offers these areas of expertise to other countries to assist them so they are also well-governed and self-sufficient.

These principles and ideas are at the heart of Canada's international policy statement.

CIDA will receive much greater focus in its geographic programs. It will deliver at least two-thirds of bilateral aid to a core group of 25 development partner countries by 2010. These are countries that could use aid both effectively and prudently, and where Canadian expertise and resources can truly make a difference.

More than half of these countries, 14, are in the sub-Saharan Africa. This great concentration in Africa would be in keeping with Canada's commitment to double Canadian assistance to the continent by 2008 from the 2003-04 level.

That said, it is also important to realize that Canada will support other countries. CIDA has also embarked up to one-third of its bilateral budget for countries that are of strategic importance and other countries where Canada can continue to make a difference. It will use a multilateral and partnership programming to address the plights of other low income countries.

CIDA is also pursuing a greater sectoral focus. Canadian assistance will target and concentrate programs in five sectors that are directly related to the millennium development goals. They will ensure that we promote good governance, that we improve health outcomes, such as HIV and AIDS, that we strengthen our basic education, that we support private sector development and that we advance environmental sustainability. Ensuring gender equality will be systematically and explicitly integrated across programming for all of these five sectors.

With these actions, CIDA is increasing both the quality and the quantity of Canadian aid. However, the Government of Canada recognizes that more or better aid is simply not enough. That is why the international policy statement recently released reflects a comprehensive and whole of government approach. It enables Canada to harness all the tools and instruments at its disposal, such as promoting greater market access, more debt relief and more support for private sectors in developing countries.

Canada is poised to reclaim its rightful place in the world and the Prime Minister has said that we must seize the moment to reassert ourselves on the world stage. We must speak up with a persuasive voice for equality, human rights, democracy and fairer globalization.

Canada is already making a difference in the world. The increased funding that is going to be provided in this particular budget is going to ensure that we, as Canadians and as a nation, can truly make a difference in the international arena.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's remarks. I have great respect for the member. As the House knows, we share a common past career.

However, I would like to ask the member if she could comment on three things. How will purchasing clean air credits from foreign countries help Canadian air get any cleaner? Why did foreign aid in this budget have nothing to do with Haiti and what does the Liberal government have against Haiti? Why, after years of pushing the government to assist in the Sudan, has the government chosen to go there only now that its own fall is at risk?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I also have a great deal of respect for the member opposite, having shared a career in the same profession.

Our government has made a substantial commitment in regard to Haiti which was outlined in the initial budget. There has been a tremendous amount of work that has been done in Haiti. We must also realize that we do have a commitment to Sudan. We have a commitment to ensuring that we as Canadians can provide as much financial assistance and also personnel support. We know with the recently released announcement by the Prime Minister, there was a substantial commitment made in the range of $198 million to provide both troops and assistance to the many families who have been affected in helping them rebuild their lives.

We must realize that in regard to the clean air credits, that was mentioned by the member opposite, the government has made substantial investments in ensuring that we as a nation have one of the best environmental policies in the world. We have our Kyoto plan. It is imperative that the member opposite consult and have dialogue with his particular party members to ensure that they support this budget. This budget reflects the priorities of Canadians. It has made substantial investments in health care and child care.

Another area which is important to mention is that this budget provided significant investment to the recognition of foreign credentials. This budget has $75 million allocated toward ensuring that health care professionals who are trained abroad can come into Canada, have their credentials recognized, have them accredited, and ensure that they are integrated into the labour market workforce so Canadians can get access to doctors.

This budget speaks to the priorities of Canadians and that is why it is supported by so many Canadians, and as of this morning, that is why it was supported by a former member of the Conservative Party and now a cabinet minister with our government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, it appears that I am having a dialogue with members in the House this morning and I appreciate getting up a second time.

I would like to remind the member and then ask for a comment that this commitment to health care and child care and so on is for 2008-10.

As well, this commitment for accreditation of doctors is $75 million over five years. That is $15 million a year, or what anyone with a bit of math background could tell us is 50¢ per Canadian. There are 30,000 people in my riding without doctors. All we do is steal doctors from other communities. Could the member explain to us how 50¢ per Canadian shows any sympathy or any intelligence from the government?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, health care is an issue about which I am extremely passionate, having been a health care provider and having seen on the front line some of the challenges that we face in our health care system. I must commend our Minister of Health, our Prime Minister and many members in our Liberal government for providing leadership on this particular issue.

We know that last year there was a historic 10 year deal signed of $42 billion to ensure that some of the challenges that we face in the health care system are addressed, that Canadians do not have to wait for hours and hours at the hospital, that we have a reduction in wait time, and that Canadians who do not have primary care physicians or cannot get access to them do have that opportunity.

In terms of an integrated approach that has been done by health care, HRSDC, Citizenship and Immigration and Industry Canada on the issue of foreign credentials recognition and ensuring that doctors who are educated abroad do have the opportunity to come into our system and practice as physicians speaks volumes to that commitment.

The member opposite realizes that substantial investments have been made in the budget and health care was one of those substantial investments. I would urge the hon. member to discuss this with his party members to ensure that they support the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, the federal budget tabled on February 23 is not acceptable for a multitude of reasons. I would like to focus on one aspect, that of the economic situation of women and the budget's impact on them.

The budgets of the past 10 years have done very little to increase women's economic security. A recent review by the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action of the last 10 federal budgets reported that women are doubly penalized by this government's budget measures.

Between 1994 and 2004, the Canadian economy grew by 62%, that is, Canadians produced almost $480 billion more in market value per year. And yet, during that period, the salaries of a growing number of women failed to increase or increased only barely, while costs of essentials, such as housing, tuition fees, child care services, public transit and public services continued to rise. We are therefore not surprised to see poor children, because the parents are poor. We know that single mothers are our society's poorest.

Women in part time jobs, earning low wages, continue to be the hardest hit. In Canada, one woman in seven lives below the poverty line. This is totally unacceptable. In Canada, statistics indicate that, in 2002, 51.6% of women living on their own earned salaries below the poverty line.

Cuts in federal spending between 1995 and 1997 affected women disproportionately, especially those most vulnerable. Billions of dollars in lost funding have drastically cut support for women as their responsibilities increase.

According to the public accounts, federal funds for essential programs were cut by nearly $12 billion between 1994-95 and 1996-97. In addition, the restructuring of federal tax arrangements concluded with the provinces was accompanied by the withdrawal of billions in transfer payments between 1995 and 1998.

We note that women suffered more cruelly with the fight against the deficit. From 1997-1998 to 2003-2004, the federal government accumulated over $60 billion in surpluses. Did women benefit from the seven years of surpluses? Certainly not. From the time surpluses first appeared, the federal government has done nothing to repair the damage, and this latest budget is no exception.

We have seen a considerable decline in the social fabric, and it has been really dramatic for women. Between 1998 and 2004, the federal government earmarked $152 billion for tax cuts, which obviously benefited the richest people. Are women part of this group? Of course not.

In comparison, its transfers to the provinces during this period were only $34 billion in net new funding for health care and child care. In addition, it failed to cancel the changes made to the employment insurance system during the deficit period, which reduced the number of women eligible and the benefits that they received.

In 1994, 49% of women were eligible for employment insurance. After the reforms in 2001, only 33% were eligible, in comparison with 44% of men. And this budget fails to correct the situation.

Quebeckers have long wanted an independent fund and commission as well as improvements to the coverage provided by the employment insurance system, that is to say, the eligibility threshold reduced to 360 hours, an increase of five weeks in the duration of the payments, and so forth.

I personally introduced a bill to this effect just a few months ago. I can assure you that Quebec workers were not very impressed by the insensitivity shown by the Liberals who voted against this bill, thereby denying a right to the unemployed women of Quebec, namely the right to employment insurance.

In this budget, in addition to refusing to make improvements to employment insurance or to correct the fiscal imbalance, the Liberal government is now patching together ad hoc agreements with certain provinces to the detriment of Quebec.

Since the mid-1990s, the investment in programs to improve the financial security of women and families has been maintained at levels not seen since the late 1940s.

There is an urgent need to rectify the situation. But this budget fails to make the changes we hoped to see in order to improve the financial situation of women.

The Standing Committee on the Status of Women, on which I sit, requested over 25% in increased funding for Status of Women Canada programs. These programs go directly to help women. But there is no trace of this in the budget. Status of Women Canada has only $10 million in its programs for all the projects and all the programs of women's groups across Canada. This is far too little and nothing gets solved.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-43, a bill I have not been able to support since March.

In my riding, which is 75% agriculture, the budget ignored agriculture to a degree that I could not support it. When a budget does not support the farmers, then I cannot support the budget. It is as simple as that.

For the last several years in the riding of Wild Rose I have watched farmers suffer through some very serious drought periods, grasshoppers like no one would believe and crop destruction left and right, but they have received no relief with respect to those issues. Some relief came once through the efforts of a Liberal MP working in conjunction with myself, with the member for Crowfoot and with a group of farmers. It has been mostly farmer to farmer relief with Ontario farmers starting the hay west movement. Through their efforts some relief was received, and that was very honourable. However not one penny has been received over the years that I have been there in regards to these disastrous situations.

Just about the time the rain started to come a bit more and the hay crop start to look a little better and the grasshoppers started to disappear, along came the BSE crisis. I do not think the government understands how serious the situation is for farmers because it did not even talk about it in the budget speech.

To this day there have been no announcements of anything new for the beef industry. We have heard a lot of other announcements, such as $22 billion in addition to the budget that was announced in March. Announcements have been made all across the country, which is nothing more than vote buying, and I think all members in the House know that.

All kinds of extremely important issues that should have been well covered in Bill C-43 were not mentioned. If they are important enough now that the government had to find another $22 billion to cover them, then they should have been important in March when the budget was presented.

It is only as a result of the leader of the NDP writing a new budget on the back of a napkin in a private meeting with the Prime Minister, that we are now looking at another budget, even though the first budget is still in existence, with billions of dollars in additions just out of the blue because an election is near.

I want to get back to the farm issue and give the House a couple of examples of some situations in my riding.

I have two couples in my riding both of whom are working off the farm just to make ends meet and get food on the table for their children. In April, one of those couples picked up the mail and became very excited when she saw a brown envelope from the Government of Canada. It was a farm income payment, something for which they had applied several months or maybe even years before. They were excited. They were expecting a few thousand dollars to help them through this terrible time. When the envelope was opened it contained a cheque for $106.40. The other couple each received an envelope and each cheque was worth $152. It probably cost those couples several hundred dollars to prepare the applications to request this money.

I have seen the forms that accompanied the money that was available. One would have to be an accountant or a lawyer to figure them out. Then I listened to the minister yesterday in question period bragging about the billions of dollars that have gone into the hands of producers.

Those are only a couple of examples of many across my riding. When I talk to other members, including rural members from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the same story is true with amounts even less than the ones I mentioned. Yet this minister was bragging about the billions of dollars that have gone to the producers and how it is saving the day.

Just yesterday, on the front lawn of this place, hundreds and hundreds of tractors and farmers were begging for some relief and for help and yet the minister has been talking about the wonderful announcements and all the money that is getting into the hands of producers to help save the day.

I would like one member from that party across the way who helped develop this budget to explain how $106.40 is supposed to save the farm. What kind of a joke are they pulling? I cannot for the life of me understand where the Liberals come off believing that they are the saviours and rescuers of the agricultural industry, which happens to be the most important industry in this land. We all have to eat.

I hope the voters in Toronto, in Montreal and in all the major cities across the country will stop and think about it for a moment because many of the smaller towns recognize the importance of a successful agricultural industry and what a great impact it has on the nation as a whole. Agriculture is not even mentioned in the budget. We just mouth the words of billions of dollars going into an industry but every example that I have and I have yet to find one where it was a significant amount of money that saved the day. It is from farmers working on the farm and it is through their own initiatives of doing everything they can think to help save the day. It has nothing at all to do with government decisions.

I remember Mr. Chrétien out in the field with Mr. Vanclief wearing a ball cap saying, “today we're proud to announce $6 billion for the farmers across the country for the next five years”. Well $6 billion would really do a lot of good. The Liberals are still bragging about these announcements but people are receiving cheques for $106 and $150. I even heard of a couple in Saskatchewan who received $46.

Yesterday the farmers told me they could not even have an auction on their farm because there was no one left to buy the equipment. Everyone is suffering too severely. They are losing land and are going under.

It makes no sense. The Liberals keep mouthing the words but there is no action. Show me a nation with a successful agriculture industry in agriculture and that is a nation that is really strong. I think the agriculture industry accounts for millions and millions of jobs that we do not talk about in this place that exist in various cities, communities and towns.

Why do we put up with that? It saddens me when I hear of brown envelopes full of thousands of dollars passing hands in Montreal restaurants and yet brown envelopes that reach the farms across this country contain a pittance. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Do the Liberals not know how important this industry is? There ought to be several of them over there who recognize the importance, but it takes more than mouthing, more than announcements and more than further announcements somewhere else.

I fail to understand how anybody could support a budget that does not support the most important industry in this country. People who support it should go to the rural areas to see that farmers are failing dismally. They are losing their land and livelihoods. I understand there has been a high rate of suicide.

The government should open its eyes. It is time for someone to be in charge, someone who recognizes the importance of all issues, not just a few to make someone popular at election time, not someone who spends, spends, spends because it will get votes, where there are the most votes. Of course, there are not a lot of votes on the farms, so they are neglected. Shame on the Liberals for ignoring the number one industry in our country, agriculture.

I am with the farmers. This party is with the farmers and I will see to it that it stays with the farmers. It has to be that way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Madam Speaker, the member is greatly mistaken in saying that the government does not support the farm community. It does. It supports the farm community extensively.

I agree with the hon. member's point in terms of the difficulties the farm community is facing. There is no question about that, but keep in mind that government payments have never been higher than over the past two years: $4.8 billion federally and provincially in 2003 and $4.9 billion in 2004.

The member said that agriculture was not mentioned extensively in the budget. The reason is that most of it is regular programming, for example, the CAIS program, which can make up to $5 billion available, the cash advance program and the supply management system. The member said he would like to see some successful industries. The commodities in the supply management system are successful because they have taken charge of their own industries and have matched production to meet domestic demand. As a result of coming up with those kinds of programs they do receive a fair return on their labour and investment.

Yes, there are difficulties in the other industries. As the member knows, we have been looking at the reason for the long term decline in farm income at the farm gate. There are many reasons. We are trying to propose solutions.

At the end of March the minister announced a $1 billion farm improvement program. The member talked about that program. Farmers did not even have to apply for that program. If they had applied for the program two years ago, the same calculations were used to send out cheques automatically. I agree that some of the cheques were for small amounts but if farmers are basing it on inventories of cattle, they cannot go over the amount of cattle they have. Money is getting out to the farmers.

I know that $1 billion sounds like a lot to the consuming public, but when it is spread across the agriculture industry I admit it is not going to be huge. The bottom line is that $4.9 billion last year went to the agriculture community. Does more need to be done? Yes, it does.

I agree the industry is in considerable difficulty but the government has been standing with farmers. Whether it is BST, financial payments, support for the Wheat Board or the supply management system, the government is there and will continue to be there.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, that is an example of what I mean by a lot of words, yet throughout the country farms are going under, foreclosures are happening, suicides are going up. It is a very, very tearful, sad situation.

These are only small examples of the cheques that I have talked about. There are thousands across the country getting these pittances.

I will admit that the provinces have done a great deal of good. They are trying their darndest, in Alberta particularly, with which I am most familiar. They have brought forward a sizeable amount of cash to try to keep things alive, particularly during the drought periods and the grasshopper periods.

The member is continuing exactly what has been going on for the 12 years that I have been here. It is all words but no proof of any action being effected. Maybe we need to have an inquiry as to where the billions of dollars are actually going, because I can promise the member, it is not getting into the hands of producers as his party brags it is. It just is not.

As far as the number of cattle is concerned, I can guarantee that the people I mentioned today have a sizeable amount of cattle. They are surviving because they work off farm. They have to do that in order to make the lights burn in the house. If it was not for that, they would not make it at all. It is the initiative of the people themselves that keeps things going.

I agree with the success of supply management. It is certainly successful in spite of the government, not because of it. It is successful because there are people who are really dedicated to a cause, who make things happen in their industry and do a good job of it, not because of the government, but in spite of it.

Many people are surviving in spite of the government, not because of any financial assistance they got. It is all words. Please bring forward those who have been saved by the government through its financing with these billions of dollars. I would like to meet them. I have not met one to date. I would sure like to meet one.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, today I will be addressing a part of the budget that has not received very much attention, which is the impact it will have on Canadians with disabilities.

We know that hon. members opposite already support significant parts of this budget, such as the Atlantic accords, the increased support for the military and now the veterans charter. Many also actually support the whistleblower legislation under Bill C-11 which is now being drafted to protect federal employees. Therefore, it should be very easy for them to support the budget solely on the basis of what it will do for Canadians with disabilities.

I am also personally pleased that members of the Conservative Party see the benefits to Canadians on many other factors. I sincerely welcome their professed public support for the government's budget for Kyoto and the environment, for cities and communities, for the gas tax for municipalities and for first nations, for our child care agreements with the provinces and territories, for post-secondary funding, and for the GST rebate which has been promised to be honoured and now totals $600 million annually to communities of all sizes. I welcome their support for pensioners getting increased benefits, for our plans for affordable housing and making real progress on homelessness, and for improvements to the Income Tax Act which will take 860,000 Canadians off the tax rolls. Those who are least able to afford paying income tax will no longer have to do that. This includes 240,000 seniors on fixed incomes.

I know that they will support our proposals for even more aid for our farmers and agricultural sectors. We thank them for supporting the increase in funding for federal development agencies. For the people of Thunder Bay--Rainy River, it would mean significant benefits especially in the areas of broadband services, telemedicine and distance education.

If there ever were a budget that would tackle poverty head on, this is it. What I will speak to is the potential tragedy that would happen if this budget did not pass and how detrimentally it would affect persons with disabilities.

The Conservatives and the separatists will hurt hundreds of thousands of Canadians with disabilities if they stop these improvements, so I ask them now to help pass this budget. Since they agree with most of it already and have publicly stated their intent to honour many parts of it, it should be very easy, once I have finished speaking, for them to agree that this budget is one of the best ever.

In December 2004 a task force recommended improvements to the tax treatment of Canadians with disabilities and their families. The task force was composed of representatives from the disabled communities across the country. Its 25 recommendations resulted in a series of changes that will result in a $107 million investment in this budget year, should the budget pass. This would grow to $122 million by 2009, again should the budget pass.

In essence, the recommendations will broaden and clarify the eligibility criteria of the disability tax credit. It will expand the list of disability supports allowable under the disability supports deduction. It will increase the maximum credit under the refundable medical expense supplement from $571 to $750 per year. It will increase the child disability benefit, moving claims from $1,681 to $2,000 per year. It will double the amount that caregivers may claim for medical expenses under the disability tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000. It will make a $6 million investment with $1 million ongoing funding to help the CNIB enhance its library services across the country.

This is one report. Often in government we hear of reports gathering dust or being put on the shelf. Regarding the recommendations of the technical advisory committee, we know for certain that the report did not have time to gather dust or even make it to the shelf. It is action-oriented and it has been implemented as recommended, suggested and spoken to by the Minister of Finance. Whether it happens depends on the members opposite. I realize there are no representatives from the Conservative Party listening to me now, but I hope they will read this in Hansard .

Let us just talk about it.

Seventy million dollars is already in place as part of ongoing measures for the disabled. Therefore, the budget plan contains $37 million in new measures for persons with disabilities, $37 million more this year along to help address those needs and to take people off support and to continue to allow them a dignified normalization of life to which they are entitled.

I will go over a few of those things. All through the budget debate many other issues seem to have taken more spotlight. Once members have a chance to realize how significant these are to people with disabilities, then I am sure that we will gain even more support for the budget.

Let us talk about recommendation 3.2. It states:

To further improve the disability supports deduction, the committee recommends that:

The cost of such items--

To some of us they may seem like small things and things that many people take for granted, but they had not been considered before. This is where the committee, again, composed of representatives throughout the disabled communities of Canada made their suggestion. It goes on to state:

--as job coaches and readers, Braille note taker, page turners, print readers, voice-operated software, memory books, assistive devices used to access computer technology and similar disability-related expenses be added to the list of expenses recognized by the deduction.

That estimate of cost was $5 million a year. It was accepted. It can be implemented. It will be a promised kept if the budget passes.

The next one recommended that the maximum credit under the refundable medical expense supplement be increased from $562 to $1,000 and continue to be indexed to the cost of living. The cost of this is $20 million a year. It was accepted by the Minister of Finance and I thank him for his very receptive response to the recommendations of the committee. We also thank his department and staff for implementing this. It is a promise that will be kept if the budget can be passed.

When we talk about limiting the expenses claimable under the medical expense tax credit by care givers from $5,000 to $10,000 for those with dependant relatives eligible for this credit, at an the estimated cost $5 million a year. It was accepted and it will be implemented. It is a promise that will be kept if the budget passes with the support of the House.

Recommendation 4.3 suggested that the federal government increase the amount of the child disability benefit by $600 to raise the total maximum benefit from $1,653 to $2,253 and that this amount continue to be indexed to the cost of living. This indexing becomes very important in this section, particularly so disabled people do not have to worry about constantly coming back to us. This will cost $15 million annually, again accepted by the committee, accepted by the minister, willing to be implemented, a promised kept if we can get support for the budget to see it turn into reality.

As chair of the committee, I ask all members of the House to not destroy the benefits addressed in this part of the budget. We are well on the way to formulating our first national disabilities act.

Now that members have been asked within the provisions of civility, order, decorum and respect to support the budget, they have to understand that if it is not supported how many pensioners, seniors, children and others with disabilities will be detrimentally affected. If for no other reason members do not want to support the budget, this section alone would make it worth their while for the good will and benefit to Canadians with disabilities.

I know in my riding when I was mayor and when I first decided and was encouraged to run, community groups that represented the disabled organizations took a lot of time to help me to push the provincial government into passing its first disabilities act. Those people now are still being represented. I have seen, as the chair of our subcommittee on disabilities, that there is widespread support.

We are so close to having this come to fruition. Many recommendations of our task force representing the entire nation have been accepted so willingly, so promptly and so effectively. It troubles me greatly to think that Thursday night people would vote against the budget and cause so much damage to people with disabilities. Therefore, I ask members now--

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

On questions and comments, the hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, it is always a bit confusing when we hear the latest spin coming from Liberals regarding the budget. On the one hand, we hear all these desperate pleas that the budget has to pass and that all these groups are waiting for the funds. They paint the picture that the lights will shut off, the buses will stop running, the hospitals will shut down if the budget is held up. Yet, we know that last year's budget is only now finishing up its journey through the Senate, which is a bit of a contradiction.

We also know that many of the provisions in the budget are all back-ended. They will not take effect until 2008-09. Therefore, this much touted aid to the various groups the hon. member has mentioned will not even be seen this year. They will have to wait three, four years to see it.

Then we have the finance minister, if he is still the finance minister after the deal with the NDP, telling us that it is not $22 billion worth of promises because, again, it is all back-ended or it is repackaged spending.

When will Canadians see this money if the budget is successful in passing? As far as I have read and have heard from the finance minister, most of this is back-ended to 2007-08. If we defeat the budget, what would the difference be because most of the government's spending initiatives would not take place for three or four years anyway?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, on at least two fronts, the first being the disability section, that money would come into effect immediately. On very many of those sections people have been waiting for that.

On the other hand, we know that Canadians have implored, in a non-partisan way, all parties to ensure that the budget is passed. If they live in a community, a municipality, a first nation of any size, they will have already heard from their elected representatives, municipally, to get this budget passed as soon as possible so the flow of funds can begin. The infrastructure funds, the gas tax, the GST rebate, which is already underway, are all part of this and are considerable evidence of the willingness to get this money into the system.

The economy right now is begging for the budget to be passed to end the uncertainty, so the infusion of support for infrastructure to communities and the benefits for people, such as seniors, children, the disabled, the very poorest. can be received as soon as possible.

Now that I have clarified that, I hope the member will vote for the budget on Thursday.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to ask a question of my colleague about the budget and the upcoming initiatives that we hope will benefit Canadians sooner rather than later.

One thing we negotiated with Bill C-48 is the elimination of large corporate tax cuts for the immediate budget. Does the member believe that instead of having those large corporate tax cuts in the future, we should invest in infrastructure, for example, to rebuild the trade routes and the ability for our economy to move via rail, sea or roads and highways as a priority as opposed to a general tax cut that has seen our infrastructure deteriorate over the years?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, in terms of philosophy, I agree there are considerable benefits to what the member has suggested.

Clearly, the implementation can be done in tandem to address the needs for tax cuts. When we try to total the billions in tax cuts that have occurred since 1993, when we first started to wrestle our way out under those horrendous inherited annual deficits, we have made considerable progress.

Probably this is one fact that all Canadians would like to know is in terms of tax cuts versus our investment in infrastructure. We were paying 38¢ or 39¢ on every dollar in debt interest charges. We are paying 18¢ now. That additional 20¢ on the dollar allows us to invest in programs to rebuild our country and to invest in the future.

I truly hope that clarifies it for the member.

Marlene Stewart StreitStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to recognize a very famous athlete from the Niagara region, golfer Marlene Stewart Streit.

In November of last year Marlene Stewart Streit became the first Canadian to be inducted into the world golf hall of fame. Her accomplishments during her career include winning the Canadian, Australian, American and British amateur golf championships as well as 11 Canadian ladies open championships.

In 1967 she was awarded the Order of Canada, the country's highest honour for lifetime achievement. In 1999 she was ranked first among Canadian female golfers of the 20th century.

I congratulate Marlene Stewart Streit for her accomplishments in Canada and throughout the globe, and recognize her for her outstanding athletic ability. She continues to be a role model for female golfers everywhere. Her achievements and contributions to athletics have left a lasting impression as a Canadian sport legend.

Member for Westlock--St. PaulStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Madam Speaker, for a number of reasons, this is likely my last opportunity to speak to the House. It has been an honour to serve in this House with you, Madam Speaker, and with my hon. colleagues. For the past 12 years I have been privileged to represent two ridings, Athabasca and Westlock--St. Paul.

I would like to thank my wife, Evelyn, for her never ending support and trust, my two sons, Matt and Gary, their wives, Andrea and Patty, and our six grandchildren.

I would like to thank my staff and the boards of directors from the two ridings that contributed to my success over the years. They are the lifeblood to any successful member of Parliament.

There are far too many people to mention individually. However, a few stand out due to the dedication that they have shown to me over the years. They are Bob Forester, Ron and Marilyn Bell, Bill Whitney, Dave and Vera Barnes, Margaret Modin, Sheila Trueblood, Guy Bouchard, Hank and Ruthield Offereins, Clarence Truckey, Paul Quantz, Wayne Cockerill, and the list goes on and on.

Police WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to mark Police Week 2005, which takes place this year from May 15 to 21.

Police Week is a time to recognize the significant contributions of Canada's law enforcement officers who work to ensure the safety and security of our communities.

Throughout the week, community groups and police services across the country will host special activities and displays that promote police-community partnerships.

Today and for the rest of the week, I invite all Canadians to join me in expressing a heartfelt thank you to the men and women in our police forces, who are helping to create a better and safer Canada for us all.

Chantal PetitclercStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, athlete Chantal Petitclerc never ceases to amaze us and continues to earn the highest accolades in the world of sports.

After winning five gold medals and setting three world records at the Paralympic Games in Athens, after being chosen female athlete of the year in Quebec and in Canada, she has just won the prestigious Laureus world sports award for the top sportsperson with a disability from the Laureus foundation in Estoril, Portugal.

What makes the Laureus so prestigious is that the recipient is chosen by her peers. The selection committee is made up entirely of international level athletes.

This exceptional athlete is a true role model for our young people and society in general.

The Bloc Québécois commends the perseverance, tenacity and competitiveness of Chantal Petitclerc and applauds her success. Congratulations, Chantal.