Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's budget delivers the least to those who need it the most and the most to those who need it the least, with next to nothing for the rest of us.
This budget delivers little for what Canadians need. It delivers little for working families. It delivers next to nothing for seniors, students, aboriginals, immigrants, children and parents. Even worse, it delivers less than nothing to future generations. It delivers less than nothing to Canada, to our land, sea, air and water. It delivers nothing for our climate and the environment and less than nothing to all of us.
However, where it does deliver, it delivers the most to those who need it the least, to the small percentage of parents who do not need child care, to the wealthy and the higher income levels who do not need a windfall, to corporations that are awash in profits, and to the oil and gas industries that continue to feed pollution.
It is funny. The Conservative Party has always attacked the NDP for our efforts to redistribute health fairly and equitably, to eliminate poverty, to shrink the gap between the rich and the poor, to open up opportunity to create a better and healthier future for all, and to build a better Canada and a better world.
This Conservative government is proving that it wants to redistribute wealth as well. It wants to redistribute wealth but in the wrong direction. It is redistributing the wealth of this nation, created by generations of people from all over the world, to the wealthy. How do members like that?
After taking the word “progressive” out of the Progressive Conservative Party name, this government is now seeking to take “progressive” out of Canada's progressive tax system.
This callous, shallow and gimmicky budget delivers the most to those who need it the least, to the wealthy and highly paid, to big spenders who squander the money on unnecessary luxuries, to the stay-at-home spouses of wealthy Canadians, to rich corporations, and to the profit-laden, constantly-polluting oil and gas industries.
This budget redistributes Canada's health to the wealthy and with it, the wealth and the environmental health of future generations. This government has a very Bush-league mentality with this budget.
What is left for those most in need, who need a bit of our nation's wealth the most? What is left for working families struggling to get by? What is left for students and seniors? What about aboriginals or immigrants?
What is left for all the children in this country who live in poverty? I ask that question today, more than a decade after every member of every party in this House took Ed Broadbent's pledge to make child poverty history. Today, one in six Canadian children live in poverty. Close to half the children of aboriginals and new immigrants live in poverty; the newest Canadians and those who were here before anyone else.
Child poverty exists in this country and yet, this government sees fit to ignore it. This Bush-league budget does nothing to break the cycle of poverty. Instead, this Bush-league budget rips apart programs, such as child care and affordable housing, that could break the cycle of poverty. It helps entrench that cycle by widening the gap between the rich and low income Canadians, by widening the gap between the have and the have nots, making it harder to break those cycles in order to pursue opportunity and create wealth.
This budget raises hopes by promising choice and promising benefits, and then delivers gimmicks and bribes while gutting and ripping apart the social programs and public spending that people need in this country.
Consider working families struggling to make ends meet. This government has ripped away the funding for the new child care programs that we finally got under way after years of Liberal delays.
Those are real programs for real children like the new child care and early learning centre called Kensington Kids in Trinity—Spadina. Kensington Kids is a wonderful centre created by parents who are on the board of directors and the educators at the community school where it is located.
We need more centres like Kensington Kids across Canada to deliver on the quality child care that parents and children need. Instead, by ripping away the funding for next year, the government and the Bush-league budget has slammed the door in the face of Kensington Kids just as it is getting started. Kids will be out in the cold and that is happening all across Canada.
What does this budget offer instead? What would those parents get and what would these kids get? Well, here is the answer. They will get a couple of bucks a day, barely enough for diapers let alone child care. A couple of bucks a day is all that is left from the new allowance that the government used to call choice in child care until New Democrats proved loud and clear it provided no choice in child care.
The allowance was reinvented in the budget as a universal child care plan, but it still has nothing to do with child care and it still does not deliver a full $1,200 to anyone. It is Bush-league. Working families and single parents who need child care the most and need financial assistance the most, will actually see the least from this bogus program.
Even with the modest improvements the government made after the NDP pressed it relentlessly, and even after the elimination of some of the federal clawbacks, those who need the most will still see the least. The allowance is still taxable even though it could have been delivered through the child tax benefit program. The government still intends to eliminate the $250 young child supplement that so many working couples and single parents, low and middle income families depended upon. Canadians will only see a net gain of $950 and that is taxable.
Hardest hit are single parents, so often women, who have been abandoned and are struggling to make ends meet, feed their kids, juggle part time jobs and find reliable child care. They see the least and working couples see very little more. But who sees the most of this so-called universal program? Well, the wealthy, that is who. We are redistributing child care dollars to those who need it the least.
The Caledon Institute did a post-budget assessment and the stay-at-home spouses of the highest income earners stand to see the highest benefits of $1,071. That is higher than the families on welfare, families which may actually lose other benefits and end up with nothing extra to help them get child care and get off welfare.
The spouses of wealthy Canadians are the new welfare queens and kings, the wealthy Canadians who do not need child care at all, and do not need the extra assistance to ensure the kids have warm boots in the winter and do not go to bed hungry. They are receiving the highest benefits of all out of this Bush-league budget. That is wealth redistribution of the worst possible kind. It is universal all right. A universal con game. We can do better than that.
The Government of Canada should not be punishing parents who need to work for a living. It not should show bias against working women and it should not deliver more to the rich than it does to the poor and the middle class. This is not made in Canada; this is made in U.S.A. That is why it is Bush-league.
Let us consider our seniors. They are the elders of our community, who worked hard, educated their kids, paid their dues, paid their taxes and deserve to live in dignity and respect. They are people like my mother, people like the seniors who drop into the Cecil Street community centre in Trinity—Spadina. They are people who are struggling to stay in their family home and trying to get home care so families are not ripped apart. They are people who have paid for our health system, saw it become the best in the world, and now see it failing them just when they need it the most.
What is in this budget for seniors? Nothing. Those who need it the most are seeing nothing. There is no new assistance or extra income for seniors, nothing for health care, nothing for pharmacare, nothing for home care, nothing for property tax reduction, nothing but pennies a day from the GST reduction. It means pennies a day for most seniors. Very few will save even as much as $100 a year. It would take $10,000 of spending over and above rent or property taxes and food to save as much as $100 a year on the GST reduction. Most seniors will see maybe $30 or $40 a year, pennies a day.
In downtown Toronto that will not stretch very far. Seniors see rising heating bills, cost of living and property taxes. With this budget, they will see declining social services, which they need the most and yet they get the least.
Who will get the most from the GST reduction? Let us face it, it is a gimmick. It is a costly gimmick and a government bribe. Once again, it is wealthy Canadians. Those who can afford to spend the most will see the most from this budget. They will have big savings from the GST. A wealthy person can guy a Porsche for $100,000 and will save $1,000. This is a good chunk of change. Yet most seniors will see maybe $50, pennies a day, not enough for a one way subway ride in Toronto.
Think of the aboriginals. The first nations in this country have also been left out in the cold. Once again, they are an afterthought. The NDP managed to negotiate funding in last year's budget, which was a start, but with this Bush-league budget aboriginals are being ignored. There is nothing new and promised child care funding of $25 million was ripped away. Aboriginals deserve better and we can do better than that.
Immigrants in this country contribute so much to our economy, culture and quality of life. Yet this budget fidgets with settlement fees but does nothing to reform a system that is cheating our country of the contributions made by immigrants. There is nothing to reform the system, nothing to reunite families faster, nothing to stop families and communities from being ripped apart, and nothing to address the callous and shortsighted deportations of much needed workers. This is a country built by immigrants, a country that needs immigrants, and yet those who need the most get the least in this budget.
The largest university in Canada is in my riding, the University of Toronto. There are also community colleges and students from many other post-secondary institutions in my riding. The government seems bent on squeezing students out of the picture, at least the students who are most in need. They may save pennies a day on the GST reduction, but that will not help pay tuition or find affordable housing.
Think about it. The little bit that the government has put toward post-secondary education, in Bill C-48 by the way, is for capital spending for universities. That may build some new labs or libraries, but it will probably be for only some of the fortunate few students who will actually afford to go and be able to have a huge debt after graduating.
While the government gives GST windfalls to the wealthiest, it does nothing to address tuition fees. Tuition fees are a tax on students, a huge burden. The tax cuts the government is making are on the backs of students who are footing the bill. This is insane and again is widening the income gap and making it harder to break the cycle of poverty.
The government has talked tough about youth and gang crime, enforcement, policing and putting hard, cold dollars into this budget. That is all fine and good, but what about vulnerable communities? What about youth at risk? There is money to address a small number of criminals. They get lots of money devoted to them. What about the vast majority of youth who need programs, training and opportunities, money for positive programs and education, and public funding to help them get started and not leave them to fail? Those who need the most get the least. In this case criminals will get the most. We can do better than that.
Let us think about the millions of Canadians who need affordable housing, seniors, students, working families, immigrants, artists and aboriginals. We desperately need affordable housing in Trinity—Spadina, since the federal Liberals abandoned the national housing program over a decade ago. In the budget we see the bare minimum, based on what the NDP achieved in the last minority government. It may translate into a couple of homes in Trinity—Spadina, if we are lucky.
Think about it. Someone who is really wealthy could buy a million dollar condo in my riding and save $10,000 in GST. This is good for that person and for the developer, but what about the seniors, the students, the single mothers who need affordable housing? What about them? Why are we making million dollar condos more affordable, while failing to deliver affordable housing to those who need it? Why are we doing that? Why?
Something in this country is universal. It affects the rich and the poor, new Canadians, aboriginals, artists, business people, everyone, and that is the environment. It is the air we breathe, the weather we endure, the environment we live in. It is what we all need the most and it is getting the least. There is nothing in the budget for the environment. The government covers up by diverting a minuscule tax saving to transit pass buyers and that is it. That is the environmental program.
There is not enough to expand public transit by even a tiny bit. It is not enough to meet even the most modest Kyoto commitment. There is nothing for enforcement, nothing for regulations for industry, no teeth for existing enforcement . The budget fails on the environmental front.
In downtown Toronto there were 63 smog days last year. Kids with asthma are gasping for air. Seniors can barely breathe. Our health care system is being crushed by all of this. Yet the government buries its head in the sand, very bush league. We can do better than that, or at least we had better try.
In the budget there is nothing for the environment. Yet the money losing port authority is still allowed to operate squandering millions in taxpayers' money on ferry upgrades, for an airport expansion that no one wants. All that money that is being squandered could be put to good use on Toronto's waterfront, while stopping pollution and planes.
There is a gap between the rich and the poor in this country and it is growing. We have been through a decade of great growth and prosperity, but too many people have been left behind. Now is the time to invest some of that surplus and recycle some of that prosperity. Instead we are squandering the prosperity and the surplus to give more to those who need it the least, and to give the least where it is most needed. That is wrong.
The Conservative government is using the ridiculous excuse that the Liberals did not deliver on all their promises either. We know that and it is no excuse. The Canadian people voted the Liberals out of office. Canadians expect better from the government. Some are seeing more: the wealthy, the corporations; those that need it the least are seeing the most. It is bush league, and the government should be ashamed of the budget.
We can do better and all Canadians deserve better. It is up to all of us in Parliament to ensure that the government delivers more to those who need it. Let us work for a progressive government for all Canadians and for future generations.