House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will cut the member a little slack since this is his first session in the House. He probably does not understand why Canadians threw the Liberal government out. It was because the Liberal Party was doing well, but not all Canadians were.

The challenge was we knew the Liberal government was doing better. We knew friends of the Liberal Party did better. However, Canadians did not feel were doing better. This budget proposes to return some of their hard earned dollars back to their pockets.

In terms of what the Conservative government plans to do, the GST cuts are a great example of how every person will benefit. Regardless of income, all Canadians will be touched as a result of those cuts. We are also planning on paying down $3 billion a year on Canada's debt. This is an investment in our future. As we continue to pay down that debt, we will free up interest dollars that can be spent on additional programs. This year alone the government will increase our spending by 6% on health care. These are very important things.

What Canadians are wondering is, where are the $40 million that were in the sponsorship fund? Why has that money not been paid back and what are we going to do about that?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to my colleague's remarks and to the questions put to him.

In his speech, in the questions put to him and in his answers and in the budget there is absolutely no mention of money for the first nations or for implementing the Kelowna accord.

The Kelowna accord was concluded after 18 months of concerted effort by first nations from all across Canada. Even they say it was a step in the right direction.

I have a very specific question for my colleague. Will he intervene with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ensure the Kelowna accord is honoured? It is fundamental to respect for Canada's first nations.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we look at the budget, there will be additional money for first nations, and for on-reserve and off-reserve housing. I believe that the minister responsible for Indian and northern affairs has made it very clear that he would like to see accountability, ensuring that the dollars are spent wisely. I believe he will be doing that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my speaking time with the member from Richmond—Arthabaska.

During the last election campaign, the Conservative Party made a commitment to Quebeckers to practise a new federalism, an “open federalism”, it said. A promise was made to respect the areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Unfortunately, with this budget, one cannot but conclude that the commitment has not been kept. Unlike what our colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse said a little earlier today, this promise to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces is for the time being only a promise. In fact, we have not seen it written down.

For the benefit of this House, I have identified the numerous intrusions into Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. Already I am sorry to have shared my speaking time, because I am not convinced that the 10 minutes allotted to me will be enough.

First of all, let us discuss the much talked about allowance of $1,200 for child care. This is a social policy falling clearly within Quebec jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois, made a proposal in good faith, for a refundable tax credit, which respected Quebec jurisdictions, since the federal government is entitled to levy income tax as it wishes. Unfortunately, for a reason that has not been explained and for which we still have not had an answer, the government did not take this approach, did not follow our recommendation and preferred an inequitable method—some of my colleagues will talk about this later on—a method furthermore which amounts to interference in Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction.

The Conservative government also proposed a pan-Canadian securities commission. Once again, this falls right into Quebec’s area of jurisdiction. All the previous Quebec governments have always refused to allow the federal government to interfere in this area of jurisdiction. Again today, in this budget, they come back with this proposal which they already know Quebeckers do not want. When I raised the question in the House, the minister encouraged me convince the Government of Quebec that it should give up this area of jurisdiction. It is always that old attitude , “Ottawa knows best; we will show you how to do things”.

Let us talk about the fiscal imbalance. The government made a commitment to fix it. We are giving it the benefit of the doubt, and this is why the Bloc will support this budget. Some things, however, remain worrisome The document presented with the budget often refers to the obligation to be accountable and to pan-Canadian standards. The social union project is even openly mentioned, which Quebec rejected in the past. The Bloc Québécois will remain vigilant in this area. The fiscal imbalance should be fixed simply by making unconditional transfers of tax fields to Quebec, which it may use as it chooses.

In education, certain measures which fall within Ottawa’s fields of jurisdiction have been taken. We salute them. For example, the elimination of income tax on income from scholarships and bursaries. The Bloc has long been asking for this, and it is happy to see the Conservative government concurring with its arguments. What is not so good, however, is the increased interference in Quebec affairs. For instance, funding is being increased for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and so forth. Once again, instead of transferring the money to the governments of Quebec and the provinces, which are in great need of it to rectify the underfunding of the universities, the Conservative government has kept the same old Liberal practice of opting for visibility by directly subsidizing the research agencies, instead of doing its work and giving the money to the Government of Quebec, which greatly needs it.

If there is one area of jurisdiction in the Constitution which is exclusively that of Quebec and the provinces, it is surely health. We recognize that, on certain issues and in emergencies, the federal government has a role to play, for example, in ordering quarantines and in the inspection of food and the conditions of animals. Despite Quebec’s repeated demands for the transfer of responsibilities and the money that goes to the health research institutes, the Conservative government is still not responding, despite its promise to respect Quebec’s fields of jurisdiction.

That is so much the case that this budget provides for money for a Canadian cancer strategy. I must remind hon. members that this is blatant duplication, for a Quebec strategy already exists. If the Prime Minister had wanted to honour his commitment, he should have transferred that money so that this could be done in Quebec City, in compliance with provincial jurisdiction.

Immigration is another fine example where the federal government should have been tending to its own jurisdiction instead of once again interfering with that of Quebec. This government is planning to invest $18 million over two years in an agency for the recognition of foreign credentials. Yet professional credentials are the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. They have nothing to do with the federal government. Even if we agree with the idea of recognizing credentials, that has to be done in Quebec City, not in Ottawa. That fact has to be respected.

On the other hand, something that is under federal jurisdiction is the question of the refugee appeal division. We are talking about the paltry sum of $10 million to establish a refugee appeal division. That was passed by the House in 2002, but it has still not been created. The Conservative government has made no provision for it. In other words, when it is time for the Conservative government to do something that is under its jurisdiction, it does not do it, while it jumps in with both feet when there is a chance to meddle in Quebec’s affairs.

There is the same kind of problem with job training. For years, the Government of Quebec has been asking and calling for the job training agreement that was signed to be honoured. Nonetheless, that has still not been done in the budget. The federal government has decided to reserve certain client groups for itself and it is infringing on Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. It is perpetuating duplications. And yet on December 11, 2002, in the National Assembly, all members unanimously called on the federal government to withdraw from that area of jurisdiction. That promise is still not being kept by the Conservatives.

This is particularly surprising because it is hard to believe that the federal government knows what it is talking about when it talks about job training. Among other things, apprenticeship grants are being proposed. We are told that the trades in question are of strategic importance for the economy. However, the federal government does not have the knowledge to make those choices. That must be determined in Quebec and the provinces.

The budget also contains a section dealing with sport and healthy lifestyles. Once again, the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over health and social services. The provinces are being told how to manage their money when that job should be done in the provinces and Quebec.

If the head of government, the Prime Minister, really wanted to practise open federalism, he should give the Government of Quebec the complete right to withdraw, with full compensation, in all these areas—including amateur sport—so that it can work in its areas of jurisdiction.

In conclusion, we have to say that for the moment, the new open federalism is a very theoretical thing. In practice, the same old habits of the previous government, which told us what to think, “Ottawa knows best”, are still being followed.

Either the government has no intention at all of honouring its commitments to Quebeckers—and it will thus be deceiving those Quebeckers who believed its promise—or this government has got off to a false start, this government has made a youthful mistake; that is what I would hope. In that case, it will correct the situation very quickly and will respect Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction. In any event, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that it does. If it respects our areas of jurisdiction, we will support it; if it does not, it will find us standing in its way.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech—he had a lot to say about the fiscal imbalance. I would like to hear his position on what I am about to say.

We know that there is a fiscal imbalance between the various levels of government. That said, I do not think we should see this as just a provincial-federal feud. There are also municipalities with major infrastructure needs, especially small municipalities, which have significant needs in terms of investments in infrastructure for drinking water and waste water treatment. We are now aware that these municipalities have been left to their own devices. They have a small tax base. They do not necessarily have many citizens.

I would like to know how the member sees the restoration of fiscal balance among all levels of government. I am referring not only to federal and provincial governments, but also to municipal governments and, ultimately, taxpayers.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fact that my colleague for Lévis—Bellechasse has asked the question shows that he does not understand what respect for Quebec's jurisdiction means.

Municipalities fall under Quebec's jurisdiction. These decisions will be made in Quebec. It is not up to the federal government to preach to the Government of Quebec. That is what it means to respect Quebec's jurisdiction.

That said, the government can invest in community infrastructure. The Bloc Québécois has asked it to do so. In fact, there is quite a lot of infrastructure in and around Quebec City that the federal government should contribute to. There is nothing in the current budget for those people. I find that unfortunate. The government should take care of that rather than tell Quebec how to run its municipalities.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment and a question for the hon. member. He is a smart gentleman who obviously has gone through the budget and looked at things line by line. I would like to point out to him the lack of fiscal flexibility that the Conservative government now has since this budget has been delivered.

We have seen balanced budgets in the past eight years. We have seen $3 billion in debt being paid off. We have also seen between $1 billion and $4 billion a year set aside as a cushion in case there is anything that happens within the country that requires some financial flexibility by the government. There is zero financial flexibility in this budget.

How can the member possibly believe that the government is serious about addressing the fiscal imbalance question when there is only $600 million in surplus this year and zero next year, with $22.5 billion in more cuts to come? Where is the money going to come from?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois already pointed out that it was very concerned about correcting the fiscal imbalance. It already pointed out that there did not seem to be enough money to address this issue.

In 2006-07, the surplus, including the contingency reserve, is $3.6 billion. In 2007, it is $2.8 billion. We are therefore talking about $6.4 billion. This is far less than is needed, since post-secondary education alone requires $4.9 billion a year. The federal government must leave Quebec its jurisdictions and look after its own in order to address this issue. We support the government on this. It promised Quebeckers it would do this. It also made this commitment in a budget document. We will see what the government does and will be there to monitor its actions.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is about employment insurance.

The hon. member mentioned earlier that the Conservative government is a new government. But the Bloc Québécois is not necessarily a new political party. In my opinion, the Bloc has failed seasonal workers when it comes to employment insurance because it is now prepared to support a budget that is silent on employment insurance.

I wonder whether the hon. member really believes that the budget is so good for people in rural communities, when we worked to improve things. In addition, we listened to the committee that was looking at seasonal work in the Lower St. Lawrence region in order to advance this issue.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois insists on discussing the fiscal imbalance because it knows that this creates a social imbalance in Quebec. In fact, the government does not have the means to work for people in communities. Furthermore, in terms of unemployment, the previous government's performance was pretty dismal. I am not particularly surprised that they are voting against this budget, since they have never even admitted that a fiscal imbalance exists.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber for allowing me to share his allotted time. I would also like to congratulate him on his work during the budget--given his role as deputy finance critic--in cooperation with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who for years has been working very hard to improve Quebec's position in terms of finances, and will continue to do so until sovereignty is achieved.

This budget marks the first time that we have seen the notion of a fiscal imbalance included. This is one of its positive points.

At home, the local media asked me about the budget. I replied that, like any budget, it has some positive aspects and some negative. I will focus on some of these points here today, particularly concerning agriculture, since I am the critic for the Bloc Québécois.

On the plus side, this budget sets out seven commitments including eliminating the fiscal imbalance by 2007. The Bloc Québécois is no stranger to this issue. On the contrary, the work that our party leader and my colleagues have done on this has paid off. This government understands that it is a minority and that it cannot be authoritarian like the last government was. Fortunately, this government has listened to some of our requests.

I had the opportunity to meet with several people over the weekend, namely mayors. They were satisfied with the supplementary $1.5 billion for infrastructure. We were talking earlier about municipalities. In matters of infrastructure, money is always an issue. It is always very appreciated when the federal government, through our tax money, can contribute together with the provincial and municipal governments to improving community infrastructure.

However, this budget also has a negative side. Anything to do with the environment is quite worrisome. Some money is being allocated, but it is not clear. We do not know what it will be used for. We know that this government wants to destroy the Kyoto protocol and that worries us.

Earlier I heard an hon. member talk about employment insurance. There is nothing in this budget on that either except for a vague allusion to an older worker assistance program. For the rest, we are still looking for measures on employment insurance in this budget. Unfortunately, it is true to the Conservatives' line of thinking not to be really concerned about the less fortunate.

We must also talk about industrial sectors that are deteriorating under globalization. Let us take for instance the clothing, textile and furniture sectors in my riding. My constituency went through job losses because of the inaction and inefficiency of the previous Liberal government. The current government did not think to add anything in the budget to help these deteriorating sectors.

As far as the $1,200 per child allowance is concerned, unfortunately, despite backlash from the Bloc Québécois and all the good advice coming from Quebec, this allowance is still taxable. My advice to families is to put money aside. When they file their income tax return they will have to pay tax on this allowance.

As I was saying, I want to spend the next few minutes on agriculture. We know that there is a very serious problem with farm incomes. There was a demonstration right here at Parliament on April 5. There were very good reasons for it. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is forecasting a 50% drop in farm income in 2006 in comparison with 2005 and an 81% drop in comparison with 2004. In addition, farm debt has risen 90% since 1995. Producers are in it now over their heads. We must help them get their heads above water.

The budget plan is to spend $1.5 billion on agriculture, of which $1 billion would be in 2006. We still have some concerns, though, about how this envelope will be allocated. We need to specify how this money will be paid out. Unfortunately, neither the budget nor the minister have dropped a single word about this since the bill was introduced here in the House of Commons.

Our farmers cannot compete currently with American and European producers. We know the situation well. The latter benefit from huge subsidies. I have some figures here. In Canada, for example, the subsidies amount to about $192 per capita in American dollars. In the United States, it is $317 per capita, and in European Union countries, it is $304.

In certain other countries, agricultural subsidies are even higher. In Japan, they are more than $400 per capita.

We are unable, therefore, to get a level playing field with countries that are also members of the World Trade Organization.

In Quebec and Canada, the farm sector has lost more than $6 billion in four years. That is a lot of money. The average annual net income per farm has been barely $5,600. It is a historic low, and that is what we heard from farmers when they came to Parliament Hill. My colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I marched with the 3,000 producers from Quebec who came to Ottawa to demand their share from this government just before the budget was brought down.

The Bloc Québécois demanded and obtained a take-note debate the day after this farmers’ demonstration. That evening, the government got several messages. The current programs are not filling the gaping hole in farm incomes. We need an aid program that will enable farmers to survive until a new strategic framework is adopted for agriculture, something this government promised.

The marketing structures, such as supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board, have to be supported and maintained by the government. We are very concerned about this. One need only consider what is happening at the moment to the dairy producers, with the whole debate on milk proteins. Imports are going to lead to the loss of more and more money for our dairy producers. Those losses could reach $500 million per year. Yet this government, like the previous one, does not want to acknowledge the problem.

We are beginning to see demonstrations in Quebec on this subject, and I want to warn the government right away to be on its guard. Quebec farmers too are very concerned about what is happening. Import restriction is one of the pillars of supply management. We are in the process of weakening that pillar. We even risk the collapse of the entire supply management system if we do not formally acknowledge the situation and use the means at our disposal: we can utilize article 28 of the GATT, or we can change the regulations governing the way that milk proteins are imported into Quebec and Canada.

I now close my parenthesis and continue.

With regard to the farmers’ demands, they have made it clear, both here and prior to the budget speech, that the funding granted should be flexible enough that Quebec and the provinces can set up and finance the appropriate mechanisms.

As I was saying, these key points were demanded before the budget. Now that we know that $1 billion will be paid out to help farmers make the transition to more effective farm income stabilization and disaster relief programming, we need to know under what criteria that money will be made available.

The minister has decided to invest the billion dollars in the Canadian farm income stabilization program. That means the money will be distributed through that program, after an evaluation of or retroactive adjustments to inventories. However this method raises certain concerns. I met recently with members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, of which Laurent Pellerin, the president of the UPA, is the vice-president. Under this method, the aid will cover only the steep annual decline in prices.

So we wonder what will happen, for example, to the grain growers who are most affected by the farm crisis. This method may well be of no use to them, because the grains and oilseeds sector is subject to slower, long-term price reductions. Neither will the horticulture sector benefit from the use of inventory evaluations, since market gardeners do not carry their inventory forward from year to year.

Also according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the differences between accounting systems could deprive Quebec farmers of the allocated funds. Quebec farmers have not forgotten that they received only $42 million of the $755 million distributed under the last federal assistance program.

The minister and his parliamentary secretaries, one of whom is an hon. member from Quebec, have crowed about that $755 million. Yet it had been announced by the previous government and simply carried forward by the Conservative government. The government should be careful, for Quebec is quite aware that it has not received its fair share of that money.

I close by saying that the Bloc Québécois joins its voice to that of the agricultural producers in calling for the government to distribute the announced aid fairly between the provinces, and to really direct it to those who need it most.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the last two Bloc members did a great job of talking about all the things that were wrong with the budget. My brief question is: Why is the Bloc voting for it?

The budget has all the things that are an anathema to Quebec. The Conservatives have slashed funding for the environment, for students, for low income people and for seniors. The budget contains nothing with respect to EI for seasonal workers. Child care, which is big in Quebec, has been slashed.

The Bloc has said that it does not like the securities part nor the lack of money for innovation, the humanities and social services. It also does not want the government meddling in Quebec's affairs.

The one thing Bloc members wanted was money for older workers. However the government has said that it will do a study on this even though a pilot project is already in place and a study has been done. The only excuse the Bloc members have given for voting for the budget is the fiscal imbalance. However there is no money in it for this and, in fact, the government is taking millions of dollars from Quebec for climate change, day care and aboriginal affairs.

For goodness sake, why would the Bloc members vote for this budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. It makes me laugh to hear the Liberals, who were in power for 13 years, listing everything that is bad in this budget, when they could have taken care of many of the problems that they are speaking about today with the billions of dollars in surpluses they accumulated over their years in power.

There is quite a credibility problem, in my view, when I hear the Liberals complain about what is happening now in the House of Commons. In addition, they are in the middle of their leadership race now and should therefore not try to make me believe that they are ready for an election after three months when we know very well or at least suspect—even though I am not the greatest political analyst in the world—that the Conservatives would return to power one month after the election with a budget very similar to this one.

We would then be back to where we started. And even though the Bloc has worked very hard to have the fiscal imbalance finally recognized, this recognition would probably be lost. For us, that is one reason not to defeat this government. Still, it is a transition budget. We are not going to let our guard down. When the next budget is tabled, we will see who has the last word.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, if a member perseveres he will achieve his goal of getting a chance to ask questions here. I have a question for my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska. I hope he gives me a frank answer.

My colleague is very familiar with the income crisis in agriculture. A first step was made in the budget, but the problem is huge. All the farms in the regions of Quebec, in particular, are having great difficulty recovering from what has happened over the last few years because of the lack of action by the party that is now the official opposition but used to be the government.

I would like to hear the member for Richmond—Arthabaska in this regard because I remember very well what a great advocate he was of farmers and their concern over the crisis in farm incomes.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I prefer this question to the previous one because I know the member well and I know that he is a staunch defender of agricultural producers in his riding, whom I had a chance to visit during the land use tour. We met members of the Union des producteurs agricoles. We even met some in Îles-de-la-Madeleine, where there is not as much agriculture. These people are very active and dynamic. I truly appreciate his question.

He is quite right: this crisis is unprecedented. The budget does not offer a panacea or any extraordinary sums. Agricultural producers asked for more than that.

The Bloc was worried that only the $500 million promised would be handed out, but a billion more has been allocated. This is a step in the right direction. However, as I said earlier, we have concerns about how the money will be distributed and how the allocations will be parcelled out to the provinces. We have to make sure that producers who need it can have access to the money right away. We would like the government to clarify what is happening with this.

In Quebec, another farm shuts down every week because of this serious agricultural income crisis. The member knows it and the government ought to understand it. All of these closures are worrisome. The government should consider the situation immediately and come to a decision sooner rather than later.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

I am pleased to make a few remarks on the first Conservative federal budget in 13 years. I know when members have been given the opportunity to study the budget document and debate its merits, they all will come to the conclusion that it is indeed a very good budget and one that should be supported by all members of the House of Commons.

I consider it to be a good budget from the point of view of tax relief. It is also a good budget from the point of view of investments in key areas, especially infrastructure. The budget will see roughly $17 billion spent on infrastructure and about $20 billion in general tax relief.

It is very important to me as a member representing the city of St. John's that a great deal of money is set aside for infrastructure replacement and infrastructure relief. Why? Because I happen to represent the oldest city in North America. When one represents an old city, infrastructure replacement and having the government set aside infrastructure money are very important. I am very pleased to see $17 billion set aside in the budget for infrastructure projects. My province will certainly be taking advantage of this money and will be applying for infrastructure replacement.

It is a budget that embraces a different vision of the country. The new Conservative government believes that Canadians really pay too much in taxes. All members have known for quite a number of years that Canadians pay too much money in taxes.

Any money that is in excess of what is needed to run the country and to make sure that the federal programs and responsibilities are met should be passed back to the taxpayers in the form of tax relief if at all possible. In the budget we are making sure that Canadians get some tax relief. Twenty billion dollars in tax relief is quite a step for a new government to take in its first budget.

Holding people's money to fund pet projects had long been the way our money was handled in this country. That is not the way it should be handled. I believe firmly that the government will make sure that the taxpayers' money is spent in a very wise and responsible way, and will not fund pet projects of politicians.

The budget takes some very significant steps. It honours our commitment to lower the GST by 1%. We are going to eventually lower the GST by 2%, but to begin with in our first budget it is being lowered by 1%. The GST has been a sore point for Canadians generally ever since it was implemented. It was brought on stream by the Progressive Conservative government a number of years ago. It has been a sore point for Canadians but it has helped tremendously in the effort to balance our budget over the years and to have the healthy surpluses that we have had.

The former government balanced the budget and had surpluses, but we cannot forget that the GST helped tremendously in that. Free trade helped tremendously as well. But the GST has been a sore point and we made a commitment in the election campaign to start the process of lowering the GST and lowering taxes generally for Canadians. This is what we are doing.

The budget has a number of initiatives. It creates a new $1,000 Canada employment tax credit effective July 1. The GST reduction will start on July 1 as well. It is going to be a great Canada Day present for Canadians.

The employment tax credit will give Canadians a break on what it costs to work. That is visionary. We concentrate more on trying to find employment for people and create new jobs, but we never really concentrate on what it costs for people to go to work. It is going to give Canadians a break on what it costs to work, recognizing expenses for things such as home computers, uniforms and supplies which can be quite a significant cost. That is a bit of a visionary thing.

The budget will also increase the basic personal exemption not only this year but for the next three years. Ultimately the basic personal exemption will be $10,000, which is something Canadians have been asking for as well.

The budget also keeps our election commitment on child care. Starting July 1, and it is no coincidence that we are starting on Canada Day, families with young children under six will receive $100 a month per child to assist with the cost of child care, $1,200 per child per year. This money is not going to be clawed back through reductions in any other income tested family support programs currently being offered by the federal government.

People were worried that it would be clawed back because of our federal income support programs. It is not going to be clawed back. We are encouraging the provinces not to claw back any of these benefits through reductions in their family support programs. That is very important because our child care plan is truly universal. The former government had a child care plan which was one size fits all. It did not meet the needs of many families in rural areas, families where parents are shift workers or families with a stay at home parent. Our plan delivers $1,200 per child per year to all families who have children under six years of age.

Also for families there is going to be a new physical fitness tax credit of up to $500. We have to help families wherever we can because the family unit is the basic building block in our society. The family needs help in a lot of areas. When looking at our budget, people will see that families are receiving help, that it is a family oriented budget so to speak.

The budget will create a $2,000 apprenticeship job creation tax credit for employers, a $1,000 apprenticeship grant to new apprentices, and a $500 deduction for the cost of tools needed to practise a trade.

This is the Conservatives' first budget, and it is indeed a good budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, in this place where we hear so much false bravado and famed indignation, it is nice to hear a thoughtful speech. The member outlined very sincerely how he felt about the budget and I commend him for that.

I would like to ask him a serious question. As a fellow Atlantic Canadian, I was very concerned as there does not seem to be very much in the budget for us. It may partly be due to the lower representation in the government from Atlantic Canada. I would have thought that my hon. colleague might have made a very good parliamentary secretary, along with the members for Cumberland—Colchester and South Shore. Instead, parliamentary secretaries for things like ACOA come from Calgary and Toronto, which I think is disappointing.

Shortly after the election, we heard the Minister of Finance muse about the offshore accords that meant so much to the member's province and mine last year, indicating that it was bad fiscal policy. Then we heard that was not what he meant, that was not the fact. In the budget that was presented to us last week, it says specifically that the February 2005 agreements with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were widely criticized as undermining the principles on which the equalization program is based.

When I saw that, it made me a little angry considering all that we heard from the opposition when this was being debated and the former prime minister made good on his commitment to fully ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador and my own province of Nova Scotia got 100% of offshore royalties.

How does my colleague feel about that being included in the budget speech itself? Does it cause him concern? Does he agree with it? If he does not agree with it, might he share that with the Minister of Finance?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

No, Mr. Speaker, I am not really concerned about it. We worked very diligently for the Atlantic accord. The Atlantic accord is a document that has now been signed, sealed and delivered to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and to Atlantic Canadians generally. It ensures that the oil revenues coming into the province are not going to be affected by equalization payments. As I said, that agreement was put to bed. It is signed, sealed and delivered.

The member mentioned that the budget does not deliver a great deal for Atlantic Canada. Of course, I do not represent all Canadians. I represent a specific area like St. John's. I could make a few observations on how this budget affects the people of Newfoundland and Labrador generally.

Earlier I said I was impressed by both the tax relief and the infrastructure spending in the budget, but as a result of the tax relief that I referenced earlier, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, for instance, will pay $124 million less in taxes to the federal government in 2007.

The $1,200 per child per year child care plan is going to put $33.7 million more in the hands of the parents in Newfoundland and Labrador over the next year. The budget will provide the provincial government with $2 million in additional moneys for health care, bringing the cash transfer to the province to $352 million for health care in 2006-07.

We will also benefit to the tune of about $54 million in extra equalization payments. Equalization payments in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for next year will be $687 million. That is a result of this year's budget, which means we will get $54 million more.

The budget puts $1 billion extra into post-secondary education and infrastructure. We will get about $15.8 million out of that as well.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, on May 2, Canada's new government presented its first budget.

We have provided Canadians with a budget that will benefit all Canadians. This budget turns over a new leaf for Canadians. It puts more money into the pockets of ordinary Canadians. It is a budget so unlike the ones we have seen in the past 13 years.

Our budget is much more modest. It is a budget that delivers on its promise. It is a budget that works on a two year timeframe. Therefore, when we promise, we must deliver. It is a budget that delivers. It delivers on tax relief, on focused spending, and it delivers on the priorities of Canadians and Manitobans.

Budget 2006 delivers $20 billion in tax relief over two years. That is more tax relief than the last four federal budgets combined. For every dollar spent in new spending, Canada's new government delivers $2 in tax relief. As a result of these measures, people in Manitoba will pay almost $300 million less in taxes in the year 2007.

The budget delivers on spending. As a government, we also have a responsibility to provide programs that are important to hard-working Canadians and, unlike the previous government which spent erratically on ever changing priorities, our new government has focused its spending on key federal priorities with programs that will get results and provide value for taxpayers' money.

The budget delivers for Manitoba. Budget 2006 confirms that Manitoba will receive $1.7 billion in equalization in 2006-07. Manitoba will also receive $19.2 million more in equalization than in November 2005.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the budget is that it rolls back years of overtaxation by the past government. Simply put, government has been overtaxing Canadians for far too long. Under the previous government, billions of dollars were taken from Canadians through overtaxation, to fund large and often hidden federal surpluses. Meanwhile, Canadians are working longer, paying more in taxes and saving less than they were 13 years ago.

Under the former government, Ottawa had been wasting those tax dollars on scandals and boondoggles, such as the sponsorship program, a costly and ineffective gun registry, and debt repayment programs that simply did not work.

Enough is enough. Canadians work hard and Canadians pay too much in taxes. It is time to give back money to Canadians. The budget delivers $20 billion in tax relief over two years. That is more, as I said before, than the last four federal budgets combined. It delivers tax relief for families, seniors, students, and for those who use our valuable infrastructure. We will reduce the GST from 7% to 6% effective July 1 of this year, and what a great Canada Day gift.

The budget, which delivers tax relief for families, will create a $1,000 Canada employment credit, effective, again, July 1. This new tax credit gives Canadians a break on what it costs to work, recognizing the expenses for home computers, uniforms and supplies as mentioned earlier.

We will reduce the lowest personal income tax rate from 16% to 15.5% effective July 1. We will increase the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. We will provide also a fiscal fitness tax credit of up to $500 to cover registration fees for children's sports.

We also think of the seniors and we will deliver on real tax relief for seniors. We will double the amount of eligible pension income that seniors can claim under the pension income credit, the first such increase in more than 30 years. Effective July 1, we will provide a 15.5% tax credit for the cost of transit passes. That means that a senior buying monthly passes in the city of Winnipeg can save up to $132 per year.

We will also deliver on tax relief for our students. We will create an apprenticeship job creation tax credit for up to $2,000, and completely eliminate the federal income tax on all income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships. We will also create a new text book tax credit for post-secondary students.

This budget is turning over a new leaf for families. Families earning between $15,000 and $30,000 per year will be better off by almost $300 in 2007, and those earning $45,000 to $60,000 will save almost $650. Focused spending means helping families. Raising children has never been easy and it is costly. Strong families mean a brighter future for Canada.

The most important investment we can make as a country is the next generation of Canadians. This new Conservative government is committed to supporting all Canadian parents in their choices. That is why we are investing $3.7 billion over two years for the universal child care benefit. As of July 1, another Canada Day gift, families will receive $1,200 per year for each child under six.

We will also invest in new child care spaces with $250 million beginning in 2007 to create those child care spaces. We will work with governments, business and community organizations to come up with a plan that works, a plan that actually does create spaces. The universal child care benefit, which provides families with $1,200 a year for each child under six, will put an estimated $101.2 million in the hands of Manitoba parents over the next year.

Focused spending also means ensuring a commitment of our dollars for law and order, so we can do our job and protect Canadians. Our government is committed to ensuring Canadians are safe in their homes, safe in their communities, and safe on their streets. Safe streets are a defining characteristic of the Canadian way of life and must be preserved, but times are changing.

Our cities are changing. The safe streets and neighbourhoods we expect as Canadians are threatened by gun, gang and drug crime, With this budget, our government focuses spending to protect Canadians on their streets, in their communities, at their national border and throughout the world. We are cracking down on crime.

We will provide $161 million to put more RCMP officers on the streets. We will invest $37 million for the RCMP to expand its national training academy. We will set aside funds to expand Canada's correctional facilities. We will provide $20 million for communities to use to develop programs designed to prevent youth crime. We will provide $26 million to give victims a more effective voice. We will provide the money required to arm our border agents.

As well, the infrastructure in our communities, our bridges, our roads and our transit, is very important. Over the next four years, we will invest a total of $16.5 billion in new infrastructure initiatives, including $3.5 billion this year and $3.9 billion next year. We will provide more than $5.5 billion in new federal funding for highways and border infrastructure, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, the public transit capital trust, and the Pacific Gateway initiative.

We will maintain the estimated $3.9 billion in current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives. We will maintain the existing gas tax funding commitment under the new deal for cities and communities, as well as the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities. These tax measures amount to $7.1 billion in infrastructure support for our cities and municipalities over the next four years.

To improve transit system infrastructure, Manitoba will be getting $14.7 million right away. Further, any surplus funds in excess of $2 billion in fiscal year 2005-06 will be used to provide the province with up to $32.6 million through the public transit capital trust. Municipalities across Canada will receive an estimated $4.4 billion over the next four years as a share of federal gas tax revenues, money they can invest in roads, clean water and other priorities.

The affordable housing trust will support investments to increase the supply of affordable housing, including transitional and supportive housing; up to $29 million in Manitoba.

In conclusion, on January 23 Canadians voted for change and our new Prime Minister promised to honour their trust and deliver on our commitments. With its first budget, Canada's new government is delivering: it is delivering tax relief, delivering focused spending and delivering debt repayment. We are doing it in a way that will benefit Canadians now and will enable us all to continue reaching higher to build an even greater country. This budget delivers for business, for families, for Canada, and for all of us.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member how I should answer, as a member of Parliament, those many constituents who have contacted me about early learning and child care.

In particular, I have heard from single mothers who have one or two young children under six. They are single mothers who are not working and are responsible for their children day to day with a partner or husband not in the picture and with no child support flowing. They are single mothers who want to pick themselves up, who want to do better or who want to go back into the workforce but simply cannot do it.

I would like the member opposite to answer me without using the word choice, which is a phantom word frankly when it comes to the handout by the Conservatives. How is a single mother possibly going to benefit from the budget? How is she possibly going to return to the workforce?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, single mothers certainly do benefit from the budget greatly. They will receive $1,200 for every child under six years of age plus the 1% GST reduction. There are many things within the budget that really help young single mothers.

A lot of these young single mothers want to get an education. There is a tax credit for textbooks when they attend school. The whole budget is built on families.

I have heard from teachers about the early childhood education issue. It requires a great deal of training to address the needs that early childhood requires for those children to actually develop. Many teachers are saying that early childhood education is an extremely important component. It begins with highly trained people in schools and in day cares. These are people with teaching degrees who have been schooled in that area.

I think the budget is truly a budget for all Canadians, whether they be single moms and dads or whether they are two parent families. It will take 655,000 low income families off the tax rolls. Clearly, this will help everybody, including the single mom that the member talked about.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague for Kildonan—St. Paul the following question: to be frank, is she not trying to hide the truth?

I would like the figures to be much more transparent. When talking about tax reductions, tax credits and so forth, she should be more specific. For example, with regard to the $1,000 apprenticeship grant, the increase in the pension income credit or the tax credit for parents who register their children in sports activities, a specific amount is stated. However, the real amount that will be pocketed by taxpayers, after tax a year later, will not necessarily be the same. Families will not automatically receive $500 for sports activities, but rather 15% of this amount, and so forth.

It is important for the member to be more transparent in her remarks.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, both members opposite and ourselves, on this side, are very concerned about accountability and transparency. That is why we put in, right at the offset, the federal accountability act that provides for that to happen.

We believe that Canadians should be able to see where tax dollars are spent. This government prides itself in presenting the federal accountability act which was our first order of business. I certainly agree and sympathize with the member across the way. Accountability is something that we are very proud of over here and we all need to be accountable to the taxpayers of Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, one cannot have observed the government over the last three months without noting its flexible use of the English language.

The flexible use of language and the flexible marrying of words and actions remind me very much of the Lewis Carroll childhood favourite Through the Looking Glass. In this book, members may remember the quote:

“When I use a word, “Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all.”

It now appears that we have Humpty Dumpty in league with the government: words are being redefined, actions reinvented and the master will prevail.

The litany of reinventions prebudget are becoming folklore of contemporary politics.

The call for Senate reform in an elected Senate resulted in the appointment of a close crony. Is that true blue of democratic reform?

When the member for Newmarket—Aurora crossed the House we heard that it was scandalous. Now the crossing of the member for Vancouver Kingsway a few days after being re-elected is also cited as the true blue of democratic reform.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Davenport.

Calls for democratic reform and the openness of government, now followed by the appointment of the caucus chair and committee chairs.

No lobbying for five years after a role in government and yet we see a lobbyist made a privy councillor, a defence industry lobbyist made defence minister and an exodus of dozens of Conservative workers to the lobbying world.

We heard a defence minister tell media to stay off the property in Trenton out of respect for the families. We learned that the families had not been consulted and yet we have the spectacle of seeing the ceremony through a chain-link fence.

Transparency is given yet another meaning here. A civil servant and a novelist, a true renaissance person, in the Department of the Environment, the day of his book launch for a science fiction novel on global warming, is told by the minister's office not to attend the lunch honouring his book launch or to discuss his book with the media.

I repeat Lewis Carroll's question, “The question is...which is to be master -- that's all.”

The doublespeak and reinvention of language by Humpty Dumpty across the floor continues in the budget process as well.

From the outset, among the first words in the budget, we heard that our personal income tax rate will be reduced from 16% to 15.5% so that taxes will go down for every single income class. Not acknowledged was that the lowest tax bracket was indeed be raised from 15% , in effect from January 2005, to the 15.5%, which is estimated will reduce the average worker's weekly take home pay by $4.

Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- nothing more nor less”.

We have heard much about the so-called day care program. We have heard that spaces will be created across the country. What we have not heard from our province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, is that 68 day care spaces in northern Manitoba, 700 day care spaces in rural Manitoba and 1,600 child care spaces in the city of Winnipeg, a plan that is currently in place, a plan that was based on reality, a plan that was based on training for child care workers, a plan that was based on capital construction and development and a plan that was based on reality, has been thrown out for a plan in development, modeled on a plan that failed dramatically when introduced in provinces.

Is the government really forthright, or is it really a question of making, as Alice said, “words mean so many different things”?

We have heard endlessly in the House of the child care plan of $1,200 per child until age six. Let us call it for what it is. It is a family allowance and not a child care plan. To call it otherwise is insulting to parents and to their children.

When this so-called plan was introduced, did the government tell us that it would cancel the child benefit that goes to the most needy families? Did it tell us of the inequities of the plan? Did it tell us that working poor and modest income families will end up with low net benefits and that one-earner couples would get more than single parents and two income couples?

We have heard much about choice but there is no choice. There is no choice for thousands of parents who want to go to school or enter the workplace. There is no choice if there is no quality child care available. In my own riding, waiting lists at child care facilities are so long that one young woman told me that they were not even returning her phone calls. Is this choice, or as Humpty Dumpty says, “--it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less”?

Now let us turn to the plight of our aboriginal population. Canadians know that the economic and social conditions of aboriginal citizens is desperate. Canadians, along with the leadership everywhere in the country, but for the government in the House, know that the Kelowna accord was the greatest opportunity and held the most hope for peace and prosperity for aboriginal Canadians across the country.

We have the spectacle of a once well motivated minister telling members of the House that aboriginal Canadians are, “real winners under this budget”. It is Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less” . Winners. What is a winner?

Are aboriginal Canadians winners when a $5.1 billion integrated strategy is substituted for $450 million over two years for water supply, on reserve housing, education and general improvement of social conditions? We contrast that with a $5.1 billion commitment where aboriginal peoples would receive $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and water, $1.3 billion for health, $200 million for economic development and $170 million for governance. What does it mean?

Are aboriginal Canadians winners when the money booked for them by the previous government is reallocated to allow Canadians to pay a penny less for a cup of coffee, or to allow well off Canadians a break for their cars, their boats and their holidays?

Are aboriginal Canadians winners when an agreement in principle, negotiated by the previous government, where funds are booked by a previous government, are told that they are getting a settlement that was concluded by a previous government and the Conservatives were then on record of supporting it?

Are aboriginal Canadians winners when it is heard in the halls of this great building that, “Why should they get anything. They don't vote for us”. What cynicism and what lack of respect.

Are aboriginal peoples winners when the Prime Minister, Humpty Dumpty the master, appoints a chair of the aboriginal affairs committee who is known to have a stereotypical negative attitude toward aboriginal peoples?

Are aboriginal peoples winners when they are told during the election campaign that Kelowna was written on the back of a napkin and the current minister then says that he speaks for this matter and that he supports Kelowna and, as their supposed champion, he now jettisons it in the name of political expediency? One expects when a government stands up for Canada it stands up for all its citizens.

Are they winners when a holistic long term plan, developed in consultation and collaboration across the country, focused on regional and local priorities, is replaced with a few isolated initiatives, cherry-picked without consultation, all in the name of knowing what is best?

I will repeat, “The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all”.

The budget was called “Building a Stronger Canada” but it is not a stronger Canada for aboriginal citizens. There is doublespeak through so much of the government's proposals; words chosen to mean what the government chooses it to mean, the spin.

With regard to the environment, we hear the government saying that it is advocating its made in Canada plan and that it will invest in a Canadian solution and Canadian technology. The one tonne challenge and the energy guide rebate for seniors, were these not made in Canada?

We need to hear about what is important for western Canada. The government is made up of westerners and yet we have heard nothing about the Wheat Board, western economic diversification, the clean up of Lake Winnipeg nor the Museum of Human Rights. We also have heard nothing about honouring labour market agreements, which, unfortunately, may be going down the tube.

It is important that the government stands up for all Canadians. I submit that Canadians want clarity and forthrightness. They do not want spin or a reinvention of words and concepts. They want to know that what is said is what the words mean. They want to know that the government will serve all Canadians fairly.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her passion on the various files she has worked on over the years. It seems to me that if the Conservative government has been working on its spin and is looking through the looking glass, it must have been studying the many years of the Liberal regime, particularly on the issue the member raised which was the environment.

After many reports from the auditor general and various proponents of the environment file we found that the Liberal government had made promises. In the words of the auditor's office, “They were gone before the confetti hit the floor.” We saw a progressively eroding picture with respect to the environment and numbers simply cannot lie. The obfuscation and the spin that was produced by every budget did not represent what happened on the ground.

How can the member square the circle with respect to her own party's record on the environment and the Conservative Party just not following in the dastardly footsteps that the Liberals set forward?