Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this discussion of Bill C-28, which implements the budget tabled on March 19 by the finance minister. It also implements the provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, which is what we refer to as a mini-budget.
We know that Bill C-28 is a confidence bill and that if it is defeated we will be into a general election in Canada. I am sure that Canadians do not want to have a general election right now. We do not need one. I certainly do not want one either.
Having said that, I think that this bill, in implementing these measures of the budget and the mini-budget, falls far short of what Canadians deserve. I would like to cite a few examples, first of all on reducing the GST from 6% to 5%. We all know, as economists worldwide and certainly in Canada have commented, that this is bad economic policy. It is better to reduce income taxes or invest in programs and services that Canadians need. Reducing the GST is not a very good economic measure.
I know that the Conservatives committed to this in their platform, wrongly I think, as they realize now, but there is a better use for that money, that $5.5 billion which reducing the GST from 6% to 5% is going to cost annually in perpetuity. We have already lost roughly $5.5 billion per year by reducing the GST from 7% to 6%, so cumulatively this is $11 billion taken out of the federal treasury from now until forever. It is not a very good use of taxpayers' money.
I would rather see an investment in our national infrastructure. Let us take that $5.5 billion and, instead of reducing the GST from 6% to 5%, collaborate with the provinces and the municipalities and start dealing with our national infrastructure deficit. Some have estimated that the infrastructure deficit is in the range of $120 billion to $130 billion, but whatever the number is we know it is significant, and we know anecdotally about some of the pressures on our infrastructure. All we have to do is look at the bridge that collapsed in Montreal. There are many other examples.
If we do not deal with our infrastructure, we will create a number of problems. We are creating safety issues for Canadians. We are also becoming less competitive as a nation. If our roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and harbours are not up to snuff, we are not going to be competitive as a nation, especially in this global economy.
I, for one, would support not cutting the GST from 6% to 5%. I would support taking that $5.5 billion, working with the provinces, leveraging some provincial money, leveraging some municipal money, and starting an infrastructure program, initially a five year to ten year program, maybe, and extending it from there. We would start to make a very big dent in our infrastructure deficit.
There are mayors such as Hazel McCallion, a very respected and reasonable mayor of the City of Mississauga, who is saying that the federal government is being hugely negligent by not investing in infrastructure and, because of that, the municipality of Mississauga is going to have to increase its property taxes. If we had this infrastructure program, I am sure that mayors such as Hazel McCallion would not implement this property tax increase and would use the money to invest in infrastructure. That is just one example.
The budget and the mini-budget are deficient in a number of other ways, particularly in regard to their lack of emphasis on innovation and research and development. Our Liberal government started to reinvest in research and innovation after we started to deal with the deficit and paying down federal debt. We made large investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, in establishing research chairs across Canada, and in putting money forward for research overheads, which are needed to implement these research programs.
As a result, what we have seen in Canada is the brain gain. We had been losing a lot of researchers and scientists who were leaving Canada because of the poor research environment. Because of the measures of our government, we created the brain gain. In fact, I met some of them at the University of Toronto recently. They are U.S. researchers who had come up to Canada as research chairs and spoke very positively about how our government had dealt with this positive research environment.
However, this is now in jeopardy. It is in jeopardy because the Conservative government is not making those investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or the Canada Foundation for Innovation and also has very cumbersome and unwieldy processes.
A lot of those researchers were saying that while the environment is still not bad, it is on a decline. I think it would be a horrible thing to happen to Canada if we reverted to the brain drain, because we had undertaken so much effort to create this very positive research environment.
What does that research environment do? It allows us to be competitive in the global economy. It allows us to develop products and services that add value and that create high value jobs in this country. All we have to do is look around and we can see the impact of our global economy. There is a lot of material to read. I would recommend The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century as a starter.
Recently I have been doing some work on the diamond industry. It is well acknowledged that Canada is now the third largest diamond producer in the world, and we have more diamond production coming in from northern Ontario, but guess what? Ninety-nine per cent of the diamonds leave this country in an uncut, unpolished and no value added form.
I have been working with various stakeholders to see what we can do to deal with this. We could perhaps establish a diamond bourse or a diamond exchange here in Canada. From there, the value added activities, the cutting and polishing and other jewellery businesses, would grow. That is the experience worldwide. In fact, we know that it cannot all be done up in the Northwest Territories and in Yukon. We have to centre some of it in some of the major metropolitan centres. Of course, as a member of Parliament from the Toronto area, I am trying to centre some of that activity in Toronto.
We have a great opportunity with retail diamonds in Canada. They can be and are being differentiated in the marketplace and are a great attraction, but one of the bottlenecks I am running into is that the cutting and polishing of diamonds is increasingly happening in India and China.
We could repeat that scenario over many different sectors. We cannot fight that. It is the new reality, but if we are going to compete in this world economy, we have to seek the higher value added initiatives. We have to be innovative. We have to invest in research and in adding value to our products.
I could go on in regard to the manufacturing sector. Another colleague commented about it. Our businesses need to invest in new technologies now to increase our productivity. That is why the accelerated capital cost allowance measures that the Conservative government brought in need to be extended, but we need to give business a longer planning horizon. Businesses do not make decisions like these over two years. They need to have the accelerated capital cost allowances extended for five to 10 years.
We have job shortages looming. What was in the budget about that?
What was in the budget about investing in carbon capture and sequestration and in technologies that will help us recycle water in areas like the oil sands?
What was in the budget about dealing with intellectual property rights or fighting counterfeit goods? I did not see a thing.
What was in the budget about protecting small investors? What was in there about the brokers who are using investors' money and churning their accounts? There is no accountability. There is no responsibility. The integrated market enforcement teams, which are supposed to deal with this type of fraud, are not effective. They are ineffectual. What was in the budget to deal with that?
What was in the budget to deal with backlogs in immigration processing?
What was in the budget for literacy or for women's programs?
I could go on, but I am going to end here. I will probably vote for this because I do not want an election, like most people in this House, but I think this is seriously flawed.