Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow the member for Winnipeg Centre. I think it is a good segue into what the budget update reflects and what is happening in the main streets of this country.
When I arrived on Parliament Hill three and a half years ago, I suddenly realized, like my other NDP colleagues, what a bubble Conservative and Liberal members of Parliament live under. They come here and corporate lobbyists are around and they read from the corporate media that everything is just rosy in Canada and they believe it because they are profoundly isolated from what is really going on.
I think it is important to provide that context of reality, this dose of reality, as we look at the economic statement. Two-thirds of Canadian families have actually seen their real income fall since 1989. That, of course, was the year when the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented. Subsequent to that, there has been NAFTA. Now the Conservatives and Liberals are trying to foist the so-called security and prosperity partnership, the SPP, on Canadians.
Through that entire process, none of them, not a single Liberal, not a single Conservative member of Parliament have actually looked into what has happened economically with most Canadian families. Two-thirds of Canadian families have seen a fall in real income. The middle class has lost about a week's income for every year since 1989, since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented. The lower middle class have lost about two weeks of income. The poorest of Canadians have seen a catastrophic fall in income. They have lost about a month and a half of income in real terms.
At the same time, overtime hours are up about 50%. The number of Canadians working overtime is up considerably. The average Canadian worker is working about 200 hours more than before. People are working longer and longer hours for less and less pay. What has been the net result? The debt load of the average Canadian family has doubled over that period.
What we are talking about is an income crisis. We talk often about the prosperity gap. It is the prosperity gulf. It is an income crisis that most Canadian families are living through. Yet Liberals and Conservatives seem to take their direction from corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers because in talking to those folks, life is rosy. They do not need any government support. They do not have to look at the deplorable situation that Canadian services such as health care and our post-secondary education system are in.
This deplorable income crisis is something that is very real. It means that tonight in the main streets and parks of our nation, about 300,000 Canadians will be homeless. They will be sleeping in homeless shelters, in parks and on main streets, despite how cold the Canadian winter is.
What has the Conservative government done to address the income crisis and what most Canadian families are living through? What we have seen is basically an economic update that says the priority for the government is corporate tax cuts, massive corporate tax cuts. Never have corporate tax cuts been deeper.
Over the next three or four years, we are talking about an impact of $12 billion a year in corporate tax cuts. The priority of the government is to shovel money at the corporate sector, despite the fact that the corporate sector is at its record level of profits. It makes absolutely no sense, but that is the priority that is contained within the economic statement.
The Prime Minister likes to say that we have a surplus and that is why the government can give all that money to the corporate sector. The Prime Minister's saying that is like the tale of the little child who was given $2 by his family to go to the store to buy milk and bread, to buy some essentials, and instead spent three-quarters of the money on candy and when he got back to his house said, “I have a quarter left over. Look how well I have done”.
The Prime Minister and the finance minister have taken care of absolutely none of the essentials that Canadian families need. Instead, the Prime Minister spends money on candy, which is corporate tax cuts, and then he says there is a surplus. We can put the lie to the surplus argument.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has talked about the annual deficit in infrastructure. This includes making sure that waste is carried away, that communities from coast to coast to coast have clean water, that highway overpasses are not collapsing and that highways are kept in good shape, and that there are social and recreational facilities for Canadians across this country. The FCM has said that the deficit of what needs to be invested and what is actually being invested is about $18 billion a year. For the government to say there is a surplus and it is going to shovel money at the corporate sector makes absolutely no sense.
We know some of the other issues that the NDP has brought to the House. We know the Liberals have said that they are giving the Conservatives a majority in that they are not going to do anything to stop the Conservative agenda. Essentially the government is operating as if it had a majority. Let us look at some of the issues the government should have dealt with.
Seniors have been ripped off by a bad calculation on the GIS. There is nothing to deal with that. The member for Hamilton Mountain has been raising that substantially and effectively in the House of Commons, but the Conservatives have refused to give seniors their due part. In a very real sense they have been ripping off Canada's seniors.
There are Canadians with disabilities. We know that half of all of the homeless across the country, about 40% of those who go to food banks to make ends meet, are Canadians with disabilities, and yet the government has done virtually nothing to support them.
We have a crisis in homelessness that I spoke to earlier. There are 300,000 Canadians out on the streets of our nation, and yet the government does nothing except talk about the money that came from the NDP budget. Aside from that, the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing.
Canadians are crippled by the cost of drugs and yet there is no pharmacare program, despite the fact the NDP has said that has to be a government priority.
The government has done absolutely nothing for the environment. The Liberals had a deplorable record on the environment, but at least they did not try to sabotage international meetings. That is what we are seeing now from the Conservative government.
These are all issues that need to be dealt with by the government and it has not dealt with any of them. Instead, the Conservatives' priority, very clearly announced, is that they will shovel money off the back of a truck to their friends in the corporate sector. That is their priority.
Earlier there was a question from the member for Abbotsford regarding tax cuts for working individuals. We know that the change in the bottom bracket, for example, brings a benefit of about $15 a month for the average family. This comes at a time when the income crisis means that, essentially, those families are earning about $2,000 less per year than they were earning back in 1989. That is a $15 benefit when, on the one hand, those incomes have fallen catastrophically and, on the other hand, the net impact will be an increase in service fees and user fees for the services that actually help those families. It makes no sense.
We are seeing underfunding in the health care sector. In British Columbia where I come from Gordon Campbell brought in similar tax cuts, a few dollars a month for most families. It turned out that because of all of the increases in user fees for those families, any family earning less than $80,000 a year ended up paying more under the Gordon Campbell tax cuts than the family was paying before. Families got a few dollars off on their income tax and they had hefty, healthy hikes in the cost of the services that they depend on.
That is why the NDP is speaking against this budget update. The Liberals have capitulated. They abstain. They will let the Conservatives do anything they want, but in this corner of the House we believe that the real needs of working families need to be addressed.
I would like to finish with one final point. The NDP has the best fiscal record in the country. The Ministry of Finance is the one that told us that. It did a longitudinal study over 20 years. It compared Liberal governments, Conservative governments and NDP governments. The best fiscal managers, the ones that actually balanced the budget or had a surplus, most often were NDP governments. The ones with the worst records were the Conservatives and Liberals. The reality is they just do not know how to handle money. The only way they handle money is to shovel it off the back of a truck to the corporate sector. That is not what Canadians need and that is why we oppose this economic update.