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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canada is great because Canadians made it great. The people who built this country worked hard to realize their vision. They set us on a bold course to greater hope and opportunity. We feel a debt of gratitude to our ancestors, who fought for our freedom and who built this country with their hands and their hearts.

Canada's new government has now taken steps in building the Canada that we would be proud to pass on to our own children.

On Monday, March 19, Canada's new government delivered a budget that would benefit working families. This budget, I am proud to say, applies to places like my own riding of Kildonan—St. Paul.

Budget 2007 will reduce the tax burden on working families.

The budget will protect our environment.

It will modernize our health care system.

I am sure that many people in the room today are asking themselves, why does fiscal balance matter? It matters because it is an issue that touches every single Canadian.

Fiscal balance is about better roads and renewed public transit. It is about better health care and better equipped universities. It is about cleaner oceans, rivers, lakes and air. It is also about training that helps Canadians get the skills they need. It is about building a better future for our country.

Through budget 2007 we are providing the provinces and territories with well over $39 billion in additional funding to restore fiscal balance in Canada. We are returning equalization to a principled, formula based program.

What does this mean in Manitoba? Restoring fiscal balance will provide Manitoba with more than $3.1 billion in 2007-08. This includes $1.8 billion under a new equalization system, $807 million under the Canada health transfer, $350 million for Canada's social transfer, including additional funding for post-secondary education and child care, and $83 million for infrastructure.

There is a real infrastructure advantage in this budget: an estimated $17.6 billion in base funding, which consists of the gas tax fund, and an increase from 57.1% to 100% in the rebate that municipalities receive for the goods and services tax they pay. That is very important. Base funding for Manitoba in 2007-08 is forecast to be $46 million.

The Government of Canada is providing $26.8 million in gas tax funding for municipalities in Manitoba in 2007-08. The provincial government allocates funding among municipalities consistent with the approach set out in an agreement between the province and the Government of Canada.

One very important initiative in Manitoba is the enhancement of the Red River Floodway. As a result of a recent federal commitment of $170.5 million, Manitoba will be able to complete the expansion of the Red River Floodway and thus significantly enhance the level of flood protection enjoyed by the residents of the city of Winnipeg. This is a critical initiative for Manitoba.

Preserving and protecting our environment is a priority for Canadians and the government. We have made tremendous strides in our budget. In order to protect our Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and other Manitoba rivers, we are establishing a new national water strategy that has been put in place through the budget. It will also improve municipal sewer and water facilities in my riding of East St. Paul and West St. Paul.

The new Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change will provide support to those provinces and territories identifying major projects that will result in real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Our government is getting things done. Canada's new government intends to provide Manitoba with almost $54 million through this initiative.

Water quality in Lake Winnipeg has deteriorated due to the accumulation of nutrients in the lake. Budget 2007 provides $7 million over the next two years to Environment Canada to develop an initiative. We want cleaner water.

We want cleaner air. Also on the environmental side, we are introducing a program that provides rebates to people who buy fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles. We will also sponsor initiatives that take older, polluting cars off the road. We are introducing a green levy on gas guzzlers.

Our government has spoken very clearly and very loudly about the initiatives we need to address in our province in terms of the environment.

The health of our economy is also important. Debt reduction is a key element for all Manitobans and all Canadians.

Our government is lowering our national mortgage by $9.2 billion on top of the $13.2 billion we have put against the debt since elected. This is the equivalent of $700 in debt relief for every Canadian. That means a lot to Canadian families.

What is even better is the fact that Canadians will receive a direct benefit. Through our tax back guarantee, lower debt will mean lower interest payments, which will mean lower taxes.

Let me be clear. Every dollar saved from our lower interest payments will be returned to Canadians through personal income tax reductions. That is a good start, but our government firmly believes that we still pay too much tax.

In my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul, parents struggle daily with the challenge of raising a family. With the higher costs of living, housing and energy, it is not easy. We need to make it more affordable for people to have children and to raise them.

As a result, we are creating a working family's tax plan. This plan has four components.

First, for families with children it includes a brand new $2,000 per child tax credit for children under 18 years of age, which will help families keep ahead. This will save Manitoba parents $54.1 million. That is money families can use to buy new shoes or clothes for their children or to save for a new computer.

Second, we are ending the marriage penalty through an increase of the spousal and dependant amounts to the same level as the basic personal amount, to provide up to $209 of tax relief to a supporting spouse or single taxpayer supporting a child or a relative, saving Manitoba residents an estimated $8.4 million.

Third, we are helping parents save for their children's education by strengthening the RESP program.

Fourth, we are helping seniors by raising the age limit for RPPs and RRSPs to 71 from 69 years of age, which will save Manitoba taxpayers $1 million.

Canadians are a caring people. We offer a helping hand to our friends and our neighbours who find themselves out of work.

Yet social assistance programs can produce unintended consequences. In Canada, too many people feel trapped on welfare. A single mother with one child who takes a low income job can lose almost 80¢ of every dollar she earns. That is because of higher taxes and reduced benefits for things like drug and dental coverage.

To help people over this welfare wall, we are investing more than $550 million a year to establish a working income tax benefit. This measure will help remove the barriers that discourage people from enjoying the dignity and independence that come with a job.

This new working income tax benefit of up to $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a family will reward work and strengthen incentives to work, with benefits for Manitoba workers of $18.9 million. This is very important.

We believe in a safer Canada. This budget has taken significant positive steps to make our communities safer for families and their children. As a result, we are launching a new national anti-drug strategy to combat the use of illegal drugs.

We are also providing funding to protect our most precious asset, our children. We are providing $6 million over two years to the RCMP to protect children from online sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Also, we are taking into consideration our heroes, such as our firefighters. Canada's firefighters must have the training they need to safely and effectively respond to emergencies to protect citizens.

Budget 2007 provides $1 million over two years to help the Canadian arm of the International Association of Fire Fighters, through Public Safety Canada, implement a hazardous materials training program that would be available to all first responders, including firefighters, police, paramedics and utility workers.

In addition, the government will invest funds to combat white collar crime. That includes attracting and retaining the best qualified police and other expert resources to the RCMP's integrated market enforcement teams.

Our government is getting the job done. Our government is addressing things directly to families.

In the field of education, we feel that Manitobans and all Canadians need to excel in education. We are taking action today that will help build a workforce for tomorrow. We are investing $1.3 billion in new money for science and technology and we are supporting our universities.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask the member a question. This question was suggested to me by the voters of Huntingdon who unfortunately lost their jobs two years ago. In fact, 800 jobs were lost when two textile factories closed.

Some dozens of workers aged 55 and older have been waiting and are very disappointed in the Conservative government, which did not allocate approximately $75 million in its budget to help workers 55 and older find new jobs. Despite their efforts and abilities, they have not been able to find work. The job market wants nothing to do with them. Now they have to apply for social assistance and feel abandoned.

I know that the member opposite is a sensitive person, since we spent some time together during a mission on the status of women. I would like her to explain why her government did not allocate $75 million to help older workers who, despite their best efforts, have not been able to find work. Why was this amount not set aside?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the budget has addressed many of the issues the hon. member has addressed. We were on the status of women committee together. As the hon. member knows, the $5 million cost savings in status of women have now been put into programs for women. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women announced that on April 1 $5 million would be put into women's program. Any program can be put in place to help women in that area, no matter their age or ethnic background.

In terms of job development, we believe that manufacturing and tax fairness go hand in hand, which is why we put $2 million in corporate income tax relief from changes in capital cost allowances for buildings and $16 million in additional corporate income tax relief for companies from the temporary two year write-off for equipment for the next two years. When manufacturing companies have a chance to write-off their machinery, which is basically what it is, then they can afford to hire the workers to put onboard.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend began her speech in a stirring way by talking about the work that had been done to build our country by our ancestors. I am wondering if she has a word for our ancestors, some of whom are alive today and who we call parents, grandparents and senior citizens, on why the budget did not address the situation of the taxation of income trusts. The government has erased some $25 billion in private savings because of the taxation of income trusts.

Could the hon. member explain to us why the taxation of income trusts is included in the budget? Could she also explain why it is linked to the income tax fairness package which prevents any member of the House from having a say on an issue such as pension splitting without also guaranteeing that we are robbing parents and grandparents of the assets that she talked about of $25 billion, the greatest theft of private wealth by a government in Canadian history?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for that question or I should say the recent member opposite for that question.

As the hon. member knows, as far as income trusts are concerned, a government in this beautiful country must make decisions that are good for all Canadians. The decision that was made with respect to income trusts had to be made. Existing income trusts can stay in place for four years. People have time to work with their portfolios. A lot of the markets have now gone up. The income trust situation is well in hand. If that initiative had not been addressed, Canadians would be paying higher federal taxes and that is not acceptable. This government gets the job done for all Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, a riding that follows the river for 150 beautiful kilometres and stretches 75 kilometres to the south to the American border.

During this debate, I would like to speak about the budget. This budget touches on a fundamental issue for sovereignists, the fiscal imbalance. We know that this budget does not meet our expectations with regard to the fiscal imbalance as we understand it. This budget provides a financial framework that addresses the imbalance in part but not for the long term. When another government takes the reigns, we know very well that negotiations will have to take place again. Let me say that, with this budget, we expect to have a short-term fiscal imbalance.

This has been a fundamental issue for sovereignists. If not for the sovereignists, we would not be debating this budget. In my opinion, when our colleagues in this government talk about resolving the fiscal imbalance once and for all it is just rhetoric. In fact, we are far from resolving the fiscal imbalance.

Many years ago, former Quebec premier René Lévesque succeeded in obtaining some tax transfers to Quebec. Subsequently, another premier, Bernard Landry, established the Séguin commission which called for the transfer of tax points and GST to the Government of Quebec. For, in reality, it is the provinces that manage the hospitals, schools and other institutions and that must provide more services to the population. It is not the federal government, I must point out. However, the federal government has the money because its taxation power is great, too great compared to its responsibilities.

We would have expected the federal government, which is currently a Conservative government, to go in a different direction in terms of the desire and the power to tax. However, it has retained some room to manoeuvre in order to continue intruding on provincial jurisdictions, particularly where there is shared jurisdiction.

The Prime Minister chose to bring down his budget at a very strategic time for Quebec, where an election campaign is underway. It is well known that the purpose was to help get one government elected over another. Today is election day in Quebec, and efforts have been made to give a boost to a federalist party.

The Prime Minister of Canada did say there would first have to be a federalist government in Quebec with which to negotiate. He was reminded, however, of the well known fact that no premier of Quebec, especially not in a PQ government, would let anyone interfere in the selection of Quebec's premier. It is up to the government, to Quebeckers and especially to the people to choose a government today. This budget has been used as blackmail. That is somewhat shocking, They have to take Quebeckers for irresponsible people to have pressed for a vote to take place today.

They not only want to decide who the Premier of Quebec will be, but other things as well. I am trying to demonstrate through my speech today how this new Prime Minister wants to make decisions for Quebec and also impose his choices in the appointment of judges and immigration commissioners.

Besides wanting to choose who will be the Premier of Quebec, it is clear that this Prime Minister and his government have a tendency to want to decide for others, instead of following the rules of democracy. The Prime Minister tried to make political hay in the election campaign, but it blew up in his face, because that is clearly not acceptable to Quebec.

Consider also how the issue of fiscal imbalance has been addressed. The Minister of Finance said that the fighting about the fiscal imbalance was over. But political observers and analysts, who are not necessarily sovereignists, have agreed with us that this was not the end of the fighting. This budget certainly does not resolve the fiscal imbalance.

The Prime Minister also seems to want to be generous to Quebec by saying that the government has resolved the issue of Quebec having a seat at UNESCO. That too is misleading. Take a closer look at what it means to have a seat at UNESCO. It means an empty chair out in the hall, and only as long as Quebec agrees with the federal government. Giving Quebec a seat at UNESCO means nothing. What good is a seat at UNESCO without the right to speak? It was sad to see Mr. Béchard, Quebec's Liberal environment minister, sitting on the fence. He was sitting on the fence when the opposition criticized the federal government's attitude toward the environment, and he was sitting on the fence when it wanted to talk about one voice for Quebec. He was sitting there with the former federal Minister of the Environment, who has since lost her job. It is clear that the new government has broken its promises. We were hoping for greater understanding after what we went through with the Liberal government.

There are some major oversights in this budget. We will vote for the budget because it gives Quebec more money, and the more money Quebec has to meet its people's needs, the more independent Quebec will be in terms of making its own strategic decisions about education, health and social programs. We know that the $800 million the government plans to give to Quebec will help the Government of Quebec develop better strategies for social programs, education and health.

One of the important things this budget overlooks is the employment insurance fund. We were hoping this problem would be resolved so that people could be treated fairly. Many people cannot receive employment insurance because they do not meet the eligibility criteria. The Bloc has been fighting this battle for years, but there is nothing in this budget to suggest that the federal government is working on a concrete policy for, among other things, an independent employment insurance fund. An independent employment insurance fund would prevent that money from going into the consolidated revenue fund, where the government can use it and claim it is being generous to the other provinces.

The same is true for social housing. Money should be transferred to the provinces to allow the provincial governments, including Quebec's, to start building more social housing. We know that many women are retiring and that the population is aging. These people need help at a time when their purchasing power is dwindling because they have lower incomes.

The Bloc Québécois is willing to support this budget to bring power back to Quebec. We can put this money to good use. Look at the figures proposed by the various political parties. As for the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Mr. Charest has decided to lower taxes. How will that help? Equalization is there for social programs. We can see what Mr. Boisclair, the leader of the Parti Québécois has decided to do with that money. For years we have been criticizing the shortfall in health and education. Mr. Boisclair had to make responsible choices to further help the entire health and education system in order to better respond to the needs of the schools and hospitals. It will be interesting to see the attitude of the leaders in the election campaign after today's vote.

The Minister of Finance was quite wrong when he said that the era of bickering was over.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Health. As far as federal spending power is concerned, Mr. Dumont, the leader of the ADQ, says he will entrench federal government spending power in the Constitution. We are far from that.

In my opinion, that is wishful thinking. He is somewhat naive. Tomorrow, the Standing Committee on Health, on which I sit, will table a report on obesity. I cannot disclose the content of the report, but there will certainly be encroachments into provincial jurisdictions. It will become clear tomorrow that the report tabled by the Conservative government could have been a Liberal report, judging by the urge to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member's speech. While she digressed into some topics that are not at issue in the House, I will address the government's historic move toward fiscal balance from fiscal imbalance and the principled manner in which it looked at the equalization formula.

There are a couple of things. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario, provinces that have very large populations, received per capita based funding in the Canada social transfer, something they have been looking for a long time, on top of the new equalization formula. It is very fair for the Maritimes and provinces out west that rely on equalization to provide services. On top of that, there are also measures that directly support the municipalities.

I am curious as to whether the hon. member has spoken to the municipalities in her area about the direct support the federal government will provide to them and how this money will enable them to better provide services to the constituents in her community. This is on top of the principled approach we took toward fiscal balance and equalization.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, we will support the budget. There is no denying that the money on the table will help.

They say that they wanted to correct the fiscal imbalance, which is not true. The fiscal imbalance has not been corrected because we have to negotiate. To me, this budget looks like blackmail before the next election. It seems like we are being told: keep electing us and, over seven years, we will give you what we promised, otherwise we will take it back. The Liberal government will be no different.

Correcting the fiscal imbalance is synonymous with tax points. The issue would be closed. From year to year we would not be trying to have the most money possible so that the provinces and Quebec receive their fair share to meet the needs of the population.

I am very comfortable with this. I know very well that this budget has one-time expenditures. We will see how things play out. I am sure that history will prove me right.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice to all members who support the budget. It is a great budget. My friend from Peterborough mentioned how it is fixing the fiscal imbalance. This has been a big issue in my province of Manitoba.

We are seeing more equalization transfers go to provinces that have been struggling. Manitoba, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec are definitely in that category. This budget fixes that fiscal imbalance. Finally, Manitoba can invest, on par, in infrastructure programs with the increase in social transfers. It can also carry on investing in health care and post-secondary education, all big wins for Manitoba.

For my riding, the one thing I am really excited about in the budget is the national water strategy. It has allocated $7 million to the Lake Winnipeg basin to finally clean up the lake and address the needs of the tourism industry, the commercial fishery, and to look at the overall scope of nutrient loading the lake.

This is a good news budget right through, and I wanted to add my voice of support for this great budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will certainly support this budget. As I mentioned earlier, however, this budget will not correct the fiscal imbalance and they should stop trying to get people to believe otherwise.

This is an ongoing issue and we will continue to fight for a true correction of the fiscal imbalance, which would mean tax points being returned to the provinces rather than left with the federal government.

As for equalization, I would like to underscore that 100% of revenues from natural resources, including gas, were not included. Once again, the issue is not resolved.

Nonetheless, this budget will certainly help the provinces to better fulfill their responsibilities. If the fiscal imbalance had really been corrected at this time, we would be talking exclusively about tax points returned to the provinces.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Québec for agreeing to share her time with me.

Today we are debating the Liberal amendment that would have us reject the budget. The Bloc Québécois decided to vote in favour of this budget, not because it is an ideal budget, but because it does give Quebec some of the money it needs to be able to fulfill its obligations. For the first year of this budget, this amounts to $1.763 billion. For the second year, this is increased to $2.808 billion. And for the third year, it is $3.338 billion. This represents a significant effort in terms of additional funds for Quebec. This is part of the debate on the fiscal imbalance.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government ended its efforts at the calculation of the additional money it has in its surpluses that could go to the province of Quebec so as restore the financial imbalance somewhat. However, it has not corrected it in any permanent way.

If they had transferred income tax points, we would have reached a permanent position that would have assured Quebec of revenue that it could hold on to for the future. Now, we are simply dependent on the power of the money flowing into the federal government. If, in three to five years, that flow diminishes and we are in a more difficult financial situation, Quebec will in no way have obtained satisfaction.

In this Parliament, on one side there are the centralizing parties, the Liberal party and the NDP, who are unhappy to see money going to the provinces. On the other side, there is the Conservative party that has decided to respect one of its election promises by giving more money to Quebec. For our part, the Bloc has said that the commitment was not simply to put money on the table but also to change the way in which it is done. For example, the federal spending power really should have been defined. In no way does this budget reflect the solutions that the Bloc Québécois and Quebec, as a whole, had put forward to deal with the principles of income tax points or spending power.

All the current leaders of the provincial parties in Quebec have said that it was not enough and that the fiscal imbalance has not been corrected. Each of them said how they would use the additional money. In the end, Mr. Charest’s position was probably the worst. For a long time he claimed that the fiscal imbalance had to be corrected to provide money needed for services. Then, the first thing he decided to do with the additional money was to reduce taxes, something that he had not done in four years. He did not keep his promise. I believe that he damaged Quebec’s position with that attitude. In contrast, Mr.. Boisclair, of the Parti Québécois, said he would use the additional funds where they are most needed, whether in education or for health care. That will ensure a better balance.

The real solution to the problem of fiscal imbalance is to provide additional funding to Quebec in an automatic way, by a transfer of income tax points. At the same time, when the Conservative government comes forward with money today it can be used to ensure the quality of services.

In any event, we shall find out this evening what Quebeckers have decided. It is apparent that, of the options available to voters, the Parti Québécois will govern Quebec fairly and enable it to achieve sovereignty. We could thus put an end to these debates about fiscal imbalance.

A great deal of energy has been spent on this issue in the past four years, since the Séguin commission was established by Bernard Landry, then the Quebec premier and a Parti Québécois member. Many steps have been taken to date, such as the commitment by the Conservative Party made during the election to resolve the fiscal imbalance. Today, they are not providing a solution at all. What the government is doing is making a payment and saying that is the solution and it can give no more. However, everyone in Quebec knows that this debate will continue. As long as we do not have permanent funding, the issue will not be resolved. In the end, sovereignty is the best way to ensure adequate funding for Quebec, which would then have control over 100% of its taxes and could allocate them in the way it deems most appropriate for Quebeckers.

In this budget, there are a few items that I would like to discuss in addition to the fiscal imbalance. First, I am frustrated that there is no money for older workers in the budget. Last year at this time, we had managed to ensure that, in the Speech from the Throne and then in the budget, there were signs that steps were being taken towards a solution, that there was an acknowledgement that the situation of older workers was a problem. Finally, a committee was established and is examining this issue.

What would it have cost to include the $75 million needed to implement a good program for older workers, for people who cannot re-enter the workforce after everything has been done to help them find a job? The government could have made that financial commitment so that once the committee makes its recommendations, the money could be allocated accordingly.

They chose not to go there. I think this shows just how closed-minded the Conservatives are: they do not believe that this kind of program to redistribute wealth is either justified or necessary. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has seen how globalization and the opening of new markets have created interesting possibilities. However, there are also major drawbacks, which are now having an impact on several economic sectors.

Thousands of jobs have disappeared in the manufacturing sector. Some people find other work, but in the end, several hundred, if not several thousand workers over 50 have no source of income. Now, despite the fact that they dedicated their lives to their companies to support their families, they end up on social assistance. We were hoping the budget would include a measure to address this problem.

People in my riding were hoping for a solution to another problem. During last year's election campaign, the Conservatives promised to reopen the RCMP detachments that the Liberals had closed. In light of this government's public safety agenda, it is surprising that no real solution has been put forward and that they did not think reopening the detachments would be necessary to ensure adequate public safety.

The Conservatives made a promise and I know they are looking for a way to resolve the situation. It was quite simple. It was simply a matter of announcing it in the budget. This would have allowed the regions to have adequate coverage. They did not announce it, despite receiving many letters from municipal authorities from all the regions concerned, and despite pressure from the Bloc Québécois through its continued efforts. This year we would have expected to find a solution to this in the budget.

I would like to raise one last point. The Bloc Québécois had also proposed expanding a fiscal concept that exists in Quebec, namely a tax credit for young graduates who settle in the regions. This $8,000 tax credit has proven effective and has started to reverse the trend in certain regions of Quebec where we are seeing young people returning. We would have liked the federal government to come up with a similar measure. We believe that, as a way of keeping people in all regions of the country, this would have been a positive step, and not very costly. It would have allowed young graduates to settle in the regions and start their families and ensure that our local and rural populations can support the necessary municipal and school services.

This budget was expected in Quebec and it came during the election campaign. The Bloc Québécois decision to vote in favour of the budget was supported by most Quebeckers, who are nonetheless aware that we are receiving this money because the federal government happens to have a major surplus.

This in no way restores balance in the Canadian federation. Nothing has been permanently corrected. The battle still needs to be waged in the coming months and years in order to get real transfers of tax points and permanent ways of correcting the situation that do not depend on federal government funding.

Surprisingly, in the budget before us, the current government is suggesting that it could continue to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. Furthermore, a list of sectors has been identified for this.

The principle is not being corrected. The presumption by the Minister of Finance and certain Conservative members that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected is absolutely not shared by Quebec. Roughly 80% of the population believes that the battle will continue until a solution is found.

As far as I am concerned, the real solution is Quebec having control over 100% of taxes, deciding as a sovereign state how this money is to be spent and not having to devote so much energy anymore in an unproductive battle that has been going on for months and years, with results like the ones before us today.

The Bloc Québécois will support this budget because of the extra money that Quebec desperately needs. But that support in no way means that the debate on fiscal imbalance is over for Quebec. The Bloc Québécois will continue to spearhead Quebec's action on this side of the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that my hon. colleague's premise that he will wait for the successful completion of a sovereignty exercise in Quebec before moving forward on many of the issues that affect working people in this country is the approach that would fit with the people in his constituency.

The Conservatives are trying to sell the budget on the basis of it being a working class budget for working people. However, when we see no help for EI; no help for day care that is of any significance any more; corporate tax cuts of some $9 billion carried on; tax exemptions that are not targeted or do not deliver the maximum to lower paid Canadians but actually deliver the maximum to middle and upper class Canadians, when we see what the budget actually entails and we take it apart piece by piece, we realize pretty quickly that the budget is not about working class people.

Is my hon. colleague prepared to leave working class people in Quebec waiting until some date of a potential sovereignty vote before dealing with these issues?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend is confirming what I indicated in my speech: there are two parties in this House which are especially centralizing. The NDP and the Liberal Party consider, for example, that the federal government has to be in charge of the distribution of wealth in Canada. What the Bloc Québécois has fought for and gained in this budget is the transfer of billions in extra money to Quebec. This money should be transferred shortly.

But the long term battle is not over. For it to be over, we would have to be talking about permanent transfers in the form of tax credits. Still, when they look at what the Bloc has accomplished, particularly on the softwood lumber and free trade agreement front, the public and the workers in my riding feel that we have made the right decision, a decision with the interests of Quebec at the heart of it. It was imperative that we get the money back as soon as possible, so that Quebec businesses would have a chance to keep their heads above water.

People feel the same way about this budget. During the election campaign in Quebec, all three leaders of the main parties commented that the choice made by the Bloc Québécois was the right one. Quebec has for a long time been of the opinion that the federal government has far too much money for the responsibilities it has, whereas the provinces clearly do not have enough.

I will conclude by talking about the need to support the budget. However, the debate on fiscal imbalance must continue.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, although I disagree with my hon. colleague on his take on sovereignty, I would pose a couple of questions for him.

The budget talks about hybrids and gives money to hybrids. One of the things, however, the budget does not do is give money to Canadian manufacturers to establish technologies and work on technologies to have hybrids that are made in Canada. All the hybrid money will go to cars made outside Canada. It certainly is a slap in the face to Canadian auto workers.

The budget also failed to recognize and continue the work that the GTA caucus of the Liberal Party and the Liberal government was doing to extend mass transit in certain parts of Toronto. For example, in my riding the subway line was to be extended. In my riding we were supposed to be getting more LRT. The Conservative government has certainly failed with the budget.

How does my hon. colleague feel about hybrids, especially since he will be supporting the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to manufacturing, a unanimous report was submitted by the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. This report recommended, among other things, that capital cost allowances be accelerated, so that the purchase of equipment can be written off over two years instead of seven or eight, making production more efficient. This measure can be found in the budget, and personally, I am very satisfied with it. The committee made many other recommendations, but the government did not immediately accept them. I hope that it will in time.

Regarding the environment, obviously the Conservatives are still trying to turn things around. But they still have some major problems. They do not want to create a carbon exchange, which has been recommended by economists as well as environmentalists. We must continue to put pressure on them and ask questions so that they make changes. First of all, they have to recognize the importance of the Kyoto protocol.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Cambridge.

First and foremost, I want to point out that this budget is balanced and fair for all Canadians. While cutting taxes for working families and introducing pension income splitting for seniors, the government is also investing in key priorities, such as infrastructure and the environment.

While offering a balanced, fair budget with long-term measures to offset the fiscal imbalance, we also set up the wait times guarantee trust. And thanks to our tax back guarantee, lower debt will mean lower interest payments, and therefore lower taxes.

I am proud to say that I am a part of a government that realizes the importance of a sound economic plan to ensure the prosperity of Canada over the long term and not a focus on one-off side deals that compromise all principles of fairness.

In my limited time to talk about the budget I want to take the opportunity to relate to the House how this budget positively impacts the areas of my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac. I specifically want to discuss the support for agriculture and forestry, a commitment to infrastructure and to helping our truckers, small businesses and families. Those are all very important to my riding and all areas where this budget has delivered and will continue to deliver results.

When it comes to agriculture, our government continues to support with unprecedented levels.

For agriculture, this budget includes two new commitments totaling $1 billion that will help improve our agricultural sectors. For instance, $400 million will go directly to farmers to help them deal with rising costs.

We are also adding $600 million to create contributory style producer savings accounts, which will be available as soon as agreements can be reached with the provinces and territories.

The $600 million for the savings program, in my view, is a start to implementing an income support program that will lead to a new program which will make up for the serious deficiencies in the current CAIS program. We expect that $10 million of this funding will go directly to farmers in New Brunswick, enabling them to stay competitive in local, regional and international markets. This effort, combined with the next round of discussions and consultation on agricultural policy framework, will be good for farmers. It will be good for farmers because we are doing this right and not ramming a program down the farmer's throat, as we saw with the current CAIS program.

There is no question that producers in my riding are very interested in a new generation of programming that includes a saving component, somewhat like the old NISA program, and ensuring we deal with the cost of production. The farmers certainly shared those ideas with the Minister of Agriculture when he was in Tobique—Mactaquac a mere weeks ago.

This budget also addresses a key element for diversifying the products we produce through funds earmarked for biofuels. This biofuels program will also benefit renewable fuel for agricultural producers by allocating $1.5 billion for renewable fuel production, including the technology and projects associated with ethanol biodiesel.

I will save the rest of my speech for after question period.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member can continue his speech after question period and he will have about six and a half minutes left.

Victims of CrimeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to an initiative to remember those who are most affected by crime.

In the midst of debate over proper sentencing, conditional sentencing, long term sentencing and house arrest, it is easy to lose sight of the people most affected by crime, the victims.

For the past week, statements in every provincial legislature and the Senate have been drawing attention to the victims of crime. I am pleased to add my voice to this chorus.

Crime always has consequences. I have met the parents of a young man who was murdered. We know that no sentence will bring this young man back to life but we can do a better job of caring for those who are left with only memories.

Our government has taken some great steps of compassion toward crime victims. We have announced a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, as well as funding for programs and services to support Canada's victims of crime.

National Victims of Crime Week is the last week of April. I ask everyone to please think about how we can help crime victims, not just in April but throughout the entire year.

Greek Independence DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday, March 25, Canadians of Hellenic descent celebrated their 186th anniversary of the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire.

In 1821, after 400 years of oppression from the Ottoman Empire, the Hellenes, through the leadership of people such as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Palaion Patron Germanos, Melas, Karaiskakis, Miaoulis and many others, fought bravely so that once again they could live as free people.

Historic battles, such as the battle of Souli, and heroes like Lord Byron of England, collectively all made supreme sacrifices, for what? For a spirit called Hellenism, but more so, they fought for freedom, for liberty, for justice and the rule of law.

In 1821, the birthplace of democracy was once again liberated.

It is, therefore, my hope, as we move into this new millennium, that tensions of the past are put to rest so that Greece and Turkey can focus on nurturing the positive energies of their people leading to a prosperous and peaceful future.

[Member spoke in Greek as follows:]

Zito to eikosi enna.

Manawan Atikamekw ReserveStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Lanaudière native friendship centre and Connexion-Lanaudière on the official launch of the Internet site marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Manawan Atikamekw reserve.

The Internet site commemorates the 1906 establishment of the Atikamekw community in Manawan through text, archival photos and videos. This ambitious project required months of work and depicts the settlement of the aboriginal community, focussing on the nomadic life, the end of that lifestyle, their settlement and life on the reserve, and the difficulties in adapting to that life. It also shows how the move to the reserve altered the lifestyle of the Atikamekw and clearly explains the current difficulties experienced by this northern Lanaudière community.

I invite you to visit the web site at www.manawan.org where you will find some very interesting information.

Once again, congratulations, and I hope everyone will visit this site.

Construction WorkersStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, for ordinary, hard-working Canadians, last week's budget is a total failure. It fails to address the growing prosperity gap and throws about new programs and tax credits to the few lucky enough to get a place around the boardroom table where it was written.

Governments, whether Liberal or today's Conservatives, continue to ignore the reasonable demands of a group of Canadian workers, our construction workers. There are no measures for construction workers by trade and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses incurred by employment away from their homes. People who work from home can deduct certain expenses relating to a home office but people for whom the very nature of their jobs require frequent travel to job sites, the location over which they have no control, there is nothing similar.

The NDP is the only party to put forward a concrete legislative solution to this problem with a private member's bill introduced by my colleague from Hamilton Mountain. The long distance truck driver has an enhanced meal credit program in recognition of the additional expense borne while travelling for work, why not construction workers?

It is long past time--

Construction WorkersStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Fundy—Royal.

The BudgetStatements By Members

March 26th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be a Conservative member of Parliament from New Brunswick and proud that the government is getting things done for my province.

Only the Conservative government recognizes that the Fundy Trail is one of Canada's natural wonders and is investing in it for Canadians' continued enjoyment.

Only the Conservative government made the Saint John Harbour clean-up a priority project by investing $26.6 million to clean up Saint John Harbour.

Only the Conservative government is delivering for New Brunswickers through budget 2007.

A new child tax credit will provide up to $310 per child in tax relief for New Brunswick parents. New initiatives will deliver nearly $10 million for New Brunswick farmers and New Brunswick will receive an unprecedented level of federal support totalling $2.3 billion.

Canada's government is getting things done for Canada and is helping to build and strong and prosperous New Brunswick.

HockeyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a proud day in Fredericton as the University of New Brunswick has captured its second Canadian Interuniversity Men's Hockey Championship.

The Varsity Reds won the University Cup with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the top ranked host, Université de Moncton. It was a sweet win, given les Eggle Bleu knocked off UNB to claim the Atlantic title just two weeks ago in double overtime.

UNB advanced to the national final by edging Saskatchewan and blanking Trois-Rivières. Congratulations to these fine student athletes, head coach Gardiner MacDougall, his staff and the entire athletics department.

Last night's game was another testament to the quality in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. It will be great to see another championship banner hanging from the rafters of the Aitken Centre.

CurlingStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the Kelowna Curling Club team who yesterday became the Women's World Curling Champions.

Skip Kelly Scott, Gina Schraeder, Sasha Carter, Renee Simons, Michelle Allan and coach Gerry Richard beat Denmark in the championship game 8-4, a resounding win that capped off a near perfect tournament.

With their win last night, Kelly Scott and Sasha Carter became the only Canadian women to ever achieve both World Junior Women's and World Women's titles.

This latest Kelowna connection cements Kelowna's reputation as the curling capital of Canada. Kelowna has produced world champions in men's, women's, junior men's and junior women's divisions, the Canadian National Blind Championship and has won gold in the Paralympics.

Team Kelowna has curled together for five years, has won the last two Canadian championships and will go on to try to win its third in 2008 as Team Canada.

On behalf of the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country and Canadians across this country, we salute Kelly Scott and her team for bringing the Women's World Curling Championship back home to Canada.