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House of Commons Hansard #129 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 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, Palliser seniors watching at home know that this budget delivered for them. It certainly delivered on their priorities. It increased the age credit by $1,000, as the member pointed out, to $5,066.

Since this government has taken office, seniors see the tax savings every time they go to a store. Seniors are consumers and they see that benefit every time they purchase something at a store.

The member made reference to income trusts. This is a government that makes the tough decisions as opposed to the previous government that dithered, delayed and whispered about perhaps doing things. These whispers caused tremendous turmoil in the markets. Then there were public servants leaking information, which was all under the leadership of the member for Wascana, the previous finance minister. E-mails were sent by the member for Kings—Hants to his friends on Bay Street.

I want to point out for Canadians at home that this government made the tough decisions. This government is not under investigation by the RCMP. The Liberal Party is under investigation by the RCMP.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

It is a tremendous pleasure for me to rise today on the 2007 federal budget. Much has been said about it since it was introduced by the finance minister. The analysts have had a lot to say and we have seen many strong reactions. Although the budget is basically far from perfect or ideal, it does address one issue of primordial concern for the development of Quebec for which we have been fighting incessantly for the last five years, that is to say, resolving the fiscal imbalance.

I want to remind the House that it was the sovereignists who waged this long battle, continually showing that the money is in Ottawa while the needs are in Quebec. We sovereignists were the ones who established the Séguin commission. We were the ones who kept up the pressure on the federal government here in Ottawa and kept the bar high. Without the Bloc Québécois, the fiscal imbalance would not even be an issue.

This is a first here in the House of Commons. By starting to resolve the fiscal imbalance, the federal government has acknowledged that it exists. The display of some desire on the part of the federal government to deal with this nagging problem shows what my colleagues and I in the Bloc have always believed: a strong Bloc presence in Ottawa pays off for Quebec. I am sure that the people of Quebec will recognize how much of all this is due to the efforts of the extended sovereignist family.

Although this news is a good start, all the effects of the budget have to be well understood in order to appreciate its real gist and what it will mean for Quebeckers as a whole. Thanks to the first steps toward resolving the fiscal imbalance, we will be able to support the budget. Quebeckers in general will benefit from the gains that the Bloc has obtained here—a party known for its responsible, pragmatic approach. In a direct continuation of this approach, I firmly believe that the struggle is not over. Quite to the contrary, the budget makes it abundantly clear that this government and its leader have not kept their promises.

First, this budget gives Quebec revenues based on Ottawa's goodwill. My colleagues at the Bloc will agree when I say that the past is full of negative examples of this. For instance, how can we forget the child care agreement that was torn up by this government? No new independent revenue was given to Quebec.

That is why it is so important to control the federal government's spending power, which truly leaves the door open for all sorts of intrusions into provincial prerogatives and Quebec's interests. I am not surprised to see that this budget still does not include a plan for putting an end to the federal government's spending power, as recommended in the Séguin report, except perhaps the “limit” the Minister of Finance has suggested, offering the right to withdraw with compensation from shared cost programs and with conditions imposed by the federal government.

This is unacceptable. The current intrusions have to stop and Quebec has to be able to withdraw without conditions and with full compensation whenever it sees fit in the future.

This budget has some obvious holes in it that this minority government is trying to cover up. The Minister of Finance has announced with great fanfare that the fiscal imbalance has been corrected and that the era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over. I, however, can see that we have a long way to go. For Quebec alone, there is a $950 million shortfall in achieving the levels that were indexed to inflation in 1994-95.

That is why the Bloc will continue to fight for a fiscal transfer. In this budget, no concrete progress has been made since the only real, lasting solution to the fiscal imbalance is a fiscal transfer of the GST and tax points. What Quebec is looking for is independent revenue.

There are other issues I am very concerned about. Why did this government fail to include post-secondary education transfers? Given repeated demands from the education sector and other partners, not to mention the pressing needs in this sector, we would have expected Quebec to begin receiving its share in 2007-08.

I would like to remind the House that the education network has calculated that post-secondary education institutions across Canada need at least $5 billion. That means $1.2 billion for Quebec. Obviously, there is work to be done, especially since the Prime Minister has recognized these needs and has committed to increasing post-secondary education transfers. The Bloc will never give up on this issue. We will keep working to increase transfers for post-secondary studies.

Earlier, I was saying how hard it is to believe that the government can hide such obvious social priorities.

I would therefore add to this long list the complete absence of initiatives and financial means to support social housing. Social housing is a major problem in my riding, Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. I am not at all surprised to see that this government cares nothing for the poorest members of our society.

In Quebec, there is a social housing crisis. Of course, not everybody needs social housing, but this is an undeniable necessity in any healthy society. People with low incomes need social housing. Having visited social welfare agencies in Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, I know that women alone, both young and old, are often the ones who need this kind of housing.

Speaking of the status of women, I also wonder why this government once again turned its back on advancing this cause. Not only has it neglected this issue since coming to power, but the government is sending a clear signal in this budget by giving nothing to outspoken women's groups.

Admittedly, there is $20 million for Status of Women Canada, which includes $5 million previously announced on March 7. However, this government is neglecting the serious problems that directly concern women, such as pay equity, women’s access to the employment insurance plan, and the issue of new funding for those groups that work to defend the rights of women.

In addition, how can we ignore the failure to create an independent employment insurance fund for Canadian workers? The fund has fantastic surpluses that could be used to improve conditions for the plan’s contributors. We could reinvest in jobs. But that is not what is happening. In fact, the surpluses in the employment insurance fund are not being returned to the unemployed. They are not benefiting from it as they should. This situation has been widely criticized but it was not corrected in the present budget.

Still on the subject of the great failures of the budget, I find it regrettable that assistance to aboriginals has been put off for a year. I am well aware of their social concerns because the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve is in my riding. It is heartbreaking, knowing that aboriginal communities are in extraordinary difficulties and that they need special support.

Because of these great oversights, I conclude once again that the government is doing little to reduce poverty or to help the most needy in our society. They will have to answer for it to the voters in the next federal election. I could speak at even greater length about the missed targets in this budget, however, I will conclude by repeating that the Bloc will, nevertheless, support this budget, in particular because of this first step toward a full adjustment of the fiscal imbalance respecting Quebec. The government has a great deal to do. It must fulfill its promise to fully correct the fiscal imbalance and propose a tax transfer to Quebec, as well as increasing transfers for post-secondary education.

I call on this government to provide workers with an accessible employment insurance plan and to create an independent employment insurance fund. It must transfer money to Quebec and the provinces for social housing. It must help older workers with an income support program that will pave the way to a decent retirement. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done by this government, but also by us, members of the Bloc. For our part, we will continue to propose solutions and we will speak up for the interest of Quebec every time, on every issue, in a responsible way, dedicating our hearts and our minds solely to the interests of Quebec.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised some interesting issues. A general summary of her concern was that the budget did not seem to respond to the needs of those most in need in our society.

With respect to seniors, I think it has been laid out in prior questions that low income seniors are not the beneficiaries of most of the items in this budget. In fact, the beneficiaries would be high income seniors, except for those who happened to have purchased income trusts, because 70% of seniors do not have a defined pension benefit plan.

The disabled were not really looked at. The government brought in a registered disability savings plan. Setting up something very similar to an RESP, a registered education savings plan, to deal with the disabled, seems to presume that people who have a disabled family member do not live from paycheque to paycheque to take care of those needs, that somehow they have extra money to put away for the future when they will no longer be there to care for their loved one.

I would ask the member whether or not she has any other concerns about those disadvantaged within our society who fell through the cracks with regard to this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks concerning people with disabilities.

Many are left out in the cold with this budget: the disadvantaged, especially those in real need of help, women, social housing; I have listed them all. Of course, the situation of the disabled should also be looked into. What my hon. colleague is suggesting is certainly worthwhile. We will have to consider the feasibility of his suggestion at committee.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the presentation of my hon. colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

I have a very simple question for her in light of the progress made with respect to the fiscal imbalance.

Does she not think that this is essentially a minority government budget and that, had Quebec not elected 51 Bloc Québécois members and had this government been a majority government, it would never have bothered to respond to the aspirations of Quebeckers?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber for his comments and question.

If this is a good budget for Quebec, it is primarily due to the sovereignists, the people of Quebec and the Bloc members. Just four years ago, no one believed in the fiscal imbalance. It was after the Séguin commission that the problem began to be recognized. As a result of the ongoing dedication and attention of Bloc members we have a favourable budget.

I also believe that, if not for the fact that it is in a minority position, the government would not have been as generous in its allocations in this budget. I believe that we will have to continue to be mindful of this issue because the Conservatives have not resolved the fiscal imbalance. They may have taken one step forward but they have resolved nothing, because we continue to rely on Ottawa's goodwill. It will always be up to them whether or not they wish to give us the money.

It is imperative that we obtain these tax transfers and these tax points. We must obtain these transfers and it must be clearly established that we are entitled to receive these monies. It is money that belongs to our province's taxpayers and they are owed this money.

These measures must be clearly defined and we must know exactly where we are going in future. This budget is favourable but it is not a guarantee for the future.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House to this budget.

My colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant explained the reality of this budget quite well. This is a step toward correcting the fiscal imbalance, but things are not really resolved. We are still at the mercy of the federal government's goodwill. All we need is an election, another budget or another government and all this can change.

In fact, the first thing this government did when it came into power was tear up the agreement on child care reached with Quebec. It could very well do the same in a few months or another government could do so in a few years. Such is the cost of dependency: being at the mercy of another government for making our strategic choices in Quebec. The only solution to this is independence.

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant pointed out that the government needed to have the fiscal imbalance explained to it. It was the Bloc Québécois that proposed this debate in the House. Even though some progress has been made, the Conservatives still do not understand what the fiscal imbalance is. The minister claims that it has been resolved, that it is over and that nothing more will be said about it. To resolve it, he would have had to offer a real and complete solution to the fiscal imbalance, but he does not understand what that means.

The concept of the imbalance was first introduced by the Séguin commission in Quebec. It received a broad consensus, regardless of political stripes and allegiances to national unity.

When the term “fiscal imbalance” was adopted, people at the Séguin commission did not just randomly pick two words out of the dictionary. They did not draw them out of a hat. These words did not come out of nowhere. These people came up with the term “fiscal imbalance” because it was an imbalance and because it was fiscal. This seems logical enough to me.

The imbalance means that the central, federal government collects more taxes than it needs to discharge its constitutionally-assigned responsibilities, while the governments of Quebec and the provinces do not have sufficient tax revenues to provide all the services designated or required by the Constitution and the related fields of jurisdiction shared by the provincial governments.

This situation will only get worse, because expenditures related to federal jurisdictions tend to increase relatively moderately, while expenditures related to provincial jurisdictions, especially health and education, for instance, increase quite quickly.

That is the imbalance aspect and there is also the fiscal aspect. It is a taxation issue, a question of predictable, own-source revenues the provinces can collect in order to provide their citizens with the appropriate services.

One cannot consider the fiscal imbalance resolved as long as there are no fiscal solutions. It is not called the budget imbalance, the financial imbalance or the monetary imbalance. It is called the fiscal imbalance. I repeat this, because we have been repeating this for four years and, as of just last week, the government still did not understand what it was.

Thus, the government has taken a first step. It has decided to transfer more money to Quebec and the provinces. That is a step forward. However, it is not enough. This can only be a short-term solution. What Quebeckers want—and all party leaders in Quebec have said so, partisan politics aside—is to take this even further. Independent transfers are needed. The GST, for instance, must be handed over to the Quebec government to collect directly, increasing the Quebec sales tax by six points, for example and, in exchange, the federal government would agree to stop collecting that tax in Quebec.

That was the Séguin commission's preferred solution. It would be the simplest solution to implement and would give the Government of Quebec its own revenues that would grow at the same pace as its economy and would be controlled by Quebec voters when they choose their government. That is what we want. We do not want to have to start everything over in a few months, which is what happened in the past. This could be a solution to the problem.

We could also solve the problem through tax transfers, which has been done in the past. We could increase the federal income tax allowance for Quebeckers. The Government of Quebec could then increase its income tax rates by an equivalent amount. This would be completely transparent for taxpayers. This would make a difference for citizens and the government because Quebec could take advantage of its own revenues. That is what should have been done.

With respect to the budget, there is still a lot to do. In terms of equalization, the point is to ensure fiscal fairness—as I said, this is about taxation—which means that all of the provinces would have similar fiscal capacities. This regime is for provinces that fall below the Canadian average for fiscal capacity. The money they receive will enable them to offer services similar to those offered in other provinces based on the Canadian norm without having to raise their own taxes unreasonably. How is the tax base calculated? In any reasonable federation anywhere in the world, people would say that it is not complicated, that the tax base is simply all of the revenue sources available to governments.

In Canada, the government has decided to exclude, on a totally arbitrary basis, a source of revenue equivalent to half the country's non-renewable natural resources. That is completely arbitrary. It just so happens that the province that will suffer the most because of this exclusion is Quebec. In the current budget, there are two levels of inclusion that can be used to calculate equalization: 0% and 50%. Why is there no 100% level, which would benefit Quebec? The Conservative members from Quebec have failed to ensure that Quebec's voice is being heard.

I would like to address my colleagues from the rest of Canada who might say that we are complaining for nothing. How would they have reacted if the government had decided to exclude aerospace from the equalization formula. Why not? Would the Bloc support that? That would be good. It would mean additional revenues for Quebec. The aerospace industry is concentrated in Quebec and is part of our fiscal capacity. So it would be to our advantage to remove it from the calculation. But that would not make sense. Everyone would say, “why aerospace?” Why would we not exclude hydroelectricity? Why not? Non-renewable resources are excluded, so why not renewable ones?

What I am trying to show is that this measure is completely arbitrary and that it goes against the very spirit of the Canadian federation. The amount Quebec receives might of course seem large. We heard some of our colleagues speak about this. Of all the provinces that receive equalization payments, Quebec receives the least per capita. Quebec obviously receives more in equalization than Prince Edward Island. It is not just about volume, number of residents and the principle of fiscal capacity. Fiscal capacity is calculated per capita. Is each province able to offer similar services to every resident?

In conclusion, the government has taken a step forward. It is a start. The government could have done better by eliminating the arbitrary nature of equalization.

It could also have done better by offering a tax transfer.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest and I understand the member's position, as do other Canadians, but we are talking about the budget. We are talking about what is in it and maybe what is not in it.

Earlier the member's colleague talked about how the budget does not seem to address the needs of those who are most disadvantaged in our society, the poor. Those who live on CPP and OAS, maybe even GIS, do not pay income taxes. They do not make enough money to pay income taxes. An increase in the age credit really does not do anything for them. They cannot benefit from an increase in the age credit, nor can they benefit from splitting pension income. That is not applicable for them.

Is the member of the same view that the budget does not seem to address the needs of low income families, of seniors, of the disabled, of those who are the most disadvantaged in our society?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, there are a number of holes in this budget and a number of things missing. Nonetheless, there is an attempt to start correcting the fiscal imbalance. If this allows the governments of Quebec and the provinces to put more money into health, education and social services, then this will, among other things, help the least fortunate that the hon. member was talking about. The Bloc Québécois does not agree with the NDP's centralizing, paternalistic approach that promotes interference in provincial jurisdictions.

The Liberals had 13 years to correct the fiscal imbalance and they never did it. Worse yet, they are mostly responsible because they were the ones who savagely cut transfers to the provinces in 1995. Since that time, the Bloc Québécois has been working hard in order to correct the mistake the Liberals made at the time. What is more, they never acknowledged the fiscal imbalance.

Now that the government is starting to propose a correction with this budget, we will support it, but we will continue to exert pressure in order to have this fully and completely resolved.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, we went off the track sometime in the 1970s with the Trudeau regime. Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution were forgotten. Section 92 states that health, education and social services are the exclusive jurisdictions of the provinces and we piled up money in Ottawa for all sorts of Liberal games that went on, such as the sponsorship and money blown away, whereas those areas have been very much neglected.

I have heard the Liberal members whine and complain, but in this budget there is $2.9 billion more in social transfers. Going forward it is going to be predictable and in place. There is $1.9 billion more in equalization payments for the provinces. There is $650 million more money for infrastructure that will help to build roads and bridges and so on in the communities. There is $612 million for wait time issues and so on.

I heard the member from the Liberal Party say that there is nothing in the budget for people. Social services, education and health, if they do not benefit low income Canadians, I do not know what does. When people need these services they really do not care whether the services are coming from Ottawa or from their provincial government, just as long as they get the services they need when they require them.

Because the Liberals cannot take credit for it, it bothers them but it is not a problem with us. We respect the Canadian Constitution and the budget reflects that understanding.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that there are people reminding us that we have a Constitution in Canada that provides for the division of powers. I wonder why the Conservative government did not take that approach even further to ensure that taxation respect this division of powers. Why would we not use tax solutions to transfer monies to resolve the fiscal imbalance?

I would also like to know why this government, which claims to respect provincial jurisdictions, encroaches frequently in education and health. There is still talk of creating a federal securities commission when this is clearly an area of provincial jurisdiction. That is the problem.

There is a difference. The Conservatives give the appearance of respecting jurisdictions, but there remains a tendency to centralize, even among the Conservatives.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I will start by making clear that I am splitting my time with the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

It is a real pleasure to rise to address the budget. In budget 2007 Canada's new government has done a number of things to actually deal with issues that are important to Canadians, whether it is solving the issue of the fiscal imbalance and bringing balance to our relations with the provinces, ensuring they have the resources to provide all the services in their domain, as we were just discussing in the House, or in terms of providing tax relief for Canadians who have been hard pressed for a long time.

We believe that Canadians pay too much in tax, so we have done some things to lessen the burden, including introducing a new child tax benefit. It goes beyond that of course. We have also beefed up the spousal amount so that there is no longer discrimination against married couples in the tax system. There are a number of other tax changes I could go into but I will not as my time is very limited.

As is the custom during a budget speech, I want to acknowledge the people of my riding of Medicine Hat, who have been very generous and good to me and elected me a number of times. It is a great honour to serve the people of Medicine Hat, Brooks, Taber, Bow Island, Foremost, Bassano, all these great communities. They are good folks who do not mind extending a hand over a fence to help their neighbours. It is an honour and a privilege for me to have the chance to represent them day to day in this place, but also today as we debate this budget.

There are a few things I know I can say on behalf of the people of my riding, including that they like this budget. They are very much supportive of the measures that we brought forward. I want to talk a little about those measures right now. I am also going to talk about them from the perspective of being the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

I could talk about a lot of issues. We were very busy in the budget. We introduced a lot of good measures, including the new disability savings plan. My friend from the Liberals asked what was in it for the disabled. The new disability savings plans is extraordinarily important. There is another initiative in the budget that will provide for capital projects for businesses and not for profit organizations that need wheelchair ramps and that kind of thing.

There is a lot more in the budget and I cannot get into everything, so I want to talk about a few very specific issues. I want to preface that by saying we are working together with the public and the provinces on these very important issues.

For the first time in 13 years, we have a government in Ottawa that is doing what my constituents have been saying for a long time: we must work together, across the country, and recognize the ability of each of the provinces to deal with the unique challenges they face.

We are working with the provinces and with individuals to make this country better.

I will begin with an issue that is important to Canadians, which is the issue of child care. In the last little while child care has become an important issue to many Canadians. This government responded immediately upon coming to power to address this issue. We argued for choice in child care. We were elected on that platform. Upon coming to government, we brought in the universal child care benefit that now goes to 1.4 million families on behalf of 1.9 million children.

We also said that we had to do something more to create spaces. In the budget, we immediately brought in a new $250 million transfer to the provinces for the purpose of creating child care spaces, along with the new investment tax credit that will urge businesses to create spaces for child care. No sooner had we brought those measures in, than budgets came down in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario. What did they announce in those budgets? The provinces announced that they would take that money and create 17,000 new child care spaces across the country. That was tremendous news. We are providing choice in child care for Canadians today.

I remind my friends across the way that when they were in power they promised a national child care plan going back to 1988 actually. John Turner promised a national child care plan if he was elected then. The truth is that a lot of the people who were children when the Liberals were making those promises now have children of their own. The Liberals never came through on their promises. They promised child care in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004. By the time they put some money into the program, the former deputy prime minister, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Sheila Copps, pointed out in an article in the Calgary Sun that the money did not create a single child care space.

The Liberals threw a tonne of money at it but it did not create a single child care space. No sooner have we put a very modest amount of money in, a targeted amount of money, we are able to lever that working with the provinces to create 17,000 child care spaces.

We have been busy on other fronts as well. We moved very aggressively on post-secondary education. We have done this with the provinces and we have done it in a way that ensures that this is not just another direct transfer to them to do with it what they will.

In fact, we received affirmation from people like Claire Morris of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and with the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations. Both of them have lauded the government for putting $800 million in the budget toward post-secondary education, a 40% increase every year for students for post-secondary education. They lauded us because they noted that it was a step toward a dedicated transfer, which means that the provinces will be more accountable for how they spend that money. That should give everyone some comfort.

The money will provide the provinces with more latitude to ensure they can fund universities and also more latitude to ensure that tuition stays down, something that is in their purview, of course, but now they have the resources to react to the public which is asking for tuition to be kept done so young people can go to university.

We have acted aggressively and we are being lauded for it by the people who are the real experts in this, not the Liberals and not the NDP, but students and universities, who know better than most people and, of course, parents themselves who know better than most people the costs associated with a university education.

We have moved in other areas as well. Something that has not been remarked upon but which is very important, and I think some members in this place will appreciate this more than others, is our announcement in the budget of a new plan to ensure that we work with the provinces on labour market agreements.

In the past, the federal government has devolved some responsibility to the provinces for what is called employment insurance, part II money, which means money that was used for training through the employment insurance program for people who had been in the workforce and would have qualified for employment insurance.

The program has been successful and agreements have been in place with the provinces in different ways over different periods of time, depending on the provinces, but it has been successful and those people are getting training they need.

However, we want it to go the rest of the way. Today we have the hottest labour markets in a generation, thanks to the leadership of our finance minister and the Prime Minister, but we wanted to ensure that people who have not been in the labour market for a long time also get training. We announced in the budget new bilateral arrangements with the provinces that will provide $500 million on a per capita basis to help people who have been out of the workforce for a long time. Sometimes it is older workers and sometimes it is off reserve aboriginals who have struggled to get the training they need.

We are getting the job done where the previous government failed and failed for 13 years in a row. It was not just one year. The Liberals failed over many years. We are getting the job done and, because of that, we really are building a stronger, safer and better Canada. I am thrilled to be part of the new government that is doing exactly that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the hon. minister criticize the previous government, and I share that criticism, but it is sad that with the huge surpluses the government enjoys it has adopted a policy of ABC, and that is anything but child care.

First, it gives a taxable baby bonus to Canadians and it creates anything but child care. Then it had this scheme for giving tax credits to corporations on the belief that it would create child care spaces, but of course no child care spaces were created.

In my riding of Parkdale—High Park, the waiting list for child care centres is in the hundreds and parents are paying up to $1,480 a month for child care. Parents are desperate. They need to work. Housing prices are sky high. The government has brought in nothing for a national housing strategy.

How does the minister expect parents and kids to cope? Study after study shows that child care is the most important early intervention in a child's life for them to succeed. What is the government going to do to help kids across the country?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member says that there are hundreds of people in her riding waiting for child care. Because of this budget and the new child care spaces initiative, 17,000 spaces will be created across the country. We are dealing with this issue.

The member asks what kind of support is there. In the budget we announced $250 million over the next five years, which will escalate at 3% a year, for the provinces to provide that support. That is on top of $850 million a year that we already provide for early learning and child care and child development in the provinces. So that is $1.1 billion a year. We announced $2.4 billion a year through the universal child care benefit, plus the new child tax credit that we announced in the budget which will provide $1.4 billion a year. There is almost $700 million a year that we provide through a day care tax credit or a child care tax credit, and it goes on and on. In fact, the total now is $5.6 billion every year, which is the most amount any federal government has ever spent in Canadian history on child care.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government talked a lot about bringing down wait times and wait times guarantees but there is absolutely nothing in this budget to deal with one of the most important components of wait times, and that is health human resources. In other words, we need to have the people to deliver the care, whether they are doctors, nurses or technicians, but the budget does not say a word about health human resources.

There were $630 million added to the amount of money that the last Liberal government had put in for guaranteed wait times but, as we hear from the Canadian Medical Association, that is not enough. We also know that thousands of people in this country who are doctors, nurses and technicians but who were trained somewhere else cannot use their skills to work in the health care sector.

Why did the government not see fit to deal with one of the most important reasons that our wait times are so long? What did it do with the internationally trained worker initiative that our government had set in place, an initiative for which I was personally responsible?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, while the member was on her feet, I was hoping she would explain to Canadians why her government in 13 years did nothing on those issues. However, she did not see fit to address that so I will try to answer that for her.

In 13 months in government, we are moving forward with a foreign credential referral office so that those people who are foreign trained, whether they are in the medical profession or any of the other profession, have a pathway to having their credentials recognized through the professional bodies that are responsible for that or a pathway toward getting the upgrading they need so they can practise in their field in Canada. We are moving forward on that.

We are also moving forward on other initiatives that provide training so people can work across Canada in their appropriate field. In the budget we talked about the importance of knocking down interprovincial barriers so people can move across the country.

We also announced in the budget that we are working toward providing a pathway to permanent residence for temporary workers who come to Canada temporarily to fill the skills shortages that we have here because we see that as an important way to ensure we attract the best and brightest to this country, something the Liberals never saw fit to do in 13 years.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on budget 2007. The document we have before us is further evidence that Canada's new government is listening and responding to the real concerns of British Columbians.

For more than a decade my constituents have had to endure the empty rhetoric and broken promises of Liberal prime ministers. Those days are now behind us.

Budget 2007 is a budget for all Canadians regardless of where they come from. Budget 2007 is a balanced budget that cuts taxes for working families, invests in important priorities like health care, the environment, infrastructure, and moves to restore the fiscal balance. In short, this is a great budget for B.C. and a great budget for Canada.

This year's federal budget is good news for people concerned about infrastructure in B.C. For years Lower Mainland residents have sought federal aid for their transportation problems. Liberal neglect has exacted a heavy toll on commuters. Travel times in the Lower Mainland have increased by 30% in the last decade. Traffic delays are costing the trucking industry over $500 million a year.

With the region's population expected to grow by another one million by 2021, severe traffic congestion will only get worse.

Last fall, at my invitation, the transport minister visited Surrey and met with people in my riding to listen to their concerns. Those concerns are now being addressed.

Budget 2007 makes the largest investment in infrastructure in Canadian history, with more than $16 billion over seven years to fix our roads, highways, bridges and ports. This brings total federal support under a new long term plan for infrastructure to $33 billion.

British Columbia is the single biggest winner on the infrastructure front. There is an additional $400 million for the Pacific Gateway initiative, bringing total federal funding to $1 billion; over $275 million for other Gateway and border crossing projects; more than $2 billion for B.C. municipalities in the form of gas tax funding and GST rebates; and an additional $25 million per year for the province to support investments in national priorities. As told, budget 2007 will invest nearly $5 billion in B.C. infrastructure over the next seven years.

Previous Liberal governments knew of our glaring needs, but did nothing. It has taken a Conservative government to produce results.

In Fleetwood—Port Kells parents struggle daily with the challenge of raising a family. While the economy is booming and unemployment is at a 30 year low, the cost of living is dramatically higher than in other regions.

As a government we need to make it more affordable for people to have children and to raise them. That is why in budget 2007 we are creating a working families tax plan. This plan has three components.

First, for families with children it includes a brand new $2,000 per child tax credit for children under 18 that will help families to get ahead.

Second, we are ending the marriage penalty through an increase of the spousal and dependent amounts to the same level as the basic personal amount.

Third, we are helping parents save for their children's education by strengthening the RESP program. For B.C. families this plan will result in significant tax savings totalling more than $300 million annually.

We are also taking action to ensure that our seniors can live in dignity. In budget 2007 we are helping seniors by raising the age limit for RRSPs to 71 from 69 years, increasing the age credit by $1,000 and permitting pension income splitting. These measures are great news for hard-working families and seniors in Fleetwood--Port Kells.

Budget 2007 helps to ensure that we continue to live in a country where hard work and sacrifice lead to economic success and security.

Our government has provided British Columbians with a budget that recognizes their struggles and delivers fairness.

British Columbia is blessed with one of the most remarkable natural environments found anywhere in Canada. It should therefore come as no surprise to members that people in my province consider preserving the environment to be a top government priority. That is one reason why Canada's new government is moving forward with a positive environment agenda that will curb our production of greenhouse gases and reduce water, land and air pollutants.

We are replacing empty Liberal talk with an approach that is responsible and realistic. Budget 2007 invests $4.5 billion in measures to protect our natural environment. This includes, among other things, $1.5 billion for cleaner energy and energy efficiency. Through the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change, B.C.'s share of this funding is almost $200 million.

There is also $2.2 billion for measures to support cleaner transportation, including a new rebate for fuel efficient vehicles, a new green levy to discourage fuel inefficient vehicles, and programs to get older, high pollution vehicles off our roads.

We are introducing a $93 million national water strategy and there is $30 million to protect B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest.

Combined with a $4.6 billion investment in 2006, Canada's new government has invested more than $9 billion in preserving and protecting the environment with programs that deliver results.

British Columbians are fed up with the empty rhetoric and broken promises of previous Liberal governments. That is why we are delivering real action to protect our natural environment for all Canadians.

In conclusion, with this budget, we are restoring fiscal balance by bringing federal support for B.C. to $4.7 billion this fiscal year, making $76.4 million available to the B.C. government through the patient wait times guarantee trust, and making another $39.9 million available to B.C. to implement an HPV immunization program to combat cervical cancer.

There is $9 million in corporate income tax relief for changes in capital cost allowances for buildings; $57 million in additional corporate income tax relief for the temporary two-year write-off for manufacturing equipment over the next two years; approximately $10.2 million in tax savings for farmers, fishers and small business owners through an increased lifetime capital gains tax exemption to $750,000; approximately $60 million in other assistance for B.C. farmers; and $15 million for the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. All of this funding is specifically for British Columbia.

Managing Canada's $1.5 trillion economy means making choices and striking the right balance. In budget 2007 we have achieved this by balancing the budget, cutting taxes for working families, investing in priorities, and giving provinces the resources they need to deliver the front line services that matter to all Canadians.

Our actions today will create a Canada that we will be proud to pass on to our children and grandchildren, a Canada with a standard of living and quality of life that is second to none. Canada's new government is working for all Canadians, building a stronger, safer and better Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note on page 98 of the budget document there is a page entitled--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I apologize to the hon. member for Parkdale--High Park. I notice that it is two o'clock, so we will have to move on to statements by members. She can ask her question or make her comment immediately after question period.

National Research CouncilStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, the National Research Council of Canada has had a tremendous impact not only on the lives of Canadians but on people around the world since 1916.

Radar, electric wheelchair, heart pacemaker, canola, the Canadarm, and a vaccine for infant meningitis are only a fraction of the made in Canada life changing technologies that the NRC has developed with its partners in its labs over the last 90 years.

Today, work is underway with industry and other partners developing low emission jet engines, on hydrogen energy and biofuels, and on advance treatment technologies for chronic disease, to name but a few.

In addition NRC's IRAP program this year alone has worked with close to 10,000 Canadian small businesses helping them gain a competitive edge through new technology. The National Research Council is Canada's flag ship R and D agency and is making a difference for Canada and for Canadians.

I encourage the members of the House to visit NRC's display today in the Commonwealth Room to see firsthand how it is putting science to work in Canada.

Mel SwartStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 27 Niagara lost a long time political icon. Since 1947 Mel Swart served on Thorold City Council as Reeve, as Warden of Welland County Council, as a Niagara Regional Councillor, and finally as the Member of the Provincial Parliament from 1975 to 1988.

It was when his doctor told him that he must cut back on his 16 hour days that he retired from politics believing that he could no longer serve his constituency if he could not give the 110% that he always gave.

Originally a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and later with the New Democratic Party, Mel was a fine gentleman, respected by all and who worked tirelessly for his fellow man. He was a champion for social justice, the environment and consumer rights.

In recent years Mel was always still active on the campaign trail for his favoured candidate. In between campaigns Mel was often at community events in Thorold always advocating for his preferred projects.

Predeceased by his wife Thelma in 2001, Mel died at the age of 87. I extend my condolences to the children, Melva and Orlen and their families. Mel was a political legend and will be very much missed in Niagara.

Quebec BridgeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, residents in the Quebec City and Lévis area have been waiting several years for Canadian National to repaint the Quebec Bridge.

In a question to his colleague, the Minister of Transport, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse brought up the former Liberal government's failure to act on this issue.

Now, just like the Liberals before them, the Conservatives are powerless in this situation, and are showing their inability to negotiate. This is why they are giving up and calling on the courts to force CN to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

SeniorsStatements By Members

March 27th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the recent Conservative budget disappointed seniors once again.

In my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan, 16% of our neighbours are seniors and that number is rising. They depend on the OAS and GIS for part of their income, but there was no increase for them in the budget.

They had hoped to see a reduction in the tax rate for the lowest income bracket. More importantly, seniors had hoped to be reimbursed for the full amount the government had short changed them as a result of a Statistics Canada mistake in calculating the consumer price index, but the Conservatives ignored this clear opportunity to be accountable to older Canadians.

Instead of supporting their retirement with dignity, the Conservatives are asking seniors to work longer. This is at a time of record surpluses which could have improved the life of seniors. Seniors cannot wait forever.

Although the government supported the NDP seniors charter in June of last year, it has failed to deliver real change for older Canadians.

Democratic Republic of CongoStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on October 29, 2006, the Democratic Republic of Congo went through its first democratic election in more than 40 years with President Kabila winning this milestone event.

The presence of UN forces, MUNOC, in the DRC was instrumental in ensuring that the election was peaceful.

Canada played an important role in this election. Therefore, the Government of Canada was alarmed to learn of the violent confrontations that started in Kinshasa on March 22 between the forces loyal to Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba, the loser in the 2006 presidential election, and the national army and the police in the capital city. Congolese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Bemba.

During the Great Lakes Conference in Nairobi this past December, all countries pledged to uphold the transition to democracy in Congo. I also met with President Kabila.

Canada condemns this violence and calls on all responsible Congolese leaders to respect and advance the peaceful democratic processes.

Louis-René BeaudoinStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, 2007 marks 50 years since the culmination of the historic and raucous pipeline debate in this very House, a debate that was presided over by Speaker Louis-René Beaudoin. The House was so moved by debate that it witnessed members pouring into the aisle and saw one hon. member climb the Speaker's dais while shaking his fist at Speaker Beaudoin.

As Speaker Beaudoin carried out his difficult duties with grace and aplomb, he was assailed by all sides of the House. When he made an unpopular ruling, the harassment from all sides was so great that he tabled his resignation. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, respecting him so, refused to accept it.

Even though his reputation was seriously affected, he won re-election. After his political career ended, he was unable to find fulfilling work. He drifted from job to job and eventually died unheralded at the age of 57.

On reflection of Louis-René Beaudoin's distinguished career, we should all strive for more civility in our debates and a higher degree of respect for each other. We should always remember those like Louis-René Beaudoin who have stood before us in the House and have so ably served Canada.