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House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 199 will be answered today.

Question No. 199Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

With regard to marriages for immigration purposes: (a) how many individuals have been deported or had their permanent residence status cancelled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for entering into a fraudulent marriage or a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes in each of the last 10 years; and (b) to which countries were they removed?

Question No. 199Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, recognizes that some Canadians and permanent residents are deceived by foreign nationals into marriage for the purpose of acquiring permanent residence. The scope of the issue is unclear, however, because our computer system does not track this information. The system only recognizes misrepresentation in general and does not allow for differentiation between specific types of misrepresentation, including fraudulent marriages and marriages of convenience. For this reason, it is not possible to identify the number of people who have been deported or who have had their permanent residence status cancelled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CIC, for reasons of fraudulent marriages or marriages of convenience in the last 10 years, or to which countries they were removed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When Bill C-52 was last discussed in the House, there were 17 minutes left for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, and she has the floor.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, before question period I talked about the dire need in the country for affordable housing and for a range of housing. I talked about the fact that an organization in Nanaimo said that housing was a part of a stable community. In the south end of my riding in the Cowichan Valley we also know that affordable housing is a crisis.

Homeless shelters have opened up. We have had some tragedies where people were squatting in buildings and the building caught fire. We desperately need affordable housing and not only in Nanaimo—Cowichan or British Columbia.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report said:

Increasing income inequality has further aggravated housing affordability issues for many Canadians. The rental market has stagnated in terms of supply, with a net increase of only 2,000 units across all of Canada between 1996 and 2001

The CCPA recommends the development and implementation of a national housing strategy which should be drafted in consultation with first nations and aboriginal groups where appropriate.

The budget does not contain the kinds of long range fundamental solutions to our affordable housing crisis and money that has been earmarked for housing is often flowed through the province with no accountability measures put into that flow through of money.

The budget also does not do enough to address questions of improving infrastructure of Canada and B.C. in particular. The federal and provincial transfers have declined by 37% in the past decade. Not only does the Conservative government have responsibility for this, so does the previous Liberal government.

As a result, Canada's municipal infrastructure debt is estimated at $60 billion and growing by $2 billion each year. An additional $21 billion is needed to improve urban transit. When we talk about infrastructure, that infrastructure includes roads, sewers, water treatment plants and also important heritage items.

In my riding we have a very important heritage item called the Kinsol Trestle, which spans the Koksilah River in the southern Cowichan Valley. It is one of the largest and highest wooden trestle bridges in the world. It was built in 1921, though there was an unfortunate fire and a number of years of neglect of this important artifact. That kind of infrastructure money is part of a trail system and infrastructure money has not been earmarked. We can designate things like the Kinsol Trestle as a heritage site, but there is no money to maintain it.

The budget also does not provide money more broadly on other infrastructure items. I point specifically to the flooding that is going on right now in British Columbia. There is a long term need for dealing with the dike system in British Columbia. That has been neglected year after year. This year flooding is removing people from their homes and cutting communities off. I encourage the government to take a look at that longer term need.

I will talk about forestry for a moment. My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has been reliant on the forestry sector for its economy for a number of years, and has been in transition. Over the last several years, between softwood lumber and raw log exports, we continue to see jobs lost in many communities in Nanaimo—Cowichan and Nanaimo—Alberni. I mentioned earlier that 185 jobs were cut last week. We continue to see lack of adequate attention paid to the forestry sector in British Columbia.

When we talk about economic prosperity, we need to ensure that we foster economic prosperity and make the kind of strategic long term investment. I would argue that British Columbia's forestry sector deserves that strategic long term investment.

When we talk about the pine beetle in the House. We have had nothing but hollow promises to deal with the pine beetle epidemic, which is decimating forests in B.C. Although there have been promises, that money still has not flowed. I will to read from an article dated Friday, June 8, entitled “We say when will the feds give a damn about beetle?”. In this article it says, “This is a disaster that directly affects the finances and pocketbooks of individuals every bit as much as other natural disasters like floods and ice storms”.

It goes on to say, “This is the case no matter how we might quibble over the definition. People struggling with the pine beetle devastation aren't asking for a free ride. They would simply like an indication that the federal government gives a damn. They would be grateful to receive even a small percentage of the cost”.

The article talks about the fact that there are $62,000 from the federal government toward the continuation of the Kamloops beetle wood pickup program, and that is it. We know we need to have a long term view of what is happening in British Columbia. Forests are being cut because they need to be, but what is the long term economic survival of the community? What is the transition plan for workers in those communities? We must pay attention to that. Thousands and thousands of hectares have been impacted.

It is clear when we look at housing, the forestry sector, fishing, health care and seniors in British Columbia, many of these issues critical to the health, safety and well-being of our communities, that they have not been a priority in this budget. It is also clear that citizens in British Columbia have not been a priority for the government.

I will turn my attention for a moment to an issue that confronts us on a national scale, which is the aboriginal peoples of our country. As the aboriginal critic, I was particularly interested in what the government saw fit to put in the budget. When it comes to first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,we see there is very little commitment in the budget.

Close to one million Canadians identify themselves as aboriginal peoples, including over 600,000 first nations, 300,000 Métis and 50,000 Inuit. The aboriginal population is young, incredibly diverse and growing much faster than the rest of Canada, yet the government continues to miss the opportunity to pursue programs that benefit both aboriginal peoples and ordinary Canadians.

A budget is, at its core, a set of numbers that demonstrate a government's priorities. Canadians expected fairness toward first nations, Inuit and Métis people to be a priority, but as this budget clearly shows, it was not.

When adjusted for inflation and population increases, the INAC budget has dropped in real terms by 3.5% since 1999-2000. As a result of the discriminatory 2% cap, core services, which include education, social development, capital facilities and support of self-government for first nations people, have declined by 13% in real terms during the same period.

There are more numbers. Aboriginals make, on average, only 60% of what ordinary Canadians make. They are two to three times more likely to be unemployed. They are three times as likely to live in poverty. Aboriginals are two to three times as likely to suffer chronic health conditions and live in inadequate, crowded housing. This is an embarrassment for Canada. It is time we refocus on the issues that are central to Canada's aboriginal communities, good housing, good jobs and a bright future for their children.

When we talk about this we often forget there is a natural face. In a speech that National Chief Phil Fontaine gave on Tuesday, May 15, he put a face to the conditions in Canada. I will quote from his speech. He said:

We must admit that First Nations People in Canada live in the most disgusting and shameful conditions imaginable in any developed country.

In...Northern Manitoba, Chief Shirley Castel tells us that some two-bedroom homes have as many as 28 people living in them. People are forced to sleep in shifts and many parents often go without sleep to ensure their children are able to learn and play.

The Conservative answer to that is to put $300 million into market housing, but no additional money into on reserve affordable housing and no additional money into off reserve affordable housing. The fact is that $300 million in market housing only addresses one small part of what is needed in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

Further in National Chief Fontaine's speech he says:

The UN Human Development Index ranks Canada at about sixth in the world. First Nations on reserves rank somewhere around 63rd, according to Indian and Northern Affairs...

The Department's own officials have warned the federal government that First Nations' socio-economic status will continue to worsen and the gap widen—yet these warnings have not been heeded.

Later in Chief Fontaine's speech, and I noticed that the Ottawa Citizen ran a story on this very sad tragedy that took place in Ottawa, he says:

And so where is the public outcry about the loss of Kelly Morriseau...especially now with the Robert Pickton trial underway in B.C.

It's estimated that more than 500 First Nations women have disappeared or died violently during the past 30 years.

That is a litany of the tragedies facing many first nations communities in our country.

When the Assembly of First Nations put out a report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, it gave an overall grade of meeting their recommendations in that report as F. In one section of the report called “First Nations Homes”, and I talked a little about homes, but I will read the statistics. It says:

In addition to a higher rate of overcrowding, First Nations homes are about four times more likely to require major repairs compared to Canadian homes and mold contaminates almost half of First Nations homes.

1 in 3 First Nations people consider their main drinking water unsafe to drink, and 12% of First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water.

Six percent (over 5,000 homes) are without sewage services, and 4% lack either hot water, cold water or flushing toilets

I remind the House that this is in Canada. We would not expect that many citizens in Canada are living in third world conditions. When I talk about the international stage, I want to turn to a report that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination published in March, pointing out Canada's shameful record in a number of areas in dealing with first nations, Métis and Inuit people.

Under Item 21, it talks about the commitments made in 2005 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments under the Kelowna accord. It goes on to say:

—the Committee remains concerned at the extent of the dramatic inequality in living standards still experienced by Aboriginal peoples. In this regard, the Committee, recognising the importance of the right of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their lands, territories and resources in relation to their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, regrets that in its report, the State party did not address the question of limitations imposed on the use by Aboriginal people of their land, as previously requested by the Committee. The Committee also notes that the State party has yet to fully implement the 1996 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

In the same report we have heard Conservative members talk about the fact that Bill C-44 will address human rights on reserve. What they fail to acknowledge is that Bill C-44 does not allocate any additional resources to the things that might arise in human rights complaints around water, housing, adequate education. There is no remedy and this report cites, in fact, that without those remedies, human rights cannot be addressed on reserve.

We have often heard talk about the 2% cap. Again, I want to turn to the government's document. In a cost drivers report it indicated:

The rationale is that after nine years of a 2 percent cap the time has come to fund First Nations basic services costs so that population and price growth are covered in the new and subsequent years. Over the period of the 2 percent cap departmental per capita constant dollar expenditures for basic services have declined by six percent.

This is the context of the fact that population both on and off reserve continues to grow. Aboriginal population in the country is the fastest growing of any population in the country, and yet we have seen a net decline of 6%. This is the government's document.

I would suggest that when this budget was developed, surely the government would have received advice from its own departments in developing a budget that would adequately address even a minimum standard of care in the country.

Later on in the same cost drivers report, it talks about socio-economic influences. It talks about the fact that:

The real costs associated with First Nation schools implementing programs that assist those students affected by adverse socio-economic conditions, in achieving school success, however that may be defined.

It says that is a problem.

It includes things like remedial programs relating to basic skills, nutrition programs, extracurricular programs associated with sports and recreation, after school programs and so on.

It talks about the fact that when we compare the services of on reserve schools with off reserve schools, there is a funding gap of $64 million in the band school system for the year 2004-05. We know that the gap has continued to grow.

I could continue to talk about the overcrowded housing, the lack of clean drinking water, the lack of mould remediation programs and the lack of education. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the spring completed a report on post-secondary education. The committee called upon the government to recognize the 2% funding cap, to address the serious shortfalls in post-secondary education. There was no new funding.

We know that one of the ways that economic disparity can be addressed in first nations communities, Métis communities and Inuit communities across this country is by making sure that education is accessible.

With our aging population, it is really important that we invest in the skills and labour shortage. Although there was some money in the budget for the skills and labour shortage, I would argue that it was not nearly sufficient to meet this country's needs. If we fail, as this proposed budget does, our economy and society will not only forego this great potential, but also continue to incur large social costs. I have called for more funding for skills and development training, but it has to be a much broader base than what is in the current budget.

Justice Thomas Berger's report on Nunavut's education system pointed out that indigenous language training is vital to developing a skilled workforce. There is no money for indigenous language training in this budget. In fact, the program was gutted by $160 million. Many of the indigenous languages across this country are in serious trouble, so it is important that we continue to support language training because it helps the health and well-being of communities.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of any community is the hope that it has for its children. Yet, this budget robs aboriginal children of this hope.

There is no funding to provide child welfare on reserves to meet provincial standards. It is $109 million short. In fact, there has been a human rights complaint filed because of that funding gap.

We continue to see a 2% gap on programs and services, a 3% gap on health care, and there are countless other ways that this budget nickels and dimes aboriginal people. There is no additional funding for friendship centres. There is not the kind of support for infrastructure that is required for water or housing.

We have seen many broken promises over the years. This budget is just a continuation of the broken promises to first nations, Métis and Inuit people in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have heard so many times before from members from the NDP, they just seem to think that unless everything is 110% perfect, we should vote for zero.

The people of British Columbia will benefit from this budget in a great many ways. In this budget there are $3.1 billion in Canadian health care transfers, $1.3 billion in Canadian social transfers, almost $250 million for infrastructure, and almost $40 million to help fight cervical cancer in women. Yet, that member wants to vote against that. In this budget there are $410 million for the Asia-Pacific gateway corridor, tax savings for farmers and fishermen, and money to clean up the environment.

Every day in this House we hear members of the NDP crying about a crisis. I will admit that there are some areas where we do need more money, but we have to look at the entire country and divide the money that is available in a very responsible and effective way. We have done that with this budget. This is a great budget for Canada. It is a great budget for Canadians. It is an incredibly good budget for Atlantic Canada and B.C.

I want to know what the member has against hazmat training for firefighters? What does the member have against cancer therapy for women and all the things in this budget? Is the member actually going to vote against these things because the budget is not perfect? Is the member going to use some common sense and get what is good in this budget for Canadians, and move forward for Canada and work with us in these areas that she feels are deficient?

Is that member really going to stand here and play political games and vote no because her party considers everything a crisis? Let us have some common sense from the member.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course, I do not have enough time to touch on every point that the member for Cambridge raised. However, he did talk about firefighters.

When we are talking about firefighters, I wonder where is the commitment for the police and fire games that will be taking place in British Columbia. That is a very important sport and recreational activity that contributes to the health and well-being of our firefighters and police officers. It also provides economic spin-off in our communities.

We talk about health care. I had a very interesting call from an emergency physician the other day. What the emergency physician talked about was the very serious overcrowding in emergency rooms. Part of that was a lack of access to trained nurses.

We have been calling over a number of years for a national human resource strategy for health care professionals. We have been asking for accountability for the federal dollars that flow into provinces around health care and that just simply has not happened.

When we talk about crisis, the CCPA talks about the fact that the gap between the rich and poor is at a 30 year high in after tax terms. It is the fastest growth in 10 years under economic conditions that traditionally should lead to it falling and there is a greater polarization of incomes.

We are talking about a huge percentage of Canadians who are actually seeing their quality of life being reduced. The government is not taking these issues seriously.

We have seen the auto manufacturing sector in Ontario being decimated. I know the member from Windsor has called on the government to develop an auto sector strategy that deals with some of the very serious concerns and the loss of manufacturing jobs. Surely the government needs to pay attention to those kinds of problems.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for actually laying out the reality of where the budget has failed so many people on very basic issues, whether it is on housing, the cost of prescription drugs, the environment or aboriginal people. The list goes on and on.

We heard the member for Cambridge chattering and saying, “The budget is almost perfect and why would you vote against it?” Come on, I think the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan has laid out the significant gaps and omissions in the budget that are failing people on very basic issues.

I would like to ask the member this, because I know she is our aboriginal affairs critic and this is an area that is very near and dear to her heart and her community. In the budget one of the massive failures is that it does not meet the commitments that have been made to aboriginal people in terms of very basic issues like housing, health care, clean water, education and quality of life. Is that reason alone enough to vote against the budget?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vancouver East for her very important question, but I also want to raise another issue.

Another matter regarding firefighters of course is the fact that we fail to provide adequate compensation to firefighters who die on duty and fail to support the families when something has happened to officers on duty.

In terms of first nations, Métis and Inuit people, we have been embarrassed on the international stage. We have international non-governmental organizations who have come into communities in northern Ontario and issued reports about the desperate conditions around housing, water and education.

There are over 600 reserves in this country and many of those reserves are living in third world conditions. In a country as rich as Canada and as resourceful as Canada, surely we should be able to invest some of the billions of dollars in surplus into first nations communities.

I do not disagree that there is always a challenge in terms of spreading the money around, but we have some of the poorest of the poor who are doubly disadvantaged in terms of their ability to lobby and advocate on their own behalf the government, and their ability to get a fair and equitable part of the resources in Canada.

Therefore, I will be voting against the budget. It does not address some of the serious income inequalities in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will quickly ask a question of my hon. colleague from Nanaimo--Cowichan who does tremendous work on the aboriginal committee of the House. She talked about the living conditions of first nations and how there is no new funding to address these terrible conditions. I have seen that firsthand in my community of Vancouver Island North. Many reserves are in those conditions.

I met with the chiefs in my riding to talk about the budget because I wanted to know what they thought about it. They were so frustrated and angry at the lack of any significant funding. No new funding for them means cuts to programs that are already in place.

They also told me that there was no money in the budget for treaty settlements. That is something that they have been working long and hard for. There is no incentive by the government to settle treaties.

What impacts does my hon. colleague see that this will have on first nations who are living in crisis today?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, coming from British Columbia, we know that, first of all, very few treaties have been settled. There has been a treaty process in place for a number of years. There has been some minimal progress made, but the reality is that we will be looking at decades before those treaties are signed.

There is an enormous backlog of specific land claims and we know the cost that is having on communities across this country. There has been virtually no additional funding put into place to deal with this very important issue.

There is also the issue around self-government agreements. In speaking to first nations from Yukon, it is one thing to get a treaty signed, but to actually have it implemented and have the terms and conditions of the treaty respected and honoured has been an enormous challenge. I would argue that there needs to be additional money put into the self-government agreement because there are shortfalls throughout the treaty and self-government process.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour to speak today to this budget, which is a tremendous budget for Canadians. I have been on the record several times in this House complimenting the Minister of Finance for the incredible job he did making the very difficult choices that, I believe, do put Canada on the road toward becoming a stronger, safer, better Canada.

The opposition parties are working very hard to cloud the issues around the budget. They do not really want to talk about the positive effects of the budget because they are trying to come up with a reason as to why they would not vote in favour of it. Quite frankly, there are not very many reasons that one could legitimately stand in this House and say that they would not want to vote in favour of the budget. Instead, they come up with things that perhaps are not in the budget.

However, we know that budgets are about choices. We know that there is a finite amount of resources with which the government has to work and we know there is an infinite demand for those resources.

Often one of the things that we do not talk about is how these resources come into the government. We do not spend a lot of time talking about how tax dollars are raised, the tax dollars that then provide the services to Canadians and provide the capacity for the federal government to provide the services. It is important that we keep both of those in mind and that is exactly what this budget does.

In continuing with the trend established in budget 2006, the finance minister and this government were very clear. We said that Canadians pay too much tax and we have continued to reduce the tax burden. With over $20 billion in tax reductions last year, 655,000 low income Canadians were completely removed from the tax rolls in budget 2006. In this budget year, we further increased that number to 885,000 low income Canadians. The people who many MPs in this House claim to stand for have been completely removed from the federal tax roll, and that is notwithstanding the GST reduction that was a tax break for all Canadians.

The finance minister has said time and time again that he believes Canadians pay too much tax and he has delivered on tax reductions for all Canadians.

However, that is not all. We have also made significant commitments to health care. Canadians are constantly asking us to please support the health care system. They say that it is something they believe in and that it is what sets us apart as Canadians.

The budget has done that. Record funding for health care has been set aside in this year's budget and it is set to increase exponentially each and every year. However, we went a step further. We also brought in money for the new wait times guarantee of $650 million. We have also provided $400 million for the establishment of the new Canada Health Infoway. This will help us to improve the efficiency of the health care system because now we will have the capacity to put everybody's health care records on an electronic system. This means that when people visit a hospital and their health care cards are swiped, all their health care information will be readily available. This is a great thing for Canadians. I know a lot of the members in this House, who will be voting against this budget, are very much in favour of that.

Just a few moments ago the hon. member for Cambridge said that members should not vote against the budget because there may be a few things they do not see in it. I know members from the NDP support this expenditure on health care. I cannot believe that they will stand and vote against these things that are so incredibly important.

There is also incredible support for the municipalities in this budget. Last year we set in stone the full exemption of the GST for municipalities. That meant over $700,000 just in my area, in Peterborough county. That is a lot of money for Peterborough county. The support for municipalities continues because we have extended the gas tax, which grows exponentially each and every year, up to 2014.

The extension in the gas tax rebate to my municipality meant some $26 million just for Peterborough. My goodness, that is a fortune for Peterborough. The municipality will be able to do a lot of good things with that money.

Canada has a robust economy and is enjoying great success. Often when the finance minister speaks--

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Carolyn Bennett

Thirteen years.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

--he speaks about the economy, the environment and energy.

One of the opposition members just mentioned 13 years. That seems to be a continuing trend in here. I remember 13 years of inaction, 13 dark years. There is no longer 13 dark years in this House. We are aspiring for a better Canada on this side of the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Carolyn Bennett

Unemployment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

I know that member, in good conscience, probably wants to support this budget but is being prevented from doing so.

However, I just want to get back to speaking about the economy, the environment and energy and how these three are intrinsically linked. We cannot talk about one without talking about the other. We cannot deal with them in isolation.

We know that the opposition parties want to deal with the environment, for example, in isolation. They want to ram through Bill C-288. We know what the effects of Bill C-288 would be and how devastating that would be to the Canadian economy and to Canadians in general. However, they do not care about that. They want to replace 10 years of inaction on the environment with 10 years of a bad economy and 10 years of hardship for Canadians.

This government does not want to do that. We want to act but we understand that the environment, the economy and energy are intrinsically linked in Canada.

When we talk about the economy, perhaps the biggest challenge that we face is productivity. We hear a lot about how productivity is affecting Canada's economy. Why? A number of things have been indicated as to why productivity in Canada is lacking. The Certified General Accountants of Canada point the finger at the former federal government and say that the Liberal sponsorship scandal really damaged Canada's overall productivity because there was no focus on productivity.

There is focus now. In this budget we talk about support for manufacturing. In fact a unanimous report submitted by the industry council made recommendations to the finance minister as to how we could support manufacturing in Canada. Virtually all of those recommendations are contained in this budget. We respected them. We moved forward on them because we believe in manufacturing and in the success of manufacturing.

In my home province of Ontario, manufacturing is incredibly important. The number one private employer in Peterborough is General Motors in Oshawa and I am committed to its success. I am also committed to the success of General Electric, Quaker Oats, Fisher Gauge and to the success of all manufacturing in my riding. I support this budget because it is good for manufacturing.

The budget also makes record commitments to infrastructure because we know that if we want to improve Canada's overall productivity we need to invest more in our roads and in our transit. We need to invest in border crossings.

One of the members from the Liberal Party mentioned earlier that a new crossing at Windsor would be a great thing. My goodness, we have been talking about that for more than a decade. The Liberals did not get it done. We will get it done because we understand how incredibly important that is, certainly to the auto industry in Canada, but to every industry in Canada. It is absolutely paramount that we deal with the infrastructure deficit in Canada if we are going to move forward on productivity.

Another important factor to productivity is education. We know that in 1993 the Liberal red book committed to making post-secondary education more affordable. The Liberals committed to making it easier for people to get into. I know the NDP Party, for example, has long argued for investment into post-secondary education. It has long pointed out the failures of the former government in owning up to what it committed to do. The Liberals committed to investing into post-secondary education but they cut the heart out of post-secondary education.

In this budget, we commit an additional 40% immediately in additional money to post-secondary education. The president of Trent University, Bonnie Patterson, said that they could not have asked for more in this budget than what has been delivered. In addition to the 40% increase this year, there is a 3% annual inflationary increase to the post-secondary transfer.

We also have specifically indicated how much money we are putting into the post-secondary transfer. When we spoke to post-secondary educational officials across the country, they talked about the need for a dedicated transfer. They needed to know how much money was there so that they could then go to their provincial governments and ask about the shares and the buy-ins.

Those officials now know exactly how much money is available, which helps them to deal with the provincial governments and ensure that post-secondary education is the priority in Canada that it deserves to be, and it will improve our productivity.

On the environment, as I said earlier, the former government did not have a plan. Now it wants to ram through a plan that would just absolutely derail our economy. This government has a plan. We have made significant commitments, such as the $1.5 billion for the ecotrust program that we will be sharing with the provinces. This will have significant short and long term benefits.

Ontario will be able to use that money to bring in clean hydroelectric power instead of the coal-fired power that we have had to rely on because the former government provided no support whatsoever to the province of Ontario to replace that power. This government will do that and all the provinces will be able to direct the money as they see fit to help clean up the environment in their backyards.

We need to face the fact that cleaning up the environment is always local. We tend to think about things on a global basis but we need to clean up things in our own backyards if we want to clean up the nation. This money will specifically assist the provinces to clean up our own backyards.

The budget contains money to clean up invasive species and to clean up the Lake Simcoe watershed which is something the hon. government House leader has been arguing for over the years.

The government has committed a total of $4.5 billion to the environment so that it can turn the corner on the environment. The previous government did not get it done. Those are not my words. Those are the words of the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. This government will get it done. As we hear coming out of the G-8 summit, this government, this Prime Minister, is a world leader on the environment.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

You sold out.

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Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

I know it is difficult for the Liberal Party to hear these words coming from respected environmentalists from around the world that Canada is now a leader on the environment. It is difficult to hear these things but, quite frankly, sometimes the truth hurts. However, the truth always is the truth and sometimes it needs to be said. Today is one of the days when the truth must be said.

In addition, I want to get to the last of the three Es which, of course, is energy. Canada is an emerging energy superpower, and there is no question about that. Canada has been blessed with natural resource wealth, the likes of which no other nation has been blessed.

We need to be responsible in how we deal with Canada's energy and resource wealth but we also need to take a serious look at the types of energy that we are consuming, which is why the government committed $2 billion toward a new renewable fuel strategy. Organizations have run commercials thanking Prime Minister Harper for keeping his promise. This is not us saying that we keep our promises. We know we keep our promises.

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Peterborough will remember that I often chastise members of other parties when they mention members of the House of Commons by their surname, and it applies to him also.

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Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

He is a rookie.

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Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

My sincere apologies, Mr. Speaker. I get so excited when I talk about the record of the government on keeping its promises, cutting taxes, cleaning up the environment and improving the health care situation. Sometimes I get so excited I want to refer to the Prime Minister by name, because he is not just my friend, he is a friend of this country and he is a tremendous world leader. Sometimes I just get too excited.

I want to talk about energy and the investments we are making into renewable fuels. This will not just help us clean up to reduce our carbon footprint, but it will also breathe new life into areas like Peterborough where agriculture now has an additional market. We are talking about taking things that can be grown in the field and converting them into energy, clean energy, energy that will have long lasting benefits for all Canadians. The farmers in my riding are really excited about this.

Last year and in years past it was certainly very difficult for agriculture in Canada. I have often said that agriculture in Canada suffered for more than a decade of failed leadership and planning on behalf of the former government. That may be difficult for the Liberals to hear. They will not be happy that I said that, but it is a fact. When they brought in the CAIS program, it cut the heart out of agriculture in Canada and they did not support our farmers.

This government clearly does support our farmers. The new renewable fuel strategy has created almost a bidding war for dirt in Peterborough. People want to plant crops because they see that they can make money at it again. That is all our farmers want. They do not want handouts. They want a market. This government is creating a market.

I also want to talk a little about tax fairness. We know, among other things, that the Liberals do not stand for a democratically elected and accountable Senate. They stand for the influence of big money in politics. They do not believe that they should ever have to tell Canadians where the sponsorship money went. We know that this is a fact.

We also know that based on the testimony they have made in the House time and time again, they do not support tax fairness. They do not believe that all Canadians, in fact, all corporations, should pay their fair share of taxes. We know that from the words of the Leader of the Opposition himself and many members of the Liberal Party. They stand alone on that.

I would like to recognize that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP both support the government's decision. It was a difficult decision, but when we made the promise in the last election to stand up for Canada, that meant we had to protect the tax base. It meant that we had to provide tax fairness for all Canadians.

Indeed, if we want to continue to assist seniors, families and low income individuals in this country, we simply cannot allow people to escape paying their fair share of taxes, because the burden gets placed on people who cannot afford to pay it.

Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in government. We understand that. The former government did not. The Liberals did not understand that difficult decisions had to be made. In fact, they often avoided difficult decisions.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood the very day that the former finance minister made his announcement not to tax income trusts was on CBC saying, “Yes, we must move to tax income trusts”, and the former finance minister did not do that.

Everyone knows the government certainly has access to the departmental information that clearly demonstrated tax leakage. All provinces came forward and said there was tax leakage. The Governor of the Bank of Canada said the way that things were going would lead to lower levels of investment, lower levels of productivity, less employment. It was bad for Canada. We have moved to fix that.

Budget 2007 has the title “Aspire”. It is about aspiring to a stronger, safer, better Canada. I will say that again because it makes me feel good: a stronger, safer, better Canada. I would love it if people stopped and considered that. I would like them to absorb it.