Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the recent hot air from those members. They talk about raising taxes or not raising taxes. In 2005 the tax rate was 15% when we were in government. In 2006, for anybody who wants to go back and look at their tax forms, it was 15.25% for the minimum taxation. This is the tax rate that affects the most vulnerable and all of the people that we on this side of the House care about very much.
Frankly, the reason the Conservatives came into office with an $11 billion surplus was because of the great work that our government did here. That is why they had all that money and a strong economy. That is from the 13 years of work that we did on this side of the House after the Conservatives left us with a $42 billion deficit. They do not need to tell me about what we did because I can give them a list of all the great things we did in the 13 years we were here.
Anyway, in spite of the efforts from my colleague on the other side of the House in trying to stifle and end the debate on this budget, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to it because it is very important, both for what is in it and what is not in it. I am going to talk a bit about what is not in it and the implications of that for all of us as Canadians.
Clearly we are faced with another divisive budget, which puts one Canadian against another; a speciality of that government. It puts provinces against provinces and one Canadian against another Canadian. It puts the wealthy against the poor. It puts those with children against those without children.
Governing is far more about governing on important issues for Canada than it is about writing cheques. It is about real leadership. It is about identification of what are the issues that matter to Canadians. Canadians do not want a country in which everyone is forced to fend for himself or herself. They want a strong and united Canada led by a government with a real commitment to meeting our country's challenges and making all our lives better.
Sadly, this minority Conservative government has proven time and time again that it does not understand the challenges of working families. It certainly does not understand the riding of York West and the need for many in my riding to improve their quality of life, just as many other areas across Canada do.
As well, the Conservatives' second budget does little for my province of Ontario. My constituents will have to wait until 2014 for fairness on federal health transfers. That is simply far too long for patients and others who are waiting for necessary surgery. I ask members to imagine telling people they are going to have to wait until 2011 for their surgery to happen. That is not the Canada that we all are proud of.
This breach of trust breaks a Conservative campaign promise to address wait times immediately. Whatever happened to that fifth priority of health care? We certainly do not hear anything about that ever since the Conservatives got elected. Did the Conservatives really think that Canadians would not notice when they carefully turned their backs on investing in health care? We are not hearing anything about it in any of these budgets.
There was absolutely no mention in this budget of homelessness or the need for affordable housing, an issue that clearly resonates across all of Ontario and in many parts of Canada.
The government also needs to invest in the infrastructure that we are going to need to be competitive for Canada's future. One example is the need for a Windsor-Detroit border crossing, which one of our colleagues has been working on for a very long time. It is one of the things that we have committed to in regard to improving that infrastructure.
Clearly there already is a private investor who is ready to swoop in and make a fortune by providing twinning. Is this an issue that we want to see go ahead without government support? Do we want to see it put into private hands? I do not think so. I am sure Mike Harris's buddy, the finance minister, would not want to be in a debacle such as the 407. He had a front row seat for that charade. Let us make sure that we look at that twinning issue for the Windsor-Detroit border as an important issue for all of us. It is time for the government to start taking some concrete action on some of these issues.
When it comes to investing in our cities, the government clearly will not put its money where its mouth is. The previous Liberal government committed over $800 million to public transit. but sadly, transit has fallen off the Conservative government's radar screen. The minister said last weekend, “This national transit strategy is not about new funding”. How, then, are we going to get buses and railway cars? Are his speeches going to supply them? I do not think so.
I asked a question of the minister this week on that issue of infrastructure and investing in transit. I am still waiting for an answer, but that is how typical of how things are dealt with here. As we go through question period and try to get answers, we get a lot of the same old same old kinds of answers from them about what we did and what we did not do. It is time the Conservatives recognized that they are the government. It is time they started producing instead of simply pointing fingers.
The budget also ignores the Conservative campaign promise to lower airport rents and address the issue of ground fees at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, one of the biggest airports in all of North America. Toronto's Pearson drives the greater Toronto area, Canada's economic engine. That is just a reminder in case the Conservatives have forgotten.
Airport ground rent makes up a considerable component of airport costs and factors prominently in the setting of annual airport fees and charges. Perhaps if the Conservatives had won a seat in the GTA, our airport would get the deal it deserves, but clearly they did not, and we are going to make sure that they do not.
The Conservative budget is a colossal disappointment for Canadians. The Liberal Party clearly cannot support such a narrow, ineffective budget, particularly at a time when Canada faces enormous challenges on competitiveness, the environment and social justice. When the finance minister was crafting his budget, he clearly was far more concerned with positioning the Conservatives for an election than with improving the lives of Canadians.
Instead of demonstrating a real commitment to meeting Canada's challenges, the Conservatives squandered this budget on short-sighted measures clearly aimed at an early election that Canadians did not want. Canadians told us through whatever polls were being done that they were not anxious to see another half a billion dollars spent on an election campaign. They wanted us to spend our time governing and leading Canada forward.
However, after seeing their plummeting poll numbers, the Conservatives readjusted the muzzles, crawled back into their bunkers and decided they had better hold tight and figure out what else they could possibly do to win the hearts of Canadians. They still have not managed to do that.
This budget fails to offer real tax relief. Taxes began to go up, as I indicated earlier, the day the government took power. The lowest income tax rate was 15% in 2005, and we have the forms to show that, but in 2006 it went up suddenly to 15.5%, which attacks those at the very lowest income tax rate who really need our help more than anyone else does.
The Conservatives also decreased the amount that could be earned tax free in 2006. On the whole issue of raising or lowering taxes, clearly the Conservatives are going after the lower income earners and giving the tax breaks to the higher income earners. If they really cared about the most vulnerable in our society, the least they could have done was reverse some of those tax hikes.
This budget maintains the Conservative tax hike on the first $35,000 of income. The cost of this tax hike was $1.4 billion and it clearly cancels out the benefit of their new child tax credit, which the Conservatives are so proud to talk about. Overall, the tax relief for hard-working Canadians is a measly $80 per taxpayer with the new child tax credit.
The budget fails to help Canadians safeguard our environment or fight climate change. The Conservatives have finally acknowledged that there is a problem when there is snow in Calgary and it is 32° Celsius in Toronto. That tells us there is something going wrong with our climate and we had better start paying attention to it.
The budget cuts back our energy commitments to renewable energy to 4,000 megawatts from 5,500 megawatts of support for clean and sustainable production. The budget keeps tax breaks for new oil sands expansion in place until 2015 to help with the plan for explosive growth. It slows our planned cleanup of lakes and waterways. It replaces rewards for those who make energy savings changes with gimmicks that cost thousands of dollars for every tonne reduced, but I guess they are easier to sell to the taxpayer.
This budget also fails to offer new support to the provinces and territories. The Conservatives cut nearly $10 billion from projected federal, provincial and territorial transfers through 2010-11 by killing the Liberal child care agreement, something that was extremely important. We were very proud to see it going ahead. It was a major social program of investing in our children and providing them with opportunities for the future.
The Conservatives also scrapped the labour market partnership agreements and reneged on much of the Canada-Ontario agreement that would have brought millions of dollars into Ontario for a variety of investments for everything from immigration to housing to meet some of the social needs we have in our province.
In place of these agreements, the government put back $11.1 billion in new funding, so the net benefit to provinces over the next five years is about $1.1 billion. Clearly they are getting short-changed.
The budget fails to position Canada for the 21st century global marketplace. In 2005 the Liberal government put forward the CAN-Trade strategy, which provided $485 million over five years to help Canadian businesses succeed in emerging markets, remembering that the success of our businesses is the success of our country. Investing in our businesses provides jobs and ensures that we will have a healthy Canada for our children and our grandchildren.
I note that we have a lot of children visiting us here today. I think it is important for them to know that we all care very much about ensuring that Canada stays strong and is able to provide a lot of opportunities for them.
The Conservatives scrapped that trade initiative and have now replaced it with $60 million over the next two years.
The Conservative budget also cuts $970 million from the indirect costs of research program, which provides support to Canadian universities, a very important program that we were working on. It was important for us to continue with that opportunity for our young people who wanted to focus on investment and research in everything from renewable energy to biomedical issues and other things that are important in the research community. Those kinds of cuts severely hurt those industries.
The Conservatives are failing to offer new support to students, which I am sure will be of interest to those who are in the House today. The budget does not put a penny in the pockets of Canada's undergraduate students. What a shame that is, because again, that is an important investment in our young people. There is money for Canada's top 4,000 graduate students but the vast majority of our students will get no help at all. How is that investing in our young people? Is it that only our special ones get investment, never mind all of the rest of them who are struggling to put themselves through university?
The budget fails to help working families. In 2006 the Conservatives promised 125,000 new child care spaces over five years. Eighteen months into this mandate, Canadian families are still waiting. When is the government going to realize this promise? It was not worth the paper it was printed on. There have been zero spaces created in the past year and many families are still waiting.
What is worse, the so-called universal child care benefit, which is neither universal nor child care, I would like to note, is fully taxable, and the government will rake in an average of $400 more per family. How is that supposed to be a child care program?
The Conservatives simply do not understand the pressures facing low income and middle income families and they clearly do not care either. Once again, the government is turning its back on the majority of hard-working Canadians.
The Conservatives implement tax policies that look helpful on the surface, but their benefit is cancelled out quickly by the tax hikes on low income and middle income Canadians hidden in last year's budget, which still have not been reversed.
The Leader of the Opposition has called on the Conservatives to demonstrate a real commitment to meeting Canada's challenges by using the upcoming budget to set a long term course for success instead of squandering the budget on short-sighted measures aimed at an early election that they so badly wanted.
Because of their desperation for a majority, the minority Conservative government wasted a year cutting spending and breaking promises instead of making progress on critical challenges and moving Canada forward.
The Conservatives' reversal on income trusts cost Canadians $25 billion of their savings. Let me repeat that line to make sure it is clear: the Conservatives' reversal on income trusts cost Canadians $25 billion of their savings. The majority of those Canadians were pensioners and seniors living on fixed incomes who had invested their money and were relying on the income from those income trusts.
The Conservatives' softwood lumber deal, which they boasted was a huge success, left $1 billion dollars of Canadian businesses' money in the hands of their U.S. competitors.
The Conservatives decided to cut $1 billion from crucial social programs, despite a $13 billion surplus. I do not know how they sleep at night, knowing they had an opportunity to do so much for our country and ended up doing so little.
Now the Conservatives are on a spending spree, repackaging many of the programs that they cut and misleading Canadians by re-announcing the programs as new, in a cynical strategy in an attempt to fool Canadians. We clearly know from the polls they are not fooling very many people.
Canadians are smarter than that and they will not be fooled. They see what damage the government is doing. Look at the students summer jobs program for example. Conservatives cut that, then they put some money back. When everybody started hollering about all the cuts to serious programs that would not happen in ridings across Canada, they quickly had to do an end run and try to find some money to put back into that program.
The Conservative government's repackaged and reduced summer jobs program has left community programs across the country in jeopardy. Programs that have existed for years will be unable to run this year and many students will be robbed of valuable employment opportunities.
We have to recognize Mr. McGuinty and the Ontario government for what they have done. They rescued a Toronto camp for autistic children, which is an important camp for many young people whose parents could rely on as a good solid program for their children. It was left on the chopping block by Conservative cutbacks.
What about all the other programs that were not so lucky? I am not talking about large corporations, I am talking about small community groups that depend on government support to hire students, support they have enjoyed every summer until the government took it away.
In my riding we had many summer camp programs that not only ensured our children had a safe summer and a learning opportunity, but they also employed many young people in the riding so they would not have idle hands over the summer and find themselves getting into trouble. They would have a structured program every day of which to be part. Maybe their first job for the summer was working at one of these camps operating out of one of our local schools. In many ways we were helping in giving our young kids an opportunity over the summer to be busy and having an enjoyable summer. We were also providing a young person with a career opportunity.
Many of these people, who worked on summer camp programs across the city, ended up going into teachers college. They found that was where they wanted to go ultimately. It was a great career opportunity. Unfortunately, many of them are going to be denied that this summer. The government must undo the damage it has done. I and many of my colleagues are still calling on the government to restore full funding to all federal summer jobs programs.
On the subject of Conservative incompetence, after being caught red-handed trying to engineer a patronage program with funds destined to support cultural events, the Conservative heritage minister's paralysis is endangering the future of some of Canada's great cultural events. In its budget, the Conservative government budget announced a new program to support cultural events, which we all supported. Then it said that it would be unable to deliver it until next fall. The government has failed again. It does not seem to understand, given Canada's climate, that most of these large events take place during the summer.
Never before has a government done so little with so much. Despite the tremendous resources the government has at its disposal, the budget does little for the average working family and it does nothing but pay lip service to issues of competitiveness, the environment and social justice. It does nothing to position Canada for the 21st century.
That is the Prime Minister's Canada. I want to live in a proper Canada. We all want to have a strong Canada that provides opportunities for all our young people to move forward, takes care of our seniors and ensures that they have a good health care system for all. Clearly, that is not the direction I see us going in right now.