Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Outremont for sharing his time with me today.
I am very pleased to speak to the budget tabled yesterday by the government.
Budgets are about priorities. Budgets are about choices. Budgets define governments. Budgets are about how to use the resources that we all contribute to make our country and the world a better place.
For too many years, budget after budget, even with record surpluses, we have been left with a smallness, a stinginess in our budgets and therefore in our society. People now know that after years of tax cuts mainly favouring large corporations and the well-off, we face huge challenges in our society that governments have not addressed. We have huge unmet needs, yet we are offered a breathtaking lack of vision with the budget.
Once again, the opposition is sadly putting narrow, partisan self-interests over the good of our country. The Leader of the Opposition comes to Toronto and says some very nice sounding things about reducing poverty, but just like on his record with Kyoto, it is all meaningless. He and his party are supporting budget after budget and vote after vote that take the country in the wrong direction.
Today, Canadians are working longer and harder. More and more people are falling below the poverty level. Incomes are flat. Personal debt is at an all-time high. Seniors are struggling to stay in their homes. Students are starting out in life with a huge debt. Millions of Canadians have no family doctor.
What has the government done with its latest budget?
We know in broad strokes what it has done. We know that for every dollar it spends in programs and services and all the various things it includes in the budget, it spends $6 for corporate tax cuts, $6 to the big polluters, $6 to the big banks and $6 to its friends who are already make a lot of money.
What this means overall is average Canadians, people who work very hard, who pay their taxes and who want to see their money invested back into their communities, pay 12% more for the services that we all need and profitable corporations pay 14% less. There is something wrong with this picture, but the government's direction is clear.
It is not that people cannot find a sprinkling of money here or there in the budget, which they might like. It is that the government has shelved out most of the money to the big banks and the big polluters. It takes the country in the wrong direction. Canadians want environmental responsibility, not rewards for those who pollute without sanction.
What is left? What do we see in this budget? Let us take a look.
To deal with the crisis in homelessness, what do we find in the budget? Every day I see people on the streets of Toronto. They are desperate to find proper shelter. A growing number of people are absolutely falling off the bottom of the economic ladder. There is nothing in the budget for them.
To deal with affordable housing, what do we find in the budget? Parents are struggling with high rents and minimum wage jobs, although the government will not support a national minimum wage. People are struggling with poverty level jobs and high housing costs. There is absolutely nothing in the budget for them.
What is in the budget to retrofit buildings, a major initiative to increase energy efficiently? There is nothing.
What about child care for all the parents who are struggling to get adequate care and a good start for their kids in life, for parents in my riding who are paying sometimes $2,000 a month for a couple of kids in child care? There is absolutely nothing.
What about seniors who want to stay in their homes and are looking for home care? There is nothing.
What is there to clean up pollution in the great lakes? There is nothing.
What is there for the five million Canadians who cannot find a family doctor? There is nothing.
What about reducing wait times in the health care sector? There is nothing.
What about those who cannot afford the prescription drugs they desperately need? There is nothing in the budget for them.
What about culture, the stories that we tell each other, the images, the arts that define us as Canadians? There is nothing, not even a mention of art, in the entire budget.
What about climate change? There is nothing.
The biggest investment in the budget is $350 million for nuclear development. That says it all. I believe the members opposite, the opposition who are supporting the budget, ought to be absolutely ashamed of themselves. They should not go back to Ontario and pretend to be standing up for Ontarians, pretending to be standing up for Toronto, pretending to be standing up for those less fortunate because they have betrayed them with the budget.
Rather than using our resources to give the big polluters or the big banks a big cheque, what people in my community tell me is that they desperately want to see money spent on infrastructure. They pay a lot of money in taxes and they want that money invested back into their communities in infrastructure, especially in a national transit strategy.
The gas tax transfer, which is a positive step, falls far short of beginning to address the decades of neglect in expanding our transit and fixing our infrastructure. There is no significant dent in the $123 billion deficit in infrastructure. We know the government's plan, with its new crown corporation for public-private partnerships, is about privatizing as much profitable infrastructure as possible while leaving citizens on the hook for any cost overruns. That is some partnership.
Toronto was Canada's big major cultural centre. Top-up funds for the big six cultural initiatives such as the opera, art gallery, after the community has raised so much of its own money, are missing. There is nothing for the television fund, nothing for Telefilm Canada. That is the government's vision for the arts, absolutely nothing, a blank.
Ontario is especially hard hit. The government continues to ignore the manufacturing crisis, which is throwing hundreds of thousands out of their jobs. Our government risks permanent damage to this key engine of our economy. A bit of money for auto, for research and development is not a strategy to help our manufacturers and exporters deal with the spiralling petrodollar in Canada.
Where is the plan to deal with the high dollar? Where is the national “buy Canadian” procurement policy that most other developed countries use to boost their local products? Where is the plan to balance our trade so we do not export all our good jobs? Where is the green job strategy? Where are we positioning Canada and our economy for the 21st century? Simply, we are not.
While Ontario faces a tsunami of job loses, we continue to be hammered by the lack of employment insurance for those who have faithfully paid their premiums.
Why do Ontarians get on average $5,000 EI less than those in other parts of the country? Why do almost 80% of those who are unemployed in Toronto get no EI? What other insurance program takes one's premiums and fails to provide the benefits when disaster strikes? What a rip-off for Ontarians.
Creating a crown corporation for EI is the wrong approach. This will let government duck its responsibilities and public accountability. It continues the fine tradition of the previous government to take billions of premiums paid by workers and employers and use them to pay down the debt rather than provide benefits for those most in need.
Budgets are about priorities. They are not about what one says, they are about what one does. We know the priorities of the government are about downsizing, about getting out of services, about getting out of the things that Canada and Canadians care about most. It is about helping their friends, the big polluters and the big banks.
Again, those on the opposite side, in the opposition party, ought to be absolutely ashamed for allowing the Conservatives to take Canada in the wrong direction. They did it on Afghanistan by not only getting us into this combat mission, but then enabling the continuation of this war to 2009, and who knows for how long into the future, and they are doing it with this budget.
I regret the budget so badly fails Canadians. I will proudly join with other MPs of the NDP in standing by our principles, in standing up for Canadians and in opposing this budget.