House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed to hear the member refer to the fact that she thinks that she is putting this government on probation, as has been stated by her leader. What she of course does not understand is that her party only has a certain number of seats in the House and it is quite presumptuous of her and her party to suggest that they are putting government on probation.

In fact, it is the Canadian people, through an election, who either put us on probation, or give us approval. She will note that in the last election it was the Canadian people who gave this government an even larger minority government and more members to move ahead with the agenda that we placed before them.

Therefore, I would ask the member this. How does she square that when she is suggesting that she is putting us on probation when she has no power to do that, and the fact is it is the Canadian people who have the power to do that?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are actually speaking up for those vulnerable people across the country, the seniors, the women, the men who have lost their jobs and are desperately struggling, by speaking up on their behalf and putting the government on probation to ensure that what it promises is what it delivers.

We have seen it time and time again, whether it was in regard to income trusts when the government said it would not tax them and it did; when it said it would have an elected Senate and then it appointed 18 senators in one shot; or when it said it would provide infrastructure funding and the dollars never got out the door. I think Canadians across the country have a very loud and clear message for the government. They are looking for leadership. They are looking for hope.

If the money does not come out the door of the government, it may be the Conservative government that is going out the doors of many Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale on her very eloquent remarks about the inadequacies of the budget and the need for hope.

Let me tell the House what one constituent wrote to me about child care. She said:

It took me six months to find child care for my new child. I now have to return to work early in order to be able to afford my child care which I have to pay for immediately in order to keep my spot. I have a well-paying job, however, more than one full paycheque each month will go to child care.

P.S. I also know a social worker who has to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job because her child care provider quit and her child does not turn two until April and she cannot find anyone to care for her son.

Does the hon. member worry about women and families like that across the country who need child care? As I say, the member was very eloquent until the part when she spoke about probation and her new role as a probation officer for the government.

I wonder if she can tell us why, if she does care about the issues she talked about, she was unable to join with us in creating a government that would provide the kind of hope and answer the kind of needs that people like my constituent and the people she mentioned desire, and desire to have immediately in this country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can definitely say that the issue of child care is one that I am very passionate about. I only have to take a look at many of the families in my riding. Many of the parents, some of whom are single mothers and single fathers, really struggle to find child care spaces.

It was unfortunate that one of the first initiatives of the Conservative government was to cut the early learning and child care agreements which would have actually created spaces and provided the opportunity for parents to ensure that their children received quality access that was affordable and that was universal in nature, and of extremely high quality in terms of its developmental approach for their children.

Investing in children is going to ensure the success of the future of our country. It is unfortunate that the Conservative government provided almost $100 a month which after taxes resulted in $60 a month. I do not know where in this country one can find child care for $2 a day.

I would hope that the Conservative government, moving forward in the coming months, would realize that investing in children, investing in early learning and child care would provide those families with hope, and would ensure the productivity and the success of our great country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to this extremely important issue. I am going to give a bit of background but also offer some solutions that I hope will find some favour on the other side.

We know of the economic tsunami that has gone across the globe, one that has destroyed savings in our country and caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. We know it is in part a result of improper financial regulation and oversight not only here at home but internationally. I hope the government will provide some solutions and tell us and the rest of Canada what it is going to do to make sure that in our country we will have the sensible oversight and regulations to ensure we have a competent and effective financial system.

What I would also like to know is what it is going to do to work with our international partners to make sure we are going to have the global financial oversight and regulation, not excessive, not one that is going to destroy the markets but one to ensure that capitalism is going to work in an effective way for the good of people. It is extremely important.

It may want to consider using our folks at the IMF. I know the Clerk of the Privy Council was our representative at the IMF. He would be an excellent person to make sure that this is moved forward.

What we saw with the government and what happened before this crisis was, unfortunately, an absence of vision and imagination, an absence of implementing the effective solutions that could have in part insulated our country against the problems we see: the reduction of the GST, boutique tax cuts, an inability to look out into the future and make the investments in people, training and sensible tax reductions.

Those solutions, with prudent management of the public's finances, would have been much smarter in order to ensure we are going to have as much insulation on the situation we see before us today. That did not happen. The GST cuts in and of themselves cost the taxpayer $14 billion in lost revenues to the government coffers.

When we look back in history and compare Liberals to Conservatives and Democrats to Republicans, what we find, ironically, and most do not know this, is that Liberals and Democrats actually have a better history of managing the public purse than Republicans and Conservatives. It is ironic, but it is true.

Where do go from here? There are some good things in the budget to be sure, but these solutions will help us to have better solutions in the future.

The first thing is to pursue domestic and international changes. Second, let us make sure we put more money in the hands of those who need it the most. For example, EI reform is tentative. Imagine people who own homes, are part of the 70% of Canadians ineligible for EI and they lose their jobs. Those people are feeling pain. I would implore the government to work with the Liberal Party to change the EI system to make sure that more people are eligible, the benefits are better, people have better access to training, and are not deprived of benefits while they access training. That will enable them to take advantage of the economy of the future. If we do that, we will hit those who are hurting at this point in time.

Now to the issue of people's pensions. The pensions of those who have worked for companies and lost their jobs have vaporized along with their jobs. These people are living with grave uncertainty. My colleague spoke quite eloquently about people who cannot afford food, medications or rent to put a roof over their heads. This is going to cause catastrophic social changes in our country. We must work together to deal with those problems and prevent those things from happening.

Another solution is RRSPs to RRIFs. Please change that. There could be a two-year abeyance so that people do not have to move their RRSPs into RRIFs. Right now when the market is down, people are hurting significantly.

Credit was a very smart thing the government did but people and businesses have to be able to access that credit. We can make sure that the credit goes to those companies and developments which are halfway through. That would result in equity and minimal risk to the taxpayer and it will give money to enable those developments that already are half through to move forward. People will get back to work and feeder industries into them will be stimulated, adding to the needed confidence that we must have in our economy.

Regarding infrastructure, please rectify the problem that my colleague from Vancouver brought forth today. We have to enable the infrastructure monies to get to the developments that are proposed from our municipalities and provincial governments and do them very quickly.

In my riding, the E&N Railway needs to be retrofitted. We need to put special buses with wheels that run on a track between Victoria and the West Shore. We can also invest in the Spencer Road exchange. A $14 million investment would translate into a $1.4 billion stimulus package with jobs and other businesses.

For the Vancouver Island tech parks, there are 28 technological parks in our country. They are huge generators of high paying jobs and have a great multiplier effect. For example, in my community, for the Vancouver Island tech park a $30 million investment right now will transform into $700 million. All tech parks are oversubscribed to, so this would have a massive, positive leveraging effect.

Money for the Pacific Sport Institute would be a wise investment on the part of the government.

Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the AFN, has put forth a very intelligent series of solutions to help first nations communities. The Prime Minister and the relative ministers have remarked on the challenges of jobs, housing and social infrastructure in these communities. Now is the time to invest and work with the AFN, work with local chiefs, work with these communities to enable them to finally be able to have the economic drivers within their communities to enable people to have the social benefits and social environment they yearn to have, social environments that have far less than the rest of us enjoy.

The issue of child care is a huge positive driver. The number of people who cannot access child care is legion. The absence of child care is something that is costing us as a country immeasurably. If the government would work with communities to enable this to happen it would be an enormous positive factor in terms of our economy.

In my riding the Canadian Forces base has at least 100 children right now waiting to receive day care. The program in Quebec is one that we may want to consider, particularly the Bagotville model on the forces base there which is an excellent one for our Canadian Forces.

The environmental issue is a very precarious situation with respect to global warming. We now have feedback mechanisms. As the globe warms, the absorptive capacity of our oceans declines which means that the temperature goes up. As the temperature goes up, the permafrost melts. What is in the permafrost? Methane, which has a warming capability that is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Once the permafrost starts to melt, the methane is liberated which is a vicious cycle. Once we get into the feedback loop, there is actually no stopping it.

I would implore the government to adopt some of the intelligent environmental tools that are used in other countries from the continents of Europe and Asia, for example. We have technological capabilities now that simple retrofits, and the government can modify its retrofit program to focus on this, would enable our buildings to use 70% to 100% less of the energy needs that they actually consume. It would be intelligent, smart and effective.

Some people say we should not use nuclear power, but we know we are trying to balance out risk. What is more, we have to ask ourselves the question: What is more dangerous to our planet? Is it more dangerous to have nuclear power plants that reduce our consumption of coal? Or is it better to have coal power plants? The tiny risk that nuclear power plants pose is, I would argue, negligible compared to the much larger risk that global warming poses to all of us.

I would ask the government to look at ways to utilize the scientific capabilities that we have in terms of nuclear power and work with other countries, particularly China and India. The Prime Minister has voiced his concern, as we all have, over those countries. It has been a barrier for him to say that he will support initiatives that would reduce the production of greenhouse gases. We have an opportunity to engage with India and China on the issue of safe nuclear power that would reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.

The government has a willing partner on this side of the House. Let us work together for the common good and implement those solutions that our citizens and communities need.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.


Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the member in the days and months ahead.

I am somewhat concerned that in the few weeks that I have been here every time I hear a member opposite talk about our fiscal situation, and in particular the tax cuts that our budget and our fiscal statements have brought forward, they seem to indicate that Canadians do not have the ability to manage their own money.

In particular I would reference a discussion on the GST cuts. I have talked to people like Danny and Kumar, small business owners in Ballantrae, who said that the GST cuts had helped stimulate their business and helped keep people coming in. I am talking about people like Melissa and Ryan who appreciate the extra $200 a month that they have to help raise their children.

I wonder what it is about giving Canadians more money in their pockets so that they can invest in their futures and their families' futures that members opposite find so difficult.

I also wonder if the member could reflect on some of the other great things that this budget has, a very good budget that invests in families, in small business, in social housing and in infrastructure.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are in favour of intelligent and targeted tax reductions that get money into the hands of those who need it the most because they are the ones who will spend it.

Who benefits most from a GST reduction? Is it somebody who buys a cup of coffee or somebody who buys a car? The person who buys the car, particularly a more expensive car, is the one who will benefit the most.

Similarly, people say that the personal savings account that the government has put forward is a good thing. It is a good thing if an individual makes more than $80,000 a year because that is the kind of money someone needs to take advantage of it.

As the member said, people are having a difficult time right now. There is a lot of debt and a lot of uncertainty. People cannot pay their mortgages. We need to get the money to the people who need it the most, which is why we are in favour of getting money into the hands of those who have lost their jobs in terms of the two year change to the EI program.

The member is right in terms of reducing the tax burden on those who are poor and those in the low middle class because they will use it for their basic needs. It is not a good stimulus to the taxpayer when someone saves the money and buys an expensive car.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for outlining some of the many problems with this budget, in particular, highlighting what is happening in first nations communities across Canada.

I am from Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia is the proud home of the Mi'kmaw people, one of many first nations across Canada.

In response to the budget, Jaime Battiste, a consultant to the Eskasoni First Nation, said:

In terms of hope, First Nations have had hope in the past and then had things promised taken off the table, so I can't say I trust anything the federal government says.

How does the member think that putting the government on probation and demanding another report will change anything for first nations communities across Canada?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public wants us to work for the good of our nation to deal with the economic crisis that is before us. That is job number one.

With respect to the member's question regarding first nations, we could work together to modify the Indian Act to remove the rock that is around the neck of first nations communities and leaders right now.

If any of us in the House had to labour under the same rules and regulations that chiefs and councils have, we would throw up our hands. This is a serious obstruction to development and to the ability of first nation communities to take care of themselves.

Let us work, for example, with the AFN to get the assets on the ground, with the appropriate accountability, for basic needs: education, health care, infrastructure and housing.

I just took some film of the houses of the Pacheedaht people in my community. Those houses are death traps. They are infested with mould, have broken windows, are cold and the walls are falling apart. Some homes are destroyed. People live in homes that most Canadians, if they were to see them, would be utterly disgusted that this is happening in our country at this time, in the year 2009.

This is a blight, a pox on our houses and it must change. The government has an opportunity to do that. We will work with it and others to do it. I know the member will, so let us get on with it and get the job done.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

It is an honour for me to rise in the House to give my maiden speech. I would like to take a few minutes to thank the constituents of my riding of Medicine Hat for their support in the past federal election and for their confidence in electing me as their representative to the House of Commons for this 40th Parliament. It is an honour and privilege to serve them to the best of my ability.

I also want to thank my extremely efficient campaign team and the numerous volunteers who worked so diligently on my campaign and made it possible for me to be here. I have found this to be a very humbling experience.

Finally, I am taking this opportunity to express my gratitude to my wife, Micheline, for her unwavering support and understanding. She has truly been a pillar of strength for me. I am also very thankful to our children, Scott and Carmen, Darcy and Jennifer, Nicole and Jerry, Todd and Brandy, for their encouragement, along with our grandchildren, Jessica, Chelsea, Megan, Conner, Abby, Carter, Mason and our newest baby, Tristan.

I am sure members will want to know a little about my riding so I will take a couple of minutes to talk about this vast rural, urban area of more than 33,000 square kilometres, extending south from the Red Deer River, from the Saskatchewan border, west to Bassano and southeast to Taber/Bow Island and further south to the Wild Horse, Montana border crossing.

We have an impressive farming and ranching industry. The crop varieties include numerous types of grain from sugar beets, corn, sunflowers, potatoes to beans, peas and even mints used in the manufacturing of chewing gum. I am sure members have heard about our Taber corn or tasted its tender sweetness. We have a very active and productive oil and gas sector with its many support services.

Brooks is known for its major beef packing plant which supports over 2,000 workers and also for the aquaduct started in the early 1900s by the Eastern Irrigation District. A world renowned heritage site, the Dinosaur Provincial Park, is just north of Brooks.

I am also pleased to extol the virtues of the Vauxhall Baseball Academy which brings talented teens from across the country to develop their baseball skills.

We have the honour of having the Canadian Forces Base Suffield, along with Defence Research Development Canada working at CFB Suffield. I also want to mention that Medicine Hat is now the new home for the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicles in the aerospace industry.

We have a beautiful recreation area in the Cypress Hills of Alberta that boasts lakes, great fishing, boating, golfing, camping and hiking.

As the House can see, I am honoured to be able to represent such a diverse riding of more than 115,000 people.

I will now focus my comments on the economic action plan. Our Conservative government made choices to put Canada in a strong position. Since 2006, we have reduced federal debt by $37 billion and we continue to respond to Canada's needs.

My constituents, along with the rest of Canadians, are concerned about the economy. Times are tough. While the recent economic forecasts are not rosy, Canada remains in the best position of any G7 country. Because we recognized in 2007 what was on the horizon and implemented tax relief, we are in a position to weather the storm better than virtually any other nation.

While Canada is being negatively impacted by the global recession, our government's priority is to protect Canada during this extraordinary time.

Canada's economic action plan is designed to stabilize and grow our economy while protecting Canadians. Let me remind members of how this plan will benefit the people in my constituency.

The temporary tax credit for home renovation will stimulate housing construction and will keep our trades gainfully employed. Home-owners will get back up to $1,350 for renovations such as energy efficient windows and doors to new kitchens and bathrooms. Over the next two years, Alberta communities will be able to access up to $338 million as part of the home renovation tax credit program.

First-time home buyers can get back up $750 on closing costs and can now withdraw more from RRSPs to buy or build that first home.

Our farmers will be able to access some of the $500 million to address short-term economic challenges. This will help our farmers to innovate, implement new initiatives and increase competitiveness.

Our government will also amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act to make credit more available.

Fifty million dollars is available over the next three years to strengthen the slaughterhouse capacity. This is a significant funding opportunity for the meat-packing plant located in Brooks.

There are so many ways the residents of my constituency can benefit from our economic action plan. For example, under the business communities program, money is available for culture and arts which would benefit projects in every part of our constituency.

This is an excellent action plan developed by our government. Over the next five years we are providing $4.5 billion in Alberta for new infrastructure spending to build roads, bridges and waste water treatment plants. These programs have a far wider implication in that they will require other supports, such as engineering and design.

What does this really mean? It means jobs. It means Canadians, and in particular, individuals in my riding will be working and paying taxes and contributing to the local economy as well as nationally.

A new federal initiative, recreational infrastructure Canada, known as RInC, will provide up to $500 million over the next two years to build and renovate hockey arenas, swimming pools and recreational facilities. The city of Medicine Hat will be paying particular attention to this program as it plans to build a new hockey arena and event centre.

Our government has not forgotten those who are in need of affordable housing. This is a priority in our riding. The economic action plan also includes new funding for social housing over the next two years to build homes for low-income seniors and Canadians with disabilities.

We are helping Canadians who are out of work find new good jobs. We have increased our investment in skills development and will provide opportunities for short- and long-term skills upgrading, including targeted programs for apprentices and older workers. We will also provide support for workers who do not qualify for EI benefits. We are broadening programs to help workers get back into the market. There are plans for a new major summer youth job initiative. The details will be announced shortly.

I am very pleased our government is providing immediate tax relief that will help all Canadians weather this difficult economic time. In Alberta this reduction of taxes by $1.5 billion will increase the basic personal amount and upper limits of the two lowest personal income tax brackets and will also increase the amounts that families can earn and still receive the national child benefit supplement and the Canada child tax benefit, providing up to $436 for a family with two children.

To help seniors cope, the economic statement proposes a one-time change that would allow RRIF holders to reduce their required minimum withdrawal by 25% for the 2008 tax year.

There is a commitment to the environment to provide $1 billion for a green infrastructure fund to support projects such as sustainable energy.

Also of interest to Medicine Hat College in my riding is funding that is being provided for urgently needed repairs to Canada's universities and colleges.

I have only touched on a few of the items in our plan. This economic action plan is good for my constituency and for people across the country from coast to coast to coast. It helps Canadians who are out of work. It protects Canadian jobs and businesses and builds up our communities. It puts more money into the hands of Canadian families. It is truly a generous and comprehensive national plan and one that is in keeping with Canada's commitment to fulfill the G7 plan of action.

Remember, this economic action plan provides temporary and effective economic stimulus to help Canadian families and businesses deal with short-term challenges and to build long-term capacity so we can emerge from this economic challenge even stronger.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to hear about other members' ridings. I congratulate the member on his participation in the debate.

I have been here for 15 years and time and time again the Conservatives continue to parrot certain lines which do not reflect reality. The member said, and I quote, “We recognized what was on the horizon in 2007 with regard to this economic action plan”. The reality is that we have infrastructure spending that was approved and allocated but never streamed out in the current fiscal year and will not be. There are programs which will now lapse, such as the Centre of Excellence for Women's Health, the Centres of Excellence for Children's Well-being, the Health Council of Canada, the Canadian Council on Learning, and the $750,000 of core funding for the Canada Council on Social Development.

The reason the Conservatives do not put out any more money on infrastructure in the current fiscal year, which does not end until March 31, is that it is bad and they do not want to show a deficit any worse than it already is going to be in the current fiscal year.

On top of that, when we look at the economic statement that was made last November, it showed that we would have a surplus for the current fiscal year and for each of the next five fiscal years, and it did not reflect an acknowledgement of what was coming down the pike that the member suggests was done in 2007.

Would the member care to clarify his comment that the government was fully aware back in 2007 that we would have not only a deficit, but would be in recession?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, we did pay down $37 billion in debt because that was something we needed to do. It is like a home mortgage; we need to pay it down to ensure that funds are available.

In terms of the economic situation, things changed dramatically throughout 2008. Even in the last number of months things have gotten worse. This economic crisis did not start here in Canada. It started in the United States and it is global. It has gone far beyond what anyone would ever have thought.

According to the IMF, Canada is one of the best placed countries in the world to ensure that we come out of this economic situation in a lot better force and a lot sooner than any other country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague and neighbour, the member for Medicine Hat. I also want to recognize that he travelled many miles last Friday to join me in the wonderful announcement at the Blackfoot Crossing. I would encourage any hon. members who are within travelling distance or when they are in Calgary to visit the Blackfoot Crossing on the Siksika Nation.

There was a comment made earlier today by the member for Yukon. I will quote his comment from Hansard. He is referring to the infrastructure funding as compared to the deficit that we will be dealing with. He said, “Some of it could have been funded by the contingency fund of $3 billion”. He went on to say, “It is embarrassing that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance did not even know it existed”.

I would like to get on the record the fact that there was no legislated contingency fund. If there is one, I would ask the hon. member to please table that in the House. I am quite sure that he will not be able to do that because there never was one.

However, because we have been criticized for cutting taxes, I would like my colleague to indicate whether his constituents would rather have tax cuts or would they rather see it in the slush fund in Ottawa.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, anywhere I go in my riding and I talk to people about funds, they continue to tell me that they would rather have a dollar in their pocket than a dollar in the hands of a politician. Therefore, everyone here needs to pay attention to constituents across the country, who want to have money in their pockets rather than in Ottawa.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, two days ago, we members of Parliament gathered to hear the historic economic action plan for Canadians. This plan is not only what Canadian federalists were hoping for, it is also a plan that provides hope for all Canadians.

Our nation is suffering the effects of a global recession. We are a trading people who could not escape unscathed, though we still enjoy the most stable economy in the G7. I would like to address the values that animate this plan, touch on some national implications, and relate how the plan affects people on a local level in areas that are most meaningful to them.

By background, I have spent much of my professional life in the Pacific Rim in roles as lawyer, businessman, and in an unofficial capacity, as diplomat. I have seen the great benefits that come from building bridges between people of different languages, cultures and communities. The plan itself, about which we have heard in this chamber, builds bridges between people of different languages, cultures and communities. It is a plan that unifies Canadians and gives us hope.

I add my congratulations to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the many other MPs who engaged the Canadian public in the most extensive and inclusive consultation process in budget history. At the national level, it has been documented that our Canadian government interacted with Canadians on more than 10,000 occasions, including direct consultations and opinions submitted by email and mail.

Like many colleagues here, I followed the lead of our Prime Minister and actively sought out constituents' opinions on the budget. In my riding, I met or spoke with all twelve local government leaders, three first nations chiefs and the MLAs, and dialogued with hundreds of other constituents.

The meeting that most vividly illustrated the approach of the Conservative government was the town hall meeting convened by the Minister of Finance himself, who attracted 480 people to a meeting in West Vancouver's Park Royal Shopping Mall, where he stood among some of the retail stores hardest hit by the economic downturn. This event provided constituents the opportunity to present their ideas directly to the minister and about 50 people made it to the microphones. Canadians of every imaginable background and political persuasion were present at the meeting.

My riding is known for its vast diversity. It is an almost perfect split between rural and urban. Far-flung geographically, it is the fourth largest in the country and takes ten hours and two ferry rides to travel from North Vancouver in the south to Powell River in the north. The upscale condominiums of West Vancouver contrast with the beleaguered pulp mills of Gibsons and Powell River. Significant numbers of people hail from Persian, Iranian, Chinese, Korean and Punjabi backgrounds. Three first nations are included in our riding: the Squamish, Sechelt and Sliammon.

Given that vast diversity, one might have expected an incoherent array of requests to have emerged from our extensive prebudget consultations, but surprisingly, what we found was a consistency among Canadians. National traits of prudence and discipline, hard work and planning for the future kept coming to the fore. People generally wanted to see immediate fiscal stimulus. Local leaders outlined their needs for improvement to water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges and harbours.

People like Eric in Powell River wanted relief from setbacks in the forest sector. David, former head of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, sought a lift in the tourism sector. Most of all, people wanted their politicians to serve them, not to get in the way, but to provide a non-partisan answer to their economic needs and their growing sense of anxiety.

What unites us is more important than what divides us. Canadians are committed to working together to face the challenges ahead. The economic action plan provided people in my riding with what they were asking for. It provided practical economic stimulus and hope. The hard work, dedication, generosity and resilience of Canadians will take care of the rest.

Our government is committed to acting in the best interests of the Canadian economy, even if it means running a short-term deficit. Our government's plan of action provides effective economic stimulus to help Canadian families and businesses deal with short-term challenges. As well, there are measures to encourage private spending; new investments in roads, bridges, water systems and sewer systems; measures to protect the stability of Canada's financial system and ensure access to credit for business and consumers; hope and support for industries in difficulty, including forestry, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and automotive; new jobs; and measures to protect the vulnerable, including the unemployed, lower income Canadians, seniors and aboriginal people.

As constituent Steve Brooks wrote me recently:

—we are at a pivotal point for our smaller communities, and indeed for Canada. The current global recession and the realization that governments must now run large deficits to rebuild infrastructure and position their countries for the next wave of globalization is now an incredible chance for Canada to re-assert itself on the global stage...

Ted Milner, a Whistler city councillor likes to say that “politics is local”. By looking at the new economic action plan through the lens of provincial and local communities we can see why this economic action plan is a source of hope for the average Canadian.

The plan provided hope to Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia. In his words,

I think the budget was generally positive for the province. It's going to generate investment. It is going to generate jobs.

He also said that it would allow them to become partners with the federal government to build much needed infrastructure.

There is hope for British Columbia, $4.5 billion for road, water and sewer upgrades, including the evergreen transit line and Trans-Canada Highway upgrades, cleaner water, better roads and more transit funding gives municipalities hope.

There is hope for B.C. businesses. The $3 billion in tax relief for the province's businesses will increase cashflow. Unemployed workers and those hit hardest can also have hope. There are $7.5 billion in extra support for the sectors hardest hit, including $170 million over two years for forestry.

We in B.C. have hope because of a plan to stimulate construction by providing billions to build social housing and enhance energy efficiency.

There is hope for new home buyers. In the case of a house purchase, the permitted amount of RRSP withdrawal has increased from $20,000 to $25,000. There is also a new $750 tax saving on the closing cost of buying a house.

For all Canadian homeowners who plan to renovate, there is hope. The economic action plan introduces a home renovation tax credit of up to $1,350 for the year 2009.

British Columbia has new hope because it will continue to receive historically high and growing federal transfers in 2009-10, an increase of $200 million from last year to help the province pay for health care, education and social services.

On Monday, January 12 hundreds of Canadians of all stripes and backgrounds gathered in a shopping mall in West Vancouver. They came from all over the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. They came because their government was listening. They came because they were anxious. They came because they had hope.

Our government has listened to those who gathered on that frosty night in West Vancouver, to Canadians from coast to coast to coast and to all my colleagues in the House who cared to offer suggestions.

This is a plan of hope. There is hope for the unemployed, the manufacturing sectors, middle class Canadians, families, seniors and businesses. In fact, all Canadians can find hope in the fact that their government is listening to them and acting for them to secure jobs, combat uncertainty and boost the Canadian economy.

This is a plan that provides the hope we need to build a stronger, more prosperous Canada together.

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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always good to hear about other communities across our great country.

The member may recall that in the finance minister's presentation of the budget there was tax relief, particularly for low and modest income Canadians.

I looked at the budget documents. Table A5.2 has a chart that shows the total income of individuals from $10,000 up to $150,000 and calculates what the total tax relief will be in 2009. It shows that for someone making $30,000 a year in 2009, the total tax savings will be $369 for the year. For someone making $100,000 or more a year, the total tax savings will be $731, about twice as much.

I have seen far too many examples of where people throw language around to suggest they are doing things when the numbers show it is different. This is very explicit case. It is not low and middle-income Canadians. In fact, the highest income Canadians are going to get the highest benefit from these tax cuts.

I hope the member agrees that they should have been limited to those who really need the money in their pockets.

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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member opposite for social justice.

First, I would like to thank my colleague opposite. Personally and professionally, I have invested a lot of time in helping those less fortunate, here in Canada and abroad.

Like my colleague, I was very interested in what this budget proposed to do for less fortunate men and women, particularly the homeless.

I believe that this budget strikes an excellent balance between the needs of the homeless and the importance of economic stimulation. For example, according to page 124 of the English version of the economic action plan, the government will invest $1 billion over two years in renovating social housing. This kind of measure will promote cooperation between the federal government and its provincial and territorial partners.

This measure will also encourage more effective—

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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I have found that whenever a government brings forth a budget, it always says that it is bigger and brighter than ever, with more razzle-dazzle-pizazzle. Now, this one is more hopeful than ever. One peers through the black curtain and sees the Minister of Finance with his big, old, tattered top hat, pulling sedated bunnies out and saying “Here is another tax cut for you. Isn't this marvellous?”

The reality is the Prime Minister was the person who told us to go out and buy a bunch of bargains when the economy was going down the toilet. He told us that there was no deficit and that there would never be a deficit. That was in November, just a month or two ago. He said that we were in surplus, when according to our numbers now we were at least $3 billion to $5 billion in deficit.

When he says he is willing to run a short-term deficit, is he not already saying that this is a government that has put us in deficit because of its GST cuts and that it is not actually stimulating the economy, but paying for the mistakes of a government that simply does not understand what is happening in the global economy?

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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do believe this is a time to abandon partisan games and to participate together in fighting for a strengthened economy.

This is the Prime Minister who prepared this country to be the top of the heap of the G7. This is the Prime Minister who is the toast of the G20. This is the Prime Minister who helped pay down $37 billion in debt. This is the Prime Minister who has, albeit reluctantly, put our country into a short-term deficit from which we will emerge by 2013, stronger and more robust than ever.

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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this afternoon with the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Before I came to the House, there was this notion that the Canadian House of Commons was described as Disney on the Rideau. I was never sure what occasioned the first use of that moniker, but I am certainly starting to understand why it has persisted. There is something fantastical about what happens in this place, unfortunately not in the sense that the deliberations here are fantastic but, rather, that often they appear based in fantasy. I feel like I am part of such a debate now.

Since last fall, when our country was first flung into the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, Canadians had been singularly focused on staving off threats to their jobs, pensions and savings. It was the economic crisis and the government's cavalier response to the fears of Canadians in its fall fiscal update that precipitated the political crisis of confidence and ultimately the constitutional crisis that shut down this place for two months.

Just when Canadians needed their government the most, the Prime Minister shut the doors on Parliament and effectively said that his need to protect his job was more important than the need to protect the jobs, pensions and savings of hard-working Canadians. How goofy is that? Disney on the Rideau, indeed.

It would be good to remind ourselves in the House that it is not all about us. On the contrary, it is not about us at all, or at least it should not be. We have the privileged opportunity to come to this chamber not to fight for ourselves but to fight for our constituents. In these uncertain economic times that means acting decisively to protect the vulnerable, to safeguard today's jobs and to create the jobs of tomorrow.

Naively, I thought that after two months of talking to our constituents we would come back here and offer them the hope, stability and real change that they so desperately want and need from us. Despite the rhetoric of having consulted, it is absolutely clear that this budget is still all about saving the Prime Minister's job and not about saving the jobs of hard-working Canadians.

Here is how one critic of the budget put it so eloquently:

Yesterday’s budget is a flawed document.

It doesn’t go far enough to protect Canadians who have lost—or will lose—their jobs.

It extends EI benefits but fails to extend EI eligibility.

It opens the door for attacks on pay equity for women. It does not seize on the wealth of opportunities in the green economy.

It breaks their promise to all provinces from only two years ago on equalization.

It attaches strings to infrastructure dollars that may delay projects and delay jobs.

It promises to sell government assets for cash, without saying which assets and for how much.

And it lacks a credible plan for getting us out of the $85-billion hole the government will dig us into over the next five years.

I could not agree more. The 2009 budget is deeply flawed. My constituents deserve better and I cannot support it. I assume that the MP who offered the scathing critique of the budget would join me in voting it down. But, wait, I almost forgot, this is Disney on the Rideau.

The member of Parliament who I quoted actually concludes by saying that he will support the budget. The member was none other than the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the new leader of the Liberal Party. Fantastical, indeed.

I know it is foolish to even attempt to find reason in fantasy, but the only plausible reason for this leap in logic is that the Leader of the Opposition, like the Prime Minister, has given in to the temptation of making it all about him. Shamefully, he has made it about his job, about his opportunity to build his profile as the new leader, about his party's need to rebuild its finances instead of accepting what ought to be his sole responsibility, which is to make it all about the jobs and finances of Canadians.

If that is the criterion, this budget fails Canadians. It fails workers, it fails the unemployed, it fails the manufacturing sector, it fails cities, it fails the environment, it fails seniors, it fails women, it fails students and it fails the poor. On all counts, the budget should fail to get the confidence of the House.

Let us look at jobs first. Every senior economist in the country agrees that investments in public infrastructure are key to any strategy that is designed to provide economic stimulus. Don Drummond, senior vice-president and chief economist of the TD Bank Financial Group, was even more categorical. He said that cuts to the GST and income taxes were precisely the wrong way to go.

Instead, the government should have invested in a major stimulus package. That package needed to include accelerated existing infrastructure funding and substantial new investments, including municipal and interprovincial projects, such as transit, clean energy, water, corridors and gateways.

It needed to include housing construction and retrofitting. It needed to include investments in key sector strategies like manufacturing, auto and forestry, designed to create and save jobs, with any aid contingent on a plan to transform these industries and return them to profitability and sustainability. While some of these words are found in the 2009 federal budget, the rhetoric does not match real investments.

Investments in infrastructure are far too modest and have too many strings attached. As a result, the impact on job creation will be minimal. P3s persist. There is no link between public investments and a made in Canada procurement policy. The program expires at the end of 2010, long before the jobs crisis will be over. Almost nothing in the budget addresses our environmental and climate change goals.

In short, the budget fails to safeguard today's jobs and fails to create the jobs of tomorrow.

Let me just give a concrete example of how the structuring of the infrastructure funding impacts my home town of Hamilton.

I had the privilege of attending a meeting with elected officials from all levels of government about the progress being made on the remedial action plan to clean up our bay. Environment Canada has identified it as one of the areas of concern in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

Our community has made great strides. Fish and wildlife goals are being met, public access has been greatly enhanced, and even the toxic contamination is being addressed through the Randle Reef sediment remediation project.

The last area requiring urgent action is related to water quality. The City of Hamilton urgently needs a new waste water treatment plan. The project is shovel ready. It could create up to 2,200 jobs locally and regionally. It is good for jobs, good for our city, and good for the environment.

But for Hamilton to access the infrastructure money announced in this budget, our city would need to match the federal government's funding. Our mayor has been clear. He said: “We don't have the money...I don't know how we'd find the money other than going back to the taxpayers, which I don't think is affordable either at this economic point in time”. He is absolutely right.

A budget that is purporting to want to help the middle class cannot ask that municipal projects be added to the property taxes of homeowners. The infrastructure funding has to be unconditional so that money can flow now for shovel ready projects. It is good for jobs, good for the local economy, good for our city, and in this case good for the environment. Yet it is not supported in this year's federal budget.

If the budget is not saving or creating jobs, does it at least protect those Canadians who are losing their jobs? In this economic downturn, hard-working Canadians were counting on EI reform to be the centrepiece of the budget. EI directly assists the victims of the recession and it is an effective form of economic stimulus because the unemployed will spend rather than save and support their local economies.

But again, the budget falls short of investing in what should be one of the most effective poverty prevention programs in this country. Yes, it added five weeks of eligibility to all claims but only for the next two years. If one is not eligible for EI in the first place, this change does not help at all.

The budget should have improved eligibility requirements, enhanced weekly benefits, and removed the unconscionable two week waiting period before unemployed workers can receive benefits. Rent and mortgage payments cannot wait two weeks, and those who have lost their jobs should not have to wait either.

Speaking of waiting, seniors by definition do not have a lifetime to wait for help from their government either. Those who had private retirement savings saw their investments hammered in October's stock market collapse. They do not have the opportunity to make up for those losses with future earnings.

The public pension system is not enough to allow any senior to make ends meet, and yet there were no improvements to old age security, no enhanced GIS, no strong action to shore up workplace pension plans. There is nothing to ensure that the very people who built this country would be able to live out their retirement with dignity and respect.

Furthermore, there are no new investments in health care, and in fact, nothing to enhance any public services at this critical time.

What about women? They are not even mentioned in this budget. There is not a single mention of women in the entire document and no funding for issues that directly affect them. There are no new child care spaces, no increased access to EI, and no reversal on the callous attack on pay equity that was included in the fall economic update. The much touted tax cuts in the budget will offer little or no benefit to the poorest 68% of women. This budget has failed women and their families.

I know my time is almost up, so let me just conclude by saying this to the government. As MPs we live financially privileged lives, but it is not about us. We should get rid of the broadbased tax cuts that give each of us $1,000 and give the money to those who have no paycheque at all. We should get rid of the tax credit that allows us to build decks on our cottages, and give the money to those who cannot afford a home at all. For God's sake, we should get rid of our preoccupation with our own jobs and focus on the jobs of Canadians. That is what we were sent here to do. We cannot fail our constituents just when they need us most.

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Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member on her desire to tone down the rhetoric and I want to ask her to just stop and reflect on her own comments when she remarks on that desire.

I also want to just begin by going back historically. My friend mentioned that the financial crisis began last fall. If my friend thinks that, then our government was even more wildly successful than I knew because in reality the financial crisis began a year ago in the fall and Canada was protected from it.

I want to ask my friend to think about not calling it goofy to shut down Parliament because in fact I think there are very many Canadians who think it was exactly the right thing to do in order to give the government time to reflect on the budget and come up with a plan.

If my friend is serious about toning down her rhetoric, I would like to ask her if she does not think there are some good things in this budget which are worthy of support: for example, $1 billion over two years for renovation and retrofits to social housing; $75 million to build social housing for persons with disabilities; $200 million over two years to support social housing in the north; and more particularly, enhancing the working family tax credit and measures of that nature. Could my friend admit that there are at least some very good things in this budget?

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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome the rhetoric and I will certainly admit that the rhetoric in this budget is superb. Every single important piece that people in the community were looking for is mentioned. However, as I pointed out in my speech, it is not about saying “We will invest in social housing”. The government's responsibility is to make the money flow so that social housing would actually be created.

If we are asking municipalities to pony up a third of the money that is required for the infrastructure programs that are mentioned in this budget, none of that will be built. What communities need is real investment. They need dollars to flow. Yes, we need more housing. Absolutely. We need infrastructure projects. There is absolutely no question about whether bridges in this country and roads in this country are in states of disrepair. As I said, there is no doubt that Hamilton needs a new waste water treatment plant. That is not in question. But we need more than rhetoric. We need real action. We need real dollars. We need the money to flow, or none of the rhetoric will help any Canadian or any Canadian city.

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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is very little about the member's speech with which I would disagree. We are, so to speak, on the edge of a structural deficit. She went through the same election I did, as did we all in this House, and she will recollect the Minister of Finance saying under no circumstances would he ever be the minister of deficits. He repeated that many times.

In fact, the Prime Minister backed up his finance minister. Then they produced a fiscal update which was pretty well an insult to this House. Then they did a major backpedalling and somehow or other we went from a modest surplus to an enormous deficit in the course of 60 days. Now they are projecting that in five years we will be out of what I would argue is a structural deficit--

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An hon. member

Not likely.