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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.

Topics

Western Hemisphere Travel InitiativePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition with regard to the western hemisphere travel initiative.

A number of petitioners living across different regions of Ontario and the country are being affected by the new implementation of passport requirements for travel to the United Stares. It affects our economy, tourism and trade. The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to be more assertive with regard to challenging this initiative by the United States, believing it will affect the social, cultural and economic well-being of Canadians and Americans.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from January 28 consideration of the motion that the House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan has six minutes left.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit of a pity to cut a presentation into two parts. However, I will recap for the benefit of my colleagues here this morning what I said yesterday. I pointed out that, given the spirit of openness shown by the current government in this economic context, and in particular given the fact that the government had recognized Quebec as a nation just two years ago, I had expectations of considerable openness from this government with respect to recognizing the demands of the Government of Quebec.

The main demands related to the equalization formula. The Government of Quebec is opposed to the changes to this formula, because it stands to lose $1 billion as a result. It is also opposed to the formation of a single pan-Canadian securities regulator, because Quebec wishes to retain its own securities commission, Since Quebec sees this as a cultural issue as much as one of economic control, it would be important for the government to recognize these demands by the Government of Quebec.

I will now move on to the rest of my speech in greater detail. Following on what I said yesterday, I wish to state that we regret that the bulk of workers who lose their jobs will continue to have no access to employment insurance, according to what was presented in the budget this week. Older workers are again marginalized, because there are no measures for them.

As for the fiscal imbalance—to which I have already referred—Quebec stands to lose $1 billion, up to $2 billion next year, according to the forecast. Quebec will therefore sustain losses with respect to health, education and family policy, all under provincial jurisdiction in our parliamentary system, as we know. In addition, the Conservative government is making a gift to Ontario with its calculation of the dividends from Hydro One compared to those from Hydro-Québec. Quebec will therefore lose an additional $250 million in equalization.

Culture is one of the essential elements of the Quebec nation. Many Quebec cultural troupes take Quebec culture around the world and their substantial performance incomes benefit the entire Quebec economy. The Conservatives' refusal to eliminate the announced cuts to culture —a sector of such importance to the economy—will continue to mean suffering for all of the regions of Quebec, as will their refusal to backtrack on the cuts inflicted on economic development bodies. We will get back to that point, because a great deal has been said about it already recently, yet this week's budget does not touch upon it at all.

I would also like to point out that this Conservative budget is contrary to the Kyoto accord and thus contrary to the economic interests of Quebec and of the environment.

This budget contains some questionable ideological choices. Overall, the budget is clearly lacking, and it is hard to imagine what would have happened if the Conservatives had a majority, because we expected that the government would make concessions in response to demands from the different regions. Even though this is a minority government, it ignored those demands.

he tax cuts are not targeted. A family earning $150,000 will get more than a family earning $40,000. These tax cuts will help neither people who lose their jobs nor companies that do not turn a profit. By the Conservatives' own admission, in opting for corporate tax cuts, they chose the measure that would stimulate the economy the least. That amounts to putting ideology before the economy.

As for social housing, the Conservative government is injecting $2 billion into social housing, but most of that money will go to renovations, while very little will go to building new units. Quebec alone needs an additional 52,000 units, according to one social housing agency.

In July 2007, in my own riding, having received the support of the voters in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, I asked the Minister of Public Safety to take action in response to calls to revitalize the former penitentiary in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. The government owns this building and could have converted it into new social housing. But there is no mention of this project in the budget. I would remind this House that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has an $8 billion surplus, but the government is not using one cent of that money in its budget for new housing.

The government should have used the budget to adjust the guaranteed income supplement so that low-income seniors in dire need could at least reach the poverty line. Clearly, this is an oversight. If only seniors were provided with additional income to bring them up to the poverty line, they would spend money, which would be injected into our economy and not lost.

Our party will be voting against the budget, as members know, for very good reasons.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to let you know that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

It is with great pride that I stand in the House today to speak in support of budget 2009. The people of Nunavut have shown faith in me by electing me to the House and I would like to take this time today to outline how our government has shown faith in them with budget 2009.

I am humbled every day that I am given the opportunity to serve as their member of Parliament and to be their voice in Ottawa. In my home territory of Nunavut, across Canada's north and, indeed, across the country, we are in the midst of a period of great change. We must not be spectators to this change but instead shape the future by doing the right thing for people who elect us to this place.

A synchronized global recess is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. In the last election campaign, the voters of Nunavut elected a Conservative MP to serve in a Conservative government. This government was elected to lead the country through a global recession, and we are keeping that promise.

Two days ago, my colleague, the hon. Minister of Finance, delivered Canada's economic action plan. It is our plan to stimulate our economy to protect Canadians through the global recession and to invest in our long-term growth. These are the priorities of Canadians and they are the priorities of this government. This plan was built upon one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We listened carefully to the concerns of Canadians about their jobs and their savings, about their families, businesses and their communities. We heard their concerns and we took their advice. Now we are taking immediate action.

I would like to turn to infrastructure for a minute as this is one of the cornerstones of our economic action plan.

As Canadian families are taking steps to build infrastructure in their own homes, we are taking actions to build infrastructure across the country. We know that getting shovels in the ground today will create jobs for Canadians now, while providing the framework for Canada to grow upon in the years to come. We are building and renewing our municipal territorial infrastructure, our post-secondary research and health infrastructure and our key federal assets. The money will flow quickly and we will get the shovels in the ground quickly.

For communities like those in Nunavut, it will mean real benefits: more people working, more people selling their products and a better quality of life. We are talking about the infrastructure that people generally identify with such as roads, bridges, water and sewer systems. However, we are also talking about the recreational side of infrastructure.

The budget introduced recreational infrastructure Canada that would provide $500 million to support construction of new community recreational facilities and upgrades to existing facilities across Canada.

In addition, I am proud to say that Nunavut won big in budget 2009 through the following projects.

First, the budget commits up to $17 million to accelerate the construction of the Pangnirtung small craft harbour.

Second, an additional $100 million over two years to support renovation in the construction of new social housing units in Nunavut has been committed in the budget.

Third, the Piqqusilirivvik cultural facility in Clyde River will receive funding from the building Canada fund on a priority basis.

Finally, Nunavut will receive its fair share of the $87 million, over two years, to invest in maintaining or upgrading key existing Arctic research facilities.

For those Canadian families that will face job losses, we will take immediate action. Supporting Canadians in the short-term when they face a job loss is important, but it is equally important to help them find new long-term job prospects.

We are strengthening employment insurance with new benefits and increased availability of training for those who lose their jobs. For example, we will extend work-sharing agreements by 14 weeks, to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. For two years, all regular EI benefits entitlements will be extended for five extra weeks. We will also increase the maximum benefits duration from 45 weeks to 50 weeks.

To prepare those who have lost their jobs for better jobs to come, our economic action plan increases funding for training delivered through the EI program by $1 billion over two years.

Our measures will also extend to those who do not qualify for EI. They will help young Canadians find summer jobs, support older workers and their families through the targeted initiatives for older workers, respond to skilled labour shortage by giving financial help to apprentices to complete their training and to continue our support for a national foreign credential recognition framework.

During a global recession, some communities face unique challenges, especially if they rely on a single industry to drive their economies. Canada's economic action plan takes this into account. It creates a two year community adjustment fund worth $1 billion to help those communities diversify their local economies.

With regard to specific sectors of the economy, we are offering targeted support for a wide range: industry, forestry, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, mining, shipbuilding, fisheries and the automotive industry. All of this targeted help will help our economy in Canada and in Canada's north.

Canada's economic action plan gives a shot in the arm to the home construction and home renovation industries, both key drivers of our economy. It allows first-time home buyers more flexibility to withdraw from RRSPs to make their purchase and gives them a break through a tax credit on their tools and costs.

Our plan also includes a new measure to let Canadians invest in the value of their homes, while putting trades people to work and giving a boost to those businesses that make and sell building products. For the next two years, a new home renovation tax credit will apply to the cost of labour and supplies and can save Canadians up to $1,350 when they improve their homes.

We are taking action to help families and stimulate consumer spending. Nunavut families deserve more money in their own hands to meet their own needs. Our Conservative government has made that principle a cornerstone since we took office.

Our record of tax relief is substantial and it is providing stimulus to Canada's economy as I speak. Canada's economic action plan builds on this. We are giving more tax relief, letting Canadians earn more money before paying higher taxes. We are building on the benefits that exist for low income Canadians. This is of particular importance to many citizens in my communities. The working income tax benefit is being increased as an added incentive for Canadians to join and remain in the workforce.

Seniors will see new support. We are increasing the age credit amount by an additional $1,000. We are also reducing the amount Canadian seniors are required to withdraw from their registered retirement income fund by 25% for 2008.

The bottom line is this: this year and over the next five years, our personal income tax measures will put about $20 billion back in the hands of Canadians and back in the Canadian economy to keep it moving forward.

Let me be very clear. This budget is the best one I have seen for Nunavut and Canada's north. It commits more money for housing, jobs and new infrastructure. All of this will help to improve the quality of life of northerners.

The budget comes after extensive consultation from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and other federal ministers, all of whom travelled from coast to coast to Arctic coast to hear from thousands of Canadians. I personally met with the territorial premiers and health ministers and with many of my constituents. I am pleased that the economic stimulus package reflects what I have heard from my constituents.

Nunavut will continue to receive historically high and growing federal transfers in 2009-10 that will total $1.1 billion. This is an increase of $125 million from last year. This long-term, growing support helps ensure that Nunavut has the resources it needs to provide essential public service and to build our territory into the great jewel of Canada, which I believe Canada's north is destined to be.

I have already mentioned that the budget strengthens support for economic activities in the north with $50 million over five years to establish a new regional economic development agency specifically for the north. Nunavut will receive its fair share of the $140 million set aside over five years for strategic investment in the northern economic development program.

The budget also commits much needed funding for social housing in Nunavut. In addition, Canada's government will improve Arctic research facilities and will accelerate the construction of the Pangnirtung harbour.

In conclusion, Canada's economic action plan meets the challenges of our time. It is a balance between stimulating our economy for the short term and building our capacity for the long term. This is especially vital in Nunavut and Canada's north. It is a balance between putting money back in the hands of Canadians and creating new investments. It is a balance between the unfortunate reality of a short-term deficit and the principle that we will not burden our children and grandchildren for today's--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I am afraid the hon. member's time has expired for the speech portion. We will move on to questions and comments with the hon. member for Yukon.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as a fellow northerner and as the official opposition critic for northern issues, I welcome the member to Parliament.

I have a couple of questions, so she may want to get out her pen to write them down. While she is doing that, I hope she appreciates the inukshuk I am wearing today and also my sealskin vest on the 10th anniversary of Nunavut. It is a great day for the people of Nunavut.

My first question is related to the Arctic research facilities. The $85 million for rehabilitating Arctic research centres is fantastic. She said that Nunavut would get a fair share of that money. The way the budget reads it is a competition for those funds. Why is it on a competitive basis? Why not just allocate it to the excellent Arctic research facilities across the north? How can she confirm that Nunavut will be getting a fair share if it is on a competitive basis? It may get all or none.

My second question is related to northern housing. It is a good item in the budget. For my riding there is $50 million. The last time this was done, there was a problem because a large percentage of the money, if not all of it, was for aboriginal people but it was not given directly to them. It was given to the territorial government. People were upset about that. I was wondering how much of that--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. Minister of Health.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, in terms of northern housing, the member started to ask his question but did not complete it.

In terms of Arctic research, it is a competitive process. There are Arctic research facilities in Nunavut. Nunavut will be competing for the funding like any other agency that is established in the north.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome the minister to the House and also recognize the 10th anniversary of Nunavut, which is an exciting occasion for Canadians to acknowledge.

My question for the minister is about a very serious issue. I am sure she was concerned today when she saw the article in the Globe and Mail that says that a key science agency in Canada has been left out of the budget. Genome Canada, which is responsible for some of the most significant and ongoing medical research, the most extensive and largest medical research projects in Canada, was completely ignored in the budget. In past years it received funding, and in fact last year, it received $140 million in research funding.

This is very important research to many Canadians. It is very important for health research, for instance. It allows Canada to participate in international work that is being done in genetic research and yet this funding has not come through in the current budget. There is concern for the ongoing work of the agency and the jobs of scientists and researchers who are associated with Genome Canada.

I wonder if the minister could tell us if this was just an oversight. Is there money flowing to Genome Canada? Why was Genome Canada not mentioned in the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I invite everyone in the House and anyone listening to travel to Nunavut to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the territory. It has accomplished a lot in the last 10 years as a new territory in this country.

In terms of the question, Health Canada and the federal government invests over $1 billion in research. CIHR receives about $1 billion. Just a few weeks ago I was in Toronto announcing a $32 million investment in research. Any research organization can apply for funding.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes has time to ask a very brief question.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, last fall, my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry wrote to the Minister of Health to ask what was happening with the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC), which provides assistance to families.

I would simply like to ask the minister if funding for CAPC will be renewed for this year, and if a long-term plan is in the works to support that program.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure to which program the member is referring. There is a huge number of programs funded by Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and CIHR. It is difficult to identify the exact program to which the member is referring based on his question.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan is a multi-year plan designed to stimulate the economy while protecting Canadians who are affected most by this economic crisis. This plan is the right choice for Canada because this government undertook the most comprehensive prebudget consultations ever.

We launched an open and public discussion with the people of Canada. We held public town hall and round table meetings across the country, met with government leaders from all provinces and territories, and established a non-partisan economic advisory council of eminent Canadian business leaders for advice on the budget and on the economy in the coming months ahead.

The finance minister and Prime Minister consulted with business leaders, economists, academics, industry leaders, labour organizations and business chambers across Canada. These measures allowed this Conservative government to have an indepth understanding of what is needed to help Canadians through this economic crisis.

I am honoured that I had the opportunity to meet and consult with the people of my riding of Edmonton--Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan. I met with workers, families, small business owners, the chamber of commerce, students and seniors. They all shared their concerns and ideas. I listened to them and brought these ideas and concerns to our caucus and to the Minister of Finance.

Workers were concerned about losing their jobs. Business owners told me that they were most concerned about access to credit. If businesses cannot get credit, they cannot continue to function. Families were concerned with their savings and paying their bills. Students were concerned about finding work once they were finished their education. Seniors were concerned about their own personal finances. These were just a few of the concerns expressed to me.

I am honoured to say that I can now go back to my constituents with pride. Our Conservative government is helping Canadians in this time of economic difficulty. This economic action plan is exactly what Canada needs in so many ways.

In this time of economic hardship, the Conservative government of Canada is reducing the tax burden to help those hit hardest by the downturn. This government stands by its belief that the best place for people's money is in their own pockets. That is why across the board this government is helping people maintain their earning power, pay fewer taxes, and regain the confidence they have lost.

While the crisis did not start in Canada, this Conservative government is acting to help Canadians affected by it.

We are increasing the basic personal amount that all Canadians can earn before being forced to pay income tax. For those with the lowest earnings in the country, those struggling to scrape by, this will allow them to earn more money before they are taxed. We have also raised the upper limit of both the lowest tax brackets. Those who have seen their earnings decline because of the economic slump can rest assured that the government is acting directly to aid them. These tax cuts will help the people immediately. There will be no need for Canadians to wait for funds to trickle down. They will feel the impact of this action plan right away.

This government has created other measures to help those in our society who are rendered vulnerable by the economic downturn.

We have increased the age credit by $1,000, benefiting 2.2 million seniors. Combined with the other measures we have instituted for seniors, such as pension splitting and the increase in the pension income credit, the Conservative government has ensured that it will support seniors during this recession. These measures for seniors, when put together, provide almost $2 billion of aid to the seniors of Canada.

We propose in this plan to nearly double the working income tax benefit, ensuring that those who decide to work and contribute to the economy are never punished financially for their actions.

I believe the greatest stimulus is to give the people of Canada their money back and let them decide where and how to spend it.

Members of the NDP have made it clear that they do not think that the people of Canada deserve this money. They have made it clear that they desire to keep taxes high, even in the midst of a recession. They have made it clear that they do not want to support businesses. They have made it clear that they do not want Canadians to get back to work. The leader of the NDP decided to oppose this budget before he even knew what was in it.

The Conservative government knows that, if given the support they need, the Canadian people can and will overcome the challenges that our nation faces.

We know that during trying economic times the Canadian people represent our greatest strength. We know that ultimately this government is responsible to Canadians and that it is the Canadian people who have allowed us to be here and who have given us the mandate to work together to help them get through this economic crisis affecting the entire world.

The solution for Canada is the economic action plan this government has put forward. This economic action plan will create opportunities across the country.

We will not mince words. The next couple of years will not be easy. While deficit spending is not comfortable for any of us, we have to be responsible and act. There is no room for political manoeuvring when Canadians' livelihoods are at stake.

That is why I am pleased this budget has shown both forethought and planning. We will see our nation return to balanced budgets within about five years. This action plan has the right combination of protection for Canadian workers and training for their future to bring us into prosperity once the economic seas have calmed.

This economic slump is a period of transition for our nation. That is why we are working to provide learning and training opportunities.

Our Conservative government spent almost $2 billion on training because we believe that Canadians who seek a new job, a new career and a new life for themselves and their families should be able to count on the Government of Canada.

We will spend $500 million over two years on a strategic training and transition fund to ensure that it is not only those who benefit from EI who have access to training. We will invest $50 million into our future by helping young Canadians find summer jobs. We will address the shortage of skilled workers in our nation by launching a $2,000 apprenticeship completion grant.

Finally, we will fulfill the dream that has brought so many people to Canada from other countries, including my own parents: the dream of a better life for themselves and for their children. Through partnerships with the provinces, this government is committed to developing a national foreign credential framework. Highly skilled immigrants can come to Canada knowing that the value of their education will be recognized here.

The renovation tax credit in the action plan will impact an estimated 4.6 million Canadian homeowners and will allow our families to improve their homes. By implementing a temporary home renovation tax credit, our Conservative government will be benefiting homeowners in Alberta for up to $338 million over two years. The temporary nature of this credit will provide an immediate incentive for Canadians to undertake new renovations or to accelerate planned projects.

These renovations will add to the growing green economy, allowing the people of Edmonton--Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan to purchase energy efficient appliances by providing $300 million over two years to the eco-energy home retrofit program. Our government is expecting to support an additional 200,000 energy-saving home retrofits that will be kind to the environment and will keep more money in the pockets of Albertans.

Given these troubled times, our government recognizes the undue strain placed on first-time home buyers and the negative effects it directly places on their future aspirations. Our Conservative government is providing a first-time home buyers' tax credit that will provide tax relief to those families looking to purchase their first home. In addition, we will increase the amount that first-time home buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs to purchase a home.

Small businesses are the foundation of our economy. Our Conservative government understands the immediate action that must be taken to support businesses within our communities. Our dedication to sustaining strong, competitive businesses will not only create revenue for Albertans and Canadians alike, but will also stimulate jobs and investment.

We are dedicated to increasing access to financing for small businesses through proposed amendments to the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada. In addition, we are increasing the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal tax rate of 11% to $500,000 from the current limit of $400,000 as of January 1, 2009.

In the consultation process for the budget we heard loud and clear that Canadian financial institutions have been less willing to lend to credit-worthy Canadian families and businesses. The Canadian secured credit facility will be created, with an allocation of up to $12 billion to support the financing of vehicles and equipment for consumers and businesses. This measure will also help the auto industry to increase sales, as they have been hit particularly hard by this recession.

With access to financing, Canadian families can continue to make the purchases that keep the economy moving ahead. It will be easier for people to get car loans. Businesses will be able to purchase new equipment, invest in their operations and grow in the future.

Once again, I am proud to be a member of this party and this government, a government that has put this country and its citizens first, ahead of all party politics. This is an economic action plan that will help our entire nation move forward to create jobs, hope and prosperity. This is an action plan that will bring our economy in from the cold and support the Canadian work force.

I am pleased to see that it has gained the support of the official opposition and I applaud their decision to put the Canadian people before politics.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the member's speech, and he has done a pretty good job of running through the index of measures in the budget. I am not sure he has actually completed the list; there are so many measures in this budget that one actually does need an index to go through it.

I am not sure that every measure in that budget is as stimulative in impact as the suggestion is here. Two items pop out.

The member could not resist his party's neo-con desire to give tax money back to the taxpayers. I am not so sure that economically that item is a stimulus. He could not resist mentioning it, which is okay.

However, there is a second thing I want to ask about. The member mentioned that the increase in the income tax personal amount would result in a tax saving to the lower-income Canadian taxpayer, but is it not a fact that the personal amount is claimed by every taxpayer, even the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister has a tax break that is similar to, or better than, the poor person's. I am going to ask the member why he did not mention that upper-income Canadians have tax breaks as good as, or better than, the one he has just somewhat myopically described.

Was it the government's intention to give a better tax break to the high-income earners than to the poor? That is exactly what this budget contains.

As for my party's alleged support for this budget, we are going to squeeze the budget through. We are going to make it fit. We are going to put the round peg through the square hole so that Canada benefits, but the government is on probation.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, regarding the hon. member's first comments about tax breaks, I fully believe, and I know this government does as well, that giving money back to Canadians is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy. We should allow Canadians to decide where to spend that money. We believe in Canadians.

As for the lowest tax amount, we have raised it, which benefits those who need it the most. We have also invested in social housing. This government is committed to helping those who most need the help.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for the member from the government's side.

I also did a lot of consultation during the prorogation of Parliament. The people I spoke to were concerned about a lot of things. I am going to raise a couple of their concerns here today.

First , I would like to know why the budget, allegedly supported by the Liberals, does not include the elimination of the two-week waiting period for people applying for EI. As members know, during that two-week period people still have to pay their mortgages. They still have to pay for their hydro, and the kids still get hungry.

My second question concerns reducing the number of hours to qualify for EI, something else my constituents brought up. A couple of weeks ago I had someone in my constituency office who was missing seven hours to be eligible for EI. I would like to know why the Conservative budget, supported by the Liberals, did not include reducing these hours.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government finds it very important to support those who have lost their jobs. To do so we have increased EI by five weeks. We feel this extension will be very helpful in supporting those people. We had done consultations on this matter, and we felt this was the best way to support those people who have lost their jobs.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I would ask the government how it can claim it is taking immediate action or that there will be little time for the money to trickle down, since we know that in September the government said there would be no recession and in October that there would be no deficit. A surplus was even predicted as early as November, despite Canada's having the second-worst-performing economy of the G8 nations for the first half of 2008 and despite losses of 105,000 jobs in the last 60 days.

Second, how can the government claim to be a good money manager, given that it inherited a $12 billion surplus and now predicts a $64 billion deficit?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member forgets to note that this economic crisis was not created in Canada. It started in the U.S. and has gone across, and Canada has been affected.

This is one of the quickest budgets to come forward. It is a budget that will help Canadians. Money will flow. We have met with the provinces and have agreements in place to make sure that infrastructure money will flow. We have reduced red tape and we have eliminated the need to duplicate certain procedures--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Don Valley East.