Madam Speaker, in preparation for the 2010 budget, the Bloc Québécois did a pre-budget consultation tour in which 317 organizations participated.
We had the opportunity to speak with the main players in Quebec's development across the entire province. We gathered and studied all of the proposals, which we then submitted to the Conservative government. The Bloc Québécois's budget suggestions were consistent with the expectations of Quebeckers, and if the government had implemented them, they would have ensured that Quebec came out of the crisis prosperous, sustainable and green.
Unfortunately, the government missed the opportunity to properly address Quebec's economic, social, environmental and financial needs. They have shown once again that, as far as Canada is concerned, it is as though Quebec does not exist. The Conservatives, backed by the Liberals, established policies geared to the needs of Ontario and Alberta, to Quebec's disadvantage. Despite all of the wonderful Conservative promises made in 2006 about taking a new approach with Quebec, the Conservative budget has not met needs of Quebec's economy.
Whether we are talking about the forestry or aerospace sectors, the environment or culture, Quebeckers' priorities have been completely ignored.
For example, the automobile industry, concentrated in Ontario, received $9.7 billion whereas the forestry industry, which is so vital for Quebec's regions, received only $170 million.
When it comes to the environment, which for all intents and purposes was ignored in the budget, the Conservative government put $1 billion towards developing nuclear power, which benefits Ontario, Alberta and oil companies. Do we need to repeat that they already enjoy generous tax benefits?
In addition, no new funding was announced for the cultural sector, which is essential to the development of the Quebec nation and its economy.
What I find the most upsetting in this budget is that it ignores the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, which is currently keeping our seniors in poverty. It also ignores the need to deal with the issues of social housing and homelessness.
The Bloc Québécois voted against the budget because it was unfair for Quebec, but does not object ideologically to all the measures resulting from it. We would rather look at the merit of each measure included in this bill during discussions in the Standing Committee on Finance and then support those that will help Quebeckers and those that we previously proposed.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of a number of initiatives in this bill. We must admit that some are acceptable, including measures to improve sharing child tax benefits. The government agrees to pay half to each of two parents who have joint custody. The bill also lightens the tax burden on beneficiaries of a registered disability savings plan, a plan designed to ensure the financial security of children with severe disabilities. It also reduces the administrative burden on charities and some small businesses, and it tightens the rules on the TFSA to prevent tax avoidance. What is more, companies will stop benefiting from double deductions for stock options.
That is where the good side of the current bill ends. The Bloc Québécois has many reservations about this bill. It confirms the Conservative government's desire to spare rich taxpayers at all cost and have the workers and the middle class paying off the deficit.
We also see that the government will continue to treat stock options like capital gains for ordinary taxpayers. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that only half the income derived from stock options is subject to federal tax.
The Conservative government could show fairness to the workers and collect $1 billion in tax by cutting off this gift.
Businesses are not being asked to pay their fair share to increase government revenue, except that they have to make source deductions to ensure that employees with stock options pay their taxes.
This bill also attests to the Conservative government's inertia with respect to the environment and the fight against greenhouse gases. Only one environmental measure is included; it encourages the production of clean energy.
The government is ignoring the Bloc Québécois' urgent calls concerning equalization payments and increased transfers for education and social programs. It is also disregarding our recommendations on income security for retirees.
I would like to go into greater detail about some of the measures in the bill that the Bloc Québécois wants to improve in committee.
First, I want to address the measures regarding income tax on charities, as included in part 1. The government proposes changing the rules on sums that have to be spent on charitable activities by repealing the rule on charitable spending, changing the rules on capital accumulation, and strengthening the rules against tax avoidance.
The Bloc Québécois believes it is vital that charitable organizations be able to focus on their activities, rather than on fundraising. Accordingly, we supported the campaign to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of publicly listed securities and private equity holdings to charities.
The proposed measures could reduce the amount of administrative red tape that charities have to deal with. However, the issue of funding these organizations remains largely ignored by this government. The survival of these organizations is especially important given that the government has slashed spending on social services.
When it comes to international aid, we cannot help but be concerned by the major withdrawal and the politics of fear imposed on NGOs by this government. This withdrawal is particularly apparent in the case of organizations whose positions do not correspond to the government's viewpoints.
In budget 2010, the federal government announced its plans to cap expenditures for development assistance, thereby confirming that it would not make the effort needed to achieve its target of 0.7% of GDP.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes the important role of charitable organizations in Quebec society and around the world. Child care centres, volunteer organizations, regional recycling depots and NGOs working in international aid all need predictable, long-term funding in order to fulfill their respective mandates.
Prior to budget 2010, the Bloc Québécois demanded that the federal government stop extending certain programs on a temporary basis and stop being so secretive about its intentions regarding the funding of organizations. In doing so, the government creates uncertainty among the most vulnerable, our community groups and the charitable organizations that help them.
The Bloc Québécois is also calling on the federal government to implement a realistic plan to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GDP for international assistance as quickly as possible. If the federal government does not increase its budget for development assistance, it will greatly impede the vital work that is being done by charitable organizations in the developing world.
Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a parliamentary mission to two of the poorest countries in Africa—Benin and Burkina Faso. Parliamentarians in these countries told us that they appreciate the quality of Canadian aid. However, they expressed serious misgivings about Canada's recent decision to no longer consider them to be priority countries since they are not included in the new list of countries that are a priority for our international aid. That is the result of the government's disengagement.
Part 3 of the bill deals with measures pertaining to federal-provincial fiscal arrangements. The purpose of these piecemeal arrangements, made at the behest of the federal government, is to facilitate tax sharing by Canada and Quebec.
The Bloc Québécois believes that it is high time to come up with a vigorous mechanism ensuring that Quebec receives all taxes paid in the province. For that reason, we are asking the federal government to initiate talks with the Government of Quebec in order to create a single tax return in Quebec, on the basis of an agreement similar to that for the GST, for all taxes paid by Quebeckers.
Since 1991, the Government of Quebec has collected the goods and services tax for the federal government, which compensates it for this service. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec should collect all income tax. Not only would corporations and individuals save considerable sums every year, but the reduced cost of tax collection would lead to recurring savings that, in turn, would lower pressure on public finances. Maintaining two separate structures for tax administration forces Quebeckers to pay very high administrative costs. The introduction of a single tax return by the Government of Quebec would save hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing duplication.
Part 7 of the bill, which also deals with federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, addresses total transfers, including equalization payments. The Quebec government is the loser with this bill, as it was with the 2010 budget, because the Conservatives have maintained their decision to unilaterally cap equalization payments.
Since the equalization envelope is now capped, the total amount of equalization will be calculated in line with economic growth, which will mean Quebec will lose several billion dollars over the coming years. Moreover, during this period, Quebec’s share may decline. If Ontario’s relative wealth drops in relation to Quebec’s, Ontario will receive a bigger piece of the pie while Quebec’s piece will get smaller.
There is nothing in this bill about the formula affecting a segment of Hydro-Quebec’s revenue either, which deprives the Quebec government of $250 million.
Lastly, there is nothing planned with regard to education and social program transfers. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs to return to the 1994-95 indexed level. Such an increase would mean that Quebec would receive $800 million more annually for the funding of its social programs.
The government is flatly refusing Quebec’s urgent calls for an increase in federal transfer payments, in particular in education. The growth in health and education transfers will be compromised as of 2014-15 since the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act does not allow for any further growth in these transfers beyond 2014.
Furthermore, there is no compensation resulting from the harmonization of Quebec’s sales tax under Bill C-47. Even though Quebec has been unanimously calling on the government to provide financial compensation of $2.2 billion for the harmonization of its sales tax, this has been denied. And yet, total compensation of $6.8 billion was allocated to Ontario, British Columbia and three Atlantic provinces.
As far as the main transfer payments to Quebec are concerned, the federal government must reverse its decision to unilaterally modify the equalization formula, thereby ensuring Quebec receives the money to which it is entitled. The federal government must do away with the equalization cap and treat Quebec’s water resources fairly when calculating equalization.
Furthermore, the federal government must increase the Canada Social Transfer. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs in order to return to the 1994-1995 indexed level.
Bill C-47, like the 2010 budget, completely disregards the economic situation Quebeckers find themselves in.
Unfortunately, it is clear that the Conservatives continue to fail to make this an opportunity for Quebec. The 2010 budget implementation bill includes several positive initiatives, but it is clearly not a harbinger of any fundamental change in direction on the part of the Conservatives.