Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join the debate on the budget and I will be sharing my time with the member for Kings—Hants.
In my first debate since “parliamentus interruptus”, when the House unexpectedly adjourned, I would like to wish you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues a happy return to Parliament. On this side of the House, we missed this place.
In my time I would like to discuss three important issues about the budget and why we cannot support it: first, a lack of job creation measures; the second, the lack of vision the government has shown; and, finally, the lack of strategy for seniors and pensioners.
Rather than recalibrating, we should have been discussing a vision for Canada in January, not in March. Instead, the government decided it needed an extended holiday to avoid debate on uncomfortable issues such as the torture of Afghan detainees or the delivery of unredacted documents to Parliament. It created an unwanted and unnecessary hiatus from its responsibilities. Shame on the government. What is clear to Canadians is the Conservatives hope for resuscitation, not recalibration.
Last year I joined the same debate and emphasized the need for stimulus funding, infrastructure moneys, changes to employment insurance, protection for manufacturing jobs, investment and innovation in green jobs and jobs for youth and new Canadians. That is what Mississaugans and Canadians wanted.
One year later, the government has once again ignored Canadians and introduced a flatline budget full of cuts, freezes and gimmicks. Meanwhile, Liberals have been working hard on the priorities of Canadians such as protection for the jobs of today, investment in innovation and the jobs of tomorrow, protection for the most vulnerable and a plan to help us climb out of the Conservative-made $56 billion deficit.
The shortcomings of the budget are numerous: no job creation strategy; no investment in early childhood development; no national child care plan; no affordable housing strategy; no pension reform; no national vision or legacy such as a national electrical grid or a high-speed trail; and no real jobs. The bottom line is no real benefits for real Canadians.
On jobs, the government has missed a chance to own the employment podium. It lost a golden opportunity. Unfortunately, this time on this issue Canadians will not even reach the podium, let alone own it.
At a time when Canadians are crying out for a plan for job growth and job creation, the government comes up short. In the past year we saw over 300,000 Canadians lose their jobs and remain out of work. The budget offers no solution to compensate for those lost jobs or the 8% of Canadians who are unemployed, a staggering 11% in Mississauga.
To inflict further pain, the Conservatives will impose a $13 billion job-killing small business tax. What were they thinking? Even the CFIB reported that this measure would kill more than 200,000 jobs.
While the Conservatives were on holidays, Liberals were working. As a caucus, we met with real Canadians facing real problems through the more than 33 round table consultations we held. The recurring issue was definitely jobs. We were told that getting people back to work was job one and Liberals listened. We made concrete and well documented proposals. Unfortunately, the government did not listen.
The first proposal involved support for our manufacturers. Our manufacturers can only create jobs if they have better access to the capital they need to invest in new equipment and to get ahead of their global competition. Our plan would boost productivity and competitiveness through a cash advance on the accelerated capital cost allowance, helping manufacturers to purchase new equipment, become more profitable and create more jobs.
The second proposal addressed was the high youth unemployment rate at an unprecedented 17%, higher in certain regions, the worst in a generation. Our plan would introduce a temporary financial incentive to hire young Canadians, thus giving employers a greater incentive to hire and train the next generation of workers. Mississauga—Streetsville has the potential to be a leading community in high-quality learning. Investing in children and youth will help students strive and reach their full potential. By not listening, the Conservatives robbed young Mississaugans of that opportunity.
Finally, we need to encourage investment in startup companies. By extending new investment models to emerging sectors, we can help bridge the gap between research and commercialization and create those high value-added jobs of tomorrow in the process.
We encouraged the government to adopt these proposals in the budget if it were truly concerned about stimulating and incentivizing job creation and strengthening Canada's economic future but it did not listen.
Last month, while we were prorogued, I attended the Mississauga job summit, along with 300 other concerned citizens. Mayor Hazel McCallion stated that Canadians were desperate for hope, jobs and functional government. Toronto Star columnist, David Crane, challenged us to be innovative, global in outlook and focused on education. John Tory talked about the basics of business.
There was a consensus on the need for a jobs agenda: short-term jobs for students, newcomers and those most recently unemployed, and long term, higher paying jobs for all Canadians.
Second is infrastructure spending. Through its black curtain of transparency, the government failed to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to make an historic impact through the infrastructure stimulus plan and, sadly, it fell short.
Where is the leadership and the vision to make a real difference in our national infrastructure? After allegedly committing $50 billion over two years, what will the government have to show for its infrastructure investment? Certainly no dramatic or historic development, such as a high-speed rail corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, or a national electrical grid, or a green economy built on sustainable energy sources, or an innovation platform with a competitive advantage in R and D.
Rather than being historic and visionary, their legacy will be one of gimmicks, cuts and freezes. In fact, the Conservatives cut $148 million from Canada's Research Council in the last budget. Now we see them wanting to take credit for re-investing $32 million this year, which is still a $116 million shortfall.
Then there is the cancellation of the eco-energy program for renewable power production and the Conservatives' refusal to allow the Canadian Space Agency to spend $160 million in approved spending over the past two years. Now they want to take credit for adding $23 million in this budget. That is another $137 million shortfall.
It is no wonder the budget bounces around like a rubber ball. We heard the deficit numbers go from $16 billion to $36 billion to $50 billion to $56 billion and now I am hearing $49 billion because the government cannot count. We know why the deficit number will be lower next year. It is called lapsed funding. The Conservatives are masters of re-announcing old programs with old money, thus, fooling Canadians into believing it is all new programs with real money. It is not.
The Conservatives create optical illusions with lapsed money, committed money that is never sent out. Those funds are redirected back into general revenue and used to reduce the size of the deficit and the Conservatives try to take credit for it as prudent fiscal managers.
The Conservatives can fool Canadians by diverting attention onto the lyrics of our national anthem but Canadians are on to them and so are we.
Finally, where is the strategy to meet the challenges of our aging population and the reform to our pensions that the government promised?
The task force has not even begun yet. While Nortel pensioners burn, the government tinkers at the margins. Liberals proposed a supplementary CPP or changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to allow pension funds to become secured creditors. Why has the government not adopted these proposals? Why has it not acted? All it has done for seniors is give them a day off that they cannot even afford to take.
Some will ask how we would fund these proposals. Of course the legacy infrastructure project would have been funded from the economic action stimulus fund but other measures on job creation could be funded from existing spending by eliminating wasteful government spending, such as the $100 million hyper-partisan advertising campaign, the overuse of management consultants, the unbridled use of ten percenters or the use of government jets for promotional announcements in donut chains. The PMO, while preaching austerity, has raised its own budget at the PCO by 22%, or $13 million, and that is pure hypocrisy.
Eliminating wasteful practices, such as those, would have saved $1.2 billion. The government should be ashamed of this budget for what it has not done to stimulate job creation, create a legacy with the stimulus fund or a strategy for our seniors and our pensioners.
We will not support these cuts, freezes and gimmicks. We understand the shortcomings of this budget. We understand the will of Canadians. We will be strategically voting on this budget to avoid the unnecessary election that no one wants.