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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague had been listening to my response, he would have heard the answer to his question. But instead of listening, he is still on his feet and yelling, which is typical of the Bloc Québécois.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

As we know, during questions and comments—regardless of the subject—the questions do not always get answered. Other things and other issues are often discussed.

It is not up to the Speaker to determine if what a member is saying constitutes a response to a given question, whether asked or imagined. I do not know and it is not up to me to decide. Accordingly, this was not a point of order.

The period provided for questions and comments has now expired.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as Canada celebrated International Women's Day yesterday and we are currently in the middle of International Women's Week, I believe it is important to reflect on the impact that this budget and our previous budgets have had on women.

This year, Canada's theme for International Women's Day is “Strong Women. Strong Canada. Strong World.” It reflects our government's firm belief that increasing women's participation and access to leadership roles and opportunities will help women and girls reach their full potential and help build a more prosperous Canada.

Canadian women have made enormous strides and the current government has the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canadian history. The House of Commons currently has 67 women in it.

A strong economy that benefits all Canadians remains our government's top priority. Our objectives are to fully implement the economic action plan, balance the budget once the economy has recovered, and build Canada's economy for the future. Our economic and social programs are helping hundreds of thousands of women at every income level to take action to increase their security and improve their lives.

For example, since 2006-07, a total of 396 projects have been approved by the Government of Canada through Status of Women Canada. Our federal government is investing over $19 billion in 2009-10 in supports for children and their families. This includes approximately $5.9 billion for early childhood development and child care. Since 2006, the federal government's universal child care plan provides choice in child care to all parents of young children, whether they work in the paid labour force or care for their children at home.

This plan has two components. First, the universal child care benefit offsets the cost of whatever form of child care parents choose, providing families with $100 per month for each child under six. Second, there is $250 million in new transfers for provinces and territories to support the creation of child care spaces in addition to other transfers for early childhood development and early learning and child care.

In all, federal transfers in support of families with children total over $1.13 billion this year. When we talk about this budget and about the track record that our government has had, especially for women and children in this country, it is of paramount importance. This budget speech will centre around what our government has done, especially for women. It will also talk about some of the opportunities that my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul has had to improve its community centres and infrastructure.

As far as the economic benefits of women are concerned, employment insurance has several features that benefit women, including extending parental benefits to 35 weeks and allowing recipients to work. Self-employed women now have greater access to business financing and a full range of supports to launch and expand their businesses.

Women are now one of the business engines in our economy. As I speak, many women are starting their own home businesses. They are engaging in the business world, creating a lot of jobs and stimulating the economy. This is a result of the opportunities that our government has put in place for women to grow their businesses.

The aboriginal human resources development strategy and the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy focus on supporting demand-driven skills development, fostering partnerships with the private sector in the provinces and territories, and emphasizing accountability and results. A lot of women are involved in these strategies.

A variety of federal supports, such as the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement and the child disability benefit, help women combine earning with caring for their children. In addition, the child-rearing provision in the Canada and Quebec pension plans helps increase women's retirement income. These are very important elements. In my riding, many older women are telling me they wished they had these benefits when they were raising their children years ago.

The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act extends special employment insurance benefits like maternity, parental, sickness, and compassionate care to self-employed individuals, a growing number of whom are women doing this on a voluntary basis.

The aboriginal skills and training strategic investment fund supports a number of projects that target aboriginal women, including one to increase women's knowledge of business management, financial management, and small business development. Another project seeks to engage aboriginal women in academic and educational activities.

The working income tax benefit supplements the earnings of low income workers, many of whom are women.

I want to talk about violence against women. As members know, Bill C-268 is currently in the Senate and I am awaiting its passage. Under the federal government, in March 2008 the Government of Canada announced five new shelters to be built in five provinces to address violence against first nations women and children. In the 2007 budget, it included funds to expand the new horizons for seniors program. A portion of that goes to the elder abuse awareness program to foster activities to help reduce the incidence of abuse of older adults. Many older women are recipients of this abuse.

Starting in 2007 our government committed $6 million annually to help prevent human trafficking and online child exploitation. As members know, the horrendous crime of trafficking of children is growing in the country. The government has acknowledged that funds must be put in place to help combat it.

In 2008 Canada also strongly supported the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, to collect information, recommend measures to eliminate violence, and remedy its consequences. Under the administration of the Government of Canada, there have been many inroads and steps forward to help support women, children, and the most vulnerable people in society.

In December 2009 Status of Women Canada contributed $1 million to UNiTE to End Violence Against Women. That is a project run by shelter organizations across Canada to facilitate the national exchange of best practices and to design a national network of women's shelters across Canada. This is connecting the dots.

On January 15, 2009, Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, and the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association partnered to develop a national media campaign to raise awareness on human trafficking and to access the crime stoppers' 24/7 anonymous national tip line for reporting suspected cases of human trafficking, which includes the domestic trafficking of women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The budget is all about stimulating the economy. In looking at the new budget that was just announced a few days ago, it is continuing that stimulation of the economy. It is supporting women and children, and also our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly. However, it also provides at the community level dollars and cents that are put into programs such as the RInC program. Manitoba infrastructure has been the recipient of that money. In my riding, many centres like the Gateway Community Centre, the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, the Garden City Community Centre, and the Red River Community Centre have been recipients of these programs.

In Canada's communities, many children who go into their community rinks and recreation centres have the opportunity to grow, learn sports, be healthy, and stay out of trouble. Families can do this kind of activity together. It is low cost.

In terms of looking at the budget, it is staying the course. It is making Canada a place where people can grow, live, and be able to prosper.

Canada went into the recession late. We are coming out of the global recession. It is a fragile emergence from the global recession. Canada has much to be proud of.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her speech this afternoon. In fact, she and I represent neighbouring ridings in Winnipeg.

I note that in the budget the government is committing $126 million for nuclear research which when we think about the waste associated with nuclear power, the cost of that, the impossibility of getting approvals, and the fact that nobody in Canada, nobody I know, wants to live anywhere near a nuclear plant would suggest that perhaps the government should be looking at an east-west power grid.

We in Manitoba have some substantial hydro power resources. Only half of our resources are developed. The half that we have developed is all being sent to the United States. Perhaps we could have the federal government involved in developing an east-west power grid.

Her fellow member, the minister of democratic reform, has taken an active interest in the issue. In fact, he has offered to meet with me on the subject in the next couple of days. Perhaps she could get the rest of her caucus colleagues involved.

There are nine Conservative MPs in Manitoba sitting on that side of the House. The question is, why can they not have some influence and attempt to get the government to look at this east-west power grid?

It was a Conservative Party that built the railroad back in John A. Macdonald's days uniting the country. It seems to me that a power grid across Canada so that Manitoba could send clean hydroelectric power to Saskatchewan, Alberta and east to Ontario would, in fact, have a unifying effect on the country.

I would like to know what the member's thoughts would be on this initiative and what she would like to contribute to it.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that very interesting question because this is an issue that has been of paramount importance in Manitoba.

However, the member does know that it is a provincial jurisdiction along with federal partnerships. I know that there are talks underway right now. Basically it is a provincial jurisdiction, where that decision is made.

I know that all of us are very interested, especially the Manitoba members of Parliament, because hydro is a very important resource in Manitoba. I think there is potential for jobs. The hydroelectric power that is generated is a commodity that can be shared with the world.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul for bringing in her private member's bill on violence against women which I was proud to support.

On another note, I heard her passionate speech about caring for women and children. When I look at my personal situation, I along with my wife Roni were able to raise three children. When I go to Newton—North Delta, I cannot find a single day care or early learning centre that would provide my children day care and learning for $2 a day.

I am wondering if the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul would tell me if there is any day care centre in her riding that would provide day care for $2 a day, as she mentioned.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for acknowledging my bill C-268 and its importance.

In answer to his question, as the member knows, there has been $250 million in new transfers to provinces and territories to support the creation of child care spaces in addition to other transfers for early childhood development and early learning and child care. In all, federal transfers in support of families and children total over $1.13 billion this year.

As the member opposite also knows, the transfers do go to the provinces. In actual fact it is within the provincial jurisdiction to actually find the day cares and put that money into creating those spaces.

I do thank the member and I can say that in my riding I have many very wonderful progressive day cares. I do not particularly know the cost per day because that is a sliding rule.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

I stand today to voice my disappointment with this budget, but in today's speech I first want to turn my thoughts to the words of the right hon. Prime Minister when he was leader of the opposition. It was 2005 and a Liberal budget had just delivered a surplus; yes, that is right, a surplus. Many in the House have probably forgotten exactly what this word means because we now have to watch a government that has absolutely no clue how to balance spending and revenues.

In his response, the Prime Minister, the then leader of the opposition, stated:

I got into partisan federal politics originally because I wanted to see something done about the federal deficit.

After the last few budgets delivered by the current government and the Prime Minister we now know what he wanted to do about the deficit. He wanted to grow it to record breaking levels. The Prime Minister also seemed to have concerns about over-spending when he was on this side of the House. Once again, I quote:

We are also concerned about the rate at which the government plans to increase spending, that is 7% for the next few years. We have past experience with the results of unplanned spending, when this government spends without any specific plan, without the knowledge of Parliament, and without the slightest respect for the most basic accounting practices.

It seems as though those concerns have disappeared now. The government is not even focusing on how to bring this deficit to a balanced budget.

Let us examine the record of the government since taking office. Since 2006, government spending has risen by $58 billion, that is, by over 25%. In fact, with the exception of next year, this is going to grow until the year 2015. In a time of supposed fiscal restraint and in consideration of the past comments by the Prime Minister, this is hypocrisy at its finest. This is a government that is completely out of control, and what is worse, it has absolutely no plan as to how to emerge from these deficits.

Now before I am asked a question about whether stimulus spending is beneficial, I want to make a crucial distinction. The government was spending way above its means long before it could use the excuse of stimulus spending.

Even the way the government handled the so-called economic action plan has been a disaster. Communities were given little to no information on guidelines and criteria. Deadlines were set within weeks of announcing the program. Billions of dollars were stuck in Ottawa, with projects hanging in the balance because of delays. Building seasons were lost because of projects not receiving funding before the winter.

This leads me to my next point. The government has spoken about a plan to return Canada to balanced budgets by 2015, yet the government's projections for growth are overly optimistic according to many economists across this country, and the government is without a plan to create economic opportunity.

The government's plans for job creation rely on $19 billion from the so-called action plan, even though 92% of that money has already been committed. To clarify, that means there is no new money to create jobs.

Then we have the government trumping its work-sharing adjustment program, which provides income support to workers eligible for employment insurance when business is slow for their employers.

So again, let me clarify: Instead of working on creating a good economic climate or acting to improve the prospects of employers across the country, the government thinks that a temporary income supplement alone is the answer. Once again, the government is completely out of touch with the gravity of the situation. The facts are that 1.6 million Canadians are out of work, and 330,000 of them have lost their job in the past year.

I recently had a constituent approach me about the situation at Abbey Window Coverings, which is closing its Surrey manufacturing plant and recently handed out layoff notices to 140 employees. The constituent was particularly upset by the fact it was a local operation bought out by an American company just two years ago, only now to have those jobs shipped out of the country, likely to Mexico.

The fact is that the government has no plan for job creation and no understanding of how to get people back to work, and it offers only temporary measures for a limited number of workers facing layoffs and is recycling stimulus announcements with little new money.

The government has come up with a laissez-faire approach to controlling our economy and is relying on razor thin projections to pull our country back into a strong economic position.

I am sorry, but to the constituents I encounter in my riding who have lost their jobs, and to the families across the nation who are worried about where their next paycheque is coming from, this approach is completely unacceptable. It shows a complete lack of empathy, and once again proves that the government has no clue about how to manage the economy.

My party will not support the budget, but it will not bring the government down on this budget, because that would not be in the best interests of Canadians. We learned a lesson in the fall. We understand the huge financial and other costs involved in an unnecessary election. Unlike the government, which examines every decision within the framework of political gain, we do not.

It is time for this House to generate a plan to create jobs, because job creation, at the end of the day, is the focal point of any economic recovery. I urge the government to bring in an economic recovery plan that would create jobs, instead of it playing politics.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I took the opportunity to listen quite intently to the member for Newton—North Delta and what he had to say about the budget. He talked about the deficit, but it easy to get up in the House and say whatever one wishes about particular issues, especially when one does not have to take any responsibility for them.

Maybe the hon. member could tell us what his party would have done differently about the deficit. What would his party have not spent in terms of job creation and economic stimulus? What taxes would it raise and how much would it raise them by?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I am sure that if we referred to history we would know that it was the Liberals who brought taxes down for ordinary working Canadians by 11%.

This is the party, the Liberal Party, that when in government took the $42 billion deficit mess left it by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Brian Mulroney, to a $13 billion surplus and handed it to the Conservatives.

What did the Conservatives do? They spent recklessly. In four years they have brought us down to a $53 billion deficit. It is shameful.

We will invest money to create jobs.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a question, because he was following what the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister said they were doing in the last three months when they shut down Parliament and dissolved the democratic process. They were out there recalibrating what they were going to do for the economy.

Therefore, we want to know if this is what the government meant by recalibration. When it listened to the Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which pointed out that the industry had lost 26,000 jobs as a result of the government's incompetent mismanagement of the economy and was looking for some relief, not a bail-out but relief, and asked the government if it would do something to help the industry to provide jobs for the young men and women who enter the economy via the food services system, what did the government do? It responded with a 9% increase in payroll taxes.

Is that what the government wanted to do by recalibration, putting people out of business?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. He is one of the longest sitting members in the House and he understands. He was part--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

I was in high school when he was elected.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Out of respect for the member who is speaking, I would ask that other members wait until there is time for questions and comments.

The hon. member has the floor and may continue for one minute.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is part of the party that gave this country a strong economic foundation, which the Conservative government has destroyed in four years. I appreciate the comments of the hon. member.

The members on the other side have claimed that the government is going to freeze EI premiums. If I look at the chart on page 52 of the book the government members released, since the year 2000 EI premiums have been coming down. It is because of the Liberal Party that those EI premiums have come down.

What are the Conservatives going to do? They are going to raise the premiums by $13 billion, which alone will cost 200,000 jobs in Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I just want to advise all members that I will not recognize for questions and comments those members who heckle while somebody is speaking. This is just to ensure that everyone is well advised.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect seriously on a document that requires very little attention. It requires very little attention for the following reasons.

First, as a budget document, it is sorrowfully missing in substance and in content. The budget speech, all 15 pages of it, double spaced, contains only a quarter of the intentions and is only a quarter of the length of the throne speech which was delivered a mere 24 hours before the budget. What does that tell us?

It tells us first that in a Speech from the Throne, the government lays out its big vision, its big plan, its direction for where the country should be going. It gives people a sense of what the government sees this country can be. We all know what this country can be. We know what it has been and we know where it should be going. We really wanted to see whether the government is up to the task of all Canadians and the ambition that is resident in our nation, the potential that resides in all of us who live in Canada and who call this country our home and call this country our future.

Someone talked about maybe it is a place where we can seek hope. No, we live it every day. Every day Canada has a future for each and every one of us. We wanted to see whether the government would be up to the task. We waited with bated breath while the government recalibrated itself for three months. It shut down the entire democratic process so that it could give its attention to meeting the challenge that every Canadian lives on a daily basis.

What did the Conservatives do? They came up with a budget. The budget is the amount of expenditures that the government will put to the realization of those ambitions that are resident in every Canadian's life and which are expressed through the Speech from the Throne. How disappointed must every Canadian be after listening to the prattling of the Minister of Finance in the budget speech.

Every Canadian watching that performance, or lack thereof, was looking at the ways to judge this. The only thing they can do on a budget is to examine whether those who deliver it exude a competence.

Are they competent? Is there an inherent competence in this budget?

If there is credibility, can these people actually do things? Can they deliver them? Is there a trust factor? Indeed, is there a vision for the country?

On all of those criteria, on each and every one, the answer would be an unfailing no.

Look at the competence that we have before us. The government is the same one that a mere 12 months ago said, “Don't worry. Be happy. We are the strongest nation economically and fiscally in the entire G8. No problem. No recession”.

Put to the wall by members of the opposition parties on this side of the House, what happened? The Conservatives said, “Oh well, we made a mistake. In fact, there is a worldwide recession. It is synchronized, just like swimmers in a pool, and it is going to hit us, so what we have to do is dissolve Parliament. Let us hear what the opposition has to say”. This is after six months of no sitting of Parliament in 2008.

The Conservatives came back and what did they do? They said, “Oh, maybe you are right. Do you know what we will do? We are going to go into deficit finance. We are going to spend money we do not have, even though we are the richest in terms of our potential and the bucks that we had and fiscal responsibility. No, we do not have any money. We are going to borrow it and we are going to do two things with it. First, we are going to spend about $16 billion in infrastructure programs”.

Some people watching this program are wondering what it means when money is spent for infrastructure. Is it capital intensive items? Is it spending on prosperity-producing enterprises? Is it spending on transportation? Is it spending on gateway strategies? Is it spending on something that someone can point to five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road and say that it was money well spent, that we were happy to go into debt because we got something worthwhile out of it, something that is durable, something that all Canadians can point to and say it is their own?

Did we get that? No. There is not a single Canadian in this room who could say that there was this grand strategy, that the money was well spent. The fact of the matter is the money has not been spent. The government allowed $3 billion already to lapse. The Conservatives say they have allocated about 90% of those $16 billion, but who knows? They are the same people who said that we had a surplus when we were looking at a deficit. Then they turned around and said that they would put in another $16 billion. Now we have $16 billion for infrastructure. That is money that we have to pick up and we have to build something with it. Then we have another $16 billion that the Conservatives have now started to call stimulus.

Remember that we did not need stimulus because we were already in great shape. We were told to be happy. Stimulus means essentially the Conservatives are giving up our money that they knew they would not get because the economy was in terrible shape anyway. That is really what it means.

It means as well that the Conservatives are getting prepared to spend more money on employment insurance payments. Do you know how much more, Madam Speaker? This is why I talk about competence. Five hundred thousand jobs were lost in 2009, not entry level jobs, but jobs that pay a substantial wage for men and women who have families to raise and who are in the business of making sure that the Canadian dream becomes a reality for all of their families. Those 500,000 jobs are gone. They are gone from forestry. They are gone from fishing. They are gone from agri-production. They are gone from mining. They are gone from the auto sector. What were they replaced with?

We should think about these people and what they call the budget of last week. The Minister of Finance says we created 130,000 jobs last year. Yes, but 90% of them are at minimum wage and all are part time. What will the Conservatives do for the half a million Canadians who have exhausted or are about to exhaust their employment insurance?

The Conservatives say they will freeze the transfers to provinces. The provinces will have to pick up the balance. We will find ourselves in a situation that is more critical than it was last year. These are people who demand credibility. Is a document like that worth thinking about as a serious budget document?

Every Canadian that is following the House of Commons and watching this debate should be absolutely outraged that the Prime Minister of Canada would tell Canadians that he was going to recalibrate so that he could re-sanitize a system that he ruined, soiled and disrupted. That is what this budget really represents.

The Minister of Finance was waving something around, a prop. I would not be allowed to do that, but he did it. He took half an hour to read 15 pages. We used to call that a slow reader. Why did he do that? Because there is no substance in the budget. He had to do it for effect.

Not only is there no substance in it, but as I said a moment ago, there is no vision. Where are we going to be? What is the Conservatives' mantra? Think about the tragedy of wasting the efforts of all parliamentarians. The Conservatives' mantra is going to be “We are going to not tax”. Hold on, they just taxed $30 billion last year. I am sorry, that was a mistake. It was $53 billion because that is the deficit, also another $100 billion because that is what they say they lost in terms of increasing the debt.

Madam Speaker, I know you are a person who is anxious to make everything relevant to everybody, but do you know what $100 billion is? It is $3,000 out of your pocket. It is $3,000 out of the pockets of the pages who are here in the service of the House of Commons. It is $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. Another $53 billion deficit is another $2,000. Every single man, woman and child in this country lost $5,000 thanks to the Conservatives' incompetence last year. And these are people with a vision? They are people who have been taxing all year and are going to increase taxes so they can level off the deficit.

There is nothing so tragic as the Minister of Finance standing and crowing about the efficiencies of a government that he and the Prime Minister led down to perdition. They have been doing their best to ruin the economy of this country and the dreams of every Canadian. Shame on them.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member made a great speech. I want to make a comment to do with the Conservatives and their tax shift from corporations to Canadians. Clearly, that is what is happening in this budget. It is not something that should surprise people from our party or any party because that is their bent, to shift taxes from corporations onto the working people of the country.

The government continues to drive the country deeper into debt. We are now at $56 billion in this past budget. It gives tax cuts to profitable corporations, in fact $21 billion since 2008 and 60 billion dollars' worth by the time the cuts are fully implemented in 2014. During the same time, the government by its own reckoning will add $162.4 billion to the public debt, $60 billion more than the previous 10 years of surpluses will be erased.

While the government is giving corporations a free pass in contributing to the country's financial recovery, it is planning to take a big chunk out of the pockets of Canadian workers. Over the next four years the government will rake in $19 billion more on EI premiums than it pays out. It plans to use the payroll tax to pay down the debt that corporate taxes helped create. This represents a tax shift from the corporations to the workers. I would like to ask the member whether he thinks this is fair.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, it is very simple. Of course the answer is that it is unfair, but so is everything else the government has done.

The Conservatives took a gift of a $12 billion surplus when they came into office. They took seven years of surplus budgets. They took a national debt that had dropped down by $100 billion on top of that. They took investments in higher education. They took investments in non-government organizations and organizations that make the network of Canada work properly. They took all of the investments that make social cohesion harmonious and productive for the quality of life of every Canadian. They have systematically decimated it all.

Then they stand here and talk about what to do for higher learning. They cut an organization that provided for best practices across Canada in terms of post-secondary education. It was one of their very first casualties. They cut the court challenges program, which gave women and all other disadvantaged people an opportunity to access court programs in order to advance their interests and rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and their movement under the rule of law in Canada. That is what those guys have done.

Of course the answer to the member's question is no, it is not fair. It is downright disgraceful that the Conservatives would do what they did.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is very passionate about how he speaks. However, I will remind him, and I will remind my hon. colleague across the floor from Transcona who sat in a provincial legislature, that in 1995 the federal Liberal government gutted health care and post-secondary education. As a member of government of that day, many people suffered.

How would the member reconcile what happened then to what has happened today?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I suppose I could go as far back as Diefenbaker. In my community in Canada, Diefenbaker and the Conservative government are dirty words. That was the only time they were deprived of the opportunity to actually work.

However, I will set the record straight. I can go back as far as he would like to go back, but I will go only as far as this. In 2005 we established a system of $40 billion over a 10 year period, or $4 billion a year, in health transfers to the provinces. Later that year, we established another $32 billion transfer to the provinces through an equalization program. That was another $3 billion a year. That was $7 billion a year, starting in 2005 ending 2015, going to provinces in order to meet higher education and health care costs.

That is darn good and a heck of a lot more than any of the issues the Conservatives want to talk about on reduced services. Those were designed to improve them. Let those who did not improve them assume the responsibility.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to advise that I will be sharing my time today with my hon. colleague, the member for Nickel Belt.

Before commenting on the substance of the budget, I feel obliged to share the concerns of my constituents on the budget process. The government has lauded its broad consultation process. Perhaps the budget well represents the views of those invited to the table, however, not everyone was included. I was told by a number of my constituents, who I had encouraged to participate, that they were rebuffed, told that the consultation was by invitation only and the locations secret. That is hardly open, transparent and inclusive. Let us hope that improved opportunities will be available to consider the deregulatory agenda set forth in the budget.

Through its throne speech, the government promises Canada unparalleled economic advantage as a clean energy superpower and leader in green job creation. Disappointingly, its path to a purported clean energy future remains almost singularly fixated on subsidizing, fast-tracking and deregulating the fossil fuel sector. The government has embraced fast-tracking of regulatory reviews of major energy projects as its preferred route to investment opportunities for Canadians. So much for balancing environment with economy.

While references are made to clean energy technologies, the depth of commitment to a green energy economy may be best evidenced in the term the Conservatives use “continue to invest” in the favoured old fossil fuel sector.

The Conservative road map to environmental deregulation is certainly clear in the budget. Compared with hits to the environment in the last budget, this one portents yet deeper erosion of the federal role. Such reforms merit scrutiny of legally mandated legislative and regulatory review tables.

As signatory to the North American agreement on environmental cooperation, the government is duty bound to consult concerned Canadians in advance of any environmental policy reform. How many more regulatory cuts will be made behind closed doors?

In its last budget, the government rescinded federal duties for environmental assessment of infrastructure projects on navigable waters, an action defended as a recessionary measure. Balancing environment and economy was set aside. The action drew a storm of protest from Canadians.

Considering this year's budget, those changes may have been a trial balloon. This budget brings intensive streamlining, in other words cutting, of environmental programs under the guise of eliminating activity not part of a core role, increasing efficiency and eliminating unnecessary programs. Among departments targeted for streamlining, the Department of the Environment falls high on the list.

The budget also singles out environment as the one entity required to balance or recalibrate its legislated mandate to protect the environment with economic interests. A minister's legal mandate is thus revised by budget.

The minister defends this shift in environmental oversight of large energy projects as resolving duplication. What duplication? Based on the controversy and lawsuits surrounding the National Energy Board handling of environmental impacts and public rights in its review of the Alberta export power line, it is unlikely those communities will view these changes favourably. The communities of northern Alberta have equal concerns about devolving environmental duties to the environmental Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to review environmental impacts of new nuclear plants proposed for their backyard.

In the throne speech the government declared “Nowhere is a commitment to principled policy, backed by action, needed more than in addressing climate change”. What does the budget provide for action on climate change? Sadly, few tangible measures.

The government claims its actions to address climate change and promote green energy mirror those of the U.S. under the much touted U.S.-Canada clean energy dialogue.

Consider the actions of the two governments. Canada committed under the Copenhagen accord to contribute this fiscal year to the U.S. $100 billion fund for developing countries. The United States has committed $1 billion. Nowhere in the budget can one find Canada's fair contribution calculated at roughly $420 million.

The U.S. budget committed $56 million to implement the greenhouse gas regulations now being drafted. This budget shows no dollars to implement the long promised Canadian sector caps and emission trading regulations.

The U.S. department of energy budget declares commitment to creating jobs in a clean energy economy, investing in innovation and clean energy to put Americans back to work, save families' money and keep the U.S. competitive. It budgeted $26.7 billion new dollars this year alone for renewable efficiency, renewable power, transit and sustainable communities. Perhaps most significant, the U.S. budget cut close to $38 billion in perverse subsidies to oil, gas and the coal sector.

Last year the Conservative government budgeted a total of $2 billion over five years for its clean energy and green infrastructure funds. Almost half of those dollars have already been gifted to coal-fired power and oil companies to subsidize testing of one technology to address their rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Sadly, the government's recalibrated path to a clean energy future appears to be more about environmental deregulation and continued subsidies for fossil fuels. While support for the renewable fuels program for the forestry sector is welcomed, the lack of significant support for Canada's once burgeoning renewable power sector is a blow to our competitiveness. Additional action may be required to benefit the Alberta forestry sector whose efforts to market cogen power have been hampered by its inability to compete with the subsidized coal-fired power sector on the spot market.

We concur that what the Canadian energy sector needs and deserves is legal certainty. The government's answer is deregulation. Whose interests does this serve?

Only one-tenth of the fund, less than $150 million, is to be divided among renewable power projects. That is hardly a major boost to a promising new Canadian energy sector.

The popular home energy retrofit program has been extended by one year. Why not extend this program to small and medium businesses? Why not commit as Obama did to retrofit 75% of federal buildings by 2011 to save the federal coffers?

No clarity is provided on expediting the long promised regulations to address air pollution and smog.

For the Conservative government, recalibration for a clean environment means deregulation, yet industry and public alike have called for legal clarity. Why? The one proven tool to shift investment to cleaner technology and green energy production is regulation. That brings true legal certainty. Notice of imminent regulations signals investors that technologies are moving from testing to deployment. Competition kicks in for commercialization of the most practicable solution. That was confirmed by the myriad clean tech entrepreneurs I spoke with at the last oil sands technology summit. They are sitting on the sidelines waiting to sell their equipment.

The budget offers accelerated capital cost writeoffs for equipment. Without the regulatory drivers, there will be few buyers.

We can protect our energy and electricity markets. Strong regulatory action and targeted incentives could spur private investment in Canada's green energy sector and create jobs. Will our clean energy sector be left in the dust?

Last week's budget squanders millions of dollars on handouts for banks and oil companies, but does nothing for the real victims of the recession, nothing for seniors living in poverty and nothing for half a million hard-working Canadians set to exhaust their employment insurance benefits with no job to go to. There is little new investment in a green jobs economy.

New Democrats cannot support this budget as written. We look forward to support for our amendment to shelve the next year of corporate tax cuts and use the savings for better priorities, such as creating family-supporting jobs, helping the seniors who built our country and building a clean energy future.

We are calling for a budget that puts Canadian tax dollars to work for Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member obviously recognizes that there is a fiscal deficit, but there also is a social deficit with many dimensions.

The government continues to say that it will not be raising taxes, yet in the budget, over the five year budget cycle on which it is reporting, there is a $19 billion increase in EI premiums, payroll taxes. In the House the parliamentary secretary rose in his place and said that those were not taxes.

On top of that, effective January 1, 2011, just a few short months from now, there will be a 31.5% tax on income trusts. That is personal income taxation. That is a clear example of how the government has not been honest with Canadians about what is in the budget. I hope it will answer the question about how much revenue is included in this determination over the five years of a deficit down to $1.8 billion.

This comes down to a question of trust, and that is my question to the member. I do not believe the government can be trusted. I do not believe the Conservatives have been honest with Canadians. They certainly have not been honest with Parliament on this matter. Does the member have any other examples of why the government cannot be trusted?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, more critical is that we in this party share the concern that the party of the questioner is considering supporting in the budget which gives further billions in tax cuts to corporations rather than taking a portion of that money and assigning it to new investments in clean energy, in retrofitting seniors' and affordable housing to bring down their costs and in retrofitting small and medium businesses to bring down their costs.

I concur with the member that it is a tax to raise EI premiums. Many of the small and medium businesses in my riding that are keeping the economy going will suffer this blow. They are getting very few benefits out of the budget.

I would remind the member that he can make a critical decision on the budget by voting against the budget and against the further corporate tax cuts which could benefit Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceTHE BUDGETGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for an excellent presentation on the environmental issues that are key within the budget document and how they impact on our society and on the way we will do business in the future. It is quite clear that we cannot let this happen in the fashion that it is with the degradation of the environmental process.

Coming from a region of the country that I do where the sensitivity of the environment is so high, we cannot afford to see this kind of action take place.

I would like my colleague to elaborate more on how she sees the direction that the government is taking on the environment and how we need to stand up to that direction.