Madam Speaker, I want to speak to the elements of the budget that struck me the most.
This was the shortest budget in the last 50 years. If one had gone to the fridge for a snack and come back, one would have missed it. More noteworthy in this budget were its omissions rather than its promises.
It is a cynical budget. It is a budget that cut things that are popular and would be under the radar screen rather than what is really needed to move the economy forward and to build a strong social and economic infrastructure. It is a budget that pretended to cut taxes while surreptitiously increasing taxes in areas that are more likely to cancel out employment than to increase it.
It is a budget that stated that it had a massive stimulus package. Members know that this massive stimulus package only lasts for this one more year. That stimulus package is $19 billion to do more of what was done last year. Indeed, that stimulus package did create some jobs, but members know those jobs were short-term, temporary, did not pay a lot, and tended to be mostly in sectors that were not going to be sustainable in the 21st century.
Members also talked about this budget being a budget of austerity. That is a good thing, yes, but this budget is cutting program spending and decreasing the role of the federal government in the process. The federal government will have absolutely no relevance in the lives of Canadians, no ability to help Canadians create opportunities for themselves or to help them as things get worse. It is a government that says, “I am washing my hands of my ability to do anything for Canadians. You are going to have to fend for yourselves in the future”.
It is a budget that will leave many of Canada's vulnerable with absolutely nothing to fall back on. Here we see a government that is going to be cutting student subsidies, at a time when we need students to get the education, skills, and training they need to function in today's world of work.
The budget will cut farm subsidies when we are looking at a food shortage around the world and at Canada's ability to be self-sufficient in terms of creating its own safe food for its own people. Yet, the budget is doing that.
The minister said it is a budget that will cut taxes, but it is a budget without daring and innovation, and indeed takes no risks. In fact, the only risk that this budget took was to suggest that the government will eliminate the deficit in six years, and that is a big if. Under that position, it is indeed a very risk-taking budget in that it predicts something that many people are saying will not happen.
I want to speak about this budget being one that I would like to call a sleight of hand budget. In other words, the finance minister says he is going to do something, and then on the other hand he takes it away again, so that he neutralizes any good that might have come for the things he says he was going to do.
Here is a budget that says that it will not increase any new taxes. Yet, the increase in EI premiums, which is going to be 15¢ per $100 for employees and 21% per $100 for employers, is going to really harm the ability to create long-term jobs. Small-sized and medium-sized businesses are going to be hurt. Members know that those create 80% of the jobs in this country. Here is a budget that says it is cutting taxes, but it does not tell us that it is increasing the most significant taxes, which are the taxes that affect employment insurance premiums.
Members should remember that while Canada now has 550,000 people on our EI rolls, that is going to sunset very soon. They are going to be off EI. Of course, why should the federal government care? The provinces will take care of them with welfare, will they not? This is a really cynical budget from that perspective.
This budget says it is going to help business, but it took another hit at business. On the one hand its cut to tariffs will help some businesses and that is going to give businesses about $300 million of investment. The government did not extend the accelerated capital cost allowance, which we heard from businesses was probably the single most important thing that helped enable them to buy new equipment and invest in capital expenditure to expand their businesses. That is no longer going to be there.
On the one hand, this budget is saying that it is going to give business about $300 million to help with tariffs, thereby saving the government the tax hit it took of about $535 million by cancelling the accelerated capital gains tax. So members will see the sleight of hand again. The government is saying one thing and doing another.
Here is another example of some of that sleight of hand. What we need to look at in this budget is not what it says on the surface because it says all kinds of nice, innocuous things on the surface. The devil is in the details. We need to sit down and read about what is going to happen when thing A is done with the right hand and thing B with the left hand, cancelling each other out. Everyone thinks they are getting a deal, but when they look around, their pockets are being picked with the other hand.
Here is a budget that says it is going to increase research and development. It is important to increase research and development because if we are going to be productive and competitive in the 21st century world of work, we have to look at how we develop new technologies. We have to look at how we develop niche markets that will place Canada as a leader in certain sectors in terms of communications technology and biomedical technology. We were world leaders in genomics and nuclear medicine. None of these things are being invested in.
Instead, we are giving NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, $13 million. We are also giving the Canadian Institutes of Health Research $16 million. The budget is also giving the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council $3 million. However, given inflation and the fact that these groups are going to be frozen from now on, it is not giving them anything. It is just leaving them exactly where they were. So much for research and development investments.
There is nothing in this budget in terms of R and D for climate change. When we think about the fact that Canada is a leader in environmental technologies and can be the world leader in new energy, nothing has been done to look at the jobs for tomorrow. Nothing has been done to look at some kind of sustainable infrastructure for this country in terms of economic development.
When that stimulus money goes at the end of the year, all of those part-time jobs are going to be gone. Indeed, the government has extended job sharing, but no one is saying that job sharing got people full-time jobs to work half-time so that they are barely able to keep their head above water. Working part-time in very temporary jobs is not the way for people to continue to build and take care of their families.
This budget says a lot but does not do anything. It is going to give $25 million to the forestry industry. That is another interesting thing and it sounds good on the surface. However, the Liberals had given $100 million to British Columbia for research and development on the pine beetle and new ways of dealing with climate change with regard to the forestry sector. The government takes $100 million away and gives $25 million. That is money math, is it not? One does not have to be a mathematical wizard to know that one is getting $75 million less than one used to get in the past.
Listen to groups like the Canadian Association of Social Workers. I just spoke about the economic part of the budget. Let us look at the social part of the budget. We cannot build economic infrastructure and ignore our social infrastructure. As the Canadian Association of Social Workers has said that Canada's most vulnerable populations have been handed an empty envelope in this budget, and so they have.
There is nothing really in this budget to deal with the issue of poverty. With people working in part-time temporary jobs, we are going to have a whole lot of middle-income working class people shifting into dependency on welfare when the stimulus package ends at the end of the year. We are going to see small businesses closing down and people are going to be out of work. That is going to leave people trying to depend on EI when we do not have enough money in the coffers to properly support people who are out of work.
We have to look at the investments in human potential. Human potential is going to be the most important resource for Canada to succeed in this century. We have to build the best and brightest workforce. We have to invest in innovation and people. None of that is in this budget. There is nothing that is going to invest in human potential. Instead, we are giving students the boot by not giving them the subsidies.
There is no mention of arts and culture in this budget. There is no mention of health care and we all know that the higher the unemployment, the less number of people at work, the unhealthier they are, and the need for health care increases. None of these things are even mentioned. It is as if they do not exist in this budget.
This budget is passing the buck on to the provinces, who will then pass it on to the municipalities, all of the need for social infrastructure and services. What is going to happen to the municipalities? There is not a word about them in this budget. We see this budget as just handing off everything to others and not doing anything to help us in the long-term. It sounds nice, but it does not actually deliver.
There was actually one good thing in this budget. It talked about child safety and preventing children from injury. I am going to keep the government's feet to the fire on that because it has refused to do anything about—