Mr. Speaker, I was just catching up on my reading of the Speech from the Throne and the budget just to make sure that my comments will be accurate and statistically correct.
The Conservatives call Bill C-9 the jobs and economic growth act. As my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood said earlier, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and others are what we call the Scarborough team. We have been exchanging our views about what we have been hearing from our constituents and what happened at the forum the other day. At the University of Toronto Scarborough campus we hosted a meeting with respect to Canada at 150 to get input from all Canadians. Not to get off track, but the session I hosted had to do with health care. As I have said in previous presentations, health care seems always to be the number one concern for Canadians, and so it was again.
Getting back to the jobs and economic growth act, the Conservatives could have given the bill a different title. One could ask what jobs and economic growth we are talking about. What in the world is the government referring to? All people have to do is listen to the news and commentaries, read the statistics, see the types of jobs being created, see why we are losing jobs and why we are not being competitive for the jobs of the future and the will understand why I am being a little, one might say, cynical about the bill's title.
There is no real job growth. There is no real economic growth. The government pulled up a statistic. All one has to do is tune in to the news to hear the sentiments of Canadians. They do not see anything. They are not confident for today or for the future. They do not see any positive impact on their lives. I will point out why they feel that way.
Canadians are not optimistic for the future and our overall economy because they have no confidence not just in what is happening but they have no confidence in the Prime Minister and, as a result, no confidence in the government. When people are asked why, they say it is simply because there is no trust. They say that the government says one thing and does the other.
For example, the government talks about investing in the jobs of the future and the green economy. In reality, it has not invested in the jobs of the future. If anything, it has cut back on the jobs of the future.
Researchers have asked over and over again for support. I have data here and I want to be accurate. They have asked for support and unfortunately, the support is not there.
The government talks about creating jobs. The Minister of Finance has said in the past that EI premiums, or EI taxes, as they are often referred to, are increasing and are an impediment to creating jobs. We agree with him wholeheartedly. Employers have told us repeatedly to lower the rates and they will invest in creating jobs, retooling, modernizing, new equipment, et cetera.
Unfortunately, in the budget the government will be increasing EI premiums to the tune of almost $13 billion. That is almost a 35% tax hike. That is going to cost the average individual almost $900. At the same time, it is going to have a negative impact on companies, to the tune of anywhere between $9,000 to $10,000 per employee. That is a lot of money. That is not reducing taxes.
There is a graph in the budget on page 52, above which the government states, “Freeze in EI premium rate leaves money in the hands of employers and employees”. The columns in this graph start at the year 2000 and level off in years 2006 and 2007, which is when the Conservative government took over. During that period employment insurance premiums were being reduced year in and year out. When the Conservative government came into office, it simply did not decrease them, it left them as they were.
All of a sudden, as I pointed out earlier, the Conservatives plan a 35% hike in employment insurance premiums which, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, is going to cost 200,000 jobs. Yes, there were some jobs created and no one is disputing that, even though they were not high quality jobs, but a job is a job. But this tax increase is going to cost jobs because employers are going to hesitate, if anything refrain, from hiring people. That graph points that out exactly.
When the government stands and says that we have not done anything, its own graphs, and the proof is in the pudding as they say, indicate how a Liberal government between 1993 and 2006 was continuously reducing EI premiums. The GST reduction which the Conservatives provided to Canadians, they are now taking back in another manner.
There is another graph on page 86. I am pointing this out to prove to Canadians the discrepancy in the Conservatives' figures. The Conservatives say that Canada invests more directly in public R and D than does any other G7 country. That is a wonderful statement, but this is old data. They say this data is from 2007 which is the latest year for which data are available for the G7 countries. That is data from the Liberal administration. We would like to see the Conservatives' current data, which in essence shows a decline.
The graph clearly shows that up to 2007, and 2006 and 2005 were the latest years where this data was accumulated, Canada was leading countries such as Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United States. Thank God that was under a Liberal administration. That is why at that time we were able to not just invest in the new knowledge-based economy, but to retain our best and brightest and to attract others.
At that time I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of industry, Brian Tobin. We were at York University providing funding for research chairs. I remember a young couple. The husband had been offered a job in Germany. His wife was a researcher. She made an about-face. She decided to stay in Canada. When I asked her why she said that Canada was indeed investing properly and it was worth her time to stay. Not only did we retain our best and brightest, but we offered opportunities for the jobs of the future.
I encourage Canadians to pick up the budget book, look at page 86 and they will see exactly what I am talking about.
With respect to the new economy, I am very concerned. There are certain technologies in Canada in which we pride ourselves. The news about AECL in the last couple of days really concerns me. I happened to see an advertisement for the movie on the Avro Arrow technology. It reminded me that it was a Conservative government that sold out that Canadian technology and now another Conservative government is about to sell out a unique industry, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, where we provide the Candu technology which is not only well recognized, but well respected for its security.
The concern is that the government is moving forward through the budget to allow foreign companies to come in, maybe to buy AECL outright, maybe to buy a share. However, the moment that occurs, the government will have no say. It will have no oversight of what happens. What am I driving at?
This is what the Conservatives did with the income trusts situation because everything ties together. At the time, there were rules that Canadian companies could borrow money, like other foreign companies, and invest. There was an interest deductibilty factor built into this equation. By reneging on the promise that they were not going to touch income trusts, it took that equal playing field for all companies and removed the ability for Canadian companies to compete on equal footing, simply because they could no longer use the income deductibility factor when they chose to acquire, purchase or expand. In other words, Canadian companies are at a disadvantage today.
That means, to simplify it for everybody, that company A from country B could come in, borrow money, buy ACL and write off the interest of the moneys it borrowed, but a Canadian company cannot do this. That is a great disadvantage to Canadian companies.
I am bringing it up again only so that the government, if it believes in what it says about making Canadian companies competitive, would change that. I hope it thinks about that very seriously.
We talk about taxes. There are so many hidden taxes, it is unbelievable. Let me talk about the air travel security tax. Nobody talks about it.
The reason I am bringing these up one at a time is because if somebody had the opportunity to read a publication from the Canadian Press today, it says that the government is doing this in a sneaky way, “by sneaking in new rules in budget legislation”. It is the word “sneaking” that this budget is all about, because all of a sudden, as we go to another paragraph or turn another page, we see something in there to our surprise. Of course, we cannot analyze the budget in one day, but every day that goes by, every paragraph that we read, every segment we get into, all of a sudden there is another surprise.
There is going to be an increase of billions of dollars by taxing people who are travelling. Why? Is it for new scanners? I recall years ago, we invested billions of dollars to buy new scanning equipment for our airports. Has something occurred to say that those scanners no longer work? I will let Canadians judge that for themselves. It is the word “sneaking” that is upsetting to me. It clearly points out exactly what is going on here.
My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood earlier today referred to the Fraser Institute and its comment. I would like to repeat that as well:
The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute concludes that the turnaround in the economy had nothing to do with stimulus.
The Conservatives stand up and use coated words such as “we have allocated”, “we have committed”, “we will assign”, but when we go out there and ask if the money has actually been delivered, the answer is no. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities complained as well, “They promised us”.
It reminds me of the commercial on television with the two young kids, and the gentleman comes in and gives one child a cardboard pony but gives the other one a real pony, because, as he says, “You did not ask”. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is asking. It wants its infrastructure fixed. It is a source of revenue for this country and it deserves its share of the pie.
I have a comment on revenue, if I may, because it is my understanding, and we all know, that the banks are talking about increasing their mortgage rates. I just want to take this opportunity because they are part of this budget as well.
Right now everybody is trying to do whatever they can to get the economy rolling, to get confidence into the nation. I say to the banks, directly, that it is wrong at this time to increase rates, when young men and women are trying to get a roof over their heads, trying to buy their first condominium, or whatever they are trying to invest in. What the banks are saying here is:
The increase does not stem directly from moves by the Bank of Canada, but rather anticipated central bank rate hikes.
I have talked to many of my constituents, and I say, “Shame on the banks” if they decide to increase their rates prematurely and without any justifiable cause.
I want to speak a little bit about health care, if I may, because that is very important. In this budget, once again, there is zero for health care. Taking us back, in the 2004-05 budget there was an committed allocation of $56 billion for health care. That was as a result of the recommendations from the Romanow report. That was a 10-year commitment by the federal government to the provinces.
Now the provinces are saying, because 2014 is the due date, they want to commence a dialogue. They want to get the discussions going, get around a table, and see where we are going post-2014.
The federal government is refusing to sit around the table. When asked what has been done with health, the response is that it will continue the funding. What funding is that? The funding was Liberal funding under the Paul Martin government. That was Liberal funding as a result of the Romanow report. We all know about that report.
I am very concerned. We are now seeing a little bit more about what the health issue in the United States is all about. It has everything to do with insurance and nothing to do with the delivery of health services. Today, we are seeing advertisements on television that say “Purchase health insurance”. I am concerned for the future and where this is taking us.
The Prime Minister is on record, and I have quoted him in the past but to save time I am not going to pull up the quote, stating, with no ambiguity, that he supports private health care. The Minister of Immigration has stated very clearly that he supports private health care.
No wonder my constituent, Mr. Frandsen, who came to my office, said, and I have used this quote in the past, “If [the Prime Minister] can behave and do what he is doing while having a minority government, can you imagine what he will do if he had a majority?”
It is scary. Health care is something that separates us as Canadians from the rest of the world. I think we have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure it is something we maintain. In order to do that, we need to have a country positioned properly with its finances.
In order for us to understand where we are today and where we are going to be tomorrow, I want to take just a few moments to take us all back to 1993 when Canada was an unofficially bankrupt country with high unemployment, high debts and deficits, and we were paying tremendous amounts, billions of dollars, in interest on our debt.
We turned that around with the help and co-operation of Canadians. Then we delivered seven or eight consecutive balanced budgets and surpluses, such as our country had never experienced before. The last surplus we left the government was $13.2 billion.
As a result of the Liberals bringing down the debt continuously, our debt to GDP ratio kept going down. We were saving an average of $3 billion a year, which we were putting back into programs that Canadians asked us to support, whether it was housing, environment, infrastructure, urban transit, health or whatever it was. According to the input we were receiving, we were providing that support.
On one of the government's graphs, it talks about the accumulated federal debt. Yes, it is showing us a graph of the debt to GDP ratio that in 2008-09 had dipped downwards. It did dip downwards, and yet again it is going up. Then we have the debt, and I will admit it was reduced by some $30-some odd billion. The Liberals reduced it by $60-some odd billion. Then all of sudden, by 2014, from $460 billion it is going to $622 billion. That is a $130-some odd billion debt.
Never mind saving the $3 billion we were saving. We are going to be paying much more. We are not getting anywhere. If anything, we are going downhill.
I would be glad to answer any questions. In this short period of time, it is difficult to get into a lot, but in closing one thing I am concerned about is the recreational infrastructure program that has been very kind in supporting various community centres. I support it myself.
I come from the Greek community of Toronto, and it has asked for funding for the first Greek cultural community centre. I believe the government is treating it in a biased and discriminatory way. It has turned its back on the Greek community and I will ensure that my community knows this.