Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on behalf of the constituents of Vancouver Kingsway and to offer their feedback and views on Bill C-9, the budget presented by the Conservative government.
Prior to the budget being presented in the House, I spent several months meeting with my constituents in my office and in my community in every kind of context one can imagine. I visited owners of small businesses. I went to community centres. I went door-knocking from house to house. I visited my constituents on the streets, in the markets, in the businesses and in the cultural and recreational venues of Vancouver Kingsway.
I asked them about their lives. I asked them about the federal government and about the priorities they would like to see presented in the budget. This is a particularly cogent question. As we all know, over December, January and February of 2009 and 2010, many people, including the people of Vancouver Kingsway, had to deal with a challenging economic environment. Many people, from children to seniors to working men and women, to single mothers to owners of small businesses have been struggling.
These are the priorities that my constituents overwhelmingly and repeatedly mentioned they would like to see in this budget.
They wanted to see a budget that focused on creating jobs and not just jobs as a number on a page, but good, well-paying jobs upon which someone could raise a family. They wanted to see the federal government get back into developing affordable housing in the country. They wanted to see the provision of federal funds to create a national, universal, affordable and accessible child care system.
My constituents told me they wanted to see the federal government increase its transfers to the provinces in every aspect of education, from preschool to elementary and secondary public education to universities, trade schools and community colleges of every type. They told me they wanted to see the federal government increase spending on public transit. They wanted to see the government make a clear stand, both in policy terms and in financial backup to protect our environment.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway told me they wanted to see help for seniors, whether that was providing medical, dental and transportation support. They wanted to ensure that every senior in British Columbia and across Canada could have a decent, comfortable, safe and secure place to live.
They told me they wanted to support for small businesses. They told me they wanted to see fair taxation returned to the country. On that score, the people of Vancouver Kingsway, unlike the people on the other side of the House, believe in government and believe that if we pool our resources together, we can collectively build the kind of country that will provide strong public services for every person from coast to coast to coast.
Last, the people of Vancouver Kingsway wanted to see action taken on pensions. As the baby boomers age, as the demographics in the country move us closer to retirement in ever-increasing numbers, people across Canada, including those in Vancouver Kingsway, are starting to be concerned that they will not have enough money to live decent and dignified lives when they retire at the age of 60, 65 or 70.
I submitted these submissions to the Minister of Finance and I submitted them well in advance of the budget. I am also proud to say that I submitted a number of specific requests that also emanated from direct requests from the people of Vancouver Kingsway.
They wanted us to build a mid-sized performing arts theatre in Vancouver Kingsway. They wanted to see federal help to build a Filipino cultural centre and a Vietnamese cultural centre. They wanted to see investments in affordable housing at the Little Mountain site and at the RCMP headquarters site, which will soon be vacated. They wanted to see senior stand-alone housing, public housing projects and affordable renting housing developments backstopped by the federal government.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway wanted to see the federal government make a clear stand for the children and youth of our communities and the recreational needs of our citizens by helping contribute funds to the Mount Pleasant outdoor pool, to help fund the programs and capital requirements of Cedar Cottage, Little Mountain and Collingwood Neighbourhood House
They wanted the federal government to help make sure that our community centres, such as Renfrew Park, Douglas Park, Trout Lake and Riley Park, have adequate space and enough funding for their programs.
They wanted to see increased services for new Canadians, the funding of more language training programs and more settlement and counselling services which are critically important to ensure that new Canadians can get settled and prosper in their new country of choice.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway specifically wanted to see more investment in community crime prevention programs and increased community policing in the riding. They wanted very practical environmental solutions right in the riding, things like bicycle paths and greenways in Vancouver Kingsway. They wanted to see increased tax credits and government grants to encourage the green retrofitting of residential and commercial buildings. They wanted to see the federal government lead the way in encouraging urban food production by investing in community gardens and other community food safety and security programs.
Most importantly, the people of Vancouver Kingsway wanted to see investments in our children. They wanted to see federal contributions to help us seismically upgrade our elementary and secondary schools. As we all know, Vancouver is in a seismically active area, and schools are the first places that people will go to in the case of an earthquake. We have seen earthquakes devastate so many countries in the world. I can say that the schools in Vancouver Kingsway and Vancouver are seismically unsafe.
They wanted to see capital and operating funds for elementary and secondary schools in Vancouver Kingsway, and operating funds for new and existing child care providers, because nothing is more important to the people of this country than their children.
Last, as I said, they wanted to invest in public transit to increase service levels on overcrowded bus routes, expand rapid transit in Vancouver and keep transit fares affordable.
This is what the people of my riding told me they wanted to see. But what did they see? Did they see the Conservative government deliver those priorities? Absolutely not.
We see very little new in this budget. It shows a government that has no clear vision for the economy. Even worse, it is repeating the failed policies of the past instead, policies that are based on the flawed assumption that increasing corporate tax cuts and deregulation are the way to fuel the economy of the future.
We see a budget that provided a missed opportunity to create jobs, help the vulnerable and contribute to building the strong kind of economy that will be needed in the years ahead. The truth is that none of the priorities expressed by the people of Vancouver Kingsway are reflected in the budget.
I heard it expressed recently that a budget represents the soul of the government. When we read the budget's priorities, we can see deeply into the very soul of the people who make up the government. We can tell what they think is important. In this respect we have a very clear picture of the type of soul on that side of the House, which is one that favours corporations, ignores the vulnerable and needy and does not fundamentally believe in building a strong, public system and delivery of services to all Canadians.
The budget should have included a national industrial strategy that focuses on investing in green jobs and the green economy. We would have liked to see a budget that provided high-paying jobs that are based on fostering innovation in green technology and green energy and, at the same time, adopting provisions that save families money on energy costs and that make sure that we have clean air, clean water and protect the environment for future generations.
We wanted to see a budget that was an opportunity to deliver on child care. Canadians need help getting back to work. Nothing is more important to them than their children, so what better way to invest and support working families than by making sure that when they drop their children off in the morning, they are in safe, secure, stimulating environments. Having a lack of child care disproportionately impacts women and low income families of all types. It is time we had a national child care program. Canadian families are waiting.
The budget was an opportunity to launch an affordable housing strategy. In Vancouver, housing is incredibly unaffordable, and the lack of affordable housing is a huge issue for many families. Too many Canadians have no adequate housing at all. Shamefully, in this country there are many people who are homeless.
Many people who are struggling to maintain housing, would like to purchase housing, or rent clean and affordable housing cannot do so. It is time that we had a federal government that came back into the housing file instead of leaving it to the provinces and cities. Without federal government participation we simply cannot provide acceptable affordable housing for everyone.
My colleague from Vancouver East has Bill C-304 before the House right now and it is time that we all got together and supported it.
I could go on, but I will conclude by saying that the budget needs to be rejected by members in the House. We need to replace it with a budget that works for everyday Canadians based on the priorities that have been identified by my constituents.