Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Cape Breton—Canso for generously sharing his time with me. I want to just add to his speech.
One element of his speech that I found should be brought up in the House once again is the measure by which jobs are to be put into efficiency mode. In other words, they are being shifted around and moved to places when in fact it is a cloak and dagger way to eliminate positions within the most vulnerable communities. In my riding in Newfoundland and Labrador, I have 195 communities and in one of those larger communities, Gander, it is losing 30 positions or more. They are moving to an area of lower unemployment and the excuses that come out boggle the mind.
The advent of technology has put us in a place where people can do their job in certain areas and they do not have to be centred around a particular building or group of people. It is a remote way of connecting. I heard one of the other members from the government talking about the wonderful broadband Internet strategy. As I mentioned, I have 195 communities in my riding and 65 of them do not have access to broadband Internet. It is like a community that has no access to even get in there. It is not good for business, it is not good for all these credits that the Conservatives are promising, as my colleague points out, these boutique tax credits. It means very little if they set up in a place that does not have access to broadband Internet and certainly some of the basic resources.
I want to move on to some of the measures that are contained within this budget and some of the stuff we find is a promising gesture. However, the promising gesture does not come to fruition. It does not come to its logical conclusion to allow those in poverty to be brought out of poverty and I can think of many examples such as the tax credits regarding the family, the volunteer firefighters and others. Because these tax credits are non-refundable, the lowest end of the poverty scale does not benefit from them. That is unfortunate because, in a big way, that is what these tax credits are for. That is probably the largest part of the population that would benefit the most from this. It is rather disingenuous when they play with these numbers and they do not explore the stories that exist behind them.
When the Conservatives reduced the GST by two points several years ago, I remember how they bragged about saving money for so many impoverished people. However, the story we do not hear is that the real beneficiary of a two-point cut in the GST was a person buying a home valued over $300,000 or buying a car that is valued over $20,000 or $25,000. The person who goes day to day scraping by, trying to get enough money to pay an electricity bill was not the biggest beneficiary of a 2% cut to the GST. Look what that did to the treasury itself.
So in the estimation of the government, it might be tax cutting that benefits the most vulnerable but it is not. If the government wants to brag about the tax cutting measures that it has for protecting elements of society like the upper class, the upper middle class or businesses, then it should say so.
My biggest problem with the particular government is not so much the thrust of its policy as it is the salesmanship behind it. In regard to something that was announced several months ago but now has been re-announced, but that is a whole other issue, the government will say that it will offer this brand new tax credit for small business that is taxed itself. The other issue is that, come January, there will be that increase or, so as not to offend the treasury, a modest increase in the EI premiums. It is a typical example of “I will give you this and while you aren't looking I'll take from here”. It shows up in the copyright legislation that we are about to debate but I will leave that for another day.
It is unfortunate because we are now in the middle of time allotment because the Conservatives have cut down on the debate in this House.
Let us face it, we are paid fairly well to be in the House, yet we cannot have this conversation. We cannot have this discussion among ourselves from all different regions of this country to find out what these measures will mean.
The median income in my riding is among the lowest in the country. It is not the lowest, but it is pretty close. Therefore, the message from people in my particular area would be that they do not benefit from this particular tax credit. Would it not be advantageous to have a refundable tax credit, so that someone who is on a lower income would get the benefit by way of a refund?
It would not be income tested. It would not be not based on an individual's particular income. This cuts across a wide array of these boutique tax credits, as my hon. colleague from Cape Breton points out, and quite rightly.
I do find that some of the matters that are not being discussed here are of great importance. Now that we have a majority government in place for the next four or five years, it is an opportunity for us to have a good, long discussion that is broad in scope on pension security.
Pension security will be one of those issues that will come back to haunt us several years down the road, and somebody will look back at us and say that at this particular moment, we did not really discuss what was most important. That is unfortunate.
I am not wholeheartedly against corporate tax cuts. I do believe, in many instances, that they do exactly what the government says. I do not think they are altruistic. I am not one of those people who blindly believes that any corporate tax credit will go directly toward creating new jobs. Corporations have shareholders; they want their returns, and they want a nice return. A lot of their shareholders include many of our seniors and the like, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, let us not expect a corporate tax credit to dig us out of levels of poverty at a time when we cannot really afford it.
I look at corporate tax credits and then I look at millions of dollars put into the F-35 jets. I am not one to turn down more resources for the Canadian military, but what about search and rescue? Where does that line up? It is a priority issue that we debate in the House, and unfortunately, every time we try to debate it, the debate gets shortened.
There are some good, concrete measures within the budget and within other pieces of legislation. There, I admit it.
Some are way too modest to make a difference. The CLC credited the government by saying it was a modest increase in the guaranteed income supplement for our most vulnerable seniors. Of course it is a modest one. It could have been doubled. Numbers from many think tanks and many corners of this country say that if we had doubled that amount of money, from a $300 million to a $700 million investment, it could have brought many more people above that poverty line.
Let us bear in mind that a lot of people in my area depend on the government for their sole source of income: a combination of CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. These are people who have larger homes, and that is the only income they have. Winter is coming, and, as we all know, oil is not particularly cheap these days, and has not been for the past five to 10 years.
I would look at this debate as a way of saying yes to this and more of that. Instead of a vote of no, it is a question of saying that the government can do a lot better. The people demand of not only the government but of us as individual MPs that we reflect the opinions of our ridings that it can be done better.