House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a passion for Canada's health care system and in looking over the budget I would ask my New Democratic colleague this question.

When we think of our national health care system and the role the federal government should play, I would like to recite a questionnaire that I sent out to my constituents to which we just started receiving some feedback. The questionnaire asks “Which level of government do you believe has the primary responsibility to protect and guarantee health care services? Circle one. National government versus provincial government”.

To date, it is virtually two to one saying that the national government should be playing a leading role in this area.

Does the member feel, or would he agree with me that the budget provides very little hope in terms of any sort of national standards or any sort of commitment toward having and improving Canada's national health care system? Does he see any hope whatsoever in this particular budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the biggest hope for Manitobans and for the Canadian health care system is to elect Rebecca Blaikie on May 2. That is the best way because it is indeed the NDP that brought forward the very notion of universal free public medical care. She is going to fight for that, but she also understands that in our federal system we have to work together. The next Parliament will be responsible for renegotiating in 2014 the deal that has held the federal government and the provinces together.

What a shame last year when the Quebec government floated the idea of user fees. The first person out of the starting blocks to back that notion was the leader of the Liberal Party. He had to back down when his own caucus went against him. I am saying right now that the best thing that is going to happen for health care in Manitoba and in the rest of Canada is to have a woman like Rebecca Blaikie there, standing up and fighting for free universal public medical care in Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Outremont, who was also once a member of the National Assembly, as was the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and the minister from Pontiac. Yesterday, the member for Pontiac said with regard to harmonization and the compensation Quebec is seeking that neither he, who was a member of the Liberal government, nor I, who was a member of a PQ government, had ever requested compensation for harmonizing the GST.

What does the hon. member for Outremont think about the comments by the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, both of us have known the hon. member for Pontiac for a long time. This is the first time I have ever heard him say something that is so far from the truth. I have the right to say that.

I was there in the National Assembly. I saw Bernard Landry, the then finance minister, go up the wall. That happened to him now and then, but that time it was truly justified. On the eve of a federal election, new rules had been concocted to buy votes in the maritime provinces. Nearly $1 billion was paid for harmonizing the GST. Quebec has been asking for compensation ever since. I was there at the time and it is not true to say we did not request it.

I was behind the door here yesterday when I heard the Prime Minister say we did not look at the budget. There is a fine article in today's Toronto Star that explains that this is also absolutely not true. We took the time to analyze the budget. Just because we are against it, that does not mean we did not read it. It is because we read it that we are against it.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba


Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Burlington.

I am proud to stand here today in support of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan and all of its positive measures for job creation, families, seniors and so much more. However, I am also very disappointed.

I am disappointed because, while our Conservative government presented a plan that was balanced, that listened to the real needs of Canadians and actually included items the opposition members claimed were important to them, they had other ideas. They did not want Parliament to work. They did not want to focus on the real priorities of Canadians. They did not want to work together to support the economy, no matter what they have said here today. They did not want to work together to support job growth for Canadians.

We found out what the opposition members really wanted two days ago when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois united yet again as a coalition. Only moments after the budget was released, they announced they would recklessly force Canada into an unnecessary election, Canada's fourth election in seven years. Only thinking about their own political self-interest, the coalition members selfishly made a clear choice just the other day, to place their own political ambitions ahead of Canada's economy and Canadians' financial security.

Let me be clear. Our Conservative government, like the vast majority of Canadians, does not want an election. We need to focus on the economy, especially the fragile state of the global recovery and uncertainty caused by recent world events. We need to focus on helping protect and create jobs. We need to focus on helping families and seniors. That is what Canadians want.

This is what we heard from Canadians during our extensive prebudget consultations. Notwithstanding what the coalition members have said, there is still time for them to stand up and put Canadians' interests ahead of their own political ambitions and opportunism. Today I am going to strongly encourage the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois members, who are all in a coalition, to do precisely that.

I encourage them to work together in Parliament with our Conservative government to implement the positive measures in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to support hard-working Canadians. Let us work together to provide strong initiatives to support job creation and continued economic growth. Let us work together to provide new supports for families and seniors from coast to coast to coast. Let us work together with our low tax plan for jobs and growth.

In my time remaining today, I would like to outline key elements of our plan that would support job creation and those that will help families, seniors and our communities. I would also like to outline what Canadians are saying about it. First, I would like to mention a few ways we are supporting job creation. We are providing a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring by this important sector.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business applauds this new credit and our plan, praising it by saying it “recognizes the major contributions of small business to job creation and economic growth...while finding important, low-cost ways to help small firms grow the economy”.

We are supporting the important manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in eligible machinery and equipment for two years. Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters cheered this item as it would give:

--manufacturers the confidence to invest in their future by boosting purchases of productivity-enhancing technologies... We need these investments to compete with the rest of the world, drive innovation, improve productivity, and offer the high-paying jobs that will in turn sustain the public services and living standards that Canadians enjoy.

We are also legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities welcomed this commitment as “essential to reducing Canada´s infrastructure deficit and securing a high quality of life for Canadians”.

Second, I would like to outline a few measures that would better support families, seniors and communities. We are taking a major step to help Canada's low-income seniors by enhancing the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, for seniors who are most in need. This important measure would provide a new top-up benefit of up to $600 per year for single seniors and $840 per year for couples. This vital measure represents a major investment of more than $300 million per year and will improve the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.

Even the Canadian Labour Congress, not a traditional supporter of our government, commented on this measure. I would ask the NDP to listen to this quote very closely. These are the words of one of Canada's largest labour unions. It called our measure for seniors “a win for every senior living in poverty in Canada”.

It added:

Well I'd say to [the NDP leader] there's enough in this budget that we want to look at it seriously in the labour movement. We would think that that would be, if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer.

According to the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec, with this budget the government is taking a step in the right direction, especially by improving the guaranteed income supplement.

We are also helping attract more health care workers to under-served rural and remote communities by forgiving up to $40,000 of the federal component of Canada's student loans for new family physicians and up to $20,000 for nurse practitioners and nurses.

We have already heard applause from across Canada for this measure. Indeed, here is what Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said, “Helping to pay off loans for the federal portion for those loans, that's very positive. Doctors in rural Saskatchewan is a huge issue...Help from the feds is a welcome thing”.

We also introduced a new $2,000 family caregiver tax credit that would provide tax relief to caregivers of infirm, dependent relatives, including, for the very first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children. The Canadian Caregiver Coalition gave high praise for this measure, remarking:

On behalf of the millions of family caregivers across the country, the Canadian Caregiver Coalition applauds the Federal Budget. The measures announced in the budget are an important acknowledgement of the vital role of family caregivers.

We are also introducing a $3,000 volunteer firefighters tax credit amount for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service in their communities. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs gave high marks to the tax credit, declaring it:

--a crucial measure to ensure the retention and recruitment of volunteer firefighters, which will help keep Canadian communities safe.

We are also extending the eco-energy retrofit-homes program that would help families make their homes energy efficient and reduce the burden of high energy costs. The Canadian Home Builders' Association has applauded this decision, stating the plan:

--did the right thing to maintain momentum among homeowners for improving the energy performance of their homes. This initiative...reduces energy bills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

These are only a few of the many measures that would support job creation, help families, help seniors, and help our communities. These are measures Liberal, Bloc and NDP MPs would be turning their backs on if they vote against the budget in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

The opposition coalition faces a choice between opportunism or working together to secure our recovery and strengthen the financial security of Canadians.

We invite the opposition to reject a needless and unnecessary election and, instead, support Canadians and Canada's economy with our low tax plan for jobs and growth.

I implore all of the members of the other three parties to take this into consideration. This is no time for an election. This is a time to look at our fiscal outlook, to look at the needs of Canadians who have spoken loudly through consultations for months and months to prepare this budget. This is no time for an election.

I implore all members of this House to seriously consider the ramifications of the $300 million to $400 million election at a time when Canada is recovering. This is a good budget. In fact, Canadians have applauded it.

I would ask all members from the opposition parties to, again, put aside their aspirations to govern as a coalition and please take Canadians' interests to heart and vote in favour of this very good budget for Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member has one part of the speech right; that is, that parties should work together.

However, the Conservative government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to provide the finance committee, a committee that she and I both serve on, with the information that we needed to do our jobs and, in fact, to take that information off the table, so that Canadians could not assess the various pieces of legislation that were proposed in certain activities. The member is well aware of that.

This is a matter of trust; it is a matter of integrity. The government has been found to be in contempt of Parliament and there will be a vote on that, certainly, and that will happen before the budget vote.

This is a matter of trust. The government cannot be trusted to provide the information, or to provide it accurately when it does, as testified before a number of committees by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague and I do work together on the finance committee, but Canadians need to understand how those committees work. Six opposition members sit on a committee; five members of the government sit on a committee. The opposition members have voted together on a number of initiatives. They could ask the tooth fairy to produce audit reports, and as a coalition, their six combined votes against our five votes could hold the tooth fairy in contempt if they so choose.

The fact remains that the documents were provided. The opposition members had a different plan. The plan was to embarrass the government, but we are not embarrassed. We will stand up for Canadians. We will support the people who have put us in power and we will do that with tremendous pride.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of questions for my colleague. I listened intently to her speech. She talked about the eco-energy retrofit program. However, people told me that what was in the budget does not give them enough time to get what they need in order to do the renovations to their homes. One year is just not enough.

The problem here is that organizations such as CanSpec say that it cannot even do the inspections on the eco-energy retrofit program that is about to expire in March. People are being left alone with no answer as to whether or not the government will delay the March 31 deadline, so they can get their inspection done because they cannot get the inspection done.

Given that the forestry sector is the largest industry in Canada and that thousands of jobs have been lost in that sector, it is unbelievable that the government turned its back on that sector and ignored the forestry industry's request for $1 billion. A total of $60 million is not enough. There have been massive job losses. In Ontario, 1,000 jobs are lost a month.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, let me read a quote from the Forest Products Association of Canada which negates everything the NDP member said in her speech:

[It] welcomed the forest industry measures contained in today’s federal budget which support the industry and the 240,000 Canadians it directly employs. The measures provided in today’s Budget recognize the significant opportunity before the industry to expand its markets and products beyond lumber, pulp and paper. These measures will promote strategic investments that will support the industry as it emerges from the recent economic downturn.

That is a quote from the Forest Products Association of Canada, so she is incorrect.

With regard to all of the measures that we have put in place for the eco-energy retrofit-homes program, if members opposite do not pass the budget, she is right, there will be delays. This is an important measure that we must see through. We have provided a number of measures to help people have energy efficiency in their homes. Yet, the NDP voted against every single one of them, including the GST reduction.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for sharing her time. She is new to the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and is doing an excellent job in leading our committee. I want to thank her for her efforts.

Today, I have 10 minutes to talk about everything that is in our low tax plan, this budget that the Minister of Finance has brought forward. I want to focus on a number of things that affect Burlington in particular. If I wanted to go through all the good things for Canadians that are in this budget, it would take me about two hours instead of 10 minutes.

I am going to focus on things that are for Burlington. I hope my NDP friends listen because this is some of the stuff that they actually asked for and are now going to an election. I think they hoodwinked the Liberal Party into thinking that the NDP was going to support the budget, so they could say anything they wanted. But all of a sudden, no, they are not. Now the Liberals are caught with egg on their face, now that we are facing an election.

Let us get back to what is important to Burlington in the budget. First and foremost, the majority of the calls, emails and visits to my office are from seniors, by far the greatest number are from seniors about the issues facing seniors in my riding of Burlington.

I have advocated for a number of things for seniors over the years with the finance minister and with other departments. I am very happy to see what we are doing for the poorest seniors in this country. In the past we have looked at seniors issues, and with pension splitting we have been able to resolve some issues. It is a big benefit to the seniors of Burlington.

In this budget we are enhancing the money that is going into GIS. GIS, for those who do not know, is the guaranteed income supplement. That supplement is for those who have the lowest income levels in Canada. This change that we are making today will affect 680,000 seniors across this country, including many seniors in my riding. It is $600 annually for an individual or $840 for a couple, which will make a significant difference in the income levels for those seniors.

I did a study when I first got into office, five years ago, on what a senior's income actually is. At that time it was just over $18,000 a year for Burlington seniors. It has gone up. Our party has done things for seniors, in terms of deductions and so on. We have been able to address this.

This is a significant change that we are making, that is targeted—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask hon. members on both sides of the House to wait until they are recognized to speak. I will not be recognizing, for questions and comments, those who continue to heckle.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we have made some significant improvements in that area.

Another area in the budget that I want to highlight, which has not been well-talked about but will be over the next 36 to 45 days, or however long the election campaign will be, is the investment of $10 million in the new horizons program. I will give an example of what the new horizons program has done for Burlington.

We have a seniors centre in Burlington that provides a breakfast program to shut-in seniors once a month. Through the new horizons program, we were able to put a new kitchen in that seniors centre. This program provides support for groups that are doing good work for seniors in our communities every day. I am honoured that the finance minister saw that the new horizons program does deliver and that we will continue to deliver by adding $10 million over a two-year period to this program.

I advocated for a couple of things in the budget for families. They are a little different than what I was asking for but they do attack the problems that I have been talking about.

My wife works for Easter Seals, which is a charity in Ontario that raises money for disabled children. I actually used to work there myself a few decades ago. This budget would eliminate the $10,000 cap on the medical expense tax credit. If one is disabled, there is no limit on the amount one can spend and receive for a tax credit. However, if one is caring for someone else, in this case a child, there is a $10,000 limit on what one can spend each year and receive as a tax credit. This budget would eliminate that $10,000 cap.

From my own experience, as well as my wife's experience, the costs and difficulties that parents face every day while caring for a disabled child is a tremendous burden to begin with, but one that the parents who I know take on willingly. They are willing to spend what they can to ensure their disabled children are comfortable, productive and enjoy life as much as possible. However, that costs money. We are removing that cap on the capital expense through the medical expense tax credit that is in existence now. I am proud of that move.

I also advocated introducing a new caregiver tax credit. As we all know, our population is aging. I have two 93-year-old grandmothers still with us and I have known four great-grandparents. In the case of both grandmothers, one lives with my parents and the other lives with my uncle and aunt, so they are caregivers to those individuals. There are caregivers in every single community. What we are doing for those 500,000 caregivers is providing a tax credit to recognize the work they are doing to look after either their spouses, grandparents, parents, children or their common-law spouses. We are recognizing the value and the efforts those people put forward to ensure a good quality of life for those individuals who need help and are given care at home.

The other area I want to mention, which may not have been discussed in great detail yet, is that we are offering a forgiveness of loans to those young doctors and nurses who are graduating from medical school if they choose to practice in rural or remote areas.

Some might ask why that would be important to someone from Burlington, which is an urban area. I actually grew up in a small town in Ontario of approximately 5,000 people. I can say that over the last number of years members of my family have struggled to find a doctor after their doctor retired. It has been very difficult for that community to attract doctors and nurses to come and practice there. This money will give a new doctor or nurse the ability to start a practice in these communities, such as the one in which my parents and family live, without the burden of that debt that he or she may be facing.

I have had meetings with medical students who are looking at debts of a hundred thousand dollars, which is a significant amount. We want to encourage young people in the medical field to go to those rural areas and provide the services that we receive in the urban areas.

The previous speaker mentioned the eco-energy retrofit program. I am proud that we are going back to ensuring that individuals are able to look at their energy efficiency needs for their own home. We will support them in reducing their costs and their consumption of energy, which is very important in this province and around the country.

I heard that we were not supporting research and development. I want to read a quote that I do not think too many folks have read. It is from McMaster University, which has a campus in my riding. The president of McMaster University, Patrick Deane, said:

The Federal Budget announced on Tuesday included new funding to support a variety of important university initiatives. “The government has again recognized the critical role universities play in building Canada's future through its budget commitments to university research and support for students”.

We are putting money into innovation, students and research like no other government ever has in this country. I am very proud to be a Conservative, I am proud to serve in this government and I will be proud to serve in our future government after we go to this unnecessary election.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, the hon. member spoke of investments in seniors. Is he aware that in this budget federal transfers to seniors over the next five years will actually be reduced by $3 billion over what was projected in budget 2010?

Does the member think it is fair that under his government's caregiver plan, that paltry $300 in a non-refundable tax credit, that low-income Canadian families will not quality? In fact, a Canadian taxpayer earning $20,000 with a dependant would be considered too rich by the Conservatives, or something, but, in any case, they will not qualify to receive any benefit. The Conservatives' caregiver plan and volunteer firefighter plan actually discriminate against low-income caregivers and low-income firefighters.

Why are the Conservatives discriminating against Canada's most vulnerable in denying low-income Canadians these types of benefits?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not know what the member will tell his people back in his riding about forcing an election when we had an opportunity to make a difference for Canadians.

To the credit of the Minister of Finance, he put out a pamphlet in a relatively short form so that the Liberals would understand it because we knew they would not read it. However, if the member went through it, he would see that under “supporting families and communities”, we have enhanced the GIS, we have enhanced he new horizons senior program, we are eliminating the federal rules on retirement age, we are supporting families through the family caregiver tax credit, we are changing the medical expense tax credit and we are introducing flexibility on the registered disability plan.

There are pages and pages that Canadians will not benefit from because the Liberals were caught with their pants down thinking the NDP would be supporting the budget. Now they are facing an election and they have no idea what they are doing. However, we are going to beat them at that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I heard the member mention many of the initiatives that we are undertaking for seniors and many of the investments that we are making in innovation and research.

However, one of the things that he did not comment on, and I wonder if he could expand on, is the initiative that this government has put forward on tax credits for the arts. As a person who studied music all my life and has seen the benefit of it in my own family, I wonder if the member could comment on what this means to the families of Burlington.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was a very good question for me. I am a big supporter of the arts. I have been working since 1999 on getting a performing arts centre for the city of Burlington, which is under construction as we speak with the support of federal money.

As a father with daughters, I have taken advantage of the credit for activity in sports. I have very active, sports-oriented children.

However, the community of Burlington has a tremendous arts community for young people taking dance and music. We have the Teen Tour Band, a world renowned band of 200 young people performing in their red coats all around the world. They will be travelling to commemorate Pearl Harbour and will be the only Canadian representatives there.

This tax credit will make a big difference to the families of Burlington in ensuring their children are able to participate in the arts, which makes culture, not only in Burlington but across the country, an important aspect of everyday life.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I will give three reasons why the Conservative budget so richly deserves to die and why Canadians deserve much better.

The first reason is the budget makes bad choices. Because they go so far as to commit $6 billion to corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary Canadian families that are struggling to make ends meet. Canadians deserve better than that.

Second, there is no fiscal accountability, as I will explain in a minute. When the Liberals made cuts, we itemized every line item in the budget that would be cut. The Conservatives give no information and therefore have no credibility on the savings that they propose in the budget. Once again, Canadians deserve better than that in terms of fiscal accountability.

Third, the government seeks to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. Canadians are a caring, generous people. They will not go for this. Again, Canadians deserve better.

On my first point, that the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary struggling families, given their commitment on corporate tax cuts, let me give two examples.

The first of these is to compare the Liberal home care program and the Conservative home care program. There are three reasons why theirs is just a pale shadow, a totally inadequate shadow of our plan.

First, the maximum amount of money that the caregiver will receive is $300 under the Conservative program. It is $1,350 under our program.

However, it is worse than that. Our credit, the $1,350, is refundable, which means if people are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get the money. If they are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get zero under the Conservative program, even though they have offered only a paltry $300.

Finally, our program, in addition to those grants, offers an additional six months employment insurance relief for caregivers.

The Conservative plan is pathetic because the government is saddled with this $6 billion in corporate tax cuts so there is no more money in the bank to provide meaningful help to families.

The second example is with respect to post-secondary education. The Conservatives are providing $34 million in additional help for students. That might sound like a significant amount of money, but it is about $1 per Canadian. It is about $34 per student. Nowadays students desperately need government support. The unemployment rate for young people is way up, so it is harder for them to get jobs. Often their families are hard-pressed and less able to support the education of their children.

The Conservatives are offering a meaningless, paltry $34 per student. Our Liberal program has not yet been announced, but our leader is passionate about support for learning and for post-secondary education. Unlike the Conservatives' program, our program will be meaningful, more in the order of magnitude, greater than their program. That is because we think very strongly that post-secondary education is crucial, not only to provide equality of opportunity but also to promote a strong economy and higher productivity through well-educated Canadians.

Through those two examples, and I could go on but I have limited time, I am making the point that the Conservatives put up window dressing as if they are supporting Canadian families, but the amounts of money are so small that they are virtually meaningless. Canadians will see, once the election campaign gets under way, that Liberal support for Canadian families is real. Conservative support is paltry to non-existent.

That is one of the reasons why I say Canadians deserve better.

This government makes bad choices. This government does not have any money to seriously support families because it insists on giving tax breaks to large corporations. Canadians deserve better. Canadians will see, over the course of the election campaign, that they will receive more from the Liberal platform.

The second point is fiscal accountability.

When we were in government in 2005, we saved $11 billion over five years. In the 2005 budget, line by line, and that information still exists, it said which programs would be cut, by which amounts, over how many years.

The Conservatives similarly claim that they will find savings of $11 billion over seven years, but they tell us nothing about where that money will come from.

I can give one example. On page 203 of the budget, we have alleged savings of something on the order of $500 million for one department, Human Resources and Skills Development. What are the sources of the savings? Let me read it:

Improve alignment of program funding with actual needs

Find efficiencies through improved program management and use of technology

Improve use of internal resources and administrative efficiency

Align program activities with core mandate

Refocus programming to benefit all Canadians

That is all the Conservatives tell us. It is gobbledygook. Those are weasel words. They mean nothing at all. There is no accountability, no transparency and therefore no credibility in any of these projected Conservative savings.

I come now to my final point, and that is the question of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.

As I said at the outset, Canadians are generous. Yes, they want to balance the budget, but they do not want to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society.

My point is the Conservatives are balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable, both internationally and at home.

Internationally, last year, fully one-quarter of the savings were through freezing foreign aid, through freezing the CIDA budget. Therefore, one-quarter of the money to reduce the deficit was on the backs of the poorest people in the world. That was in sharp contrast to Britain, which favoured foreign aid. Even though everywhere else was getting draconian cuts, foreign aid was spared the cuts because of British commitment to poor countries. Canada is the opposite. Last year, the Conservative government got a quarter of the savings on the backs of the poorest in the world, and this from a starting point where Canada's foreign aid relative to GDP is embarrassingly low.

Not only that, but the finance ministe committed to me personally that he would have something for microcredit in his budget. We had a unanimous resolution to that effect. He agreed that microcredit was important for the poorest on the plant. There was zero in the budget for it.

It is not as if this balancing the books at the expense of the poor is only international. It is also here at home.

Consider the non-refundable tax credits for firefighters. A poor firefighter gets nothing. A well-off firefighter gets something, not much but something. A poor caregiver with income not high enough to pay taxes gets nothing to look after an aging parent. A richer caregiver, even though it is not very much, at least gets something.

Again, it is at the expense of the poorest and the most vulnerable. The fact is if a person is a poor firefighter or a poor caregiver, he or she gets nothing.

Finally, let us consider housing. Who is more vulnerable than aboriginals living on reserves in poor housing and other Canadians in poor housing?

The Conservatives singled out housing to receive no extension, whereas every other infrastructure program did. Hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared from the budget in support for affordable housing on reserve and repairs to social housing. There are no Canadians more vulnerable than those people.

As examples, poor firefighters, poor caregivers, poor people living in substandard housing are bearing the brunt of the Conservatives' efforts to balance the books.

Canadians are a generous people. We want to balance the books, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country and abroad.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it quite interesting that my hon. colleague across the floor talks about what the Liberals would do if they were in government. However, he needs to be reminded of what the Liberals actually did do when they were in government.

In 1995 the Liberals cut $25 billion for the most vulnerable people in Canada, the people in hospitals, the people on social services and the people in post-secondary education. They have a history of doing those kinds of things. Therefore, it is not a matter of suggesting the Liberals will do something different. We know what they will do.

I was a part of a provincial government when those cuts came through and everybody in the whole province suffered because of it. Health care and post-secondary education suffered.

He talks about their needing restructuring and rebuilding. Who starved them of all the money at the time they actually needed it? The Liberal government. It had 13 years. He talks about difficult situations on Indian reservations. For 13 years, it accumulated against them. Today he stands with a solution for everything.

Is it the Liberal plan to go back to the days of the 1990s and cut and slash health care, education, post-secondary and social services? Is that how he plans on balancing the books?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, we are talking mainly about today and the future. We are talking about the government's budget. The government's budget in front of us, in black and white, says no money for poor firefighters and for poor caregivers. It slashes aid for poor people in Africa and slashes funding for the poorest in housing. We would not do that in our platform.

In addition, going back to 1993, when the new Liberal government inherited a $42 billion Conservative deficit, we were told that we were about to become an honorary third world country, thanks to actions by a previous Conservative government. I remind the member opposite that when we made the necessary cuts to save the country in the mid-1990s, those Conservatives, those Reform Party people, criticized us for not cutting more. That was their position.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member will know that there are many lost opportunities in the budget. He was in Winnipeg recently and he knows we are about to open a new airport facility there. However, unfortunately last year alone over 50,000 Manitobans were fleeing across the U.S. border to fly out of Grand Forks because of high Canadian taxes. The same is true for British Columbia and points in Ontario, where people cross the border to fly out of the United States. The fact is our airport taxes, as at the last budget, are the highest now in the world.

Why has the government missed the opportunity to address what is a growing problem and deal with having Canadians fly out of Canadian airports rather than American airports?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague that there is an important issue of those taxes being high and people from Toronto, for instance, going to Buffalo and similar other points across the country.

One of the reasons for this, and an important and recent reason, is the new charge the government has imposed for security. None of us will oppose security. We all think it is essential. However, the security charges in the United States are much lower than in Canada. We believe the government has charged more to airlines and to customers for security than it spends on security. It is a tax grab.

It is too late now as we are almost into an election. However, when the government had power, it should have been more moderate in its security charges so as to alleviate the kind of problem to which the hon. member referred.

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12:40 p.m.


Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a story that I have been thinking about a lot this week concerning the introduction of this very disappointing federal budget.

A number of years ago, after I sold my company and went to study abroad, I met a man from Namibia who asked me, “Where is my Canada?” I was very perplexed and asked him what he meant by the question. He said, “We used to look up to Canada more than any other country in the world. It used to be a model of good governance, economic success and global engagement”, and then he repeated his question, “Where is my Canada?” He said that Canada had lost its way and he hoped that we would find it again.

I reflected on that this week because I really do believe Canadians have been wondering where their Canada is, where the compassionate, progressive and fiscally responsible Canada is, the one we know and love. Where is my Canada?

We are speaking about the budget this morning and what we should be doing in our country and what our direction and vision should be for next year and the years ahead. I again reflect upon what my friend asked, “Where is my Canada?”

The government's limitless spending has generated the biggest deficit in the history of Canada. Under the Conservatives, the size of government has increased 40% in four years and there has been a huge growth in waste. Let me talk about some of the waste because I have been doing a lot of work on that in my responsibilities on Treasury Board.

The Conservatives spent more in advertising in the last year than all the beer companies combined. They have spent 9.35% more per year on what are called professional and special services than ever before. One of the most egregious examples is the Prime Minister's Office, which is spending $9.9 million more. It is an increase of 30%. That shows the kind of leadership in this country. There is 16% more being spent on cabinet, $9 million more of borrowed money, all wasted dollars.

So many people in our country need assistance in finding jobs to help their families who are struggling, and this is the best budget the Conservatives could come up with?

More irresponsible than the waste is the fact that the government still does not even have a plan to get us out of the record deficit of $56 billion last year. The Conservatives continue to tell Canadians they will retire the deficit in five years. However, the Liberals know differently. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has forecast an $11 billion deficit for 2015-16. We know how the government feels about the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but how does it feel about the International Monetary Fund, which also says that the government will continue to be in deficit in five years?

How can a government continue to defy two third-party financial analysts that say we will not be in surplus but in deficit. How can Conservatives turn their heads and say, “No, Canadians, we will be in surplus, not to worry”, especially when they did not give any assumptions in the budget for the cost of their megaprisons and the untendered fighter jets, or costs and analysis of what the corporate tax cuts will do.

While this record spending and waste are going on, our national debt continues to accumulate under the government. Under the Liberal government the national debt declined from 1997 to 2007, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. However, in just three years under the Conservatives, all the hard work and sacrifices that Canadians made in the past decade have been wiped out. Already 13.5% of every taxpayer dollar is going to pay for interest, and it is going to get worse because we are continuing to add to the debt.

Clearly, the priorities of the Conservative government are not the priorities of Canadians. I have spent a lot of time speaking and engaging with constituents in my riding in numerous round tables and town halls and other meetings. The message I hear is that families need help: families need access to child care, families need better health care, and seniors need support to live with the dignity they deserve.

In my riding recently I heard of a 93 year old woman about to be evicted from her apartment, yet the Conservatives have not put in any money for affordable housing in the budget. How can that be?

The Conservative budget offers nothing for child care, nothing more for health care and nothing for affordable housing. For the very poorest seniors, the Conservatives will increase the GIS top up by only $1.64 a day. That would not get a person a coffee in this country. Compare that with the waste I spoke of, the costs that will be associated with these mega-style prisons and the costs associated with corporate tax cuts.

I see a lot of poor choices in the budget. I see $30 billion that we know of in untendered fighter jets. That is a thousand times more than the Conservatives are spending on post-secondary education. There are billions being spent on American-style megaprisons. That is a thousand times more than they are spending on youth crime prevention. There is $6 billion in large corporate tax cuts, yet there are $1.3 billion in cuts to CMHC and affordable housing. They are spending three times more on self-promotional advertising than on their supposed family care plan. It is simply atrocious. Canadians wonder where this will end. We hope we will be able to help that along soon.

There are a lot of issues, even in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador concerning this budget, and I will name three. There are cuts, for example, to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, $3.9 million over three years. ACOA is incredibly important to Atlantic Canada. It is important for our economic generation. It is important for community development. We need to restore the funding to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The budget cuts funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by an astounding $84.8 million over three years. We need more money for science. We cannot cut $84.8 million and expect to have the science required in this country to ensure that we have established stocks.

There is $6.6 million over three years being cut from Marine Atlantic. Marine Atlantic is a lifeline for my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is our national highway. It is what links the island of Newfoundland with the rest of the country. It is just as important for goods and services all across the country as it is for goods and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. We must have a solid link between the island and the rest of the country. Yet there are cuts to Marine Atlantic.

Time is short and I wish I could go on and on. The Conservatives are spending billions upon billions on jails, on jets, on corporate tax cuts, but not on the priorities of Canadians. They waste money on advertising and ministerial offices. I told hon. members earlier about the increases. It is a great paradox, really, when we look at it. They spend more on their own, spend more on self-promotion and they take from Canadians.

It is not just about the waste. It is not just about the deficit. It is not just about the debt. It is not just about the wrong priorities. It is about the judgment of the government, the judgment of these Conservatives when they look at priorities for our country.

I started by saying, “Where is my Canada?” I think every Canadian should ask the same question.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia


Greg Kerr ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to ask a couple of questions of the member, a fellow Atlantic Canadian. We certainly share some concerns.

I was surprised, though, that she referred to beer advertising, because I think it was her leader who compared beer advertising and the Canadian flag, which probably gave a sense of where the Liberal priorities might be sometimes.

I was also surprised at her comments about the ferries. I would have thought she would be singing from the rooftops about the fact this government provides brand new ferries to Marine Atlantic for Newfoundland, recognizing the incredibly important constitutional obligation to look after transportation connections across the country. That is certainly an obligation that has been honoured. I understand that most Newfoundlanders are very pleased that this Conservative government has put new ferries in place. Maybe the member can clarify that. Maybe I am wrong; maybe the old ferries should have been left in place. I might have misunderstood that.

I would also like the member to comment on the growth of the deficit. I remember the comments from Newfoundland. Even though they supported the stimulus spending, the sense was that we were wasting a lot of money on stimulus spending and wasting too much money on signs about stimulus spending, which I understood just pointed out how many projects there were.

I wonder if the member would want to comment on whether she felt those stimulus projects were in fact a benefit to Newfoundland.

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12:50 p.m.


Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I was encouraged to hear that my hon. colleague shares some concerns.

As I said, Marine Atlantic is vital not only to the island of Newfoundland and the link between the island of Newfoundland and the country but also to the goods and services from the rest of our country coming to Newfoundland. I think that is critically important. This is not just something for the province of Newfoundland but for the whole country.

Absolutely, we needed a solid plan. It is a capital investment to ensure that we have the ferries to meet the constitutional obligations.

However, under the Liberal government there was a plan to purchase ferries. It was a different plan than what the Conservatives eventually went with, and we all know how that is turning out in Newfoundland and Labrador. We know some of the concerns. We have seen some of those things.

Yes, investments in Marine Atlantic are critically important. In this budget we are now seeing the Conservatives actually making some cutbacks, not to the capital side but to the actual operational side.