Mr. Speaker, I forgot. I read the memo from the Prime Minister's Office and I thought that change had taken effect. I apologize. You are quite right. It is not that government. It is the Canadian government, which is something that party over there seems to forget quite frequently.
The Conservatives have betrayed farmers by cutting $418 million from Agriculture Canada's budget. There is nothing in this budget to compensate farmers for these cuts. The Conservatives are trying to balance their budget on the backs of Canadian farmers.
The Liberal Party has committed to developing a national food policy and to put the flex back into AgriFlex, as farmers have asked for. That is federal funding that can be used for practical programs and investments in the RMP in Ontario and ASRA in Quebec, improved crop insurance or a livestock market price insurance program in the west, and a bi-Atlantic program in the east. We will invest in and support agricultural research. We will support important agricultural events including, of course, the Hants County Exhibition, Canada's oldest agricultural fair. I would be remiss not to mention that. The Liberal Party will support getting more healthy, high-quality, home-grown foods on Canadian tables.
Canadian families are finding it more and more difficult just to make ends meet. With a record youth unemployment rate of 15%, too many young Canadians are losing hope. Canadian families are now facing record levels of personal debt. A typical family in Canada today now owes more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income. In fact, that is not only a record in Canada but it is higher than American families. Canadian families are struggling now with rising food costs, medical costs and higher tuition.
They are barely able to pay the bills now, and they are wondering how they are going to get by when interest rates start to rise.
However, hard-working, low income Canadians, many of whom are juggling more than one part-time job just to pay the bills, do not seem to factor into the Conservatives' vision of Canada. The Conservatives have deliberately excluded low income Canadians from qualifying for measures under this budget, like the family caregiver tax credit and the volunteer firefighters tax credit.
The Conservatives accomplished this exclusion of low-income Canadians from these programs by making the tax credits non-refundable. These tax credits will only help Canadians who have earned enough money that year that they actually pay income taxes.
The Liberal Party would recognize the work of all volunteer firefighters and all family caregivers regardless of their income. This would include Canadians who have left their jobs and have taken unpaid leave to take care of sick relatives, the very people who are most in need of help. These people would not qualify for the Conservatives' family caregiver tax credit.
It seems like the poor just do not exist in the Conservatives' Canada. The Liberal Party sees things very differently, and we would not leave low income Canadians out in the cold to fend for themselves.
We believe government programs should be accessible to all Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians who often need the help most.
Last fall, the Liberals announced a real family care plan with a refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year that would help all low- and middle-income Canadians. We also announced a six-month family care EI benefit to help Canadians who take time off work to care for sick or aging relatives.
However, in this budget, the Conservatives deliberately excluded the poorest caregivers with a paltry $300 in a non-refundable tax credit that is not available to low-income Canadians. Under the Conservatives, a Canadian taxpayer earning $20,000, with a dependant, would not qualify for any help as a caregiver. It is outrageous, it is unfair and it is un-Canadian for the Conservatives to discriminate against low-income Canadians.
As Liberals, we have a fundamentally different view of Canada compared with the Conservatives.
The Conservatives divide Canadians into categories. They tailor their policies toward potential Conservative supporters and they ignore everyone else. If anyone does not support the Conservatives' agenda, he or she is not seen as part of their Canada.
Liberals are nation builders. We reject the Conservative politics of division. Instead, we aim to govern on behalf of and to defend the interests of all Canadians, and that includes low-income Canadians.
Much ink has been spilled on how this budget will affect seniors. The fact is this budget actually cuts federal support for seniors over the next five years. That is right. Transfers to seniors over the next five years are half a billion dollars less than they were in the last fall economic statement and almost $3 billion less than in budget 2010. That is even after we include the paltry increases to the GIS for seniors. The GIS increase works out to about $50.00 a month for seniors who qualify. That is less than a cup a coffee at Tim Hortons every day.
Also, the clawbacks to this measure are punitive and unjust. Under the Conservatives, a senior who earns just $170 per month in his or her pension is considered to be too rich and that this new $50.00 a month GIS supplement would be clawed back. And if they have a pension of $366 a month, they are too wealthy, according to the Conservatives, to receive even a penny of this GIS increase.
The GIS increase is simply Conservative crumbs, especially when we consider that Conservatives are spending 20 times more on tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. Shockingly, unbelievably, the Conservatives want to give 20 times more to the richest corporations in Canada than they want to give to Canada's poorest seniors.
It is very clear that seniors in poverty are not the only ones getting overlooked by the Conservatives in this budget.
Transfers for children's benefits also go down by $1 billion over the next five years under this budget, which means that over the next five years the Conservatives are actually budgeting less support for seniors and children living in poverty.
The budget has no plan for child care or affordable housing. It is completely silent on the most serious challenges facing our country such as, how we are going to pay for rising health care costs. Everybody knows that the demand for health care is rising. As Canadians in the baby boom generation start to retire, they are going to place a greater demand on government services and at the same time we know that the tax base is shrinking as fewer people are working to pay for these services.
Rapid changes in our society will lead to more and more people without jobs, and more and more jobs without people. We need to invest more in learning and in training.
There is no credible plan in the budget to address the reality of rising health care costs in Canada or the absolute essential need to invest significantly in training, retraining and lifelong learning. This is important because we are on the eve of the most important negotiations with the provinces on health care.
Where is the plan to deal with health care costs after the 10-year Liberal health care accord expires in 2014?
We were part of that cabinet back in 2004. At the time, the Martin Liberal government put $41 billion into health care, the largest single investment in health care in the history of Canada in any health care accord. That was at a time when the federal government was in surplus and many provinces were in surplus.
Today, we have a federal government that has racked up a record deficit. We have provinces struggling with deficits. We have health care costs rising and we know we have these negotiations coming up with a deadline for 2014. Yet, nowhere in this budget are these negotiations discussed. Nowhere in this budget is there money being set aside to plan for this important investment that would protect the public health care system in Canada. There is no mention of this negotiation. For the Conservatives, the public health care system in Canada is not really a priority.
The budget does not provide a credible plan to return Canada to balanced budgets. In fact, instead of getting us back to balanced budgets and putting aside money to invest in health care, the Conservatives are deliberately gutting Canada's capacity to invest in health care and education with reckless spending on corporate tax breaks, fighter jets and U.S. style mega prisons. Conservative spending is out of touch and it is out of control.
This budget spends 1,000 times more for fighter jets than for post-secondary students. This is a government that is spending 1,000 times more for prisons than on youth crime prevention. The Conservatives spent more on the G20 in a single day than this budget offers Canada's seniors for an entire year. The Conservatives spent three times as much on self-promoting advertising than this budget has for family care over the next 12 months.
It is clear that the Conservatives view this budget as only a marketing exercise. It is full of spin. It has a few small attractive gimmicks, baubles and trinkets, but it does nothing to address the main priorities of Canadians.
The other day the member for Cape Breton—Canso said that this budget reminded him of a salesman who once tried to sell him a car. The car had a knock in the engine, there was smoke coming out of the tailpipe, the transmission was slipping and it was leaking oil. My friend, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, pointed out these flaws to the salesman. The salesman said: “Yeah, but you gotta listen to the sound system”.
The Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians from the waste, the rot and the corruption in their government by creating some noise. The Conservative budget certainly has a lot of noise. It also has a $43 billion black hole.
There is no mention in the budget of the Conservatives' plan to waste billions and billions of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars on schemes that have nothing to do with the priorities of Canadian families. There are no details on their plan to spend a staggering $30 billion on untendered fighter jets. To put that in perspective, that is more money than the government spends on health care in an entire year. It does not tell Canadians in this budget, but the Conservative government plans to send a bill for $1,000 to every man, woman and child in Canada to pay for the fighter jets.
This budget has no details on the Conservative plan to spend $13 billion on U.S. style prisons. That is just the price tag for one of its prison bills. Thank goodness we have the Parliamentary Budget Officer who continues to provide Parliament with some information on the costs of the Conservative agenda. We know that the government refuses to provide Parliament with the real costs.
The Conservative regime still refuses to provide Canadians with detailed information on the cost of 18 of its crime bills. The Conservatives want members of Parliament to vote on legislation without knowing how much it would cost Canadian taxpayers.
This is fundamentally anti-democratic. All members of Parliament, opposition and government members of Parliament, have the same fiduciary responsibility and constitutional obligation to know the cost of the legislation that we are asked to vote on. Canadians are wondering, why the Conservative secrecy?
That is why the Conservative government was found in contempt by a parliamentary committee earlier this week. It is a historic first in Canada. In fact, it is a first in the British Commonwealth parliamentary system for a government to be found in contempt of Parliament. It is not a good first. It is not something that any of us is proud of. In fact, we are embarrassed with the government and how it treats Parliament. At a time when the world needs a Canada that is helping build a more peaceful and stable democratic world, we are not setting a very good example when we have a government that is attacking the democratic institutions that keep us free here in Canada.
This is about more than just Conservatives' contempt for Parliament. It is about their contempt for the citizens who chose this Parliament. It is about their contempt for taxpayers who pay the bills.
The Conservatives continue to hide the real costs of their agenda. With all of the items that are not in this budget the question we must ask ourselves is, can we trust the government to tell us the truth? Can we trust the government to give us the real numbers?
The budget reminded me of the fall 2008 now infamous economic statement. Back then everyone knew that the Conservative government had spent Canada into a deficit even before the recession began. People recognized that the Conservatives had increased spending by 18%, three times the rate of inflation, in their first three economic statements. The Conservatives knew that too and that is why they wanted to hide that fact from Parliament and from Canadians, so the finance minister cooked the books and announced the government would sell over $10 billion worth of assets in order to get to a tiny little $100 million surplus. Ontarians will recognize this trick because it is the same trick that the same Conservatives played in Ontario when the same minister used the same trick of false asset sales to try to hide the fact that the Conservatives had put Ontario into deficit.
In reality, in the fall of 2008, there was no real plan to sell assets. In fact, we asked day after day for the list of assets that were to be sold. As a former minister of public works, I can say that there is at least a year between when one has to actually determine what one wants to sell and a process to actually sell it. The government said that it did not have a list, or rather refused to provide us with a list at that time. There was no list. The Conservatives had no information on assets to sell because it was a phony asset sales plan. A year later, the Conservatives quietly cancelled the plan before anything was sold. The Conservatives went on to give Canadians a record $56 billion deficit.
In yesterday's budget the Conservatives announced what they called a strategic and operating review. It is part of their attempt to pretend that they will cut spending and balance the budget, but once again, the budget does not provide any details whatsoever about these cuts or their restraint. No wonder neither the Parliamentary Budget Officer nor the International Monetary Fund believes the government's numbers. Both the PBO and the IMF have shown that the Conservatives' promise to balance the books simply is not credible.
The Conservatives have added nearly $100 billion to the debt since 2008. They have undone all the sacrifices that Canadians have made to pay down the debt. In fact under the Conservatives, the combined federal-provincial debt to GDP ratio has reached 82%. That is higher than the U.K., France, Germany and it is almost as bad as the Americans.
Let us remember, it was the previous Liberal government in the 1990s that took on the deficit and balanced the books for the first time since 1969. Under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, the Liberals delivered nine consecutive balanced budgets, but according to the PBO, the Conservatives will not balance the budget any time soon.
The finance minister likes to say that the government is on track. Let us be clear. The government is on track to add $200 billion to the federal debt by the year 2015-16. The Conservatives are mortgaging our children's future to pay for their ideological schemes, their bad priorities and their reckless spending. They are hiding the true costs of their agenda and they are asking MPs to vote on laws without telling us how much these laws will cost Canadian taxpayers.
In doing this, Conservatives are showing contempt not just for Parliament but for Canadian citizens and taxpayers. They are breaking the rules to hide the facts. They are doing this to cover up their wasteful spending and out of control and out of touch priorities.
As we see from the budget, Conservative spending is out of control and out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families. What we see from this budget is more of a government that cannot be trusted to tell us the truth and respect Parliament. It is time to end the Conservative gravy train and to show some respect for taxpayers.
For this reason, I would like to move the following amendment, seconded by the member for Beaches—East York. I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:
the House not approve in general the budgetary policy of the government because the government and its policies are out of touch with the economic needs and priorities of Canadian families.