Mr. Speaker, I would like to start with some specifics, then move on to generalities.
My goal is to describe the two items in this budget that bother us the most, first, to identify which inadequacies in this budget make it absolutely impossible for us to support it and, second, to expose the government's real intention, which was to have its budget defeated and trigger an election. Then I will examine this in the broader context of this government's budget policies over the past five years and explain why, during the upcoming election, which the government wants, voters will be faced with two conflicting visions of the future. Ours is one of sustainable development.
Let us look at the two examples I mentioned. During my meeting with the Minister of Finance and our party leader's meeting with the Prime Minister, we made it clear that one of our top priorities is taking care of seniors living in poverty. We believe it is absolutely unacceptable that in a G7 country, one of the richest in the world, here in Canada we still have hundreds of thousands of seniors living in poverty. This is not an abstract definition; this is a formal definition as set out in Canadian legislation. We have a poverty line, a low-income cut-off, below which the state recognizes that people are not making ends meet. Gas prices have skyrocketed this year, for instance, and people living in this situation are going to see a significant increase in the cost of heating fuel, and quite simply, they will no longer be able to get by. That is why there are more and more seniors having to turn off their heat, because they just cannot afford it. And it is minus 15 degrees Celsius again here today.
So, we put that on the table. It would have cost $790 million. The Prime Minister is trying to fool everyone by saying he made an effort to accommodate our request and put $300 million into the budget. That still leaves hundreds of thousands of seniors in poverty and it is shameful.
Compare that to the money allocated for the next tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations. In fact, there have been a number of such cuts over the past few years, which at the end of the day add up to a grand total of $60 billion. This year alone, there was a new tax cut to the tune of $3 billion. Look at the banks. There are other sectors, but it is mostly the banks and the oil industry that are benefiting from these cuts.
The six largest chartered banks in Canada made a record $22 billion in profit last year. They handed out half those profits, or $11 billion, as bonuses for their executives. The government is allocating $300 million to poor seniors, leaving hundreds of thousands of them in poverty, but it is giving $3 billion in new tax cuts for these same banks and oil companies. For every dollar the government was able to find for poor seniors, it found $10 for new gifts, from the national tax base, for the banks and the oil companies. This is unacceptable. The Conservatives knew exactly what they were doing by allocating that amount: they were triggering an election.
Add the cost of the election to their proposed allocation and we would almost have enough money to help all seniors living below the poverty line. But that hardly matters. They wanted this election and they knew what they were doing.
The same argument holds true for the $2.2 billion in my second example, the object of the Bloc Québécois subamendment. One only needed to look at the premier of Quebec last night to understand that we were right when we said that the matter was settled. It was very obvious. They knew very well that, if they put that money in the budget, the Bloc would vote for the budget. It was the last thing they wanted. They would not have had their election. Taking advantage of the weakness of the official opposition and its leader, the Prime Minister, always the calculating strategist, said to himself that he would take the plunge while he was there.
And what about that $2.2 billion? I will tell you right away. It was very obvious from last night's interventions that this announcement will be made during the election campaign. I believe they have miscalculated, and that it could come back to haunt them. People are not stupid. They can see the sheer cynicism and they will not be bought with their own money. All the better if the matter is settled, because that money has been owed to Quebec for a long time. For two and a half years we have been asking questions in this House, and for two and a half years they have responded with empty rhetoric. It is becoming clear that the Conservatives were keeping this one for an election announcement.
With these two specific examples as our starting point, we can now look at all of the government's budget policies for an explanation as to why the Conservatives did in fact want an election they said they were trying to avoid. When I said that the tax reductions favour the wealthiest corporations, the Conservatives' response was often to say that the tax breaks applied to all companies. However, in reality, a manufacturing company that is no longer making ends meet and that is not making any profit is clearly not paying any taxes. So, a tax reduction would not be of any benefit whatsoever. Who was receiving all this money? The wealthiest corporations. Simply put, the Conservatives' policy was to subsidize the wealthiest corporations that did not need assistance, leaving the companies that needed help the most to die on the vine. They have no strategic vision. They completely destabilized the balanced economy that Canada had built since the second world war, destroying the manufacturing sector with the high value of the loonie. This rise in the value of the dollar resulted from the fact that we were importing an artificially high quantity of American money because the Conservatives have never factored in the environmental costs of the oil sands.
No one says that we should not develop the oil sands. We merely say that we should not develop them in this manner. Right now, because of the Conservatives' choices, we are saddling future generations with the biggest environmental, economic and social debt in our history. Environmental, because the Conservatives are saying that we will take care of today and you can clean up our mess tomorrow. Behind the longest dams in the world, there are inland seas full of toxins that are seeping inexorably toward the water table and into other surfaces. This will have devastating effects on future generations—on human beings and their health, as well as on our ecosystems.
In the last two years, our economy has seen the largest deficits in our history—another debt that will be bequeathed to future generations. Our society is suffering from what economics textbooks refer to as the Dutch disease, that is, an influx of foreign currency to purchase a raw material that we do not even have the intelligence to process or add value to here. We are exporting tens of thousands of jobs. We are destroying the manufacturing sector. Since 2000, we have lost over 600,000 jobs. Since the Conservatives took power, we have lost nearly 400,000 well-paid jobs, jobs that enable workers to support their families and qualify for a pension. They are being replaced by part-time jobs, most of the time, especially in the service industry, which do not provide a sufficient income to support a family and do not offer any pensions. That is also a debt—a social debt, this time—that we are leaving to our future generations, who will be forced to find ways to take care of all these people who will reach retirement age and will not have the means to take care of themselves.
For all these reasons, based on both the current budget and this government's overall policy over the past five years, we believe that the time has come to contrast a tired vision that does not respect future generations with a social-democratic vision that is firmly focused on the future, that will respect our obligation to implement a real, equitable and sustainable development system, that will eliminate social inequalities and that will be the way of the future. This is what the NDP has been advocating since it was founded 50 years ago.