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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.

Topics

Message from the SenateOral Questions

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

I would like to make one thing very clear: this budget is a good budget. As a member of Parliament, I take my job very seriously. I represent the wonderful riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and I am honoured to have the important role of ensuring that this government delivers for my riding.

This budget delivers.

Unfortunately, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition has already formed. It has indicated that it will vote against this budget. Let us look at what it is they are voting against.

They are voting against seniors. What is worse, they are voting against the poorest of the seniors. Through the prebudget consultations held in my riding, I heard one thing over and over, that seniors need more assistance.

We listened. There is real affordable help for seniors in this budget, but the NDP, with its Liberal leader, has said no to help for seniors. This is a great shame because the NDP used to stand for something. Its members claim to stand up for the little guy, but when push comes to shove they would rather try to grab power in a coalition government supported by the Bloc Québécois than support measures that make sense for Canadians.

Another common theme raised in the prebudget consultations in my riding is that we need to stay on track, keep taxes low and eliminate the deficit. That is exactly what this budget does.

While the opposition coalition is coming out firmly against the best interests of Canadians and the best interests of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, our Conservative government is delivering to Canadians exactly what it promised, focusing precisely on the priorities of Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, this budget would see an increase in transfer payments to Saskatchewan of $1.2 billion. That is $1,182 for every resident of Saskatchewan. I asked the only Liberal member in Saskatchewan, the member for Wascana, how he would explain to his constituents that he voted against this.

This budget provides for tax relief for Canadians. In fact, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition will vote against $60 million in tax relief. It is voting against a family caregiver tax credit, which would provide $2,000 for caregivers, or over $13 million for Saskatchewan families, and against an investment of $3 million toward the development of community-based end of life care. This is something I am particularly proud of as a founding member of the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care.

I ask the following: How can someone claim to support hard-working Canadian families and vote against measures such as this? How can someone who claims to represent the middle class vote against the children's art tax credit, which would provide families a tax credit of $500 per year? That is another $19 million for Saskatchewan that the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition would rather families did not get.

What about our volunteer firefighters? Do they not deserve some credit for putting their lives at risk to help our communities? We have put a $3,000 tax credit for them in the budget, and the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition members just cannot find it in their hearts to support it.

Conservatives know that we cannot go on with deficit spending indefinitely. Our Conservative government knows that fiscal responsibility is important to Canadians. That is why we are staying on track to eliminate the deficit by 2015 without implementing risky and reckless new spending programs that would force us to raise taxes or keep us in a deficit for our children and grandchildren to pay off. That is why we have taken action.

We have already cut the deficit by a third from last year and are on track to balance the budget by 2015. What we are not doing is balancing the budget on the backs of the provinces. We are not cutting transfer payments to Saskatchewan. In fact, we are increasing them.

Our Conservative government knows that health care and education must be properly funded. The Liberals cut funding for health care and for education, but we did not. We know what is important to Canadians and we will keep fighting for their priorities. We know that infrastructure is of vital importance to cities like Saskatoon and rural municipalities like Delisle, Asquith, Biggar, Herschel, and the many others that make up my great riding.

This budget has delivered for municipalities. We are making an annual investment of $2 billion in gas tax funding permanent, so municipalities would be able to forecast accurately the funding for their community.

However, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition voted against that as well. Actions speak louder than words, and it looks like the opposition does not support sustainable and stable infrastructure funding for rural municipalities. We should not be surprised because the Liberals and the NDP have a history of voting against what they claim to support. The Bloc, on the other hand, has always been very clear on its intentions, and that is to vote against the best interests of Canadians because the Bloc only cares about one thing, breaking up this great nation of ours.

I would not want to make these claims without backing them up. We know that today Canadians are still burdened with a costly, wasteful, inefficient, and useless long gun registry because the elected members of Parliament for the NDP broke their promises. They promised and even campaigned on scrapping the long gun registry. When push came to shove, though, the NDP could not be trusted. It pretends to understand rural Canadians, but it does not.

As for the Liberals, it is almost a waste of time to point out the hypocrisy. Everybody knows that the Liberal Party is the party of broken promises. Among them is its promise to remove the GST. That is another of the promises made, promises broken.

Conservatives do not make empty promises. We said we would cut the GST to 5% and we cut the GST to 5%. We promised we would fight to scrap the wasteful long gun registry and we have fought to do so. If the NDP did not flip-flop on campaign promises, the long gun registry would be gone right now.

We promised to work to reform the Senate. We have introduced legislation that would limit senators terms to eight years and provide an opportunity for Canadians to vote for their senators. The NDP claimed to support Senate reform, but when push came to shove, it voted with the Liberals instead of with its constituents.

I call on members opposite who claim to represent their constituents and not their leaders. I call on them to support this budget. Do not vote against Canadians. Do not vote against seniors and families, and jobs and growth.

If members vote against this budget, then they are sending a clear message to Canadians. If Canadians want a member of Parliament who will represent their interests and their priorities, they should elect a Conservative in the next election.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I put my question to the hon. member, I did omit one thing in my final speech. First, I really wanted to thank the constituents of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for their enduring support. Second, I wish to thank those who work in my offices, Jeff Silvester, Vikki Simmons in Victoria, as well as Jesse Dickinson and Jeff Guignard in my office here. Without their help and support, I could not have done what I have. And, to the volunteers over the 17.5 years who have enabled me to do what I have done, our victories are their victories, and I thank them so much for what they have done.

To my hon. colleague, I wonder if she does not agree that we need an innovation agenda in our country where there are going to be strategic investments in the private sector for research and development, education and infrastructure. Does she have an idea of how the private sector could be incented to make those strategic investments so we could improve our productivity?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations to the hon. member as well and wish him all the best in all of his future endeavours.

As far as the member's question goes, we are making tremendous investments in research and development. We are making tremendous investments through the P3.

We do understand that Canadians do not want an election. Because of these investments, we do not want an election while our economy is in recovery. We know that these investments are very important in terms of business development and in terms of our country moving forward.

This is why we have introduced the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that will ensure that we go forward through business development and by encouraging the private sector to get involved in research and development.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats put forward a proposal to lift every senior in this country out of poverty. We estimated that it would cost approximately $700 million to $800 million to do so.

The government responded by putting $300 million toward seniors poverty in this country, which would mean that after this budget half of the seniors in this country who are living in poverty would continue to live in poverty.

I am wondering if the hon. member could tell me her view on this. In an economy where the government has just given $3 billion in corporate tax cuts, does the member think that is a higher priority than simply adding another $400 million to ensure that every senior in this country does not live in poverty?

Would the member not agree with me that shifting $400 million from corporate tax cuts to seniors in poverty is a higher priority and a better use of Canadian taxpayers' dollars?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, time and time again during pre-budget consultations, as I mentioned in my speech, I understood, and heard from seniors, that we needed to do something to provide more assistance for seniors.

Again, that is why we have introduced the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It is a plan that will keep taxes low to promote jobs and economic growth while supporting Saskatchewan families and seniors. It includes supporting job creation, strengthening our families and communities.

It is a plan that Canadians expect in times of fiscal restraint. I believe that seniors across this country are going to thank our government for the measures that we have implemented in this phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my privilege to speak to our economic action plan, phase two, and our low tax plan for jobs and growth. I think it is especially important, following those very wise words of all the members who are just leaving. So, that actually was special to hear and I think really adds to the debate that we are having right now.

I think there are a few things that have been missing in this debate to date.

First, this budget has been widely described as responsible. It is looking at a return to a balanced budget. It is targeted. It is providing very special opportunities, whether it be through innovation, whether it be through seniors, but it is targeted because we know that we cannot, obviously, do everything that we might like to do. It is also reasonable.

The opposition is really standing in isolation of many people out there, many organizations out there, when it is critical of this budget because most people are saying this is a good budget, this is a reasonable budget, and this is a budget for Canadians.

It sounds like there is very little time left. This might be the only day of debate in spite of our House leader's optimism, so I think it is really important that we listen carefully. There is still a bit of time, perhaps, for members to change their minds.

To look at why this is really a budget for Canadians, I would like to first talk about the process in my riding, in terms of consultation. First, I made telephone calls that reached out to every single household in the riding. We had many people who provided input into this budget. We ultimately topped this off with a round table with the finance minister.

This was not a partisan approach to this budget. This was a Canadian approach. Included in this round table with the finance minister, we had people who represented all sectors, we had people who represented the aboriginal community, we had young, and we had old. So, again, it was a very representative group of people who sat down with the finance minister to provide their input. It certainly was not a partisan effort, in terms of our area.

What was really also very interesting was that the majority of them were very reasonable. They were very practical. They did not want to leave a legacy of debt for the children who were coming behind them. I certainly remember the words of one of the students from the university who was there, imploring us to look in terms of the legacy of debt for even his children.

They did, however, recognize that some additional help was needed in some key areas. They also clearly articulated that there was a need for growth, innovation, education investment and training, and those would be the key things to drive our economy into the future.

Out of this conversation, they also got into some very specific issues. When I listened to the finance minister when he delivered this budget earlier this week, I listened with pleasure to hear 10 things that were at our table that were represented in this budget. We did not ever think that 100% would be included, like some of the opposition members that believe 100% of their wish lists can get in. The very practical, non-partisan group recognized that responsible governments have to make decisions.

I would like to share some of the things that did get in, and again I am not going to say it was just the input from our riding because I think there were similar messages, in similar forms, from across the country that drove the creation of this budget.

One item was the GIS. We really supported it. The Canadian Labour Congress said:

This is a win for every senior living in poverty in Canada and we're proud to have played a significant role in that campaign on their behalf.

Another was workshare. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said:

The economic measures announced in today’s budget will continue to support the economic recovery and help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.

It also was very appreciative of the low tax plan.

The mining exploration tax credit came up at our table. The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada said:

--I am pleased that the federal government has proposed that the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit be extended for another year...it is encouraging to see the federal budget propose that the program be continued--

I can keep going and I am going to go through all 10.

Firefighters were absolutely thrilled. Not only did we lose someone in Listowel, we lost a volunteer firefighter in my riding just a few months ago. Again, it is a measure I have heard about since the start of my job.

On forest innovation and market development, the Forest Products Association of Canada welcomed “the forest industry measures contained in today’s Federal Budget which support the industry and the 240,000 Canadians it directly employs..."

It went on at length to talk about how important it is.

Eco-energy retrofit is a great program. The Canadian Home Builders' Association said, “This budget marks a careful and responsible transition from stimulus spending towards creating the conditions that will renew private sector--”

I will take a minute for a quick plug from Kamloops where there is a home that was built in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders' Association, the university students and CMHC. It is a net zero green home. It has had about 60,000 people through it to see what we have done to create a net zero home. Those people want to make changes in their own homes and they are looking for an eco-energy retrofit program.

I will spend more time later talking about the rural physician and nurse opportunities. We have the manufacturing flow through and I can quote from many industries in terms of that particular piece.

Unlike the opposition, people were not expecting 100% satisfaction, but they did believe that the measures were reasonable, appropriate and have broad-based support. It was quite stunning when the opposition quickly indicated, in some cases before they read it, that they were not going to support it. However, it is truly a budget for Canadians.

I will speak quickly on health care, especially after hearing the NDP critic in terms of the health care opportunities.

People might know that health care has a special place in my heart. I have long experience in that area. It is very easy to throw billions and billions of dollars at the health care system, but we responsibly had a partnership with the provinces and have given 6% more per year. The accord does not expire until 2014 and the provinces are getting a 6% increase. There is money through Canada Health Infoway for electronic health records. A responsible government would ask if we have had an impact on wait lists. We cannot just throw billions and billions of dollars at the health care system. Let us evaluate the very significant commitments we have had and move that forward.

To the suggestion that the manpower in Canada is evenly distributed in terms of doctors and nurses and that we do not need incentives to get people into rural communities, perhaps the opposition do not know that right now a new nursing graduate from Thompson Rivers University cannot get a full-time job at the Royal Inland Hospital. Other hospitals in rural areas are desperate for employees. Again, we need to provide incentive for a better disbursal of our resources.

In summary, we are heading towards a balanced budget. Our expenditures to GDP are going down. I ask the opposition to please come to its senses and support this very important budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments, but I have one question.

Is it of any concern to her at all that since the last election and change in government that it is recognized the portion of what the government has added to the debt per Canadian citizen is now $30,000 greater than before the Conservative government first came to power?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, everyone recognizes that we had a global recession. We had some significant stimulus money that we had to provide and we had the support in the House to do so.

I find it ironic that one minute the opposition members are saying to spend more money and the next say they are concerned that perhaps the debt has risen.

It is very important to point out that Canada is in an extremely good position in comparison to many of the other OECD countries.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my colleague on the government side. Employment insurance is intended to protect against loss or termination of employment. Both the employee and the employer pay premiums. The federal government does not contribute a cent to the employment insurance program. The only role it plays is that of employment insurance fund manager. The Liberals were accused of siphoning off $58 billion from this fund at the expense of seasonal workers.

Moreover, 60% of people who pay into the employment insurance system are women and young people. We need a government that is prepared to have an independent fund established and run by those people who contribute to it, a government that will deliver genuine insurance by enhancing the employment insurance system.

And yet what is the Conservative Party doing in this budget? It has announced up front that it intends to siphon off $17 billion from the employment insurance fund over the next five years. My remarks are therefore directed at those voters who are watching us today. They will have a choice to make. It is our hope that they will vote in Quebec for the Bloc Québécois because its members are the only ones who stand behind workers, the unemployed and seasonal workers. They are here in Ottawa to condemn the misuse of the employment insurance fund by both the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague brings up a very important point, especially when he noted that Liberals made very liberal use of this particular fund and moved the funds into general coffers.

One of the first things our government did was to create an arm's-length group to manage this fund. We made it arm's-length but also recognized that it was important for people like the self-employed to have access. Single mothers who have businesses now have access to this particular fund.

We believe things like job sharing are absolutely critical. We made important changes to make work sharing better, but we certainly do not believe in a 45-day work year.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that there was a lot of consultation done on this budget. I have listened to a lot of British Columbians and they have told me they absolutely do not want the HST. They want affordable housing, quality child care and help with affordability issues of all types that are not addressed by the budget. Seniors have said that they need more than $50 a month given to 50% of seniors living in poverty.

I am wondering if the member heard any of those voices when she did her consultation.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad I have the opportunity to respond very directly to this question.

Since the 1990s, the federal government has always had the role of facilitating what the provinces wanted to do in terms of the HST and we have done that. We have also stated very clearly that British Columbia is going to have a referendum and we are going to respect the decisions made at that time. The member is being very misleading when he talks in terms of British Columbia.

I would also like to talk about the economic action plan and what it has done for affordable housing throughout British Columbia. The member complains about the signs, but perhaps he has not read the signs because there are many signs throughout British Columbia with respect to affordable housing projects. We have made significant progress both urban and rural in terms of where we are going with affordable housing.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Mount Royal.

I rise today in the House to take part in the debate in response to this government’s very disappointing budget.

The media, the business and academic communities have all reached the same conclusion as we have on this side of the House. This is a lame duck budget and we give it a failing grade.

This budget is being called “a kind of half-hearted effort, incremental in nature, designed for political effect”.

These are not my words, these are the words of Christopher Dunn, an academic at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. He went on to say that there was some nominal social spending targeted at specific voters to “leave an impression of a government that hadn't forgot about average voters without actually doing that much for them”.

The official opposition leader put it very succinctly in his question to the government yesterday when he said:

Mr. Speaker, spending billions of dollars on stealth fighters, corporate tax cuts and mega prisons means the Canadian family has to be shortchanged.

There is nothing in the budget on affordable housing. There is nothing in it on child care. There is nothing to support our health system. These are the priorities of Canadian families.

Why is the Prime Minister out of touch and out of control?

How does the government fail to support Canadian seniors? On page 109 of the budget document, low income seniors are expected to get a guaranteed income supplement of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. Single recipients with an annual income, other than old age security and guaranteed income supplement, of $2,000 or less, and couples with an annual income of $4,000 or less will get the full amount of the benefit.

What is shocking about this is that the government is not making these increases permanent given that the benefit will be clawed back when the annual income level reaches $4,000 for singles and $7,360 for couples.

Residents in my riding of Laval—Les Îles pointed out to me that in real dollars, eligible seniors would receive exactly $1.20 per day. Obviously the Prime Minister has not gone grocery shopping for a long time. Otherwise, he would have noticed that milk costs $3.79 and sometimes up to $5.00. So, $1.20 will not even be enough to buy a quart of milk.

Let us imagine the Prime Minister or any of his cabinet members trying to live on that type of income with bread an average $3 a loaf; eggs, $2.69 a dozen; apples at $3.34 a kilogram; canned salmon at $3.15 for 213 grams. These were average prices in 2010.

What is the government's real commitment to supporting families and communities? The budget documents says:

The Government recognizes the contributions seniors have made and is committed to ensuring that they continue to have a good quality of life.

I am quoting the finance minister's own words.

Let me congratulate the finance minister and his team for co-opting my private member's bill, Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code (mandatory retirement age), which was reported to Parliament last Monday, as one of their priorities within the budget.

The budget indicated that the government clearly supports my bill, since the Minister of Finance wrote on page 112 of that document that:

The government proposes to introduce amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to prohibit federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement. This would allow Canadians to choose how long they wish to remain active in the labour force. The government will review other acts to further this objective.

If the government truly believes what it says, why does it want to introduce a new bill when my private member's bill has already gone through committee?

Why the delaying tactics? I strongly urge the government to pass the legislation through Parliament and the Senate as quickly as possible, instead of waiting to create a new piece of legislation. Let me take the opportunity at this time to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and my colleagues on both sides of the House for their support in getting this bill as far as it has gone in the legislative process.

I want to remind the government that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, on which I am a member, undertook a major study on poverty in Canada. The report, which contained 59 recommendations, was tabled in the House on November 17, 2010. How did the minister respond? The government's response was to refuse every recommendation the committee proposed and it is a government that purports to value families.

The budget could have been a golden opportunity to state clearly that the government would immediately implement recommendation 3.1.1 of the standing committee's report and put in place a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada. Instead, we have a budget that ignores families and a budget that ignores children. Canadian parents are still waiting on the promised 250,000 child care spaces for their children, which have never materialized.

A Liberal government will return corporate tax rates to 2010 levels and tackle the deficit while strengthening Canadian families with investments in the following measures: a real family care plan, with a six-month family care EI benefit, and a new refundable tax benefit for working families worth up to $1,350 per year.

The Conservative budget provides no EI benefits, but rather a paltry tax credit that does nothing for low-income caregivers and is worth only $300 a year.

We are also proposing improvements to public pensions, by strengthening the base Canada Pension Plan with gradual increases to benefits and creating an option for topping-up savings with a new supplemental CPP, instead of just a modest GIS benefit that works out to only $1.20 per eligible senior a day.

The Liberals are also proposing support for learning and training, so that all Canadians who get the grades can get the skills they need to get quality, full-time jobs, instead of the paltry $34 per student that the Conservative government is offering. We are proposing quality, affordable early learning and child care, to give our kids the head start they need by offering working families a real choice when they need to find child care spaces for their kids.

What does the Conservative budget propose? It is offering just $75 per year for art classes.

My colleagues and I fully intend to vote against this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of working with the member on the human resources committee.

I would like to ask the member how she will explain to the people of Saskatchewan and across Canada that she is voting against $1,182 per Saskatchewan resident. She will be voting against $2,000 for caregivers. That is $13 million for Saskatchewan families. She will be voting against a $500 per year art tax credit for middle-class families. That is $19 million for Saskatchewan families.

In my riding, no Liberal candidate has been named. Does the member care about Saskatchewan? Do you care about what you are voting against for Saskatchewan? What will your answer be—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would remind all hon. members to direct their comments and questions to the Chair rather than to one another.

The hon. member for Laval—Les Îles has the floor.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member to our committee. I say “our committee” because I have been sitting on it for a long time and I hope that she will have the chance to sit on it because it does a great deal of work. The report on poverty, to which I have referred, is the first of its kind in the House of Commons. It took a long time to produce it. We met with hundreds of people right across Canada.

Although I care a great deal for the people of Saskatchewan, we all need to look beyond one province and look to the population of all of Canada from sea to sea to sea.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several years, the Bloc Québécois has been talking about its pre-budget consultations. It is asking the Minister of Finance for an increase in the guaranteed income supplement, which should be given automatically. If someone files a tax return and does not apply for the guaranteed income supplement, the government will not pay it. When the Bloc Québécois raised this issue, thousands of people who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement were not receiving it. It should be automatic.

As well, the federal government should raise old age security. Seniors are increasingly being asked to stay in their homes as long as possible, with their families. Those people pay the same price for a pound of butter and a quart of milk, as the hon. member said, as everyone else. The Fédération des travailleurs du Québec has a program called “Une retraite à l’abri des soucis”—worry-free retirement—which the Bloc Québécois supports. My union representative on the north shore, Bertrand Méthot, will definitely be happy with my speech today on the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, income security is an extremely sensitive issue. We have made representations to several ministers. I have done so myself, to enable all Canadians to have access to this program automatically.

At the time, we were told it was too complicated. I never understood that answer. It seems to me that today, in the 21st century, we can work miracles with computers. I firmly believe, as my colleague does, that when it comes to income security, the people who are entitled to it should receive it automatically.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Pursuant to Standing Order 38, I must advise the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, Champlain Bridge; the hon. member for Malpeque, Agriculture and Agri-Food; the hon. member for Western Arctic, Air Transportation.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise on behalf of the residents of my wonderful riding of Mount Royal, my remarks anchored in their values and visions, their principles and priorities for the budget, for the riding, for Quebec and for this great country, Canada. A budget is not only a financial statement, it is a statement of values. It is not only a balance sheet, it is a set of priorities. As the Minister of Finance himself put it, it is a matter of balancing the needs, in effect, identifying the priorities and of making choices.

These needs and these priorities were shared with me by my constituents on February 10 of this year on a prebudget consultation and then again at a second town hall meeting on March 17. They spoke to me and shared with me the importance of the needs of health care, to use the Minister of Finance's words, a cross cutting concern across this country, of the needs of early learning and child care, of the needs of access to higher education and of access to justice. They spoke of the concerns of seniors, a disproportionate number of whom inhabit my riding. They spoke of pensions and poverty, of the fact that 700,000 seniors in this country are living in poverty. They spoke of the need of a clean environment, of the need to invest in green technology. They spoke of the need for jobs, for social housing, for social justice, and always is the test of a just society is how it treats the most vulnerable in its midst.

What then do we find when we look at this budget? We find a budget that is disconnected from those needs that I have just shared and that my constituents shared with me. We find a budget of trinkets that has a kind of electoral orientation to it, but without a comprehensive strategy for health care, without a comprehensive strategy for environment protection, without a comprehensive strategy for early learning and child care and without a comprehensive strategy for jobs and for taking care of the poor. It is a budget, in a word, that is out of touch with the needs of not only of my constituents as they shared them with me at a prebudget consultation and which I then conveyed to the Minister of Finance on their behalf, but with the priorities of Canadians, as well as of my constituents.

When we look at the budget, what do we find? We find $30 billion that is part of fiscal planning for an untendered contract for the purchase of F-35 jets. I must say, and it is a matter of interest and note, that at the prebudget consultation on February 10, I then shared with my constituents that the cost at that time, as it was conveyed to us, was $16 billion. I then said that I thought it was much higher, probably $21 billion. We learned last week from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, after an international peer review, that it is $30 billion, confirmed just yesterday out of the Pentagon.

The issue is not whether or not we need fighter jets. I have respect for the needs and the security of this country. The question is whether we should be spending $30 billion and rising in an untendered contract that even the Pentagon has said that the costs are rising and where an international peer review itself suggested that we need an open, competitive contract with respect to this particular budget item.

I have more. Some $15 billion have been set aside for the building of megaprisons at a time that crime is declining. I have to say, as a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, that I, too, was concerned with the question of crime. However, I knew that one of the ways to address the question of crime was to address it in terms of crime prevention. However, at the same time as there are $15 billion for megaprisons, which may be even be more but we do not have the full disclosure of the costs, we find that the budget with regard to crime prevention is declining.

We have $6 billion of corporate tax cuts for the very rich at the very time that we have 700,000 seniors who are living in poverty.

In a word, to borrow the Minister of Finance's own statement in terms of what are the relative needs, what is the basis of comparative need, I put this to the House on behalf of my constituents and Canadian citizens, to look at in terms of the Minister of Finance's prism and ask these questions in terms of comparative need.

This budget spends one thousand times more on fighter jets than it does on post-secondary students; one thousand times more on megaprisons than it does on youth crime prevention; more for a single day of the G20 than in a year for seniors given a paltry sum of $1.20 a day; more on partisan advertising than on family care; and regrettably nothing for child care.

Yet we are asked to support a budget that has $6 billion of tax breaks for the 5% rich. I was part of a government and I sat in a cabinet that reduced corporate taxes from 29% to 21%. I am not saying we do not reduce corporate taxes. I understand the validity. However, we did it at a time when we had eight successive budgetary surpluses. We did it at a time when we bequeathed to the Conservatives, when we were defeated, a budgetary $14 billion surplus. We do not do it at a time when we have the highest budgetary deficit of $56 billion and we do not do it with respect to the very rich 5%, while those in need are in fact given paltry crumbs. That is the point.

We are asked again for a $30 billion fiscal planning in an untendered contract for the jets when, at this point, $30 billion would be an annual cost for health care. We are asked for some $15 billion for megaprisons at the same time when not only is crime declining, but the proposed budget with regard to crime prevention also has been cut. As someone who has served as a former minister of justice and attorney general, these are wrong priorities. These are inverted values. This is disconnected from the needs of our country. This is disconnected from the needs of my constituents.

Moreover, the cost of the government's core spending priorities, these megaprisons and untendered contracts for fighter jets and corporate tax cuts for the very special rich, were not even included in the budget, thereby further undermining the very credibility of it. In fact, it is a stealth budget. It may not be surprising that it is a stealth budget that has $30 billion that we cannot see for F-35 stealth planes. This came the day after a damning parliamentary report that recommended the government be found in contempt of Parliament for hiding this information.

It is not just a matter of not sharing the cost and not making a full disclosure so Canadians can make an assessment of the validity of the costs in the budget. Not to share that information is to show contempt for Parliament, for my constituents and for the Canadian people. That is why a parliamentary committee found the government in contempt, without precedent in that regard.

What we need and what we do not have in the budget is a comprehensive strategy on what Canadians care about, namely health care; a comprehensive strategy on what Canadians care about, namely early learning and child care; a comprehensive strategy with regard to access to higher education; a comprehensive strategy with regard to jobs and combatting poverty; a comprehensive strategy with regard to the needs of Canadians in terms of social justice, affordable housing and the like. We do not have these things in the budget.

I regret that the government had an opportunity to look after the real authentic needs of Canadians. The Minister of Finance spoke about the fact that this was a budget based on needs. However, the tragedy is the authentic needs of Canadians are ignored and it is a budget disconnected from Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I encourage the member opposite to read an article that just came out at one o'clock today with regard to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, which is supportive of budget 2011. I encourage him to read that as he spouts off a need to do something for health care.

The member brags about his time in cabinet and his time as a justice minister. It is unfortunate that I have to bring up the Liberal record yet again. While he was cabinet, there was a commitment made that led to the disappearance of $1 billion in an HRSDC boondoggle. As well, $363 million were taken during adscam. Yet we still do not know what happened to $40 million of it. I ask the member if he could possibly help us find that and put it further to the poverty issues that he says need to be addressed.

There was also a commitment by his cabinet, $2 million for a gun registry, that ended up costing Canadians over $2 billion, $2 billion that could have been used more wisely.

This government has done enormous things to ensure that poverty-stricken Canadians are going to live a better life. I would implore the member to answer this question. What does he plan to do in answer to those Canadians, particularly the seniors, who are begging to see this budget go forward?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to respond to the questions and comments of the hon. member.

First, with regard to medicine, if we speak to people in medicine across our country, and I have, with regard to the questions of tax credits for doctors who will go into the rural areas, which we support, they will tell us is that the document lacks a comprehensive strategy with regard to health care. I spoke to that.

What it lacks is a comprehensive strategy with regard to early learning and child care. What it lacks is a basis of assessment on comparative need.

There are $30 billion for fighter jets, when the annual budget with regard to health care is $30 billion in our country. We are talking about that. We are talking about comparative need. We are talking about whether one cares about the needs of Canadians.

I did not brag about what I did as a minister of justice. I just said that a minister of justice, and every other cabinet minister, as well as every MP, has a constitutional responsibility for oversight. Whether one is a government MP or an opposition MP, members have a constitutional responsibility to disclose the information that is needed to make an informed judgment and a constitutional responsibility to get up and hold the government to account.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question, through you, to the speaker who just spoke about homelessness and social housing.

I urge the government to leaf through the books of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which is a federal crown corporation. It will see the billions of dollars in surplus that the corporation is raking in. That money could be invested in society and in building social housing.

I also urge the federal government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to work with the Société d'habitation du Québec (SHQ), which works in turn with the municipal housing offices.

When I was a municipal councillor in Hauterive and Baie-Comeau, the municipal housing office’s waiting lists were extremely long. The people on those lists are people with low incomes.

Personally, I think that the 2011 budget does not meet the expectations of low-income families when it comes to housing for seniors and people with disabilities.

I would like the speaker who spoke before me to answer this question. Could the money that is lying idle in the government be invested in society, through investments in social housing?