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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

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member would know that our total debt at the moment is around $543 billion and that the government is just coming off adding another $56 billion to that. This year it will be another $43 billion, and the next year it should be a $34 billion deficit. This is at a time when interest rates are actually low. What is the government going to do when interest rates start moving up, which must happen over the next couple of years, and interest payments start going up astronomically?

The government is doing all of this at a time when corporations are getting tax reductions and ones like the Royal Bank of Canada are paying their president $44 million a year.

Does any of this make sense to the hon. member?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I did point out in my speech that I am quite concerned about this accumulating debt.

I pointed out that between 1997 and 2007 Canadians sacrificed. We put a lot of effort into paying down our debt. We did not want to burden future generations. We did not want to borrow from our children.

Now, in three short years, the Conservatives have added to that, taking us right back to the point where we were 10 years ago. It does concern me greatly that we are continuing to add to that debt.

If the Conservatives need some assistance in identifying some of the waste within the government and how that waste could be recovered to ensure that we do not have a deficit, I would be happy to help them out. I was pointing out waste all throughout the fall.

There are choices in our country. I think that is what my hon. colleague is pointing out. We are certainly hearing that interest rates will rise, and as they rise the fiscal capacity of our country is going to be limited. At a time when the government is choosing to spend on untendered fighter jets and corporate tax cuts, that will not allow it any money for other priorities in the country.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on budget 2011. I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Labour.

I want to encourage all parliamentarians to support this excellent budget. I want to encourage all Canadians, in fact, to read this budget in detail because it includes a number of measures that are certainly worthy of support.

In general, this budget supports job creation by helping businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.

It keeps taxes low, invests in projects of national importance and it maintains Canada's brand as one of the best places to invest in the world. It supports families and communities so that all Canadians can enjoy a high standard of living and our communities can stay vibrant and safe.

It invests in innovation, education and training to promote research and leading-edge technologies, and to provide Canadians with the opportunity and incentives to acquire the skills needed for jobs in today's labour market.

It also preserves our fiscal advantage in order to be able to invest in the priorities of Canadians, to keep Canada's economy growing strongly and to maintain our low interest rates.

Particularly, I want to address the benefits in this budget for my province, the province of Alberta.

Under our Conservative government in 2011-12, Alberta will see record federal transfers totalling nearly $3.4 billion; an increase of $1.1 billion from the former Liberal government.

Alberta will see growing transfer support for health care, which is a 29% jump from the Liberal government, or $2.1 billion; and for social services, which is a jump of nearly $1.3 billion, or 114% over the former government.

This increased support will help hospitals, doctors, nurses, schools, teachers and other critical services in my province.

A permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund would be legislated, which was the number one priority outlined to me by the mayors of Edmonton, Leduc and Devon in terms of making this a predictable, stable, long-term funding for municipalities that they can count on into the future.

A one-time credit of $1,000 against the small employer's increase in 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010, which was called for by small businesses from across Canada and by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I want to thank them for putting that idea forward.

The budget also provides assistance to the manufacturing and processing sector. I want to compliment the work of people like Larry Kaumeyer from Almita Piling Inc. and Lori Schmidt who works with Productivity Alberta, another investment that we made through western diversification in terms of making these manufacturers and processors even more efficient.

I want to compliment the Minister of Finance on extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing, which was something that was unanimously supported in the 2007 industry committee report.

There is also help for farmers, especially those in rural areas, in terms of a $50 million initiative for agricultural innovation.

There is an additional support of $10 million for work sharing. This was raised by companies like Argus Manufacturing and Nisku. It would allow these companies to retain employees by having the government cover part of the cost of the employee. For those industries that have periods of boom and bust, it would allow them to retain employees during those tough times so that they would be there when the market and services pick up.

I would like to recognize the work done by both the current and former ministers in terms of the Red Tape Reduction Commission and also extending the BizPaL service across the country.

As well, I would like to recognize the extension of the energy retrofit housing program.

In my riding in the area of Devon where we have the research centre that deals with a lot of the tailings technology for the oil sands, Sustainable Development Technology Canada is very active in terms of supporting companies like Titanium with some very new technologies. This budget provides $40 million over two years in SDTC and that is why they have come out in support of this budget very strongly.

I want to talk about innovation and investments in R and D. This budget provides $80 million in new funding over three years for the industrial research assistance program, IRAP. Small- and medium-size businesses across this country would all point to IRAP as an effective program that works and our government has funded this to the tune of $80 million over three years.

There is an additional $37 million per year to support three federal research granting councils, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, which had asked for increased funding. We are prioritizing during times when we have to reach a balanced budget by 2015-16.

We are investing in key areas like innovation and research at universities and colleges, which is why the universities and the colleges have come out and strongly supported this budget.

Just before Christmas, this Parliament adopted a motion I introduced with respect to Alzheimer's. I am very proud to say that this budget allocates $100 million to help establish a Canada brain research fund. It will support the very best Canadian neuroscience and accelerate discoveries to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.

The motion was adopted unanimously by this House of Commons. Members of Parliament from the four parties spoke in favour of the motion and it is now in the federal budget. The point that the Prime Minister is making in his statement this week to the other parties and to Canadians is that a lot of the initiatives in the budget were in fact ideas that were presented by all four parties and by Canadians from all walks of life. The motion made its way into the budget and this is why the budget does deserve support.

There is some other funding in terms of investment and research and development. Over $50 million over five years is provided to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

There is an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its work. This was certainly called for by all four parties as well.

Another $50 million over five years is provided to the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, which is doing outstanding work in that region.

Another $60 million over three years is provided to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.

I do want to address the issue of seniors because many seniors in my riding have come forward, especially in the province of Alberta where the inflation rate has been higher than the national average. Obviously, having an economy that typically grows above a national average overall is a good thing, but it does place some constraints certainly on seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, in terms of dealing with rising costs. The budget enhances the guaranteed income supplement for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and their GIS payments. It puts an additional $300 million into this program, which is $600 for single seniors and $840 for a couple. This investment will help 680,000 seniors across this country.

As the House knows, this was asked for by other parties. It was certainly supported strongly by members of the Conservative caucus. This is an initiative worthy of support and I ask all parties to therefore support it.

With respect to the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees, we in fact are changing the federal rules with respect to this and the targeted initiative for older workers, which was in fact another request made by opposition parties.

I want to review some of the initiatives that this government has already taken with respect to seniors.

Since 2006, our government has increased the age amount, first by $1,000 in 2006, and then by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting. We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSP plans to 71 from 69 years of age, something that was done by the former government. It had put it down to 69 from 71. We have reversed that policy change. This means that in 2011, a single senior can earn at least $19,000 and a senior couple at least $38,000, before having to pay any federal income tax.

In the time remaining in my speech, I would like to quote from a number of organizations which have come out in strong support of this budget. Chambers of commerce from across the country have applauded it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauds a low-tax budget.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network have been very active in the corporate income tax debate over the last few months and our message has been heard:

--Canada’s low tax plan has created a healthy economic environment for business investment and we applaud the government for staying the course.

It is not only endorsed by those organizations representing all businesses. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, also came out and endorsed this budget as well. It endorsed the EI hiring tax credit:

CFIB is extremely pleased to see its top budget priority- an EI Hiring Credit for Small Business--announced in the 2011 budget. As this budget forecasts rising EI premiums in each of the next three years, this credit will be a major help to small firms in growing their workforce.

In terms of red tape, the CFIB as well commends this government for its action taken in terms of improving taxpayer fairness under the Canada Revenue Agency, which I know my colleague will follow up on in his speech later this afternoon.

In terms of retirement income, the CFIB strongly endorses the government's action with respect to the ongoing work to introduce pooled registered pension plans to really help those Canadians who do not have a public pension plan or do not have a private pension plan.

I see that my time is up--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a smile on my face and the member for Edmonton—Leduc will probably be doing the same thing.

We have worked very well in the past. I also want to compliment the member on his fine work, not just on industry but on the Standing Committee on Finance. It is encouraging to see that we have members in this House who are uniting forces and able to make people in this Parliament work so well. We look forward to his good works after the next election.

The member would find my question predictable because it is clearly something I had waited for in what appears to be the last budget of this Parliament. That is, the promise made by his party with respect to reducing the fuel burden on our truckers and on industry.

In the last election, the Conservatives campaigned on a 2¢ per litre reduction in diesel taxes. That election is almost finished and we are coming to another election. The term of the government is almost there. I wonder if the hon. member remembers that promise made by his government. We are dealing with high fuel prices and high food prices. The time would be now. Why is it not in the budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to return the member's comments. I served with him on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. He was an outstanding vice-chair of that committee. He certainly made it work and I commend him for his work, for instance, on the report we did in 2007 which recognized that we had to do something for the manufacturing sector and thereby implemented the changes with respect to the accelerated capital cost allowance. So I certainly commend him for his work there.

I remember the promise made in the last election campaign. Obviously, that was a promise made over a full term of government which we hoped to see.

In terms of reducing fuel costs though, this government has reduced costs overall in terms of consumers and namely with respect to the goods and services tax, from 7% to 6% to 5%. That is the biggest thing that could be done, whether for someone putting gas in a car, or buying a new home. The biggest change we could make for consumers is to reduce the GST, which we have done.

In terms of the fuel excise tax, we will see what happens in the next campaign which we expect will start in the next few days. However, I appreciate the member's question and his work, and I thank him for his comments.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc on the good job he does chairing the Standing Committee on Finance.

I would like to ask him what he thinks about the fact that there is no mention in the budget of compensation for Quebec for the harmonization of the two taxes, the GST and the QST, when such compensation was given to other provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces; when the Government of Quebec has been requesting compensation for the harmonization of these taxes since 1997, as was confirmed yesterday; and when Quebec is paying its share, 25%, of the compensation being given to other provinces for tax harmonization.

Why is a settlement not even mentioned in the current budget?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, first I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and for his work on the Standing Committee on Finance.

It is a valid question because if the sales tax with the province of Quebec were harmonized with the federal government, my expectation is there would be some form of agreement that would be modelled on the agreements that occurred between the federal government and the Atlantic provinces, British Columbia and Ontario.

However, the fact is that the sales tax is not harmonized as it is currently. That is why our finance minister and the finance minister of Quebec are working very hard to try to reach an agreement where it is harmonized. Once that agreement takes place, my expectation is that a similar model will be applied, as was applied with the Atlantic provinces and with British Columbia and Ontario.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise to say that my hon. colleague from Edmonton is far too good an MP to really believe the speaking points he was sent in here to read today.

There is only one glaring choice made in that budget that for me summarizes justification for the fact that every other party in the House rejects the government's 2011 budget. The Calgary Stampede is getting $5 million to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Grey Cup is getting $5 million to celebrate its 100th anniversary. That is $10 million, but the total amount for youth crime prevention and gang prevention is $7 million a year. How can we support—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I will have to give the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc 35 seconds to respond.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I can assure my colleague and send him my notes to show that I, in fact, wrote the speech myself. They are my own talking points.

With respect to the funding, I believe the Grey Cup is an event of national importance and events of national importance ought to be supported by their government. The Calgary Stampede, in my view, fits that category. That is what we did with programs like the marquee tourism events program. We try to support events across the country which are of incredible national importance.

In response to the question, if he does not want to listen to me or my party, he can listen to the universities and colleges in his region, to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and even to the Canadian Labour Congress, which is advising the NDP to think seriously about this budget, look at the support for—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of Labour.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to be here today talking about the budget. I think it is incredibly important that we have a full discussion on the important issues that are facing us today and that we also take a look at the solutions that we have presented to the people in order to make it through the next phase of the recovery from the recession.

At the very core of it, I am very proud to represent the constituency of Halton. I am the mother of two boys. They are nine and six years old. My worries, when I am home in the riding, are with regard to the economy. I am concerned about jobs for my family, for my friends, and for my neighbours. I am concerned about the rising costs in my household. I am concerned about whether or not my friends and family, and myself can make ends meet. I am also concerned that my kids are safe and healthy. So when I, in this House, take a look at the budget, first and foremost, that is how I look at it. I look at it as what we call that ordinary, typical family, that person who is worrying about those kinds of things that I just talked about.

What do I see in this budget? I see support for job creation. I see support for families. I see that support for communities. I see investment in innovation, education and training, those kinds of things that are going to help my kids to do better in the future, and my community to do better. I also see what I very much like, which is a plan to ensure that we are taking care of the expenses in government, that we are looking after taxpayers' dollars. All of these things will allow me to manage my day-to-day life.

The child arts tax credit would be incredibly beneficial for a lot of my residents in Halton. Indeed, we have already proven that we care about families, with $3,000 for the average family being saved already from the measures that we have put in place. I am very proud of these things. That is why I know that this proposed budget would make a difference for residents in Halton because I know it would make a difference in my life.

It is important to understand that this budget was built from the ground up, that it was a process that was thoughtful, and we had gone through very specific steps.

As a local member of Parliament, I consulted with municipal councillors, with businesses, with seniors, and with local families. However, as the Minister of Labour, my job is to ensure, as well, that the workplace is the most productive, healthy, innovative, and positive place that we can have people working in because it is there where the economy grows. It is there where we do the great things we need to do in order to ensure that our country continues to prosper.

I was lucky enough to go to consultations in Sydney, Nova Scotia, the place where I was brought up. I was in Thunder Bay. I was in Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver and Iqaluit. I made sure in every single case that organized labour had input. I am the daughter of a Cape Breton labour organizer and very proud of it. I respect and I want to hear that voice.

We also had experts in the fields of occupational health and safety as well as labour relations. We listened, we responded, and we heard.

So, what have we done from the labour perspective?

First and foremost, a strike or a work stoppage on the economy could be absolutely devastating. If we were to have a rail strike in this country, we would see a cost to the economy of $125 million a week. Not only that, it is the harm to the third parties, those innocent parties who are not part of the collective bargaining process, who have to live with what is happening at the table, who will feel the pain associated with the work stoppage.

Our role in Labour Canada is to ensure that the parties come to an agreement. That is why we are providing money for preventative mediation and conciliation services to ensure that work stoppages do not happen in Canada. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Never more has this been more appropriate in this case.

In consultations, we listened and we heard from employees about the importance and the dignity of continuing to work past the age of 65. People want to work past 65. There is no question about it. Indeed, on my town hall teleconference on Tuesday night with members of my community, I was told that by separate residents, that they have retired, they want to use their skills, and they want to be productive. In fact, 65 is just an artificial number in any event, that came inherited to us from the past and is truly meaningless.

However, we listened to employers as well. The importance of listening to employers is that in some cases there truly are some bona fide occupational requirements that are needed in order to ensure that there is a healthy and safe workplace at play.

Finally, in 2008, we introduced the wage earner protection program. It gave certainty to people in the event of a bankruptcy, certainty in two ways: first, they would be paid out in a timely fashion as the government steps into their shoes and assumes their claim in a bankruptcy action; and second, they knew that they would get some form of payment for lost wages, severance and termination.

Before that, they were assured of nothing but a long, protracted legal settlement that they would have to go through and pay for out of their own pocket in order to reclaim their wages. Our government stepped into their shoes. Our government recognized the importance of it. It is a lean, efficient, effective program that delivers rock solid results when workers and families are at their most vulnerable.

I have been thanked by organized labour many times in consultations for this program, but I did hear, as I was in Thunder Bay speaking with two of our candidates, Richard Harvey and Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann, about a situation for workers at the former Atikokan Forest Products where, because of the restructuring effects, they were unable to claim the wage earner protection program. We took those complaints back, and I heard them from organized labour as well, and we introduced in this budget the fix.

The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River has been, in his local media yesterday, discussing this issue too and offering to help his constituents. His complaints regarding the situation and his commiserations with the people are nothing but crocodile tears because he has an opportunity to make a difference in these people's lives. He can do it now, today. Instead, his response is to talk about what will happen after the election. It is not enough. The solution is there. It is too little, too late.

In the past 14 months I have absolutely treasured the ability to be the Minister of Labour, the role I have taken on. I have met good people and I have seen the great work they do, both domestically and internationally on the organized labour scene. I sincerely want to thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity I have had in these past few months.

We all recognize, as I have said before, that the workplace drives the economy. Organized labour recognizes that too. They understand the importance of working with dignity. They have imparted that importance on to me. I take the matter very seriously and I understand very sincerely that these are the issues that are important to them.

As a government, we have listened to organized labour. As a government, we are the ones who have taken their concerns and translated them into effective measures that we are proposing in the budget. That is exactly why Ken Georgetti of the Canada Labour Congress talked about how important it was that we had put in place the provisions for seniors and that we had put in place the provisions for all the matters respecting EI and work sharing. He is pleased with the announcements in the budget about extending work sharing programs, about EI pilot projects, support for laid off older workers, and improving wage protection for laid off workers. That is a great laundry list of items on which we have delivered.

In terms of seniors, he made it very clear that this as well is a budget that is a win for seniors. We have taken care of that matter too. We respected and we listened to the point of view of organized labour, and I am very proud that we were able to do that in this budget.

It is quite unfortunate, however, that there are different opinions in the House with respect to whether or not the point of view of organized labour should be respected in terms of the budget.

In conclusion, labour relations is a very fulfilling field. Getting to a deal at the negotiation table is incredibly satisfying when we know we have done the best we can, we have gone through the process, that we are able to get a deal that is good for our company and good for the people we represent.

Ken Georgetti from the Canada Labour Congress has over 30 years in senior roles at the table. I have great respect for his negotiating skills, and I have greater respect for his innate sense of when to close a deal. He knows how to do a deal. He knows when negotiations are at an end, and that is why, when he said the following, representing 3.2 million brothers and sisters of the organized labour movement, it meant something. He said:

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...if we were at a negotiating table we'd take that offer.

Plain and simple.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the labour minister's speech. I do not think that she said very much about the funding given to the Canadian forestry industry, which amounted to a measly $60 million for the entire country.

Given that the forestry industry provides more jobs than the automotive industry, which received $10 billion from the government, how could she fail to recognize the lack of emphasis that has been put on the forestry industry in the regions?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question with respect to forestry. In my former role as minister of natural resources during the economic recession, I had a large role to play with respect to delivering for the forestry industry.

In the same way, we built the budget and the proposals from the ground up. We talked to the Forest Products Association of Canada, the labour industry and the communities that were being affected, which is why the programs we put in place were very important.

The green infrastructure fund associated with pulp and paper facilities received $1 billion. That went to help pulp and paper facilities upgrade, modernize and become more green and efficient. That was incredibly important. The community adjustment fund assisted communities to ensure they diversified so they would have something more than forestry to deal with in the future.

We also have dedicated resources to marketing. In fact, our forest companies have done a wonderful job of getting to markets in areas that we had not expected before. For example, we are doing great work in China. We were doing great work in Japan with respect to the sale of wood. I know companies do a great job and will continue to do so. Our role in government is to support what the companies want to do and support the workers and the communities.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Labour for the tremendous work she has done with the Conservative government. She has brought to this government some extraordinary talent, skill and devotion that, frankly, was lacking in previous governments.

She commented on several of the things in the budget that would help workers. I would like her to take it home a bit and tell us how this budget would actually help her community and province to ensure the people who need the things provided in the budget get them.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her friendship and kind words. We have done great work this year.

I must point out that I was reading in this week's issue of Maclean's magazine a quote from a senior Liberal adviser who stated that the Liberals needed to win back votes who are largely female, largely under 50, largely suburban and largely non-Anglo-Saxon.

In answer to the member's question, that would be a great description of my riding, quite frankly, and me, except in terms of ethnicity. However, it is clear from the position of the opposition party that the Liberals have given up on that very demographic. They have given up on seniors, young families, working-class people, volunteers, entrepreneurs and students. However, we should not be too surprised. As I said in the beginning, I am here to work for my constituents. I am here only because of my constituents and every day I think about what is better for them.

It is very clear that the coalition will be led by a Leader of the Opposition who is not in it for Canadians, like we are in it for our constituents, and is clearly in it for himself. Otherwise, the opposition would not be turning down a budget that would be very beneficial for my constituents and for people who are severely affected across the country. The leader did not come back for Canadians and that could not be more obvious than right now.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec.

Not surprisingly, I am speaking today to express my disappointment with the current government's budget, which ignores Quebec requests.

When we released our budget expectations in January, we made it clear that certain measures were crucial if the government wanted our support.

For example, one essential condition for our support was that Quebec be given $2.2 billion for tax harmonization. Unfortunately, unlike Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, which was a pioneer in harmonizing taxes—it did so 19 years ago—has been shortchanged. And that was a Conservative decision. The Bloc will propose an amendment to the Conservative budget in order to put an end to this chronic injustice.

When it comes to social issues, the Conservatives have shown that they do not care about the less fortunate. Their budget does nothing to address the well-demonstrated need for real employment insurance reform to reflect the reality faced by workers.

Instead of offering long-term solutions, the Conservative government would rather continue plundering the employment insurance fund, to the tune of $17 billion over five years, and will only commit to pilot projects. In that regard, this government is simply repeating what has always been done in the past. In the end, the employment insurance fund is the government's cash cow, to the detriment of workers.

In particular, Quebec and its regions also needed a real program to assist older workers who have lost their jobs, in order to support them until their retirement. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the Conservatives' rhetoric about the regions and what they are actually doing as a government.

Furthermore, the Quebec manufacturing sector cannot count on any substantial federal policies to help it develop. We submitted some concrete proposals, however, such as funding for research and development for all innovative companies. For example, instead of presenting a real policy for the aerospace industry, which just happens to be concentrated in Quebec, the budget proposes simply reviewing policies.

The Conservatives also continue to favour the wealthy. In order to finance our requests, the Bloc Québécois had submitted a plan that would have allowed Ottawa to increase revenues by $16 billion without dipping into the pockets of middle-class workers.

In particular, we proposed a surtax on the richest taxpayers, who could easily give a little more, the elimination of tax havens, which are liberally allowed in Canada and are costing Canadians billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, and the end of gifts to oil companies, which always benefit from tax cuts. That plan provided more than enough to pay the money owed to Quebec and to meet its most pressing needs.

In addition, the government is maintaining its centralizing agenda, which will have an impact on Quebec's economy. It must abandon its plan to create a single securities commission, a measure that goes against the interests of Quebec and infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions. I might add that it also flies in the face of a unanimous vote in the Quebec National Assembly, yet the government continues on that path, completely ignoring all requests from Quebeckers and the Quebec nation, despite having recognized that nation.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the Conservative government to back down immediately and put an end, once and for all, to its plans for a single securities commission, which is designed to do Montreal out of what it has for Toronto's benefit and which infringes on Quebec's jurisdictions.

I would now like to talk about a matter that is very important to me. I have been a member for seven years and, throughout that time, the lack of social housing in Laval has been an issue. More than 16,000 Laval households are facing a crisis. They spend more than 30% of their income on housing and represent 36.6% of all renters in Laval. What is even more serious is that 7,400 of them spend more than 50% of their income on housing.

The federal government owns a penitentiary in the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul area of my riding. It has been closed for 21 years, since 1989. Since that time, the government has been considering solutions for converting the penitentiary facilities and the grounds around the old building. Since 2006, I have been formally requesting that the government include affordable or social housing in its plans for the site. In 2007, people sent hundreds of reply cards in support of this request to the minister responsible. This is not a recent file.

In 2009, in the absence of a positive response from the government, I circulated a petition formally calling on the government to proceed with the conversion of the old penitentiary and to work with the Government of Quebec to include affordable or social housing. The petition had 2,813 signatures and was presented here on June 15, 2010. I was very surprised to hear the response of the Minister of Public Safety when Parliament resumed last fall. He unabashedly stated, “the CSC [which is under his authority] is open to the sale of the property to a third party...the development of affordable or social housing is outside the mandate of the CSC.”

I understand that it is outside his mandate, but the petition was addressed to the government, which is responsible for the facility.

And that is the point we have come to with this government. It is not meeting the needs voiced by the people. But the people of Laval will not forget. The government is showing complete disinterest in the needs of the people, but at the same time it recently announced that it would spend $40 million to incarcerate an additional 96 prisoners in the Laval Federal Training Centre, which is located near the former penitentiary. This all stems from the government's repressive ideology. This government has millions of dollars to house inmates, but it cannot find money to house needy families.

In keeping with the needs expressed by the people, the Bloc's budget expectations called for the following measures. First, the Bloc called on the federal government to gradually reinvest in social or affordable housing until it reached approximately $2 billion in additional funding per year. It also expected the government to commit to eventually allocating 1% of its revenues to social housing, a total of $2.6 billion for 2011-12, over and above current funding levels.

In addition, the Bloc wanted the government to introduce a system to manage the CMHC surplus and bring an end to the systematic accumulation of that surplus, which will reach more than $10 billion in 2011. This surplus should be used, in part, to fund the gradual reinvestment that the Bloc is proposing.

Since homelessness is often caused by a lack of social housing, the Bloc is also calling for improvements to the homelessness partnering strategy. It is appalling to see how little the 2011 budget offers in this area. No new funding was announced for construction, conversion or renovation of social housing. The Conservative government boasts that it has invested in construction, but it is the first to government that has not reinvested anything in social housing. The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain is decrying this situation. It says that a single F-35 fighter jet is the equivalent of 6,400 subsidized housing units. That proportion is astonishing.

To conclude, the Conservatives have chosen to turn a blind eye to Quebec's requests and will have to answer to the voters.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I listened to the Bloc Québécois member, and I have a hard time understanding why the Bloc is always whining when the federal and provincial governments sit down together to talk.

As we said, and as the Government of Quebec has often repeated, the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec are on the right track with tax harmonization.

The Bloc always has something to say. However, the Bloc will never be in power, will never be able to sit down with the Government of Quebec, and will never be able to sign a cheque in Parliament.

I would like to know how much money the Bloc Québécois has injected into Quebec's economy since 1993?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am shocked by the type of comments I am hearing.

Some say that the Bloc Québécois has never made any investments in government. To my knowledge, neither have the Conservative members.

In my opinion, it is the government that invests money. It is the government of the people, who are represented by all those present, that sets the priorities and spends taxpayers' money. The money does not belong to the Bloc or to any other party. It belongs to taxpayers, and we allocate it to the right places.

This government wants to spend $20 billion or $30 billion on fighter planes when other needs have not been met. I believe that the government's priorities are wrong.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I would like the member to comment, if he wants to, on any of these things. He made a good point about housing missing from this, as well as shelters, which is very important in my riding.

I asked the Minister of Finance to increase the mineral exploration tax credit to make it longer and more permanent. The good news is he did for one year, and I am glad he did that, but the mining associations wanted it for more years to give a longer certainty. Would the member support me on that?

Also, there was embarrassingly little for aboriginal Canadians. Museum programs were cut, including the MAP program for small museums. Fifteen arts programs were cut, including the travelling museum exhibits, which are very important for the Yukon. The Conservatives also closed the dental therapy school, the only one in Canada.

The Canadian Environmental Network, which does great work across Canada, will now have to close. The friendship centres have not received a cost of living increase during the entire term of the government. There was nothing for the great CAIRS Yukon project or for search and rescue for the north, which the Senate just said had to be put in, as I have said for five years now.

There were cuts made to the Canadian Tourism Commission. There is nothing for child care, addictions, mental health and, as the member said, there is very little for students and seniors.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the list of complaints expressed by my colleague. The cuts made by the current government strengthen my conviction that, in the areas of culture, research and education, it is not choosing its priorities based on the needs of the general public.

I believe that the government is wrapped up in its ideology, and would spend billions of dollars on punishment and militarism rather than on direct assistance for people who sorely need it. That is what the Bloc finds deplorable about the budget, and that is why we will be voting against it.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. Bloc Québécois colleagues for supporting me in my speech on the budget.

I am pleased to speak here today, because the budget is of particular interest to me. As the member for Québec and caucus chair for the Quebec City region, I cannot help but note that the Quebec City region has been forgotten in this budget. The budget reads more like an election speech, since the measures within the budget are simply a smattering of goodies for vulnerable groups.

The Conservatives will say that, during the election campaign, seniors will not get their $50 a month. They said we did not read the budget, but with our experience here in the House of Commons, we have a good research service and members who have a thorough grasp of their files. From a careful look at the budget, we could see right away how little it has to offer Quebec.

We made some very targeted requests in precise figures. In fact, the Conservative Minister of Finance even said that the Bloc had done a good job. So why are we not voting in favour of this budget at the outset? We had asked for $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing the GST and the QST. Six provinces have been compensated, including British Columbia, Ontario and the maritime provinces. Yet Quebec is being ignored. Several billion dollars were given to those provinces in compensation: $1.6 billion to British Columbia, $4.3 billion to Ontario and $1 billion to the Maritimes, for a total of about $7 billion. Quebec paid $1.75 billion of that amount to compensate them. We are asking for $2.2 billion.

It is also shocking to see how quickly the Conservatives agreed to that: after 244 days for Ontario and 131 days for British Columbia. How long has Quebec been waiting for an agreement to be signed? How many days? It has been 6,841 days. It is truly shocking to watch the Conservatives drag their feet on this issue.

Earlier, the Conservative member for Beauport—Limoilou said that we are always whining. We read the papers just like everyone else, just like the citizens of the Quebec City region. We know very well that Minister Bachand has been working hard while trying not to upset the Conservatives too much because they react easily and he does not want them to slam the door and say that they will not compensate Quebec. Nevertheless, Quebec has been waiting for this money. If Quebec had $2.2 billion dollars in its coffers, the Government of Quebec would be able to pay off 60% of its deficit, which would give it more flexibility to meet the needs of the people.

Conservative MPs from the Quebec City area should have demonstrated more leadership with regard to this budget, which could be called an election announcement. The epicentre for the MPs that were elected here in the House is the Quebec City region, which has six representatives. If there is an election—we are, of course, still waiting to see if there will be one—we will hound the Quebec City region's MPs. They will have to answer questions. During debates or when they are interviewed by our local and regional newspapers, they will have to answer, in an intelligent way, certain questions that we want to ask them.

For example, they put on Nordiques jerseys to support the team coming back to Quebec City. We do not know why they put those sweaters on but, in the end, they did not bring in any funding for the Quebec City arena. They said that private funding was needed. Private funding was obtained and then they wanted something else. The real reason was put in writing. There was a directive from the Prime Minister's office stating that funding would not be given for arenas anywhere in Canada. The Conservatives also wanted to make it seem as though this arena would be used exclusively for sports. That is untrue. This is a multi-purpose arena that would house cultural and sporting events, as well as some Olympic events. Clearly, the people of Quebec City have been misled.

Furthermore, a number of issues have been put on the back burner, for example, the Quebec Bridge.

My hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert has worked hard on defending that issue in the Quebec City area. He also moved a motion in the House calling on the government to repurchase the bridge and enter into discussion with the owners, CN, to find a solution. Again, we saw the Conservatives' bad faith with this file. They acted just like the Liberals and let the matter drag on, saying it was up to the courts to decide. In the meantime, as in Montreal, the bridge is rusting and it could end up costing more than we think. This was an important issue for the Quebec City area.

The Shannon issue is one that I have followed closely and on which I have dogged the government. The groundwater in Shannon is contaminated. We will not get into details about the levels of contamination, but the shocking thing is that the government failed to include any money in this budget for decontamination.

It would cost roughly $20 million a year for a technique that might be better than the last one. This technique would allow us to move forward and clean up the groundwater so that people in the municipality of Shannon can be safe. I know that this case is currently before the courts, but enough with the excuses.

Before the last election, many things were promised. For example, they promised to resolve the mail sorting centre issue and to do something for the zoo. Once the election was over, we did not hear another word about these plans and they moved on to other things. Many things need to be addressed and there will be many more challenges to face for the development of the Quebec City area.

The Prime Minister said in his speech, the day after bringing down this electoral budget, that he was focused on job creation. If there is one issue in the Quebec City area that all members from Quebec City should focus on it is the Davie shipyard issue.

The rules for the request for proposals were changed causing the shipyard to lose weeks, and thereby preventing it from being able to restructure and become solvent. Regardless of what we want to do in this case, they have stymied our ability to be proactive.

In Le Soleil or the Journal de Québec, a daily newspaper in our region, the counterpart of the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse has said he thinks the federal government should be much broader in its request for proposals and give this company the opportunity to prove its solvency.

What is shocking is hearing the leader of the members from the Quebec City region, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, say that the Quebec City region should not expect the Davie shipyard to be a priority. We can see what little weight she carries in cabinet when it comes to talking about the Davie shipyard. She herself said that there should be no expectations, even if the Davie shipyard were solvent. She should stand up for her region and be proactive. She should do everything she can to ensure that the Davie shipyard receives its fair share. The total for all of the contracts is said to be $35 billion. Could the Quebec City region not receive its fair share? We are talking about 2,700 jobs and economic spinoffs to the tune of $2.1 billion, but the Conservatives are nowhere to be seen.

Earlier, I mentioned the Quebec Bridge. Money was taken from the fund for the continental gateway strategy to restore the Champlain Bridge. This fund is meant for modifications or economic inputs in connection with the St. Lawrence River and for the continental gateway. The money being taken from that fund is not new money, and that is what I find despicable about how this government works. We are seeing a smattering of goodies to please voters. I think that vulnerable groups are being held hostage. We know what the Conservatives are capable of doing. During the previous election, we saw how they could dangle the idea of another $50, but we also know that there was a price.

So it is not for everyone. People need to take a close look at this measure.

It is too bad; I would have liked to speak longer. the Quebec City region and a number of leaders were disappointed by the Conservatives' motives in the region—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, since I arrived in the House of Commons I have been teased by our friends in the Bloc, who say that there is a good and a bad Bernard Généreux, the good one being the president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités. After the budget was presented on Tuesday, I saw this:

Mr. Généreux also welcomed the measure that would make the annual $2 billion investment in the gas tax fund permanent. With such an announcement, municipalities were hoping for more stable funding.

If he was good yesterday, he is still good today. They just said that he is the good Bernard Généreux and that I am the bad one. In the budget, we said that municipalities—I was a mayor once myself—have the right to receive funding. That is what we did.

I would ask my colleague to respond to that.