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House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my new colleague on his election to the House.

I took special note of some of the things said about aboriginal people here in Canada. I take a great interest in trying to help the aboriginal people of my country to move forward being that I am Métis and have some very close links to aboriginal people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan alike.

I note that in the budget $97.2 million is afforded to different projects for aboriginal people and that follows the 2010 budget that allowed for some housing to be built on reserve and a number of other measures.

In the last Parliament we introduced some specific measures that would help aboriginal people. I am interested to know if the member is willing to support those measures? Aboriginal women have suffered greatly because they do not have the same rights as other Canadian women. The matrimonial real property act would afford the same rights to aboriginal women on reserve finally after decades of being suppressed. I am interested to hear yes or no from the member. Would he support the rights of aboriginal women if we bring that bill forward again?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question and I would also like to congratulate her. I support the rights of aboriginal Canadians. Supporting aboriginal rights and supporting the budget are two very different things.

I visited the Algonquin people in my riding. They looked at the budget. They see what is there for them and feel it is not enough. The budget does not propose enough solutions to basic problems like water. Nor does it do enough to protect the women and children of these communities or even to ensure that these communities have a police force.

Clearly, I will not be supporting this budget, but that does not mean that we cannot work together in the future on this question, which is important to us both.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Pontiac on his speech and on his election.

I heard him say that 60% of the Algonquin people in his community do not have access to clean water, a basic right and a basic necessity that people the world over need to have. In a country as rich as Canada it is quite shocking that members of his community do not have this basic right.

I would like to ask my colleague what feedback he is getting from his constituents when they learn that the government is going to be giving $15 billion a year in corporate tax cuts in the budget and yet it is also going to be chopping another $11 billion out of our public expenditures? What kind of reaction is my colleague getting from his constituents?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was talking to Chief Whiteduck just last week. He thinks it is a shame, c'est honteux, that we are giving these tax breaks to the largest and wealthiest corporations in this country when children do not even have access to water, or the water they do have is so poisoned that they cannot even give it to their pet cat.

There are also fundamental issues that this kind of government revenue could address, such as proper policing on aboriginal communities. Crime rates are high. Drug addiction is a big problem. There are a number of issues surrounding radon gas in particular communities on the Kitigan Zibi reserve and also in Barriere Lake. This is my constituents' reaction.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

As I rise to speak formally in the House for the first time since my re-election, I would like to thank the constituents of Edmonton—St. Albert for once again placing their trust in me and returning me to this honourable chamber. I look forward to serving them in my capacity of their member of Parliament.

Many thanks also go to my campaign team and hundreds of volunteers for their hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard work. Special thanks to my family and friends who continued to support me in my role as a member of Parliament.

Our government has clearly demonstrated that our economic action plan is working. If anyone needs proof of this, just last week Statistics Canada announced over 22,000 new net jobs were created in the month of May, bringing the total number of net new jobs to 560,000 since July 2009. The jobless rate is at 7.4%, the lowest it has been in more than two years. This also marks the seventh straight quarter of economic growth.

A recent forecast predicted Canada's economy will grow by 3.2% in 2011, and a further 3.1% in 2012. The future for Canada is bright and the steady job growth rate demonstrates our government is clearly on the right track.

Canadians have given our government a strong mandate to focus on building a stable economy and securing jobs. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan stays the course with a prudent, low tax plan that will continue to support the economic recovery and create more jobs.

This budget contains new measures that will have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of every Canadian. These include a new children's art tax credit and a new family caregiver tax credit, extending the popular eco-energy retrofit program to help families lower their heating and electricity bills, enhancing the GIS so that low income seniors will receive additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, and enhancing or extending the programs to help businesses keep workers and providing a hiring credit for small businesses to make new hires. These measures build on our government's strong record of support for families, seniors and small businesses, a record that I believe speaks for itself.

I would also draw attention to several significant specific achievements of this government. We have cut taxes more than 120 times since forming government and increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. Thanks to our Conservative government's decisive tax relief actions, a typical family will save more than $3,000 a year in taxes. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, and the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. Significantly, we have removed over 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls altogether, and introduced pension income splitting for seniors.

I am also pleased to see our government has set out a three point plan to eliminate the deficit, a plan that is achievable and measurable. As a result, we remain on track to balance the budget by 2014-15. I am proud of the work our government has done to bring our country through the global downturn. By all accounts, we have done a remarkable job and set an example for the entire world to follow. For these reasons, I will support this budget.

However, high taxes are still a problem for Canadian taxpayers. The Fraser Institute recently declared Monday, June 6 as tax freedom day, the day on which average Canadians have paid their total tax bill for the year and at that point start working for themselves.

In 2011, the average Canadian family will earn $93,831 in income and pay a total of $39,960 in taxes to all levels of government, or 42.6%. This year's tax freedom day is two days later than last year's, and ironically is due to our growing economy and Canadians' increasing incomes, which moved many of them into higher tax brackets. There is no sign that tax freedom day will arrive any sooner next year.

Over and over again I am asked, why is it so difficult for government to trim the excess when Canadians across the country have to cut back on their variable spending and make a conscious effort to stretch their hard-earned dollars to the limit. This budget optimistically predicts $4 billion in savings, or 1.5% of total federal spending. If federal departments were able to spend $4 billion less than expected last year without any planning or cuts, then I would suggest we could actually find additional savings within the budget's proposed $4 billion. Canadians expect nothing less of us, and we should reward their trust by delivering common sense federal spending proposals to utilize taxpayers' moneys effectively and efficiently.

Last week, the Manning Institute published research indicating that a vast majority of Canadians, over two-thirds, are becoming less dependent on government. Canadians expect less of government, except in core areas such as public safety. Canadians are increasingly more reliant on themselves, their families and volunteer organizations, and becoming less reliant on government. Canadian taxpayers expect government to focus on that which it can do effectively and efficiently.

Accordingly, the government will conduct a one-year government-wide strategic and operating review as part of our three-point plan to balance the budget. Perhaps one of the first areas we should focus our attention on is the duplication of federal and provincial departments and programs.

Theoretically, it is estimated that the federal government could reduce its operating budget by $44 billion a year and therefore eliminate the deficit by spending only in areas that fall under the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction, and I mention that theoretically. I am certainly not advocating leaving the provinces entirely to their own devices. However, one must seriously question the efficiency of parallel bureaucratic structures administering essentially the same programs. After all, there is only one taxpayer.

Some observers believe we may be facing a long-term structural deficit problem that would not be resolved by simply trimming a mere $4 billion of so-called government fat. A study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies asked why we have never considered “whether government can be restructured in any significant way as to deliver essentially the same level of service to the public at a significantly reduced cost and size.”

In this phase of our fiscal reality, all areas of government must fall under the microscope. A first and important step in this process is the elimination of the $2 per vote subsidy to all political parties. Although not mentioned in budget 2011, greater savings will be realized by the imminent elimination of the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

Eliminating unnecessary services and programs is easy. However, to effectively find our way back to balanced budgets, we must also seriously examine the cost of providing services deemed necessary. This examination will inevitably turn to the government's own human resources. We cannot continue to sustain a public sector whose growth outpaces every other category in size and compensation.

Between 1999 and 2009, the Canadian population increased by 11% but the federal government's civilian workforce grew by 35%, and public sector compensation grew by 59% compared to 30% in the private sector. Canada is fortunate to have an outstanding civil service. However, if balanced budgets are to be achieved, all unsustainable trends must be addressed. Perhaps we should view the predicted rise in attrition as an opportunity and not as a threat. The result would be a significantly less expensive public sector.

Based on the facts before us, some economists believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in our nation's finances. If we do not reduce government expenditures from 43% to 38% of GDP over the next decade, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, invariably the result will be higher taxes, dangerous debt loads or both. As the experience of European countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal has demonstrated, this path must be avoided at all costs.

Canadians are increasingly demanding tax relief, balanced budget and smaller governments. It is always easier to borrow money when someone else will have to repay it than to cut spending. Similarly, it is always easier to say “yes” and cut a cheque than to say “no”. Saying “no” takes courage and resolve.

However, on May 2, Canadians gave this government a mandate to deliver on the promises it has made. A majority government is also an opportunity to set Canada on a permanent course toward greater fiscal responsibility. The budget before this House is an important first step in this pivotal journey.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Edmonton—St. Albert for his re-election. I enjoy the flights with him back and forth between Alberta and Ottawa on a regular basis.

Health care is the number one issue in the province of Alberta. Access to universal public health care is, of course, one of those necessarily public services. Many in Edmonton, as across Canada, still lack access to a family doctor. Recently, information has been revealed, allegations made by the former head of the Alberta health authority, that privileged access to doctors and specialized medical services may be being provided by the Alberta government. That, of course, would be a potential violation of the Canada Health Act.

Has the hon. member raised these issues and concerns, raised by his constituents in Edmonton, about these allegations and about the fact that there is lack of access to family physicians? Also, has he suggested that the Minister of Health ought to look into these allegations?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Edmonton—Strathcona for her re-election to this House.

As the hon. member knows and as many members of this House know, I was a former member of the Alberta Legislature, serving Edmonton Calder from 2001-04, at about the time some of these allegations were made regarding privileged access to physicians.

I have seen no evidence that this has occurred. I certainly invite the hon. member or the hon. member of the Alberta Legislature who believes that this is the case to bring forward this evidence. At this point there are only unsubstantiated allegations.

Health care is certainly an issue for my constituents, as I am confident it is for hers. This government has given student loan relief to physicians and to nurses who are prepared to relocate to more remote parts of Canada where physicians and nurses are sadly lacking. I think that is an important first step to solving the health care crisis.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome and congratulate my colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert on his victory of May 2.

The member did talk a little bit about the operating review. It is an important point because, as we have seen in New Brunswick, we have a significant export economy, especially to the U.S. Many of our small businesses have seen a dramatic increase in the Canadian dollar. Also, with the recession, they were forced to really trim their budgets. They were forced to really look at all their expenses and to find all the efficiencies they could in order to continue to make a profit or to minimize and allow them to get over this hump.

I would just ask my hon. friend to talk a little bit about this operating review and that governments, the federal government as well the provincial governments, have a responsibility to do the exact same thing that we asked small business to do.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would similarly congratulate my hon. colleague on his re-election to this House.

Canadians expect their government to operate similarly to the way households operate or the way small businesses operate. One must operate within one's means. One cannot structurally spend more than one takes in, whether it is a family with a wage earner or a business with revenue.

It is fine to incur deficits over the short-term. Certainly, given the economic downturn, we incurred some temporary stimulus funding deficits to kickstart the Canadian economy. However, that is not a long-term plan.

Canadians expect their government to act similarly to small business or families, to live within their means and to live within balanced budgets. That is the key to economic prosperity over the long-term.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise in the House today to speak to our government's budget 2011.

Since this is my first speech in the 41st Parliament, I would like to thank the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for the support they have shown me over the past five years and for the trust they placed in me by re-electing me on May 2. It is a great honour and a great pleasure to be their member of Parliament, and I will do my very best to stand up for their interests here in the House and within the government.

Regarding the budget, I would like to begin by noting the tremendous support we received from Canadians for our government's low tax plan that focuses on protecting existing jobs, creating new jobs, securing Canada's recovery from the global economic recession, and improving the well-being of Canadians over the long-term.

All around us we see the signs of economic recovery, yet our country is still at risk. This is why our government has once again brought Canadians a budget that protects and creates jobs while promoting strong, sustained and balanced growth.

The recent election gave Canadians the opportunity to voice their concerns. The priorities of the residents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell are job creation, strong economic leadership as well as financial support for seniors, farmers, families and firefighters. I am pleased that the budget addresses all of these issues. I listened carefully to the people of my riding and I am happy that the budget proposes initiatives that will address their concerns.

Canadians are encouraged by the economic recovery we have experienced here in Canada, and by the strategies taken by our Conservative government to reduce spending and taxes.

We made a number of promises during the election and we are keeping these promises. For example, the newest measure in the budget, the four year phase-out of the taxpayer subsidy for political parties, will save taxpayers over $27 million per year.

We said we would cut this subsidy and we are cutting it. The winner is the taxpayer.

Also, our government plans to cut the deficit by almost two-thirds by 2013. The deficit will continue to decline to just $0.5 billion by 2015. Eliminating the deficit will allow us to continue paying down the debt and investing in the priorities of Canadians.

This will mean even lower taxes for families and a decline of our national debt by 2016.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that Canada will be one of only two group of seven countries expected to return to budget balance by 2016. We said that we would eliminate the deficit and eliminate it we will.

In my riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, people have benefited significantly from the first phases of Canada's economic action plan. Since 2006, I have had the pleasure of announcing more than $130 million in federal government investments to improve our infrastructure, strengthen the local economy and help community development.

This level of federal investment in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is unprecedented and has never been seen before. This funding has enabled us to preserve and develop our cultural heritages, and helped support our local businesses. That is only the beginning.

Budget 2011 is focused on creating jobs. That is particularly important in a rural riding such as mine. If we want people to move their families into rural areas, we must ensure that there are jobs there for them. The job creators are businesses. During the election we said that we would take measures to keep business taxes low and to stimulate job growth. That is exactly what we are doing.

In particular, there are tax measures to encourage and financially reward small businesses that create new jobs. These measures will help our economy to grow and will add jobs to the over 540,000 new jobs already created since July 2009.

I spoke about benefits for firefighters, seniors and families. Our budget provides for specific measures to help these important groups in our community.

In my riding, there are many volunteer firefighters. Rural communities such as the ones I represent need volunteer firefighters. These men and women have taken on the responsibility of protecting the members of our communities and even risk their lives for others. It is important to recognize that firefighters and their families make huge sacrifices.

I am very proud that our budget contains a significant tax deduction for our volunteer firefighters. Our Conservative government is the first federal government to have included such a measure in its budget. We said we would deliver strong financial support to recognize the critical work done by our volunteer firefighters and that is what we are doing.

Like every riding across Canada, the strength of my riding rests with its families. With the rising costs of living it becomes increasingly difficult for parents to afford extracurricular activities that will help their children develop their creativity. We had already delivered a tax credit to support physical fitness among youth. However, I wanted to see a tax credit to encourage an appreciation of the arts among our youth.

My riding in particular has a unique culture, one based on the francophone culture, dance and traditional music, as evidenced by the large number of youth who participate in the Glengarry Highland Games every year. The arts play a unifying role in the community. The arts enrich our children's lives and prepare them to become leaders in society, a fact supported by the government through the children's arts tax credit.

The budget also provides good news for seniors. I have visited with seniors across Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, particularly during this past election. I know of their important contributions to our communities and to our country. However, these are difficult times. As I mentioned earlier, the cost of living is increasing.

The cost of gas, electricity and food has increased, making it difficult for seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income, to make ends meet. I am pleased that the budget provides for a substantial increase in the guaranteed income supplement. An additional $600 per year will be paid to single seniors and $840 to couples. This is the third increase by the Conservatives for seniors and, it should be mentioned, the largest increase in the guaranteed income supplement in the past 25 years.

Agriculture is another very important issue that affects the well-being of my riding's residents. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, I worked closely with the farmers in my riding and throughout Canada. I am very honoured that the Prime Minister has again entrusted me with this very important role, and I would like all farmers to know that I will work closely with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and my colleagues to ensure that their interests are well represented in this government.

I believe we have done excellent work over the past five years. Farmers are doing better now than they have in a very long time. This is under a Conservative government and Conservative agricultural policies.

As we move forward in 2011, I will continue to seek input from the farmers of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and across Canada on what our future agricultural priorities should be. It is clear that we have tabled a budget that is good news for Canadians and Canada.

The 2011 budget was presented to Canadians in March, before the last election, and was one that they liked. We based our election campaign on this budget and Canadians evidently approved. On May 2, Canadians elected a strong, stable, majority Conservative government. I invite my colleagues opposite to support budget 2011, as Canadians have done.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on being re-elected. He spoke very compassionately about seniors and I want to bring up the issue of Alzheimer's disease and, more broadly, dementia, which really is the most significant critical health care issue we face.

Today, some 500,000 Canadians live with some form of dementia and the terrible impact of the illness on families is profound. The current cost is $15 billion and in 30 years we will be looking at a cost of $153 billion. I recognize there is money for neurological disorders in the budget, but I will ask a very specific question.

Where is the national or federal strategy to cope with the rising tide of dementia and why do existing federal programs, research funding, support and income assistance pale in comparison to the enormous and rapidly escalating health, economic and social impacts of this disease?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised a very important point. This is something we take seriously in terms of medicare and medical services delivered throughout Canada.

As my colleague knows, health falls predominantly under the responsibility of the provinces across Canada, but we as a Conservative government have announced our solid commitment to ensure that the provinces have the resources necessary to deliver health care, including the matter of which the member spoke. She quite rightly pointed out that we have addressed neurological disorders. We also work very closely with the provinces and groups that speak to us about particular plans and strategies to address these types of conditions.

I must enunciate that we did announce that we would continue to increase federal transfers to the provinces for health care to help situations as the member mentioned.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell on being re-elected for the third time in the House and for his hard work in the agricultural file. In my riding a very important sector is the agriculture community. He talked about seniors, small business, farmers, families, firefighters, and the list goes on. This is a comprehensive budget.

Would the hon. member expand a little more on the impact the budget will have on our agricultural community as we also help to expand additional markets to ensure we have a strong, stable supply of healthy foods not only nationally but around the world?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for highlighting agriculture and the importance it plays not only in my riding but many ridings across Canada.

Our farmers are the salt of the earth. They work hard, pay their taxes and there are conditions under which they can succeed. As I mentioned in my speech, farmers are doing better now than they have in a very long time and that is thanks to the hard work of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and all colleagues in Parliament.

I was happy to see in the Speech from the Throne that our government has committed to increase farmers' access to international markets. When our farmers are able to sell their products into a larger international market, that is better for farmers. We also mentioned in the Speech from the Throne that we would defend supply management, while opening international markets to our farmers.

These two initiatives, coupled with all of the programming for farmers, will ensure that our farmers succeed in the future.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

I will start, Mr. Speaker, by congratulating you on your election. I also want to congratulate all my colleagues, members of the House, for their election to represent Canadians.

At this time I want to acknowledge and thank my family. My father, who is no longer with us, was one of my true mentors. I am always grateful for the values and work ethic he instilled in me. I thank my mom, brothers, extended family, of course, my partner, Steve, my two wonderful children and my inspiration to run in the last election, my three beautiful grandchildren, Jacob, Jessica and Emily. It is for their sakes that I chose to make this commitment. I know we have to build the kind of Canada in which our children and grandchildren can flourish.

What an honour it is today for me to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Newton—North Delta. Above all, I want to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me. I will put their priorities front and centre every day.

I also want to acknowledge Sukh Dhaliwal for his five years of service to Newton—North Delta. We have different ideas about the country we want to build, but our commitment to social service is constant.

Communities like mine did not just choose a new member of Parliament on May 2, they sent a powerful message to Ottawa. We do not have to put up with the same old ways. Change is possible, we can choose something better, and that is exactly what they did. Four and a half million Canadians from every region rallied behind our New Democrat vision for a better Canada, where families come first and no one is left behind.

I humbly accept the mandate my constituents have given me. I accept their mandate to put families at the front of the line, ahead of the profitable banks, ahead of the big polluters and ahead of companies shipping good Canadian jobs out of the country. I accept their mandate to work constructively with all members of the House to get practical results. The challenges we highlighted in this election are very real for citizens in my community.

I have spoken with families that are being squeezed between caring for their children and caring for their elderly parents. They have seen their senior parents struggle to get by on a fixed income and have had to watch the very people who built our country struggle to meet their health care needs and other economic needs.

I have heard from students who are not only worried about the size of the debt they will have upon graduation, but are also worried that there will not be enough fair-paying jobs to help them get rid of the debt once they are employed. For example, when a young woman I met told me the size of her student debt, I was absolutely flabbergasted, and this is not a unique story. Her debt was higher than the mortgage I took out to buy my first house. That is the kind of struggle our young people face today.

I have talked with families that are seriously concerned that the pensions they have been paying into all their working lives may now be at risk due to privatization and the volatility of the stock market. We have all seen what happened south of the border.

Many of my constituents are puzzled when they see raw logs shipped out of our country, while sawmill jobs in Canada remain dormant. Whole communities are decimated. One only has to go through parts of B.C. to see this. However, this is not unique to B.C. I have seen these former well-paid mill workers now struggling to get by, the lucky ones, while working two or three part-time, low-paying jobs.

Almost all of my constituents, no matter their income, gender or ethnic background, want to see a strong, publicly funded health system in Canada. They want to see it enhanced. They do not want to see it privatized or rationed.

We have all heard about the Tim Hortons-style health care in British Columbia that forces people to be treated in a coffee shop rather than a hospital. Together, every one of us in the House must protect and improve a universal health care system, a gift from Tommy Douglas and other pioneers.

People question why there is a shortage of doctors, while foreign trained doctors and health care professionals are forced to drive taxicabs for a living because the government appears powerless to integrate them into our medical system. I travelled in a cab with a doctor from another country who, while there, was teaching in a hospital. He could not understand why after five years he still could not get a placement to get his credentials in Canada.

I have talked to young working families who are finding it difficult, almost impossible, to balance their cost of living, runaway gas prices, the cost of housing, the cost of child care, care for their aging parents and service their huge student debts. Most are frustrated. Many have lost hope. Almost half have become cynical of government. They see government as representing the interests of big banks and big corporations and not representing their family interests. They cannot understand the continued tax breaks to big banks and oil companies, while they are losing jobs in those sectors.

Families in my riding cannot understand why they have to wait from 12 to 15 years to bring grandparents and parents into our country. They are worried that the government has not made those kinds of commitments to improve family reunification.

That is why the people of Newton—North Delta voted for change. I promise them that I will fight for that change every day and I will fight for their interests. I look forward to working with all members of the House on practical solutions that will make a difference in Newton—North Delta.

I trust that the Prime Minister will respect the mandate our team brings in to Parliament. Four and a half million Canadians voted New Democrat and they know exactly what they voted for. They voted to strengthen public pensions. They voted to improve public health care. They voted to help families make ends meet. They voted to grow our economy with new jobs and opportunities.

Canadians elected our most unified opposition in 31 years, 103 committed New Democrats from every region of the country, the strongest Quebec federalist result in a generation, with the largest percentage of women in Canada history, with the largest percentage of young people under 30 years of age, with representation from first nations and many of the cultural communities that make Canada so diverse and so strong. This is an official opposition that knows where it stands. Our mandate is crystal clear. We will put forward practical solutions for families. We will oppose the government when it is off-track. However, we will work together when we can get constructive results.

I am honoured to serve the people of Newton-—North Delta and I am honoured to serve with every member of the House. We will each bring different skills and priorities into this place and different ideas about what our country can be, but we can all choose to work together constructively, with respect for each other and for the people who sent us here. That is how my parents taught me to move in this world. It is certainly the example I want to cite, not only for the children I have taught, but for my own children and grandchildren. I will bring my best here every day.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments. The member brought up a lot of issues that are under provincial jurisdiction, issues like tuition rates and so forth. Perhaps she might want to take them up with her provincial representatives. These are set by provincial jurisdictions.

I heard something about the delivery of health care in British Columbia, again a provincial matter. She well knows that our government has increased the health transfers year over year, 6% per year compounded since 2006. We have also introduced new spending for things like Health Infoway and so forth. We have also provided additional funds to reduce wait times. All of these are critical things.

The NDP constantly comes out against businesses that seem to be successful in Canada. I really do not understand the attacks on Canadian industries, whether they are in the energy sector or financial sector, two particularly strong sectors in Canada that drive a much larger economy. We hear a lot about breaks being given to these corporations.

Could the hon. member indicate whether she is aware of how many billions of dollars in taxes that these companies contribute to Canada's tax system and how many jobs that these sectors provide for Canadians? Is she aware of how much in taxes that generates for the country and the contributions they make toward employment insurance and CPP? I am sure the member, having come out against these two important sectors, would be aware of those numbers.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely aware that education is a provincial issue. However, we all know the reason the fees are going up is that the provinces are in need of transfer funds from the federal government. It is when those transfer funds are increased that the provinces, together with the federal government, can help to keep a cap on tuition fees. Tuition fees are out of control. I have a young son who is going through university right now. I can tell members that the cost of textbooks is just horrendous. I can afford to support him but many parents cannot.

As for health care, it is exactly the same. We know that the health care accord is coming up for negotiations. However, it is also the transfer of funds from the federal government that helps to support the health care system in our provinces. We need to look at that and we need to ensure that we have systems in place that will stop the creeping of privatization into our health care system.

As far as tax breaks for corporations, the NDP's position has been very clear. We believe that we need to be competitive in our tax breaks but that the tax breaks need to go to smaller and middle-sized businesses because they are the ones that grow jobs that stay in our communities.

I have met with many people who have been laid off in the banking sector, despite the fact that we have given it billions of dollars. I ask that I be given evidence that the banking sector has grown jobs.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to the House.

I believe that health care will be one of the defining issues of the next four years. My constituents, like those across the country, want their health care system to be there when families need it most.

We have heard from the Conservatives that they are taking action and making way on wait times but if we actually look at a 2011 study from the Canadians Institutes of Health, it shows that wait times vary widely across provinces. If we look at cataract or knee surgeries, many patients wait longer than the recommended limit.

I wonder if the member would comment on hospital wait times?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate the member on her election.

I will tell members a bit about my riding. We have one hospital in the huge municipality of Surrey. The waiting lists are absolutely huge in that riding. Even though we have had a bit of an investment in the infrastructure, what we are finding in our hospital in Surrey is that there is a shortage of professionals. There is a shortage of doctors and nurses. My constituents wait longer than their Vancouver counterparts to get normal surgical procedures. If people need knee surgery, they can go to Vancouver and get it done in about a third of the time than the people can in Surrey. The discrepancy is huge and it needs to be addressed by improving it for everyone.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this House and it is a great honour for me to do so on behalf of my constituents, the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval.

I first want to thank my entire team who helped me get here today, especially my spouse, Didier Sacy, who helped me a lot during my campaign. I also want to thank the voters of my riding, which had been Liberal since 1962, for the confidence they placed in me on May 2. It was difficult for some voters, but they voted for change.

The voters in my riding wanted not only a new MP, but also change. They had had enough of the old ways of governing, the decisions that did not represent their interests and values, and the growing cynicism. The voters in my riding placed their confidence in me on May 2, and I and the entire New Democratic Party must respect that.

I will start by making families a priority above the most profitable banks and the interests of polluters, but especially above companies that send our jobs overseas. Families are the future. Families will provide us with the desired population pyramid, a demographic situation that will allow us to help our seniors, offer health care to everyone and live on a healthy planet.

Families should be the first people we help and encourage, starting with our seniors, those who worked their entire lives, contributed to our economy and built the society we live in today. I have spoken with Nortel retirees, many of whom live in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. They lose sleep at night because they are worried about their income. Scandals like the one at Nortel were permitted by previous governments. We have to commit to amending federal bankruptcy legislation to ensure that pensioners and long-term disability recipients are at the top of the list of creditors when employers are placed under court protection or declare bankruptcy. Nothing in the budget suggests that the government will provide them with any help. The cost of living, the increased cost of food, housing and gas is becoming a burden for families. We absolutely must help them.

In my riding, voters have another concern, namely, the very small place that the Conservative budget has given to the development of the green economy. During the election campaign, the Conservative candidate for Lac-Saint-Louis, a former senator and now a senator once again, promised major federal investments in a new rail line between the West Island of Montreal—Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport—and downtown Montreal. This line would serve as a commuter train and a quick connection for visitors to our great city. It is one of the most important and popular issues for the voters in my riding and in west Montreal.

This project, which has been the subject of discussion for years, would have a very positive impact on the economy, employment, the environment and the daily lives of thousands of workers, students and travellers. However, the budget proposed by the Conservatives does not include a single penny for this project, despite the candidate's promises. The senator received a very nice gift following the election, but there are no gifts in this budget for the 500,000 residents of west Montreal who have been waiting for a long time for an effective transportation service that will help them reduce the amount of pollution they are producing and take them to downtown Montreal where most activities take place.

Many residents of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine are disappointed that Ottawa is subsidizing the major polluters instead of supporting a green economy. My constituents want assurances that their environment will be protected. They want the government to take measures to bring people together; not to divide them.

I hope I can count on the co-operation of all members of the House to adopt practical solutions that will make a real difference in the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and in Dorval. I am counting on our Prime Minister to respect the mandate that was given to him and I am counting on our team to allow us to accomplish our work in Parliament. It would not be fair if the ridings represented by Conservatives received more projects than the others. The people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval hope to receive the same favours as the rest of Canada.

On May 2, the voters of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine were among the 4.5 million Canadians who voted for change, who voted to strengthen public pension plans, improve health care, help families make ends meet and ensure that our economy offers new jobs and new opportunities. They voted for a better Canada, with fewer scandals and injustices. By voting for change, Canadians have voted in the most united official opposition in the last 31 years. We have 103 members from across the country: women, young adults and members of the cultural communities that help strengthen Canada. It is a heterogeneous official opposition that reflects the faces of Canada.

I am very honoured to have been chosen by the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Dorval. I am also honoured to have the opportunity to work with all the members of this House. Despite a few differences, we can work together for the good of Canadians, work together constructively as we respect others and their ideas. That is how I will work. I will do my very best every day to represent my riding as well as I can.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also want to welcome the hon. member who gave her first speech.

We have heard the NDP talk at length about the problems with health care and waiting lists, whether in emergency rooms or for surgery. The NDP also talked about this during the election campaign.

The hon. member says she wants to work with all the hon. members of this House on improving life for the general public. Can she tell me what tangible ideas she and her party have that will improve the health care system in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada? I do not need to tell the hon. member that health is an exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

The hon. member and the NDP are saying that we must help improve health care. How can the federal Parliament get involved in these matters in any tangible way when it is the provinces, Quebec in my case, that have the means—or should have the means—to ensure that health care is improved?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I would also like to congratulate him on his election.

I believe that my colleague already answered this question. Federal transfers help hospitals. In my riding, one hospital serves all the constituents. The waiting lists are appalling. There is also a new expansion project for the McGill University Health Centre. Consequently, more doctors will want to work at a new centre with more advanced technology. It is a great benefit for the people of my riding.

To provide tangible assistance to the provinces, we can give them money to help doctors become specialists, to speed up the process for recognizing the foreign credentials of family doctors so they can practice sooner, and we can ensure that there are better working conditions for hospital staff. We know that there is a brain drain to the United States. This problem is caused by the fact that working conditions in Canada are not good enough. I believe that we must work with the provinces to improve working conditions. Thus, we would have more doctors and more adequate health care for everyone.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be engaging in this debate on budget 2011. I would first like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Northeast.

This budget was first introduced on March 23 in the 40th Parliament. We all know what happened at that time. The opposition parties avoided a vote on the budget by forcing an unwanted election, but it turns out it was an election that reshaped the political landscape. It proved to be politically costly for two of the three leaders. Mr. Ignatieff of course and Mr. Duceppe not only lost their own seats, but one lost official party status and the other party returned with a severely diminished caucus.

On May 2, Canadians returned to the 41st Parliament with a solid, stable, national Conservative government and an NDP official opposition. It was a surprise to some people. However, I find it interesting that in evaluating the electoral prospects the high school students apparently had it figured out before the pundits did. They selected a Conservative majority government with an NDP official opposition.

Allow me to express my congratulations to you as Assistant Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker and to the other Assistant Deputy Speaker, as well as to the Deputy Speaker on their elections and appointments.

I would also like to congratulate all of the members who returned to this House. It is an honour for them to represent the ridings that they come from.

As well, I would like to thank the electors in Nanaimo—Alberni for returning me for the fifth time to this 41st Parliament.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize my campaign manager and campaign team who worked diligently and my EDA board.

At our recent policy convention there were five resolutions from Nanaimo—Alberni brought up for discussion and two that actually passed into policy. There were very enthusiastic supporters from Nanaimo—Alberni. I thank them all for their participation in the process.

One thing that we heard from the caucus members, cabinet ministers and party activists at the convention that we took to heart is that we all have an obligation to engage our neighbours, to listen, to take the pulse of our communities and to stay in tune with what is happening in our communities. We are facing unprecedented change, not only in Canada but around the world and it will be incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we stay in tune with how these impacts are affecting our communities. I thank all of those folks who were responsible for that.

One other person I must thank is my wife of some 20 years now. These last 11 years in Parliament have been a big challenge for someone from the west coast who is travelling back and forth. We are away a lot from the island of paradise that we live on. Helen has stood by me faithfully all of the years I have been in Parliament. All members would know the level of stress that the commitment to our job can put on our families. I thank Helen for standing with me, for without her it would not have been possible.

This budget was well received on March 23. In fact, it was so well received that the finance minister thought he would introduce it again and on June 6 that is what he did.

There are many measures in the budget that we can discuss and that have been discussed today. There will be more to discuss as the debate continues.

One of the measures I want to highlight is the one involving seniors. Since coming to Parliament we have reduced the tax burden on seniors significantly. Over $2.3 billion has been given in annual tax relief since 2006 with the various measures that we have introduced taking some 85,000 seniors off the tax rolls. That includes pension income splitting, increasing the age credit amount by $1,000 twice for a total of $2,000 and doubling the pension income credit to $2,000. All of these measures together, along with increasing the guaranteed income supplement, are extremely important in lowering the tax burden on seniors.

I have heard some members say that the $600 a year for singles and the $840 for a married couple of the lowest income seniors amounts to nothing. I think they are remiss in not reflecting on the cumulative effect in shifting the tax burden away from seniors and doing our best to help our most vulnerable seniors.

There are many measures in the budget: a new children's arts tax credit of up to $500, a new family caregiver tax credit, a volunteer firefighters tax credit and extending the eco-energy retrofit. All of these are important for our communities. All of these benefit our communities. In some sectors of the community it takes the burden off people who contribute in a big way, like our volunteers firefighters.

I want to turn the children's fitness tax credit which was introduced earlier. It is only a $500 measure to help encourage people to engage their children in physical fitness. Many experts are concerned about the declining health of Canadians and we have to start with the children. It is a small measure, but it is a good measure. As we get to balanced budgets in the next few years, reducing that deficit year by year, we have a plan that is working. We will extend that measure, doubling it for children and extending it to adults as well.

I want to comment on that briefly. As a health professional for many years and a chiropractor for 24 years, a body man, I want to remind members that the human body has some 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells, some 200 different cell types and 25,000 miles of blood vessels. These cells do not last an entire lifetime. They are being replaced on a continual basis. There is some speculation. The exception is the nervous system, which is actually original equipment. Most of that is here for life and we had better protect it. We are replacing cells on a daily basis. Every 7 to 10 years, every bone cell is replaced.

This is relevant to the budget. Hon. members should be listening. They will enjoy this. When my wife and I are on the cycle path, when we are exercising, pushing the limits and pushing our bodies, we get a little tired sometimes. I encourage her by saying that it is tomorrow's body we are pushing for. It is today's activities that actually set the template for tomorrow's body.

In a similar manner the nutrition, the food we eat contributes to the body we are building for tomorrow. I hope as we move forward and as we are looking for sustainable solutions to our health care challenges that there will be more emphasis on wellness initiatives, more things that encourage positive health management on a personal health level and more incentives to promote a disease prevention strategy.

There are many measures in the budget to help people. I want to remind people that a couple of years ago in 2006, we hit an economic tsunami, a worldwide economic downturn. We had to act quickly, and indeed, that is what we did. We brought in some $60 billion in stimulus measures, outreach measures to help workers displaced, created incentives like job-sharing and a whole range of initiatives to help our communities. Part of that was the economic stimulus measures that brought jobs through some 25,000 projects across the country. On Vancouver Island many projects benefited our community. All of these projects helped to keep people employed during that difficult time.

Cumulatively, we have created over 540,000 jobs, all important, to keep people employed and keep our communities working. There was the home renovation tax credit during that phase that kept people working. In this budget we have the very popular eco-energy retrofit program extended that will encourage positive behaviour by encouraging people to invest in energy efficiencies for their homes: the windows, the doors, the insulation, the kinds of projects that keep people working in our community and contribute to energy savings in the community as well.

There is a whole range of issues that we have not addressed and I am down to my last minute, but there are positive measures for our small businesses with a hiring credit of up to $1,000 to encourage more hiring. There is support for youth entrepreneurs of some $20 million. We are reducing red tape. We are investing in clean energy technology and innovation and we are legislating the permanent gas tax funding for municipalities at some $2 billion a year. That is so important to our communities, many of which have infrastructure deficits and are counting on that money to help refurbish the infrastructure in our municipalities.

For all these reasons I encourage our colleagues to stand with us and support the budget. Let us work together and keep our country strong as we move forward, keep Canada's economy the best in the world. Let us develop all the potential we can in this country as we move ahead.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague's comments. Although normally members would expect me to viciously oppose the government's budget, I want to start in a more conciliatory tone since we are in a new session of Parliament.

Let me start by saying that the one part of the budget I was happy to see was, of course, the return of the eco-energy retrofit program for homes. That $400 million is desperately needed in our communities. However, I have to ask the government why this program was brought back for only one year.

This program is good for homeowners, the environment, jobs and we also know that it is good for the government because for every $1 that the government pays in incentives, families actually spend $10 and generate twice as much in tax revenue. This program really is a win-win.

I was really surprised to see in The Hamilton Spectator this morning, and frankly saddened, that the member for Burlington said:

They (energy advisers) made a choice. That’s their industry and career choice that they’ve made. Whether we have a government program that keeps them in business or not is not my call--

That is really regrettable because the question remains: Why is this program in place for just one year?

The government pulled the plug on this program in 2006. It was a program that worked well. People clamoured for it to be renewed. Now we have the money, but it is being put on a very short leash. What if there is money left over at the end of the year without programs having actually been implemented effectively? I wonder if the member would comment on that.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for her conciliatory tone and I congratulate her on her re-election.

We all have an obligation to work together in the House to move ahead. There is a difference between permanent measures and those that are meant to stimulate activity. The member is aware that we are running a deficit and were severely criticized for that. When we were coming up with the economic action plan, opposition parties were annoyed that we were not operating fast enough and wanted us to spend more, but we have an obligation to balance our budget.

This year, as we are working toward a balanced budget without upsetting our economy, we are projecting a deficit of some $32 billion. It will be down to about $19.4 billion next year, $9.4 billion the year after that and then moving to a small surplus in the following year.

We have an opportunity in next year's budget, if we need further stimulus, to move ahead with a program. In the meantime, we are hoping as many Canadians as possible will take advantage of it this year to keep people working and move ahead with energy efficiency in their homes. It is a well-appreciated program that is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Home Builders' Association.